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Manuel Rosales visits Eastern Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

Meeting in Cantaura.

Cantaura 06.10.06 | "30% of Venezuela's gas and oil production comes from here. We have the 4 largest gas compression plants of Latin America yet blackouts and gas problems constantly affect us" said to me Felix Bellorin in Punta de Mata, Monagas state, who replied to my question about whether or not Hugo Chavez had visited "ese coņo de su madre nunca ha venido p'aca." I will leave that untranslated. Further up the road where Rosales' concentration were to start Rafaela Maita and Yaditza Martinez expressed their discontentment at the way in which the misiones are working in this town "the government was meant to give us 160.000 Bolivares/month but in fact we see the money every 3 months or so and to top it all off we have to take a bus to go cash the checks in Maturin for we can't do it here. The government wants to force people into forming agricultural cooperatives, not realizing that since oil activities started here in earnest no one wants to work the land instead of taking on whatever jobs in the oil industry. They [the government] must think that we're stupid [pendejos]" added Yaditza, who wasted no time in criticising the nouveau riche behaviour of Mayor Angel Centeno who, in her opinion, has pocketed the monies that were meant to be destined to infrastucture and sanitation projects in barrio 19 de Abril and calles 8 and 9. "No han hecho un coņo, se cogen los reales y andan en unas camionetotas con vidrios negros y que p'a que nadie los vea" she concluded.

A two day tour around Eastern Venezuela started in Punta de Mata, moving on to Maturin to end here in Cantaura with a speech in Avenida Bolivar. Today opposition candidate Manuel Rosales also visited San Tome, El Tigrito, El Tigre and Anaco. He addressed local issues stressing upon the sheer negligence of the Chavez regime that rather builds bridges in Jamaica and housing solutions in Cuba instead of caring for Venezuela's many problems. Earlier in the day I spoke with Carmen Villareal. She said that she had spent two months in Cuba with her brother who was to be operated as part of one of Chavez's misiones. The experience changed her life "all I tell people here is take 2 million Bolivares and go spend sometime in Cuba to see real misery and poverty. Go and see. We are nowhere near the conditions of Cubans who are malnourished, haven't got any money, can't leave the island, can't do whatever they want and live like beggars. There's not a chance in hell that Chavez will impose that over us, if he likes Fidel so much he can leave with all his cronies whenever. Esa gente no tiene vida chico." As we were talking Yenny Hernandez joined in. Until 21 January 2003 she was Information Superintendent of PDVSA's San Tome plant. Yenny is one of the 20.000 PDVSA employees sacked by Chavez. "I still have many friends there but I am not prepared to trade my dignity. Now the management forces them to wear red t-shirts every Friday and when there's a political event in the area they have to stop working to attend it. After having devoted nearly all my working life to PDVSA I can't even go visit for we aren't allowed in."

My impression is that both chavistas and opponents of Chavez have realized that the man has got his priorities completely messed up. He now pretends to sell a benign image of a man deeply preoccupied with this country's problems. However no one seems fooled by it, for after 8 years his administration has, apart from the misiones, very little to show for in spite of having received the largest ever stream of oil income. One has to see the poverty and life conditions of people to realise how unfeasible the project of imposing a Castroite regime is in Venezuela. Any person one asks wants an opportunity to get out poverty and the thinking seems to be that with Chavez there are limited chances at that. Rosales on the other hand keeps returning to his catalogue of successes as Mayor of Maracaibo and Governor of Zulia and reminds people that accountable and responsible civil servants do exist. His message of course is a welcomed novelty in a country where the president is convinced that he owns the farm and behaves as such. In one meeting Rosales was mocking Chavez stating "the other guy says he is a democrat, a democrat who has pledged to remain in power for 30 years, just like his idol. Some democrat eh? He's nothing but a puppet of Castro, he doesn't care for Venezuela and its citizens as you all have seen." These remarks strike a cord with audiences whether in Santa Cruz de Mora or El Tigre.

Growing crowds keep showing up at Rosales' rallies. A chavista, revealing how the regime operates, said to me the other day "they are bringing people from other places" to which I asked "do you think possible to bus thousands of people around the country so that they can show up in 5 or 6 different places in one day?" I guess I'm already getting used to the rational and straighforward thinking manner of chavistas...

Rally in Anaco.

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