Even though I’ve been in a stupor since Chavez’s speech at the swearing-in ceremony of his cabinet, I’d like to add a few thoughts to Daniel’s remarkable work.
1.) Let the good times roll…During his inauguration speech, Chavez said that he “was told” that some government officials make too much money. Just when I thought he might do something interesting, he claimed it wasn't his job to go after these mongers, and that he hoped that they would “write me a letter, offering up their salaries.” (I wonder how many little letters he’s gotten since then?) During that part of the ramble, he said, “All my expenses are paid. I shouldn’t even earn a salary.” (I wonder whether he wrote himself a letter offering to return his salary to himself.) It occured to me that no Venezuelan politician ever lives from his salary. His salary is more like a stipend. He lives from the revenues earned outside of his paid job, such as “commissions.” (For example, if I’m a governor and I need a bridge, there’s a lot of cash to be hoarded between what I pay the bridge builder and all the contractors involved with the project.) So who cares about salaries?
2.) Children of the maize…During his inauguration speech, Chavez said he had thought about strapping two presidential sashes on himself, to look like Pancho Villa. He also thought about adding a third one, to be placed vertically around himself. That means it would have wrapped between his legs. So ostensibly, if Chavez were as impulsive as everyone claims, he would have accepted the presidency of a nation with twenty million inhabitants by wearing three presidential sashes, including one snaking up his ass and spinal cord.
3.) It’s not Stockholm Syndrome…During his inauguration speech, Chavez said that no foreign dignitaries were present because he “asked them not to come.” I attended his 1999 inauguration. As is customary, traditional, normal and correct, so did many foreign leaders, including President Menem (Argentina), President Fujimori (Peru), President Castro, Prince Felipe of Spain and many more. (Even Carlos Andres Perez, who once faced the possibility of death because of Chavez’s coup, was there, and so was now Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. There was a nifty bus that transported the presidents back and forth.) So there was something extremely creepy about the roomful of Chavista adulators facing Chavez. Alvaro Vargas Llosa wrote that Venezuelans are besotted by Stockholm Syndrome, but I think it’s battered wife syndrome. It’s when the crap hits the fan, and the abuser shuts the curtains and bolts the locks. And only moments after calling the head of the Organization of American States a pendejo (will everyone please stop translating that as an “idiot”), who would come to his little ceremony? Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, the Caricom, and the Central Americans? Was Guatemala going to send someone? (They still seemed pissed over the UN fiasco.) Was Raul going to represent Fidel? Face it. With everything that he’s said and planned to say, Chavez couldn’t face Mexican President Calderon, Chilean President Bachelet (Chile was still smarting from the insult), Peruvian President Alan Garcia, and many others. Who would the Canadians and Spaniards send? What about the rest of Europe? Obviously, the Americans weren’t welcome. Is an inauguration a meeting ground for only the friends of a president, or the allies of a nation? Is this starting to read like one dysfunctional mess? If your answer is yes, welcome to the opposition.
4.) Is it a bird or a plane…No one in Venezuela interviewed by the local media seems to understand what Chavez’s “Socialism of the Twenty First Century” means.
5.) Sticks and stones…During a speech welcoming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineyad to Venezuela on Saturday, Chavez said that the Islamic Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution were the same revolution at their core. He congratulated Ahmadineyad for the “past thirty years” of his government’s performance. Chavez said, “We Venezuelans have to thank God that in this awakening, we have discovered you…with your gigantic effort – ethical, moral, religious, political, social, scientific and technical which is the Iranian Revolution…We thank you and God that you exist.” I don’t know where to begin with this one. Maybe I’ll just reduce my comments to the observation that during the Islamic Revolution of Iran, professional women were forced out of their jobs, forced to cover their heads, forced out of school, beaten when they were discovered in the company of men who were not relatives. Maybe another example is that Ahmadineyad wants the Jews to be destroyed all over again. Maybe there’s the lack of freedom of expression, the persecution of bloggers…
6.) I wish that Chavez would stop using “Jesus”, either as a prophet (when he’s in front of the Iranians) or as the son of God, every time he wants to talk about his government. I’ll finish with the ethics of reciprocity, known as the Golden Rule, which Jesus urged his followers to uphold above all others. Every religion, including Islam, has a version of this beautiful precept. Islam teaches that “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.." (Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths.") Jesus taught that “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” (Matthew 7.12) Clearly, neither Chavez nor his Iranian counterpart practice what they preach.