November 8, 2006

Courageous Venezuelans

Katy says: (Note: What follows is a translation of an article Tal Cual published yesterday. Ana Julia Jatar is a brilliant Venezuelan economist, political analyst and fellow blogger. I came to know and admire her back when I was in college, and my career owes more to her than she will probably ever know. Let's hope this book makes waves. It was probably prompted by her own experiences in the unsavory ways of political discrimination, Chávez-style...)


Ana Julia Jatar undresses chavismo's apartheid

Through the rigorous compilation of documents, photographs, newspaper stories and testimonies, the analyst disentangled the history of the use of the Maisanta and Tascón lists as instruments of political discrimination.

by Carmen Victoria Méndez


If it weren't for political travails, Ana Julia Jatar would probably not exist. That's how former Foreign Minister Simón Alberto Consalvi began his presentation of the book "Apartheid in the 21st Century - Information technology at the service of political discrimination", by the Cuban-born analyst Ana Julia Jatar. Consalvi, who is also a historian and an essayist, was obviously referring to the active role Jatar has played in the current political debate through NGOs like Súmate, but also to a fact that is more pedestrian than ideological: the author was conceived in Havanna, during the political exile of her father Braulio Jattar Dotti, one of Acción Democrática's founders.

Several decades later, the same political segregation that made her birth possible moved her to write this book, a documentary investigation of the Venezuelan government's use of the Tascón and Maisanta lists to reward or punish citizens depending on their allegiance to President Hugo Chávez.

For over a year and a half, Jatar compiled documents and testimony that prove "how the Venezuelan State made possible one of the most cherished fantasies of dark characters such as Joseph McCarthy, Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini: to have a database with precise information about the political and electoral behavior of each citizen, including their home address, their occupation, their fingerprint and even a detailed register of their shopping habits."

She was assisted in her research by Sumate's Unit against Political Discrimination, and their conclusions were presented yesterday in an act that was more political than editorial. Jatar claims the lists have been used against govenrment workers in at least 45 State entities, but yesterday she chose to let some of the victims of discrimination take the stand and tell their stories.

One by one they appeared: María Verdeal, a former lawyer for the People's Ombudsman, fired for signing the petition for a recall referendum against President Chávez after 18 years of service to the State; Thaís Peña, Magali Chang and Rocío San Miguel, former counsel for the National Council for Borders; Ana María Diles, fired from the Ministry of Finance; Jorge Luis Suárez, fired from the National Electoral Council; Yadira Pérez, fired from FOGADE, the Venezuelan institution in charge of handling the banking system's reserve requirements; Trina Zavarce, a former oil worker and member of NGO "Gente del Petróleo"...

But the most dramatic moment came when a current government worker, his face hidden by a ski mask, stepped forward to talk about the pressures he suffers for "belonging to the counter-revolution."

Jatar stated that "his fear is perfectly explained, because discrimination and fear are now a systematic policy of the State. It begins with the lists, but it goes beyond that. He can't even say what entity he works for, because the lists were not buried - they were planted, fertilized and watered in the ministries and other State entities."

According to the author, the most difficult thing was getting people to talk, "because a lot of people are afraid. However, little by little they began opening up. I think this helped people, it gave them courage, they felt they were represented, accompanied and they recovered a little bit of their hope."

The book, which follows rigorous methodological guidelines, was designed by Shimmy Azuaje and was illustrated by Weil. It provides an historic compilation "that has to reach both common folks and international organisms, so that they run out of excuses for Chávez once and for all."

"And this December 3rd, people should transform their fear into a liberating force," she added.