Posted on

A Machiavellian intrigue or ignorance?



Editor: I refer to the column “Our good Catholic boy” by Mr. Bassy Alexander, on February 1st, 2008.

I could start by writing that a journalist must always express his own ideas and beliefs, but as the German philosopher Immanuel Kant would then immediately complement, that there is also the moral imperative to adhere to a set of rules: the rules of “Truth” and “Respect”.{{more}} In other terms and in this case, the described ideas and beliefs ought to always be supported by real, researched evidence and they must respect the readership. The said column does not adhere to either of these imperatives.

In his column Mr. Bassy makes some untrue assertions:

1. “President Chávez sounded like Santa Claus” when he offered cheaper fuel and free cooking gas to the Vincentian population, he wrote. I would like to rectify this otherwise amusing Christmas metaphor and refresh Bassy’s memory: Venezuela, acting upon a request by the Vincentian government, began to supply cheaper (not free) cooking gas to SVG in December 2005. This was in response to a threat made by the multinational companies supplying cooking gas: they had threatened to stop their supply to SVG if its Government did not authorize an arbitrary increase of the gas prices. What happened? SVG said “no” to that threat and is since then able to obtain through the PETROCARIBE joint venture a gas cylinder for the old EC$ 30 instead of the threatened EC$ 35 (ergo saving EC$ 5.00 per cylinder).

In regard to the cheaper fuel, this assertion also does not correspond to the moral imperative of truth mentioned above: Venezuela did not provide cheaper fuel. Truth is, that in order to allow SVG to operate with a higher degree of efficiency in the international supply of fuel, the PETROCARIBE-SVG joint venture began building in Campden Park a fuel storage plant. This plant will facilitate the import of fuel and diesel under advantageous conditions.

2. – About the necessity that young Vincentians have to be trained in technical careers rather than in military skills in order to engage in a war against the US, I completely agree with Mr. Bassy. It is exactly for this reason that this month, in the framework of the ALBA agreement, 13 young Vincentian students will be going to Venezuelan universities – with fully funded scholarships to get a degree in geology, construction, business administration, tourism, medicine and IT. The only “war” these young Vincentians are going to be fighting is the war of education, and their weapons to win this battle will be pens, notebooks and their willingness to succeed. In three or four years time, these young Vincentians will be back in this Blessed Island with their degrees to contribute to the economic and social development of SVG. Not, as suggested in the column, to invade the shores of US or Canada. Maybe Mr. Bassy confuses the punic wars with the ALBA project. A more careful research about the goals of the ALBA agreement would have been more helpful.

3. Mr. Bassy further embarks in an amateur psychological analysis about the mental health of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frías. It is unknown whether the methodology Mr Bassy applies is of Freudian or Junghian nature. In any case, Mr. Bassy diagnoses that President Chavez is on a permanent “High” because he chewed a coca leaf. For his information, this plant plays a significant role in traditional Andean culture, and it may be useful to highlight that the Incas, along with many of the South American indigenous communities, have been chewing coca leaves for centuries without getting “high” or addicted. They never signed up at Betty Ford’s rehabilitation clinic either.

Maybe I understand the origin of Mr. Bassy’s confusion. In the high political spheres, there is indeed a President who admitted in an interview with the American historian Doug Wead his own weakness for narcotics and alcohol in the past. Between you and me: he was not Venezuelan.

Without entering into a dissertation in chemical sciences: the natural coca leaf is just a plant with stimulating properties, just like tea and coffee, regularly chewed by many tourists who visit the Macchu Picchu in Peru to fight altitude sickness. It is solely after a long and highly sophisticated chemical process that it becomes the narcotic drug infamously known as “cocaine”.

All in all, I appreciate the opportunity given by the column, for it gave me the possibility to explain and clarify different aspects about the Venezuelan-Vincentian cooperation. I also hope that the comments Mr. Bassy wrote in his column intended to describe a fictional, international machiavellian intrigue. I suspect, though, they were a simple result of ignorance.

Gustavo Curiel,
Chargé d´Affaires of the
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela