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 News and opinions on the situation in Venezuela

The only way for Venezuela is spelled ‘Participative Democracy’ Franco Munini Venezuela

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 commentarist Franco Munini writes:  As a concerned Venezuelan and as a citizen of the world, I find myself in the obligation to call your attention about the misinformation and mistakes contained in Mr. Douglas Montero’s latest articles about Venezuela in the New York Post:

October 5, 2006 — THE street vendor scanned the bustling sidewalk and discreetly handed over President Hugo Chavez’s “Hit List,” telling The Post it was illegal to possess or sell the $15 CD-ROM. The disk contained the names, addresses and ID numbers of millions of citizens, who in 2003 signed a petition creating a failed referendum to oust Chavez – and how they voted in the Aug. 15, 2004, election. The referendum signers, who were surprised by the public dissemination of their names by the Chavez-controlled Board of Election, now say they are being persecuted for expressing their right to vote.

Douglas, I challenge you to show the CD … there’s no way to know who voted for or against Chavez’ recall referendum … and that was confirmed by the international community and all the electoral control and watch institutions, from everywhere, including the OAS and the Carter Center.

The National Electoral Council (VNE) is a collegiate power independent from the executive branch and can not disseminate the simultaneous information: name/address/ID number.

But … let me help you do the investigative research that any citizen will expect from a columnist working for NYP.

The collection of signatures should have begun in August 19, 2003 … but the opposition launched a fake, illegitimate collection through a US-backed organization (SUMATE) in February 2003. They claimed the collection of 27 million signatures from a registered voters’ list of 12 million (?).

Electoral laws, however, also require that the petitioners’ ID number must be made available to public inspection to prevent fake or multiple petitions from the same individual and to avoid usurpation of identity.

The signatures, checked after the first occasion (February 2003), revealed obviously multiple fakes, ID falsification (some banks provided full lists of ID numbers that were added without the consent of the legitimate customers) and were discarded, but were nonetheless published in the media.

The same happened with the legitimate checking after August 19, 2003 … and they were again published … causing a further checking procedure to remove the fakes and multiple entries. Note that only the ID number was made public, not the name and/or address … however, in June 2004, Chavez called the referendum without the need for the required number of petitions.

Many say they have lost their State jobs and now endure a bureaucratic nightmare when trying to renew passports or get a loan from local, state or federal offices.

“I bet the people of the United States didn’t know about the list and the blatant witch hunt that occurred after the list was published,” said one angry 33-year-old former state bank worker afraid to be identified.

“I bet the people of the United States didn’t know that when Chavez was at the United Nations freely expressing his opinion about Bush, we’re being punished for expressing our opinion about him.”

Simply not true.

There are laws that specifically regulate jobs in the government administration of the country.

There are high-level positions within the administration where you simply can not have people who attempted, or justified, a coup d’etat, mass murder and/or the abolition of Constitutional rights … perhaps you have the equivalent in the United States of America? … or who work AGAINST the government in its goals to secure health, education and low cost food supplies to our population … or who supported a political opposition lockout that costed Venezuela over US$20 billion.

Alberto Jordan Hernandez, a former member of the Chavez-controlled National Assembly, said the free-speaking president is using intimidation, lawsuits and violence to slowly gain a Fidel Castro-like control of the media – and public opinion.

There have been more than 1,000 reported attacks – including 11 murders – against journalists over the past eight years, said Hernandez, a 65-year-old free-speech champion jailed four decades ago for being an anti-government journalist.

“In the history of Venezuela, I have never in my life seen so many attacks on journalists and communicators,” he said. “He [Chavez] wants the media under his control – that’s why he attacks us.”

Not a single TV station or any newspaper has been closed by the government … even after gross manipulations, insults, incitement to civil disobedience and spreading of false news.

Freedom of speech is unequalled in this continent … murder of pro-Chavez reporters happened during the 2002 coup … by sniper fire from the opposition.

There’s no incitement to attack the press from the government … some attacks did occur because of the offensive, insulting statements by TV and newspapers against the people, who themselves retaliated in anger.

In Chavez’ famous Sunday “address to the nation” speeches (which sometimes last a mind-numbing five hours) on state-run television, he thrashes the US government and encourages his loyalists to hate the mainstream media.

“I constantly get death threats by e-mail or phone,” said Pedro Garcia Otero, metro editor of El Universal, the country’s leading newspaper. “We’ve had our cars burned and our reporters have been beaten.”

“As his speeches get more aggressive, the violence against journalists increases,” said Giuliana Chiappe, an investigative reporter for El Universal, who once had her e-mail hacked.

Two gross mistakes, Douglas: The guy’s name is Miguel Enrique Otero, and he’s the editor of El Nacional … neither is it a leading newspaper … it’s just fascist, racist rag.

Now, let’s move to another piece of garbage of yours:

October 3, 2006 — I’D LIKE Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to meet one of his countrymen, 15-year-old Manuel Gonzalez. Manuel, who’s never been to school, lives in a tin-roofed shack with walls made of slabs of half-inch-thick wood, cardboard and flattened oil drums.

His “house” clings precariously to La Vega, one of hundreds of hillside slums that dot Chavez’s oil-rich capital.

Each day, Manuel lugs buckets of water or propane tanks so his pregnant mother, 12-year-old sister and 1-year-old brother can eat, bathe and flush the toilet.

“I’m scared. I don’t want to live here, but I have to take care of my family,” Manuel told me.

Chavez should come here, as I did, to see firsthand his country’s horrific underbelly — the worsening poverty that he neglects even as he pretends to be a champion of the poor.

It’d be a better use of his time than trips abroad and to New York, where Chavez created an uproar last month by denouncing president Bush as “sick,” an “alcoholic” and the “devil.”

Here, it seems the devil is closer to home. At night, Manuel’s mother loops a thick chain through a hole in their shanty’s thin metal door to barricade her family from murderous teen thieves who roam with impunity.

 ”Three kids under the age of 18 are murdered in Venezuela every day,” said Fernando Pereira, a coordinator for CECODAP, a nonprofit human-rights group trying to save children.

“We don’t know of any government program that exists to combat this phenomenon.”

The main concern of our (Venezuelan) government is to improve the living conditions of a population that has been abused, neglected and forgotten for decades. Free education, which also includes meals, is available to everybody, health services are now provided inside the poorest areas of Venezuela, feeding centers are free and well stocked and the rehabilitation of shantytowns through cooperative work of the neighborhood is supplied by means of several “missions” or work plans to address all the needs aimed at reducing the level of exclusion of the less privileged segments of our population.

If you’d done your work better, you would know about this.

The astounding youth death rate belies the public persona Chavez exhibits whenever he comes to New York and eagerly embraces, and sometimes kisses, every little kid he sees.

Chavez recently proclaimed during a ceremony announcing a $16 million plan to rehabilitate 704 homes in a shantytown that extreme poverty has dropped from 21 to 10%t. But critics say 50% of the county’s 26 million inhabitants earn less than $2 a day.

Luis Pedro Espana, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute at the Andres Bello Catholic University, said poverty has remained constant since Chavez was elected president in 1998 – despite the country’s oil wealth.

Only 10% of the work force has jobs, while 52% are “freelancers” — street vendors or people who sell goods from their homes, Espana said.

He complained Chavez’s socialist, anti-big-business rhetoric and actions have scared off private investors, who currently support only 10 percent of the job market, compared to 25% in the 1970s.

“It’s not just the issue of how many people are working, it’s the quality of the jobs and the low wages that come with it,” he said.

Take unemployed Pedro José Flores, 24, whom I met while he was fighting off buzzard-like birds and dodging bulldozers at a garbage dump, searching for metal and paper to sell.

“I have a wife and three kids I have to feed,” he said. “There are no jobs out here, and you have to produce to survive.”

His kids, 1, 3 and 6, will be lucky to see their 18th birthdays – and have almost no chance of a decent job if they do.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Espana’s group shows fewer parents are putting their children into the elementary schools that exist.

“There is a feeling among parents that it’s just not worth sending their children to school because a high-school graduate is ill prepared to enter the work force,” said Pereira.

While some, like Pereira, give Chavez credit for trying to help parents buy school supplies and combat the dropout rate, they fume that he’s done little to create jobs that could absorb the 300,000 people who enter the job market every year.

“For a crisis of this magnitude, it is a shame that there hasn’t been any attempt to change the system,” said Pereira.

The poverty and lack of jobs have bred out-of-control crime.

Of the estimated 12,000 homicides every year, 90% of the victims are men between the ages of 15 and 35.

Manuel’s never even been to school. His mother, Thaivis Castro, 32, thought the Chavez government would make room for her son, but they only offered him night school.

“Are you crazy? I’m not going to let my son go out at night so that he gets killed,” she said.

Manuel stood a few nights ago in their kitchen, sadly using a dirty rag to wipe the sink.

“I want to go to school because I want to become a policeman when I get older,” he said.

A 15-year-old who wants to work and be a productive member of society hasn’t even started school yet.

Hugo, who’s the devil now?

You are, Douglas, you and the stupid mass of people licking Georgie II’ shoes who think that “work” means earning a salary by doing an activity from nine to five for somebody else and giving a damn about the crimes your government commits worldwide every day with your dollars.

Crime here has remained unchanged, while population has increased … because it takes time to change habits and see the macroeconomic results, and because we’re now focusing on self sustainability, which means that we’re going back to agriculture to feed ourselves instead of importing food, we’re trying to change the mentality of people who think they’ll find the solution to their problems by selling themselves on the urban neon-lighted streets of our cities.

We’re working to save lives and the future of our children by reducing the gap between rich and poor, and some people just have not been approached … yet.

The problems are there … and were there before Chavez … but at least, now, we’re working to solve them, not to hide them. And solutions to a community’s problems are managed from and within the community, not by some fairy godmother of luck … that’s the only way to come out of the hole, and it is spelled ‘Participative Democracy.’

You deliberately omitted the point of view of the people who support Chavez … recent polls were showing +70% approval rates.

You didn’t take the time to investigate what is actually going on in Venezuela … you chose the sources without confronting them, or doing some basic research to provide your readers what they were expecting from you: the truth.

Unbiased truth.

You can dislike Chavez … you might dislike my country … but you can’t betray your readers or the public.

Or maybe you can and still feel it’s OK, as long as you get paid for doing so.

Franco Munini

Franco Munini is a Venezuelan-born chemical engineer with broad experience in the bauxite and oil refining industry. He has lived in Venezuela, Italy and Australia, and proudly proclaims that his North Italian parents never used a TV set in their home until he was 15, thus allowing for book-reading as the source of entertainment. His interest in politics were born during the drafting of Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution and has since been an active promoter of participative democracy for the emancipation of Latin American countries.ñol remains 100% independent of all political factions in Venezuela
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