How can a president administer a country so poorly and still have such strong popular support?

Gabriel Burgazzi (AC, Venezuela 09-11)


High crime rate and insecurity levels, growing inflation, water and energy shortages, strong depreciation of our national currency, disinvestment–and the list doesn’t stop there. How can a president administer a country so poorly and still have such strong popular support? To understand this we must go back, not 11 years (when Chavez came to power) but more than 200 years.

1492: year of the “discovery” (with emphasis on the quotes) of the American continent. The natives possessed great knowledge on astronomy, medicine, engineering and much more but none of that mattered against the Spanish gun powder, the conquerors also brought with them bacteria and viruses that wiped out more than half of the natives. Enslaved, forced to convert to Christianity, killed, employed in lethal jobs, the indigenes didn’t stand a chance against the Europeans. This was not the meeting of two cultures; it was a massacre of one in order to satisfy an insatiable hunger for natural resources of another.

The Spaniards arrived, robbed all they could and destroyed the rest; then imposed an economical system and loaned back resources so the continent could “develop”, leaving the continent with a debt that to this day we continue to pay.

On the other side there were the English, who instead of conquering North America, colonized it. There is an important difference between the terminology employed here; colonization is derived from the Latin colere, “to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect” In the north there was no gold, silver or imposing native civilization to exterminate. North America developed in contrast with the conquered land of South America.

Our independence from Spain wasn’t at last in favor to us, the wealth simply exchanged hands “the most ambitious and the worst enemies to our land” this was said by Simon Bolivar, liberator of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia referring to USA and foreseeing what would come.

USA’s centralist capitalism dries out the minerals and natural resources of the peripheries. Latin America’s underdevelopment has fostered world capitalism.

Venezuela has always focused on the primary sector, selling raw material at low prices and inevitably re-buying them after they are manufactured in other countries at a much higher price, leaving a negative balance in the country and allowing the rich to get richer and our poor nation to get poorer.

USA pays less for the iron that they receive from Venezuela than that which they extract from their own soil. Since 1914 Petroleum was discovered in the Maracaibo Lake in Venezuela, USA’s interests in Venezuela where suddenly restructured and their involvement with Venezuelan politics became more aggressive. Involvement of the CIA in Latin America is well known…

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has its base in the USA and works together with the World Bank maintaining pressure on the Latin American countries to constantly reshape their economy in function to pay the debt which continues to augment. Prices of products sold by Latin America continue to decrease and products bought continue to increase. United States imposes a doctrine of free trading in Latin America.

USA used interventionist economic policies in order to get rich and then tried to forbid other countries from doing the same; the switch from protectionism to free trading allowed them to be one of the–if not the–world powers and kick away the ladder shielding their hegemonic control over the world.

In addition to our unfavorable economic scenario, Venezuela has never had a true democracy; once it achieved its independence in 1810 military leaders ruled the country in dictatorships until 1958 when the first “democratic” government was established, and until 1999 the political scene was occupied by two parties AD (Democratic Action) and COPEI (Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee).

During these periods the country slowly developed but authorities were corrupt and only interested in personal benefit; the veil of apparent profit blinded them from realizing the truth of the impossibility to emerge through USA’s central capitalist system.

In the year 1999 Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela, promoting a political doctrine of participatory democracy, socialism and Latin American and Caribbean cooperation. He is also a critic of neo-liberalism, and United States foreign policy.

Chavez is the first president to represent the proletarian and to give them a voice. The majority of Venezuela’s opposition to Chavez’s government sadly doesn’t understand the background of the country and the oppression that our people have gone through. During the last 40 years before Chavez, the authorities didn’t talk either for or to the people.  The elite’s interest was their top priority and all sense of nationalism was sacrificed in order to get the USA’s attention and investment.

11 years have passes since Hugo Chavez came to power. Before, those 40 years of apparent “democracy” where the low class was being excluded and not taken into consideration, they found themselves in the dark. One could argue that the small light that Chavez is offering them by giving them essential things doesn’t compensate for the economic and social situation the country is in now; but If I ever found myself in a situation where I had to chose between having food, home and medical support or refusing it in expectance that the next president might give me more and might develop my country in a better way I don’t think I would die for a simple possibility.

My opinion might sound ambiguous; the situation of my country is very ambiguous. I comprehend the reasons for Chavez’s popular support but I consider myself a member of the “opposition”. I view myself that way simply because I refuse to settle when I know that people are being killed every day, that my country is far more divided than it ever has been, and it feels as if we are entering a tunnel with no way out.

We went from 40 years of ignoring the low class, to 11 years of ignoring the high class. What is the future of my country? I cannot answer that question, I believe that a change must come, that Chavez had to come but may no longer continue in power because rotation of power is fundamental for democracy, I believe in a new way of government of inclusion without exclusion, I believe in a strong middle class, and that our country possesses a youth that is willing and desperate to take action, to learn from our mistakes and work together to create a future for Venezuela.

 -United World Colleges Student Magazine-


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