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A Scholarly Read
on October 6, 2009
Gregory Wilpert has written an interesting book about the "Bolivarian Revolution" in Venezuela. Unlike most of the recent books about Venezuela, this book deals very little with Hugo Chavez and more with statistics and legal issues. The problem is however, that despite what is written in the constitution, Chavez does what he likes. The entire federal government is under his control and never does anything to reprimand him or limit his power. As Wilpert wrote in the beggining of the book, the "Bolivarian" Constitution is the same as that of the Soviet Union. It looks great on paper, yet in reality little of the constitutional guarantees have been delivered to the masses. Wilpert indicates that creation of public housing has been so inept, that the slums of Venezuela have been accepted rather condemned. He illustrates time and time again that the Chavez government has failed to accomplish much at all in improving the lives of the Venezuelan people. When he discusses Venezuela's horrible GINI coefficient, he does not say what is was in 2007, when the book was written, as Even after 8 years of the "revolution", Venezuela is still as unequal as it was in 1999, when Chavez assumed office.
While far more critical of the government than other books on the "revolution", Wilpert left out one critical piece of information. He fails to mention anything about the deterioration of security in Venezuela. He discusses troops on the border, but fails to mention the marked increase in murders and kidnappings throughout the country. This would indicate that police corruption has gotten worse since 1999 and that the rule of law has also been severely weakended. Judging by Chavez's speeches and his sponsor of two violent coupt attempts in 1992, it is no wonder that outlaws have looked to him as a hero and thus have increased their activities without fear of punishment, much less arrest. He mentions that clientalism may continue to be a problem in Venezuelan society, when it most certainly has increased since 1999. Chavez demands a sycophantic media and requieres all federal employees (3 million people) to vote for him if they desire to continue in their present positions. By taking full control of the military, PDVSA, the media (almost) and various companies, Chavez has been buying votes. He hands out cheap populist perks to the peasants in order to garner their support, which in combination of forcing federal employees to vote for him, guarantees that he will never lose an election.
His final sector is a theory of how a utopian society could be achieved. This section is quite strange and seems to have little basis in reality. Venezuela is very far from theses theoretical examples, because it has a very strong central government that controls oil revenues and distributes them how they see fit.
In conclusion, Wilpert has written a scholarly work. He desperatly wants the "revolution" to succeed, yet at the same time he essentially concludes that the after eight years, Venezuelan society has hardly changed at all.