You must read Lee Garnett and Lance’s interview of Manny Lopez, editorial columnist for The Detroit News, (emphasis added)
Lee: Even under the caudillos, Caracas has always been a lively and colorful capital. But one of the things you wrote about in your March 14 column that I found particularly striking, was this impression that under Chavez the city seems to be somehow losing its vitality. Perhaps in the same way that Havana did after Castro? What are some of the most notable atmospheric differences you observed between now and 1997?
Manny: I think one of the most noticeable differences is the tension that exists. You drive through neighborhoods and there’s a distinct us-versus-them atmosphere. Chavistas are boldly marking their territory and taking over the weak fringes, too. Most non-Chavista neighborhoods don’t spray paint their entrances with signs that proclaim their allegiances.
Chavez has spent millions plastering the country with propaganda. “Socialism, patriotism or death” banners hang throughout Caracas as well as a litany of “death to American imperialism” murals.
There also is an unquestionable concern about crime among locals and visitors (though there aren’t nearly as many tourists as there once was). Chavez has created such an atmosphere of entitlement among the truly poor that some now think they have a mandate to take what they want and redistribute it to themselves and their families. And why not? Though there is a decent police presence, I’m told they apparently don’t act on theft or assault charges that often.
Ironically, the socialists are so caught up in the so-called revolution and the attack on middle and upper class Venezuelans, that they don’t stop and think about why Chávez hasn’t significantly redistributed the tremendous amount of oil money he’s raking in. Since he took office the number of truly poor is the same, but he’s confiscated more oil money than the three previous governments combined.
Reagarding the opposition,
Lee: You’ve been in touch with Leopoldo Lopez and have been following the Rosales persecution. First hand, what’s the state of the Venezuelan democratic opposition and can it have a future in the changing constitutional order?
Manny: Yes, Leopoldo Lopez (no relation) read my March 18 column and sent me an e-mail the next day. He thanked me for acknowledging what he says the international media don’t want to write about.
I’ve also been told by friends in Venezuela that at least one of the newspapers in Caracas is translating and reprinting my columns.
The intense international interest (I’m also getting e-mails from London and elsewhere), tells me that the opposition is stronger than Chavez would have anyone believe and stronger than he wants.
Internally, Un Nuevo Tiempo is now the unified opposition party. They five former separate parties will have a stronger voice and direction.
But it’s important to remember that Chavez will never allow true democracy to return to Venezuela so they have their work cut out for them.
Read the interview and the round-up items at the end of the post.
Here are a few developments in Venezuela
Big brother’s mini-zeppelin’s watching
Scarcity amid abundance
Hugo Chavez proposed that Venezuela purchase a nuclear power plant from Argentina to place on the border of neighboring Colombia, but says he was only kidding.
Venezuela News and Views posts on A Crude Power Grab
And then there’s IMF confusion
Meanwhile, over at the Beeb, their Washington correspondent Justin Webb travelled to Caracas, “the car-choked, sweltering capital of oil-rich Venezuela”.
The Beeb’s making progress: Usually their correspondent reports from Buenos Aires, which means that I’m nearer to Caracas by 1,014 miles than he.
(from here to Philadelphia’s 40 miles + 2114 miles from Philadelphia to Caracas = 2154 miles from Princeton NJ to Caracas
The distance from Buenos Aires to Caracas is 3,168 miles.)
But never mind that.
The Beeb asks,
You’ve got to wonder if there is any end to the capacity of the rest of the world to blame the United States for its problems. Nowhere is that more the case than in Latin America, where out of roughly 500 million people, 200 million live on less than $2 a day.
Why? Is it all the fault of the imperialists from the north? Or is just a little of it the result of local attitudes to poverty, local attitudes to honesty in government, and local attitudes to the rule of law?
In other words, in Latin America as elsewhere in the world, is anti-Americanism a smoke screen, a very convenient smoke screen, whose noxious fumes hide the reality of local failure?
Not that the Beebers are above seeing things through the noxious fumes of cliched terms,
And millions and millions of Latin Americans benefit every day from the powerhouse US economy – from relatives cleaning cars in Los Angeles, making beds in Las Vegas and picking fruit in rural Georgia.
Because, in the Beeb’s eyes, that’s all Latin American immigrants to the USA are fit to do.