Charlie Hardy's Comments
Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will elect the members of their national assembly for the next five years. No one can foretell the outcome of the elections. The stakes are high.
If the opposition can win one third of the seats, they will be able to effectively put brakes on many of the Chávez government’s proposals. But, whatever the outcome, there are some things to keep in mind.
One: the electoral process in Venezuela is one of the finest in the world. I am not able to vote in these national elections because I am not a Venezuelan citizen. But, as a person who has more than ten years residency in the country, Venezuela does give me the right to vote in local and state elections and so I can personally describe the process.
First, one has to be registered to vote. Upon arriving at the proper election place, there is a list indicating which of the voting tables has your personal information and the voting machine you will use. You are required to show proper identification, sign that you have come to vote, and put a thumb print alongside your signature.
All voting is then done electronically, but when you have touched the button to register your vote, you also receive a printout of your choices which you then deposit in a ballot box. (After the elections, 54% of these are checked to verify that they conform to the results of the electronic results). Finally you are required to dip the small finger of your right hand in a cleansing solution to remove any oils before dipping it in a bottle of indelible ink that is impossible to remove for several days, thus preventing a person from returning to vote more than once.
I spent the Christmas holidays in my hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is always interesting to return to the U.S. and to get back in touch with a bit of the reality there.
One evening I was attending an open house party when I saw a former public high-school principal that I have known for a long time. I don’t remember if he greeted me, or simply began to speak about Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. The remark was something like this: “That crazy Chávez thinks the U.S. is sending spy planes over Venezuelan territory. What do we need spy planes for when we have satellites providing all the information we need?”
Is the Associated Press in Venezuela a Religion?
Recently Colombia accused Venezuela of providing three anti-tank rocket launchers to the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). President Chávez has repeatedly denied the charge.
On August 5, Chávez held a special news conference with the international press that lasted several hours. He presented evidence that the rockets were among five that were stolen from the Venezuelan armed forces on February 25, 1995, when a military base was attacked by Colombian guerillas. This was four years before he became president.
A few days ago I bought a copy of the Venezuelan daily, El Nacional, and asked God for forgiveness. Many years ago it was my favorite newspaper here. Now I feel I am sinning whenever I put two more bolivars into their coffers.
I wanted to see their coverage of the situation in Honduras. But what I quickly discovered on page three was their un-coverage of a woman. In a half-page ad, black and white, there was a naked woman! Don’t get excited. She wasn’t a French, Italian, or Venezuelan model. She could have been any ordinary barrio mother. Her arms covered her breasts. Her face looked sad. She almost appeared to have been beaten.
The white words that penetrated the blackness were: “The Social Property Law will take everything from you. NO to the Cuban law.” The ad was sponsored by “CEDICE.”
The June 29 coup in Honduras did not surprise me.
The day before I read in the morning newspaper that General Romeo Vasquez said a coup d’état was “not certain.” He said “we (the military) are seeking the use of reason and not force in order to resolve the conflicts by dialogue.”
As soon as I saw the words, “not certain,” I said to myself immediately that it was one of the options the general was considering. I also felt he was not talking about dialogue but about a monologue that the opposition would present to President Manuel Zelaya.
U.S. President Obama, Venezuelan President Chávez, and Bolivian President Morales will be together for the first time this weekend in Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas. I hope they will become friends for a number of reasons.
At this moment I am pondering one in particular: the personal well-being of Obama as president. I think that in the years ahead he will need the friendship of these two Latin American leaders as much or more than they will need his. I think President Obama is going to have to confront the same kind of opposition that these two men have had to contend with. It won’t be easy and it would be good for Obama to have a support group with whom he could share feelings and frustrations.
For some odd reason, Delta Airlines recently put me in the first class section on a flight from Atlanta to Caracas.
As I sat there uncomfortably comfortably among people who had a lot more money than I ever dreamed of having, the flight attendant managed to make me even more uncomfortable by asking if I would like some wine with my meal. I decided to join the crowd, but said that I would like white wine—everyone else I could see had something red in their glasses. “Of course,” she said, and went to the front of the plane.