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Venezuela: Where Spying Is National Pride

By: Pedro García Otero - Oct 26, 2015, 9:20 am
The Venezuelan government has resorted to the illegal practice of spying on the private conversations of its political adversaries, to later make them public through nationwide radio and TV broadcasts. (El País)
The Venezuelan government routinely spies on political adversaries and makes the recordings public on national radio and television. (El País)

EspañolIt’s no secret that governments spy on their political adversaries, but that doesn’t stop most of them from trying to keep it under wraps.

In Panama, for example, former President Ricardo Martinelli is facing an investigation — one of several — for allegedly wiretapping the phones of his political rivals. In Colombia, the “chuzadas scandal” led to the dismantling of the country’s intelligence agency (DAS), and its director, María del Pilar Hurtado, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

This case, along with Watergate, is an extreme example of how independent judiciaries have elected to severely punish government officials who spy on private conversations.

However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the case of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. On October 15, in a nationwide radio and TV broadcast, he aired a private conversation, allegedly obtained without a warrant, between Venezuelan businessman Lorenzo Mendoza and Harvard professor Ricardo Hausmann.

The day before, Chavismo‘s second in command, Diosdado Cabello, shamelessly aired the same video on his own broadcast. Several months ago, he sued three Venezuelan media outlets for republishing an exposé by Spanish newspaper ABC that accused him of leading a drug cartel.

Not only do these leaders of Venezuela’s government have no qualms about spying on their opponents — that is, if Mendoza, the owner of Empresas Polar, and Hausmann, a university professor, can be considered as such — they also boast about it.

It’s a moral striptease, but something to be expected from the same ilk that created a group of government informers called the “cooperating patriots.

Pro-government newspaper Últimas Noticias echoed Maduro’s accusations. (Kiosko.net)
Pro-government newspaper Últimas Noticias echoed Maduro’s accusations. (Kiosko.net)

Maduro and Cabello went on to accuse Mendoza and Hausmann of “plotting against Venezuela” and asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for “US$50 billion or $60 billion” to “endanger the Fatherland.”

However, all the “conspirators” talked about was finding a way out of the economic mess that has caused Venezuela to have the world’s highest inflation rate and will shrink its GDP by 10 percent this year.

The IMF issued a brief reply, out of utter embarrassment, stating that they only give loans to countries, not individuals.

The real issue here is that Mendoza is a thorn in the side of both Maduro and Cabello. The Chavista regime now practically owns the entire local food industry, except for Mendoza’s Polar. Despite constantly harassing the firm with regulations and taxes, they have not been able to bring it to its knees.

And while industries that were nationalized during Hugo Chávez’ oil-induced delirium are idle and bankrupt, Polar is still putting its products on the market. If it were not for Polar, Venezuela’s food-shortage crisis would turn into the sort of famine that ultimately leads to the downfall of all communist countries.

Hausmann, perhaps the best Venezuelan economist alive, is yet another figure that enrages Chavistas. His comments strike at the Bolivarian revolution’s most sensitive nerves. Despite Chavismo‘s flirtations with anti-semitism, they haven’t resorted yet to calling him an “unpatriotic Jew,” only because it would be an open admission of the regime’s fascist ways.

Mendoza responded with a statement in which he points out that it is illegal to record someone else’s conversations under Venezuelan law. Furthermore, he said he regularly consults with economists regarding Venezuela’s crisis, and plans to continue producing food for the country.

His measured response stands in stark contrast to the bully tactics, abuses, and profound ignorance of Venezuela’s thuggish duo of Maduro and Cabello.

How are Maduro and Cabello able to break the law so blatantly and go unpunished? Because the Venezuelan judiciary is nothing but a puppet show, plagued with the likes of Susana Barreiros and other judges who are willing to do whatever it takes to get a little dough.

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The bad news for them is that their party won’t last forever. In less than two months, Venezuelans will stop this Chavista train wreck, according to the polls. Venezuelans are sick and tired of inflation, food shortages, lack of security, and lousy public services.

They no longer believe in a government that gave all power to an army officer, and later transferred it to an ignorant, idiotic, and erratic man who makes up excuses instead of solving problems. The surveys prove it: while 92 percent of Venezuelans give Polar a positive review, 63 percent of the population believe that Maduro “lies regularly.”

Venezuelans who understand Chavismo‘s extensive history of corruption, institutional violence, and abuse of power may find the charge of illegally wiretapping phones too insignificant. Yet, we must remember that it was tax-evasion charges that eventually brought down Al Capone, not his murders.

Justice is slow, but it is still preferable to what the Maduros and Cabellos have to offer. History shows their reign can’t last forever, just like Richard Nixon was forced to resign, María del Pilar Hurtado got jail time, and Martinelli will be brought to justice.

Translated by Marián Vázquez.

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.