A new storm is forming, one which could prove to be detrimental to peace and stability in the Western Hemisphere, and particularly damaging to the United States. It is a tempest of human origin, which has visited us before: Guatemala (1951); Cuba (1959); Grenada (1979); Nicaragua (1984); and now, Venezuela. It is the Great Socialist Experiment, redux, with a new striking force. This storm, unlike the others, has a menacing energy behind it, namely oil — and with it, fear. Had journalists followed, arrested, tear—gassed, shot at and killed.
Until now, the previously mentioned regimes were smaller agrarian societies, which were eventually 'dealt with' or, in the case of Cuba, contained. In any event, none of them were consequential to the economic well being of America. Sugar, bananas and rum are readily available elsewhere, and their price does not affect the overall economy. Oil is different.
There is a glaring lack of candid articles on the status quo of Venezuela in the American mass media. Clearly, that unimposing body of bias, the Fourth Estate, is not interested in investigative journalism when it might show a leftist leader and regime in an unfavorable light. Their interest is in negative stories which place the United States, its citizens or the Bush Administration in an unfavorable light. They are certainly not focused on evolving potential dangers to this hemisphere, such as a Marxist tyrant proceeding merrily along, corrupting an election, wrecking his economy, arresting his opponents, suppressing free trade unions, and seizing private land to 'redistribute.'
The strength of that indictment is the palpable lack of news regarding current conditions in Venezuela. The MSM to date has had little to say regarding this developing problem. Instead, its headlines center on the here and now, such as wars, cataclysmic occurrences, Hollywood divorces, personal tragedies, and celebrity trials. Such headlines hold the attention of the masses for a while, and are soon replaced by other 'feedings.' Media loves the story they can shape, build upon and aggrandize to their liking.
Venezuela ranks sixth among oil exporters (2003), and more importantly, has the seventh largest proven oil reserves (2003) in the world today. This places it directly behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, U.A.E. and Russia.
More than half of its total daily oil production is shipped directly to the U. S., which places Venezuela as one of the top four sources of U.S. petroleum imports (Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia are the others). Its current share of the American petroleum market is 11.3% — down significantly from 17.4% in 1997.
Has anything of consequence happened in Venezuela since 1997? Yes — and his name is Hugo Ch�vez! This leftist ideologue ascended to the presidency of his country in 1999.
Ch�vez, a former paratroop colonel, led a failed coup d'�tat in February, 1992, against then President Carlos Andr�s P�rez, another leftist who had previously nationalized the country's petroleum and iron—ore industry. For his failure, Ch�vez was rewarded with a two—year stint in prison until he was pardoned.
Upon his release, he formed a new political party, Movement for the Fifth Republic, and in December 1998 won the presidential election with 56.2% of the vote. Since then he has:
Had political opponents physically tortured.
Called Capitalism 'the road to hell' and 'the champion of inequality.'
Visited Saddam Hussein in 2000
Dissolved labor unions
Visited Spain's new Socialist Prime Minister Zapatero (Nov 2004)
Visited China (Dec 2004) and signed trade agreements, which include the exportation of oil and gas to China
Provided his good friend, Fidel Castro with 53,000 barrels of oil daily
Survived a coup attempt in 2002
Referred to President Bush as a pendejo
Ch�vez, as many communists before him, had neatly hidden himself for a while in the cloak of nationalism. One remembers how Castro had U. S. liberals pandering to him in '59 and '60, appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno's TV ancestor, Jack Paar.
Ch�vez, the new 'Castro of the Caribbean,' however, is not the usual socialist, just intent on exporting the Marxist—Leninist line to vulnerable neighboring countries with force of arms. Imagine if you will, Saudi Arabia with Castro as its leader, or Kuwait with Saddam Hussein in charge! To those possessed with any common sense, or some small degree of perception, this plate of distaste is most unappetizing.
It might be hard for some to fathom how this South American country, fifteen hundred miles from U. S. shores, can be any menace to our well being, economic or otherwise.
As one of the five founding members of OPEC, Venezuela helps to control a powerful influence over a number of industrialized economies. The question is should such power be trusted in the hands of people like Mr. Ch�vez?
Hugo Ch�vez has vowed to remain in power until 2021 and possibly this is what he admires about Fidel Castro, who has lasted for forty—five years. Venezuela's current constitution allows for two six—year terms and so this ambition presents something of a problem for Ch�vez, albeit, a minor one. Does anyone care to wager on constitutional changes in Venezuela's near future?
When Ch�vez first assumed power in 1999 oil was $8.00 a barrel. At that price he couldn't risk angering Wall Street and Washington. However, with today's oil cost at about $43.00 a barrel, Ch�vez is quickly becoming financially secure enough to take the gamble.
Ch�vez recently agreed to sell China 120,000 barrels of fuel oil a month. This agreement also allows China to help pump oil, set up refineries and produce natural gas in Venezuela. Of course, China needs oil to feed its growing economy, so diversifying its supply sources makes sense. However, I get nervous when an adversary sets up shop in my neighborhood.
When I harken back to my formative years, in daydreams arbitrarily remembered, I recall the old Mayflower Restaurant, once located in downtown Pittsburgh. Upon its white and turquoise green tiled walls, was a quotation, which for some obscure reason I still recall. Above the quote was a large picture of a donut and underneath it said, 'As you ramble through life, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole.'
In the coming months, as news of Venezuela's turn to the dark side grudgingly trickles to the forefront of the mainstream media, keep your eye upon the real stakes in Venezuela, and not upon trivialized accounts given by those who have contrary agendas. This is one of the most important stories of our time.