CARACAS, Friday May 20, 2005 | Update
Jesuit Priest Jesús Gazo (Photo: Archive)
GUSTAVO AZOCAR ALCALA
SPECIAL ARTICLE FOR EL UNIVERSAL
Jesuit Priest Jesús Gazo, the spiritual advisor to President Hugo Chávez Frías, is certain that corruption is spread all over major sectors.
He is certain of corrupts in government high-ranking positions, including ministers and congresspersons. He thinks that the head of state is a victim of "corruption plot." Worse still, if nothing is done, corruption may end with the government and the revolutionary process.
Gazo has been in Andean Táchira state for a couple of years. He is the chaplain of Catholic University. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Social Development (Fundes), an agency under the aegis of Táchira government. He used to say Sunday mass at El Ángel church. However, he stopped doing it when parishioners started to complain about his revolutionary sermons, full of criticism against the United States and praising the revolution. He claims that his feeling of impotence in the face of widespread corruption made him come out again.
Q: Is corruption endangering the revolutionary process?
A: Corruption is plotting against Chávez. Corruption is being organized for Chávez to be completely unarmed (...) As soon as corruption charges emerge, Chávez says that there is need to stop it. All of a sudden, honest people are charged with corruption. Chávez knows that these people are honest, sincere and loyal. But he may be cheated.
Q: Is the president aware of corruption under his government?
A: The president is aware indeed. And he also knows that a solution must be found. I think that he is doing it, action has been taken (...) People are getting tired of corrupt people taking advantage of the treasury (...) Some ministers, deputies and other government senior officials all of a sudden buy gorgeous cars or houses. Where do all of these assets come from?
Q: What do you mean by corruption plot?
A: Do you think little of an honest person viewed as corrupt? Actual corrupt do that to prevent the president from taking action. Thus, when the president finds that this person is not corrupt, then another similar case props up. Chávez cannot go everywhere. Some friends of him have betrayed him. But not all the people who work with him are corrupt, because he cannot rule alone.
Q: What can the president do in the light of this?
A: There must be a qualitative leap. The worst evils from the fourth republic are still in force. Corruption, personal zeal, lack of citizenship such as public service, the republic in my own interest, all of them are still in force. People hopes are in Chávez, and corruption may kill such hopes. This may damage the process.
Q: Have you discussed it with the president?
A: Yes. I wish I were God to tell him: this guy is corrupt, get rid of him. There are many types of corruption. Some say: put me where money is to steal and cheat. But there are also high rates. I heard from a man who was granted a loan based on US dollars at preferential rate. Then, he borrowed again, but he was denied a second credit for the purposes of depriving him of everything.
Q: Did you discuss with the president a particular corruption case?
A: Lack of skill is another type of corruption. Some ministers are not qualified for their positions. If they were honest, they should acknowledge it.
Q: It was not Chávez who appointed those corrupt and unskilled officials?
A: Not all of them. It is true that the president has been wrong on many occasions. He has not done the right thing when appointing some people. Some people lose their minds when they are in power; they act in their own interest and do not give a damn. They do not care about Chávez or Venezuela.
Q: If Chávez is aware of corruption, why no corrupts have gone to jail?
A: Of course there are people in jail, but there is not much coverage. Some people have been also dismissed. Dismissal is the strongest punishment, but they should also go to jail. And Chávez should have an iron fist and send any corrupt to jail; otherwise, he will be reliable no more.
Q: Why, in your opinion, the president has not taken stringent steps against corruption?
A: I do not know it. He has so many problems, and there are so many corrupt (...) Once I had the feeling that he was sad, because he wondered: Can I trust anybody? I told him once: Mr. President, corruption and betrayal are almost the same. Every corrupt is a traitor. Corrupt are ready to sell themselves as appropriate. Nothing else. An anti-corruption agency should be established. I think that the steps have been taken and shortly some people will be dismissed and caught in the act of corruption.
Q: Is it easy to prove corruption under this government?
A: Corruption is not a matter to be proved. Some people own more things than they can afford. Some ministers and congresspersons have a lot of money. They should be asked: Where did you get all that money?
Q: Are corrupt in Chávez government from the fourth or firth republic?
A: Both of them. Unfortunately, they are (opposition parties) AD and Copei followers. Red-beret disguised AD supporters. But I know some people -and this is most regretful- the so-called leftists who were supposed to be honest but they are not.
Q: Any concrete corruption cases?
A: There is corruption at top government levels. I cannot prove it, but there is. There is also corruption at the middle level, and I can attest to it.
Q: Have you asked Chávez to take action accordingly?
A: I spoke to him more than a year ago. I gave him names, but corruption is difficult to prove.
Q: Are the people mentioned by you still in those positions?
A: Some of them, but not most of them.
Q: What do you think about government internal strife?
A: It is a shame. They are struggling to become the next president after Chávez. They are paving the way, and this is not the right thing. Eagerness to grow and improve is O.K., but the show of (government parties) MVR and PPT is inadmissible.
Q: Why do government followers fight among themselves?
A: Politicians struggling for a position, who do not realize that they were elected because of Chávez, and forget that in the absence of Chávez, they would be nobody, are a sad sight. They fight for their personal, partisan ambitions.
Q: Do you agree with Chávez and Fidel Castro's rapport?
A: I view it as an action plan. Chávez is a leftist. He found a support in Fidel, even though Fidel is a dictator.
Q: Do you label Castro as a dictator?
A: Based on the precepts of western democracy, he is a dictator. A dictator is anybody in possession of all the powers. I think that Castro stopped being a dictator some time ago. There are huge differences between Castro and Stalin. Castro has remained in power because this is the will of Cuban people. Castro should call to free elections to get rid of this nickname.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.