In 2007, when President Hugo Chávez announced that he was going to begin the “5 engines for the construction of socialism in Venezuela,” he did not know that one year later that he would be changing speeds or in some cases, going in reverse. The socialist revolution in the petroleum-producing country appears to have some difficulties in the attempt to govern in order to resolve the country's most serious problems.
Meanwhile, concerns and issues appear each week like fireworks, dispersing one's attention. There have been many bumping of heads with the Venezuelan government ever since it lost last December's referendum aimed at reforming the national Constitution. This is part one in an article collecting some viewpoints of Venezuelan bloggers regarding Chavez’ recent policy changes regarding education and intelligence.
Due to the discomfort from many teachers across the country, the new Bolivarian Educational Curriculum was halted, which had included several “socialist” ideological components that was to be included in the students’ studies. Blog Al Agua [es] attended one of the classes for teachers and comments:
Resulta pavoroso el hecho de que se pretenda ideologizar la educación venezolana a partir de un palimpsesto de imágenes nacionalistas, frases hechas de corte castro-comunista y lugares comunes de la indefinible politiquería oficial. Terrible el hecho de que se mantenga a los educadores sometidos a esa vejación a punta de amenazas sobre su futuro profesional.
It is scary that one would attempt to ideologize Venezuelan education through the palimpsest of nationalistic images, Castro-like and Communist phrases and places common to the official undefinable politics. It is terrible that these educators are subject to thise type of humiliation to a point where their professional futures are threatened.
RomRod [es] also said that there lacked debate from public opinion, and that the law was not analyzed carefully:
Como corderitos todos van a la jornadas donde les están inyectando a los docentes de este país el nuevo currículum bolivariano mesmo.
Like sheep, everyone goes to work where the same new Bolivarian curriculum in injected into the country's teachers.
A month later, due to the underground displeasure from the teachers’ unions, the government withdrew the educational program that included remnants of the Constitutional reform that was not approved.
The National Assembly also decided to reverse some laws that it had changed to control the motorized traffic anarchy [es] and the high bus fares. After two large protests that collapsed the center of Caracas [es], both measures were cancelled. In addition to the raise in fares, the bus drivers called for justice for the kidnapping of an owner of a transport line. Days later he was murdered.
A Country of Informants
Another episode that had a lot of repercussions in the Venezuelan blogosphere was the decreed Law of Intelligence and Counterintelligence impulsed by Chávez through this entitled power. In Venezuela, the president was given the power to legislate and take on Congressional powers, in which the laws are not debated or approved in consensus by the citizens. This time, the debate took place after the fact and soon after, the sound of the streets and the internet sounded in the ears of the president. The Law of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence denominated the Toad Law (because a toad has a big mouth capable of telling others), turned Venezuela into a country of spies. The blogosphere was very active and said things like this:
The blogger Panfleto Negro [es] said “Todos seremos sapos” (We Will All Be Toads):
Como todos sabemos la defensa contra los crimenes contra la “seguridad nacional” ha sido la coartada usada por todos los gobiernos con ansias totalitarias – asi se escuden bajo ropajes democraticos – para acabar con sus adversarios politicos, con las demandas de los sectores sociales y mantener al resto de la poblacion en estado subalterno mediante la represion y la autorepresion impulsada por el miedo y la desconfianza mutua que son los unicos productos de una ley tan inhumana.
We all know that the defense against crimes against “national security” has been the alibi used by all of the governments with totalitarian yearnings – that is how they hide under democratic clothing – in order to get rid of their political adversaries, and attend to the demands of the social sectors and maintain the rest of the population in a subordinate state through repression and self-repression caused by fear and mutual distrust, which would be the only products of such an inhumane law.
Iria Puyosa of Resteados [es] adds her thoughts on an especially troubling part of the proposed law:
“Este 28 de mayo salió en Gaceta Oficial la Ley del Sistema Nacional de Inteligencia y Contrainteligencia. Our very own Homeland Security Act, our Venezuelan Patriot Act. El Artículo 6 asigna las competencias al Sistema Nacional de Inteligencia y Contrainteligencia, entre otras cosas incluye:
“Identificar, prevenir y neutralizar toda actividad interna o externa ejecutada por cualquier factor que pretenda atentar contra la seguridad, la soberanía nacional, el orden constitucional y las instituciones democráticas.”
Es decir, casi cualquier cosa que usted se pueda imaginar que no le guste al gobierno”.
On May 28, in the official Gazette the Law of the National System of Intelligence and Counterintelligence was released. Our very own Homeland Security Act, our Venezuelan Patriot Act. Article 6 outlines the responsabilities of this system, which includes:
“Identifying, preventing and neutralizing all internal or external activity conducted by any factor that attempts to attack against security, national sovereignty, constitutional order or democratic institutions.”
In other words, almost anything that you can image that the government doesn't like.
Khandika of Enigma Express [es] writes about a country of frogs and traitors. He also includes a piece of graffiti that says “Big Brother is Watching You.”
Me acuerdo de un profesor de la UCV que nos decía: venezuela es un nido de traidores. Y nosotros tomábamos la frase a manera de mamadera de gallo. Pero regresemos al tema de sapos y traidores. O más sutilmente de inteligencia y contrainteligencia. De ahora en adelante los informantes y colaboradores serán recompensados por el Estado acobijados bajo la nueva política de inteligencia y contrainteligencia. [...] El fin último, en ambos casos, es de todas maneras el mismo: la obtención de información acerca de los enemigos. En este caso los enemigos, son los enemigos de la revolución.
I remember a professor from the UCV who would tell us: Venezuela is a nest of traitors. We took that phrase like a joke. Coming back to the topic of frogs and traitors. Or more subtle regarding intelligence and counterintelligence. From now on, informants and collaborators will be compensated by the state sheltered under the new policy of intelligence and counterintelligence [...] Now in both cases, it is the same: the collection of information about one's enemies. In this case the enemies are enemies of the revolution.
Even though different political spokespersons appeared defending the law, the reversal was already in place. Chávez left his supporters with their defense on their lips and ordered the withdrawal of the law under the argument that the law is not bad, but there are components that generate fear through the use of the internet, text messages, television, the press and the radio. He continued by saying that there no dictatorship in place that no one would be obligated to say anything more that they want.
Jeanfreddy of Hay Que Ser Irresponsable [es] writes about the strategic halt to the law and Chavez’ change of tone:
¡Alerta! Vuelve aquella labia de “por amor”. Como novio arrepentido, que viene por debajito porque se sabe culpable, es capaz de hacer las cosas más insólitas, bellas y conquistadoras, para mostrarse como alguien diligente, conciliador y hasta justo. Quizás cambiado.
Caution! The rhetoric of “love” returns. Just like a contrite boyfriend, who comes crawling back because he knows he was wrong, he is capable of making things more unheard, beautiful and conquering, to show himself to be someone diligent, conciliating and even fair. Maybe even changed.
Thumbnail photo by Rufino Uribe and used under a Creative Commons license