Chavez’s polluted propaganda

Chavez’s polluted propaganda

Those who voted to oust Chavez from power in 2004 had to identify themselves, and those identities have been stored in a massive governmental database.

By: Maria Cesar

Posted: 6/18/07

CARACAS, Venezuela – Over the creases and folds of emerald mountains, the breeze of the Caribbean Ocean floats into the bustling city. Caracas, nestled in a valley, is a flood of cars, high-rise apartment buildings and towering billboards.

The breeze does what it can to offset the smog, but pollution abounds – as does litter, graffiti and poverty. Like the consistency of the ocean breeze, these stigmas remain eight years after Hugo Chavez was sworn in as president, resolving to catapult the nation into an era of change.

The Socialist Revolution teeters here, as basic necessities such as decent infrastructure and a living wage go unfulfilled – even by minimal standards. In the national arena, the capitalist nations hold their breath as Chavez looks to nationalize private sectors such as oil, communication mediums and health care.

Graffiti speaks volumes, and in Caracas it’s on every street corner. Political slogans condemning U.S. imperialism and supporting Venezuela’s socialist movement are popular, as are murals likening Chavez to past revolutionaries such as the country’s founder, Simon Bolivar, and even pop icon Che Guevara. City buses wear phrases like “Now Venezuela belongs to everyone,” promoting Chavez’s term promise to equalize the social classes.

To do so, Chavez has provided qualifying citizens the chance to purchase rations of sugar, cornmeal, powdered milk and cooking oil at reduced prices. He also offers medical care sponsored by Cuban doctors on Cuba’s soil for free. To qualify, citizens must identify with Chavez’s political party and cannot have voted against him a 2004 presidential recall referendum. Those who did were immediately blacklisted.

Venezuelans have a national identification cards, called a cedulas, which carry unique numbers for each citizen. Those who voted to oust Chavez from power in 2004 had to identify themselves by name and ID number, and those identities have been stored in a massive governmental database. People are regularly denied access to government sponsored programs as a result of their vote.

As if that wasn’t Orwellian enough, Chavez recently denied a broadcasting license renewal for 53 year-old Radio Caracas Television, one of the country’s most popular television stations. The closure likely had to do with the channel’s content, specifically its ridicule of Chavez’s socialist reforms. Across the nation, University students organized massive non-violent protests earlier this month. Thousands took to the streets with banners, face paint and chants, some holding up their empty arms to reinforce their message of pacifism. The demonstrations were met by heavy-handed police, who disbursed rounds of tear gas and assaulted the protesters with rubber bullets and dangerous streams of high-pressured water. At least four students were wounded by gunfire protesting outside a university in Valencia, about 100 miles west of here.

It is the first time in the country’s history that a media outlet has been silenced and a broadcasting license denied.

Shortly after the original protests, Chavez’s party leaders rallied their supporters from the working class, the Chavistas, who came out in similar fashion and formed to march the streets in solidarity. Their message was clear – “We stand by our president.” While their strength in numbers stands as a testament to Chavez’s grassroots support and popularity among the nation’s poor, looks can be deceiving.

One local man, who works for a major bus company in Caracas, told me many of the Chavistas are given monetary incentives to march in the name of party leaders. This could be hard to prove, because going on record with such comments could incite retaliation by the government, or his employer. But he said, “I know because our buses bring them to Caracas and this is what they tell us. They give them money and food.”

This self-censorship is a pervasive symbol of the country’s dwindling freedoms.

Apparently, this is no secret. Neither are the other measures Chavez has taken to keep up the facade of a truly functional society. But as the propaganda paint begins to chip from the sides of Venezuela’s dilapidated highways, Chavez’ Socialist Revolution hangs like the heavy smog covering the city – stagnate.

© Copyright 2007 The Daily Texan

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