Mexico, the Venezuelan Déjà Vu.

La Patilla, May 25, 2020

Mexico, the Venezuelan Déjà Vu.

 By Tamara Suju Roa

Tamara Suju Roa

Tamara Suju Roa

Resting on his ostentatious seat of power, with his petrodollar checkbook in hand that he spent throughout the world financing candidacies, political parties and other works, and forgetting completely about Venezuela’s development, Chávez boasted, in the year 2008, that our country had one of the highest indexes of “happiness” in the world according to a study published at the time and authored by a scientist from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Chávez also noted that Cubans were happy as well, and stated he was certain Cuba occupied first place in the Caribbean. Those were the days that the country was busy with great demonstrations; Chávez had shut down RCTV, the oldest and most popular television channel in Venezuela, and about 30 radio stations; he was holding several political prisoners and activists he persecuted; and a great number of workers were unemployed as a result of losing their positions and jobs due to the closing down, or confiscation, of factories and private enterprises.

Not content with lagging behind, in 2013 Maduro created the Deputy Ministry of the People’s Happiness, whose objective it was to coordinate the government’s social programs. Could there be greater mockery? Impossible.

Among the different strokes of similarity that the government of president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is showing in Mexico, we point out his verbal incontinence when expressing populist ideas, even in the midst of the major world health tragedy we are going through at this time. Not long ago, AMLO was calling on his people to go back outdoors and to not let the economy collapse, as if nothing were happening, and he was seen kissing and hugging children in order to show that everything was as normal as usual. Reality and condemnation about his actions has made him react, and today Mexico occupies tenth place in deaths due to the virus, with 8,103 cases reported, 71,860 testing positive, and 2,333 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Last Thursday, AMLO announced that he was working on a new “Happiness” index, different from the GDP. He stated: “Yes, it will measure growth, but also wellbeing, degrees of social inequality; it will be known if there is growth and less inequality… and another ingredient in these new parameters: the people’s happiness.”  Now, we already know how these metrics turn out in populist governments.

AMLO also announced that the National Armed Forces (FAN, its Spanish acronym) will secure the streets for no more than 5 years –he said- until such time as his newly-created National Guard “develops its structure, its capacity and until it has completed its territorial deployment.” Urban security will thus be militarized, which reminds us Venezuelans of the worst memories of the time when Chávez and his government became unpopular, losing more and more support as social discontent increased, only to bring about harassment and repression, death and suffering. At present, that repressive Venezuelan FAN is what is keeping Nicolas Maduro in power, and it is doing so from its High Command which is involved in corruption and drug trafficking, and is complicit –by commission and omission- in crimes against humanity.

MORENA, AMLO’s political party, has proposed that the Constitution be amended (Chavez’s best weapon for consolidating power) in order for the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI, its Spanish acronym) to review citizens’ estates and have access to their financial information, for the purpose of measuring the concentration of wealth in the country. I cannot help but remember when Hugo Chavez proposed -in the context of his policy against large unproductive estates, and alleged “financial monopolies of production”- to confiscate (read steal) farms, livestock, and private enterprises that he turned into smallholdings which today lay abandoned, the land destroyed, and companies gone bankrupt, their infrastructure left to rot.

Chavez only wanted to take over the private sector in order to monopolize and centralize the economy, and through that, to control all of society, which slowly was becoming impoverished, with a reduction of jobs, the decimation of the middle class, and by monopolizing the most needy with coupons and bags of groceries that today do not alleviate hunger or a Venezuelan family’s needs, forcing many people to look for food in garbage bins in order to survive.

The as-yet timid predictions that are being made in Mexico about where AMLO is headed with his policies during this pandemic; with the grassroots empowerment of the military taking over urban and daily security; and the judicial fragility that the private sector –the great job creator- is facing with regard to its assets and wealth; all this should be an alert for all Mexicans. Let Venezuela be a mirror to you, so that you can see yourselves and the “achievements of the revolution of the 21st century” in that mirror.

Let us fantasize for a moment that Chavez is alive. Who could doubt all the praise he would bestow upon the Mexican head of state. He might even dedicate a musical number to him in one of those horrible Sunday programs: “You are so much like me, that you can’t fool me”…