Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Demilitarizing Venezuela

Last January Hugo Chávez announced a minimum salary increase for workers of 26.5%, spread in two parts through the year. Expected inflation is around 29-30%. Salary increases for the military are usually announced later in the year, but this time the 1992 coup monger announced that increase sooner. On 23rd April Antonio Rivero, a general who had fallen out of favour with the regime, felt free to talk about the Cubanization of the Venezuelan army (only after he went into retirement). On 25rd April, Chávez decided to announce a 40% increase in the salary of the military, retroactively from 1rst of April. The military guys have had a salary increase of about 30% every year, which is just a bit over inflation and better than for most people. More on salary increases through the years here.

On 19 April Venezuelans celebrate the "Indepence from Spain". On that day in 1810, a civic junta forced the governor of Venezuela, Vicente Emparan, to step down. Emparan had been a governor of the Cumana Province between 1794 and 1802 and was succesful at it. He later returned to Spain. When the Napoleon regime took over in Spain, the new French-controlled government sent Emparan back to Venezuela to be the new governor of the Capitanía general. The junta in Venezuela, led by the rich of society, stood in support of Ferdinand II and forced Emparan to quit. It was only progressively that pro-independence groups took the command. That is why Venezuela's Declaration of Independence just happened on 15 July 1811, over one year after the "Independence day".

And now Chávez is stating that 19 April 1810 was a civil-military movement that was later taken over by the "oligarchy", which is just absolutely rubbish. The oligarchy was in from day 1. Chávez can talk so freely because most Venezuelans haven't got the slightest clue about their history. That goes for all social groups. And of course, Chávez does not count as oligarchy people like Diosdado Cabello and people like the Chacón family (Arne now in jail and Jesse, former minister, going into low profile).

Chávez is also talking constantly about Colombian candidate Santos. I am firmly convinced Chávez is hoping for Santos, another military, to become president of Colombia at this stage. Although I doubt Mockus will win, I also think he would be the best for Colombia and Venezuela, by far. Chávez would hate to see Mockus in power, whatever he says now.

As Miguel wrote, we can live without the military, or at least by putting the military on their place and having a system as in Costa Rica or Iceland. Venezuela is a country that has been taken hostage by the military since the very beginning.

We need to deconstruct the military "heroes" of Venezuela without falling into iconoclasm for its own sake. We need to bring about discussions about real issues for Venezuela. It won't be easy.

The EU, China, Russia, the EU have earned so many billions in weapons sales to Venezuela. The Venezuelan military and many Venezuelan politicos have profited a lot from this. Every single ruling group in Venezuela has proclaimed itself "the real heir" of Bolívar's tradition.

People like Colombian Mockus are not talking about Bolívar (also a hero in Colombia) or Santander. They are talking about the work Colombians have to carry out to bring progress to the country. We need to bring about that kind of discussion to Venezuela as well.

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