Friday, September 24, 2004

News from Africa
A mirror to our Venezuelan future?

There are some perks with being a blogger. One is when readers write to say that we make a difference, that we do something right, that we explain things in a way they can understand. You know who you are and I thank you again. That people write to criticize or even complain is also rewarding: as a blogger we touch something in them that stimulates exchange. Those who insult and bail out, well, that is one chance we must take when we blog.

And there are those who bring material to discuss that a blogger has no time, unfortunately, to seek. Guillermo sends this article about Zimbabwe published in the International Herald Tribune. People that have been with this blog for a while will remember that Mugabe is for me one of the villains of the globe, alongside Castro, the Myanmar junta, and a few other pick choices. But Mugabe holds a special place of contempt because he started so well and ended up such a petty tyrant. Any similarity to our present situation in Venezuela? The reader may be the judge.

The article is titled "Mugabe's cruelty". Let's see. This tribal dictator has made an agrarian reform which was made under the sole criteria of "getting back" at whites. This could have been, maybe, justified at the time of independence but instead it was done a very few years ago and the land was in large part redistributed to Mugabe's cronies. Haphazardly would be a kind word. Even the National Geographic made an article on how lousy was the whole operation.

Today, while reports abound of an alimentary crisis in Zimbabwe, we see that:

Why would Mugabe block the United Nations World Food Program from
delivering food to hungry Zimbabweans? Last year, about half the country's 12
million people were getting such assistance. No longer. Mugabe says the country
is having a bumper harvest and relief is no longer needed, but it is hard to
determine whether this is true. Mugabe has shut down the country's main
independent newspaper, The Daily News. The World Food Program has been
denied permission to assess crops. Other sources of independent information
have also been muzzled.
Does that ring a bell? Does any one remember when Chavez refused US help during the Vargas disaster of 1999? How a ship with tractors and miscellaneous digging equipment made a U-turn at sea, back to the East Coast? But Chavez was already ahead of Mugabe: he had learned to ignore most of press criticism thus he can let it open to scream as it pleases.

I do not think that we are near any immediate Zimbabwization of Venezuela. To begin with Venezuela has long ceased to be a granary of any type. And with oil steady above 40$ Chavez has all the spare change he needs to buy his way out of starvation. No, the point I am making is the similarity in characters between Mugabe and Chavez. Their glory matters more than their people.

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