Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
22 December 2008

Mugabe, Mbeki, murder

In the letter written by ex President Thabo Mbeki to the ANC after he was fired as President he listed Robert Mugabe – who pretends to be the legitimate President of Zimbabwe – as one of the heroes he has had the honour to interact with. Can one tell the quality of a person by his or her heroes? Probably yes.

So when the New York Times reported this morning that a new survey has found that hunger is wide spread in that country, I could not help but wonder what Mbeki would say to this. The report states:

The survey, recently provided to international donors, found that the proportion of people who had eaten nothing the previous day had risen to 12 percent from zero, while those who had consumed only one meal had soared to 60 percent from only 13 percent last year.

For almost three months, from June to August, Mr. Mugabe banned international charitable organizations from operating, depriving more than a million people of food and basic aid after the country had already suffered one of its worst harvests.

Mr. Mugabe defended the suspension by arguing that some Western aid groups were backing his political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, who bested him at the polls in March but withdrew before a June 27 runoff. But civic groups and analysts said Mr. Mugabe’s real motive was to clear rural areas of witnesses to his military-led crackdown on opposition supporters and to starve those supporters.

Can one remain a heroe if one has contributed so starkly to this state of affairs? Apparently one can if one inhabits the moral universe of Thabo Mbeki. Thank goodness we are rid of him.

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