Friday, December 04, 2009

Two Venezuelan realities: students with a cause and fattening generals

Early this week while in Caracas I visited the students on hunger strike, in front of the offices of the OAS. I did not want to write anything about that because, to tell you the truth I do not know how to broach the subject. I have too much respect for these kids to write lightly about them. In fact, my visit was made further embarrassing as I went after a diner date with a friend. We decided to visit the place around 10 PM. It was quiet and strangely peaceful. No apparent security, just an ambulance from the city of Baruta. The kids were laying on portable beds, not talking much (they need to preserve their energy). What seemed to be small groups of friends and relatives were hanging around, speaking softly, not wanting to disturb. Needless to say that I felt impressed and embarrassed, not able to find a word to try to even express my admiration for them even though I am not sure about the timing of their action.

What do they want? Nothing much really, that the government allows the Inter American Court to make a visit to Venezuela to gather data about violations of Human Rights. The Chavez administration is adamant in refusing such a visit which simply confirms that they have things to hide. The problem here is that there seems to be no solution in sight. The government mocks the attempt although they finally caved in on another hunger striker, near death, because he demanded justice for his property illegally seized by the state. Eventually OAS secretary Insulza sent a lame letter where he talked to the students as kids without understanding of adults things. As a consequence it seems that the hunger strike will go further and faster. What Insulza should have done is to write a letter directly to Chavez asking him to solve the issue and not allow to lay the blame on the OAS.

It is truly fascinating that after ten years of cheap materialism promoted by Chavez the result is similar as those observed in other countries suffering similar fates: the idealist and courageous youth is the one opposing the regime. For memory I will point out that I have yet to see revolutionary chavista students go on an hunger strike in front of the US embassy to demand the end of the Iraq war or the Cuban embargo. As a matter of fact, the few students that chavismo was able to produce in 2007 to counter the rising dissident movement are now benefiting from comfortable political jobs in the government, without any replacement worth noticing. On the other side every year the opposition student movement shows an incredible power of renewal, in ideas as well as in leadership.

So, you may wonder, why do I write about these brave kids today? Because Chavez provided me the inspiration with a cadena a few minutes ago. The cadena was about a military promotion ceremony, at worthless event since promotions are now decided by Chavez office with the main parameter being the perceived loyalty to the regime. I watched the first minute and taped it fast on my TiVo.

The ceremony stated with a fat general marching towards Chavez. Then, once he took position in front he spoke the following words:
Patria Socialsimo o muerte [Without a mic we can see Chavez uttering the word "veneceremos"] Mi comandante en jefe buensa noches. Presente en formacion 1800 combatientes revolucionarios, socialistas, anti imperialistas para el acto con motivo delos ascensos.....

Fatherland, socialism or death. [We shall win], My commander in chief good evening. Here in military formation 1,800 revolutionary, socialist and anti imperialist fighters, for the ceremony of promotion....
I was going to put the name of the fat military speaking those words, sporting the most ridiculous yellow ribbon with a je ne sais quoi of Easter Egg look. After all, too many of them have acquired the same mind pattern, the result of a decade of military corruption, financial and moral. The TV picture I show here is an indictment of how ridiculous the Venezuelan army has become, the only truly fit officer as far as I can tell being from the navy disappearing behind the Easter Egg. Fitter perhaps but equally willing to present this obscene masquerade of tacky adulation.

Thus you can see the two extremes that ten years of chavismo have produced. On one side you have the revolutionary nouveau riche, be they fat sycophantic military or the now on the run bankers who made 100 of million of dollars through government contracts in half a decade. Usually equally fat.

And on the other side the worth of the country, the new political conscious and idealistic class emerging from the embers of the middle class that Chavez has been diligently trying to destroy for the last decade. A group noble enough that some are willing to offer themselves for their goals and ideals.

-The end-

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