[Marxism] [R-P] Galeano: Between Venezuela and Nothingland

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Wed Aug 18 19:27:03 MDT 2004

The following article on the Venezuelan referendum by Eduardo Galeano -- 
written in that Uruguayan journalist's inimitable style -- came to me by 
way of Reconquista Popular. I apologize in advance for any translation 
errors I may have made. My thanks to Nestor for passing it along.


Between Venezuela and Nothingland

By Eduardo Galeano

Published Wednesday, 8/18/04

What a strange dictator, this Hugo Chavez. Suicidal and a masochist: he 
created a Constitution that permits the people to kick him out, and took 
the risk that this would happen in a referendum that Venezuela carried out 
for the first time in universal history.

There was no punishment. And this became the eighth election that Chavez 
has won in five years, with a transparency that would have given Bush a 
reason to party.

Obedient to his own Constitution, Chavez accepted the referendum promoted 
by the opposition, and placed his job at the disposal of the people: "You 
decide." Until now, Presidents only interrupted their turn in office as the 
result of death, coup de etats,  insurrections or parliamentary decisions. 
The referendum has inaugurated an unheard of kind of direct democracy. An 
extraordinary event: How many presidents, of any country in the world, 
would be inspired to do it? And how many would continue being president 
after doing it?

This tyrant, invented by the mass media, this terrible demon, just gave a 
huge dose of vitamins to Democracy, which in Latin America -- and not only 
in Latin America -- has been weak and lethargic.

A month before, Carlos Andres Perez, the angel of God, a democrat beloved 
by the mass media, announced a coup d'etat to the four corners of the 
earth. Simply and concisely, he affirmed that "the path of violence" was 
the only possible way in Venezuela, and dismissed the referendum "because 
it isn't part of the Latin American idiosyncrasy." The Latin American 
idiosyncrasy, in other words our precious heritage: a deaf and dumb people.

Until a few years ago, Venezuelans went to the beach when elections were 
held. Voting wasn't and isn't mandatory. But, the country has gone from 
total apathy to total enthusiasm. The torrent of voters, enormous lines 
waiting in the sun, afoot, for long hours, overflowed all of the procedures 
set up for voting. The democratic flood also hindered the proposed 
application of the latest technology to prevent fraud, in this country 
where the dead have the bad habit of voting and where some of the living 
vote several times each election, perhaps because of Parkinson's Disease.

"There is no freedom of expression here!" blare the television screens, 
radio waves and newspaper headlines, with absolute freedom of expression. 
Chavez has not closed a single one of the mouths that spit insults and lies 
every day. The chemical warfare designed to poison public opinion continues 
with impunity. The only television channel shut down in Venezuela, Channel 
8, was not a victim of Chavez, but rather of those who usurped his 
presidency for a couple of days, during the brief coup d'etat in April 2002.

And when Chavez returned from prison and recovered the presidency borne on 
the shoulders of an enormous crowd, the Venezuelan mass media weren't aware 
of the news. Private television stations spent the whole day showing Tom 
and Jerry movies. Those exemplary television stations deserved the prize 
that the king of Spain awards for the best journalism. The king gave his 
prize for a film made about those turbulent days in April. The film was a 
hoax. It showed the savage Chavistas shooting at an innocent demonstration 
of unarmed dissidents. Irrefutable evidence proved that the demonstration 
never took place, but this small detail was unimportant, as the prize was 
never withdrawn.

Until just yesterday, in the Saudi Venezuela, petroleum paradise, the 
census officially recognized a million an a half illiterates, and there 
were five million disenfranchised Venezuelans. These, and many other 
invisible people are unwilling to return to Nothingland, which is the 
country inhabited by the nobodies. They have conquered their country, which 
was so foreign to them. This referendum has proven, once again, that they 
are staying there.

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