Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Link of the Day: Caracas Chronicles

Primary version of this post is at Barry Stocker's Weblog, which has graphics!

Caracas Chronicles is a website of news and opinion about Venezuela, edited by Francisco Toro, under Hugo Chavez and his version of ‘21st Century Socialism’, which has replaced ‘Bolivarism’ as Chavez’ main point of reference. The position is very critical but very fair minded as well. There are links to pro-Chavez sites. Today;’s post gives praise to a Chavezista governor who puts into practice what Chavismo preaches in theory, dialogue with an responsiveness to public opinion rather than using election victory to take a top down approach. Some of what the blog refers to is how Chavez did some very good things. This post refers to the constitution, the very admirable parts of the constitution, and how these have been undermined by administrative practices. For example, the constitution guarantees that tenured teachers in state schools will be appointed through a competitive open process. This has benefits in preventing the politicisation of public employment and improving the quality of teachers, or it would if it was implemented. The way that provision is avoided is a very interesting, if disturbing example, of how legal and constitutional provisions can fail. Schools are full of teachers on temporary contracts appointed by an unaccountable administrative procedure. In practice administrators are appointed by the government and appoint ‘temporary’ teachers on very politicised grounds.

Toro takes account of the injustice which preceded Chavez’ rise to power, he refers to the social, economic and cultural rift between political leaders and most voters. He also shows that a reaction to this based on resentment, revenge and unlimited power for some messianic strong man who controls very large petroleum revenues, is no answer. Supporters of Chavez would like to portray his critics as coup mongers and agents of US interventionism, and indeed there is still an element of thinking on the US right which thinks strong men, extra-constitutional action and foreign manipulation are the answer to people like Chavez. There is no support for this from Toro and I became aware of Caracas Chronicles because of an item Toro wrote for New Republic, a left of centre (if very mildly) US magazine.

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