Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba do not like America. They do not like Free Markets, Democracy or Capitalism. Both are Utopian Socialists committed to economic planning based on the collectivist philosophy of command-and-control socialism.
Over thirty years of state planning by Fidel in Cuba has resulted in desperate shortages of the goods and services that Bahamians take for granted. The Cuban experiment is one that the Bahamas is unlikely to try.
On July 5th Venezuela celebrated its Independence Day with a parade that included a show of military strength in a fighting force "armed to the teeth". The announcement of the purchase of 100,000 Russian Kalishnikov rifles and a dozen or so Helicopters along with a pay raise to the military of between 50% to 60% tells us that the President intends to have a strong military presence in the region. Not all Venezuelans are pleased with the Chavez policies that include the expropriation of private property and a Constitution that gives him sole authority over promotions that are " used to purge the more talkative dissidents". The Economist also reports that Venezuelans, "especially from the country's fast-shrinking middle class", are concerned that Chavez is "replacing democracy with autocracy" and armed with oil wealth is "doing his best to spread revolution and instability across Latin America".
Hugo and Castro also have plans for the Caribbean and The Bahamas. The PetroCaribe Agreement is a "planning" document written in collectivist language as it simultaneously propagandizes the ideals of Socialism. Thirteen Caribbean countries including the Bahamas have begun the "integration" process that has the potential for monopoly control of the oil market throughout the region by Chavez.
Collectivism means the end of truth. To function efficiently, societies such as Cuba and now Venezuela under Hugo Chavez must force obedience to those in control. This requires everyone to regard the ends described by their leaders to be the same as their own. Propaganda is the tool used to convince and it goes with control of all sources of information.
The Bahamas has a tradition of democracy and freedom. All be it that our freedoms have been in steady decline with the growth in size of government, individualism is still a feature of Bahamian Culture. The defeat of the Hon. Fred Mitchell's agenda for joining the CSME confirms that it is unlikely that a majority of Bahamians would willingly exchange independence and freedom for cheaper oil.
However the policies that Leslie Miller wishes Bahamians to follow are nevertheless rapidly creating conditions in which the lure of lower oil prices is used to persuade the unwary to exchange their freedom for the collectivism of Hugo and Fidel. If we are not to destroy individual freedom, a competitive market is necessary and must be left unobstructed in economic decision-making. This includes the oil market.
One Venezuelan political analyst has described Venezuela as having one foot in democracy and the other in authoritarianism and autocracy. The commitment to the PetroCaribe Agreement by Leslie Miller commits Bahamians to obligations designed and controlled by persons with whom Bahamians have neither history nor philosophical tradition.
After his tour of America in 1848 Alex de Tocqueville said:
– "Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, it attaches all possible value to each man, while socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."
We must remain committed to the conviction on which liberty in the Anglo-Saxon countries has been based. It would be a tragic mistake should Bahamians succumb to the promises and propaganda of dictators and autocrats to save money in the short run, risking alienation of proven friends and sacrificing our freedoms in the long run.