Venezuela: Out! Out! Out!

Carlos Alberto Montaner in the Miami Herald:

Venezuela: Out! Out! Out!

María Corina Machado has written an open letter to Fidel Castro that has shaken cyberspace. I must have received 300 copies since it began to circulate through the Internet. It doesn’t go unread.

María Corina is a 45-year-old Venezuelan engineer, an expert in business matters, an anti-Chávez deputy, the mother of three and a candidate to lead her country’s democrats in the Feb. 12 primary elections, when the opposition will choose, from among five politicians, the single figure who will confront Chávez in the Oct. 7 elections — if he’s still alive by then.

Recently, Machado gained international notoriety when she interrupted and responded devastatingly to President Hugo Chávez’s marathon speech to the legislative assembly. Nevertheless, Henrique Capriles Radonski, the governor of Miranda state, remains at the head of all the polls I’ve seen, followed closely by Pablo Pérez, the young governor of Zuliá state.

Apropos the deputy’s intervention, Castro, in one of the articles he occasionally publishes under the title of Reflection s, entered the Venezuelan debate, attacking María Corina and defending his disciple, Chávez, from the accusation of “thief,” an impossible task, given the degree of corruption and impunity seen in the country.

Transparency International is an organization that measures the levels of corruption in the public sector worldwide. In its ranking of 176 countries, Venezuela occupies 164th place. It is the rottenest country in Latin America. Even more than Haiti (146), the second-most corrupt nation in the region. This ranking proves that the deputy is right and challenges President Chávez’s honor. If he doesn’t stop the corruption it’s because it would be his illegal way to exercise power; if he doesn’t prosecute it, it’s because he’s ignorant of its existence. Either way, it would be proof that he cannot continue to lead the country.

In any case, the Venezuelans’ enthusiasm over the deputy’s letter to Fidel Castro is not because of what she told Chávez, but because of what she tells “the Cubans.” María Corina reproaches the c omandante for the 110,000 barrels of oil that her country delivers to Cuba every day without any hope of collecting their value. She reminds him of the numerous fraudulent international sales to Venezuela, triangulated through Havana with no purpose other than to fill the Cuban coffers at the expense of the sacrifices of Venezuelan workers.

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