The dictator and the democrat. "You will see strange things, Sancho", said Don Quixote.
My comments on former President Jimmy Carter’s statement on Hugo Chavez
Statement From Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Death of Hugo Chavez
Rosalynn and I extend our condolences to the family of Hugo Chávez Frías. We met Hugo Chávez when he was campaigning for president in 1998 and The Carter Center was invited to observe elections for the first time in Venezuela. We returned often, for the 2000 elections, and then to facilitate dialogue during the political conflict of 2002-2004. We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.
My Comment: Nothing to object to your expressions of condolence. However, I take exception to your saying that Hugo Chavez had “a vision” to bring changes to the country to benefit the poor. My opinion is that he had a political strategy to cement his hold on power. As a former U.S. president I am sure you know the difference between empowering the poor to effectively escape poverty and to use a policy of handouts to make the poor feel they were being helped. The first path goes to the roots of poverty through education and employment opportunities. The second path enslaves the poor, making them, in the case of Venezuela, totally dependent on the welfare petrostate. Today, with the prodigal leader who used national money as his own no longer around, they feel abandoned and they are still poor. They now receive less fish and never were taught how to fish.
You say you never doubted Chavez’s commitment to improve lives. As a Venezuelan and an observer of the Venezuelan political process I must tell you that I always saw him, and that it was possible to see him, as a throwback to the XIX century “caudillos” who went after power for the sake of power. His stated intention was to include the poor. But the way he went about it was by excluding the middle class, the main social group that generated wealth in the country. By sowing hatred Hugo Chavez committed the worst crime a leader can commit: divide his country into two irreconcilable halves. This is the way we are today.
President Chávez will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment. During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country's economic and political life.
My Comment: Chavez did not promote autonomy and independence of Latin American governments. He rather promoted a change in master for those governments. Through ALBA he created a group of political satellites and through UNASUR he tried, quite unsuccessfully, to create a parallel organization to the OAS, without the U.S. and Canada. You say he looked for other forms of regional integration. Why did he have to kill the Andean Pact or the Group of Three? Could his disruptive presence in Mercosur be truly considered as a sincere effort of integration? Can PetroCaribe be defined as something other than oil based colonialism, a very expensive experiment for which Venezuela gets black beans and bananas as payment for its oil? Your assertion that Venezuelan poverty was cut in half is highly debatable, as poverty is linked to quality of life, not simply to more or less money in the pocket. You should know that official Venezuelan statistics in this area are highly suspect. Ask the United Nations or the experts at the Catholic University of Caracas. As for documents I can say that thousands of illegal aliens have been provided with Venezuelan papers, including members of FARC and ETA and that Cubans are controlling much of these identification processes in my country.
At the same time, we recognize the divisions created in the drive towards change in Venezuela and the need for national healing. We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life.
My Comment: For the building of a new consensus to be possible the 50-60,000 Cubans who are in Venezuela will have to leave. Venezuela will have to cut the suicidal aid to Cuba. The 200-300 main bureaucrats of the regime, obscenely enriched during the Chavez’s years, will have to be prosecuted. There cannot be a simple turning of the pages for millions of Venezuelans who were excluded, persecuted, unjustly treated.
cartercenter.org : March 5, 2013