The International Writers Magazine:Comment
Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, General Secretary of the Spanish Socialist
Party refused to stand up during the march past of the American
troops carrying the Stars and Stripes on Columbus
Day in Madrid a couple of years ago, he more or less signed
his death warrant with the USA.
Bush never forgave nor forgot. A few months later and after a tragic
terrorist attack in Madrid, ZP as he is affectionately known,
won the Spanish general elections and became Prime Minister. As promised
during his election campaign, his first move was to remove the Spanish
troops from Iraq to the applause of Spanish society in general and dismay
of the coalition forces in the Middle East. Again, George Bush did not
forgive nor forget. To rub Bushs nose in it even further, ZP has
now gone and signed an arms deal with Venezuela that once again has
irritated the Bush administration. Bush considers the President of Venezuela
akin to a new up and coming Fidel Castro in the region and therefore
a destabilising force in Latin America. So who is Chavez and what is
going on south of the border?
When the oil crisis hit the world economies back in 1973 thanks to Irans
decision to up the prices, Venezuela being an oil producer benefited
enormously. Whilst petrol shortages and price hikes hit the pumps around
the world, the Caracas bank accounts began to overflow. Venezuelans
were literally rolling in it. The government made one mistake; it nationalised
the oil industry. Then came the 1983-84 crash and Venezuela ran into
trouble. The trade unions and their workforce saw their lavish lifestyle
begin to dwindle, particularly in welfare spending. By 1989, with the
economy sloshing around in the gutter, the newly elected president,
Carlos Andres Perez rushed to the IMF for help. Too late! Social upheaval
had set in with massive public demonstrations, general strikes and hundreds
of people killed in street rioting. Now into the nineties, military
coups began to take place. It opened the doors to the Chavez crusades.
A young uppish colonel Hugo Chavez tried in vain in 1992 to oust the
president. He failed. Hundreds of people were killed and the impudent
army officer ended up with a 2 year jail sentence. However, similar
to Fidel Castros attempt from Sierra Madre in the late 1950s
to take over Cuba, Chavez gained the support of the peasant people of
the country and the Venezuelan social revolution was set in motion.
Nevertheless, between 1993 and 1998 a sort of musical chairs
democratic process took place. Presidents were elected then jailed for
corruption or embezzlement all the time feeding fuel into Chavezs
supporters who saw their idol as the saviour of the country. In 1998
he is elected president and although two years later a plot to assassinate
him was revealed, Hugo Chavez managed to win another 6 years in office.
By this time he had split the nation into haves and have-nots, yet thanks
to the Iraq war, oil prices began to soar and Venezuela was back in
the money. King Chavez, as he is now known had it made.
The Chavez revolution however, is going down the same road as the Peronist
movement of the 1940s in Argentina, Salvador Allendes so
called socialist reforms in Chile during the 1970s and Mugabe's
recent drive of expropriation of white landowners in Zimbabwe. In other
words Chavezs plan is to depose the rich agricultural farmers
of their property and return the land to the poor peasant masses in
a drive of social equality familiar in all communist textbooks. He is
slowly disbanding the middle class entrepreneurs and imposing a Marxist
regime that sooner or later will cause a lopsided economy based entirely
on oil revenues.
Trouble is that, like Fidel Castro, he has started an anti-American
campaign that is thriving on a daily basis and is threatening to spread
throughout Latin America.
The climax came during the American summit held in Mar de Plata, a beach
resort in southern Argentina in November, when the presidents of all
American countries, including George Bush met to discuss the future
of the FTAA, Free Trade Area of the Americas. There was a clear anti-USA
feeling erupting just prior to the official ceremonies instigated primarily
by Chavezs vicious statements accusing the USA of imperialism
and increasing poverty in the region. He actually held a rally in a
football stadium together with Diego Maradona, an Argentine soccer icon
who had seen better days, arousing a crowd of thousands to support his
cause. Riots and US flag burning were the order of the day.
The Bush administration has got enough on its international plate without
having to worry, yet again about the neighbours south of the border.
With Islamic fundamentalist terrorism on the one hand, North Korea and
the whole of the Middle East on the other, that last thing George needs
is a resurrection of the ghost of Che Guevarra instilling
a new era of communist revolutionaries in Latin America. Ironically
he has got Mexico on his side. During the same summit, President Fox
and Chavez had a téte a téte over free trade to the extent
that both countries ambassadors were recalled and diplomatic relations
damn nearly broke off. Yet the other socialist do-gooders like Lula
in Brazil and Kichner in Argentina tend to agree with Chavezs
rhetoric. They are more or less sitting on the fence to see what happens.
Chavez has now got such a grip on the countrys politics that he
has more or less ridded its democratic system of all electoral freedom.
This was apparent in recent parliamentary elections whereby only 25%
of voters turned out to register their vote. The opposition parties
boycotted the elections accusing the electoral body of bias. Despite
the US calling for electoral reform, Chavezs party, Fifth
Republic Movement, automatically swept to victory with all 167
But returning to the warm relationship between Chavez and Spains
Zapatero, there is a sting in the tail.
Thanks to Chavezs land reform, a group of Spanish immigrants from
the Canary Islands that settled years ago as farmers in the Venezuelan
state of Jaracuy are slowly being evicted from their lands by poor
Venezuelans. As a collective group (known as the Canary Macutos)
they have brought their plight to the Spanish president and asked him
to intercede. In fact most Spaniards living in Venezuela are now threatened
with expropriation and the snowball has started to roll. Spain is embarrassed
by the whole affair.
For once, George Bush is on the sideline thinking, ZP, you sold
the guy 1.5 billion Euros of warships and planes and now your own people
are telling you that hes a crook. Condoleeza Rice must also
be also smiling!
© James Skinner. December 13th 2005.
James Skinner on Spinal Stenosis
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