Monday, February 11, 2008

Debating Socialism in the Heart of Venezuela

Journalist Andres Martinez travelled to Venezuela to see what the decade-long rule of Hugo Chavez over that country had brought about. The results were interesting and illustrate that Chavez is recreating the same failed communist formula for a new century:

The president and the bishop are at it again. Their long-standing argument over whether Jesus Christ was a socialist seems to go something like this: "Yes he was." "No he wasn't." "Was too." "Nah-ah." I love reading the newspaper in Caracas. This morning the government also published lists of folks who bought their quota of dollars at the subsidized rate, supposedly to travel, but never left the country. Shame on them! And once again, El Universal's columnists were in a total frenzy, speculating over how far the government's resolve to make all education socialist would go. Will sixth-graders be handed AK-47s to defend the revolution?

Desperate for a firsthand glimpse of the positive side of Chávez's revolution—and to talk to folks who aren't making plans to flee the country—Amanda and I set up a visit to one of the government's vaunted "barrio adentro" missions. This is a comprehensive facility in the working-class neighborhood of Catia, underwritten by the state oil company, that offers medical care, employment, and housing for some of Venezuela's poorest. I was especially eager to chat with some of the Cuban doctors who work at these clinics. In Cuba last year, people kept complaining to me that too many of their doctors were on such missions in Venezuela. Apparently, Chávez and his people are getting something in exchange for all the free oil and ideological solidarity provided to Havana.

There's talk later in the article of T-shirts adorned with socialist icons from the past and present:

I grabbed a copy of the booklet containing the text of the proposed changes and pulled up a chair next to an old woman wearing a shirt bearing the whole trifecta: images of Che, Fidel, and Hugo. She eyed me skeptically, if for no other reason than I wore a plain blue shirt.

I wonder if they also have T-shirts available in Caracas of the cover Tariq Ali's 2006 book, Pirates of the Carribean?

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