Monday, January 20, 2014

Latin America Newsmaker Awards: A Platinum Award for Hugo Chávez

article from October 10, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

Due to the many encouraging messages I have received from readers, I will continue this semi-irregular feature, looking into some different aspects of life and politics in the regions that make up Latin America.

I would like to offer my special thanks to several South American newsmakers who make life easy for me by delivering a constant stream of behavior worth reporting: The Platinum Award surely can go only to the one and only Hugo Chávez, with the Gold shared equally by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her Chilean counterpart, Sebastian Piñera. The Silver goes to Rafael Correa of Ecuador, while the leaders of Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay receive honorable mention for their actual efforts to do good for their citizens. Kudos to Dilma Rousseff, Juan Manuel Santos and José Mujica for their continued efforts, always giving me pleasant subjects to write about.

Platinum Award Winner Hugo Chávez

Hugo Chávez, after his fourth round of chemotherapy, is doing his best to mislead the world into believing that he is in great condition and does not have cancer. Unfortunately, his mere appearance dispels that assertion. He does not look well, and that should come as no surprise to anyone. The regimen of getting poisoned to within an inch (2.54cm) of your life takes a serious toll on anyone subjected to it. Last Saturday, October 1, 2011, he could be found buying votes by giving away appliances to his admirers. Kind of a waste, since they all were going to vote for him anyway. Although he firmly stated, “I am not sick at all” (Remember Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook?”) to anyone who would listen to him, comrade Hugo is obviously not well. I do not wish him ill at all. I hope he will continue his struggle against the Big “C” and win. But even as El Maximum Líder, he is subject to the same suffering caused by that illness as any other mortal. After a Miami paper reported him to be urgently hospitalized, comrade Hugo showed the irresponsible imperialist Miami press that he was well, indeed, by publicly displaying his baseball skills, engaging several of his ministers in a game in the garden of his Miraflores Palace. At least his smugness is still intact.

Meanwhile the ultra-socialist president’s spending has come under scrutiny again. The Association of Latin American Newspapers has reported that one year ago, when comrade Hugo set out on his state visits to Moscow, Kiev, Teheran, Damascus and Tripoli, two of his trusted representatives set out from Miraflores with instructions to go to the central bank a few blocks away and pick up US$5 million in cash to cover the expenses of the upcoming trip. The agents dutifully went to the bank, got the money and promptly disappeared.

Fast forward to the next day, when another pair of agents set out to harvest another $5 million, this time with a little more supervision and the money making it back to the palace. But it all goes to show that this comrade is not shy at all about spending lavishly on himself and his close associates. He raised the budget for spending on himself to $794 million in 2011. Seventy percent of that is his for discretionary spending, and the other 30% pays for parties ($10.4 million), clothing and shoes ($320.000), laundry ($408.000) and $9.5 million in upkeep of residences.

One of Hugo’s favorite phrases is that all that matters is saving the Bolivarian Revolution, even if we don’t have all of what we need to eat. All the rest is secondary.

I have a feeling that if comrade Hugo’s idol, Simón Bolivar, were alive today, Chávez might be lingering in a prison, if not dangling from the gallows, for illegal enrichment from the state coffers.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where is my Malbec?

[Image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.