domingo, 1 de julio de 2007

International Herald Tribune: Chávez family dogged by nepotism claims

Simon Romero, February 18, 2007

Nota: L'articolo che qui riporto venne pubblicato a questo indirizzo (cliccare). Oggi non è più disponibile, ma è comunque reperibile in web archive. Lo stesso articolo, anche se con titolo differente, venne pubblicato nello stesso giorno (18/02/2007) ed a firma dello stesso autore (Simon Romero) anche dal New York Times. Praticamente lo stesso articolo, anche se in italiano, è stato pubblicato a firma di Omero Ciai da "La repubblica" del 10/06/2007 (leggasi).

Screenshot delle pagine dei due articoli in inglese (cliccare per ingrandire) 


SABANETA, Venezuela: At the entrance to this dusty town where Hugo Chávez was born in 1954, a billboard welcomes visitors with a gleaming image of the president and the words, "Cradle of the Revolution."

Other billboards and posters throughout Sabaneta show Chávez embracing his younger brother Anibal, Sabaneta's mayor, and his father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, the governor of Barinas, the surrounding state. Such reminders of the power amassed by the Chávez family have been ubiquitous here since he ascended to the presidency eight years ago.

From a humble start in a dirt- floored adobe home that was bulldozed to make way for a hamburger stand, the family's widening political clout has been increasingly scrutinized as critics call attention to abuses of power and corruption charges throughout the institutions now controlled by Chávez, including the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the federal bureaucracy. Revelations of corruption on his family's watch in Barinas and accusations of nepotism have dogged Chávez even as he makes combating such irregularities one of the priorities of his government.

"We call them the royal family of Barinas," said Antonio Bastidas, an opposition politician in Barinas who grew up playing baseball and catching catfish with Chávez and his brothers. "They started out with nothing and now call themselves revolutionaries, though they are revolutionaries with all the best trappings of power."

Bastidas and others in the political opposition in Barinas have filed numerous complaints of corruption and mismanagement against the administration of Chávez's father, a retired primary-school teacher universally known in Barinas as "Maestro," or professor. Many of the accusations have languished in Venezuela's byzantine bureaucracy, while Chávez's family and its supporters in Barinas have repeatedly won strong victories in elections.

"I'm here because the people put me here," Mayor Anibal Chávez said during an interview at his office, seated under portraits of the president, the Caracas-born liberation hero Simón Bolívar and Jesus.

"We are recuperating our love of the fatherland, contrary to the policy of the empire, which is to enslave us," he said, referring to the United States.

"Sabaneta is booming," he said, listing state-financed projects here like asphalt and tomato-processing plants and a huge sugarcane-growing venture carried out with the assistance of dozens of advisers flown in from Cuba. "I'm a dreamer, but I believe we are transforming this municipality into something greater."

The Venezuelan-Cuban sugarcane project, has been particularly embarrassing for Chávez. He became enraged last year after investigators uncovered a $1.5 million embezzlement scheme at the sugar-processing complex, which is named in honor of Ezequiel Zamora, a general who fought in one of Venezuela's bloody 19th-century internal wars.

Investigators have not implicated any of Chávez's five brothers or his father in the scandal, though it unfolded shortly after Anibal was elected mayor and seven years into the administration of his father, who has fended off corruption accusations almost since his first election victory in 1998.

"May God forgive me for what I'm about to say, but in cases like this, I swear to you, if I could order someone to be executed, I would order him executed," President Chávez said last year when the scandal surfaced.

The president, who is twice divorced, vigilantly guards the privacy of his children and former wives. A court fined an opposition newspaper, Tal Cual, and an editorial writer last week for publishing an editorial imagining a dialogue about political subjects between Chávez and his youngest daughter, Rosines. But his father and siblings, all public figures in Barinas, have been open to scrutiny.

The family boasts not only a mayor and a governor, but also the secretary of state for Barinas, a post created for the president's brother Argenis, who carries out many day-to-day functions at the governor's palace. Another brother, Adelis, is a senior banker at Banco Sofitasa, which does brisk business with the state government.
Adelis also supervises the government's construction of a new soccer stadium in Barinas.

His brother Narciso, an English teacher who lived in Ohio for several years, was accused of influence-peddling in the state government after he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Bolívar, a municipality near Sabaneta. He was later placed in important posts at Venezuela's embassies in Canada and Cuba, where he was put in charge of overseeing the various bilateral agreements reached between Fidel Castro and Chávez.

Adán, the eldest brother of Chávez, who was the second-born son, is perhaps the most influential of the president's brothers, serving as ambassador to Cuba, private secretary to the president and, most recently, minister of education.

Adán, the president and Anibal, the three oldest sons, are in their 50s; the younger sons are in their 40s.

Residents of Barinas, a state of cattle ranches, palm trees and pickup trucks that resembles stretches of South Texas, are treated almost monthly to tales of largess within Chávez's family, some with substantiation and some without.

They point to the frequent trips to Cuba of their governor, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, for medical treatment, a luxury out of reach for many Venezuelans. Through a spokesman, the governor declined repeated requests for an interview.

Opposition politicians here say that Chávez's mother, Elena, who also started as a teacher, exemplifies the family's rise to the nouveau riche class. She now appears in newspaper photographs carrying her poodle, Coqui, and dressed in designer outfits and gold jewelry.

Her plastic surgeon, Bruno Pacillo, went to the National Assembly in 2004 to complain that he was barred from an elite Caracas social club, presumably because of his connection to Chávez's family.

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