The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
When PM Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines started to involve his family in Vincentian politics, I must admit it worried me considerably — and still does.
He has made his cousin, Julian Francis, year after year, a senator on behalf of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government, also made him a minister of government year after year. Francis, although having tried at being elected, was shown to be unelectable in the constituency he ran in, which made him the longest unelected unelectable senator serving as an important government minister in the history of SVG. Joining Francis comes one of the PM’s sons by his first marriage, Camillo Gonsalves, he was brought into a number of very prime government jobs, then becoming SVG’s United Nations ambassador in New York. Later to come to SVG and have the position of Senator introduced to him. To go with the senatorship he was given one the most important government ministerial positions, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Remember neither of these two family members would be involved in our government as senators or ministers if Gonsalves was not Prime Minister, the man in charge, the comrade, the commandante.
Now I feel there is a danger of Gonsalves son by his second marriage, Storm Gonsalves, becoming part of the family political dynasty. Storm is finishing degrees in law and political science in London. I believe already he is being edged in, his father putting him forward as the man who arranged the funding for a school bus for North Leeward. The Gonsalves daughter is back in SVG after becoming a lawyer in London and is working in an SVG law firm, which I noticed a couple of weeks ago seems to be doing work for the government. Nothing is wrong with that, they probably did work for the government before Isis Gonsalves began working for them. Nothing wrong with that even if they didn’t, I hear you say.
Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan Vice President, recently visited SVG to declare open the fuel storage terminal at Lowmans Bay. It was after researching him that I was prompted to write this letter regarding my opinions.
Jorge Alberto Arreaza Monserrat is Hugo Chavez’s son-in-law. In 2007, he married Chavez’s eldest daughter, Rosa. He is there to carry forward the Chavez dynasty. Probably when the Chavezes tire of him, Madura will be dispensed of by the Venezuelan military. One way or another, this Hugo Chavez’s son-in-law will be president of Venezuela. See the dangers of allowing children and family of leaders to become part of a countries hierarchy. That is one of the reasons that I object in the creation of a Gonsalves dynasty. I shudder to guess what the future holds.
Chavez is still ruling from beyond the grave. His children, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins are all still controlling the country, the military and the government, states, towns, huge swathes of farm land, the UN ambassadorship, the oil industry and much more.
Hugo Chavez was born in a mud-floored shack in a town called Barinas. Today, the Chavez family own a grand mansion with 10ft-high wall topped with razor wire, located in the best suburb area of the town of Barinas. In fact they own a number of very large houses and mansions in Barinas.
How did the Chavez family accrue all the wealth in the last 20 years, from mud floors to mansions? Can it be the Chavez family lined its own pockets while preaching the merits of the great socialist revolution?
Most of the family members have armed guards, so there must be some doubt about the public’s love for them. The fact that the Chavez clan has enriched itself has plenty mumbling about them in Barinas, a poor town 300 miles southwest of Caracas in one of Venezuela’s regions.
The Chavez family owns 17 country estates, totalling more than 100,000 acres, in addition to liquid assets of $550 million stored in various international bank accounts, according to Venezuelan news website Noticias Centro. It is said that when he died the Hugo Chavez fortune alone topped US$2 billion.
Venezuelans are suffering; some are starving: no work, nothing in the shops and almost 30 per cent inflation. The Chavez family is living the life of privilege and immense wealth.
Wherever Nicolas Maduro goes some member of the Chavez family goes with him. Even when he opened his political campaign with a televised interview, he was accompanied overlooked, even controlled by members of Clan Chavez, who gave their all-important blessing to his candidacy. They were the real electors of Maduro. Hugo Chavez’s eldest son Adan, who is governor of Barinas state, had to ratify Maduro before he was accepted. Adan Chavez said, “Nicolas Maduro can be ratified before the Venezuelan people and continue the Bolivarian revolution”.
Adan is the second of Hugo Chavez’s seven children, a former schoolteacher, served three terms as Barinas state governor during Chavez’s rule, before turning to real estate development. Another brother, Argenis Chavez, is Venezuela’s energy minister.
Hugo Chavez’s daughter María Gabriela Chavez, 33, the second of his five children, was appointed in August 2014 Venezuela’s ‘alternate ambassador’ to the UN alongside the nation’s current ambassador Jorge Valero and diplomat Samuel Moncada. Despite an apparent glaring lack of suitable qualifications, Ms Chavez took the power, she speaks and votes on Venezuela’s behalf at the UN in New York — often seated alongside the US on the Security Council.
María Gabriela Chavez is chief among the Chavez family. After her father’s second divorce in 2004, she acted as Venezuela’s de facto first lady. Following her father Hugo’s death from cancer in March 2013, she has maintained a public profile by frequently meeting with other Latin American leaders such as Raul and Fidel Castro, trotting around the Americas, the Royalty of Venezuela.
Very much a “socialist socialite”, Ms Gabriela Chavez is almost as controversial as her father. She has been accused of corruption, and enjoying the high life while the Venezuelan people suffer soaring inflation and widespread food shortages. Living the life of Royalty in Caracas, she still occupies the presidential palace in place of the current president, Nicolas Maduro.
President Nicolas Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores, have been forced to remain at the inferior vice-presidential residence whilst the Vice President and his Chavez wife live in the palace. There have been a number of attempts by Cilia Maduro to claim their official residence, but the Chavez’s refuse to budge.
Maduro, despite being the president, is still overshadowed by the Chavez family who in many ways appear to be pulling the strings of Nicolas, the ex bus driver and rather second-rate union official.
In Venezuela, basic supplies such as eggs and toilet paper are virtually non-existent, the Chavez family’s lavish lifestyle costs Venezuelan taxpayers $500,000 or more a month. The Caracas Palace, “La Casona”, has a swimming pool, a gym, a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a dance hall, and much more; it’s like a whole Disney land being fully used as a private resort by the family and friends of the Chavezes.
Poor Nicolas dreams of driving buses again whilst sitting on the palace lawn and pretending he is in charge, and living in the big house.
There is, I hope, a message here, about allowing any family in SVG take control of our country through cultural, political and parliamentary privilege. We must ensure that what has happened in Venezuela can never happen in SVG, even if on a much smaller scale.
When Ralph E. Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party ask you to vote for them, say most definitely, NO!
If you want any further advice on the matter;
Please write to
Nicolas and Cilia Moduro
The Vice President’s Residence
PS, I believe the Americans have frozen all the Chavez family US bank accounts, what a hoot. Billions of dollars and can’t spend them, shame, what a shame.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].