Monday, 15 April 2013

Venezuela’s authoritarian democracy has turned into a dictatorship

For years I have criticized those that called Hugo Chavez a dictator. The man was a corrupt authoritarian that manipulated and extorted our people, and bent the rules of democracy to their limits, but there was no doubt in my mind that he had been elected by a majority of Venezuelan voters. Today I cannot say the same for Nicolás Maduro.

There was a level of fraud in all our past elections, starting with the fact that the National Electoral Council (CNE) is anything but independent, as it has always been controlled by a majority of Chávez supporters. There has regularly been abuse of State resources –everything from the news coverage and advertising on our public television to the use of public money, vehicles and infrastructure– to support chavista candidates. This is something that also happened in governments prior to 1998, but Chávez and his supporters have intensified it to blatant levels.

What we had never seen before the “revolution” was proper electoral intimidation. This includes sending gangs of thugs in motorcycles to voting polls to threaten voters; creating the perception that our vote is not secret to pressure public employees and people who benefit from social programs; and the publication of the list of citizens that signed a petition for a presidential recall referendum in 2003 and 2004, and that as a consequence were denied everything from jobs to public services.

Chávez didn't need fraud to win before, but he probably suspected that he would require it further along, when his popularity had eroded, so he encouraged and accepted it. The opposition parties didn't have the will or the resources to prove he was cheating. They did not want the anti-Chavez crowds to revert back to abstentionism, and they didn't want to admit that they lacked enough presence on the ground to prevent fraud. In 2007, Chavez lost his first election: a referendum to re-write the Constitution. That night, he was practically forced by the military to admit his defeat. He did so, but on the condition that he could reduce the margin of votes as much as possible. The military and the CNE accepted, and the opposition didn't raise their voice because they knew they didn't have electoral witnesses in 100% of the voting centers so they had no solid evidence of a wider margin –and besides, they were still getting their victory!

Chavez learned at least two things from that experience. First, he tightened his fist around the military, sending many of them to retirement and making sure that those that stayed were completely loyal to him. Second, he decided it was time for dirtier electoral strategies. For the 2010 parliamentary elections, he ordered re-districting tactics that allowed his party to obtain two thirds of the seats in the National Assembly despite obtaining less than half of the votes.

Chavez’s absolutely loyal military has proved to be very useful. In the 14 April elections, among many things, they prevented voters from witnessing the auditing of the votes, they cowardly ran away from a voting center in Zulia where pro-Chavez thugs were shooting at voters, and they removed ballot boxes in Trujillo and other states without allowing the votes to be counted.

In July of 2012, the CNE announced it would not allow independent electoral observers in Venezuela. Instead, it created the figure of “electoral companions” whose role would be to suggest ways to enhance the voting process. Political parties would not be allowed to invite their own companions; only the CNE could choose who would come to supervise the elections. For the 14 April elections, the mission was headed by leftist Argentinian politician Carlos “Chacho” Álvarez, who has expressed his admiration for Hugo Chavez. On the day of the elections, two-dozen Chavez supporters attacked the headquarters of a Venezuelan university group that had tried to independently supervise the voting.

The list of incidents denounced by the opposition just goes on, and proof of most of them is being collected by the Capriles camp –in the hope that we might still have some justice left in Venezuela– and is pretty much available online (including a video in which we see a very creepy man supervising who people vote for). I am confident that this time the opposition did have witnesses in all polling stations, and they can show proof of the government's fraud. As I write, I am seeing news reports of abandoned ballot boxes being found in Barinas and Bolivar, mostly with votes for the opposition candidate. The CNE should be investigating this. Instead, they are announcing an act to proclaim Maduro as the new president today. This is how a dictatorship begins.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

I don’t believe in Socialist birds, but I’m sure they fly

I remember once, while discussing the Gabriel García Márquez novel “One hundred years of solitude” with an English friend, I ended up quite offended when she confessed that, basically, that is how she imagined the whole of Latin America. But after seeing Venezuelan acting President and presidential candidate Nicolás Maduro announce that the spirit of Hugo Chávez had visited him in the form of a bird, it is not so unbelievable that us Latin Americans are an irrational and fatalistic people pretty much condemned to repeat our destiny.

I’ve had a laugh this past week thinking what would happen if England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, went on television to say he’d been visited by the ghost of Winston Churchill –either in human form or as the animal of his choice. The Conservative leader would silently be whisked to a mental asylum and Parliament would call for elections right away. But that simply does not happen in Venezuela.

My English friends will be pleased to know that a large numbers of Venezuelans have expressed shock over Maduro’s story. Social networks are full of memes making fun of the acting president and his avian fantasies. An opposition politician has demanded the Chávez heir undergo a mental evaluation. And, interestingly, most leaders of the Socialist party have chosen to remain silent about the alleged reincarnation of their leader (though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have all started scattering birdseeds in their balconies, in the hope of conjuring up their old boss).

Will Maduro’s comment cost him the election? I seriously doubt it. Venezuela is an incredibly superstitious country. One of our favourite expressions is “I don’t believe in witches, but I’m sure they fly”. Though we are a nation with a Catholic majority, the truth is that we do not wait for the Vatican to canonise our saints, and we have no problem in lighting a candle for the ghosts of our Independence heroes, a dead grandfather, a wandering spirit, or indigenous and African deities, along with our Christian saints. In the “barrios” or slums, people worship recently killed criminals to ask for their protection, and even while Chavez was alive I saw altars with pictures of the President.

Yes, there might be a prevalence of this “popular religiosity” among Chavez supporters, but many in the opposition also believe that witches do fly. Last year, when presidential candidate Henrique Capriles –a descendant of Jewish immigrants that considers himself Catholic, and has recently started wearing a very visible rosary around his neck– visited the state of Amazonas, he took part in a blessing ritual with a shaman from one of Venezuela’s 34 indigenous tribes. You can bet he will do the same this week when he travels back there.

I will join in mocking Maduro, no doubt, but mostly because his politics are atrocious. And the evening before the election, I will light a candle to the any and all gods, while I pray that the people who supported Chavez finally get some sense into their heads. Amen.

PS, if you ask me, I’d say that Hugo did reincarnate… but as a sewer rat!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Venezuela autoritaria

(An English version of this post can be read here)

En mis 10 motivos por los que no extrañaré a Chávez, sugerí que el autoritarismo es un defecto que la mayoría de los venezolanos tenemos. A pesar de las abrumadores expresiones de apoyo que he recibido por ese artículo, la verdad es que he recibido bastantes quejas por haber montado a la mayoría de los venezolanos en el mismo barco autoritario que nuestro difunto presidente.

Pero no puedo retractarme de lo que dije. Estoy convencido de que la mayoría de los venezolanos se sienten más cómodos con una sumisión ciega a la autoridad, que cargando con la responsabilidad que implican la libertad individual de pensamiento y acción. Y el principal motivo de ello –como si la cosa no pudiera ser peor– es que somos flojos.

No estoy diciendo que somos flojos todo el tiempo y en todas las circunstancias. ¿Quién puede decirle floja a una madre que despierta todos los días a las 4 am para dejar a sus hijos en la escuela, y después se va a trabajar 12 horas? Nuestros barrios y urbanizaciones están llenos de mujeres así. Pero cuando se trata de ser un ciudadano, y de interesarnos por lo que en latín se llama la res publica (cosa pública), lamentablemente la mayoría de nosotros preferimos dejar las cosas en manos de otros. Incluso si ello implica renunciar a nuestros derechos.

Por eso es que Venezuela eligió a Chávez presidente en 1998. Estábamos hartos de la corrupción y la incompetencia de los viejos partidos políticos, así que muchos pensaron que un ex militar “con las botas bien puestas” podría poner orden. Chávez parecía capaz de ello, a pesar del fracaso de su golpe contra Carlos Andrés Perez en 1992. Al menos había demostrado que estaba dispuesto a tratar de cambiar las cosas.

Pareciera que el estado ideal de los venezolanos es tener un caudillo que se encargue de los asuntos de la nación, mientras nosotros nos dedicamos a cosas más importantes: por ejemplo, irnos a la playa. Quizás por eso es que Chávez hacía coincidir sus anuncios más impopulares con el inicio de las vacaciones. Sabía que la gente iba a estar ocupada metiendo hielo en las cavas, midiendo la presión de los cauchos del carro o comprando protector solar. La gente escuchaba el anuncio, se quejaba, llegaba a la arena y dejaba que el agua del mar se llevara su molestia.

Recuerdo cuando se dijo que la nueva ley de bancos de Chávez sancionaría a los bancos que no tuvieran suficientes cajeros en sus agencias. Llegué a escuchar a gente decir: “Por fin este hombre hace algo útil”. Pero en un país de verdaderos ciudadanos, serían los consumidores quienes castigarían a un banco ineficiente, no el gobierno. Los mismos consumidores que, en las naciones del primer mundo, hacen despedir a un locutor de TV por hacer comentarios racistas, o que presionan a compañías de cosméticos a dejar de probar sus productos en animales. Pero eso es demasiado que pedir de nosotros, supongo.

Con razón tantas personas fantasean con el gran país que sería Venezuela si el dictador Marcos Pérez Jiménez no hubiese sido derrocado en 1958. No les molestaría un poco de tortura y presos políticos, a cambio de unas buenas autopistas y hospitales. ¿Pero no sería mejor lograr esas cosas a través de la democracia y de la participación ciudadana?

Ahora que Chávez ha muerto, y que la influencia de sus poco carismáticos lacayos eventualmente irá disminuyendo, quizás nos convendría repensar nuestros valores democráticos. Y no hablo sólo de quienes apoyaron a Chávez. Mucha gente que se le opuso y que lo llamó dictador (aunque mi opinión es que él no lo era), hubiese aplaudido un golpe contra él. ¿Qué tipo de demócrata cree que la solución es un golpe? Urgentemente necesitamos repensar todo esto, antes de que acabemos eligiendo otro autócrata.

Authoritarian Venezuela

(Una versión en español de este post puede ser leída aquí)

In my 10 reasons why I will not miss Chávez, I suggested that authoritarianism was a flaw that most Venezuelans have. Despite the overwhelming expressions of support I received for that post, I did get quite a lot of complaints for having put most Venezuelans on the same authoritarian boat as our deceased president.

But I cannot take back what I said. I am convinced that most Venezuelans are more comfortable with blind submission to authority, than assuming the responsibility that comes with individual freedom of thought and action. And the main reason for that –as if things couldn’t get worse– is that we are lazy.

I am not saying we are lazy all the time and in every circumstance. Who can say that a mother that wakes up every day at 4 am to get her children to school, and then goes off to work 12 hours, is lazy? Our barrios and neighborhoods are full of those women. But when it comes to being a citizen and caring about what the Latin called res publica (public affairs), unfortunately most of us will rather leave things in somebody else’s hands. Even if it means giving up our rights.

That is why Venezuela elected Chávez president in 1998. We were tired of the corruption and incompetence of the old political parties, so many among us thought that an ex military with well-fitted boots –as we say in Venezuela– could put things in order. Chávez seemed up to the task, despite his 1992 coup against Carlos Andrés Pérez having failed. He had at least proved that he was willing to try to change things.

It would seem that the ideal state for us Venezuelans is to have a strong leader that will take care of the country’s problems while we focus on more important things: like going off to the beach. Maybe that is why Chávez always made his most unpopular announcements at the start of major holidays. He knew people would be busy getting ice in their coolers, checking the tire pressure of their cars and buying sun-block. People would hear the news, complain, hit the sand, and let the water wash off their frustration.

I remember when it was said that Chavez’s new banking law would penalize banks for not having enough tellers on duty in their offices. I actually heard people say: “Finally this man is doing something useful”. But in a country of real citizens, it would be the consumers who would punish an inefficient bank, not the government. The same consumers that, in first world nations, have a TV presenter fired for making racist remarks, or that pressure cosmetic companies to stop testing their products on animals. But that is a too much to ask from us, I guess.

No wonder many people still fantasize about what a great country Venezuela would be if dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez had not been ousted in 1958. They wouldn’t mind a bit of torture and political prisoners, in exchange for nice highways and hospitals. But wouldn’t it be better to achieve those things through democracy and citizens getting involved?

Now that Chávez is dead, and the influence of his uncharismatic lackeys will eventually decrease, we might want to rethink our democratic values. And I’m not just speaking of those that supported Chavez. Many people who opposed him and called him a dictator (which I believe he was not), would have applauded a coup against him. What sort of democrat believes the solution is a coup? We urgently need to start thinking about all of this, before we end up electing a new autocrat.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

10 motivos por los que no extrañaré a Chávez

Descansa en paz, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. Como venezolano no estuve de acuerdo con la mayoría de tus políticas y puntos de vista, pero no me alegro de tu muerte y respeto el dolor de tus familiares y simpatizantes.

En 1998, cuando hiciste campaña por la Presidencia –y prometiste acabar con la corrupcióna pesar de mi decepción con los partidos tradicionales no te apoyé porque habías liderado un golpe contra el presidente Carlos Andrés Pérez. Nunca me gustó CAP, pero lo cierto es que él fue elegido por el pueblo, e intentar derrocarlo fue prueba de que tú no respetabas la voluntad de los venezolanos.

No me opuse al cien por ciento de tu gestión de gobierno. Estaba agradecido, por ejemplo, porque colocaste sobre la mesa el tema de la pobreza, y llamaste la atención sobre millones de venezolanos que hasta entonces habían sido excluidos. Sabía que los médicos cubanos en los barrios estaban mal preparados y no tenían los insumos necesarios, pero entendía lo importantes que eran para la madre desesperada que les toca la puerta a las 3 de la madrugada. También estaba feliz de que la mayoría de los venezolanos comenzaron a interesarse de nuevo por la Política (algunos porque te apoyaban;  otros, porque se oponían a ti). El sentimiento anti-político que vivimos en los años noventa fue precisamente lo que te llevó a ser elegido. Por último, tenía presente que la mayoría de los venezolanos te apoyaban, así que no dudaba de tu derecho a mantenerte en el poder.

Estos son los 10 motivos por los que no te extrañaré:

1. Tu forma de ser autoritaria (reflejo de un defecto que probablemente la mayoría de los venezolanos tenemos), y tu inhabilidad de emprender un diálogo honesto con cualquier que pensara distinto a ti. Incluso cuando estabas a un paso de la muerte, hiciste que el Tribunal Supremo retirara a una magistrada, porque ella se oponía a tus políticas.

2. Tu irrespeto por el estado de derecho y tu contribución al clima de impunidad en Venezuela. En 1999, reescribiste la Constitución a tu antojo, y pese a eso después la violabas casi a diario. Con este ejemplo, no es de sorprenderse que el crimen haya explotado en Venezuela. En catorce años, nuestra tasa de homicidio se triplicó, pasando de 22 homicidios por cada 100,000 habitantes a 74. Mientras los jueces estaban demasiado ocupados demostrando que te eran leales, apenas 11% de los homicidios conducían a una imputación.

3. Tus promesas vacías y la manera en que manipulabas a muchos venezolanos para que pensaran que estabas trabajando por ellos. En 14 años construiste menos viviendas que los presidentes que te antecedieron y que sólo tuvieron períodos de 5 años. Los hospitales hoy en día no tienen recursos, y si uno llega con una emergencia le exigen traer un kit quirúrgico, con medicinas, guantes y hasta tapabocas. La verdad es que eras mejor alardeando que haciendo cosas.

4. El asombroso grado de corrupción de tu gobierno. Había corrupción antes de que fueras elegido, pero anteriormente los escándalos no se hacían públicos hasta que un partido le entregaba el gobierno a otro. Ahora vemos como millones y millones de dólares desaparecen frente a nuestros ojos, y tu única reacción era atacar a los medios por hacer públicos los escándalos de corrupción. Los únicos políticos acusados de corrupción han sido de partidos que se oponen a tu gobierno, y la mayoría con cargos manipulados. Por ejemplo, Leopoldo López nunca fue declarado culpable por un tribunal, pero de todas maneras fue inhabilitado. ¿Su delito? Usar las partidas presupuestarias incorrectas para pagar el sueldo de maestros y bomberos –porque tu gobierno central en su momento le negó los recursos que le tocaban.

5. Las oportunidades que desperdiciaste. Cuando asumiste el poder, el precio del petróleo era de menos de 10 dólares el barril, y para el año 2008 se había disparado a más de 126 dólares. ¡Había tanto que podías haber hecho con ese dinero! Y sin embargo decidiste desperdiciarlo en corrupción, y en comprar elecciones y armas. Si hubieses usado esos recursos adecuadamente, 10,7% de los venezolanos no vivirían en pobreza extrema.

6. Tus ataques contra la propiedad y la empresa privada. Nacionalizaste cientos de empresas privadas, y empujaste cientos más a la bancarrota. Y no era porque fueras un comunista o un socialista, sino simplemente porque querías que no quedara nadie con capacidad de oponerse a ti. Si todo el mundo era un empleado público, podrías obligarlos a asistir a tus marchas, y la oposición jamás recibiría financiamiento.

7. Tu hipocresía con respecto al tema de la libertad y los derechos humanos. Cerraste más de 30 estaciones de radio y televisión por ser críticas a tu gobierno, le negaste a periódicos las divisas para adquirir papel para imprimir (los ciudadanos regulares tampoco podemos acceder a divisas extranjeras a no ser que tú lo autorices), mantuviste a personas encarceladas sin juicio por años, mandaste a personas a prisión por delitos de opinión, despediste a miles de empleados públicos por firmar una petición para un referéndum revocatorio, e incluso les negaste acceso a servicios públicos y hasta cédulas de identidad y pasaportes.

8. Tu hipocresía con respecto al tema de la soberanía de Venezuela. Sacaste de Venezuela a los norteamericanos, pero entonces te bajaste los pantalones para los cubanos, los rusos, los chinos y los iraníes. Tenemos oficiales cubanos dando órdenes en la Fuerza Armada venezolana. Las empresas petroleras chinas obtienen un margen de ganancia mayor a  cualquiera que en su momento hayan obtenido las empresas occidentales. Y dejaste claro que tus alianzas serían con los gobiernos que masacran a sus propios pueblos.

9. Tu hipocresía con respecto al tema de la violencia. Dijiste que ésta era una revolución pacífica, pero dejaste operar impunes a grupos armados como los Tupamaros, La Piedrita y las FBLN. Les diste armas. Le pediste a los rusos que montaran en Venezuela una ensambladora de fusiles Kalashnikov. Criticaste las guerras de Estados Unidos, pero mientras tanto le dabas armas a la guerrilla colombiana, cuyos únicos objetivos son el asesinato y el narcotráfico.

10. Tu hipocresía con respecto al tema de la democracia. Tu insulto favorito para los partidos de oposición era “golpistas”, pero te olvidabas que tú habías organizado un golpe en 1992, y que los militares que te eran leales habían sugerido que apoyarían un golpe a tu favor si la oposición alguna vez ganaba las elecciones presidenciales. No había democracia en tu partido político: escogías a dedo a los candidatos a la Asamblea Nacional y a los gobiernos municipales y estadales. En 2007, cuando la oposición ganó un referéndum que te habría permitido cambiar la Constitución, desconociste los resultados y hallaste la manera de cambiar los artículos para permitir la reelección indefinida. Manipulaste las circunscripciones para las elecciones parlamentarias de 2010, para asegurarte de que la oposición no lograra obtener sino un tercio de los curules en la Asamblea Nacional, a pesar de haber obtenido más de la mitad de los votos.  Tu democracia era hecha de papel, te asegurabas de que no hubiese equilibrio entre los poderes públicos, y de que todas las instituciones fueran tus títeres.

Así que no, Hugo, no te voy a extrañar. Descansa en paz ahora, mientras nosotros intentamos reconstruir este desastre de país que nos dejaste.

Who are crying for Hugo Chávez?

We will see their faces over the following days: the people –by the hundreds of thousands– who are crying for Hugo Chávez. It would be petty to dismiss them just because we disagree with almost everything that the Venezuelan president stood for.  

The sad truth is that many who opposed Chávez did ignore those Venezuelans for years. When Chávez jumped from 3,673,685 votes in the 1998 presidential election to 7,309,080 in 2006, many people screamed fraud, because they couldn't understand where those votes were coming from. What they didn't see is that Chávez had spent his first years in government registering hundreds of thousands of Venezuela’s poor, who until then had never voted (Chávez was first elected by the middle class, who were tired of the corruption and inefficiency of the old political parties, not by the poor who would later support him).

When the opposition spotted people called Batman or Superman in the voting lists, they thought they’d found the smoking gun they had been looking for –but the joke was on them when the government unearthed these voters and proved they were real despite their cartoonish names.

For many who opposed Chavez, it was easier to question the Batmans and Supermans, and claim fraud, than to accept that the political class that represented them had for decades ignored and marginalized a majority of Venezuelans. So whenever Jimmy Carter and or the OAS put their seal of approval on Venezuelan elections, they were accused of conspiring with Chávez.  

None of this is to say that Chávez was not a corrupt and authoritarian charlatan that abused his office, bent the rules of democracy like a magician, disrespected the Constitution almost on a daily basis, and followed democracy only when it benefited him (best example of this: when an opposition politician was elected mayor of Caracas, the President let him be sworn in but then took away his office, responsibilities and budget and gave them to a hand-picked Chávez supporter). But despite all of this, Chávez did have a majority and they are now crying for him. Understanding who these people are and why they supported the President is necessary if there is ever going to be a real reconciliation in Venezuela.  

The innocent. Being the optimist that I am, I choose to believe that these are the majority of Chavez’s supporters. They have no idea of what a democracy should look like, or what they should expect from a proper government. They just know that for the first time a President looks like them and talks like them: he goes on national TV and sings, dances and speaks about that time he almost didn’t make it in time to the toilet… Maybe they’ve only received a red t-shirt from Chávez, or just the hope of one day being handed the keys to a new house (even if it’s an apartment in an 18-floor building with no elevators), but it is still more than most of them ever got from previous governments. That’s why one of their favorites slogans was: “Hungry and with no job, I stick to Chavez”. How do you convince them that the man was not a saint?

The opportunists. These are the people that are getting rich off the “revolution”. From the “socialist” ministers whose children go shopping in New York, to the businessmen that make the red caps, red t-shirts and anything else you can imagine being made in the color red. They are the boli-bourgeois who shuddered every time Chávez spoke of Socialism and “communes”, and who drove around in Hummers and armored cars, buying for cheap the homes and businesses of the old elite. Today, as the crocodile tears trickle down their face, they are actually wondering how they can keep doing business in a government led by Nicolás Maduro.  

The cynics. They believe in no one –and care about no one– but themselves. They’ve spent the last 14 years figuring out how to survive under Chávez, so now they are worried about changes. These are the people who will rather go off to the beach or a mall than vote. They have seen the opposition mess up so many times, that they really have no reason to choose them over Chávez. They couldn't care less about democracy, rule of law or human rights. Give them a new smartphone or a car, and they are happy. So now they aren’t really crying for the dead President as much as for concern over their own wellbeing.  

The lefties. Before Chávez first took office, they spent decades dreaming of what a left-wing government would be like. So they revelled when it was finally their turn to lead Venezuela –even if many of them suspected that Chávez wasn’t a real socialist, and they were disgusted by the corruption of the opportunists. Since most of the lefties had spent their lives reading books and daydreaming, instead of having proper jobs, they ended up being a mess when it came to planning and carrying out government policies. We have them to thank for the regular power failures, crumbling roads and nightmarish economy. Not surprisingly, many of them have joined the ranks of the opportunists.  

The anarchists. They are the people who, seeing how Chavez broke the law every single day, felt they also had a right to do how they pleased. The list includes those directly responsible for last year's 22,000 homicides, the gang leaders in the “barrios”, the police that moonlight as kidnappers, the mobsters that rule the prisons... They will surely miss a President saying that it is all right to go out and rob if you are hungry or needy.  

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

10 reasons why I will not miss Chavez

Rest in peace, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. As a Venezuelan, I didn't agree with most of your policies and politics, but I do not rejoice in your death and I do respect the pain of your family and supporters.

In 1998, when you campaigned for the presidency -and promised to end corruption- despite my disappointment with the traditional parties, I did not support you because you had led a coup against president Carlos Andres Pérez. I didn't like Pérez, but he was elected by our people and attempting to overthrow him was proof that you did not respect the will of Venezuelans.

I didn't oppose 100% of what you did. I was grateful, for example, that you placed the issue of poverty on the table and you put the spotlight on millions of Venezuelans that until then had been excluded. I knew that the Cuban doctors in the slums were unprepared and unequipped, but I understood that they meant the world to the mother that knocks on their door at 3am. I was also happy of the way most Venezuelans started to care about politics again (some because they supported you; others because they opposed you). The anti-politic feeling we saw in the 90's was precisely what got you elected. And I also kept in mind that a majority of Venezuelans did support you, so you certainly had a right to be in office.

These are my 10 reasons why I will not miss you:

1. Your authoritarian manner (which reflected a flaw probably most Venezuelans have), and your inability to engage in an honest dialogue with anyone that opposed you. Even from your death bed, you had a Supreme Court justice fired because she didn't agree with your politics.

2. Your disrespect for the rule of law and your contribution to a climate of impunity in Venezuela. In 1999, you re-wrote the Constitution to fit your needs, and yet you violated it almost on a daily basis. With this example, it is no surprise that crime exploded in Venezuela. In 14 years, our homicide rate more than tripled from 22/100K to 74/100K. While judges were busy trying to prove their political allegiance to you, only 11% of homicides led to a conviction.

3. Your empty promises and the way you manipulated many Venezuelans to think you were really working for them. In 14 years you built less public housing than any president before you did in their 5 year periods. Hospitals today have no resources, and if you go there in an emergency you must bring with you everything from medicines to surgical gloves and masks. The truth is that you were better at blowing your own trumpet than at getting things done.

4. The astounding level of corruption of your government. There was corruption before you got elected, but normally a government's scandals weren't made public until they handed power to the opposing party. Now we've heard about millions and millions of dollars vanishing in front of everybody's eyes, and your only reaction was to attack the media that revealed the corruption. The only politicians accused of corruption have been from parties that oppose you, and mostly on trumped up charges. For example, Leopoldo Lopez was never condemned by the courts but you still prevented him for running for office. His crime? Using money from the wrong budget allocation to pay for the salaries of teachers and firemen -because your government withheld the appropriate funds.

5. The opportunities you missed. When you took office, the price of oil was $9.30, and in 2008 it reached $126.33. There was so much good you could have done with that money! And yet you decided to throw it away on corruption and buying elections and weapons. If you had used these resources well, 10.7% of Venezuelans would not be in extreme poverty.

6. Your attacks on private property and entrepreneurship. You nationalized hundreds of private companies, and pushed hundreds more towards bankruptcy. Not because you were a communist or a socialist, but simply because you wanted no one left with any power to oppose you. If everyone was a public employee, you could force them to attend your political rallies, and the opposition would not get any funding.

7. Your hypocrisy on freedom and human rights. You shut down more than 30 radio and television stations for being critical of your government, you denied access to foreign currency for newspapers to buy printing paper (regular citizens can't access foreign currency unless you authorize it), you imprisoned people without trial for years, you imprisoned people for crimes of opinion, you fired tens of thousands of public employees for signing a petition for a recall referendum and you denied them access to public services and even ID cards and passports.

8. Your hypocrisy on the issue of Venezuela's sovereignty. You kicked out the Americans but then you pulled down your pants for the Cubans, Russians, Chinese and Iranians. We have Cuban officers giving orders in the Venezuelan army. Chinese oil companies work with a higher margin of profit than any Western companies did. And you made it clear that your alliances would be with governments that massacre their own people.

9. Your hypocrisy on the issue of violence. You said this was a peaceful revolution but you allowed illegal armed groups like Tupamaros, La Piedrita and FBLN to operate. You gave them weapons. You had the Russians set up a Kalashnikov plant in Venezuela. You were critical of American wars but yet you gave weapons to the Colombian guerrilla, whose only agenda is murder and drug-dealing.

10. Your hypocrisy on democracy. Your favorite insult for the opposition parties in Venezuela was "coupists", but you forgot you organized a coup in 1992, and the military that was loyal to you suggested they would support a coup in your favor if the opposition ever won the presidential elections. There was no democracy in your political party: you chose each of the candidates for the National Assembly and for city and state governments. When the opposition won the referendum that would have allowed you to change the Constitution in 2007, you disavowed the results and you figured out a way to change the articles and allow yourself to be reelected as many times as you wanted. You manipulated the elections in 2010 to make sure the opposition didn't get more than a third of seats in Parliament even though they got 51% of the popular vote. Your democracy was made of paper, you made sure there were no meaningful checks and balances and all institutions were your puppets.

So no, Hugo I will not miss you. Rest in peace now, while we try to rebuild the mess of a country that you left us.

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