News and opinions on the situation in Venezuela

Venezuela’s opposition knows it’ll take generations to reduce corruption they themselves created! 


Friday, June 24, 2005 commentarist Oscar Heck writes: Carlos Herrera’s recent article, “Try and put the pieces of this conspiratorial jigsaw together” has brought up some interesting questions … which coincidentally coincide with a recent lengthy discussion I had with a “well connected” Venezuelan friend.

My friend told me that Chavez (whom he had visited in jail) inherited a massively corrupt government machine, its institutions included. 

He also mentioned that most of the politicians within the MVR (Chavez’ political party) are ex Adecos or Copeyanos … former members of Venezuela’s two traditional, often-corrupt political parties … basically the ruling classes and their cronies.

When I was in Coro (a city in northwest Venezuela) in 2000-2001, the people of the area were talking about the almost complete revamping of the Coro police force by the Chavez government … due to mass corruption. 

On a trip from Maracaibo to Coro, our bus was stopped at a police/military check point (alcabala) … and to my surprise, the officer who went through our bags was not from the National Guard (GN), which traditionally control most of the highway check points. The heavily armed officer was either from the DISIP (now, apparently called the DNI), the DIM (military intelligence) or the State Police. He was very professional and treated us well. The bus driver mentioned that the officer(s) had replaced the National Guard.

A few months ago I denounced a highly corrupt National Guard supervisor at Casigua el Cubo in southern Zulia state near the Colombian border … and a few months later he was gone.

During the US-financed opposition “strike” at PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-run oil company (the largest in Latin America), an estimated 20,000 engineers and middle management people illegally walked off the job in an attempt to coerce Chavez into resigning. Most of them were eventually fired.

Venpress, Venezuela’s traditional government news agency was slowly replaced by ABN (Venezuela’s Bolivarian News Agency).

Because the corruption within government is so great, the Chavez government has bypassed the system in terms of bringing education to poorer Venezuelans who traditionally could not afford education.

To build new schools from scratch, particularly in the barrios where there is little or no room to build, it would take “forever” and the costs would be exorbitant due to, for example, the theft of building materials by some of the government people who traditionally handle such contracts. Therefore, to bypass the corruption as much as possible, Mision Robinson and Mision Rivas (elementary and secondary school education for adults) were created whereby classes are given in small rented locales or in people’s homes in the barrios (shantytowns) and/or in poorer rural areas.

I recently found out that along with other employees, one of my Venezuelan friends who works for minimum wage (about $190/month in his area) at a factory is strip-searched every day before leaving for home. 

The factory doesn’t make gold or silver jewelry … it makes shoes!

As well, the owners lock their employees in the factory when they leave for lunch … leaving the employees no way to escape if a fire were to occur. Furthermore, upon hiring, the minimum-wage employees are forced to sign an undated resignation letter .. so that the owner doesn’t have to make certain due payments to the employees when the employees are laid-off.

Not long ago I was taken off a bus between San Cristobal and Barinas (the plains area just east of the Venezuelan Andes) by a corrupt National Guard supervisor who tried everything to extort money from me under threat of arrest and imprisonment. (I was the only one on the bus with a foreign passport.) I felt sorry for the other passengers because the bus was delayed about 35 minutes .. and it can be a scary experience for many people to be close to someone who is being harassed by a machine-gun toting military man. The National Guardsman took my passport from me with the intent to scare me. I told him to keep it and that I would get off the bus and follow him to jail. This frustrated him to no end … and eventually he caved in and, swearing at me, “ordered” me to leave .. throwing the passport in my face.

If such events occur in Venezuela, which they certainly do, then imagine how much more happens within the different sectors of Venezuelan society, government included?

Many of the Venezuelan opposition people are content to blame it all on Chavez and on his government ministers … even thought they know full well that to reduce corruption will take generations. The ranting and the raving coming from many opposition people is not based on logic … it is based on their personal hatred of Chavez. (They claim that Chavez is “uneducated, ignorant, classless and incompetent” … but Chavez coincidentally happens to be darker-skinned … not the traditional image of a Venezuelan President!)

Since many people in the government (who cannot be easily fired) are “sure” that the Chavez government will fall, many appear to be filling their pockets as much as they can before it all caves in … “get it while you can.”

However, this has nothing to do with Chavez. 

It has “always” been this way in Venezuela … with Adecos or Copeyanos … within government institutions.

I believe that such corruption (which exists throughout the world) is the by-product of decades of oppression and abuse at the hands of the mostly whiter-skinned, ruling wealthy classes. 

At some point in time the poorer (mostly darker-skinned) people say, “If the wealthy can steal and treat me like dirt, taking away my dignity while they get filthy rich, then I will do the same … since it is the only way to make more than this pittance of a wage which I am receiving.”

It makes sense … and many of the Venezuelan opposition followers (mostly whiter-skinned wealthy people) do not want to accept reality.

It is easier to blame Chavez.

Oscar Heck

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