Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Boa constrictor

The way the Venezuelan situation is developing surprises time and time again: every time we think that things cannot possibly get any worse, they deteriorate further. Which president of a democratic country would be proud to accept the Gaddafi Human Rights Prize, for Christ's sake? Chávez, that's who (he was nominated on 10 October 2004). Michael Rowan paints the picture in Tuesday's El Universal (see below, reproduced with the author's permission).

What President Chávez and his "revolución bonita" are doing to Venezuelan civil society can be likened to the action of a boa constrictor: it wraps around its victim and doesn't press too hard; it simply waits for the victim to exhale, as sooner or later it must, then tightens its grip and maintains the pressure; every time the victim gasps for breath, the boa pulls the noose a little bit tighter, until the victim suffocates. There is no respite.

Persons who have saved themselves from a boa attack have done so by biting the snake to death, savaging it with their teeth. I fervently hope that this is not the only option left to Venezuelans.
by Michael Rowan
Special for El Universal

The pattern is unmistakable. Independent institutions from the courts to the congress, from PDVSA to the Central Bank, from governors to mayors, and in both public and private sectors, have been shackled, confined or suborned. Independent elections have been centralized, tabulated in secret, and reported as fact with the arrogance befitting a king. The freedoms of assembly and association have been impugned or prosecuted as a crime against the people. Free speech is under attack, and free speakers are charged with crimes with long prison terms for saying things the government does not like. Independent thinking is viewed as a threat to the political correctness of revolutionary dialectic, the litmus test for full citizenship and human rights that derive from government blessing, not human nature.

Freedom is ravaged in the name of freedom. Democracy is vandalized in the name of democracy. Justice is denied in the name of justice. Peace is sacrificed to violence and insecurity, and in the name of peace. Poverty increases in the name of its extirpation. The models to be idolized in the politically correct schools are Carlos the Jackal for justice, Muammar Qadafi for human rights, Robert Mugabe for democracy, and above all, Fidel Castro for all three. It is not that Venezuela is upside down, it is precisely the opposite, as has been publicly claimed. The world needs to realize it is not free, and that only Venezuela is free, sailing on a sleek sailboat in the glorious sea of happiness. As the new dialectic says, this is a truth which Bolivar or Christ would assert, were they to rise from the grave or descend from heaven to convince the doubting Thomas.

All this is possible with the price of an oil barrel at $50. Money backed by sheer power can pay for just about anything in this world. When people are hungry and insecure, and when there is only one source for work, income, shelter and the basics of life, people will go along with all kinds of talk in order to survive. This has happened in the distant past and in modern times. It happened on the plantations of Venezuela two hundred years ago, in Germany in the 1930s, in Vichy France a little later, and in slave societies from time immemorial. Whether freedom will be sacrificed when the oil price drops is a question for Venezuelans, with the exception of those who already believe what Aesop wrote 26 centuries ago, "Better starve free than be a fat slave."


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