The Crisis in Venezuela: Top Five Myths


MYTH #1: President Chavez fights for the poor.

Life has become much worse for the poor under President Chavez’ administration. President Chavez’s “revolution” has collapsed under the weight of mismanagement and corruption. President Chavez has destroyed many worthwhile social programs that helped the poor.  When Mr. Chavez has to choose between scoring an ideological point and helping people, he chooses ideology.  Mr. Chavez’s revolution is no longer about helping people – it is about keeping him in power. 

MYTH #2: President Chavez believes in democracy and the rule of law.

Mr. Chavez violates his own constitution with impunity. The undermining of independent institutions means there is no way to hold President Chavez accountable for his many crimes… and means that constitutional rights are not available to opponents of the government. Mr. Chavez’s efforts to consolidate control over the Supreme Court continue. Venezuelans are afraid President Chavez will block all constitutional avenues to early elections.

MYTH #3: Freedom of speech is flourishing in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan media work in an atmosphere of intimidation and violence. President Chavez incites attacks on individual members of the press. Mr. Chavez uses the government to wage war against the media. Mr. Chavez has proposed a new law to restrict freedom of speech.

MYTH # 4: The tough economic times are due to the strike.

The Venezuelan economy was imploding well before the strike. President Chavez has never presented a coherent economic plan, nor has he governed in a way that inspires confidence. The strike was an expression of frustration with (among other things) Mr. Chavez’s gross mismanagement of the economy – it was the result, not the cause, of the failing economy.

MYTH #5: Early elections would set a bad example for the rest of Latin America.

Venezuelans face a unique predicament. President Chavez is not your average Latin American lefty. Venezuelans are working within their constitution to achieve early elections.

MYTH #1: President Chavez fights for the poor.


The chaos in his government has been accompanied by numerous corruption scandals, earning him sharp criticism from Transparency International.[8] And the amounts of money at stake in these scandals are staggering. One example: Venezuela has a rainy day fund called FIEM, in which oil revenues exceeding a certain amount are to be deposited. In 2001, Chavez failed to deposit Bs. 2.3 trillion (the equivalent, at the time, to US$2.9 billion) into the fund, as required by law. He claimed that he needed the money to pay public salaries and year-end bonuses – expenditures already taken care of by line items in the federal budget.[9] So where did that money go?





Mr. Chavez is overseeing a “revolution” in which he can justify spending $65 million on a new presidential jet,[16] even while many Venezuelans sink deeper into grinding poverty.


MYTH #2: President Chavez believes in democracy and the rule of law.

without following procedures laid out in the 1999 constitution drafted by his own supporters.[17]

Noted Venezuelan scholar and former Inter-American Court of Human Rights judge Asdrúbal Aguiar has documented 34 constitutional violations by the Chavez government,[18] ranging from Chavez’s removal of all judges and replacing them with provisional judges[19] to ordering the military to disregard any judicial decisions contravening his direct orders.[20]

In her new book “Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism,” Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment describes Chavez: “He shows no respect for the independence of the judiciary. He prefers legislating by decree to respecting the separation of powers and letting the… National Assembly do its job. In general, he has little respect for institutions… (and) the presence of the military in the government and administration has become pervasive.”[21]




The Constitution is Mr. Chavez’s favorite prop – he holds it up at every opportunity, and loves to proclaim: “Everything within the Constitution, nothing outside the Constitution.”[27] (Of course, he just as frequently vows to stay in office until 2021,[28] which would clearly violate this very same Constitution.[29]) But Mr. Chavez recently announced that he plans to simply ignore the numerous petitions signed by millions of Venezuelan citizens in “El Firmazo.”[30] Could it be that for President Chavez, the Constitution is nothing more than a useful prop?



MYTH #3: Freedom of speech is flourishing in Venezuela.




MYTH # 4: The tough economic times are due to the strike.


MYTH #5: Early elections would set a bad example for the rest of Latin America.



To the editors of The Observer


 Dear sirs,

The Observer should do its homework before printing a biased portrayal of an international problem that, because of the impending iraki war, could affect the US in the short run. At least, you could print two opposing views of the problem and your own Miami Herald could be a good source.

Telling a lie a thousand times doesn't make it true. But that is what the venezuelan president and its international PR team are trying to do. Yes, Chavez was democratically elected, as well as Mussolini and Hitler were at their times. After having   in the attempts while he cowardly hid behind. But he has delegitimized himself with constant violations to a tailored Constitution he had his National Assembly write for his interests.

Venezuela lives in a permanent coup d'etat where there is absolute disregard for the division of powers and where only the whims of the president are heeded. The public administration posts, from top to botton, are filled with his cronies, family, former guerilla members and fellow military officers who have stolen record high oil incomes . Also, government backed terrorists roam the streets. He came to power promising to fight against the poverty and corruption that plagued the country, but those promises turned out being empty words. Their corruption, absolute ignorance and administrative incapacity have ruined the country. After more than four years in power Venezuela is poorer than ever , the basic needs of people are not met; hunger is widespread , medical care unexistent, and unemployment increases day by day. This is the man who prides himself as a friend of Castro, Lybia, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban regime, as well as an anti Jew. He poses as part of an axis of power against the US. A man who protects and gives harbor to the Colombian guerilla and the narcotraffickers. The man who said the Church was a tumor in our society. He wants to close television and radio stations, newspapers; anything that opposes his regime Today, Chavez is opposed by more than 80% of the¿ population, rich and poor, white and black and brown, unions, private companies, universities, churches, artists, intellectuals, the right and left, and all of them just want to hold free elections, NOW. But, he is afraid. One thing Mr. Blanco said is true. Chavez has changed PDVSA, the national oil company. The jewel of the crown went from being one of the top oil companies in the world to a third world corrupted and incompetent operation. What an irony that its CEO is a former guerilla member who is proud of having destroyed oil pipelines in the past. Petty thieves are in charge and bribes are the order of the day. Office equipment, laptops, scanners are sold for pennies. Environment violations are disregarded. Hordes of barbarians smash knowledge, talent and professionalism. Oil fields are destroyed. Mediocrity and ignorance are rampant.  And for 80 years Venezuela was the safest and most reliable oil supplier to the US. 

Yes, the country has committed economic suicide staging this general strike to force the president to accept the constitutional right to hold elections. Chavez is afraid of his own people, of the rejection most feel for him, because he is not a real democratic leader. He is just trying to perpetuate himself in office like any other third world dictator. That is the reason why thousands, millions of people march and demonstrate daily on the streets to demand what they are entitled to. Free elections and the right to live in peace and freedom. 

Yours truly,

Mercedes M. Atencio


Venezuelan citizen resident in Charlotte, NC

[1] Luis Pedro España, De La Decepción a La Desesperanza, Elementos Para El Desarrollo Social de Venezuela y Otros. Cifras laborales: SISOV (Sistema Integrado de Indicadores Sociales para Venezuela.)

[2] “Valor de la Canasta Alimentaria Normativa, Octubre 2001 – Octubre 2002.” Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) – Dirección de Estadísticas Económicas.

[3] Banco Central de Venezuela (Indicadores Económicos 1998 y 2002); Instituto Nacional de Estadística; Corporación Andina de Fomento.

[4] “Cuadernos de Seguridad y Prevención”, Asociación Civil Venezuela Segura. Octubre 2002, p.2.

[5] Ibid. pp.6-7.

[6] Ministros de los Últimos Años; Gaceta Oficial de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela,

[7] Luis Giusti, Héctor Ciavaldini, Roberto Mandini, Guaicaipuro Lameda, Gonzalo Parra Luzardo, Alí Rodríguez Araque.

[8] Eduardo Wills Herrera and Nubia Urueña Cortés with Nick Rosen, Global Corruption Report 2003, Transparency International.

[9] The total missing from the FIEM is now close to US$4 billion. Gaceta Oficial de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela #37.325, November 15, 2001, The Minister of Finance approved an additional credit for the payment of salaries, bonuses and pensions of the public sector in the amount of Bs. 1.2 billion. Ministry of Finance directive F-1022, November 12, 2001.


[10] Aló Presidente #98, President Hugo Chávez, Marzo 03, 2002.

[11] "Contraloría evalúa responsabilidad de varias ONG - Fiscalía investigará gestión del Fondo Único Social", El Nacional, Marzo 21, 2001. "Contraloría recomienda revisión de programas sociales," El Nacional, Julio 26, 2002. "Fraude Único Social," Tal Cual, Marzo 20, 2001, p.1.

[12] "Contraloría evalúa responsabilidad de varias ONG - Contraloría se pronunciará", El Nacional, Marzo 21, 2001. "Diálogo con Clodosvaldo Russian - Contralor General de la República," Carlos Croes - Televen, Agosto 4, 2002, TvPrensa 2000, C.A. TPDC-L050802-1984.

[13] “Venezuelan Storms Leave Thousands Homeless,” Bloomberg News, November 17, 2000.

[14] Carlos Mollejas, "Universidad Metropolitana y colegios de ingenieros y arquitectos cuestionan obras de Guanape,” El Universal, Abril 4, 2002.

[15] “No importa no tener para comer si se trata de salvar la revolución,” El Nacional, Julio 26, 2002, “…no importa que haya dificultades, no importa que andemos desnudos, no importa que no tengamos ni para comer. Aquí se trata de salvar la revolución…”, Discurso de Hugo Chávez ante miembros del MVR-Zulia, Maracaibo, Estado Zulia, Julio 25, 2002.

[16] “Detalles del Avión Presidencial,” Globovisión,

[17] “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its Visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” May 10, 2002, pa.25.

[18]34 Golpes a la Constitucionalidad en Venezuela”, Asdrúbal Aguiar, Universidad Católica, Enero 7, 2003.

[19] Ibid, p.1.

[20] Aló Presidente #131, TvPrensa 2000, C.A. TPAP-D151202-131, Diciembre 15, 2002.

[21] Marina Ottaway, Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism, 2003, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

[22] Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, Exp. 2002-048, Septiembre 24, 2002, Exp. 2002-052, Septiembre 24, 2002, Exp. 2002-054, Octubre 15, 2002, AA10-L-2001-45, Abril 18, 2002.

[23] El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, Exp.NºAA70-E-2003-000001. Enero 22, 2003.

[24] Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Artículo 71.

[25] “Junta Nacional Ad-Hoc Organizará el referéndum Consultivo,” CNE, Noviembre 28, 2002,

[26] Ana Isabel Martínez, “Corte Suspende Referendo en Venezuela,” Reuters, Enero 22, 2003.

[27] The phrase is an echo of Fidel Castro’s “Everything within the Revolution, nothing outside the Revolution.”

[28] One example: Aló Presidente No.122, October 12, 2002.

[29] Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Articulo 230.

[30] “Inventaron que recogieron cuatro millones de firmas en un día…créanse sus propias mentiras,” Presidente Hugo Chávez, Febrero 5, 2003. “El ‘Firmazo’ es una gran mentira de la oposición que no prosperará.”, José Albornoz, Secretario General del partido PPT, Febrero 4, 2003. “No creo que haya ningún organismo que las convalide institucionalmente (las firmas),” Vice-Presidente José Vicente Rangel, Febrero  4, 2003.

[31] Ley Orgánica del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, Enero 14, 2003.

[32] “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its Visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” May 10, 2002, pa.36.

[33] TVPrensa2000, C.A.; TPPE-VO51001-1898; VTV Programa Especial: Hugo Chávez, Juramentación Dirección Ejecutiva Nacional MVR, Octubre 5, 2001.

[34] Miriam Freilich, “Los Medios en el Medio,” International Center for Journalists, Enero 27, 2003, “CIDH ordena a Venezuela protección a periodistas de RCTV,” Unión Radio, Diciembre 27, 2002, Independent reports by private television and radio networks.

[35] “Chávez Supporters Crack down on Media,” Associated Press, February 7, 2003.

[36] “Todos Contra los Medios,” El Universal, Diciembre 11, 2002,

[37] Reporters Without Borders: Annual Report, Venezuela, 2002.

[38] Supra 35.

[39] “Condena la SIP medidas gubernamentales contra la libertad de prensa en Venezuela,” Inter. American Press Association, Febrero 6, 2003.

[40] “El Relator Especial Para La Libertad De Expresión Manifiesta Su Seria Preocupación Por La Iniciación De Procedimientos Administrativos A Canales De Televisión En Venezuela,” Organization of American States PREN/68/03, Febrero 6, 2003.

[41] Ley de Responsabilidad Social en la radio y televisión, Enero 23 2003, Asamblea Nacional.

[42] Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Artículo 203.

[43] Ley de Responsabilidad Social en la Radio y Televisión, Artículo 10.8.

[44] Ibid, Artículos 11, 13, 36, 39, 43.

[45] Ibid, Artículo 43.

[46] Ibid, Artículo 77.

[47] Saldos de la Deuda Pública Interna Directa 1996 – 2002. Ministerio de Finanzas de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Quarterly Results, Royal Dutch / Shell Group of Companies,

[48] “La Industria Ha Visto Desaparecer 5,000 Establecimientos,” Conindustria, Rueda de Prensa, 5 febrero 2003.

[49] Banco Central de Venezuela:

[50] Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas:

[51] Producto Interno Bruto Desestacionalizado (Agregados Macroeconómicos). Banco Central de Venezuela:

[52] Fuga de Capitales o A Donde Va el Ahorro de la Nación,” Supra 48.

[53] Supra 51.

[54] Richard Lapper and Andy Webb Vidal, “As Chavez’s Grip Tightens, Oil-Rich Venezuela Moves Towards ‘Castro Communism’,” Financial Times, February 6, 2003.

[55] “A Choice in South America,” Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2003.

[56] “Gutiérrez rechaza similitud con Chávez,” El Universal, Febrero 13, 2003.

[57] Supra 30.

[58] Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Artículos 72, 73 y 74.

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