Ricardo Angoso explains how, before Chavez came to power, Venezuela suffered decades of a corrupt and immoral political class, responsible for various coups d’etat, social instability, and severe periods of economic crisis provoked by the poor management of wealth and the irresponsible investment of oil earnings. In Angoso‘s opinion, when Chavez came to power, Venezuelan politics took a turn for the better: focusing not on corruption, but on fighting poverty, reforming the state, and dealing with society’s ills. By searching for modernization and social and economic prosperity, Hugo Chavez Frias has made himself the indisputable leader of Venezuela, and a far worthier choice than the untrustworthy and corrupt opposition.
Ricardo Angoso is a journalist specializing in international affairs and the general coordinator of the NGO Dialogo Europeo in Madrid.
HUGO CHAVEZ FRIAS WON REELECTION for the third time, a feat yet unknown in the history of this turbulent country of more than 27 million inhabitants living within 916,000 square kilometers.
Once a leading producer of oil and a large economic power, Venezuela has suffered horribly during the last century and a half under the whip of a corrupt and immoral political class. It has endured various coups d’etat, social instability, and severe periods of economic crisis provoked by the poor management of wealth and the irresponsible investment of funds earned by black gold exports.
COLLAPSE OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM
It was against this backdrop that Chavez appeared, under the banner of the fight against corruption and poverty. For a Venezuelan population tired of corrupt presidents and administrations that subordinated themselves to American interests at the expense of the public good, Chavez was a great relief. And ex-President Carlos Andres Perez, a symbolic leader of this era of fraud, multimillionaire corruption, and the destruction of state goods, was exiled to the United States to enjoy his personal fortune, the fruit of organized government larceny, alone.
Venezuela was weary of its two party system, riddled with corruption, plagued with opportunists, and incapable of offering solutions neither to economic crises, nor to social problems. The system was on the verge of collapse, having attacked all social classes without distinction, hitting the least fortunate, the hardest.
ERADICATION OF POVERTY
Chavez arrived to power and transformed the political system, such that the fight against social exclusion would form the base upon which a new administration would rest: determined to eventually carry out an authentic reform of the government. And despite the fact that under Chavez there have also been cases of corruption, and the waste of public money earned from oil sales, for the first time in its history, Venezuela has put into practice policies designed to eradicate poverty, build a strong health and education system, and reform the administration of the state.
No one in Caracas would deny that the relative success of these new policies is debatable; but regardless, the mere fact that social, political, and economic modernization have entered into the debate, rather than failed rhetoric taken out of a manual on economic liberalism, signifies a substantial success for democracy in Venezuela.
AN OPPOSITION TIED TO THE CORRUPT PAST
The opposition party has not had the courage to break the bonds that tie it to the disastrous political past. Hoping to use a violent coup d’etat in order to take Chavez out of power, the opposition allied with Andres Perez and institutions like the Catholic Church in order to form an Anti-Chavez front. The result, after nearly a decade in power is clear: the opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales, not only supported the coup d’etat against Chavez, but personally signed the decree to remove Chavez from the Presidency and give the position to another conspirator.
And on December 3rd, he presented himself as the democratic alternative for President, demonstrating to what point the Venezuelan opposition has remained captive to the inertia of the past. The opposition has nothing to offer Venezuela, except for more of the same: violence and incompetence. They are an empty shell with no project, nor vision for the future; nothing but the sole desire for power regardless of the means.
THE INDISPUTABLE LEADER
With an untrustworthy opposition, it was only logical for Chavez to achieve victory. He had it easy, manipulating Venezuelan nationalism by presenting the opposition as the stooges of Washington, and the allies of he who should not be named, Andres Perez, who, since his lavish withdrawal from politics, has given support to the armed uprising against Chavez.
The Venezuelan people understand that with these kind of corrupt politicians, their country will never get anywhere. So, as long as the undemocratic opposition continues to be led by an ex-conspirator, and is unable to or promote radical change in its political discourse, and escape the past, Chavez will be the indisputable leader of Venezuela: a country that is already surging forward into the 21st century, in search of modernization, and the social and economic prosperity that have yet to arrive.