Second Verse, Same as the First
© 2005 Ross Williams
It would seem that Hugo Chavez is having political troubles at home. Señor Chavez is el Presidente of Venezuela. He hates the US. He's best buds with Fidel Castro. When Chavez was running for office in 1998, his pal Fidel gave him advice on getting votes: hire thugs to threaten and harass voters who oppose you. If that doesn't completely work, steal vote boxes.
Chavez did these, and voila! he was elected el heffe in 1999, just seven years after failing to take the job by force. Not exactly Horatio Alger, but whatever works in a pinch.
Once in office, he proceeded to effect much the same policies that his mentor has used for the economic powerhouse Cuba has become. Chavez absconded with private property – if it belonged to those who voted against him – he declared disliking him a crime punishable by jail, disappearance or death, and nationalized whatever industrial concerns the nation held.
The last is fairly critical in this day and age: Venezuela is a member of OPEC. If a tarantula falls out of your banana bunch in Caracas and you stomp on it, oil comes gushing out somewhere. Venezuela's oil production is nationalized. Which is to say stolen from its owners, and managed by socialist bureaucrats who know not how to turn a profit.
Now, Chavez supporters are going to claim that prior to his election, there was a wide disparity between the nation's richest and poorest, and that the poorest made up 80% of the population. And they will be correct. They will claim that today there isn't such a wide disparity, and they will continue to be correct.
Chavezistas will claim that prior to his election, unemployment was rampant. They will be correct again. They will claim that unemployment is now greatly reduced, and – happy day – they'll still be correct.
What Chavezistas won't tell you is that Chavez virtually eliminated the disparity between rich and poor – not to mention between middle-class and poor – by criminalizing wealth, and penalizing middle-classness. Chavezistas won't tell you that his nation is suffering from full employment today because it hired the poor and uneducated masses to do what the jailed, disappeared or dead opposition voters used to do prior to his election.
Why worry about the details when a nation has attained social justice and full employment?
The Chavezistas will claim that the prior government was corrupt and wasn't fulfilling its social obligation of educating the masses for productive use in a modern socio-political structure. And these whiners will be correct yet again. The Caldera government of Venezuela – not to mention the 50-some-odd governments preceding it – made the nation a prototypical banana republic.
Guess what? It's still a banana republic, and the programs implemented by Chavez are largely geared toward keeping it one. But now, instead of the bananas serving the whims of Group A, criminalizing Group B and ignoring Groups C through Z, the bananas serve the whims of Group B, it has run off [or killed off] Group A, and it's acquired the same sort of instant-but-temporary adulation from the dispossessed Groups C through Z that tends to accompany "people's revolutions" the world over. Instead of being a poor subsistence hunter-gatherer in the jungles of the Amazon basin, they are poor working stiffs doing a job they aren't trained to do ... but a job that they have been given only because the last jobholder has emigrated. In one way or another.
Best part of this deal? No one can tell whether or not the newly-employed are doing a good job.
That's what happens when you fire the boss and hire the janitor to replace him, and turn the supervising board of directors over to the first dozen bums you find on the street. The Caldera corruption ran the nation's coffers dry, and the oil price boom has helped Chavez blacken the red ink, but circumstances shouldn't be construed as a vindication of neo-socialist philosophy. The exact same methods are being played in Cuba – which has no oil – and they're still panhandling on the world's street corners for leftovers and handouts, and dumpster diving for the rest.
Chaveznik policies are being played in North Korea as well – plus or minus Kim's deification – and they've resorted to nuclear blackmail to acquire food and energy, they've achieved full employment only by drafting who it can for the army, and starving to death those who offer up so much as a "...but".
No matter. Venezuela has oil, it can make do. But the glue that holds this people's paradise together is the widespread belief that the house of cards, engineered by a guy who, until 6 years ago, was trained as a military coupist, is stable. There's some amount of evidence that it's not.
The funny thing about mass-pilfery and murder is that those you plunder and plow under have a tendency to get a wee bit miffed. It doesn't matter whether you steal from the rich and give to the poor, or you steal from the middle-class and give to the poor; it doesn't matter whether you steal earned money, stolen money, jobs or lives. It's still stealing. Consequently, there was a coup in Venezuela, in 2002, led by workers protesting the mass job-stealing in the now-state-owned Venezuelan petroleum industry.
They were joined – as irony would have it – by certain sections of the military, which figured that if Chavez himself could lead a military coup in 1992, they could lead one themselves today. The coup took a matter of minutes, almost literally. Chavez, properly deposed, was all set to accept exile in – where else? – Cuba, when a rumor got started that all those untrained people hired to work the nation's petroleum farms would be getting their stolen jobs stolen back away from them, and a counter-coup was orchestrated by the uneducated masses – perennially good for such things – and supported by the police. "Police", in Venezuela, is a proximal term used to describe "roving hooligans, thugs and tough-guys given guns and badges after their cousin was appointed mayor by the president who stiff-armed his own election".
The Venezuelan military, not one to be trusted, is now overseen by Cuban advisors... by the way.
The counter-coup out-couped the coup, Chavez was shouldered through the streets by adulant crowds within hours of getting his plane ticket to Havana, and there was a whole new crowd of disgruntleds to steal jobs from and heave into jail. In order to make it all work, though, Chavez would have to exhort the dubious population.
Chavez couldn't very well call huge wads of his citizens rabble-rousers, not publicly, anyway; his type of government – like the Caldera government before it – is built on shooting rabble. That response so soon after leading those same rabbles through an arm-twisted election would make most Venezuelans consider themselves in his fire rather than Caldera's frying pan. They'd think, "we're next". So he took the disgruntled rabble out back privately, and yanked another page from the Castro playbook: blame the US.
Castro has made a living blaming the US. Kennedy made the mistake of attempting to re-install "our guy" back on the Cuban throne after the Castro coup – and then backed out at the last minute. It conflicted with his date night with Marilyn, or something. So, there we've got a few hundred US operatives and a few thousand Cuban nationals cut off and without support in the Bay of Pigs landing zone, Kennedy back in DC saying, "Oopsy, my bad", and Castro had all the ammunition he'd need to embarrass the US for the rest of his life.
Whenever things go wrong in Cuba, and Fidel's poll numbers slip a tick ... accuse the US of planning another invasion. Why not? The US invaded before, it could do so again. It's not a surprise that invasion – or widespread belief in one – increases support of an otherwise disliked head of state. Even Democrats liked Bush the Younger on September 12th.
So Chavez, after his three-day imposed vacation, informed the world that it wasn't really his own countrymen indignant that he'd stolen their jobs and their fortunes who had organized the general strike cum coup – besides, can you find any of them? It was... [drum roll...] the mean ol' US of A. Yes indeed. The CIA, masters of stealth that they are, infiltrated his country, organized a coup and slipped out again without anyone noticing. The clincher? There was no evidence of it.
The fact that there was no evidence that the US was involved proves that the CIA was behind it. Because only the CIA could organize a coup that left no evidence, and instead make it look like his own incompetent domestic policies caused the locals to blow their own lids.
Darn that sneaky US intelligence community, anyhow! And to think, the whole bickering and feuding thing over who had the lead authority to track foreign hotheads on American soil before 9-11 was just an ingenious device to make everyone in the world think the CIA was run by Keystone Kops. Very clever diversion. The real plot was to overthrow Chavez and steal Venezuelan oil. And, of course, the "bad intel leading into a second war with Iraq" thing was just a cover story concocted after el heffe Hugo uncovered the CIA's plot. 9-11 Commission? Part of the conspiracy.
Agent Mulder, call your office.
But anyway, as I say, President Chavez is having domestic problems. There's a few pieces of evidence for this. First, Chavez offered the city of Chicago last week to sell them oil, cheap, to help keep the poor people warm this winter. On the surface this looks like a good PR move; sell at a discount to America and curry some favor. Maybe he'll get those F-16 parts he's wanted for 6 years... but probably, he'd just get cash on the barrelhead for the oil. Socialism is a notoriously profit-indifferent enterprise, and it tends to have somewhat more difficulty staying in the black. Second, Chavez just addressed his nation and claimed the US was preparing to invade Venezuela. Yet again. By the military, this time, instead of by Christian Soldiers under the leadership of Reverend-General Marion “Pat” Robertson. His speech was concurrently translated into French, not that there's any irony in that at all.
What difficulties are in the Card House of Venezuela is anyone's guess. Not that it probably matters... unless the saber-rattling against Columbia and Guyana is heating up, in which case he's got more Russian arms to buy and might not have the cash to do it. But it serves to point out, for the umpteenth time in the last decade or so, that the US needs to limit its liability on foreign oil. The longer we're beholden to tin-pot tyrants and minor megalomaniacs for the juice that keeps us turning a profit, the longer these world-weenies have a say in what we do and how we do it. And, more importantly, what it costs us in the process.
To that end, here again are the realistic requirements for our energy future:
Get our own petroleum; we've got bunches sitting under our soil just waiting for us. Stop wetting your panties about getting it. No other north shore drilling has harmed the tundra, there's no evidence anything would change by drilling 200 miles to the east.
Save petroleum for those things that only petroleum can be used for: like making cars go vroom.
Stop using petroleum for those things that other energy sources can do: like making electricity.
Make electricity with nuclear power and coal. Stop "helping" by preventing nuclear waste dumps from being built; stop "helping" by getting in the way of coal-powered electric plants. We have the technology to make coal as environmentally safe as grilling steaks on a gas grill. If you insist on following the Global Warming lemming train, then the answer would seem to be CO2-less nuclear.
Make our gasoline go farther by adding homegrown alcohol to it. And lots of it – like 600% more per gallon. Use other plant material than corn to make this alcohol.
Where possible, use the faddish "alternatives". Solar in the southwest, wind on the coasts. And for godsake stop with the endless fantasy that these alternatives are anything but small scale. The object is to be realistic. Realism precludes building solar powered castles in the air.
Not doing these – all of these – means turning your future, and your wealth, over to yuck-meisters like Hugo Chavez. Won’t that be fun.