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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