Erstellt am: 5. 10. 2012 - 17:20 Uhr
A Reality Special
Venezuela’s Presidential Elections and beyond, can be heard on Saturday 6.10 at 12 midday on FM4. And as podcast.
Ahead of the big day on Sunday, I spoke with Franscico Toro. Francisco is a Venezuelan journalist, political scientist and blogger who writes on Venezuela for the Huffington Post and the UK's Guardian Newspaper. He also co-edits the Caracas Chronicles, in which he describes himself as: writing about the compounding state of insanity that is Venezuela under Chávez since 1999.
What do you think is going to happen with these elections?
It’s a very volatile situation. Venezuela isn’t a normal kind of country where you can just go out and run a poll and get an accurate idea of what’s going to happen because there is a lot of political intimidation. People rely on the government for their livelihoods very often and they rely on handouts for their social programmes which the government targets specifically at Chávez supporters. So telling a pollster that you support the opposition is risky. You could lose your job, you could lose your benefits. And for that reasoning we get very wide variability in poll results ranging from Chávez is ahead by 20 to 25 points in polls that are associated with the government to Chávez actually trailing in other polls. So it’s very hard to know who will win. It’s not a predictable environment.
Talk to us about the challenger in these elections. Henrique Capriles.
Henrique Capriles is a young guy. He’s gone town by town, village by village to rural places in Venezuela that had really been abandoned by the government and has centered on people’s concerns and day to day worries about crime and insecurity, about unemployment, about the things that hit people every day, schools and hospitals, instead of the more abstract agenda the opposition always wanted to talk about before (such as) democracy and communism.
What about the high crime levels, why are there dangerous levels of crime in this country?
Well it’s a strange situation really because we have seen 17,000 murders last year in a country of 29 million people. We’ve had, over the last 10 years, almost as many murders in Venezuela as in Iraq but we don’t have a war. So why this happens has to do (in part) with a breakdown of the criminal justice system with corruption in the police, with corruption in the courts, with very violent and out of control jails and we have a government that is not very good at governing. It is very ideologically driven, that has this ideological agenda about capitalism but that doesn’t really have a handle on the day to day concerns of people other than to just hand money out. That’s not really the same thing as governing, in the sense of making sure that there’s a policeman on the street that can do his job, making sure that there are institutions in the criminal justice system that can get a handle on the crime problem. And 96% of murders in Venezuela do not lead to an arrest. Now when there’s a 96% chance that you can just kill somebody and get away with it, it’s very easy to see how that escalates into a culture of violence and a culture of random killing in the slums.
You mentioned the slums, are they particularly dangerous areas?
Not just for an Austrian or for anyone outside of the country but for anyone who is not from that slum. So if you are from a slum and you wander into a neighboring slum’s territory, it’s easy to get shot. Part of this has to do with guns and the huge prevalence of gun running. But also drugs. Venezuela is a major drug shipment point. So drugs come into Venezuela from Columbia and trafficked north through illicit landing strips to the Caribbean, to Mexico or the United States. Or east to Africa and then through people smuggling routes up through Italy and into Europe (and Austria). We’re talking about cocaine here and a portion of the cocaine stays behind to pay off officials, and those officials distribute them though slum communities. The drug trade is so profitable that you get very violent gangs trying to control very small pieces of territory, but also in an environment where there’s not much control over guns, I’m even talking about grenades and sniper rifles, machine guns and military grade weapons that end up in the hands of slum drug pushers. Now, it’s a huge concern for the people of Venezuela. If you ask people what they think is the main problem for their society, 50% will say it’s just insecurity, not knowing if, when they come home from their jobs, that they are not going to be shaken down by some neighborhood thug.
What do you think we should know about these elections?
We don’t have a normal democratic government in Venezuela and we haven’t had one for some time. Hugo Chávez is not a classic dictator in that, we don’t have a police state in the way you might imagine. But we have a government that is convinced that it is the only government for Venezuela and that a democratic transition to a different government would be a catastrophe. There is a real potential for violence. I think everyone in Venezuela is concerned about a kind of Iranian scenario (a 2009 Iranian Green Revolution scenario) where the government loses the election but refuses to acknowledge it. The government is very closely allied to the Iranian regime and there are a lot of Iranian advisors in Venezuela. (Also) the Chávez government has been aiding Assad in Syria over the last year and a half. Especially with Venezuela being a major oil producer, it’s easy to see a scenario where things over the next few weeks go very bad and very violent and that will have repercussions for the rest of the world.
Venezuela’s Presidential Elections and beyond
The Reality Check Special can be heard on Saturday 6.10 at 12 midday on FM4. And as podcast.
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