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Column 080513 Brewer

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Failures and Shame of Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution

By Jerry Brewer

If there was even a modicum of value to add to the history of Venezuela from the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, in his 14 years of iron fisted rule, one could argue that the self-professed mantra of his “Bolivarian Revolution” was not a total failure.

The truth is that Chavez probably inflicted more lasting structural damage on Venezuela’s political institutions, economy and people than any other president in the history of the nation. Even in death a vast world media negatively exploited the Chavez legacy, describing a systematically corrupt administration that squandered billions of dollars of Venezuelan revenues, much of it still unaccounted for.

Venezuela’s state run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), was essentially destroyed by the Chavez regime; this to an oil company that generated over 90% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, while providing jobs to around 100,000 employees. Under Chavez’s lengthy tenure, deliberate indifference, corruption, and much incompetence led to an apparent $50-plus billion in financial debt to PDVSA.

However, Chavez’s personal fortune grew considerably as Venezuela’s wealth rapidly diminished. Post mortem media accounts of his wealth described how the Chavez family has enriched itself in Barinas, a poor town 300 miles southwest of Caracas.

The late-president’s family reportedly owns 17 country estates, totaling more than 100,000 acres, in addition to liquid assets of US$550 million (£360 million) stored in various international banks, this according to the Venezuelan news website Noticias Centro. “While ordinary Venezuelans suffer growing food shortages and 23 per cent inflation, the Chavez family trades in US dollars that now fetch four times the official bank rate on the black market,” states the British daily The Telegraph.

Hugo Chavez’s personal wealth was estimated to be at a minimum of US$1.8 billion.

Chavez routinely touted his devotion to the poor with his Bolivarian Revolution, and he spoke of a mass movement to implement popular democracy, economic independence, an equitable distribution of revenues, and an end to political corruption.  Too, he vowed to “move forward even more aggressively” to create his version of socialism.

Yet even at his death the poor continued to live below the poverty line, in squalor, unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other issues that plague the poor to this day.

This Chavez revolution of so-called Bolivarianism was a charade, cloaked in Simon Bolivar’s rule and doctrine, that imposed horrific sacrifices on Venezuela with virtually no economic independence and equitable distribution of revenue; with rampant political corruption -- reminiscent of the failed and shameful 50 year Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro. As well, the Hugo Chavez era government rule was never transparent.

Many Venezuelans were never fooled by Hugo Chavez and his words of deception, but they risked their lives if they went public with criticism. Chavez routinely jailed journalists critical of his regime, or that questioned his rule.  Many groups of pro-Chavez street thugs, known as “Chavistas,” routinely intimidated, beat and sometimes killed political opponents.  Plus revolutionary repression was a common agenda under the Chavez-controlled judiciary.

Labeled one of the most violent countries in the world, as far back as 2010 a Venezuelan court ordered two opposition newspapers not to print violent images and asked the rest to follow suit after the publication of a photograph of corpses piled high at a morgue in Caracas. Currently, there are more murders in Venezuela than in the United States and the 27 countries of the European Union.

Chavez routinely sought partners that opposed the US and its allies. He created the "Bolivarian Alliance" of fellow socialists in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  Media reports indicated that he supported the terrorist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and also sought military cooperation with Iran and North Korea.  

Given the massive failures of Chavez rule, his death at the age of 58 and the end of a new term that would have extended until at least 2019, might have given Venezuela new hope. However, Nicolas Maduro, known for his communist ideology, became the Chavez hand-picked successor.

Chavez appointed Maduro vice president on October 13, 2012, shortly after his victory in the presidential election. Maduro was a former bus driver and trade union leader. The following December Chávez announced that his cancer had returned, and that he would be returning to Cuba for additional surgery.

Having taken office as president following Chavez's death, Maduro was subsequently elected president in a special election.

Venezuela remains a rogue state based in continued systematic violations of the Constitution and continued  failures in institutional checks and balances. Venezuela's budget remains a secret, oil earnings are secret, and its electoral mechanisms are secret, plus its media are largely under government control.  A U.K. nongovernment organization, Tax Justice Network, reported "that about $400 billion in Venezuelan capital fled to offshore banks.”

And despite claims to have spent $300 billion on social programs under Chavez rule, citizens are experiencing greater poverty.

The Venezuelan government is currently reported to be severely divided. One concern may be the large Cuban influence that remains within the Venezuelan government.

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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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