I think by now my comments are far too biased to convince too many of those who believe Chavez is a good thing for good reasons. There are plenty of intelligent, rational people I disagree with, who have their own logic to support that government.
My problem right now is with complete nonsense presented as information such as that article. As I said in another comment of mine, I expected an interesting discussion in kuro5hin when the subject was posted, and I looked forward to that as a chance to cool my head. But that implies the arguments have some actual basis, and this "analysis" had nothing of the sort
There IS something wrong with the way the oil money is handled. But the oil money is handled BY the government, not the oil company... the oil company makes money, and it has been pretty good at making that money.
Every single Latin American president promises to improve the life of the poor. The fact that they say they're working on that doesn't mean they're being successful. Before crediting Chavez with improving the life of the poor, you might want to check whether their lives have actually improved, and what the macroeconomic numbers are: inflation, unemployment, GDP, etc.
I would like to ask you some links to the "good evidence" that Chavez was right on track. PDVSA is not in charge of administering the oil money per se, only of producing it. The money it keeps is reinvested in the company to make more money. The owner the company, the State, is the one that handles the real profits, not the PDVSA administration. If Chavez wanted to take even more money off PDVSA by hiking up the taxes on the company, he could do that without touching the company's administration.
The recent shrinking of the middle class is a direct result of the general strike organized by the enemies of Chavez, who profit too much from the status quo to risk disturbing it. It is not clear that the workers actually supported the strike. Their places of work (ran by, you guessed it, oil-greased fat cats) just did not open. Chavez opposed this. Wouldn't you?
Utter nonsense. The general strikes didn't happen until these last months. The shrinking of the middle class is a phenomenon that's been measured over the last 3 years. There's a problem with the causality there: effect does not precede the cause.
It is clear that the workers supported the strike. Quite simply, you cannot have the numbers they had without workers: we don't have hundreds of thousands of rich industrialists. It's a state-run country living off the state's money, which comes from the government. The labor unions officially supported the coup (until the "interim government" decided to betray them) and officially oppose Chavez.
The only places of work directly related to the oil industry are owned and handled by the government. There is no oil-greased fat cat except for the government: it's a state-run industry. Everyone else does live off the oil money, but only by receiving it from the fat cat.
The places that just did not open, the private industries, are related to commerce, private transportation, manufactured goods, etc. The media, one of the biggest private industries the country has, opened because their role in the coup was to actually keep working.
Another group whose feathers must get ruffled for the sake of a more equitable wealth distribution is the media, who also profitted tremendously from the pre-Chavez system.
Would you care to back that up with specifics?
If the media fucked you at every corner while you were trying to help the poor, and refused consistenly to show a balanced picture of the situation, wouldn't you do this too? (Can you imagine if this happened in the US, if ALL of the media overtly acted to encourage Bush's overthrow?)
If "balanced picture of the situation" meant agreeing with everything Bush says, and "encouraging Bush's overthrow" meant criticizing his government, his politics, or even his persona, that's actually happening right now.
Yet I can't imagine the public tolerating Bush taking over the TV networks and force them to transmit HIS version of the story every 2 or 3 days, for 4 to 6 hours, usually in prime-time. And when he has his own TV show every weekday morning to do that too.
The conflict between Chavez and the media did not come out of nowhere. You might want to check why the media actually opposed Chavez and the nature of the conflict. I usually just link to Chavez's own transcripts. Please note they are incomplete, as they take time to put online (they seem to be up to only February), and note the dates.
Basicly, when you keep publicly accusing someone of being pure evil, of being your enemy, conspiring against you, and threaten them, they tend to become your enemies and conspire against you.
Do I think the labor unions are made of saints? No. Do I think we would be better off with a government-sponsored labor union? NO WAY. The corruption in the labor unions was because of their links to the government, and the special interest they were "bitches" of were the interests of political parties. Having a "Bolivarian labor union" would be going to back to the worst days of the pre-Chavez corruption.
But whatever you think or I think about labor unions, it's not our role to replace them forcibly to suit our political views. It's the decision of the workers. Chavez has no right to try to replace them with a creature of his own.
He tried that through a referendum to the general population. This is a bad idea because it involves other political actors in an issue that is the workers' only, yet he did this for his own political gain because an election within the workers did not look hopeful for his side. Even then he lost, so by referendum (his favorite political argument) the CTV is the legitimate labor union force in the country. Yet he chooses not to recognize this.
I would like to point this same argument back at you: you seem to take at face-value the supposed incorruptibility of the Chavez regime. Yet every government in every Latin American country has claimed it will eliminate corruption, and the Chavez regime has had as many scandals of corruption as any other. Do you really think no one in the current institutions follow other special interests?
Latin American countries have a tendency to elect governments by judging the previous one. I ask you to judge Chavez by himself. There is no such thing as an "it could not be worse" situation, and blind faith in good intentions is what put us in the pre-Chavez corruption mess in the first place. They too distracted the public by blaming their predecessors, and being more confrontational is not an improvement.
Also answer me this: what did Chavez ever do that violated the Venezuelan constitution? I just want one example.
Very well, I will restrict myself to one example very closely related to the current situation. Some of Chavez's most controversial government measures were enacted through an "enabling law" that basically allows him to rule by decree, but whithin some limitations imposed by the Constitution as "ruling by decree" is a very dangerous power to give to a President (this is not a Chavez innovation, though. Venezuelans have the bad habit of giving "enabling laws" to every ruler, democratic or not).
The laws, including radical reforms on the land property system, taxes, economic institutions, and others were announced and published in a rush in November 2001 and violated the Bolivarian Constitution in the following ways:
The controversial 49 laws that were approved in November 2001, including the ones related to the land reform, were introduced by Chavez' personal decree and approved almost immediately (1 1/2 hours before official publication) and by surprise without public consultation.
It is the Constitutional duty of the President to submit any decrees enforced by the "enabling law" to a special commission of the National Assembly 10 days before their approval and publication, to ensure that the President is not exceeding his powers and to let the involved political actors review these decrees.
The Constitution declares there must be citizen participation in the legislative process, including decree-laws made by the President through the "enabling law". The government must receive input from the civil society, that was a big point of the Bolivarian Constitution. Yet these laws, which have the most drastic possible effect on the economic structure of the nation, were introduced and approved with no input from anyone but the Executive Power.
The decree-laws in question exceeded the Constitutional authority of the President. They legislate organizations over which the President has no direct power (the Macroeconomic Stabilization Fund, for example). The land reforms contradict the interpretation of private property that is guaranteed in the Bolivarian Constitution, and allows its confiscation, which is also guaranteed not to happen to citizens in the Constitution unless the goods are the product of corruption or narcotraffic. They force land propietors to work the land specifically as the State dictates, which removes from them any pretense of free enterprise.
The Constitution also guarantees the right of the citizen to defend their property and themselves, and the law legalizes the invasion of private property until the owner (not the invasor) proves legally that the invasion is illegal, effectively making it illegal for a private citizen to stop another from taking over their property (the burden of proof rests on the victim). Note that this makes it as legal for a "great land-owner" to take over his poor neighbors' land as for the poor family to take over part of a big farm. Small land-owners fear rightly for their property.
The land reform law also imposed a tax on unexploited land, and gives control of the tax to the federal taxing entity (SENIAT). The President had no authority to impose new taxes through decree-laws, and even those land taxes imposed through the normal process (which goes through debate in the National Assembly) cannot be given to the SENIAT when according to the Constitution they can only be given to the regional government.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
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