Weeding

Both Quico and I have had a busy week, hence the light posting, but here is one news item I did want to comment on.

As I was pondering chavismo’s legislative deluge, I allowed panic to overtake me. In the process, I made some inappropriate comparisons.

In these heady days, it is easy to get carried away. I know, I did it with my last post. Chavismo is many things, but they have yet to reach the brutal efficiency of the Nazis.

Instead, I’ve come to realize that in a country of lawlessness, more laws are not going to make that much of a difference. The problems in Venezuela are not going to get worse because of more boneheaded legislation. The problems in Venezuela are going to get worse because those in power are boneheads.

Chávez had absolute power before, and he has absolute power now. There is little in these laws that changes that.

We need to remind ourselves that laws in Venezuela are never worth the paper they are printed on. This particular package of laws is simply putting in paper something we already know: Chávez can do anything he wants, and what he wants is usually f-ing insane.

The new laws don’t automatically imply the government will begin censoring the Internet – they are merely allowing the government the possibility of censoring the Internet. But the government already has that power – there is nothing stopping them from doing it.

The new laws don’t actually mean dissident chavistas will automatically lose their jobs if they vote the wrong way. It simply puts in paper the power chavismo has to do so whenever it feels like it.

The new laws give absolute, unconstitutional powers to an absolutist, unconstitutional regime.

The new legislation, as alarming as it is, has limited practical effects. What the plethora of new legislation constitutes … is a sign. A symbol of what’s ahead. A red light so key players can align themselves with the new realities.

Chavismo is unpopular, and it is mightily afraid of traitors in its own ranks – in the Armed Forces, in the Judiciary, and most of all, in its own political trenches. As it moves forward with more authoritarianism and greater control, it needs to separate the doubters from the true believers. Hence, it throws out red capes – the atrocious anti-talanquera law chief among them – to see who gets worked up, and who falls in line.

The article I linked to in the first paragraph, where a current chavista deputy discusses internal strife within chavismo and calls for the President to scale back the radicalism, points to that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see similarly strange happenings in the Armed Forces in the next few days, and the same thing in the Judiciary.

Chavismo needs to tighten its ranks for the coming battle of 2012. People who aren’t comfortable living in, profiting from, and defending a Communist dictatorship – well, the door is that way.

So, Eustoquio Contreras, your days in the Revolution are counted. Prepare yourself to be weeded out.

49 thoughts on “Weeding

  1. You forgot an essential detail of why these laws won’t change anything: The unbelievable mediocrity of the government to pull off anything.

    These guys can’t do ****! They suck at everything. They’re awful.

    In the end, nothing will change: The elite in power will continue enjoying the good life and the rest of us, including the people used by Chavez to pass this enabling law will continue suffering.

    Communist utopia? Bullcrap. Everything will be just as usual, but harder.

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  2. And just as I’m saying this, the National Assembly has approved an Enabling Law, giving Chavez vast powers to rule by decree for 18 months.

    At least his absolute powers expire before the election.

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    • Juan, there hasn’t been a single politician in the last 10 years who has turned from alternative forces to Chavismo. There have only been people coming our way. They only get new people from the brainwashed brats like the one you showed in one of your latest posts.

      It was sure we would get more of those deputies in some months. Now it won’t be the case.

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    • “At least his absolute powers expire before the election.”

      What election? Is this wishful thinking? There will be no election in 2012. Even if there is a mock electoral process, you can expect it to be Castro/Mugabe/Saddam modeled event, but not an “election.”

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  3. Thank you for posting that letter which shows some divisions in the PSUV. I had been wondering what, precisely, was the reason for the anti-talanquera law, and now we know.

    Such a law is a profound demonstration of weakness. It shows that they do not expect to attract any opposition deputies, but fear that the reverse will occur.

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  4. “…the atrocious anti-talanquera law chief among them…”

    The link in “anti-talanquera” is broken. (Actually, the href= contains text from the third paragraph instead of a link.)

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  5. Yes and no Juan

    Your Crystal night title was a little bit too much really, even for my standards as I use happily such words as “nazional”. But your point is well taken EXCEPT that what Chavez wants to do is to create new category of crimes so he can get after, say, people who write in the Internet. He is not going to close the Internet, he probably cannot do it no matter how much Chinese and Cuban support he may get, but he can make our life in Venezuela truly miserable if we persist writing.

    Our comfort is that Noticiero digital will go before we go. Some comfort, no?

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  6. They won’t be able to apply the new laws, those are so boneheaded that they are impossible to apply. And because Venezuela is Venezuela and basically lawless. Like the lottery, again. They will ruin a few persons’ lives at random, and publicly enough.

    I wonder if Venezuelans feel the tremendous cognitive dissonance, of say, asking the Armed Forces and Security Agencies to “take care” (practically, draconian gun control they clamor for) of all the illegal (and legal) weapons on the street, and realizing that many of those are in the wrong hands, along with badges, because of the corruption and inefficiency of these agencies. So much so that these cannot account for their own arsenals.

    You are right, these instruments only formalize the way of chavismo. Ruining the day (or making the day) of people at random. And obtaining both hope and fear, depending on the subject.

    I hope that if any chavista is reading this, that they realize how utterly impossible is to try to institute any form of Socialism, and how futile an endeavor it is. They have made Venezuelans impenetrable to norms, even arbitrary norms. It’s probably farther away than when Chavez started. Despotism is what we get.

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  7. I have some concern about the idea that the new censorship laws will be ineffective. Won’t they have the classic “chilling effect” where citizens look over their shoulders at possible repression, and adjust their public statements accordingly?

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    • They already throw Tweeters in jails for spreading banned thoughts to a few dozen supporters…what else is new?!

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  8. I think this post is an ocean of good, common sense.

    At some point we have to stop chasing the day-to-day headlines and realize that all the bla bla bla that about Resistance that was bullshit 5 years ago makes perfect sense today. Restoring democracy doesn’t mean supplanting the government, it means changing the regime.

    (though, of course, I still think that – counterintuitively – the most radical way you can change regimes in Venezuela is to leave the old constitution in place…)

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  9. Neither has Chavez’s government shown a predilection for genocide. They’re still a long way from the Nazis, and making such comparisons just opens you up to attacks from the Chavez apologists at Venezuelanalysis.com .

    Mike

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    • Yeah in Venezuela only 1 of 32 death-chambers would work, and entry-exit to the camps would be negotiable.

      Sorry ahead of time. This is a fruitless line-of-thought.

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  10. Historical comparisions with Hitler are very hard. You need to cut back, constrain, explain, etc. a lot. Even with the Enabling law a few month after the election in 1933. At that date, the first concentration camps were allready set up.
    Of course there are some similar elements, as the Chávez Government clearly is a totalitarian one. One can only worry watching the video of the Toyo speech, that Daniel filmed from his TV.
    The probably most serious effort to compare the attitude of the radical, “anti-imperialistic” left with the most popular youth movement of a central european country called Germany in the 1930s was “Unser Kampf 1968″ by Götz Aly. I consider him our most interesting historician about the time, as he focuses his research on the opinion and the feelings of the common people. Especially in his “Hitlers Volksstaat”. Also Aly before was quite a radical part of those Guevara T-shirt wearing youth movement of the 60ties and 70ties (german wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unser_Kampf_1968_%E2%80%93_ein_irritierter_Blick_zur%C3%BCck)
    The worrying question remains that how will the robolution act when it will be cornered more in a year that may turn out as the 3rd year of recession in Venezuela?

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  11. I thought this was a great post. The latest move by Chavez is pretty brazen (even by his standards) and shows his tolerance for any kind of opposition has reached new depths.

    As for the enabling law finishing 6 months before the presidential elections, this isn’t a good thing for the opposition. If I had to guess I would say Chavez will use the 6 months without powers to say this is why everything has gone wrong and why he needs another 6 years in power.

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    • Mark my words- six months before the 2012 elections, the elections will no longer matter. That is what the enabling law is for. Chavez won’t have to blame anyone for anything, although he will continue to blame the IVth, CIA, Mossad, etc. He is in the process of cheating right now and we will become even more dependent on these great blogs for news as Globo will soon be closed. This will be required to help hide the cheating.

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    • Glenn,
      That may be true, but the question is: what does this new package of legislation allow him to do now that he wasn’t allowed to do before?

      I mean, seriously, if that had been the plan all along, then he didn’t need an Enabling Law. He has the courts, he has the majority in the Assembly.

      No, this stuff is not for legislating. It’s for spreading fear.

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  12. JC,

    I don’t know that I’d title this posting “Weeding”, so much as, “The Boiling Frog Syndrome”. Things are at their worst pass, ever, in Venezuela, (you and Quico have listed all of Chavez’s outrages elsewhere, so I won’t go into them), and you’re apologizing for perhaps having used “inappropriate comparisons”???

    At what point do the comparisons with Hitler, Castro, etc. become appropriate? When he’s shut down blogs, perhaps including yours? When he’s put x number of twitter comentaristas in jail (I guess the first twitterers thrown in the clink don’t count)? When he shuts down all oppo tv and press? When he simply cancels elections and decrees himself to be President for life?

    Or will the comparisons become appropriate when he throws large numbers of people in prison for daring to speak out against him? Or maybe Venezuela should wait on making those appropriate comparisons until Chavez actually starts shooting people in street, right?

    Where’s the line in the sand? Where’s the trigger point, the flash point, where comparisons with Hitler, et al, become appropriate?

    Sorry to be harsh, I think I make my point.

    (Last night, here in Quito, Correa’s police shut down an opposition magazine (La Vanguardia) and took all computers, hd’s, documents, files, and everything, claiming that the magazine hadn’t paid its rent in a building owned by the government. As a matter of fact, I think these guys WERE behind on their rent, and they were dumb to have been in that building to begin with. Still, this same magazine had done a real job on two of Correa’s closest associates two weeks ago, charging them with corruption (and I think they are corrupt), so the significance of the closure of the magazine and seizure of all of its files, emails, etc. isn’t lost on some people, including me – I consider it a direct assault on freedom of speech and democracy. But for the vast, vast majority of Ecuadorians? Nah, hell, the water isn’t even warm. But I digress…)

    In the Venezuelan case as well, I guess the water temperature doesn’t warrant those “inappropriate comparisons” from the frogs just yet….

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    • Tambopaxi

      Great comment.

      People often waste time trying to judge the particular point we are at in a path to dictatorship.What’s more important is the dynamic of an evolving situation.By the time we figure out at which point we happen to be, the temperature of the water has already gotten warmer and the end result closer.

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  13. And Mr Contreras will not be the last one to be weeded out. Yet, this is on purpose and according to their needs to keep the coalition together in tougher times and continue separating those that are not ideologically committed to the revolution. As long as they are just seven and not seventy, these people will not threaten the PSUVs purported hegemony.

    Something that have *always* creeped me out is that Chavismo has long-term plans for long-time horizons, and act accordingly. Conversely, for a variety of reasons, the opposition is in survival mode and lacks an articulate plan for the future. Oppo has always been a reactive, not a proactive, movement. If we ever want the country to get back on track, it is time our leaders step up to the challenge and begin planting the seeds for a different Venezuela beyond making electoral gains.

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    • I have to say, I was a bit perplexed about Mr. Contreras’ move. I mean, what on Earth does he expect to get out of this?

      The only valid explanation is that he knows more than we do, and he’s trying to become the new Ismael Garcia, and continue holding on to power in case Chavez falls. In other words, he probably believes the Revolution has its days numbered. That, in itself, is somewhat interesting.

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  14. We have to come to terms with facts. Hitler and the whole bunch of the National Socialists and willing collaborators were human beings. Genocide and plain old vengeance was old when they came to power. They were methodical and modern about it. So were the Soviets, if for slightly more “rational” motivations, and not driven by raw racism, for example. Only the scale and the concurrence of ugly things do make them stand out.

    On the other hand, comparisons and systematic study of every phase of the birth of an authoritarian and/or totalitarian regime is worth studying. Maybe it’s exceptional to use nazism, given the end results. But the comparisons are valid if the behaviors are similar. Auschwitz happened much later in the game, than say, the S.A., S.D., or the connivance with established parties and economic actors. Say we compare Tobias Nobrega with Hjalmar Schacht. Say we compare a pair of obvious thugs (later discarded) like Ernst Roehm and Gregor Strasser with Rodriguez Chacin or Eliecer Otaiza.

    Of course, showing a wider view of history and using examples other than the Nazis might give a refreshing perspective. And avoid Godwin’s law.

    I particularly like the comparisons with Peron’s Argentina. There you have your Latin American Fascist and Socialist, a military man, who rode on waves of social resentment and was elected.

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    • Not to forget: the strange coincidence in language and worldview between a late-day peronista (a real, sincere one, and thus a fascist) like Norberto Ceresole and chavismo. “Caudillo, Pueblo, Ejercito”, the unity of the three, the function of “Apostoles, Acolitos” (meaning the suckups of the Caudillo). Where have we heard that?

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  15. Why on do journalists NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER ask what Chavista honchos think about pluralism and alternative between parties?

    This Eustoquio is a fucking bastard, just like the rest.

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  16. The line in the sand comment is a good one. What’s maddening is that there’s not necessarily a pattern or specific target except for what’s convenient at the moment. It’s like being stuck in an elevator with a bunch of people and a drug crazed lunatic in the center is wielding a very dangerous knife and you’re not quite sure when (or if) he’s going to strike and in what direction.

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  17. With regards to “Dictator, or not quite yet a Dictator” debate. There is a principle in national defense that says that a country designs and builds it defenses against its neighbors not on the basis of what it thinks that neighbor WILL do, but on the basis of what it CAN do.

    In this case, Chavez now has the power to expropriate private property at will. He has the power to expropriate banks at will. He has all the powers that we tend to identify with dictators. He has the power to make laws (Enabling Law) and the power to decide what those laws and even the Constitution mean (total control of Supreme Court). I suppose when the enabling law is about to expire, he can write himself another one. Ridiculous, you say? Perhaps, but what is going to stop him?

    Whether he will use or intends to use those powers to their full extent is irrelevant. What is important is that he can, and everyone knows he can. I say that so long has he has the power of a dictator, he is one.

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    • EXACTLY. It’s enough that he can, it is aggravating that he sought to be able to. And now we have to trust his good will and see what he does before declaring him a dictator. Am I mad, or are Venezuelans totally out of it?

      If there were ONE lesson I wanted Latin Americans to learn from their own experience and from the success of their northerly neighbor, is this. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. of America were wary of having a government that could act like the King (of the United Kingdom) and tried to ensure that this would never be. They never trusted the good faith of unknown, unborn persons in the future. They knew that it might be that they were respectful of others’ liberties and lives, but it was even better if they were not tempted at all, that good people would despise such powers anyway; in this way, also, bad people would be less drawn to government.

      Bad laws, stupid ideas (institutionalized) and the social situations they produce are like unarmed booby traps. Just waiting for somebody with the tools and the lack of scruples to arm them and spring them on their enemy. The so-called “Fourth Republic” left more of these lethal contrivances that I care to remember. Laws authorizing the President to do this and that. No economic guarantees for decades. Arbitrary power for any bureaucrat. And PDVSA. A huge population living in squalor, in the shadow of oil wealth, around the major cities and full of feelings about their “entitlement”. And ideas about the State, society and socialism (“comeflor” kind) that are completely at odds with reality. See what Chavez did with these.

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  18. The icing on the cake is this Chavez quote from Wapo:

    “They will not be able to create even one law, the little Yankees,” said Chavez, who brands his opponents as stooges of an imperialist U.S. government. “Let’s see how they are going to make laws now.”

    I do think the new enabling law is as sinister as it gets.

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    • Quico,
      It’s going to become more difficult to translate what Chávez will be saying in the next two years. English speakers will think you cannot be translating correctly, it just cannot be that mental. It’s really getting to the point of “Ustedes no van a poder hacer un carajo, lerolero, se jodieron y se van a seguir jodiendo, el pueblo va a coñacear (sic) a los burgueses” (on another day stating it was meant to be figuratively)

      Some years ago Hugo was doubting about the stories on Idi Amim:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/6630903/Hugo-Chavez-doubts-brutality-of-Idi-Amin.html

      He won’t get that far, that’s for sure…but the discourse…oh, my God, his discourse.

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    • I said it once, and I’ll say it again: other than the corrupt, the radical ideologue, or the hopelessly infatuated … there is no one normal left in chavismo.

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  19. JC,

    I agree with you that the main goal of the enabling law is to instill fear.
    Most people are more intimidated by a formal law or decree than they are about what they perceive as individual abuses of power.

    Psychologically it is different from seeing someone transgressing appropriate limits to get his way, than to see it cast in law.

    We are used to Chavez doing what ever he wants and lashing out at others in a capricious way, but with this law he is officially announcing that there is much more to come and that you better get out of his way.

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  20. Since there is so much talk about the Nazis, let me recommend a powerful and insightful book I read recently: “Defying Hitler” by Sebastian Haffner. The English title is misleading, but besides being a truly good book, the story behind its publication is fascinating. The manuscript, which ends abruptly, was written in England by a German (an Aryan) right before the outbreak of WWII, but it was published only in 2000, a few years after the author’s death. The writer’s son discovered the manuscript while looking through his father’s papers. The book is an impassioned personal narrative that looks at how German society transformed itself from a free democracy to a nation ruled by a totalitarian thug with a crude ideology.

    “Defying Hitler” captures the feel of interwar Germany as seen through the eyes of a young man from a solid and cultured German family. The book is replete with interesting episodes, poignant moments and perceptive observations. Haffner remembers that when Rathenau, the highly respected German statesman, was assassinated in 1922, Germans were shocked and hundreds of thousands of them attended his funeral in a spontaneous show of mourning and respect. And all these Germans knew that Rathenau was Jewish. Scarcely twelve years later even a small fraction of such public outpouring of mourning for the death of a German Jew became unthinkable. Before Hitler rose to power most well educated Germans viewed him with disdain. They saw Hitler as sinister and uncouth, but until the last two years of the Weimar Republic few of them feared that he will actually rise to power. Ironically, right before Hitler became the Chancellor, some among the German elite started to console themselves with the thought that one of the quickest ways to get rid of this demagogue is for him to become the head of government. They assumed that within months Hitler will be so discredited that he will have no option but to resign.

    The book has a palpable sense of urgency. Remember that it was written in England when Hitler was firmly in power but before he inflicted most of his evil and destructive acts. Haffner knew that war was inevitable. His intended audience were people outside of Germany who although had no sympathy for Hitler were still somewhat naïve about the meaning of Hitler and the Nazis.

    Notwithstanding the huge historical and cultural differences, human nature being human nature, Venezuelan readers will find parallels and similarities with the changes in Venezuela during the last several years.

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  21. I would like to go on record as being a thorough and enthusiastic supporter of the Enabling Law, and of the efforts of the Government of the Venezuelan Nation to crack down on the oligarchic and late capitalist opposition.

    You folks ought to be ashamed of yourselves. But then, your behaviour over the last decade has shown that you have very little capacity for shame.

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    • Who typed this in for you as I am sure you can not read or write? Is your head up Chavez’s ass? How can you not see what is happening to OUR country? You are dead last in all of South America with the most resources! We can only hope that we get to put your ass in jail someday.

      Blame, Blame, Blame someone else. No! Chavez has been in power for 12 long years. There is no one else to blame. It is his (your) fault! I am Venezuelan; and I would love to meet you in a bar as I would beat the shit out of you!

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    • Let it be on the record, wherever that is, that an anonymous chavista troll is supportive of the Enabling Law, surprising absolutely no one.

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  22. I won’t be responding to any of you folks, since I don’t believe in debate with the enemies of the common good.

    Chavez or Death!

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    • Such a typical response of an ( irresponsible) RBC. This seems to be the classic chavista in action: someone who cannot, or does not know how to, engage in a debate. As someone else said, don’t feed the troll (and I truly believe that ALL chavistas are trolls: beings who are not able to think for themselves).

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  23. …. Just thought I’d drop in for a moment to share an article from Human Rights Watch on a little-noticed (well, I hadn’t noticed it, anyway!) draft decree proposed by the Government of Ecuador regarding control and registration of international and local ngo’s in Ecuador. Assuming this article to be true (I think HRW is fairly reputable outfit), I think I see a pattern emerging here… Thanks to Boz for this! http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/12/17/ecuador-drop-plan-control-civil-society

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