Electoral coup


There’s nonsense, there’s hard-core nonsense, and then there’s chavista nonsense. The government’s public statements over the last few days have reached such amazing levels of internal contradiction it’s hard to know what to even say about them anymore. The ultimate outrage – the worst I can remember – is their reaction to the National Electoral Council’s decision to call a non-binding referendum on whether Chávez should resign for February 2nd, 2003. Faced with the decision, J.V. Rangel railed furiously against the decision, calling it an “electoral coup.”

Now, stop to think about that last phrase for a second.

Electoral coup.

Swirl it around your head a few times. What, exactly, does it mean? Rangel is really starting to sound like a parody of himself – his P.R. strategy of labeling anything and everything the opposition does as a coupsterie coup-plotting coupetie coup coup coup has driven him right up to a reductio ad absurdum cliff-edge, and he’s just kept on driving, Thelma & Louise style, into the logical chasm.

Electoral coup.

Isn’t the whole point of a coup that it’s an end-run around democratic decision-making, supplanting a given group’s political views for the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box? Isn’t an election the specific polar opposite of a coup? Can anyone think of a more perverse, a more intellectual bankrupt two-word combination than “electoral coup”?

My sister thought it the ultimate oxymoron, but it seems to me an altogether deeper, more pernicious specimen than that. The phrase is a final surrender to the forces of nonsense, of propagandistic gobbledygook. It’s a declaration of war against common sense, a unilateral surrender to contradiction, contradiction no longer merely as a P.R. tactic, but as a code of ethics, a life principle.

Electoral coup.

It reminds me of the fascist slogans during the Spanish Civil War. Long live death! Death to intelligence! Electoral coup!

It is, and I don’t make this statement lightly, the single stupidest phrase anybody in the Chávez administration has uttered in the last four years.

Chávez himself isn’t far behind. His rhetoric has reached a kind of fevered pitch of rampant self-contradiction unhindered by any kind of reflection. During his speech on Wednesday – which he broadcast, like in the old days, on a cadena nacional, hijacking the signals of every TV and radio station to ramble for a few hours – he switched blithely within a few minutes from a stirring homage to the “redemptors of the republic” who staged an actual, shoot-shoot-bang-bang coup-attempt on November 27th, 1992 (precisely 10 years earlier), to a furious denunciation of today’s clipboard-and-ballot-box electoral coupsters.

The contradiction was so blatant it makes any kind of reasoned rebuke seem superfluous. The guys 10 years ago are heroes, even though they used tanks and F-16s to try to bomb the presidential palace, even though they left dozens of innocent bystanders dead as they stormed, guns blazing, into the Channel 8 studios, in a bid to oust a democratically elected government. Why? Because they were chavistas. But the people going around these days gathering signatures to ask for a referendum so every citizen can have a say on the nation’s future are fascists; terrorists staging an “electoral coup.” Why? Because they’re antichavistas. It’s a simple, straightforward calculus, based on a belief-system armored-plated against critical reasoning, where chavistas are good no matter what they do, simply because they’re chavistas, and antichavistas are bad no matter what they do, because they dare to question him.

Simple, huh?

Like Elizabeth Fuentes said last week, “it’s shit like this that makes my capacity for tolerance follow the nation’s economic statistics, i.e., into a nose-dive.”

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A journalist, political commentator and news obsessive, Francisco Toro is the Founder and Executive Editor of Caracas Chronicles.


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