On Tuesday we took a tour of the area around Merida with our guide named Alberto. Alberto was born up the valley from Merida in the Andean foothills and for the last 7 years has been a guide for tourists. He told us stories of mountain rescues and handling Anacondas. When I asked him what he thought of Chavez, he said that he liked Chavez, but not the people he works with. Specifically, Alberto likes what Chavez has done to protect Venezuelan culture. He grew up watching Dawson’s Creek on television, but now television stations must also carry some Venezuelan content. In the same way radio stations must regularly air an hour of Venezuelan music. Alberto felt this was a good way to protect Venezuelan culture from being lost.
When I asked Alberto what he didn’t like about the people who worked with Chavez he talked about the corruption he witnessed first hand at an organisation he worked for. He said they recieved government money, but didn’t do anything to show for it.
Chavez has good ideas Alberto said, but they aren’t always carried out well.
When Karissa and I visited her cousin in Italy this summer, we went hiking with a Brazilian guy who was studying at the same university and talked some Latin American politics. His take (as I recall it) was interesting, in that he clearly despised US domination of the region, but also thought Chavez (and Morales in Bolivia) were taking their countries down a path to inevitable disaster by openly standing up to the US economically (i.e. Chavez’ oil policies, Morales’ nationalization of gas production). I couldn’t quite figure out the “therefore” – it seemed to be mostly a preference for centrist leaders who would navigate the waters of diplomacy with more subtlety and less incendiary rhetoric. He was also no fan of Lula in Brazil – I think corruption was the main issue there.
There always seems to be more talk of corruption under left-leaning governments. I guess the relevant definition of corruption is “people skimming off the government who aren’t already filthy rich.” When it’s the corporate fat cats benefitting from lucrative government cronyism, I think that’s called “freedom and democracy.”