Sunday, December 29, 2002

Dec 29/02 - A Venezuelan Responds to the BBC

A Venezuelan responds to BBC London

Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas*

As a rule, I rely on the British media – especially the BBC and The Economist – for their ability to put international events into an objective context.

That explains why I am so disappointed by what I am seeing on British public TV with respect to the political situation of my country. Clearly, British public TV has lost impartiality.

We are living – indeed participating in – a stunning and undeniably spontaneous national epic against the Chavez regime. Incredibly, and without a shred of evidence to back them up, British public TV has concluded that this epic is the work of the rich class. Such nonsense does not stand up under analysis.

Four years ago, almost all sectors of Venezuelan society supported Chávez. However, he has alienated them one by one. Today, he is opposed by the entire nation: businessmen have seen their companies ruined; intellectuals have experienced officially sponsored violence unrestrained by the Constitution; farmers feel that their labor is threatened; workers complain about the violation of their union rights and the poorest of citizens realize that they could become poorer still, to the point of misery.

To say that only the “rich” oppose Chávez when the polls show that he is opposed by at least 80% of Venezuelans, is tantamount to stating that the business class, the rich or the oligarchy, represent over three quarters of Venezuela’s population. In fact, there has been an alarming increase in the percentage of critically poor, the informal economy and unemployment.

Anyone can observe that, in Venezuela, the separation of powers– the essence of a democracy and of a republic - does not exist, because the authoritarian disposition of the President virtually concentrates in his own hands, in addition to the Executive, the obedient Legislative branch, the offices of the Prosecutor General, the Ombudsman, and the Comptroller General, and he dictates his will to the Judicial branch. All of this is public and common knowledge.

In a nation that had the most permeable and free spirited social structure, which had the most humane and vigorous social equality in America, President Chavez has directly or indirectly sponsored distrust and all sort of resentment among Venezuela’s social classes. This is why the danger of confrontation is imminent.

Since 1958, the Armed Forces have supported the democratic institutions and at the same time won the respect of the nation, by placing itself above party rivalries. This had positioned them, mutatis mutandi, in the tropical equivalency of the British Crown. President Chavez, by abruptly politicizing the military, has divided and debilitated this institution, which is essential to the unity of the nation.

Being of a naturally democratic temperament, the Venezuelan people instinctively rejected the gradual introduction of the Cuban model here, with its political totalitarianism, its armed popular militias, its hopeless poverty and the aberrant pretension to relive the failed model and the anachronism of a Communist State.

The heroic acts, whereby millions of voices and will power decorate the streets of Venezuela on a daily basis, are telling the world that the thinking class of this country, and its organized civil society, are not going to emigrate, leaving the nation with only the “lumpen proletariat” that “exalts in turmoil and humiliates itself in chains”, as Simon Bolivar sentenced.

The failure to understand the present situation of Venezuela does not affect my country in any way; nor does it deter my country’s will to fight fiercely but in a civic and democratic way.

But somebody is in debt with reality and truth.

Caracas, December 29th, 2002

* University Professor and former Minister of Foreign Affairs (1994-1999)