Jhonattan Vegas became the first Venezuelan to win a major golf tournament last night with victory in the Bob Hope Classic in La Qunita, California. Why does this matter? He would probably say because it’s a great start to his fledgling career. But from an admittedly slightly bizarre angle, I would say it is because this victory is a big ‘two fingers up’ at Hugo Chavez.
He may have offered his congratulations to Vegas, stating he at least "beat the gringos", but the Venezuelan President (ever nearing dictator) has gone on record in the past to call golf a “bourgeois” pastime, adding that golf courses should be paved over and used for housing for the poor. Far be it from me to argue against better standards of living for the poor. In fact, far be it from me to get involved in any bourgeoisie vs. proletariat debate whatsoever. But Vegas’ victory has the potential to resonate throughout Venezuela; inspiring the poor to achieve through excellence, despite the constraints they are under in Chavez’s ever asphyxiating regime. After all, Vegas is a man who began his golf career with a broomstick and a rock.
Hugo Chavez is, quite simply, a danger to his country, his immediate neighbours and potentially to the international system as a whole. His calls to expropriate golf courses for the ‘public good’ (a dubious claim, to say the least) are but the latest in a long line of expropriations that completely contradict Article 115 of Venezuela’s constitution which protects its citizens’ right to private property and enterprise. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is the same man who has flagrantly abused his power, most recently by exploiting his country’s extensive flooding by engineering the right to rule by Presidential decree. The same man who has censored the press extensively in Venezuela, stifling the right to freedom of information and association. The same man who has crippled Venezuela’s economy, yet now has the temerity to verbally attack a sport for being contrary to the needs of Venezuela’s poor.
Add to the mix his ties with Russia, China and Iran, his pursuit of nuclear power, and his consistent undermining of international cooperation and trade and it's clear that Hugo Chavez is bad news. And so I say ‘Viva Jhonattan Vegas’ for not only his fine sporting victory, but for the example he is setting for his fellow citizens against a backdrop of ascending autocracy.
by Dane Vallejo
by Dane Vallejo