April 14, 2007

The socialism of 1984

"Uncritical loyalty to the USSR happens to be the current orthodoxy, and where the supposed interests of the USSR are involved they are willing to tolerate not only censorship but the deliberate falsification of history."
-George Orwell,
Proposed Preface to ‘Animal Farm’

Quico says: I usually suppress the urge to comment on whatever eccentricities come out of Chávez's mouth. The aggravation is not usually worth the payoff. But now and then, the guy blurts out things so bizarre, so blithely truculent, so aggressively Orwellian, I have to make an exception.

Yesterday, Chávez gave us his latest re-interpretation of the April 2002 crisis. Those crazy few days were always likely to give rise to all sorts of official mythologizing. With each passing year, the chavista version gets more fanciful, more epic, more detached from the evidence in the public domain, to the point that, by now, parts of it are straightforward reversals of what we know happened.

I have in mind, specifically, Chávez's contention yesterday that "the 19 people who died on April 11th died for me, they are martyrs who gave their lives to allow me to keep on living."

Now, this is a lie. But, when you think about it, it's not a usual kind of lie. It is a Big Lie. By that, I mean that it's a lie that flags itself as a lie, that flaunts the liar's power to speak it without consequences. It's a lie that doesn't so much conceal the truth as reverse it. And not some obscure truth, but an extremely public, perfectly plain, fully established truth about the key moment in the key event of our contemporary history.

Because we know that there were deaths on both sides on April 11th, 2002 - and deaths on no side at all as well, since some victims were just bystanders. We know that Chavez continued to talk, on cadena nacional, for two hours as the shooting went on just outside Miraflores. We know a uniformed military officer kept passing notes to him, throughout his speech, containing ongoing casualty reports. We know he never paused to do anything to stop the massacre. We know he tried to silence the coverage of what was happening just outside his door.

Not content with his total control of the state, Chavez now wants enabling powers to rewrite the past as well. This ploy to appropriate the sacrifice of those who died trying to prevent him from becoming the autocrat he has since become constitutes a staggering falsification of history, a final slap in the face for the families of the victims, a grotesque insult to the memory of those who died trying to preserve the freedoms his government has steadfastly denied.

And yet, as time goes on, as the Official Story is repeated and embellished and enshrined in schoolbooks and official lore, can we really doubt that the next generation of schoolchildren will grow up believing, as a simple matter of fact, that Jorge Tortoza was a martyr of the revolution?

Repeat after me: "Eurasia is the enemy; Eurasia has always been the enemy..."

April 13, 2007


Quico says: It's that time of year again, when we look back on the events of April 2002, and mourn the utter stupidity with which Pedro Carmona and the tiny clique surrounding him squandered the moral clarity of the popular movement that forced Chávez from power in the wee hours of April 12th.

It's painful to look back. Even more painful when we realize that all the things we feared might happen if Chávez was allowed to consolidate himself in power have indeed come to pass.

Just before Carmona and Co. threw it all away by issuing their impossibly ill-considered decree, though, we heard Daniel Romero outline the motivations that had moved so many of us, civilian and military, to demand the end of the insanity Chávez was moving us toward. Looking back, what strikes you is how current the list of ills is:
Considering that Chávez and his government have contravened democratic values, principles and safeguards, particularly pertaining to representative democracy, by acting as though the state belonged to only one political party, whose leadership he has exercised in violation of article 145 of the Constitution of 1999 which bans public servants from serving any political faction....

Considering that Chávez and his government flagrantly violated the principle of the separation and independence of public powers enshrined in articles 136, 254, 273 and 294 of the Constitution, concentrating and usurping their powers, and necessitating the re-establishment of their separation and autonomy...

Considering that Chávez and his government, in violation of article 328 of the constitution, have sought to undermine the institutional and historic mission of the Armed Forces, its dignity and role in national development, by forcing it to carry out functions contrary to its nature and demanding loyalty to just one political faction and to a personal ideological project...

Considering that Chávez and his government have systematically undermined the human rights guaranteed in the constitution and in international treaties, to the point that never before have the Interamerican Human Rights organizations received so many complaints based on their violation, especially concerning the right to life, due process and freedom of expression...

Considering that Chávez and his government have enabled, from their high positions, incitement to commit crimes, by allowing all kinds of violations of private property, as well as obstructing the investigation and punishment of civilians and military men loyal to the regime who have committed acts of corruption...

Considering that Chávez and his government have irresponsibly promoted a climate of confrontation and social violence, contrary to national unity, democratic pluralism, and the respect of democratic principles and values...

Considering that Chávez and his government have instrumentalized the electoral authorities, in violation of article 294 of the constitution and of international treaties...

Considering that Chávez and his government have placed the civil service at the service of a political faction, in violation of article 141 of the constitution...
Each of these items was true then, and has gotten much truer since. The debasement of our institutions had not, in 2002, advanced nearly so far as it has today, but the direction of travel was obvious. It didn't take some crack team of brainiacs to realize that, left to his own devices, Chávez would take the country down the increasingly authoritarian road he has since traveled.

Today, as we see fully armed paratroopers on parade shouting "patria, socialismo o muerte," as we see the practice of forcing public sector workers to attend pro-Chávez rallies become routinized, as we see the Public Prosecutor's office turned ever more impudently into an instrument of political repression, as we witness Chavista Supreme Tribunal magistrates being purged off the court in order to make room for even more ideologically steadfast magistrates, all we can do is hang our heads in despair and come to the worst of all possible realizations: Daniel Romero was right.

April 11, 2007

The April massacre: the (un)told story revisited

Katy says: Our apologies for the silence the last few days: I have been travelling and Quico is tied up with personal issues.

This is as good a time as any to re-visit Quico's thorough post on the events of April, 2002. It's hard to believe five years have passed and we still don't know who planted snipers on top of the buildings surrounding Miraflores to shoot at innocent bystanders. But I correct myself, in Chavez's Venezuela impunity is not that hard to believe.

My hope is that all those whose lives were taken or changed for good that day can find peace and justice, be it in this world or in another.