Saturday, February 27, 2016

February 27, the anniversary of the Caracazo

On February 27, 1989 hundreds of thousands , perhaps millions of Venezuela's poor rose up against an International Monetary Fund imposed austerity program that included a devaluation of the currency and an increase in the cost of gasoline.

It's still not known how many hundreds or thousands of people were killed on February 27 and 28. The repression inspired young military officers, led by  Colonel Hugo Chavez to attempt to overthrow the blood soaked Fourth Republic regime, which was based on an agreement between the two leading parties, one supposedly socialist, (ADECO) and one supposedly liberal, Christian Democratic.  Both parties were corrupt. After the military - civil uprising was crushed Hugo Chavez was allowed to go on television to urge his hold out comrades to lay down their arms "for now." His television speech won the hearts and minds of millions, and eventually he was released from prison. He ran for President and destroyed the ADECO - COPEI  regime. 

Chavez governed from 1998 until his death in 2013. His governance was characterized by populist programs that alleviated poverty and gave hope to Venezuela'spoor. Illiteracy was done away with. A widespread (though not universal) system of primary medical care and free advanced care again, not universal. Chavez institured foreign policy initiatives that challenged the United States in the international arena.

Hugo Chavez pulling Uncle Sam's beard in front of the world.

  The old regime parties imploded and fragmented. For ten years Venezuela enjoyed high prices for its main product - petroleum.  Chavez instituted a foreign currency exchange system that was designed to permit cheap government subsidized food to be widely available.  The system was wide open, though for abuse and corruption.  Venezuela never prepared for the eventual collapse of petroleum prices, ignoring western and especially US efforts to end depending on  imposed petroleum products. Truly these efforts in part, constituted an economic war on oil exporting countries,  especially Venezuela,  Russia and Iran.

Now Venezuela's people are not getting enough to eat, are lacking in medicines and stand on hours long food lines. President Maduro has instituted gasoline price increases , devaluation and a computerized system to try to control food hoarding and smuggling.

Today no one who cares about Venezuela  (like I do) in their right mind would want another Caracazo. 

Dissident socialists, once aligned within the Chavis take movement, are claiming that  up to $450,000,000,000 were stolen from the Venezuelan people and stashed abroad.  They seem to be like the prophet Jeremiah, lamenting the faults or sins of the past. They've been rebuffed by the Ombudsman, the Attorney General,  and the office of morals and ethics. A few days ago they petitioned the National Assembly,  which is now dominated by opponents of the Chavez movement.  They say that if need be they'll turn towards international organizations. 

Jeremiah in tears.