Venezuela’s crisis reflects region’s lack of civic accountability

Watch closely. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his foes may be starting to appease each other but Venezuela’s furious game of finger-pointing for the recent crisis has yet to subside.

Chavez’ detractors may be smiling and praising his sudden change of heart, but his opponents will continue to vehemently blame him for plunging the country into further chaos.

He, in turn, will continue to accuse “the squalid ones” of oppressing the masses and triggering the recent crisis. In time-honored Latin American fashion, Venezuelans will refuse to fault one of the primary culprits: themselves.

Responsibility is a dirty word in Latin America, a region rich in dirty wars, dirty presidents, and an oppressive upper class that has systematically looked the other way as right-wing dictators ruthlessly pillaged their beloved countries, and present-day kleptocracies shamelessly drain their coffers. But even as the past violently threatens their present and future, millions of Latin Americans-specifically the wealthier ones-perpetuate their nasty habit of exempting themselves from their recurring downfalls.

What has happened in Venezuela is symptomatic of the centuries-old regional epidemic. Latin Americans, however, are not blind. They know they live mired in grinding poverty. They know their governments are terribly corrupt. They know their public education and health systems are a wreck.

They know the shantytowns that overlook their manicured neighborhoods are enraged and bursting at the seams. And they know they are perpetuating the system, actively or passively. But few refuse to be accountable-and even fewer resolve to change.

Instead, they look for an external cure-all, well aware that the solution has to come from within because the root of the problem lies within. When elections come around, in desperation, they choose el menos peor-not the best choice, but the least worst possible choice-hoping he will be their much-longed panacea.

And when the going gets tough, those who can, flee-and settle in Miami. Those who can’t, peacefully protest or ransack their cities. When the looting subsides and the dust begins to settle, a few of those who stay tackle the turmoil and try to steer the country forward. Others turn the other way-and hope they too can flee someday.

The current crisis in Venezuela should serve as a lesson in responsibility. Venezuelans had it coming. Hugo Chavez didn’t rise to power in a vacuum. Neither did the deadly chaos witnessed last week. This was d