FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In the Minds of the Rich, the Venezuela Poor Aren’t Even Members of Society…Guess Who’s Laughing Now

Caracas.

I never left Caracas during my 7 day trip, and residents always urged me to get out and see the natural wonders of the country. But Caracas is interesting enough for a newcomer — built in a valley surrounded by green hills, and continuing on the other side of more hills which you traverse through a tunnel on the way north to the airport on the coast.

Everywhere you go you feel the presence of the oil economy; the boom of fancy buildings of concrete, marble, and modern elevators, the bust of crumbling concrete, leaky plumbing, dirty carpets. The most impressive feature of Caracas is a clean, modern subway system which is being expanded there and replicated in other cities.

Then there is the wonder of the red brick shantytowns clinging precariously to the hillsides in and around Caracas. They say that Chavez gave the people the bricks to solidify these improvised homes, which sprang up as people from around the country gave up on the impoverishment of rural life and migrated to the big city looking for work. Chavez granted land titles to these people, who make up a large part of the 6 million inhabitants of Caracas — nearly 25% of the population of the country. He also gave them paved roads, free running water, telephone lines, and electricity at about $1.00 a month. I know because I went to one of these neighborhoods and asked them.

The elites are terrified of these folks, and extremely put out that the shanty dwellers would not only be taken into account by the government, but that they represent a permanent army encamped around the city, ready to march down from the hills at any time and defend their revolution. I truly believe that this is the primal source of the violent, irrational hatred that the opposition has for Chavez — his widespread support among the poor who, in the minds of the rich, are not even members of society and should not be playing any role except that of the silent worker or servant. You can’t avoid hearing the phrase “participatory protagonistic democracy” which is replacing “representative democracy.” Something the ruling class really fears, because it loosens the grip on power held by the economic elites.

Another natural wonder is Hugo Chavez Frias himself. The humility with which he greeted his landslide victory in the referendum was impressive, as was the way in which he continued his practice of calling on the violent and intransigent opposition, on the payroll of Washington, to reflect and reconsider their positions for the sake of the country. Generous, yes, but not foolish enough to make concessions to them, or to give them any opening that would enable them to put his government in danger. He waged an astute campaign: naturalizing and registering as many people as he could to vote, closing the Colombian border, confining the police to their headquarters, and working with observers and the Electoral Board for a technologically sophisticated but secure system of voting and tabulation.

The grassroots was also mobilized in patrols — first to convince the undecided, second to get people out to vote on the 15th, and third to patrol physically to prevent provocations by the opposition. They had the help of printed materials, T-shirts, and billboards and other signs urging a NO vote, and there are a few pro-Chavez newspapers and other publications. But the strongest suit of all was the creation of social programs which are springing up all over — just the Bolivarian University system, one of four new universities founded by Chavez, will have 25,000 low-income students by the end of 2005. The patrulleros didn’t have to convince the beneficiaries of these programs to vote, and the record turnout was even more impressive when one considered the physical stress of standing in line for 6-15 hours.

There were many tired faces in Caracas on the 16th, but if Chavez was tired, he didn’t show it during his marathon press conference, where his ability to elucidate and entertain in his familiar manner delighted the journalists, who broke out in applause a few times.

So maybe I’ll have the chance one day to go back and see those other wonders — and I hope I do. But this time the Bolivarian revolution is wonder enough.

Diana Barahona can be reached at: dlbarahona@cs.com

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail