Between Venezuela and Nothingland

Strange dictator this Hugo Chávez. Masochistic and suicidal: he created a Constitution that permits the people to throw him out, and he risked this occurring in a recall referendum.

By Eduardo Galeano - Página 12
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Strange dictator this Hugo Chávez. Masochistic and suicidal: he created a Constitution that permits the people to throw him out, and he risked this occurring in a recall referendum. This referendum that took place in Venezuela was the first of its kind in Universal history. He was not cast out. And this makes it the Eighth election that Chávez has won in five years, with a transparency that would have sent dear Bush on a holiday.

Obedient to his Constitution, Chávez accepted the referendum, promoted by the opposition, and subjected himself to the will of the people: “You all decide”. Up until now, the presidents interrupted their rule only for death, a putsch, an uprising or parliamentary decision. The referendum has inaugurated an innovative form of direct democracy. An extraordinary accountability: How many presidents, of what countries of the world, would be enthusiastic to allow for that?  And how many would continue being president afterwards?

His tyranny, invented by the large media corporations, the fearful demon, just gave a tremendous injection of vitamins to democracy, which in Latin America, and not only in Latin America, frailly stumbles along in need of energy.

One month before, Carlos Andrés Pérez, the little angel of God, democrat adored by the large media corporations, declared a coup d’état to the four winds. Smoothly and flatly he affirmed that “the violent path” was the only possible in Venezuela and he despised the referendum “because it does not form part of the idiosyncrasy of Latin America”. The idiosyncrasy of Latin America, that is to say, our precious heritage: the deaf and mute peoples.

Until recently, Venezuelans went to the beach when there were elections. Voting was not, and is not, obligatory. But the country has passed from total apathy to total enthusiasm. The torrent of the election, enormous lines waiting until dawn, standing firm, for hours and hours, overflowed all the structures of the voting apparatus. The alluvium of democracy also made difficult the application of the latest model of technology created to avoid fraud in this country where the dead have a bad custom of voting, where some of the living vote many times in each election perhaps due to Parkinson disease. 

“Here there is no freedom of expression!” claim the television screens, the radio waves, and the daily pages with absolute liberty of expression. Chávez has not closed even one of the mouths that routinely spit insults and lies. Unpunished the chemical war continues destined to poison public opinion. The only TV channel that has been closed in Venezuela, channel 8, was not a victim of Chávez but of those who usurped the presidency, for a couple of days, in the fleeting hours of the coup d’ etat of April 2002.

And when Chávez returned from prison, and recovered the presidency amid crowds of immense multitude, the large media corporations themselves did not disseminate the news. The private television spent all day running cartoons of Tom and Jerry.

That exemplary coverage earned the king of Spain’s prize for quality journalism as the king rewarded the filming of those turbulent days of April.  The filming was a scam.  It showed wild Chavistas shooting against an innocent assembly of unarmed opponents.  That assembly did not exist, according to what has been shown with irrefutable proof, but apparently this detail did not have importance, because the prize was not withdrawn.

Until just very recently, in the Saudi Venezuela, petroleum paradise, the census officially recognized a million and a half illiterates and five million undocumented Venezuelans without civil rights.

These and many other invisibles are not willing to return to Nothingland, a country inhabited by nobodies. They have conquered their country that was so alien: this referendum has proven, once more, that here they will remain.

Translated by Dawn Gable