A Challenge to Keep on Dreaming in Venezuela

A group responding to Chavez's desire to see the opposition's plans for a better Venezuela, fails to see in the opposition the same mistakes they accuse Chavez of making

By Elio Cequea
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The Venezuelan President said that other than his plans for a better Venezuela, there were not plans offered as an alternative by the opposition to his presidency. If there was one, he said, he will invite the promoter to debate. Well, the people from "A Dream for Venezuela" movement headed by author Gerver Torres have accepted the challenge.

The biggest problem the opposition to the Venezuelan government has is the lack of a plan to solve the problems that have found safe haven in the Venezuelan society. President Chavez was elected in 1998 and since then he has proceeded to fix some of them with the implementation of new ideas, laws and programs.

In the heat of the recent political warfare, President Chavez challenged anybody in the opposition with a plan different to his to debate. It is not a surprise that a true 100% disciple of the now defunct IV Republic (1958-1998) has accepted the challenge.

Gerver Torres represents the typical eloquent, educated technocrat who helped govern Venezuela for forty years before Chavez was elected. He has been international adviser for the World Bank, the Latin American Economic System (Sela), the United Nations, the Latin American Institute of Social Studies (ILDES) and for the Inter-American Development Bank. He participated in the Presidential Commission for the Reform of the State and in the Presidential Commission of Competitiveness. He was Minister President of the Investment Fund of Venezuela. Among other accomplishments, he has worked for more than ten years for governments of countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia, in the reconstruction of public companies. On top of all of this, he is also an author. 

With the rhetoric and eloquence of a true disciple of Rafael Caldera, Gerver Torres takes over the responsibility of this new organization. Contrary to the comatose right-wing party Primero Justice which promises and proposes "realities", A Dream for Venezuela proposes nothing more than that: a dream.

Gerver Torres says on his proclamation of acceptance to the President's challenge that, "the hour to debate about the country that we want to built is here". Why in the forty years these people were in power, they never got to that hour? Just five years without significant political influence and they are suffering of "urgency syndrome"! The Venezuelan opposition is like that. Now everything is "very grave", "worst" and "urgent". In the year 2002 I heard many people from the opposition saying that the country could not wait for the referendum then just one year away, because the country was going to explode. Here we are, with an expected GDP growth of 10%, with inflation under control, etc., and we still have to wait two more months for it.

Torres' project for our country is simple: excellent rhetoric team up with abundant and flashy publicity. He will put the rhetoric and the media will lend the publicity. In fact, they are already doing it. The project is "inclusive" and emphasizes "the strengths and capacities of the Venezuelans". BS! This is the same people who are also saying that they need to get rid of the "chusma" (the poor, uneducated and "undesirables") that according to them are destroying Venezuela. That rather sounds "exclusive".

"They could not stay quiet to the challenge made by the President", says Gerver Torres. The truth is that it would have been better to keep quiet. Mr. Torres and his organization are proposing to debate the following. I do not see a need for the President to waste his time. I can take care of this myself.

"How we the Venezuelans see ourselves, as a revolutionary militia or as citizens of a prosperous and modern country?" Well, in all the developed countries, the citizens are required to be also a militia when national emergency requires it. Venezuelans now have better rights as citizens than ever before, including the right to recall elected officials. Why don't we ask this question to George W. Bush in the light of his current imperialist campaign?

"How we should see a political adversary, as a rival of a competition that nurtures democracy or as a mortal enemy which must be destroyed and buried?" In Venezuela, the opposition movement is like a mortal enemy that must be destroyed and buried. Chavez pardoned them after the April 2002 coup and called for "national dialogue" only to see the opposition launch a three-month oil sabotage and lock-out causing 14 billion dollars in losess to the economy. How do you nurture democracy with coups, sabotages to key industry and bosses-sponsored strikes? How do you nurture democracy if you threaten not to accept any results that are contrary to your desires?

"How do we increase employment, making the State the motor of the economy or vigorously promoting private investment?" China is doing both and is having an incredible economic growth. We should try both. Maybe Gerver Torres is working for the IMF, as they are the only ones insisting in only promoting private investment as the only route for development. Torres fails to mention that countries like Japana would not have achieved development if it wasn´t for the initiative of the State. Currently, the U.S. economy is largely mantained by State spending and intervention in the economy, as the expensive military contracts, for instance, can show.

"How do we see the world, as a place where there are only threats or as an space full of opportunities for our economic and social development?" Neither one, but all the opposite! This depends on each particular situation. Can we ask George Bush so you can see it better?

"Is oil a weapon for political pressure inside and outside the country or is it an instrument for economic growth and generation of wealth?" Come on! Let's get real! Oil is a weapon AND an instrument use for both political pressure and generation of wealth. Have you heard about Iraq? About the US oil embargo?

"How do we see the State bureaucracy, as people serving a particular political project or as public servants to more general interests of Venezuela?" This is a good question for "Gente de Petroleo", the organization of mostly oil executives that led the lock-out and sabotage of the oil industry at the end of 2002. I think they were serving the interests of "generals" of Venezuela.

As you can see, there is not much to debate. Rhetoric and eloquence are better when used for fiction literature. In his proclamation of acceptance to the challenge Gerver Torres even includes a famous quote from a famous philosopher from another country. This always makes the Venezuelan intellectuals feel important.

Torres wrote, "Thomas Mazaryk, the admired Czech Prime Minister said, "democracy is a discussion". That is really impressive: Democracy is a discussion! Definitely historic words! A friend of mine sympathizer of the opposition used to write solemnly at the end of his emails, "Give power to a man and you will finally know him". He stopped using it when I asked him if he was referring to Pedro Carmona. That is how they are. It makes them feel important.

Mr. Torres does not know this humble philosopher from the Venezuelan town of Tucupita who once said: "Only the babies eat Gerber. Then they put it in their diapers and then go to sleep".

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