Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama got the Nobel prize. Is it important for Venezuela?

















Barak Obama got the Nobel Peace prize. I have to say I was a wee bit surprised. I think it is way too early to be sure what Obama's real contribution will be. Does this event concern Venezuelans? Not really, but it may be time to discuss about where we stand. We all know Hugo Chávez craves for attention. He seems to be telling the personalities of the whole world "Please, come talk to me" although he does not seem to be interested in listening to his own people. He has a particular crush on Obama. At the same time he knows his main tool abroad and often in Venezuela is to say "los gringos tienen la culpa de todo" (everything is the gringos' fault). He knows he can accomplish a lot with that among the US bashers (although this seems to be more difficult now).

Obama has indeed tried to promote cooperation throughout the world. He has pushed for concrete steps in different fronts (although perhaps in too many). He is trying to listen to what people in other cultures have to say. He has avoided to treat them in an arrogant way as some of his predecessors did (still, see here).

On one side I put this:

  • He recognised the rocket systems in Poland and the Czech Republic would provide no extra defence but restart an unnecessary arms race with Russia. The West does need to be vigilant towards Russia for many things (human rights, EU gas dependency, industrial espionage and much more), but simply the rocket shields there made no sense, in spite of what the Poles would think. If you were following the Russian mind very closely (not just from US news) you will know it was the right decision.
  • He has looked for a dialogue with the Arab world.
  • He has asked the state of Israel to stop its expansion in occupied Palestinian territories , although now Lieberman, the minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, says things will go on like now. I suppose that minister wants settlers to keep on taking as much land as possible to "negotiate concessions" in a decade for areas still to be occupied.
  • Obama has asked also the Arab world to recognise the state of Israel and bring about democracy in their own countries (well, I have little hope on the second part, but the first part is possible).
On the other side of the balance I put this:
  • after a good start with the way to treat the Venezuelan regime, he remained silent regarding the worsening of the human rights situation in Venezuela.
  • Obama's position towards Honduras has been like the Honduras situation itself: chaotic, uncoordinated. Let me be clear here: Micheletti is a coupster and his coup should be rejected. On the other side, Zelaya was also a self-coupster and no more kosher. His "referendum" was going to be organized with the support of chavismo, including voting material from the notorious Venezuelan National Electoral commission. Honduras needs elections, but elections need to be monitored by foreign observers and these observers cannot be the ineffective lot of OAS, an organisation that seems to be mostly a club of the present presidents of Latin America (alas, there is no single Parliamentarian system in Latin America).
  • the Israeli government seems to want to speed up the expansion of illegal settlements in occupied territories for the next years and their lobbying in the US will guarantee the US does not do anything.
  • Obama should put more pressure on the Arabs to denounce Akhmadinejad's claims that the Holocaust did not take place (even if he has).
  • After so many years and the loss of so many innocent lives, the US (and the EU) are not sure about what to do in Afghanistan. This is a tragedy as the West could have done a lot of good there if they had had a better strategy from early on and it is not that they did not know what happened to the Soviets there. One of the last losses of US lives in that place took part in Kashdem, Nuristan. If you want to know how life is there right now there, you can take a look in a very dry but real report from an NGO here: 95% of illiteracy, no school building, lots of girls dying from menstrual anemia...even if billions of dollars have been spent. The US and other powers need to listen more to the normal people of those nations, not to their corrupt potentates.

Obama has definitely a complicated work South of the border. The United States has intervened in Latin America too often in ways that were very pernicious for the region even when the region was by no means a threat to them, from early XIX century to this day. On the other hand, the US has also provided a model of democracy that, although far from perfect, is better than anything Latin America has had.

I would love to see Latin America to try to find out a bit more what other regions can teach as well: how free education works in Western Europe, how industrialization was possible in Japan, how parliamentarian systems work in Canada and Western Europe. Above all, I would like Latin America to take responsibility of its own destiny, on one side being aware of what foreign powers have done in the region, but on the other recognising it is up to us to get over the injustices and that it has been Latin Americans themselves the ones who have been hampering their own development the most 200 years. Unfortunately until now we find in Latin America too many people who either see the US (or Europe) as the perfect model to copy without any own analysis or the source of all their problems.

Now, back to the US: will this change things towards Venezuela?

I predict Venezuela's Fat Man in the Palace will now suffer more the pains of his unrequited "love", he will cry louder to get Obama's attention and try to force it in many ways.

What should Obama do? I think he should repeat the message he gave in Miami about what chavismo is about. He should also support transparency in elections in both Honduras and, next year, in Venezuela, and he should support above all education programmes throughout Latin America. The US administration can play a bigger role in supporting basic education programmes in Latin America. Otherwise, I think he should focus on other topics.

The Venezuelan mess should be solved by Venezuelans alone. They can get some support in the future with real observers from the EU or Oecd in general (not the horrible disaster that was the EU mission of 2006), but otherwise, they need to put their act together on their own, make sacrifices to reduce ignorance, to help the poorer, denounce human right abuses and propose concrete steps to take the country on the path of sustainable development.


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