Love Chávez; Hate the Government

Some friends invited me to the Comuna Cacique Tiuna, the big new housing development behind the Poliedro, in Caracas’ southwest corner. I tagged along hoping for some insight on low-income housing in Chávez’s Venezuela, and on the people who benefit (and suffer) from it.

Our contact at Cacique Tiuna was the head of the Communal Council there, a lovely, very friendly lady who also happened to be a hyper-partisan chavista. We asked her to introduce us to some recently resettled families, so she took us to meet the Spokeswoman for one of the new buildings, handed out to 50 families brought up from the shelter in the La Rinconada stands in the last few weeks.

Before we’d really managed to ask the first question, the building spokeswoman was off on a rant about how useless the government was.

“They told us we’d get to coordinate with the national government to decide who got which apartments, but it wasn’t like that at all. They just forgot all about the Popular Power (poder popular) and started handing out the apartments to whoever they wanted … plus they don’t really coordinate with each other, so you have two ministries plus the vicepresidency, plus another foundation – all handing out apartments here. Nobody asks for our opinion.”

I found this bizarre. I’d expected that maybe some disgruntled chavistas might take me aside and, under their breath, mumble their frustration about the government out of their handlers’ earshot.

But this wasn’t like that at all. The spokeswoman was ranting right in front of her communal council head, a woman with the power to throw her out of her apartment if she wanted to. As her chavista neighbors came in and out of the building, they’d stop by and join the little circle all casual like.

Clearly, Pyongyang it ain’t.

The rest of the visit was all like that: bitching and moaning about shoddy building work, bad urban planning leading to sewers that overflow, deteriorated rainwater collection leaving the area prone to flash floods, and the looming fear these recently homeless people felt that the buildings were so rickety that as soon as a hard rainy season comes they could be made homeless all over again.

Maybe a few years ago chavistas bitched about the government under their breath, but that was then. These days, there’s no taboo about it anymore.

Of course, the story is entirely different when you ask about president Chávez himself. Genuine gratitude and real warmth shine through whenever people talked about him. There wasn’t anything coerced about it, as far as I could tell: people seemed genuinely delighted to look up to him as their leader.

But the disconnect between the way they saw him and how they viewed his government struck me as … weird.

In fact, if I let myself tune out the sporadic incantations of personal loyalty to Chávez that would pepper their rants, I could easily forget myself altogether, losing sight that I was in one of the flagship projects of the Gran Mision Vivienda deep in chavista Caracas, and imagine I was listening to a gaggle of ranting escuálidos.

This gap between people’s perceptions of the government and their perception of Chávez isn’t new. Chávez’s personal popularity has outstripped his government’s approval for most of the last decade. But the gap seems to be widening, in ways that have important political consequences.

What you see in Cacique Tiuna is a new discursive standard at work, a set of ground rules about what is sayable and what is un-sayable in polite company.

Just as you would tune out anyone who said, “personally, I hate all niggers, but…” people in Cacique Tiuna are not willing to engage in conversation with someone who launches a head-on attack on the president.

It takes a real effort of the escuálido imagination to picture just how socially unacceptable that is in the social universe they inhabit. To East Side ears María Leon’s speech during Chávez’s Memoria y Cuenta might have seemed insanely extreme, but in Cacique Tiuna her outraged response to any direct attack on Chávez is just common sense.

Faced with this kind of knee-jerk solidarity with the president, it’s easy for opposition minded people to throw in the towel, picturing chavistas as an unthinking horde. Of course, when we do that, we fall directly into the rhetorical trap Chávez has set for us, and we shut ourselves off from the possibility of engaging a broad swathe of middle-of-the road Venezuelans who love Chávez and hate his government.

Chavistas are not an unthinking horde. You can engage them, critically, seriously, about shortcomings in the central government (shortcomings that they’re very lucid about) … but only so long as you leave Chávez out of it.

That, ultimately, is the price of entry into the conversation.

Perhaps you think that’s too high a price to pay. But it’s important to be clear eyed about what that means. You need to grasp that in demanding that Oppo leaders “take the fight to Chávez”, you’re demanding that they engage the 15-20% of the country in classes A, B and C at the cost of a fatal rift with the bulk of the 75-80% of the country in classes D and E.

The real fault-line running through the February 12th primary campaign, I think, has been between the three candidates willing to pay that price (Capriles, Pérez and López) – and those not willing to (Machado, Arria, and Medina).

And that’s one thing we can be grateful for: after 13 years struggling to settle this question, the opposition is on the verge of putting this debate to bed. February 12th is, after all, just around the corner.

109 thoughts on “Love Chávez; Hate the Government

  1. I do not know what to think. Is it just blindness or ignorance? It makes me quite sad how caudillista our society is. It is impossible to separate what government is and does to the president especially in such a presidential-driven country as Venezuela. But after reading this, it only reaffirms that this “revolution” is all about Chavez and Chavez alone, neither his comrades nor the people.
    I love the last three paragraphs. They gave me a little bit of hope, that finally we are taking the right path to end with all this nonsense.
    Regards

    • “Is it just blindness or ignorance?”

      This is exactly the kind of thing I was getting at when I wrote that it’s easy for opposition minded people to throw in the towel, picturing chavistas as an unthinking horde, and when we do that, we fall directly into the rhetorical trap Chávez has set for us…

      We really need to stop doing that. It’s not blindness. It’s not ignorance. It’s that heady sense of empowerment you feel when you have nothing and somebody powerful tells you again and again, in highly emotive language, that you matter.

      • Yes, I know and my Christmas dinner show it to me when part of my family came out of the Chavista closet. But at the same time, people do not see the whole picture. And how do we get them to see the whole picture? If they refuse to believe that the messiah-commander-president is not what they were waiting for. At least, HCR can show it in his work in Miranda, that something good can be done by different folks.

        • My sense is that people can come around if

          A-You don’t step on the Attacking Chávez landmine
          and
          B-You reassure them that there really is a path to a better future that they can support without betraying their values.

          • If you look closely you can see many similarities with a religion cult. Only this time is a religion to a person. You can take a very reasonable person, intelligent, curious and open-minded and have a really long and nice conversation. But when the subject turns to Chávez they shut themselves and are willing to hear nothing from you. The same thing with cults or sects.

            This very single commentary, this A and B are very clever indeed. I used to have a notion that you can’t have a conversation with a chavista, but this article put the seed of doubt in that notion.

            • I think a lot of Latin American ills can be traced to the fact that schools (assuming the majority of the population gets any schooling at all) don’t really encourage or even teach critical thinking. Most public schools from Mexico to Argentina instill their students with very few lessons outside of obeying the teacher and doing exactly what you’re told. Don’t think up a new, better or more creative way of doing things because it’s just not acceptable. I think the most important lesson I was ever taught was by a teacher I had in the fifth grade who told us to always question everything and made sure everyone understood what this meant.

              In a society where people think critically citizens view gov’t with at least some suspicion and form their own opinions, even if they are weak and founded on emotional arguments. Critical thinkers can turn on their own party or a leader they voted for if they feel that their actions have passed into the realm of the unacceptable. However, if you have a large percentage of people who don’t really understand why judicial independence is a good thing or why separation of powers exists, you have the recipe for the anarchical, oppressive governments that seem to sprout everywhere in Latin America. That video of Maria Leon defending Chavez reminds me of hyper-religious people that use the Bible to defend their arguments even if the person they’re arguing with is unlikely to be convinced by it. “But in the book of Ezekiel it says that….”

              Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up marginalized in society or maybe I’m just too anti-caudillo, but the cognitive dissonance that it must take to complain about the gov’t yet defend and adore the very head of that gov’t is just sick.

            • I agree with you. In the end all that matters is education. When you take a child and start to tell him since pre school that he isn’t allowed to make mistakes, that the teacher is right, that he can’t make questions at the end of the process you get an adult that is mentally impaired and with low self steem. There is a quote of Simón Rodríguez that struck me deep and is in spanish: “enseñen a los niños a ser preguntones, para que pidiendo el por que de lo que se les mandó a hacer, se acostumbren a obedecer a la razón: no a la autoridad como los limitados, ni a la costumbre como los estúpidos”.

              In my faculty I have seen people that can solve a hard problem of calculus and stand up and applaude the great revolution against Mubarak in Egipt and three weeks later despise the “intervención del imperio” in Libia and praise the valiant Khadaffi. Also has saw them support a good teacher for the charge of dean and two weeks later retrieve that support because that teacher wasn’t chosen by the party leaders. And why? you ask them. And you only get the same circular reasoning, he was bad because the party leaders said so, and the party leaders said it because he is bad. You can almost see them drolling and babbling: *Brainnnnns!!!*

              There is a song by Piero and in one strophe he says:

              Estudiar era pecado
              Clandestino era saber
              Porque cuando el pueblo sabe
              No lo engaña un brigadier.

      • Imagine, too, how even more impenetrable the wall to protect Chavez becomes, for chavistas, when the object of their adoration succumbs to a malady — real or theatrical. Many on-the-fencers, before the ‘cancer’ issue came out, surely must have scurried back to their odd position: love the man, hate his government.

        It’s crazy. Here’s a man so tied to a wider government legacy. Yet, that fact is totally ignored by those who persist in their cult of adoration. For them, Chavez has absolutely nothing to do with their environmental woes. How delusional is that? The nearest logic I can come up with is that it’s like adoring Buddha, but hating the trappings of the Buddhist religion. Like adoring Elvis, but hating his music.

        The lack of critical thinking in a large segment of the population is nothing more than a poverty of good education — for centuries. Or so I think.

        But then, there’s Eva. ‘Splain that.

        • Again: in part is education, in part it’s trauma, resentment and growing up in isolation.
          I was reading a couple of years ago an interview with Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Friedrich_von_Weizs%C3%A4cker

          I was puzzled. How could such a guy be so stupid for so long? It was really for a long time.
          Miguel and a friend from the USB were telling me about outstanding professors or students in physics and mathematics who were Chavistas. Most of them experienced humiliations and tackled it differently than others from the same poor background. And resentment stayed there. People (like Firepigette) can now come up and talk about different intelligences and whatever. I think the point is another in those cases.

          And every time they hear or overhear someone referring to the “monos esos” or the “indios esos” or “es que son brutos” from someone who claims to be on OUR side, they go back to being stubborn Chavistas.

          I think one of the things we need to do is to differentiate Chavistas and no longer talk about Chavistas but about supporters of the “gobierno de turno”, “supporters of the military government”, etc.

        • Maybe the best way of thinking about Chavez is that he’s MOM. She may be unhinged. She may even be vicious. She may have created a disaster zone in her home, affecting us, her children. She may even engage in risky behaviour. But she’s still our MOM. She kisses and hugs us, When no one else does, she tells us she ‘wuvs’ us, then throws her arms around us and gives us a little squeeze. We live for that. She’s the only one we have..

          • Not to kill a good line of jokes, but the MOM methaphor can be usuful. A Czech diplomat who live here for some years said that the Chavez cult resembled a lot the Father-like cult around Stalin.
            A have several times heard Chavistas say that Chavez is like father to me. He changed my life. He is the father I never had etc.
            As a general comment to the debate here on this article, I would say that challenging Chavez to a debate is great, since a debate could make people see his horrible personality and ethics when out of his Comandante-Padre character. Maria Corina, Andreina Flores and that BBC journalist all managed to push him out of character and show his true face. It could be an idea for whoever wins the primaries to call Chavez a coward if he doesn’t want to debate.
            That being said, three educated chavistas I know reacted to Chavez “aguila no come mosca” response to Maria Corina by saying that “Chavez se la comio”. In their minds, Chavez won because he showed her he was the king of the hill. How do you react to that level of ignorance? Again, chavistas don’t analyze him as a politician but like a family (or should I say gang) member you support in thick and thin.

      • This is the kind of lucid and detached views of Venezuelan politics that makes me come back every time to read CC. You won’t find this stuff anywhere else. This is a great insight into the state of mind of “average folks” in the country. Is this statistically meaningful? Of course it is not, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Is it representative of the vast majority of the chavista hardcore? I suspect it is, and that’s why it is so valuable. Underestimation of the chavista movement, arrogance of the opposition leaders and plain stupidity (ignoring reality and stubbornly hanging on to generalizations that apply only to 10% of the population) have been the main weaknesses of our opposition.

        • This is the kind of lucid and detached views of Venezuelan politics that makes me come back every time to read CC. You won’t find this stuff anywhere else.-
          National Enquirer? Virtox, I get an opposite reaction from this type of stuff…

  2. I got exactly the same reaction. It was borderlike psychotic. My chavista interlocutor lives in Barinas, and was actually ranting and raving about the FAMILY of Chávez, notably his mother (a thieving witch, he said) and brother (nouveau riche, cynical burglar) and how they’d made Barinas into their own private Idaho.
    He could actually pinpoint and underline huge structural government problems.
    But… He’s got a hearthrob for Chávez. It’s bona fide devotion: His messenger picture is Bolívar, Che and Chávez, in heaven and all that. He’s voting for him again this year.
    Great text.

  3. Not surprising, it has always been like that with these systems, from
    the authoritarian-populist Perón government
    to hard-core dictatorships: a large portion of the population fully
    supports the leader, who “just doesn’t know”. Changes comes either through violent removal of the leader or his natural death or through invasion, unless there is a general change of perception and open debate, as in Chile.

    A friend of mine has a little shop in a poor sector. I actually did part of my
    primary school a hundred metres from there. It’s still Chavista territory.
    She constantly gets people who want to photocopy something (it’s a papelería).
    And some of the clients turn out to be illiterate who, after some embarrased explanation
    (no traje los lentes) ask her to write a letter for
    Hugo Chávez Frías. And then they explain in detail how they don’t get the medicine
    or how they need this or that for housing, schooling and how corrupt all the Bolivarian leaders of the area are.

    Now: Chávez, for obvious reasons, has been the first one to be able to use the full power of TV
    coverage and he goes regional, be it to the people in the Panamericana or to people in Calabozo.

    When Capriles talks about “saludos desde Miranda, haremos lo mejor por toda Venezuela”
    Chávez, in his day-long Aló Presidente, goes like: “Y cómo están allí en el Papotal? El Papotal, el Papotal,
    donde el indio Guacarapuy le metió una puya al conquistador imperial. Por aquí Diosdado me dice que
    quieren hacer un nuevo proyecto para criar sardinas. Les damos el dinero. El Papotal y todos los pueblos de los Llanos Orientales, desde
    X hasta Y”…

    Now: even if we cannot distribute petrobacon, we could make an effort to learn about Venezuela’s geography,
    the local stories and needs. You don’t send the same CV to every organisation. Why do we keep sending the same message to every Venezuelan region?

    Most of our leaders, if they ever went before to any region in the interior, they went on holidays.
    By the way: most of Chavista voters in Western Caracas or the surroundings, just as most hard-core voters of Chávez
    in poor Los Guayos or Guacara in Carabobo have a very recent connection to the Llanos, Falcón, Lara’s mountains, Trujillo.
    Ask them. You will find that a lot of the poor in those central regions that are no longer Chavistas come from families who have been there for many generations.

  4. Like Kepler (and like myself) when I read the article I thought about Peron in Argentina. And Mussolini, and in the present Berlusconi in Italy. True enough, there’s an emotional connection, and the fact that the guy in question really addresses them, name, home city and all while their opponents seem to address everyone like “Dear Incognito living in Nowhere…” or just the people they know in the capital city.

    The chavistas (and peronistas, and others) observe, and know that the government is corrupt and it’s decisions disastrous. But to connect their beloved leader’s leadership of the government with its actions and ways, they cannot. Or will not let themselves connect because they depend on this kind of loyalty to get along, or because of peer pressure, or just because they have something by virtue of Chavez being in power. Some more studying of this situation is in order, if it can at all be done.

    I don’t mean to insult Argentinians, Italians or Venezuelans too harshly, like everyone else they have brains and all, but there’s no way to say it politely (for me)… THEIR &>(*!%@ BRAINS TURN INTO DOG$#!+ WHEN IT COMES TO CRITICISM OF THAT GUY!

    Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez and Pablo Perez are gambling on common sense and desire for a better life winning over , trying not to bring it crashing down by flipping that cursed switch.

    I for my part, had to refrain from hating Chavez or any of his minions. They try hard at that too, to make themselves hated by anyone that does not love them. In fact, most of the time now, I see him and see a tremendously charismatic, sympathetic guy, a man of the people. Then I realize what he’s done, what he’s saying right now, and where the country is going, and know why we have to get rid of him because however charismatic he might be, his track record, ideas and projects are creepy.

    It’s a tough and a sad question, and not just for next election. The ghost of Peron hangs over Argentina two generations later, and sadly, it’s quite possible that that of Chavez will hang over Venezuela.

    • It doesn’t have to do with intelligence but with isolation and resentment and resentment doesn’t even need be socio-economic but historical-identity-related. Think Germany after WWI.

      There is a very important difference between old citizens of the main 4 cities – whether poor or rich – and all the rest. Our regions have been traditionally very isolated and their characters have been underestimated by people from Caracas. Now: all our candidates now were born in Caracas but for Pérez, who was born in Maracaibo. Almost all of their closest team are from the same regions – and their parents.

      It is a very hard challenge. Now, it has been only since last year that our leaders started to travel through the country. I know it is very hard, with all the Chavista mobbing, but had we started years earlier, we would have avoided a lot of things.
      It is not a candidate.

      Take Germany. If you try to check out randomly the sites of any of the 10 main politicians of the main 5 parties you will see that virtually ALL of them are travelling through Germany year after year. Our politicians have never done that.

      Although for Chavismo it has been all the time about Chavez, I am sure some of their leaders had already some experience travelling around the secondary cities…when they were guerrillas setting up bases, because most Boligarchs are Llaneros, etc.

      Once the candidate is selected, the others need to help him by continuing their national tours. In the case of PJ, it wouldn’t hurt if someone like Ocariz would pop up in Acarigua and El Tocuyo and Maturín and someone like Ramos (Fonden) would pop up in Calabozo, Puerto Cabello and El Tigre, for instance.

  5. It is worth noting than in Cuba, a lot of the people support Fidel but hate their life conditions under his rule. The Cuban government (and many other person-focused regimes) consciously has achieved to separate support for a leader from the leader’s actual performance. They achieved this collective schizophrenia through vulgar nationalism, oppresion and personalism, making support a question of loyalty instead of results.
    The Venezuelan government is doing the same. Of course, Chavez masterful way of connecting with regular people around the country magnifies the effort.
    I find that the main obstacle for chavistas to let go of their support for Chavez is that they don’t trust the opposition candidates to care about them, and frankly who blames them? All of the candidates except PP are rich Caraqueno elite. I don’t even trust them myself, I just hope that they will mess things up less than Chavez does.

    • This article and most of these commentaries are examples of walking, talking B.S.
      Lo-oo-k with both eyes open to what Paal is saying above.
      The path is to shatter the illusion of BS surrounding Chavez and his ignorant horde, not
      to coddle and hug and try to understand them. They are nuts! Get help for them and if you
      do not believe what I am saying-then you should look into getting help for yourself.
      This BS psychology stuff you’re pushing, I am not buying.
      Thank’s Paal for nailing this subject.

        • It would be interesting to run some machine learning algorithm tools through data collections describing some parameters with those who support what CharlesC wrote and those who reject that (like you and me).

          I don’t think there will be one single differentiating factor. I think
          there may be some common things many elements of either groups shares with the other group. Still, there will be clusters going around two different vectors.
          And I think CharlesC is not very aware of that and our drama is people like Mr CharlesC don’t ponder on that. At most they will reject others’ opinion as “comeflores”.

          I remember when I was a child and we we were visiting Venezuela’s Mecca, Florida. After my parents were talking with several friends of theirs, embittered Cubans, my dad said something about how he hoped Venezuelans would never become something like that.
          And no, not all Cubans in Florida were like that.

          • There is a song called “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball”-by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show?
            “…like a pyromaniac striking matches, freakin at the freakers ball”
            Point is -this type of article turns Caracas Cronicles into a “freakers ball”
            and I’m freakin’ out at all of the other freaks freakin out too…

  6. Great post Quico. I fear this disconnect is the main challenge to a victory in the presidential elections.

    Clearly, dissatisfaction with Chavista handling of government affairs accounts to a large extent for the (relative) success the opposition has had in regional and local elections. After all, why not vote for Ocariz in Petare or HCR in Miranda even if your heart is somewhat dojo dojito? The majority of the people in the barrios knows that they will do a better job than the chavistas at running local affairs.

    At the same time those same voters will likely be very reluctant to let Chavez go. Not pissing them off with anti-chavez bait seems like a no-brainer to me. If anything, at the risk of sounding facetious, the opposition needs to present itself (and is doing that to some extent) as an improved version of Chavismo, even better than the real thing: we offer more and improved missiones, we’re better at fighting crime, better at building housing, better at delegating local power, less corrupt, etc. All in the spirit of Chavez’ “love” for the poor.

    But is it enough to beat him?

    • I don’t know if it’s enough to beat him. But I know it’s required if we’re to give ourselves a chance.

    • No. The opposition doesn’t need to sell itself as “a better Chávez”. The opposition needs to give a real vision. We want to transform Venezuela into a developed nation where the average kid in Calabozo or Acarigua gets as good an education as in Canada or Denmark, where people in Guacara or Punto Fijo get proper jobs in real industries, where we export manufactures and not only oil, where all politicians need to debate in public, in real time, even the president of the republic, where caudillismo is gone, where people can go out and feel safe as they do in Chile or Spain.

      Chavez voters are ceteris paribus not less intelligent than non-Chavistas (the same with other groups through ages, including Soviet Union, Germany, etc). Many are just very badly informed AND had another life experience. They don’t know anything else and their family education was crap.

      Chavistas and commies were for decades indoctrinating people in cells they established in slums and secondary cities. We need to establish such cells but this time where people
      learn
      1) to be critical
      2) to know about what pluralism is in democratic societies
      3) to find out what real – not figurative – debates are in other nations
      4) to think about sustainable development (in the general sense, thus: socio-economic, ecology is just a part)
      5) to learn about the time bomb oil is (hard part because somehow both Chavistas and non-Chavistas in general think we can go on for 80 years or more living off oil)

  7. I understand the “emotional connection argument”. I think everyone in the oppo side understands it. There is a difference in how you deal with that emotional connection. My questions is, if you propose the following to all the Chavistas:

    Dear sir or madam, you may choose one of the following:
    a) Continue to have the current,lousy, inefficient and corrupt government with our beloved leader, Chavez, at its center.
    b) Have a better, more effective government, but without our beloved leader.

    What would the result of that be? If it is a) is like staying with a lover that tells you how much he loves you, but cheats on you and beats the crap out of you every time he/she get drunks, which also happens happen 5 nights out of the week. b) would be more like, saying: “OK, I really like this dude/gal, but I am not going anywhere with this relationship so I must finish it”

    I agree with Kepler when saying:
    “Changes comes either through violent removal of the leader or his natural death or through invasion, unless there is a general change of perception and open debate, as in Chile.”

    Nor HCR, nor PP, nor LL are either trying to remove Chavez violently (I hope), nor by causing his natural death (not possible) and not pushing for an open debate (WHY?). They are, in my view, at the very least imitating Chavez and trying to forge an emotional connection with the electorate, which is terrible, institutional-wise in the long term!

    I disagree that you can’t oppose Chavez by criticizing him by risking alienating the people. People “fall out of love” when they start seeing also the flaws of that leadership with… maybe this is a crazy idea, but what the hell… I am just going to say it… with an OPEN DEBATE!

    It has been said before here and I will say it again, it seems like the primaries will be a “great compromise”, not only from those idea-weak candidates that we have that compromise and give in into this attitude, but by those voters who will vote for those with few ideas and not a strong moral fiber instead for those whose policies we think relate more and think will be more effective.

    ps. Emotions are precisely the opposite from rationale. We need to bring the second out in these chavistas, who are both very smart and can be critical thinkers. It is the only way.

    • Bueno chamín call me whenever and we’ll drive out to Cacique Tiuna and you can try it out. I’ll bring the cotufas.

      • Dude, I am not saying to use that wording, or go into a suicidal march and ask these things. But could you present an electoral option under those terms? How can we make the chavistas snap out of the charm? Or are you implying that once you are under the spell, that’s it, it is irreversible.

      • Enough with the “chamín” already… I don’t recall anyone calling you that 8 years ago, when you begun your blogging. Well, except your crazy auntie.

        No te me keplerises, coño.

  8. chavez is a mastermind of rhetoric and charisma to the extent of any evangelical pastor who makes his followers believe he can cure them to walk again. that connection is very tough to fray effectively. i remember a big power couple (election consultants) came from DC on behalf of the oppo around 2005 and said the venezuelans never rationalized their choices, everything was visceral: love and/or hate. they recommendation was: “don’t badmouth chavez even with a rose petal” instead talk about what can be done concretely to solve the worse problems that befall venezuelans, specially the lower classes who suffer most of all. badmouthing chavez is a big NO! that’s why i believe capriles and co have been soooooo intelligent so far. never tangling with him directly. i’m curious as what will happen in the presidential campaign post feb 13th. will he be able to feint and dance around his powerful opponent like cassius clay? anyway please don’t miss ” the ides of march” with george clooney. it’s about a democrat primary race 10 days before the election.

    • I agree and yet: our candidate must be all means challenge Chávez to an open debate and when s/he does, s/he should foresee the excuses or alternatives Chavismo will come up with. And we should go all over the country informing people what a real debate is and how Chávez will avoid it (trying to hide behind others, águila no caza moscas, etc).

      Even if Chávez is apparently better with rhetoric, he can’t debate. The guy is mentally not up to it. And that would show. So we need to show he will be a coward.

      • H&*^&^ yes! Chavez is full of baloney!
        He cares nothing about facts.
        And, what is all of this “evangelical” crap about Chavez
        having this power over people. That is total bull…
        Everyone just open your eyes and call it what it is-
        a freakin’ clown show!

      • If I am not wrong, I don’t believe he’s ever had an open debate with anybody in his almost 13 years in power. More so, every time he is confronted by independent journalists he immediately loses it and insults the person trying to argue. He seems incapable of debating ideas when they are in conflict with his “truth”. This is typical of people with shaky arguments based on the contents of book jacket summaries.

        I don’t believe he’s ever had a debate in his almost 13 years in power. More so, every time he is confronted he immediately loses it and insults the person trying to argue. If not ask Andreina Flores.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew42epeAaAk
        Or this Brazilian journalist:

        He seems incapable of debating ideas when they conflict with his “truth”. He’s the type of guy with a very good memory that reads the summary on the jacket of books and gets his Nietzsche quotes from the Readers Digest to recite them and impress his mediocre collaborators.

  9. this power couple from DC( he was republican spin doctor and she the democrat idem who fell in love in the first bush campaign) and became the most powerful political consultant couple in DC) . they explicitly made us realize there is no use fighting or badmouthing chavez. he is like the black sheep, the no good but lovable brother every family has. when you attack him it’s like attacking your own family. he has made the lower classes really believe he cares about them even if he uses them mercilessly to his own provecho. he uses their own language, expresses himself crudely and crassly to make the class divide even wider. he’s like a pedophile in a way, he bamboozles them with “candy”. but if you attack him you attack el venezolanito vivo, that we all have buried deep inside. that’s why it’s soooo tough and requires a lot of finesse and strategy.
    when MCM bashed him in the AN the middle /upper classes were happy, the lower classes were probably ready to burn her at the stake. ergo maría león etc. sooo tread carefully with the cotufa’s and your questions… i would suggest.

  10. sorry, i got the other way around, carville was the democrat spin doctor, and his wife mary matalin the republican:
    “Carville and Begala’s biggest win was Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992, the first time a Democrat had claimed the White House in 12 years. In 1993 Carville was honoured as Campaign Manager of the Year by the American Association of Political Consultants for his leadership of Clinton’s fearsome and intense Little Rock campaign headquarters, known as the War Room. He later served as a Senior Political Advisor to President Clinton.

    Carville’s long list of electoral successes also includes the 1991 US Senate victory of Harris Wofford over Richard Thornburgh in Pennsylvania; the 1990 gubernatorial victories of Zell Miller of Georgia and Robert P. Casey in Pennsylvania; the 1988 re-election of Senator Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey; the 1987 gubernatorial victory of Wallace Wilkinson in Kentucky; and the 1986 gubernatorial victory of Robert Casey in Pennsylvania.Carville is married to Mary Matalin, who was the deputy campaign manager of George Bush’s re-election bid in 1992. The couple wrote All’s Fair: Love, War and Running for President, the best selling political memoir in American history.
    Carville’s second book, We’re Right, They’re Wrong, A Handbook for Spirited Progressives, is a no-nonsense guide to the real meaning and likely consequences of the present day Republican agenda. We’re Right, They’re Wrong hit number one on the New York Times Best Seller’s list in March.”

    so even though rodrigo may be right in theory, and i agree with him, if one has to dance around chavez, just like clay to make him tired, to win the fray, then so be it… we have to do whatever it takes.

  11. Quico,

    This is an important insight in the phenomenon of Chavismo. I think that the core reason for this is a cultural and educational lack of critical thinking skills amongst the majority of the Venezuelan population. It is this deficiency that leaves a population intellectually vulnerable to a populist demagogue. When we examine it in that light, the ultimate solution is in serious reforms of the education system, something few would argue against.

    • “…a cultural and educational lack of critical thinking skills amongst the majority of the Venezuelan population. It is this deficiency that leaves a population intellectually vulnerable to a populist demagogue..”

      But, hey– with all relevant stacks of mutatis mutandis — how about the Tea Party fanatics, etc. in the US your definition also covers? Texas is an outstanding example..

      I too believe that Quico highlights an important issue and challenge. Would that desirable, serious reforms of the educational system suffice. Unfortunately, phenomena like these are complex and/though context specific, call for multifactorial analyses and measures, hoping for long term results, if ever. Historical analogies, cited by others (Argentina, Germany, Italy and, why not, Stalin´s USSR, for example).

      I am sure you are aware of all of this. However, the question now is how to cope with the challenge between now and October, And Quico´s “reality show” suggests paths — like outreach, listening, recognition and understanding, dialogue, which also means going out beyond Caracas and major cities, as stressed by others. And devising competitive communication skills not limited to heaven on earth promises, kissing babies, calling grandmothers by their first names and recalling or inventing anecdotes related to the area.
      No short order.

      • Every time you find yourself thinking any variation on “the reason this happens is that they’re stupid (or uneducated, or deluded, or childish, or…)” you need to be aware you’re falling into the rhetorical trap Chávez has set for you como un conejito…

  12. If the opposition candidate can communicate a credible vision for a better country it will help a lot. However, the question is how to make it credible? One way would be to say “Look at this crime reduction in the slums program they have in Brazil, we will do that here”, which sounds better than “We will lower crime”. Chavistas don’t believe in words from the opposition candidates. How to raise the credibility?
    First off, if you support D and E people, even in a blatantly populist way (giving away washing machines), people will say “ese gobernador si atiende a la gente”. This strategy has the obvious problem that the oppo can’t compete with gov in resources to give away or media attention given to those events. Another PR stunt could be to live for two weeks in Petare. For chavistas talk is cheap except if it comes from Chavez.
    A Venezuelan friend once told me that a venezuelan will not forget if somebody really helps him without reason. Chavez has shown thousands of times that he cares about Venezuela and poor people, and that is significant part of his credibility. Credibility will also convince ni-nis which is maybe even more important in the short term.

    • How will they process their loss? Simple. Chavez enters the pantheon of deities. But he’s still “around”. Nothing changes, if the chavistas remain in power. Chaos continues.

      • I’m not so sure about that. Will they continue to support “el régimen” if the master dies? Will they rabidly, blindly vote for Diosdado or Maduro once Chávez is gone? There’s a lot that could happen, not the least of which are the internal wars within chavismo that are sure to appear.

        Let’s remember that peronismo was a saco’e gatos after Perón died.

        • I’ve seen what Quico describes over and over again. People like Chavez.

          I think if Chavez is not a factor, Chavismo doesn’t have a chance. People do not identify with anybody else in government. I think even Jaua even acknowledged this in an interview a few days back.

        • You’re probably right. Chaos will reign. (But Chávez will still be “around”, come what may.) When I considered a political status quo for Venezuela, I was thinking about two words: Raúl Castro. But of course, my comparison is weak.

      • Syd,

        I have said it before. I will say it again. Without Chavez, there is no Chavismo. There is no ideologically consistent philosophy or political policy within Chavismo. Only Chavez’s personality and charisma holds the whole shebang together. If Chavez dies, there is no one to take his place. The illusion of “poder popular” dies with him. His followers will morn, but when the tears have dried, they will wake up from the spell and want someone to put an end to the chaos.

        • Roy, can you explain what the “ideologically consistent philosophy” of Peronismo is? There isn’t one. But it’s extremely telling to note that non-Peronist politicians in Argentina have never truly gotten a lasting foothold.

          So who wins elections there? Not the one who is most like Peron, but rather the one who convinces people they can bring back the feelings of the “good old days of Peron,” which they mainly do through populist promises. (Much like he did. His ideas weren’t recipes for lasting success, but things that made people feel good at the time. Sound familiar?)

          When you say there is no chavismo without Chavez, you may be right. If that’s true, there is no peronismo without Peron – but there is peronismo post-Peron. Beware.

          • A girl from Argentina was talking to a Flemish friend of mine. The one from Argentina told her as if nothing: “sho, sho no soy raciiiista, sho lo que soy es clasiiista”.
            And she said that without blinking.
            Perhaps it has to do with that: as long as there is such a strong group with that attitude, there is room for populists claiming to do it better…never mind the Kirchners became rich and their admirers didn’t.

            • claro que la argentina pudo darse el lujo de negar ser racista, ya que cuando le pregunté a un mendocino, durante mi visita a Mendoza, que por qué no se veían distintas razas, me contestó: “a los negros y los indios los mandamos al frente de batallas previas.”

              I don’t know if he was kidding or not. I suspect not.

            • Syd,
              I’d like to see the original, but take a look at what I read some time ago:

              As Bolivar proclaimed, “In accordance with Article 3 of the Constitution” ‘all of the slaves useful for service in arms will be sent into the army.’”
              “If I am not mistaken,” he continued, “this is not declaring the freedom of the slaves and is using the facility that the law gives me…. Would it not be useful that they acquire their rights in the field of battle and that their dangerous numbers be reduced by a powerful and legitimate means?” (Bolivar. Bellotto & Correa. São Paulo: Ática, 1983, p. 50).”
              Letter to Santander

            • el gran libertador (pero no de todos) tenía sus defectos. Claramente no fue tan libre pensador, como los bolivarianos quisieran. No pudo superar los pensamientos de su época, cuando se despreciaban las razas más oscuras que las de uno.

          • I imagine we all have some examples, which at first glance seem like complete hypocrisy, but then we realize it’s quite sincere. I will say this – I know quite a few Argentines in Argentina, and many out, and my favorites (with about two exceptions) are the ones who left. Either something changes when they go, or there’s something inside them that makes them go, but they are definitely a different breed. Or mentality, anyways.

    • Peronismo in Argentina will look like remembering your dead great aunt compared to what we are going to have to endure here for the next 50 years.

    • Cuidado con hacerle el juego de la contra-informacion a Chavez. Si estas informaciones son desmentidas por los “hechos” (es decir, si el hombre sigue mostrandose “saludable” y no pasa nada de aqui a octubre), Chavez volvera con la cantaleta de la conspiracion, el caracter cuasi milagroso de su curacion, su voluntad heroica de “superhombre, etc, etc., y todo esto reforzara su imagen de “imbatible” ante sus seguidores.

  13. It’s obvious that the problem in Venezuela isn’t that it has a Chavez but that it has a large portion of its population that would support someone like Chavez. Even if Chavez goes, there’s nothing that would prevent another Chavez from rising other than having the necessary charisma/BS skills to pull it off.

    In regard to how to talk about Chavez with hard-core chavistas, just ask them this question: Imagine that you need an operation to save your life: who would you want performing the operation? A doctor who is an expert in the field and can do the operation with his eyes closed but who won’t even bother to learn your name? Or your best friend, who has been with you since birth and who once jumped into an alligator-infested river to save you, but who couldn’t tell the difference between an operation and an apparition to save his own life?

    You certainly shouldn’t criticize Chavez at an emotional level, or anything that makes it look like you’re simply insulting him. But “zapatero a tus zapatos”. You don’t get a philosopher when you need your car repaired; you get a mechanic. And as likeable as they think Chavez is, it should be obvious that the guy isn’t a mechanic.

    • “Even if Chavez goes, there’s nothing that would prevent another Chavez from rising other than having the necessary charisma/BS skills to pull it off.”

      That’s not nothing. Chávez is a once-in-a-lifetime freak. Where will chavistas find another person with that kind of magic touch?

      • Agree. Even if chavistas were to become rational and seek a competent representative, smack-dab on the spectrum of rationality to insanity, they’d be hard-pressed. For, that type of individual is a hard enough find in most political societies, let alone one that has been inundated by a cult of personality. Reasonable ‘winners’ who want to lead and who, in turn, are able to gain the support of masses of a population, are slim windows in the history of most nations, even those where education has greater critical mass.

      • “That’s not nothing. Chávez is a once-in-a-lifetime freak.”

        He didn’t fall from the sky. These characters arise when people look for them. Remember Sarah Palin. ;)

      • In Venezuela. They will find him in Venezuela.
        He is Venezuelans’ golem.
        Chavismo may get out of power for a time without him but it will come back less we do something sustainable to prevent that. Think Peronismo.

        • He may be Venezuela’s golem, but anyone else will be Venezuela’s bilbo, or frodo, both succumbing as would anyone else to the evil ring of the petrostate. Taking the petrostate down is the “something sustainable to prevent that”.

  14. I would love to hear the opinion of a sociologist. Anyone here?
    It occurs to me that this issue has to be tackle slowly but consistently at the base, with someone living in there, working with the “spokewoman/men” of the community, just simply saying things like “how come Chavez doesn’t know? If he’s their boss!” type of thing. Undermine their love, opening their eyes.
    A “foreigner” won’t be able to do that.

  15. Lesssons learned, my point again. As Carolina says bottoms up, and top to bottom. The opposition needs to say waht could have been done with the resources (people, time and money) that venezuela had over the last 14 years.
    The fact is that this regime hasnot got the best zapateros to show for; as for money and time, they have misussed over a trillion dollars and one and half a generation’s worth. Add to that that the society has been deeply divided and that the exodus of qalified people has become a real handicap for the future.
    When we hit bottom, and eventually we will, we need to make sure the “peron bomb” is dismantled in advance. We need to make sure, the narrative helps everyone understand WHY we failed, and then we will be able to rebuild on solid basis.

    I agree attacking Chavez is a No-No on the short electoral cycle term, but man, if the populist petrostate model is not challenged, we will never learn and wi will never trully develop.

  16. I think some here are mixing “winning” with “truth”.
    And, the worshippers of Chavez view him as a/the “winner”.
    Furthermore, those adorers think Chavez must possess the truth
    since he obiously won. Mindset built on lies…

  17. Quico, You have outdone yourself: Your RACIST {yes, I am SHOUTING} comment, “I hate all niggers” is inexcusable. YOU ARE ONE RACIST MF PIG AND I AM GLAD THAT YOU ARE NO LONGER PERMANENTLY LIVING IN MY COUNTRY. PEOPLE LIKE YOU BELONG IN ALABAMA OR MISSISSIPPI SO THAT YOU CAN BE WITH SOME OF THE IGNORANT AND RACIST BASTARDS THAT LIVE THERE.
    I will preempt your response in which you are likely to say that I have taken your comment out of context. Why would you insert these vile words into your diatribe? BECAUSE YOU ARE A RACIST PIG; otherwise, you would have found another way to make whatever perverted point you were trying to make.

      • Kepler, I see that you have tried to come to the rescue of your racist compadre, Quico. Nope, it did not work and places you in the same ilk as him.

        • You pretend to shove racism to others when you are the big racist here. You are repulsive. You can’t even identify where racism is and where it is not.

          • How am I the big racist here? The OP mentions “niggers” in his post and I take exception to this. You, in turn, support the OP by pointing to a web site that makes light of racist comments. You, Kepler, are the one who is repulsive by supporting racism. Identify that!

      • Let’s put it this way…(Almost) any editor in an American newspaper would have thrown out that unfortunate metaphor.

        • I see your point. I also see Quico’s who was merely trying to use an analogy, as in to illustrate to the el-pipos-make-mountains-out-of-molehills: Just as you would tune out anyone who said, “personally, I hate all niggers, but…” people in Cacique Tiuna are not willing to engage in conversation with someone who launches a head-on attack on the president..

            • Yes, unfair. And, not accurate.
              I am ready anytime anywhere to “launch an attack on thePresident
              who I don’t even say is a “President” he’s a freakin dictator and
              that is telling the truth. Why in the world even mention something like
              the freakin N word…

    • Good grief, Pipo! I am extremely thin skinned when it comes to possibly racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory remarks or even innuendos and confess I too was initially put off by Quico´s post. Even after, rereading and putting in context, I still might have preferred a more politically correct wording (like, e,g,, the “n word”), though it is precisely the use of “niggers” that makes his rejection of the imaginary speaker particularly convincing.

      Agree or not with the wording of the message, that is insufficient grounds for calling the sender a “racist mf pig” unless you have other reasons to do so.
      I don´t know what your motives are and maybe I should refrain from commenting, but good grief, Pipo,!

      • Guess what, there are millions of Venezuelans who know the government is a disaster and nevertheless recoiled just as virulently at MCM’s Memoria y Cuenta attack as you did at my N-bomb.

        That’s the point!!!!!

        • Unfair. I will repeat it. What you said is not on the same level as
          what Maria Corina Machado said or did..

      • Pandora,
        I, too, am like the old Tango Tango Fox (maybe you are too young to remember) that used to overfly Caracas when it comes to spotting and rejecting racist/sexist comments. I take exception to the “N bomb”, as Quico has called it, and note that in this day and age it is unacceptable to use the word “niggers”, especially since many of the people who live in the Comuna Cacique Tiuna that Quico mentions in his post happen to be Venezolanos of color (ask me how I know!). Given his excellent command of the English language, unlike other posters here, Quico should have used another metaphor to make his point, except that he deliberately, in my estimation, wanted to offend the very people that he went to visit at the Comuna Cacique Tiuna.

    • Dear El Pipo, is your name arabic? Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be glad to include you in its initiative to ban in all the countries of the world any speech critical of the theo-political ideology known as Islam in all countries of the world. Certain words (e.g. Allah, Mohammed or nigger) are not to be pronounced except by the politically correct designated people (e.g. Muslims or non-whites), or else condemnation will be swift in terms of legal jihad, death threats or accusations of racism.

      • LT maybe there is some truth in what you say. -but-let’s not “go there’
        and the insinuation that I for example am somehow a moslem or jihadist-
        what is it here? Fight night?

        • Bad joke, Like Spanish, Arabic uses the article AL- EL- before names (El Pipo). However, to my mind the ones at fault are not so much the OIC as much as their politically correct enablers in the West, who — as they do not hold non-Western cultures to the same standards they require the West to follow –themselves epitomize racism. But more to the point:
          In Venezuela the fear to criticize Chavez is quite closely related to the fear of being called/thought of as racist.
          The fear to criticize the loyalty of classes E and D is closely related to the fear of being called/thought of as racist.
          And the irony is that, this mutual preference between Chavez and classes E and D has a strong racist undertone that has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with the traditional Venezuelan politics based on ethnic identification.
          MCM is the only candidate that can be forgiven for taking HCF head on because she is a woman, a traditional victim in identity politics. But a white male candidate? No way.
          However, in Venezuelan identity politics, as elsewhere, race trumps gender every time, and just as feminist organizations in the West wind up defending the right to wear a burka, Venezuelan women wind up defending the right to wait in line forever to get baby formula.

          And let us not get into the Venezuelan racial harmony bull.

          For instance, take the new law against discrimination. The preface of the law, which gives the law its interpretative framework, defines discrimination as a crime against non whites exclusively (even if the actual text of the law is color neutral).
          And what about that amendment –one that was eventually rejected in the referendum– that said that the Venezuelan state would recognize as Venezuelan the Amerindian and African cultures to the exclusion of the European? Ring any bells?

          • LT, What a bunch of nonsense! So, you speak Arabic and, hence, know the difference between “El” and “Al”; you purport to be analyst that can build a long bridge between Western interpretations of the Muslim world and Venezuela; you are an expert in Venezuelan race relations, and the laws that govern such relations! Yet, you do not know that El Pipo is a criollo name!
            Am I missing something? Any more attributes that you want to give to yourself? Are you perhaps the infamous former American Football player “LT” Lawrence Taylor?

  18. Well, let’s look at Iran. In Iran the role of the bureaucracy (of which Ahmadinejad is part) is to absorb all the blame, which would otherwise be directed against the mullahs and the basij militias. Also the bureaucracy (Ahmadinejad) has the role of inciting opposition hatred on purpose and thus direct/deflect opposition action. That is why Ahmadinejad specializes in saying really inflammatory things. And the system really works!!!

    Rangel Silva is Chavez’s Ahmadinejad. Chavez uses the rural vs urban split just like the Iranian regime does. Like them he recruits into the militia from backwater rural areas that are kept in the dark ages for exactly this purpose. There are many similarities…

    Only when the living conditions reach levels of utter deprivation and self help brings no relief for generations do the people lose their faith and when they do so it affects their capacity for hope and survival. The statistics in Iran confirm this: Iranian society has dived into mass prostitution, mass drug abuse, and a reproduction rate way below replacement (when it used to be above 5 just a generation ago).

    Venezuelans, especially Venezuelan women, have not suffered nearly enough to get to that stage yet. Only the death of Chavez will save Venezuelans from this fate.

  19. chavez has meticulously created that image of being above and beyond his fractious court of incompetent “ministers”, the worse cabinet in our history. he blames and berates them in public, exactly for that, and these adoring hordes of applauding seals are sooo hipnotized by the man’s “candy offerings” and “i love you when nobody else would” discourse, that they don’t even question that if he’s the captain of the team, and they are all so incompetent, it must be because the said captain is the most incompetent of all, just for naming them.

    chavez couldn’t even manage his barracks cafeteria… but all they see is this miracle worker who promises what they want to hear. even if he later doesn’t come thru.
    how can he be so powerful that a leaf in venezuela doesn’t move without chavez’s knowledge, and at the same time, they rather believe he is a poor innocent victim of his disastrous coterie of the cabinet he himself name and renamed for the nnnth time over.
    i agree that a debate would be wonderful… but i assume the chavistas will see any tough question as an attack of the oppo’s candidate to disqualify their “jose gregorio hernández”. the opposition candidate will have to be very very intelligent to get this man to show his true colors and disqualify himself. i don’t know how…
    .

  20. by the way, yesterday there was a “conversatorio” in librería kalathos about
    “el ser imprescindible, el psicoanálisis del totalitarismo” by dr. rafael ernesto lópez corvo who lives in canada, presently.
    the book is from the editorial “biblioteca nueva”in madrid.
    well, the people arrived to the library, but… it’s the first conversatorio to be held without the book being presented, because?.

    the whole box containing the said title was confiscated presumably by the boliaduana, and on top of that, the owners of the bookstore were forced to pay Bs 6.000,00 or else be prepared to pay 15% on the price of each book in the whole 22 box cargo. i wonder why the GN or whomever it was, found so offensive about a psychoanalytical study about tyranny to “evaporate” the whole box to an unknown dimension?? isn’t it acknowledging our dear leader as one, just by confiscating the offensive title?
    now, of course everybody present yesterday wants a copy. they will come by some other means…

  21. Panamanians “suffer” the same connection with their actual president, he talks to the lower classes, hugs them, eats with his fingers from their plates, ties their shoelaces, etc. Panama is full of billboards that say “ahora le toca al pueblo”. He is brazen, so much so that high class panamanians call the president “Campechano” and they are starting to hate the guy, because his style is aggressive, cannot take no for an answer, he just bulldozes over people and the government is said to be highly corrupted.

    The curious thing is that the guy is very rich and he leans towards the right, the government is basically very busy improving the infrastructure of the country, and the economy is growing impressively fast, even tough that growth is not getting to the majority of Panamanians.

    High class panamanians say that his problem is that he is a businessman and not a politician, but the guy is lapping the field with el pueblo… Just as we used to say about Chavez

    My point is that that emotional connection is doable, doesnt matter if HCR is a sifrino, he just has to talk, embrace, eat and sleep with them, he has to go all in and make sure that he pampers the emotional/irrational side of the majority of venezuelans, just as Chavez does, BUT he must make sure that they see him as a rational manager AND a guy that will bring a TEAM OF CAPABLE MANAGERS that will do their best to fix the problems of the country. He has to separate fact from fiction, he has to be seen as buddy buddy and as a problem fixer.

    I agree completely with Quico, attacking Chavez is a huge mistake, HCR has to attack the government lack of results not Chavez. I think that as soon as he wins the primaries, he should name who will be his cabinet members and they should start campaigning too.

  22. Nice piece. Inexplicable how he remains unaccountable for the giant mess. My observation is that in general, venezuelans are fundamentally conservative people in that they do not welcome change to their daily routines (i.e. they would rather line up like they always do instead of demand fewer lineups, unlike north americans, who complain even before the lineup starts), and they show unwavering solidarity with their fathers (they abandon their critical faculties on that subject, unlike north americans, who will jump at any opportunity to blame dad). All the guide books say, above all, don’t say anything bad about the father of the nation, the Liberator. In my experience, its generally better to keep your opinions about the president to yourself, except in very specific contexts- you have to get a feel for who you are with and what needs to get done. Not out of any fear. Just out of respect for other people and an interest in getting things done rather than getting into arguments. As one educated and progressive middle-class couple put it to me when I asked for their opinion about the president, they said they had made a new years resolution not to talk about politics anymore, to forget about it, to not follow the news. Of course, once I opened up, they both started on a full-on diatribe. Resolution over.

    Maybe a successful politician has to convince people he/she will not upset the general order of things, just make some adjustments, and be careful not to publicly shame the national father figure. That’s not what I would like, but maybe it works. But I have to say after reading this piece, which has a familiar ring of truth to it: it is so strange that a guy who by many accounts is a nightmare to work for, a solitary, paranoid, irrational and manipulative boss from hell, a failed “family man”, a problematic Catholic, a flagrant nepotist, and who carries on publicly like the perfect cartoon of the entitled and resentful despot, is still widely regarded as a national father figure, rather than say, a tiresome windbag uncle to be avoided at all costs.

    • I disagree with that. Venezuelans needn’t insult Chávez, but they have to call things for what they are. Also about Simón Bolívar. The bloke was not even our “liberator”, as much as we have repeated that since he told us to do so. Venezuela was liberated by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans AND others. The sooner we learn about that, the faster we are going to stop following caudillos like idiots.
      Ask people why they are so irrational. They will refuse to accept they are irrational. Then they will start to think it over, at least some of them.

  23. I myself don’t find it weird at all that they love Chavez and detest the government. After all they have plenty to be grateful for to Chavez, they got a whole apartment for Christ sake! A place to live. What’s not to love? I’msure when they got the apartment, the government people made it abundantly clear who was giving it to them. It was not the government, it was not the state, it was not PDVSA or any taxpayers’ money it was Chavez himself like a revolutionary Santa Claus.

    What you have to ask yourself what actual percentage of Venezuelans feel that way. There is a group of Venezuelans that have real reasons to be thankful for, there is another group that are still hopeful that eventually they’ll also have some tangible reasons to be thankful and there are those that lost that hope and are starting to open their eyes and realize it’s more a propaganda facade than a reality (mas bulla que cabulla), that they have a better chance playing the lottery.

  24. This song is dedicated to Mr. Toro and his new found chavista friends:
    (I don’t think he wants to be rescued..)

  25. The underlying problem, ISTM, is that Venezuela’s upper class ran the country for years with indifference and contempt for the masses, especially the non-whites. (AIUI, Venezuela is like most Latin American countries. There is no color line. Most of the population is mixed European and Indian, especially in the lower classes; the upper classes are whiter, in general.) This generated a feeling of deep resentment and alienation. Nobody likes being treated as if he doesn’t matter.

    That’s what Chavez touches. “He’s one of us. He’s for us, when no one else ever was.”

    The cronyism and corruption of the petrostate created the feeling that there was a huge banquet being served, but only to the self-appointed elite. It poisoned any sense of loyalty to the rule of law. Many Venezuelans see that Chavez routinely breaks the law, but don’t much care because they never perceived a truly law-abiding government.

    They don’t care that much that his cronies and stooges are thieves and bunglers – they never saw anything else in the government. They see the opposition as the same people who never gave them any respect or fair treatment.

    The immediate problem is to defeat Chavez. But how can that be done without attacking Chavez, when most Venezuelans still support Chavez? Attacking his rotten underlings will help, but it will be very difficult to persuade these hard-core Chavistas that the opposition in power would be any better.

    Perhaps the oppo campaign’s slogan should be “It’s not his fault.” Attack Cadivi, attack Rangel Silva, attack crime levels, attack the give-aways to Cuba… but then add that Chavez is only the President, he cannot be blamed for all the things these other people do. He’s old, he’s sick, he’s tired.

    Alternatively, deep research to find out what proportion of the population has this idolatrous love for Hugo. I don’t think it can be over 50%. If it is less than 50%, then forget trying to win over Chavistomaniacs. Run an all-out campaign against Chavez and the regime – emphasizing its colossal failings and criminality. Hammer on this until the entire non-Chavistomaniac population is enraged – as they should be – and repudiate Chavez.

    Somehow, the oppo needs to get a majority of Venezuelans to vote against Chavez. They must either persuade some Chavez-lovers to vote against him anyway, or form a majority of Chavez-haters.

  26. Once again, hate to kee ringing in the tune… Stalin dixit: “what matters is who counts the votes…”
    REP auditado, Voto manual, Testigos inparciales en todas las mesas…. la gran tarea de febrero en adelante.

  27. So, in 2012 the true believers still think that it is not their Comandante’s fault because he’s (still!) being “engañao’”. Turns out it is even worse:

    http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/sucesos/protestaban-en-miraflores-y-les-quitaron-los-ninos.aspx

    So the *soldier* who is *beating* you *tells* you that he’s doing it on Chavez’ orders and you still say “No. It’s fulano’s fault”.

    I have no idea of how one would campaign against that.

  28. I remember the last lines of the movie The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist”. To some extent,it relates to this.

    Chavez has managed to make his supporters believe that his “plan” hasn’t worked out because of corruption,” the people around him” et cetera. And i’m sure this is what a lot of the international community of supporters (rich kids reading Marx and Guevara,journalists) use as an argument in every Chavez conversation.

    Chavez’s greatest trick will be(is?) convincing the world he is not the cause of the country’s destruction.

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