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Column 040113 Brewer

Monday, April 1, 2013

Venezuela's Election and the Failing Bolivarian Revolution

By Jerry Brewer

Some in Venezuela continue to mourn the loss of former President Hugo Chavez, as others are organizing to rid their homeland of leftist dictatorial rule, in place since 1999.  With all this, Venezuelan voters will go to the polls on April 14 to decide whether the Chavez Bolivarian Revolution will limp on.

Acting President Nicolas Maduro is running against six hopefuls, the most formable being Chavez's opponent last year, political foe Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chavez defeated Capriles on October 7, 2012 for a new six year term. However, Chavez subsequently returned to Cuba, in December, for his fourth and final surgery, and he was not healthy enough to even be sworn in for the scheduled new term on January 10, 2013. His death was announced on March 5, 2013.

Capriles, a youthful 40 years of age, lost the presidential popular vote to Chavez 8,191,132 to 6,591,304. The election saw a historically high turnout of voters, above 80%, that denied Chavez the landslide he had in the 2006 presidential election.

Following the death of Chavez, Maduro pushed hard for a quick election “to cash in on a wave of empathy,” this after the former president’s two year battle with an undisclosed type of cancer ended. Capriles accused the government and Supreme Court of fraud for letting Maduro campaign for President without stepping down from his interim position. Too, charges have been made that Maduro “manipulated the electoral agenda by extending Chavez’s mourning for several weeks,” giving him a huge propaganda advantage.”

Chavez, during election campaigns. would cite housing, health and related programs to benefit the poor, and other programs as his cornerstones. Facts, however, demonstrate that the poor continue to live below the poverty line, in unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other related issues affecting the quality of life not expected of such an oil rich nation. Double-digit inflation and a crumbling infrastructure, with rampant and escalating crime, are obvious indicators.

Hugo Chavez was reckless with the truth, and he claimed most of his failures, such as the high crime problem, were the result of poverty that was a direct consequence of capitalism.  Chavez’s consistent message to the Venezuelan people was that being rich is bad ("ser rico es malo").

The world media went into a frenzy as information regarding the wealth of Hugo Chavez and his family emerged after his death, indicating a lavish lifestyle of spending millions of US dollars on purchased and charter aircraft, fine jewelry, expensive European  hotels, and other extravagances.

Semana (a Colombian-based weekly magazine) reported on March 14: “The aircraft were only one of the luxuries enjoyed by Chavez. The annual budget for clothing and footwear was US$329,000; US$151,000 in toiletries; laundry US$408.000; and US$9.5 million for the maintenance of their properties.”

Semana further reported that the Chavez family had an estate in the State of Barinas with “17 farms, with costs ranging from US$400,000 to US$700,000 each. They include La Malagueña, with more than 50,000 hectares, at a cost of US$380,000. The estate of the family, La Chavera, went from 80 hectares five years ago to 320 hectares today.” 

Capriles previously took Chavez to task, calling him out to openly debate on issues of Venezuela’s vanishing oil wealth.  As well, Capriles criticized him for expropriating private businesses and for the government's control and use of the state-controlled media.

Chavez, in turn, was quick to describe Capriles as a "non-entity" he would be "ashamed to measure himself against.”

It is true that Capriles was relentlessly attacked by the state-run media. Other media called the attacks on Capriles “vicious and anti-Semitic,” insofar as his critics insinuated he was “among other things, a homosexual and a Zionist agent.”

Accusations against Maduro are that he has “enjoyed much more time than Capriles to organize his electoral machine because he misled Venezuelans into believing that Chavez’s health was improving, and that there would be no need for an election.” Prior to the announcement by Maduro of Chavez's death, “he (had) claimed for months that Chavez was recovering,” even saying that Chávez personally “held cabinet sessions from his Cuban hospital bed.”

Venezuelan voters must look to the documented failures that are clear and difficult to dispute. The Chavez rule and doctrine was an extreme and forced socialist perspective that has imposed horrific sacrifices on the Venezuelan people and their once cherished homeland. It is not a democracy; there is virtually no economic independence nor equitable distribution of revenue; and political corruption has become a rampant unwelcomed commodity. His "Bolivarian Revolution" is clearly a leftist political and social movement that is reminiscent of the failed and shameful 50 year Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro.

Voters must decide whether the assertions that Chavez’s leftist rule until death have been some of the most devastating in Venezuela's history, with the poor continuing to live below the poverty line and in squalor, and whether Chavez’s choice of Maduro to succeed him is in Venezuela’s best interests.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org. 


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