LETTER OF THE DAY - Chávez no paragon of virtue

Published: Wednesday | January 9, 2013 Comments 0

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Gleaner gave front-page coverage to the service at Grace Missionary Church where diplomats and government leaders gathered to pray for the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

While I think it was a noble sentiment to pray for President Chávez's recovery, we in Jamaica should not forget that Mr Chávez is easily one of the most controversial leaders on the world stage. He is supported by Left-leaning governments and questionable leaders from Iran to Syria (also Libya, before its Arab Spring).

Chávez's "socialist path" has not been the most beneficial for Venezuela or its people. Venezuela's crude oil production capacity has collapsed by more than 1.6 million barrels per day during the Chávez era. The 'new' Bolivarian PDVSA has not completed a single major crude oil production and refining project since 2003.

Fourteen years into a 'revolution' has left Venezuela in ruins in every way imaginable - social, institutional, structural, economic, even moral. Venezuela, with a population smaller than Canada's, suffers more homicides than the United States. Robberies at gunpoint - express kidnappings, as they are called - are regular occurrences in middle-class neighbourhoods. And if middle-class neighbourhoods demonstrate any disaffection from the regime, they lose what little police protection they have.

Property is seized. Businesses are arbitrarily nationalised. Conversations are eavesdropped upon. The Internet is policed, at least to the best of the (very limited) ability of Venezuela's not-very-competent security forces and with advisers from Cuba.

Shameful underperformance

Hugo Chávez has laid Venezuela's economy to waste. One of the world's great energy producers must turn its street lamps off at night. One of the world's wealthiest exporters cannot afford to import enough food. One of the world's energy superpowers is seeing its production slowly dwindle away because of chronic underinvestment in the oil fields and the loss of access to technology as foreign companies are harassed and expropriated.

The Chávez regime also has created a complex structure of laws, regulations and new layers of bureaucracy through which the government increasingly tracks and attempts to administrate the importation, storage, distribution and sale of all food products nationally.

The largest single opposition voting bloc of Venezuelans is in Miami (that's where they all flee to when Chávez accuses them of something or they get too successful). He closed the Miami embassy so they could not vote.

Jamaicans should be aware that Mr Chávez is not a paragon of virtue, nor does he uphold the democratic rights and free-market values that we live by. He has hounded his political rivals, imprisoned many, and chased a noteworthy number into exile.

Let us be cognisant of the leaders our current administration is embracing.

NICHOLAS SUTHERLAND

nicksutherland26@gmail.com

Kingston 8

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