El excremento del diablo / Jesús Sanoja Hernández

The Devil's Excrement

Since 1976, oil began to be for Venezuela something much different than what it had been since the time of Gómez, when its dazzling years were 1914 with the Zumaque I well, 1922 with Los Barrosos, 1943 with Medina's Ley de Hidrocarburos, 1948 with the halfandhalf and 1975 with the approval by Congress of the Ley de Nacionalización.

On that long road that united 1914 with 1976 not everything was written down in the dazzling journal. In 1925, for example, an oil strike broke out which Manuel Taborda has detailed with countless facts. He was a worker in the industry in Zulia at the time and later, in times of democracy and new dictatorship, he was a communist union leader. Moreover, Pérez Soto, who was a state president, addressed a dramatic letter to the tyrant in 1926 in which he denounced the illegalities of the oil companies and their lawyers. He called oil "devil's shit;" later on Pérez Alfonzo, at the end of the 70s, would call it "devil's excrement." Regardless, I say he's lived in Venezuela as though he were pastry fallen from the sky: manna!

If the nationalization of oil Carlos Andrés Pérez exhibited with pride at the foot of Zumaque I contributed toward unleashing the insanity of Venezuela saudita, which had actually broken out because of the third Arab-Israeli war, the Ley de Reversión in 1972 had been received with discomfort and even with rage by sectors of our bourgeoisie.

I still retain the memory of an all-powerful of that time and of subsequent years—previous, of course, to the triumph of Our Lord of the Outbursts—who reached the height of stupidity of taking over the screen to denounce the law, just when TV viewers were anxious to watch the decisive race of Cañonero II.

Well then, 30 years have passed since Congress—with laudatory interventions by Betancourt and Caldera—approved the Ley de Nacionalización. Since then, with price increases, as in Pérez's first term, and with crises like Black Friday, oil continues to be the economy's Toyota, which is what Luis Herrera called it once during his five years. And what is it today: excrement or manna? Yes, all those piles of money Chávez's government hands out like candy at a child's party are manna. We know, however, that all parties must end, while the last one to leave must turn out the light.

Chávez has turned oil not only into a source for financing his missions and supporting the political groups who back him, but also into a strategic weapon in his battle against "the empire." And, by the way, into the anchor for the economy and politics of Cuba, as well as a form of influencing those countries who are willing to join an integration different from the one proposed by the United States with the FTAA. Even more: oil is aiding the militarization of the country, which is being justified in its own way with the argument that we must prepare ourselves for the "asymmetrical war." This is where the militias and the hundreds of thousands who proclaim themselves as enthusiastic members of them come from.

But Venezuela is not Vietnam nor is it, despite the common denominator of oil, Iraq. The independence fighters of the Viet Minh got rid of the French (those of the "dirty war") in 1954, when Dien Bien Phu remained as a symbol of liberation. And they got rid of the "Yankees" in 1973.

We stopped fighting against foreign armies once we defeated Spain. The British-German blockade, in the era of Cipriano Castro, did not become a major event. The enemy was within, with Matos and the Libertadora. And as for Iraq, situated in those regions that have been the setting for multiple occupations and conflicts, their religion is not exactly Catholicism.

No one here would be willing to sacrifice himself to go to heaven. Nor do we have Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis engaged in internal disputes: only "escuálidos" and Bolivarians, the former who are already tired of fighting in electoral battles, and the latter who seem to be fighting amongst themselves.

More than being the result of his government's work, the phenomenon of high oil prices obeys external causes which, to the benefit and delight of Chávez, started to skyrocket just as he arrived in Miraflores.

Well-versed in readings and citations, he probably remembers that the time of fat cows is always, or almost always, followed by a time of "skinny cows." We should look no further, for instance, than what happened to Pérez during his second term. During the first, Venezuela was the Latin American bazaar and everything could be bought in pairs ("That's cheap, gimme two"). During the second, an increase in the price of gas (which had already been done by other governments without a single leaf moving) made the hills come down.

Chávez should prepare the country for another war: the one that would break out with the arrival of the "skinny cows." The asymmetrical one, if the United States were to commit the historic mistake of invading or participating in an interventionist adventure, would be difficult to accomplish successfully as a resistance operation. Unfortunately, there are too many people here who are hoping Washington will choose the hard line...Beyond words, the enemy is within.

{ Jesús Sanoja Hernández, El Nacional, 13 May 2005 }

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