Guiding lights required, not mirrors
(This is an English version of my Sunday Reflction post below)
Did we see fraud in the recent Venezuelan elections? No. Did we see fraud in the recent Venezuelan elections? Yes.Both answers are correct but apply to different types of fraud. Most analysts are glossing over this difference and the resulting confusion is robbing the energy we need to do the relevant. If we understand by fraud the generation of virtual votes in favor of Hugo Chavez or a massive destruction of the opposing candidate’s votes, the answer is no. But if we understand by fraud the use of public resources to favor Mr. Chavez’s candidacy, the co-opting of the National Electoral Council Board to favor shamelessly Mr. Chavez’s candidacy, the gross extortion applied to public employees to vote for Mr. Chavez or else, the obstacles created to Venezuelans abroad to exercise their vote, the abominable coaching of the ignorant on “how” to vote (see 2-minute video in http://oglobo.globo.com/videos/v/ultima-votacao-na-venezuela/2182324/), the almost total absence of impartial observers, the handouts of thousands of electrical appliances in exchange for the vote, then, it is evident that the answer is yes. This fraud existed and will continue to exist unless the playing field can be leveled.
This is a tragic situation which is generating great material and spiritual damage to Venezuelans, not only to those who have “lost” but also to those who believe they have “won”. The first are frustrated, fighting internally, wavering between voting and absenteeism, between the desire to be civilized and the impulse to lead an insurgency against the regime. Some have resorted to being pragmatic, abandoning a strict adherence to principles and values, in an effort to gain votes from the other group. It also damages the other group since the “victory” perpetuates a pattern of behavior that is destroying the nation, a total dependence of millions of our people in the paternalistic state, in the belief that the handout is the solution to escape poverty when, in fact, it only serves to accentuate poverty.I am convinced that the greatest crime of Hugo Chavez has been to persuade the poor that having money in their pockets, on a day to day basis, represents their way out of poverty. The real way out of poverty is to empower the poor to generate wealth to become independent from the “gracious” favors of the state. Under Chavez this dependence is the greatest ever. This explains why the immense national income of $1.3 trillion during the last 14 years has proven insufficient and why Mr. Chavez’s regime now has a debt of $130 billion, as compared to the debt of $22 billion existing when he arrived in power. This is an unsustainable situation.
What to do? Whoever promises a quick fix is a liar. It involves an attitudinal transformation of large segments of the population, one that can only come about through a systematic effort of civic education. This is difficult to do at a time in which Venezuelan society is being led down a different path. However, the Venezuelan young has proven to be a formidable modernizing force and is capable of taking up this banner. To be successful it will have to divest of the kind of pragmatism that ends up being “more of the same”. We need the Venezuelan youth to be not a mirror but a lighthouse.We are already half way along that road and can develop enough momentum to travel the rest of the way. We have lost the present but the future can still be ours