The End Of Chavismo Starts With Breaking The Myths That Sustain The Regime
Last month’s ceremonies in Venezuela to mark the first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death were hardly as elaborate as the ruling regime would have liked. Equally, that Venezuelans were largely indifferent to celebrating the Comandante’s life is hardly surprising, given that the system he created is on the verge of violent collapse.
In the period since Chavez died, Venezuelans have been subjected to the disputed election that brought Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor, to power. They have watched helplessly as their oil-rich economy has collapsed under the weight of corruption, mismanagement and runaway inflation. They have endured the demonization of thousands of pro-democracy protestors, whose basic human rights have been violated through brutal repression.
All this has happened since Chavez died, and yet in many ways, he continues to rule Venezuela from the grave. Maduro’s constant references to Chavez, along with his apocalyptic warnings that the “Bolivarian revolution” is being fatally subverted, simply underline Chavez’s pivotal role as the architect of the present system. Without Chavez’s imprimatur, Maduro is nothing.
Hence, with growing numbers of Venezuelans disillusioned with the country’s direction, the opposition now has an unprecedented opportunity to expose and reverse the narrative at the heart of chavismo. Breaking the myths that sustain the ruling regime is, I submit, the first step toward achieving national healing.
Here, then, is the first myth: that chavismo has reduced poverty. This deeply misleading idea has been pushed by influential figures in the west as well as the regime. It rests upon statistics that are published by international organizations who are reliant on the unreliable data passed to them by the government. The majority of the indicators come from benchmarks or thresholds gauged in U.S. dollars, and are calculated using a value for the Bolívar, Venezuela’s national currency, which takes no account of the frequent currency devaluations.
It is far more accurate to say that Chavez plundered the country’s wealth, through economic policies and subsidies that have proven unsustainable time and again. For a time, these subsidies increased the purchasing power of the poor, yet the real beneficiaries were not the vulnerable, but a variety of interested parties who cozied up to Chavez out of self-interest. The list includes the Cuban government, which keeps its own economy afloat on the basis of the $12 billion of free oil received from Venezuela every year, and the Chavista “nomenklatura” also known as the Boliburguesia – a word that contracts “Bolivarian” and “bourgeoisie” to denote those Venezuelans who have amassed fortunes thanks to their connections with the regime.
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