Now that I’m weak, I’m asking you for my freedom, because that’s your principle; but when I’m strong, I’ll deprive you of your freedom, because that’s my principle. — Charles F. R. de Montalembert
Armando Chaguaceda (Fotos:Caridad)
HAVANA TIMES — History, as Marx told us in one of his most lucid political analyses, often repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. Like in a play, the actors and backdrops might change but the script remains the same – or its worst subplots are amplified. In this same way, an observer who looks at Venezuelan political life will not fail to notice certain continuities and contrasts.
A few years ago, Venezuela was nauseous with money-generating oil that mortgaged nature, the economy, society and the soul of the people.
Today the actors and the scenery have changed… but the script remains the same.
Some years ago, on a continent plagued by the most sordid dictatorships, Venezuela exhibited a form of democracy that was politically decent, though with significant deficits in administrative transparency and social inclusion.
Today, on a continent plagued by deficient democracies, Venezuela displays a formally democratic regime, where — in a proportional manner — we can see increases in both social inclusion and political exclusion.
Some years ago the Venezuelan judiciary and legislature interrupted the mandate of an elected president who overstepped his authority.
Today the judiciary and the legislature are extending the mandate of a reelected president who is unable to perform his duties.
Some years ago the new Bolivarian leaders promoted legal changes that encouraged participatory governance, empowered citizens and decentralized power, bringing it closer to the people.
Today those same leaders (now older) are seemingly unaware of the importance of an autonomous citizen. They concentrate power and distance it from the people.
Some years ago, reprehensible Venezuelan institutions — pressured by the citizens’ outcry — granted clemency to a lieutenant colonel who attacked the constitutional order.
Today, reprehensible Venezuelan institutions — ignoring another citizens’ outcry — are keeping imprisoned civilians who have committed no violence against the state or their fellow citizens, undermining the constitutional order.
Some years ago Venezuela was a country weary of political corruption, administrative inefficiency and social inequity.
Today it is a country weary of polarization, administrative inefficiency and danger in the streets.
Some years ago, bank accounts, public offices and political posts were bridges to success for the old democratic elites.
Today public contracts, military epaulettes and fuming rhetoric — impervious to facts — are the standards for promotion among the new revolutionary elite.
Some years ago, popular hope and intellectual wisdom imagined new laws, policies and institutions necessary for change.
Today these “forms” are unknown, and what persists is “continuity.”
Some years ago, human rights defenders were “comrades” who participated in the creation of change.
Today they are “destabilizing agents” in the eyes of their old comrades-turned-revolutionary-cadre.
Some years ago — and up to today — the shortsightedness of some opposition forces saw Chavez supporters as a flock of sheep on the hunt for resources.
Today, given the shortsightedness of some Chavez supporters, they see the opposition as mere conspirators and traitors.
Some years ago the rancid elitism of various — accustomed to their economic privileges and power — led them to despise the marginalized population that clamored for justice.
Today a new elite — accustomed to their revolutionary privileges — speak on behalf of those marginalized without sharing their good fortune or power.
Some years ago there began the resuscitation of popular democratic dignity and social justice.
Today we see the amplification of an assault on those very freedoms that allow people from below to demand those rights.
Some years ago a group of civilians, accompanied by soldiers, violated the rule of law and the Constitution in the name of democracy.
Today, those who were aggrieved from back then (other civilians and military personnel) violate those same rights in the name of revolution.
Some years ago, doctors, athletes and teachers arrived from Havana to serve many thousands of poor people who had been excluded by the old partyicracy
Today Venezuela’s national sovereignty is ailing in that same Havana.
Some years ago a new inclusive and participatory process was being constructed, with robust democratic anatomy and a comprehensive expansion of rights.
Today a cult of the personality has replaced law and institutions, with an authoritarian physiology and an official offensive against citizens’ rights.
Some years ago, with its hegemony over communications, the private media ignored the changes that were necessary. They misinformed the people, inciting the subversion of the constitutional order.
Today, with the government’s hegemony over communications, it ignores the changes that are necessary and misinforms people, violating the citizens’ rights enshrined in the constitution.
Some years ago, for many Venezuelans the left and socialism were synonymous with change, the promise of renewed democracy and the realization of deferred justice.
Today they are, for many Venezuelans, synonymous with privilege and exclusion and disillusionment.
Some years ago, posters appeared in Caracas saying “Venezuela belongs to everyone.”
Today they speak of “the people” while capriciously excluding 44 percent of the electorate.
Some years ago some students took to the streets in a peaceful social movement and mobilized the consciousness of the citizenry, warning them of certain impending constitutional changes.
Today, those in power incite — and threaten — anyone who takes to the streets, threatening the public peace.
Some years ago they said “within the constitution, everything; outside the constitution, nothing.”
Today those precepts are mere “formalities” for those who rule.
Some years ago the strategic line of the opposition was to ignore Bolivarian legality, undermining the rule of law.
Today, the strategic line of the Bolivarian government is to manipulate the law, undermining the rule of law.
Some years ago, the coup attempt by the right wing — ignoring their own mistakes and the clamor of their countrymen — sought to violently stop the train of history with an undemocratic reverse in direction.
Today, the government — ignoring a segment of the population and the lessons of history — wants to impose its obsolete and undemocratic hegemony.
A long time ago the people, in their diversity, cherished the hope of a better life with justice and freedom, and they did their best to achieve this.
Today in Venezuela, like in the rest of the world, there persists that need to preserve this hope and the urgency to fight to defend it.