One more step towards cloning Venezuela as Cuba: free copies of Don Quijote
Fidel has said that he’s making sure Cubans are the most cultured people in the world.
Now Hispalibertas tells us that Hugo Chávez’s lifting a page right off Fidel’s book, and squandering his oil profits on a million abridged copies of Don Quijote that supposedly are to be distributed to the Venezuelan people. I say supposedly because 70,000 copies of the translated version are to be distributed in English-speaking Caribbean countries, and 7,000 in Haiti. An unspecified amount will be sent to, you guessed it, Cuba, and Cuba will be dedicating the 2006 International Book Fair to Venenzuela. I wonder if Hugo’s sending Fidel oil, and Fidel’s paying him with pamphlets, but that would be a question for another post.
Speaking of the Havana Book Fair, you can be sent to a concentration camp if you have a free lending library operating from your Cuban home. Make no mistake, any book circulated through official means in Cuba has the censors’ stamp of approval.
But back to Chávez’s abridged Don Q., The Scotsman sees this a positive light, and gives it a lovely headline:Quixotic president’s novel way to inspire his people and claims that
Whether in praise or in criticism, Venezuelans universally describe Mr Chavez as an idealist. He has said he envisages a new world order in which developing countries are free from oppression, inequality, poverty and injustice.
I guess The Scotsman equates the terms “idealist” and petty tyrant”, and quotes Hugo as saying
“Is Venezuela still poor? Yes, but now Venezuelans have better health care, now they have schools in which children receive a good lunch … and programmes to teach the people how to read and write,” he said.
In case you get a feeling of deja-vu, you’ve heard it from Fidel, who’s spent the last 50 years talking of Cuba’s healthcare system and literacy, but, after all, Hugo’s Fidel’s Mini-Me.
Why do I object to this free book?
1. True literacy programs take not only money, but time, commitment and dedication. I find none of that in this ridiculous gesture that would make it qualify as a literacy program. Chávez could spend the $350 million that he gave away on oil commissions on an effective literacy program, and have change to spare.
2. The book giveaway is a pure propagandistic move, aimed for foreign consumption. Paleoliberals will love it, since it’s prefaced by Nobel Prize winner Saramago, who said that he doesn’t believe in democracy, which needs to be reinvented. I hope Chávez sends Saramago a t-shirt.
3. The book is abridged. If you’re going to give away a book, give away the entire text. Here it is, in Spanish, and in English. Anything else is bogus.
As a commenter in Hispalibertas said, los defendidos por don Quijote quedaban mas corridos que socorridos, “those who Don Quijoted defended ended up more run over than helped”.
Let’s wish the Venezuelan people better luck than that. They need it.