Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye to 2012 - and to Hugo Chávez?

Hugo Chávez, right, with Cuban Pres. Raul Castro back in October, when Chávez announced himself cured of cancer.
The ending of 2012 also looks like the departing of Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez, who is in a Cuban hospital suffering from complications from cancer.

The long-winded Chavez hasn't been heard from publicly for more than two weeks, and his vice president says his condition is 'complicated.' The Venezuelan people don't know the details, however, since the Chavez administration has kept the details of Chavez's condition secret. That's also why he's had his treatments in Cuba, where he's safe from a nosey free press (and it's no gesture of confidence for Venezuela's much-vaunted health care system).

Chavez's suddenly critical condition has also revealed a bait and switch of historic proportions. During the recent presidential campaign, Chavez acted as tho he was recovering - even tho he undoubtely knew his prognosis was poor. Venezuelans reelected Chavez, who has already held power for a dozen years, to yet another six-year term. Now, it looks obvious that even if El Comandante survives, he'll be no more than an invalid and a figurehead.

Chavez's illness is sending his country into unknown political territory. It's not clear what will happen if, for example, Chavez cannot make it to his Jan. 10 inauguration. Chavez designated his vice president Nicolas Maduro to succeed him. Maduro has been a loyal chavista, but lacks Chavez's charisma. Will Chavistas support him, or more ideologically figures such as Diosdado Cabello, or Chavez's older brother Adan? It seems likely that no other Chavista politician could win an election against the opposition.

For Colombia, too, Chavez's illness means more uncertainty.

Chavez had seemed to be assisting with the government-FARC peace negotiations also being held in Cuba. Will a Chavez sucessor help?

Other possibilities are scarier. What if a weak Chavez succesor tries to consolidate his power using nationalism by confronting historical rival Colombia?

It also strikes me as ironic that Chavez, a larger-than-life figure who often announced supposed conspiracies to assassinate him, is in the end being felled by a mundane illness which respects no status or power.

One time, back when I was a journalist living in Caracas, Chavez announced that someone had tried to shoot down his airplane with a surface-to-air missile. I visited the beach under Chavez's landing path and talked to residents, whose accounts made it clear that no attack had happened - and that an attack probably wasn't even realistic.

By the same token, Chavez's 'socialist revolution', while denouncing politically incorrect dangers, ignored inconvenient, mundane ones. For example, it was only several years into his presidency that the Chavez government finally eliminated leaded vehicle fuel, which harms children's development. Neither has his government flouridated the drinking water, a proven way to prevent children's tooth decay. Nor does it enforce air pollution laws, but it does spend billions of dollars subsidizing gasoline down to a few cents a gallon (which keeps old smog-belching clunkers on the road).

I once attended one of la revolucion's many long-winded leftie conferences, held in concrete a tower in central Caracas. I remember looking over the event's program, which included speeches denouncing genetically modified food crops, even tho not a single study that I know of has shown GMO's to harm human health. I looked out the tower's window at one of the slums crawling up the hills bordering Caracas and saw plumes of carcinogenic smoke rising from burning garbage, a proven carcinogen. So, Chavez's revolution prioritizes populist measures such as its gasoline subsidy over measures which would save lives.
Maybe it's in bad taste to suggest that a sick man contributed to his own disease, but in this case it seems to be true.

Of course, these policies are important not only for Chavez, but for the millions of Venezuelans whose health suffers because the Chavez government chooses populist measures over healthy ones.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Sadly, I regret to think that Chavez will slip away conveniently, and fail to meet justice and answer for his crimes against the good Venezuelan people and humanity.

Anonyhahaha said...

What crimes against the Venezuelan people and humanity man? How would u compare Chavez to say the "Big 4" Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice? He went overboard and maybe spent a bit too much oil money on washing machines for the poor and such... But how about the bailouts in the U.S. or Europe? And by the way I propose a new saying "As suspicious as Chavez' cancer" I smell the work of the Cancer Injection Agency

Miguel said...

As someone who lived several years in Venezuela and has followed Venezuela news closely, I heard of many human rights violations, such as unjustified imprisonment, but not reaching the level of crimes against humanity.
, ,
There's also lots of mismanagement, corruption and other problems - as there are in other nations, but to a much greater degree.
, ,
In any case, it looks like the Grim Reaper will get Chavez before any court does.

Stuart Oswald said...

Anonyhahaha and Miguel, living in or taking a liking too Venezuela does not constitute a factual representation of the state's wrong and write doings.

For human rights abuses I can just name this latest event that should be enough to lay dormant any defense of such a vile regime of which Chavez can be attributed as it's Dear leader.

Only This week, news surfaced that Venezuela is preparing to send another tanker of much-needed diesel fuel — the third such shipment since November — to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. That alone should be enough to make anyone clear that this guy and his gang are doing nobody and good.

On the human rights violations. Every document setting out human rights, a few fundamentals such as; the right to life, the right to health, the right to private family life and the right to property (among many others) are unmissable. Violating any of these rights (even for a collective good) is a human rights violation.

Going further into crimes against humanity, as set out by the Nuremberg Trials:

"Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated".

Whether or not people choose not to believe it or make excuses for Chavez makes no difference to what he has presided over. (There's still people denying the Holocaust.)