Saturday, August 25, 2007

A distant mirror?

This morning the Wall Street Journal regales us with an update on Georgia, three years after Mikheil Saakashvili became president of Georgia, following the Rose Revolution who ousted the old soviet dinosaur Shevardnadze. At first this one held some promise as a "moderate2 from the old soviet apparatus, but eventually he proved himself to be unable to think out of the sand box and sunk miserably in corruption, secession, permanent economic crisis, Russian pressures. A failed state.

But according to this review it looks that if Georgian problems are far from being solved at least Mr. Saakashvili has stirred things up and Georgia, in spite of a Russian economic blockade is thriving and has a real GDP growth that could be the envy of most countries in the world. And corruption went down!

Will Venezuela find its Saakashvili? While we dream on such a day I woudl like to underline some of the lines of that WSJ piece that simply hit too close to home for comfort:
I point down to the terrain beneath us and comment that if the well-regulated squares of green fields down below are any indication, Georgia's agriculture is doing well. "In Soviet times," he says, "all this was a chaotic mess. In contrast, you'd fly over Western Europe and see miles of perfectly cultivated land. . . . Now Georgia is the same. It's beautiful to look at. That's the aesthetic look of the free market."

I hope that reading this you thought about all the food items that are missing from Venezuelan shelves and how the productive lands of Venezuela are slowly transformed into semi productive lands but, oh1, in the hands of cooperatives that do not even hold a title to that land.
A day or two later, at a dinner for Georgian businessmen, the president delivers a speech hammering home his well-honed message of self-help. "The government is going to help you in the best way possible, by doing nothing for you, by getting out of your way. Well, I exaggerate but you understand. Of course we will provide you with infrastructure, and help by getting rid of corruption, but you have all succeeded by your own initiative and enterprise, so you should congratulate yourselves."

I hope that reading this you thought about all the Chavez speeches were greed is bad, where all must be done for the society and how the state will provide cooperativist entrepreneurs all that they need, including corruption I suppose.

And a little bit about the Russian system that Chavez admires so much. Any similarities with Venezuela are purely coincidental. My emphasis.
I ask him if the Russians are making a big push now with maximum pressure while they can, realizing that before long, consumer countries will develop alternate supply routes to avoid Russian strategic pressure. "No, I don't think the Russians are calculating logically or strategically," he says. "I think it's an emotional and volatile process for them. Logically, they should realize that stable relations all around will pay off for them more in the long run. Instead they're driving countries to find alternative partners . . ."

He also speaks about Russia's domestic anti-Georgian campaign. "It wasn't working very effectively until they actually went to all the schools and asked for a list of all the children with Georgian names. Suddenly, the parents realized this was serious. That and the endless corruption of the Russian system became unbearable for them--so now we have tens of thousands of qualified Georgians . . . coming back and repatriating their money to Georgia."

And the question that many of us ask ourselves in Venezuela (see for example preceding post over Insulza)
As night falls, back in the sky, we fly close enough to the Abkhazia border to see the contrast between well-lit Georgia and Russian darkness over the secessionist zone. From up above, and on the ground, the symbolism is clear enough.

But to Mr. Saakashvili, the more important issue might be: Is this distinction clear to his friends in the West--and how far will they go to stop the darkness from spilling over into Georgia?

-The end-

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