Adamant: Hardest metal

Opposition plan for an eventual post-Chavez transition...

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003
By: Gustavo Coronel commentarist Gustavo Coronel writes: About 15 political and social organizations have been working for months on a plan to guide Venezuela during an eventual post-Chavez transition ... the period 2004-2007 ... provided that the Referendum is held, and that the decision of the legal majority is to revoke the Presidential mandate.

The task of putting a single document together has been in the hands of a small group led by Diego Bautista Urbaneja, one of our brightest lawyers and political scientists, and the third family member of this name, after Diego Bautista Urbaneja (1782-1856), a distinguished fighter for independence and provisional President of the Republic, and after Diego Bautista Urbaneja( 1817-1892), lawyer and seven times in charge of the Presidency during the years of Guzman Blanco. This Diego is also the author of one of the most lucid phrases I have ever heard: "Education and Health are our only basic industries"...

The plan aims at putting the brakes on the economic chaos, on the lack of governance, the process of institutional destruction and the increasing social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values that prevails in the country.

There are some eleven major points forming the conceptual backbone of the document:

  1. The starting point must be the rapid creation of a climate of national reconciliation. Dialogue will be required if we want political and social agreement to emerge. We need stronger political parties, labor unions, professional associations and other groups of civil society. Only strong organizations can come up with valid and permanent agreements. The plan calls for the creation of a widespread mood of optimism, after some years of despair and distrust.

  2. Citizens need to make sure that their rights will be protected, that laws will be equally applied to all, that investigations will be duly carried out and punishment applied to the guilty. This will require the elimination of those laws or components of existing laws which provide the Executive branch with excessive discretionary power, since this leads inevitably to abuse of power.

  3. The current holders of the offices of National General Comptroller, Attorney General and Ombudsman will be removed and new officers selected ... this time in accordance with the Constitution. The new officers will have both the required credentials and total autonomy from the Executive branch.

  4. The plan aims at rapidly lowering the rate of criminality in the country, by decentralizing police action and the empowerment of the professional police to do their job. Prison establishments will be progressively privatized.

  5. Promoting the recovery of the economy will need clear rules of the game and legal security. Private investment will be intensely promoted, protected and given the proper incentives to create new employment. Immediate attention will be given to the construction and tourism sectors. Artisans and skilled workers should be formed in preference to traditional professions.

  6. Education will be integral, emphasis made on civic education and training for useful work. Universities will have to become progressively self sufficient financially, as the State can no longer afford total gratuity in a higher education system of quality.

  7. Decentralization will, again, receive first priority and regions will receive the required financial help without political maneuvering.

  8. The Armed Force will be institutionalized and, again, converted into a professional body, loyal to the nation and not to one man or group. The military will return to being subordinate to civilian authority.

  9. Petroleum activities will be oriented towards obtaining optimum benefits for the nation. This can only be possible if PDVSA is a company professionally-managed and totally free from political contamination.

  10. Diplomatic relations with our neighbors and natural allies will be reinforced, international agreements and commitments will be honored and the nation will reject associations with international terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal armed groups.

  11. The government will not offend ... will not divide ... will promote national respect and solidarity.

  12. The government will attack the great national problems of unemployment, extreme poverty and child neglect with total decision. No words but action. No promises but deeds.

This summary outlines some of the basic components of the plan. The group is working continuously to refine and improve the guidelines, so that no matter who comes after, will be able to have the support of a "road map."

Gustavo Coronel is the founder and president of Agrupacion Pro Calidad de Vida (The Pro-Quality of Life Alliance), a Caracas-based organization devoted to fighting corruption and the promotion of civic education in Latin America, primarily Venezuela. A member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), following nationalization of Venezuela's oil industry, Coronel has worked in the oil industry for 28 years in the United States, Holland, Indonesia, Algiers and in Venezuela. He is a Distinguished alumnus of the University of Tulsa (USA) where he was a Trustee from 1987 to 1999. Coronel led the Hydrocarbons Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington DC for 5 years. The author of three books and many articles on Venezuela ("Curbing Corruption in Venezuela." Journal of Democracy, Vol. 7, No. 3, July, 1996, pp. 157-163), he is a fellow of Harvard University and a member of the Harvard faculty from 1981 to 1983. You may contact Gustavo Coronel at email

UFCW Canada highlights Gustavo Coronel: More leaders less power addicts

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003
By: David Coleman commentarist Gustavo Coronel's often controversial editorials are getting an airing on a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada website where one of his recent thought-provoking editorials has been brought to the attention of some 230,000 trade union members participating actively in the Canadian Labor Congress and Provincial Labor Federations.

The UFCW website says that while Coronel's More Leaders and less Power Addicts, published May 30, pertains to Venezuela and is not directly aimed at unions, the topics of power and leadership are always relevant to union reformers.

Many union reformers are tired of existing leaders whose main objective is a desire to achieve and hold onto to power.

Coronel states in his article that power addicts and leadership are old foes. The names and faces of the holders of power have changed over the course of time, but most have only had a lust for power and many were promoters of misery and ignorance.

True leaders on the other hand are rarely officially elected to positions of power says Coronel, but play a part in influencing change.

Robert C. Tucker's book Politics as Leadership brings forth the concept of leaders in the platonic sense, one that has to do with inspiring followers to better themselves and work together rather than reducing followers to the condition of members of a herd.

James MacGregor Burns in his book Leadership states that leadership has to do with the persuasion of followers "to act for certain goals which represent the values, the motivations, the needs, the aspirations and expectations of both leaders and followers." Burns also distinguishes between leaders and power-wielders.

Leaders, in Burns view, are there to satisfy the motives of their followers whereas power-wielders are intent only on realizing their own purposes.

If we were to use Burns' analysis, where would those who run our unions fit? Leaders or power wielders?

Are your union's leaders power-wielders as defined by Burns? Do they use a transactional or transforming leadership style?

In the union reform arena, will there still be room for leaders as we know them today or will the word "leader" have a different context? Is there a need for power wielding leaders within unions at all or are workers capable of deciding their own values and motives? Are union reformers really union transformers?

Tabaquito had much more depth than we gave him credit for ... he's an altruist

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Friday, June 13, 2003
By: Gustavo Coronel commentarist Gustavo Coronel writes: When I am in Caracas, my morning walk takes me along streets lined with "samanes" and "jabillos" which are pretty old now, but keep their majestic appearance. The lush foliage retards the morning light and one walks as in a forest, although in the middle of La Florida residential section. This is one of the remnants of the old, colonial Caracas. One of the avenues, Los Jabillos, is home to one of the oldest funeral homes in Caracas. As is often the case, there is a drugstore nearby ... there should be a clinic as well, since these three things always go hand in hand in most Venezuelan cities but, somehow, there is not. In place of the clinic there's a bakery.

My walk also goes by the street where the headquarters of Petroleos de Venezuela are located. I could choose to cut this street out of my route but I'm fascinated ... somewhat masochistically ... by the new aspect of the place, with small tents from which food and soft drinks are for sale and with groups of "vikingos" looking for empty bottles and cans to collect and sell.

  • "Vikingos," vikings, don't ask me why, is a term applied in Venezuela to the usually harmless homeless and chronic drunkards, possibly because of their long hair and unkempt appearance.

Well, today, I had a very pleasant encounter with someone I had not seen for over 30 years ... yes, that long ... as I was walking south, I saw this man walking towards me. He looked familiar ... he looked at me in perplexity, and we both recognized each other almost simultaneously. "Tabaquito," I said, as he called me "Dr. Gustavo" ... the way I have been called most of my life by those who do not dare to be over-familiar, but feel that I am not formal enough to be treated with protocol. At any rate, we embraced each other with some difficulty, as I am slightly over 6 feet and he is, perhaps, around 4½ and I already have some problems bending.

"Tabaquito" (small cigar) is ebony black and now has light gray, "chicharron," hair. He has gained a few pounds since I saw him last. "Tabaquito" is the closest I have seen to a pigmy ... those fellows who played in the Tarzan movies ... I could easily picture him with a long blowpipe, hunting in the forests surrounding the Kilimanjaro.

When I became a Shell executive ... way back in 1971 ... one of the first persons I met was "Tabaquito." He was in charge of delivering our newspapers every morning. No matter how early I arrived at the office, my newspapers were already on my desk. "Tabaquito" always had a nice word for everyone. As he sold the newspapers all over the place, his trousers were always bulging with bills. Sometimes, when giving change, bills would fall to the floor and he had to be alerted to it, since otherwise he would leave the money behind. He constantly told secretaries how beautiful they were, and gave us systematic encouragement. He said: "I sleep soundly every night because I know that you are running the business well. We all trust you..."

And, of course, this trust from "Tabaquito" had to be honored. If I ever had a desire to take a bribe or take home a piece of office furniture, Tabaquito's face would instantly come into focus.

Although we tended to underestimate him, and consider him just a picturesque addition to the office, we soon found out that "Tabaquito" had much more depth than we gave him credit for. He started his day at 3 a.m. and by 9 a.m. had delivered all of his newspapers. Then, he went to a school in Petare ... a poor section of east Caracas ... and dedicated three-four hours to serve as a baseball coach to the children. We found out through time that he also helped several poor children to buy books and pencils. He was an altruist. His civic vocation went beyond the call of duty. He would never talk about his work but always marveled at the work done by us.

My secretary had a special bond with "Tabaquito." Mariela was, and is, a tall, blonde woman, full of life and good humor ... her dialogues with "Tabaquito," which I sometimes overheard at the expense of my work, were masterpieces of happy talk. They dealt with love, politics and harmless social gossip.

Today, "Tabaquito" said to me: "You know, I often talk to Mariela ... she has a nice shop in Las Mercedes and I take the newspapers to her." He added: "We talk about you and about Dr. Quiros and ... " he gave a good number of names of the old guys ... he remembered details I had forgotten long ago ... he had almost total recall of those years, now distant.

He said: "You know, Dr. Gustavo, I still get up at 3 a.m. to deliver the newspapers. I now bring the newspapers to PDVSA. Of course, now things are different, but we have to keep working." He said he was now 81 years old ... but he did not look older than the last time I had seen him. "I have never been sick." Some 10 years ago, he had been run over by a car and suffered a fractured leg ... "I couldn't deliver the papers for a while, but I used to sit in front of my house (which is at a very dangerous street intersection) and started to conduct traffic from my wheelchair ... I had a good time, and I guess I prevented a few accidents."

As "Tabaquito" and I made small talk, and I did all I could to delay my departure, I could not help thinking how this man had touched so many lives and helped so many people from his apparently unimportant social position. And, as I said goodbye ... who knows until when ... I said to him: "See you around, Dr. Tabaquito." He looked surprised and then he gave me the widest of smiles.

Gustavo Coronel is the founder and president of Agrupacion Pro Calidad de Vida (The Pro-Quality of Life Alliance), a Caracas-based organization devoted to fighting corruption and the promotion of civic education in Latin America, primarily Venezuela. A member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), following nationalization of Venezuela's oil industry, Coronel has worked in the oil industry for 28 years in the United States, Holland, Indonesia, Algiers and in Venezuela. He is a Distinguished alumnus of the University of Tulsa (USA) where he was a Trustee from 1987 to 1999. Coronel led the Hydrocarbons Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington DC for 5 years. The author of three books and many articles on Venezuela ("Curbing Corruption in Venezuela." Journal of Democracy, Vol. 7, No. 3, July, 1996, pp. 157-163), he is a fellow of Harvard University and a member of the Harvard faculty from 1981 to 1983. You may contact Gustavo Coronel at email

Venezuelans abroad are not all oligarchs bathing in money in Miami or Aruba

Venezuela's Electronic News
Posted: Friday, June 06, 2003
By: Caare W

Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 09:41:24 -0400
From: Caare W
Subject: Venezuelan exiles and the vote

Dear Editor: Ms. Gable starts her letter ”Why exactly should Venezuelan exiles be allowed to vote” by saying ”I don’t understand.”

Well, let me say that those three words are about the only correct information she gives in her letter. She clearly hasn’t understood, and doesn’t seem to have done much to understand.

First, even though I’m not a citizen of United States, it took me about five minutes to find out that she hadn’t understood (or bothered to check) the laws of her own country. I have to admit that this makes me skeptical about her ability to give a qualified opinion about laws and regulations in Venezuela.

She writes: ”I believe that US citizens abroad can vote in US federal level elections ... but I don't know about those who have given up residential status. I'm sure those who no longer pay US taxes may no longer vote in the US.” What’s for sure is that she's wrong.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program clearly states that ”Generally, all US citizens, 18 years or older, who are or will be residing outside the United States during an election period are eligible to vote absentee in any election for Federal office.”

There is no connection between paying taxes and being allowed to vote ... citizenship and the right to vote is not something you pay for by paying taxes ... it is a right you have as a citizen of a country. Further, to vote is a right you have even if you’ve never been to the US ú see for further information.

In her question ”Why should they have any influence over the daily life that they refuse to participate in,” she seems to suggest that those Venezuelans not currently living in their country are abroad because they have some negative sentiments towards Venezuela.

Please think about the fact that all Venezuelans living abroad are not oligarchs bathing in money in Miami or Aruba. People might have reasons like studies, work, family ... you name it. There's no way one could distinguish between moral or immoral reasons why citizens choose to live in another place. The right of a citizen to participate in the democracy of his or her country is ... and should be ... a blind right, no matter who you are.

That’s exactly why Venezuelan exiles should be allowed to vote.

So please Dawn Gable try to base your opinions on facts, and not vice versa. Venezuelans abroad ... like citizens of other nations ... should of course have the right to vote. And Venezuelan consulates abroad, like consulates of other nations, should of course help Venezuelans in exercising those rights.

Caare W.

PS: Dawn Gable also comments that ”YES, they do hold elections in Cuba”. She's quite right. And you know what? Cubans avoid all those problems with deciding who they want to vote for, because there is just one candidate for each position. Isn’t that a good idea? Really a revolutionary democracy.

What to do about 'Katakana'? Nations troubleshoot at conference

The Miami Herald
Posted on Fri, Jun. 06, 2003

The Republic of Katakana is in trouble: The economy is in the dumps, residents are becoming radical and the government has begun to crack down on its own people.

Meanwhile, the nation's neighbors fear Katakana's downward spiral could affect their stability.

The scenario has played out around the world. But Thursday, leaders from 14 Latin American, Caribbean and African nations took on the problems of the imaginary republic in an exercise on democracy building. They posed as the country's neighbors, and explored how international organizations could intervene to avoid a regional crisis.

The exercise was part of a two-day conference at the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables held by the Community of Democracies, a 3-year-old global forum of nations committed to strengthening democracy. Participants also shared ideas on fighting corruption, holding elections and strengthening political parties.

''The concept is to take a region, the Western Hemisphere and Africa, and bring them together to share best practices in the furtherance of democracy,'' said Paula Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs and chairwoman of the event. ``When countries are going forward and trying to assist another in their region, they can only benefit from knowing what works.''


President Francisco Flores of El Salvador addressed the conference and told of his country's path from civil war to becoming one of the few countries in Latin America to establish a positive economic growth trend.

''After so many years of violence, El Salvador became synonymous with strife,'' he said. ``The El Salvador of 2003 is a radically different country.''

The country's turnaround, he said, came about because of a strong constitution that respected the political beliefs of all parties, the privatization of state enterprises, and changes to the budget to include more social programs.

''El Salvador found the path to defeat poverty and that path is democracy,'' Flores said.

The leaders also contemplated the use of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the backbone of the Organization of American States.

The charter states how countries can intervene when a neighboring nation has a constitutional crisis and sets out a list of steps, from sending a delegation to evaluate the situation to ultimately suspending the nation from the OAS.


Created in 2001, the document can help nations move forward when a president oversteps his power, said Humberto de la Calle, former vice president of Colombia and permanent representative to the OAS.

''The problem of yesteryear was the coup d'état, that was 10 or 15 years ago. Now the same executive power is the one that ruptures the constitution,'' de la Calle, a speaker at the conference, said in an interview.

The charter has been used twice: in Venezuela, where the OAS brokered a compromise between opposition leaders and President Hugo Chávez to hold a referendum on his rule; and in Haiti, where OAS mediators haven't been able to bring the government and critics to an agreement on new legislative elections.

The U.S.-sponsored conference includes Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Cape Verde, Mali, Botswana, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique.

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