Rosita and me

This is how far we’ve sunk…

News this week that Venezuelan Silicon Starlet Rosita, a.k.a. Jimena Araya, a.k.a. the Pran Madame is to be made Regional Director of Human Rights in Aragua for the expropriated PODEMOS party had an odd effect on me today.

Two months ago, the story of how a TV personality turned rent-a-girlfriend turned “prison sexual entrepreneur” had managed to bribe her way out of jail after helping one of her most violent clients break out of his own prison and how she had immediately landed a small role in one of our governing parties would’ve sent me scurrying for a keyboard in a tizzy of furious indignation, with the Monty-Pythonesque twist regarding her announced new role as an activist against “trial delays” (retardo procesal) adding a further spur to furious condemnation. 

Now, as I adapt to the realities of the new, post-7O normal, all I can muster is a contemptuous smirk.

Elections, after all, are about choices. And Venezuela made its choice.

***

In one of the primary debates, back in January, Maria Corina Machado made an appeal to la Venezuela decente to come together to reject Chávez’s project. This reference to “decency” was widely seen as a gaffe, a misguided dog-whistle to the middle-class that only underlined the opposition’s chronic inability to connect with working class voters.

I didn’t write about it at the time, partly because Machado didn’t really strike me as a serious contender for the presidency. But the automatic assumption that references to “decency” were to be understood as excluding the working class unsettled me. It seemed to me a symptom of a deeper rot, this universal acceptance that the 80% of Venezuelans in classes D and E could never see “decency” as a value they could aspire to, relate to, appropriate.

But it wasn’t just my anti-MCM bias that kept me from writing about this at the time. Other subterranean conflicts were at play. As I think back on it now, I realize I couldn’t figure what I found more upsetting – the notion that appeals to decency were offensive to people’s class identity or that decency itself, as a value, had become so alien to NiNis and chavistas-light that even referring to it would turn them off.

I can’t help but think back to that little storm in the primary tea-cup as I read about Rosita’s escapades. Because what jumps out at you isn’t just the bizarre concatenation of absolutely tawdry filth that seeps out of every orifice in this story, it’s the absence of surprise, of shock, of moral revulsion it has elicited.

Newspaper editors have reacted to every twist and turn in the Rosita saga with a shrug, followed nanoseconds later with a smile as they realize “hey! this is a great excuse to splash those spectacular tits of hers across our front page again!”

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m no Victorian. Appeals to prim and proper femininity are not my cup of tea.

But we need to review the score here. This isn’t about a skirt that’s just that little too short or a micro-second boob-flash from a meticulously planned wardrobe malfunction. We’re playing in a league of our own here: Venezuela is now a place where a whore who doubles-up as a pimp can break a mass murderer out of jail, then bribe her own way out of jail and, within hours, be back before the camera with her arms held aloft by regional leaders of one of the parties in the ruling coalition right as she’s touted as someone who’ll help get prisoners out of jail sooner.

As a society, we’re now universally assumed to be ok with that.

And from the looks of it, we are.

Because just over a month ago Venezuelans really did have a chance to speak up and say they would no longer consent to live in the kind of society where whores can just casually take over the running of their political parties from their sons.

But María Corina’s critics were right: there really isn’t a critical mass of people for whom decency was an important enough value for that kind of appeal to carry the day. That’s the hard truth 7-O revealed, and no amount of politically correct sentence-parsing will make it go away.

***

I understand that most of this will come across as just the Guayabo talking, and to some extent I’m prepared to accept that. But another part of me is in a much darker place. I guess this must be what it felt like to be Alek Boyd in January 2007.

It’s always worth remembering that, way back at the very start of our now nine-decade-long debate on the effects of oil wealth on the nation, Arturo Uslar Pietri condemned ever-increasing reliance on oil not just on economic but on moral grounds. Oil threatened to become “una maldición que haya de convertirnos en un pueblo parásito e inútil”, one that could “hacer de Venezuela un país improductivo y ocioso, un inmenso parásito del petróleo, nadando en una abundancia momentánea y corruptora y abocado a una catástrofe inminente e inevitable.”

I picture the 30-year-old Uslar who wrote that paging through news reports on Ms. Araya, and I despair. Because Rosita today stands as a kind of one woman monument to the prescience of Uslar’s universally quoted but virtually unread essay. In its pornographic extremes, her story captures the depth of the rot with a vividness that leaves us with really very little to add.

The greeks knew all along that once a society allows its public sphere to fall beneath minimal standards for the conduct of public life, democracy yields to ochlocracy. Locke knew it. The American founding fathers were obsessed with it. Anybody who really looks at the issue with seriousness can grasp it.

It is, of course, possible to continue one’s dogged refusal to see what is in front of one’s nose. There comes a point when that obduracy requires even more struggle than the opposite: accepting that our moral reserves have run out well ahead of our foreign reserves.

And there’s no International Decency Fund out there to bail us out.

124 thoughts on “Rosita and me

  1. Could this scandal have mattered before the election? Could Ms. Araya have played out a different political card if 7-O has finished differently? Mind you: tales that offer multiple layers of sexism, power grabs and abuse are everywhere… Is this an specific trait of the “faked Venezuela” Uslar talked about? (Uslar, who was himself an heir to Pocaterra’s “Venezuela en la Decadencia”).

    Having said that…. If the crux of our political life is a fight of decency against indecency -as Uslar himself put it, and as I’m sure most of our democratic leaders would agree, how do you fight it without succumbing to it? One of the GOTV activist groups down here promoted its efforts through the use of famed vedette Diosa Canales (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-_dJGD3–4)… Our TV anchors are former models or Media School grads with added surgical features, and we take them for sages and pundits; lesser beauties host bars and advertisments; beauty queens become spokeswomen for banks and industries… It is not the new normal: it is business as usual. And it serves as a huge distraction… An scandal that covers other news,other abuses, and makes the structural matters matter ever less.

    And yet, didn’t our program address that malaise head on? Did Capriles stand for or against corruption? Didn’t we have good and honest politicians? Did it matter? It seemed it did, not for the majority, but for a sizeable and growing fraction of the population.

    Please, whatever way you guys (Juan, Gustavo and you) choose to do so, please keep on writing. It is a way to fight against the Rositocracy.

    • But this is a misreading, GTAvex. Good lookin’ girls leveraging their, erm, assets for career advancement? That’s the old normal.

      Rosita is a pimp – we don’t use the word pimp when we’re talking about women, but she’s a pimp.

      And an accomplice to a mass murderer.

      And now a political leader within the ruling coalition too. That’s the new normal.

      • Cool down, Toro. Whatever happened to innocent til proven guilty? I have heard the same rumors as you, but it’s just gossip. Or do you know personally Rosita’s clientele and are not sharing the juicy details?

        IMO it’s more oblivious that Rosita played the “I am chavista” card and got out of jail in two days after being a fugitive for weeks while the political prisoners (like Judge Afiuni) are rotting in prison and are being denied the most essential things like a fair trial and freedom.

        • I did not misread your article: I simply think we’re not all that innocent. We celebrate the Rositas and give them access to power and fame: power in this case comes not from “tribus judiciales”, but from pranes and boliburgueses… It’s the Socialism of the XXIst Century version the “empowered jinetera”.

          This is only a more obvious rot, but it is still a rot.

  2. And if oil money is the crux, then coming up with what to do with it is at the heart of any solution.

    • Oil money obviously isn’t the crux, at least to anyone with a brain. Venezuela was extremely poor long before discovering oil, much poorer than it is today. And most of Venezuela’s neighbors who do not have oil suffer from the same problems of underdevelopment, low productivity, etc. Many of them are worse off than Venezuela.

      Anyone who could look at Venezuela and think oil is the crux of the problem obviously hasn’t given it much critical thought. If Venezuela didn’t have oil it would be on a similar level to Honduras or Colombia. This is a fundamental reason why your oil oil to cash nonsense doesn’t get at the root of the problem.

      • Get a clue,

        You mention how other nations “suffer from the same problems of underdevelopment, low productivity, etc.”, yet that does not address the argument made by Uslar Pietri, regarding *morality*. Do you you have any information regarding Venezuela’s pre-oil period’s morality levels, as well as those of the other nation to which you refer?

        My comment about oil money said, IF the crux is oil money, THEN any solution has to address what to do with it, making reference to Uslar Pietri’s theme.

        Aside from that, you end stating “This is a fundamental reason why…” but you didn’t give a reason. There was no explanation. All you stated were examples of other nations without oil, and made a statement that Venezuela would be worse without oil. Please tell me the *reason* that oil to cash would fail.

        Frankly, as far as demonstrating critical thinking, your comment fails.

        • The reason is that you aren’t addressing the root of the problem. The root of Venezuela’s problems is not oil. Nor is it “morality”. Venezuela is not poor because it has oil, or because it doesn’t have “morality”.

          One of the main reasons why people think some kind of alternative oil distribution program would be beneficial is because it would take the oil money out of the hands of the bureaucracy and distribute it directly to the people, thus reducing misappropriation of funds, corruption, etc. That’s all fine and dandy (although questionable, because the production/distribution still must be administered by someone) but it doesn’t get at the root of Venezuela’s underdevelopment.

          So even if it worked to reduce state corruption, etc., Venezuela would still be a poor country. And the state would have less capacity to address the REAL roots of underdevelopment.

          • And I find it funny how you (and Quico) try to use Pietri’s words to justify support for policies that he himself never would have supported. Here’s what he said should be done:

            “Es menester sacar la mayor renta de las minas para invertirla totalmente en ayudas, facilidades y estímulos a la agricultura, la cría y las industrias nacionales…La parte que en nuestros presupuestos actuales se dedica a este verdadero fomento y creación de riquezas es todavía pequeña y acaso no pase de la séptima parte del monto total de los gastos. Es necesario que estos egresos destinados a crear y garantizar el desarrollo inicial de una economía progresiva alcance por lo menos hasta concurrencia de la renta minera.

            La única política económica sabia y salvadora que debemos practicar, es la de transformar la renta minera en crédito agrícola, estimular la agricultura científica y moderna, importar sementales y pastos, repoblar los bosques, construir todas las represas y canalizaciones necesarias para regularizar la irrigación y el defectuoso régimen de las aguas, mecanizar e industrializar el campo, crear cooperativas para ciertos cultivos y pequeños propietarios para otros.”

            Does that sound like oil to cash? Does that sound like the neoliberal “adjustments” that the opposition advocates?

            • Get a clue,

              I’m reminded of Bill Maher repeating often that one of the problems people have is keeping two thoughts simultaneously in their heads. You are demonstrating that problem. Let me break it down for you and help you keep them separate.

              The first thought was provided by the post: morality. Uslar Pietri’s contribution was that the oil money would trash morality levels.

              The second thought was provided by you: root cause of poverty/underdevelopment. Your contribution –or lack of it– was to claim oil to cash for distribution does not address the root causes of poverty/underdevelopment.

              So, I request from you again:

              Regarding Uslar Pietri’s point, please provide any indication of morality levels before oil in Venezuela, and morality levels in other poor nations.

              Regarding your root cause of poverty, you still haven’t mentioned what you think are the root causes of poverty/underdevelopment, let alone why cash distribution doesn’t address them. What’s crazy is that you even try to debate yourself by you telling me what “people” think is one of the main reason for supporting cash to oil.

              If you want to discuss with me, ask me what I think; don’t tell me to defend what you think that others think. I’d be more than happy to take on the discussion because I love the subject and I do believe cash distribution addresses the problems, but I’m just not getting from you any indication that your “critical thinking level” is up to par. Here, prove me wrong:

              All I said, and you still haven’t replied after all your “critical thinking” is that “if oil money is the crux, then coming up with what to do with it is at the heart of any solution.” Please, discuss how a solution to a crux about oil money would not have at its heart coming up with what to do with the money.

              Aside from the two main thoughts, you brought up an accusation of my using Pietri’s words “to justify support for policies that he himself never would have supported.” I believe Uslar Pietri would have never supported cash distribution. In fact, I think he would have fought vehemently against it. So, please, point to where I have in any way implied otherwise.

              As to Uslar Pietri’s proposals, I believe he suffered from what I have called the Lord of the Rings syndrome, that if the oil money, like the Ring of Power, was weilded the way he thought it should be weilded, then its power would be weilded right, without realizing that it’s the personalized weilding of it that is wrong. Where is Gandalf when we need him?

              • What’s hilarious is that Pietri doesn’t even mention “morality” a single time in the article linked to here.

                And I don’t care what you think about oil to cash programs, I care what serious people who are actually published on the topic think. Again, hilarious that you apparently aren’t even aware of what the scholarship says on the subject. As for your request:

                “Please, discuss how a solution to a crux about oil money would not have at its heart coming up with what to do with the money.”

                That sentence makes no sense whatsoever. So I obviously can’t respond.

                You’d have to identify what the problem is that you are trying to solve. I assume that you are trying to solve the problem of underdevelopment in Venezuela. But if that’s not the case, then disregard my comments. I’m not interested in discussing Venezuela’s supposed “lack of morality.” Its a racist and disgustingly bigoted generalization.

            • Get a clue,

              What I find hilarious is how you divert attention to the Pietri link’s lack of support for the morality theme, but sidestep Pietri’s quotes given as support in the very same paragraph.

              Now you are just backpedalling, pretending I’m not the one to talk to about oil to cash, when you addressed the issue to me because I am the one to talk to about it, at least on this forum.

              As to the sentence that “makes no sense whatsoever”, that’s the very statement I originally made. If it made no sense, why did you even reply to it as if you know what you were talking about. Again, you’re backpedalling.

              I have identified what the problem that I’m trying to solve. Your assumption is partly correct; underdevelopment is one of the problems that I am trying to solve, but also others

              You’re just not up to par. Go get a clue. Start with:
              http://www.cgdev.org/content/publications/detail/1426486

              • Pietri’s quotes say nothing about morality. They talk about how oil wealth will make the country dependent on it, and unproductive in other sectors. This would presumably happen to any country in a similar situation, thus it means nothing about the particular “morality” of Venezuelans.

                And precisely because you are always talking about the oil to cash programs I assumed that you knew what the scholarship has to say about them, but apparently I was wrong. Funny, in the very first paragraph of the article you link to it alludes to exactly what I was talking about:

                “The authors argue that large oil rents that accrue to the state, together with a lack of formal and transparent mechanisms to facilitate citizen oversight, are a large part of the problem…Too often public money is misallocated and funds meant to be saved are raided, and those living in
                poor resource-rich countries pay the price.”

                So you tell me to ask what YOU think about these programs, not what others think, but then you link to an article that confirms exactly what I said in the first place.

                You aren’t very bright are you Torres?

                Then you go on to admit that the problem you are trying to solve is underdevelopment after all. Again, its like talking to a 4-year-old.

              • Get a clue,

                Pietri’s quote even uses the word “corruptora” a moral issue, so you’re wrong.

                You silly goose, the reason I chose that particular link to the article regarding oil to cash is because it stated exactly your claim about proposers of such an alternative, basically proving that I do know what the “scholarship” to which you refer is saying on the matter.

                You’re also wrong about my not being very bright, by the way.

                I still claim that included amongst the problems addressed by the proposal I support is poverty/underdevelopment. I also observe you still have not stated what you think is the root cause of poverty/underdevelopment. Put that forth, and I’ll tell you how the oil to cash implementation that I support specifically addresses it.

              • Get a clue: “Is it really that hard to simply engage the argument instead of attacking the person?”

                lol

  3. in Venezuela if you have the money, it does not matter how you got it!
    Alex Boyd in 2007? welcome to the club quico, mejor tarde que nunca….

  4. And still, there are six and a half million Venezuelans – and many more abroad – that are the living proof that there’s still some good in our land.

    It’s the same story all over again: you can see the glass half-empty or half-full. It’s entirely up to you.

    As for me, I’m not that concerned about moral decay in our society. There are stupid people all over the world and Venezuela is no exception. Sex, scandal and gossip sell. NY Post, News of the World and Bild come to my mind. The orwellian nightmare is not exclusive to Venezuela.

    I’m more concerned about the moral decay of out leaders. They should know better, but they don’t. I guess Friedman was right: “Where are these angels who are going to organize society for us?”. Not in Venezuela, that’s for sure…

    • Liberalism and Republicanism expect people to behave not innocently, and that is why there are checks against power -which always would corrupt its holder, in one way or another-… How are the opposition leaders morally decayed?

      We get some Ojedas here, some Calderas there, but -despite their failings- most are honest. I speak for my family, of course, but also for the hundreds of honest politicians I know… They are part of those six and a half a milllion…

      Regarding the “indecent” 55%, are they informed of the matter? Does the Rosita scandal play anywhere but in the cities? Do they get to see or hear anything through the public media?

      • Well Gadalex, begging your pardon here, but I find particularly hard to swallow that argument of honesty, when your own father lied to the whole country, repeatedly, with the chachara that the electoral system had been “suficientemente auditado”.

        Suficientemente auditado my ass. It wasn’t, you know it, I know it, your father knows, and yet they all joined the utterly irresponsible, and false, merry go round.

        So please, spare us, ya que lo primero que tenemos que hacer es empezar a llamar las cosas por su nombre.

          • For someone as articulate as you, that reply is just not sufficient Gadalex.

            As long as the oppo leaders, elected or otherwise -as the case of your father, fail to identify problems and address them, Venezuela will continue to be governed by the likes of Chavez. The crisis, IMO and agreeing fully with FT, is a moral one. Is not an economic, political, or social one. Moral. That’s where the biggest problem is. We are led by a bunch of amoral people: including those who come on TV to say that the electoral system is kosher; including those who say that a more efficient version of chavista populism is what will get the country back on track…

            This is a totally unacceptable state of affairs, and pretending that this or that was not the problem, while cheering for a twice-failed, deaf, and incapable to accept perfectly legitimate criticism is quite a valid definition of amorality, in my book at least.

            What the oppo has done is irresponsible, and the problem is, that they’re are so corrupted, from a moral point of view, that they fail to see where they’re failing.

            In sum, cada pueblo tiene el gobierno (y la oposicion) que se merece.

            • I recall having asked you, among other people, after I had heard Ramon Guillermo Aveledo saying with a straight face that the system had been audited, where had those audits taken place, who had been present, what methodology was employed, whether REP and Smartmatics were audited, etc.

              You couldn’t answer. Because you don’t know. None of the people I asked, who by no means can be considered uninformed people, could answer. In fact, in the country of chismosos, of people who are incapable of keeping secrets, no one can tell, where, how, and when those alleged audits took place.

              The REP has not been properly audited since 2005. Ditto the Smartmatics. That is my basis.

              And before you, or anyone else, brings the UCAB audit, or MUD reps agreeing with CNE-conducted audits in which they did not participate, read the exchange in this post:

              http://caracaschronicles.com/2012/10/21/the-perfect-campaign/#comment-55796

      • Don’t get me wrong. There are people that I admire among our political leaders. Unfortunately, there are others that are not exactly kosher… Moral stature is not exactly the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about our political leaders. Conviction is something that also seems to be missing, with few exceptions here and there. Sincerity, no surprise, is even rarer.

  5. And you don´t have to be Francisco de Miranda to realize that moral decay is not or biggest hurdle. Our biggest downfall is our infatuation with el despelote. Or in Miranda’s words: “Bochinche, bochinche esta gente no sabe sino hacer bochinche.”

  6. Thanks Quico for the article. I must admit that I was trying to wirite something on Rosita-gate for weeks. When the story broke, right in the middle of the 7-0’s campaign, I put it in the backburner. For me, it was a case of infotainment, even if the accusations were very serious.

    Then, after the election was over, the case took a surreal turn and entered into the political. PODEMOS got into the act and suddenly, Ms. Araya starts to promote herself as a victim.
    It’s true that she’s innocent until proven otherwise, but still is appaling to see how this story is viewed here in the country. Many believe she could be a victim alright. They’re stuck of the image of her TV character or the model that “dances” in public events. Why this all the sudden?

    If she finally walks away from this case clean, she will be the living proof for many young Venezuelan girls that this is the example she should follow: Your enhanced looks will make you succeed in life. This is not new, after all this is the kind of woman that Osmel Souza has helped to shape for decades. But it will confirm that looks will get you ahead, not your skills or efforts.

    And that really, really makes me mad.

  7. This history and that of Arias Cárdenas and “El Pepito” are depressing. It looks like “esto es lo que hay…”

  8. And there’s the matter of decency. Yeap, many Venezuelans don’t care about that. I see it everyday. Drivers that think pushing the honk harder will get them though the traffic jams. Store employees that treat you with contempt and play the “don’t get violent card” if you don’t accept this. People that are not afraid of using the street in broad daylight and in front of a crown to use it as a WC. This is the Venezuela of today.

    Decency is seen as a pathetic things. Something that only losers do and complain about. A bourguesie thing, that only the rich and elites care about. It’s seen as anti-Venezuelan.

    In Venezuela, what matter is been (sorry for the term, but there’s no other word for it) arrecho.
    Being arrecho is the way to go. Going forward no matter what, no matter who you step on or pissed off in the process. If you get your goals this way, people will admire and celebrate you.

    Arrecho > Decent Every. single. time.

    This is the anti-values becoming the values. What better example that the last 14 years.

    Chavez represent those values better than anybody else. He’s a winner because he gets away with what he wants. Even if he loses, he cheats and struggle all they way through and win. Just look at the reforma: He lost, but he was more arrecho and implant it anyway. Even if the Assembly of the time would be filled with an opposition majority, he would have found a way to pass it.

    Many people love him because he’s more arrecho than the others. That he always snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. People love that image, they see themselves represented and they want to be on the winning team. It’s in our blood. They’re so many excuses here to not be decent and get in the business, make some money, get some goodies and be a winner.

    The hard thing for many is choosing to be decent anyway and walk the long and winding road.

  9. In a way, Quico and I are in the same place. We woke up on October 8th realizing that the country we thought we knew is actually not the country we have. That is what led me to conclude that we were unelectable – the rot is so deep, so catastrophically impregnated in our collective psyche, no amount of campaigning or speechifying will actually get rid of this. We need to plan for when we hit rock bottom.

    That is why I am more focused on using this blog as a way of pressuring our leaders for that moment, by forcing them to say things as they are, and not as we think the Rosita-loving, Pran-admiring majority wants to hear them.

    • That is why I am more focused on using this blog as a way of pressuring our leaders for that moment, by forcing them to say things as they are, and not as we think the Rosita-loving, Pran-admiring majority wants to hear them.

      Good luck with that Juan. I look forward to read on your progress in that front.

    • It is a hard reality, but the Venezuela were we grew up is gone…in some ways maybe we are like the Republicans that though that Mitt Romney will win….so societies changes, in the case of USA, I think for good, in the case of Venezuela I am no so sure…

      PS. I am a Obama supported :)

  10. I also want to go back to Maria Corina Machado. We all have issues with her, and we all know she is currently unelectable and unpalatable to many (even some on our side), but when you think about it, isn’t Machado the *only* one who is willing to address the elephant in the room and tell it to get out? While other candidates talk about this or that social program, she is one of the few framing the debate for what it is: capitalism vs. communism, decency vs. Rosita and her pranes.

    I kind of admire her for having the courage to play that card.

          • I remember. It followed my admission. I voted for MCM because I knew HCR was going to win. And I wanted to give MCM credit for her strong and clear (if not angry) voice, as a signal that we, as society, needed that.

            MCM disappointed on that pre-candidate election night. And I knew she was too junior to win. MCM has a strong and clear voice. But her body language (general appearance, and sometimes choice of dress) does not come across strongly. She simply does not command sufficient strength of presence, nor sufficient experience.

            The problem with MCM’s code word “decente” is that she never explained what her definition of “decente” was. And so, the word became a touchstone, interpreted by others the way they deemed fit for their narrative.

            In sum, MCM by playing arrecha with her “decente” label, she showed political immaturity.

        • Hold on: the MUD has a a team supporting political prisoners… It has denounced the matter both at the CIDH and the Latin American parliament… It brought up political corruption cases in the National Assembly, and addressed the issue in its program…

          Perhaps not forcibly enough -never forcibly enough, it seems- but it is there. Check it back.

          • I hate to think that the radicalisation of both Mr. Arria and Mrs. Machado respond to their familial interests being touched (La Carolina, Sidetur)… Mrs. Machado, at least, has promoted democracy before (though her message was different then, and you could say there were mixed feelings within her former ONG regarding her political turn), and I really do hope she forms a successful party (though I fear she’s playing out this card in a most unfortunate way and over a crucial constituency: that of urban Miranda)

            But to say that the rest of the opposition panders to the Rosita-liking public is a joke… Teodoro’s and TalCual’s editorials and opinion pages? Ledezma’s and Capriles’ strikes and imprisonment? All the legal demands in place against the Government actions…? RCTVs and Globovision constant investigative reports regarding government abuses and incompetence? My own father’s books and articles (he called this a Dictatorship back in 1999, but I guess he is a green-feathered freakin’ dinosaur)?

            You might disagree with their views on political economy. You might say that the IVth Republic was rife with this sort of thing… You could say I might be blinded by near-sightedness… But, the crux of the matter has all been very clear since the beginning: how do you fight a corrupt and popular-based neo-dictatorship?

            • I think we’re talking at cross-purposes here.

              I’m not accusing the opposition of anything.

              Quite the contrary.

              I’m just saying that our society has reached a point of such extreme debauchery that all the TalCual editorials in the world (which were excellent), all of your dad’s speeches (which have been really excellent), all of the hard work of the amazing people in the Capriles campaign (which I admire with earnest conviction) couldn’t rally a majority against a regime as blindingly-obviously-corrupt as the one we have.

              This leaves us…well, I don’t know where it leaves us. One thing I’m sure of is that moralizing will do no good at all, because you can’t really appeal to the conscience of people who don’t have one.

              And that’s just my point – you’re trying to make inroads with people who can hear all the facts of the Rosita case and just sort of shrug them off and go about their business with nary a hint of upset. That’s where our public sphere is right now, and I have no clue how you walk it back once it’s that far gone.

              • The campaign message was to make the misiones a part of the constitution. That message is to the left of Hugo Chavez. Did everyone forget that?

                I don’t think the MUD and Capriles are ill-intentioned. They are in this kind of problem: Are our moral values so important that in order to restore them we have to bend them?

                The problem is that the people are rational: given the same political promises, they will prefer the guy they already know. And that’s why they chose Chavez.

                In order to defeat Chavez, we need to be true to our moral values and offer different stuff than Chavez. If we win we win good, and if we lose we lose good.

              • “… with people who can hear all the facts of the Rosita case and just sort of shrug them off and go about their business with nary a hint of upset”

                The thing is, that Rosita’s story is nothing compared to Pudreval, CAAEZ, Bolivar 2000, Makled, Aponte Aponte, Antonini Wilson, Judge Afiuni and many many others. Even the most militant antichavista is jaded of all this.

                And among the disinfranchised and resentful who never believed in democracy, it is even worse. Human rights, the misery of average folks under communism in Cuba and the crimes of bolibourgeoise are meaningless to them. What matters is the chance of having a roof on their head, food in their plates and freedom to do as they please. Life as it has always been in the slums.

                Our new normal is life as it has always been in the slums. Rule of law never meant anything in the slums, and now that applies to Venezuela as a whole.

              • a lot of people here are missing the point that some of us in the oppo think that some of this social measures ARE necessary to some extent (not just as pañitos calientes), and vote against chavez because of the high crime, corruption, incompetence and mistreatment of the minorities

              • I guess the problem was HCR saying that he would make misiones constitunional instead of making them unnedeed through a good administration… but then the problem was with “la forma no el fondo”… i repeat a lot of us think that social-democracy is the way and we stayed true to our ideals as we do now…

              • Yes, Quico, you’ve spend more than a decade trying to understand Venezuelan reality, and the best explanation you can come up with is that a majority of Venezuelan’s “don’t have a conscious.”

                Not only is it a racist/classist/bigoted generalization, but its lazy and stupid.

    • I agree.Only through honesty can one even hope for change.This is a very simple statement that is absolutely true.How can we change anything when are are covering up what needs to be changed? We cannot.

  11. Moral rot has the capacity to create popular opposition in a way that mere financial rot does not. It is easier to understand, for one thing. Many governments have been overthrown because people eventually called a halt; in a country where the Catholic Church still shapes morals, this potentiality exists. Opposition to the fleshpots of power contributed to revolutions in Cuba, in the Weimar Republic, in France, in Russia. In Nicaragua, Somoza’s use of young girls for sexual purposes–whether true or just gossip, was widely believed and contributed to his downfall. Less dramatically, democratically-elected governments lose elections if the right kind of sex scandals are in place, as has happened in Britain and Canada, and almost happened to Bill Clinton, too. The main thing about moral rot, though, is that it continues and continues, until one day people decide it is intolerable.

  12. Let us not forget that part of the discourse that brought Chavez up in the political arena was his moralising stance… Venezuela was rotten to the chore, and it had to be torn down and rebuilt.

    And I think he honestly thinks that.

    • Yes, Orwellian irony of ironies, Chavez is a huge moralizer.

      To give some of the 55% the benefit of the doubt, rather than totally write them off, they remember the pre-chavez rot, they still think it is principally responsible for the inequality around them, and they were convinced that behind Capriles -however appealing- was more of that. So there has to be a process of trust-building, and in my mind it was well demonstrated in the decency of the opposition leader.

      As for the celebrity-whore or whatever she’s called, if it is any consolation, my general sense of the way these things work (i.e. based entirely on watching “Miss Bala”)is that behind the images is a very different story, and her life is likely to remembered (if at all) as short, nasty and brutish.

      There are lots of decent Venezuelans out there. They are well represented on this blog. No need to despair.

  13. I often what series of events leads up to the point where one realizes that all the words spoken and all the ink in the world can’t change the fundamental reality of a country. I had a similar moment with my own country, Honduras, years ago. It’s the point when you realize that a well-adjusted, honest and basically nice individual like yourself cannot coexist in a society where corruption, violence and debauchery are basically the norm. What infuriates me about scandals like this at home (and if I were Venezuelan this one would have me pissing nails) is the nonchalance the actors and society at large reserve for it. At best we see society at large throw up their hands in resignation and at worst I feel that people seem to have some sort of perverse respect for people like this, sort of the same respect that 1930s Americans had for criminals like John Dillinger or Babyface Nelson. Not sure if this makes any sense, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

  14. If Venezuela was the country you now paint, there would have been an enormous celebration the 8th of October because the great Pran won. But there wasn’t. The country was in shock and is still is. I am not sure you can say that the people who were harassed out of their houses by the castrochavistas to force them to vote for HCF -who were not prepared yet to vote for Capriles but who wanted to abstain- are indecent people. How about those damnificados who live in the pran-controlled shelters? Or the victims of the multiple “triquiñuelas” that ended up losing their oppo vote? Are they all indecent? Add them up, my friends, and you come up with a very different electoral map. The fact that extremely indecent people have grabbed power and now resort to all kinds of crimes to keep it, doesn’t make Venezuela a country of indecent people.

    • Yes but decent people off all sorts (if they are) resort to pure indifference to it. We are all getting numb to things. We get numb before things that bother us or make us retch because of fear of conscuences or because we know our words might be worth a damn.

      • So, 7 million people went to vote for the opposition and you tell me people are indifferent? In spite of 8 hour lines in the scorching sun, threats of civil war, fear of losing their jobs, the humiliation, fraudulent practices, militia-controlled polling centers, armed motorizados roaming the streets…. You have to be kidding me. That’s about the same number of votes the PSOE got in Spain the last FREE election in a country of 36 million voters. The PP got about 11 million by the way. So, numb?, indifferent? I don’t think so.

        I think it is you guys who are numb to the extraordinary situation Venezuelan people face against a brutal de facto military dictatorship that exerts total control over every aspect of their lives and that is killing them in droves.

    • Gold,No it certainly does not make Venezuela a country of indecent people but I have noticed a decided tendency to tolerate the indecency of vivos- more that some other cultures might.A tendency to say : ” well nobody is perfect “, or “what can I do about it “, or “We have to learn to be happy with whatever “….and it is these underlying tendencies that keep people from properly fighting back.People who are extremely angry and indignant tend to lose their fears.Maybe you have never been angry enough to know that, believe me I have.

  15. F.T.: FIVE STARS for your brilliant comments and prescient Uslar Pietri reference. A fitting return-from-retirement essay!

  16. FT.

    Great essay. Just one thing: please remove the link to the vivid porn site. It adds nothing and it undermines your argument. Like you I don’t consider myself a prude, but it’s just uncalled for.

    I also wonder about the lack of outrage about what is going on. It’s not just this case but the countless other corruption scandals. I remember quite a few years back when a couple of billion went missing from the BCV reserves. I really don’t know what happened: was it a clerical error?, did it really went missing, was the issue resolved? I don’t know. We just seem to be hit with wave after wave of scandal and abuse and we don’t seem to ever gather our balance let alone articulate or organize the outrage.

    But is it this (bewilderment and confusion) or, like you say, we lost our moral reserves?.

    Sometimes I think we have. It has become a normal business practice to import merchandize grossly inflating invoice amounts to get access to CADIVI dollars. This is now considered a clever business strategy. This is commonly done not only by the boliburgueses, mind you, but also by the upper and middle classes that just voted against Chavez. Other times nobody thinks twice about paying off someone at the local car distributor to be next to get a new, relatively cheap 4 Runner. It is completely lost on all the amorality of this, it doesn’t even register.

    Maybe we just lost our sense of proportion. Everyday we seem to be surrounded by different levels of amorality and corruption that we are no longer sure what it’s worth reacting to, where to target our sense of outrage.

    Maybe it’s that we are sometimes forced to participate in the amorality. A document that doesn’t get processed in the “registro”” may require an “habilitacion”. Or maybe it is a container that is retained in customs for months for no apparent reason. That may also require an “habilitacion”. Perhaps this silences people because everyone has “rabo de paja”

    Other times I feel ashamed about how we think about this issue. We always seem to imply that it’s in the “barrios” where the moral degradation occurs while the middle and upper classes are somehow innocent and pure. This is simply not true. The vast majority in th ebarris are honest, hardworking, moral people that struggle disproportionally more that most in the middle and upper classes in their every day lives.

    And maybe it just boils down to everyone being too busy with their immediate day-to-day situations to properly organize the outrage. Kids, school, jobs, extracurricular activities, illnesses, deaths, red tape, banks , traffic jams, electricity outages, car repairs, getting food and supplies, … all this while trying to find some time to gather and laugh for a while, or read a book, or go to a movie.

    I don’t know.

  17. I just would like to quote this:

    “Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard – the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money – the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law – men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims – then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them… And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.
    (Francisco d’Anconia, Atlas Shrugged)”

    It’s up to you how you interpret it….

  18. …”one’s dogged refusal to see what is in front of one’s nose”,,, reminds me of an essay I read. It was describing a scene of “Oedipus Rex” when Oedipus realized he married his mother and then gouged out his eyes. The essay went on to describe the plight of the Nazi’s after the war, realizing the harsh reality of their crimes they seemed to become blind to it. It was then described as a Freudian suppression that served as a defense reaction against the guilt, a type of self-inflicted blindness meteorically like Oedipus’s reflex need to gouge out his eyes.
    In the Venezuelan context, Chavismo is an outlaw government that has blinded those who received the spoils.

  19. “”Rosita” dice estar en Podemos, el partido la niega”
    http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/noticias/-rosita–dice-estar-en-podemos,-el-partido-la-nieg.aspx
    “…No obstante, la voz disidente proviene de la dirección nacional. Pocas horas después de realizado el anuncio de la incorporación de “Rosita”, el coordinador nacional de Formación e Ideología de Podemos, Argimiro Aponte, aclaró que Jimena Araya “de ningún modo pertenece a la dirección política de esta organización, sea regional o nacional”.

    Asimismo, señaló que Podemos también desconoce a Gerson Pérez como supuesto “vocero” y “vicepresidente” de esta organización política.

    “Pérez se ha dado a la tarea de presentarse ante los medios de comunicación como vicepresidente del partido, cuando el único vicepresidente y vocero, reconocido por la militancia y el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) es Baudilio Reinoso” señaló Aponte en rueda de prensa”.

  20. “And that’s just my point – you’re trying to make inroads with people who can hear all the facts of the Rosita case and just sort of shrug them off and go about their business with nary a hint of upset. That’s where our public sphere is right now, and I have no clue how you walk it back once it’s that far gone.”

    I don’t think there is a “walk it back” from here, Quico. In order to get any semblance of a normal country back there is going to have to be some kind of natural disaster/black swan event or something similar to shock people back to their senses.

    “It has become a normal business practice to import merchandize grossly inflating invoice amounts to get access to CADIVI dollars. This is now considered a clever business strategy. This is commonly done not only by the boliburgueses, mind you, but also by the upper and middle classes that just voted against Chavez. ”

    This rot has been exacerbated since 1983 and the first “Viernes Negro”. You can trace our current state of affairs from then, at least IMHO.

    “If Venezuela was the country you now paint, there would have been an enormous celebration the 8th of October because the great Pran won.”
    What is going on now is like when you shoot a dog that is suffering. You know you had to do it, but you don’t like it. You cry and try to move on, but it stays with you.

    Venezuela is toast, ladies and gents. It is nearly irretrievable and on its way to becoming a sort of non failed failed state. Oil will keep it going but the core is rotten and is worthless. It is no longer a country, it is a collection of beggars, thieves and pimps on top of uncaring unresponsive sufferers.

    Those 6.5 million people that voted for Capriles are going to have to do more than vote if they want to BEGIN to TRY to salvage what’s left.

    The way things stand, and with what I can see as the “opposition”, there is nothing stopping the Chavez machinery repeating the get out the vote effort to elect Maduro, a monkey or a goddam chiva negra, burra blanca or buena suegra as president. To continue to expect wishy washy feel good “kumabaya” bullshit as electoral strategy is to smoke some awesome green lumpia.

    JC is more than right, the opposition needs to become hard nosed and needs to start screaming, stomping and yelling if they are going to make any kind of impression.
    Frankly, I don’t see that happening, so what’s left is to wait until Chavez dies and then HOPE that whatever candidate emerges from the opposition can defeat the machinery that just elected Chavez. (Good luck with that).

  21. What a hilariously funny representation of all that is stupid and ridiculous about this blog and the commenters here. You’ve all spent countless moments (Quico even more in writing the piece) wringing your hands over something that, it turns out, isn’t even true. The funniest thing is that this isn’t an unusual event around here. Keep at it guys, maybe some day people will take you seriously…

    http://www.elmundo.com.ve/noticias/actualidad/noticias/-rosita–dice-estar-en-podemos,-el-partido-la-nieg.aspx

    • GAC that you visit a site that you think is stupid and ridiculous throughout the day, almost every day, suggests, given that it is not information or bona fide discussion with people you consider your equals in intellect that you are seeking here, that you are afflicted with an unusual and self-defeating obsessive behavior. May want to look into that some time.

      • So true. I’ve also been wondering about GACs sado-masochism. The recurring loathing of others prompts his whip — and his self-loathing in a recurring attraction to the object of his disgusts. That brings me to the number of mentally unstable who, like homing pigeons, are attracted to chavismo … birds of a feather …

            • Sometimes “it’s” a he (GAC), sometimes “it’s” a she (Tallulah), and sometimes “it’s” a hee hee (Yoyo).

              • Syd, gender biased? NO! You’re Sexist! And a fascist and racist oligarch for….um…for being sexist! (just kidding of course, that’s my imitation of GAC for the day)

        • You have to be one sick puppy to constantly visit the “zoo” or “circus” in order to berate the “entertainment”, and to make youself feel superior. Add narcissism to the psycho mix.

            • Whoa.
              “I visit here .. zoo, or a circus … purely for entertainment.”
              “I feel sorry for the animals and the clowns.”
              Sicko.
              Another needy mental for the “revolution”.

              • I know you guys find it amazing that anyone would actually want to, you know, engage the arguments being made by the other side. But that is what honest, objective people do. They get out of the “echo chamber” of their own side, and engage the arguments of the other side. I know, pretty amazing huh?

              • Reality check:
                You repeatedly berate an opposing side, for the sake of opposing.
                You have limited insight for engaging in constructive, objective discourse, in spite of youro thinking that you honestly step outside the “echo chamber” of your own side.

                Add obsessions and delusions to the sado-masochism and narcissism complex. Bi-polar, anyone?

                And canucklehead is right. I may have too quickly assumed you were male. On second thought, I’ve only seen such dogged obsessions, when coupled with the other factors mentioned, among women.

              • Funny, this need of yours to focus on who I am, and what is wrong with me. Is it really that hard to simply engage the argument instead of attacking the person?

                By the way, nothing more hypocritical than complaining about me “berating the other side” while you go on to do the exact same thing…

              • “What a hilariously funny representation of all that is stupid and ridiculous about this blog and the commenters here.”- GAC

                GAC, your issue with personal attacks is a little self-serving, no?

              • reality check: you repeatedly don’t simply engage the argument. You repeatedly attack the person. Or do I have to provide you with examples, (Ms.) Delusional?

                Our need to build a mental profile of the person who repeatedly attacks without engaging in honest discourse, is borne out a hypothesis: that the “revolution”, which you support, is a sham that gathers, like moths to light, a host of mentally unstable individuals, looking for paternalistic guidance from one who uses people to support his pathologies. You have proven certain complexes attributed to the mentally unstable, and particularly in the comments to this post.

              • You can’t provide me an example of where I have even MENTIONED you as a person, let alone attacked you.

              • Syd, by self-admission, GAC is in an “echo chamber” from his side, probably having been force-fed too many listenings of “Alo Presidente”, and too many readings of ‘The Chavez Code.” Cut him some slack, Syd, why, it could even happen to the best of us, were we forced into the same situation in order to earn our daily bread!

              • GAC: you have a serious mental problem if you can’t even recognize the number of times you have issued ad hominems to various individuals. The sad thing is, the ad hominems aren’t even clever. They’re the stuff of an uncontrolled mother to her child, or that of a prepubescent schoolboy. All in all, your frequent ad hominem deliveries don’t speak well of someone who tries to convince us, indirectly, that she has a university education in social studies. Maybe from Podunk?

        • The activities you mention are joyful activities. That you would compare the motivation to engage in those activities with your activity shows that the distinction I was making is lost on you. Take a break or get some help get a clue.

  22. Maria Corina calls for decency; Henrique Capriles impersonates decency through his actions. They both show the same core moral values but have different styles.

    Alek, you when you say those who propose a more efficient version of chavista social programs are amoral, you’re mixing apples with pears. The fact that you don’t agree with these programs doesn’t make them, nor the people who advocate for them ‘amoral’.
    The way I see it, what brought us to this mess in the first place was leaving hundreds of thousands of poor people unattended, trying to make their way through with no assistance whatsoever. In a country with as much resources as ours this should have never happened and is certainly amoral.

    • Agree. There’s been a long history of social immorality in Vzla. Since Chávez, things have not significantly improved. That is, for a country as rich in natural resources as is Vzla.

      My question to Alek, is why he repeatedly tars and feathers certain oppo personalities (HCR, MCM, Aveledo), but refrains from ever saying a bad word about Leopoldo López, who forms part of the team, and who Alek supported during the pre-candidate election period.

      • Syd, our history of social immorality has deepened tremendously under Chavez. Let’s be clear about the fact that Chavez’s sole agenda is nurturing his narcissistic ego and to this end few things can be as effective as creating a culture of personalized begging. Chavez is the epitome of unashamed amorality.

        • Yes, agree on Chávez being the epitome of social amorality, particularly in a climate of unprecedented margins from the sale of oil, during the past 14 years. The confusion lies in twisted logic on 4 fronts, as follows:

          (1) Chávez with unlimited funds and as a broken record, repeats verbiage to reinforce his messiah-like status (“no one cared about you before I came”);
          (2) Chávez with unlimited funds and as a broken record, berates any who oppose him (“the burguesía never cared for you”)
          (3) Chávez with unlimited funds creates Potemkin villages of social works, fooling many into thinking that he is actually creating progress
          (4) Chávez’ cheerleading support team, now diminished abroad, perpetuate the myth of el benemérito Chávez.

          The danger is in not digging sufficiently for facts and in too easily believing the snow job. In this the opposition has been weak.

          You’re right in focusing on Chávez’ damaging agenda: that of creating a culture of personalized begging.

    • Cristina, I don’t think I am mixing anything here. I see populism, as utterly amoral, por aquello de “give a man a fish” is the wrong approach, as opposed to “teach a man how to fish.” I also see promises of a continuation of populism as utterly amoral. And I certainly think amoral the lying about the potential prospects that “efficient populism” could have.

      Look, Juan put it best when he said that such discourse makes the opposition unelectable. If you combine such an unelectable discourse with the lying about the electoral system being kosher, while at the same time implementing a policy of wholesale ostracism of those who, legitimately, are claiming for the law to be respected, then, I can only conclude that we (by we the opposition) are led by a bunch of amoral people. And I stand by that.

      I never said, as far as I can recall, that I am against policies to alleviate poverty. I am poor, so I can not be against policies that could help people like me. But one thing is poverty-alleviation policies, and another populism. I am all up for a state that is willing to teach people how to fish, rather than distributing fish. I am all up for a state that has safety nets in place, so that poor people get a helping hand when needed, so that education and health is guaranteed. But you and I know that free education and health in Venezuela precede the caudillo golpista by many, many years. I think it was Antonio Guzman Blanco in the late 1800s the one who made it as such.

      In a country with as much resources as ours, it is totally unacceptable that we, regular folk, don’t have access to a Norway-like sovereign fund, with hundreds of billions of dollars in it, so that everyone gets its fair share, and help when required. The reason why we don’t have such a safety net, is the utter amorality of our social fabric: politicians are only interested in filling their pockets and maintain power for as long as possible; business people are only interested in cultivating relationships with the former, so that the marriage of mercantilism and protectionism can carry on undisturbed, and they too can fill their pockets; and regular folk, while trying to survive, are also looking at every possible angle that could bring a competitive advantage that could in turn present an opportunity to milk the system.

      No one I know, in politics, is thinking 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line. No one I know, in politics, is thinking “how do we tackle the total lack of values in our amoral society, so that we can expect better behaviour when exercising power in public office”. We see “new platforms” manned by the same old faces, who kept recycling themselves in never ending fashion, who keep repeating the same mistakes, who keep thinking that promising even more populism is the solution.

      Well, I am sorry, but I don’t believe that. I do think that Venezuelans need to be told the truth, as hard as it is, without sugar-coating. Venezuelans deserve politicians with morals, who can tell them what the situation is, instead of liars. Venezuelans, and I am convinced about this, will never prefer the humiliation of hand outs over having the chance to take control of their own destiny. There are, as in every society, people who will always require assistance in one form or another from the government. But when the government has a policy of forcing everyone into becoming beggars, and the opposition irresponsibly toes the line saying that hand outs is the way forward, then we find ourselves in our current predicament, that of lacking meaningful political representation, anywhere in the spectrum.

      I don’t think I agree with you re HCR. A moral person does not go round making irresponsible promises that will end up costing us more in the long run. A morally grounded person certainly does not disrespect his supporters, by saying “aqui el que perdio fui yo.” Eso es una falta de respeto, a slap, to the millions who voted for him.

      • “The reason why we don’t have such a safety net, is the utter amorality of our social fabric”
        –Alek Boyd

        It is thinking like this that leads to racism and fascist ideologies. You would be simply laughed at in any Sociology/History/Economics/Anthropology department if you proposed this as a possible cause for Venezuela’s development failures. You’d be laughed at, and then denounced as a bigot, and rightfully so.

        • I still remember when back in the 70’s and 80’s, I heard so many people say that the reason they preferred to vote for AD instead of Copei, was because “los copeyanos roban y no dejan robar a nadie mas, mientras que los adecos roban y dejan robar”. I heard people spit out such a “profound reasoning” in so many different places and circumstances.

          I still remember how as a 14 year old highschool kid, my classmates tried to convince me that I would also steal if I were a politician or a public servant.

          I still remember how a famous politician back in those days said once that in “Venezuela la gente roba porque no hay razones para no robar”.

          In that sense, very little has changed since…

      • Alek, your fourth paragraph, in its entirety, is a brilliant description of the “Venezuelan Problem”, and the reason for Venezuela’s development failure, of which GAC’s views are a faithful reflection…

      • Alek, the way I see it in Venezuela the gap between poor and rich has become so profound in terms of opportunities that I don’t see a way out without using hand-outs. They could be given in the form of cash transfers to families who keep their children in school, for example, as it’s been theorized in this forum. Cash transfers in different forms could be part of a program designed to help people make their way out of poverty.
        I understand your utter dislike of populism and in general I share it. However, it’s clear to me we need to find a way of using our resources to correct the huge social inequalities we’ve built over decades.

        • Cristina, in 1984 I arrived -from Spain- in my father’s 4.2 hectares farm, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Merida. The economic situation of that household was dire. But morals were never lacking. I went and studied in Ciclo Combinado Jaji. I would encourage you, if you ever visit that part of the world, to have a look at the place, and take an imaginary trip back in time, to the 80ies. My classmates and I shared similar economic status. The difference, the one I could perceive immediately, was that while in my household there was this understanding that the only way to get ahead in life was through work and study, in my classmates’ households that was not always the case. And therein lies the problem, IMO. In their case, finishing school and going on to uni was perhaps one of the least weighted options. With this, I don’t want to imply that going to school and uni is the panacea, my position regarding the amorality of many a PhD is well known. However, and I think this is relevant in our conversation, we all had the same “opportunities”, there was no distinction in that respect. We need to qualify the term opportunities. If by that we refer to be able to carry on studying, then we all had the opportunity. We could all go to uni (in our case ULA) -as the natural and logical way in which a poor individual can get ahead in life, if he/she decides to take that path. My little sister studied all her life in similar conditions: first in a little school in Loma del Rosario where there were two classrooms, one for 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree, and another for the 4th, 5th and 6th form. Then onto Ciclo Combinado Jaji, and ultimately to Universidad de Los Andes, where she graduated as a chemical engineer. The financial situation in our household in Merida was not any better, after my father committed suicide. But my sister could take the education route, many years later, all the same.

          So I disagree with your argument about lack of opportunities for poor kids. I was a poor kid and that was never an impediment to get out of if. On the contrary, poverty comes with a drive to excel, to do better, to “prove the world I can do it” kind of attitude. When that drive is not channeled properly, when that burning desire to get out is not guided along firm moral convictions, you get the politicos that we get, you get the businessmen and the regular folk that we have, you end up in a society like the Venezuelan. While my bank account definitely corresponds to the level of financial status of a poor person, I don’t feel I’m poor, I never felt it, cause my family taught me that a person should not be measured in financial terms, but in moral ones: the importance, relevance and place of an individual in society, in my book at least, does not depend on whether or not he/she has millions in its bank account, travels in G5 and pays with Centurion. I could not care less about any of that. Rather it is whether an individual is a law abiding citizen, a responsible partner / husband / father, an honest person, etc. But the problem is that the way I see things is not the common. Gustavo was saying earlier that what goes in Venezuela is whether an individual is arrecho: si jodio, robo, echo 7 sin sacarlo, no paga impuestos, tiene 4 mujeres, no se para en semaforo, bebe 3 botellas de 18 años todos los dias, viaja desde el aeropuerto Caracas, etc., es un tipo arrecho. Si se para a chambear a las 5am, esta casado con la misma jeva de toda la vida, tiene un carrito escoñetado, un hijo, su mujer es maestra, y el albañil, y los fines bajan a la casita del suegro en Naiguata, ese es un huevon.

          And this is where I see the problem: the image of success in Venezuela is completely and utterly amoral. Rosita represents success, that is how fucked up and absolutely hopeless the situation is. Diosa Canales goes to Sambil and el Este de Caracas paralizes. Chavez, for f.. sake is seen as the ultimate icon of Venezuelan success. The image of normality is equally screwed, here’s an example:
          -epa brother, como esta la vaina?
          -Bien, aqui todo esta tranquilo.
          -Coño pero vi que los malandros del Rodeo llevan 45 dias cayendose a plomo con la Guardia Nacional!
          -Ah, si, pero aqui todo esta normal…

          The problem is not lack of opportunities Cristina, is lack of morals. When the vision imprinted in young minds is one of abuse, disrespect, taking advantage, etc., little can be expected. Populism does not encourage the individual. Quite the contrary, it turns it into a victim of politicking of the worst sort, eventually into an undignified beggar.

          Cash transfers you say? When that notion enters the minds of our hapless politicos, and they seek ways to implement it, that’ll be the day. But more important than cash transfer would be moral transfers, education transfers, values transfers. Problem is, who is to do it, when leadership is in the hands of amoral people?

          • Alek, listen, you were lucky enough to have a family that encouraged you to stay in school. Because you had that and, because public schools still provided a decent service in the 80s, you turned out to be a person with solid values. But what about your classmates in Jaji? Did they manage to graduate and have the same opportunities as a rich kid from el Este de Caracas? And what could be said about a group of kids from a public school in Petare? What percentage of them will graduate from high school? And even those who do, will they be able to compete for a spot in university with kids from fancy private schools?
            A few excepional kids from poor households will manage to compete with their privileged counterparts but a fair system cannot be based on exceptions. A fair system should provide equal opportunities for all, no matter their personal circumstances.
            I well aware our public school system is terribly deteriorated and keeping kids in schools, the way they are now, wouldn’t make much of a difference. But what if families are given incentives to keep their children in school and, at the same time resources are poured into the school system within the frame of an education reform? Quality education for all.

            There’s a great Venezuelan movie from last year called El Rumor de las Piedras, which ilustrates well our systemic drama. I highly recommend it. The school shown in the movie is unusually well kept and the teacher is well prepared; nothing like our common public school teacher. I won’t tell you anymore in case you haven’t seen it but I hope we continue this conversation after you watch it.

            • Cristina, my mother died when I was 13, my father when I was 16. I did not turn out to be who I am because my parents “encouraged me to stay in school.” In fact, I graduated from high school, both my parents already dead, and then went to work. I entered university education when I was 30, did my MA when I was 40. The values that I have are not from school either. I am who I am, I think in large part, due to what I saw at home. And I guess that applies in most cases. Life is particularly difficult when one comes from broken, dysfunctional homes. But not impossible, certainly situations at home do not have a bearing on amount or access to opportunities outside it and I don’t think I was an exception.

              My classmates: some of them went to the army, just like Hugo, one of the preferred routes for humble people; some of them went to work their own land (their parents had much more land than mine); some of them went into business; some of them went to uni (ULA) and some of them got married and became housewives. Again, the opportunities were there for all. I continue to disagree with you re opportunities, regardless of whether we are talking about Este de Caracas, Petare or Merida. That being said, I will not disagree on the need of having a fair system. I am unaware of the university admissions process in Venezuela being a particular example of unfairness and / or discrimination, for as far as I know anyone can have a go at it, anyone can apply, and education is free for all.

              Re pouring resources into our education system? Again, couldn’t agree more, but conditioned. One of the perversions of our system, I think, is that preferences was always given to higher education, rather than to primary education. I can’t speak for the quality of teaching at university level in Venezuela, for I never attended a university in Venezuela, though I can speak about primary and secondary school, and, in my experience, the quality of the teaching is just appalling. Then again, we go back to previous point: who in their right mind wants to make a career put of primary and secondary teaching in Venezuela? Not “los arrechos” sino “los huevones”. That is wrong, IMO, for the allocation of resources should be to primary and secondary education primarily, and then whatever’s left for higher education.

              It is all quite simple really: use funds destined to the army, and weapons purchases (for instance) to revamp our educations system, and all aspects related to it, and in one generation Venezuela could find itself in a different place. Now my question: is there political will, anywhere on the spectrum, of actually doing that?

              I will try to watch that film.

              • I really hope you watch that movie Alek.
                Jaji, being a precarious small town and all was a much better place to grow up in than a barrio en los alrededores de Caracas o Valencia. Think of a kid growing up in one of those barrios and tell me if you honestly think he/she has the same opportunities you had, even considering your particularly harsh circumstances.
                El Rumor de las Piedras, don’t forget.

              • I’ll try to watch that movie for sure.

                Just one more comment, re barrios en los alrededores de Caracas / Valencia vs Jaji. I do think we had the same opportunities, in fact, I would argue that those growing up in either Caracas or Valencia had more opportunities: more unis, more schools to go to, more places to go find work, more people to engage with in biz, etc., while Jaji has very few. We should not bunch together levels of violence and crime with amount of opportunities Cristina, I hope you agree they’re not the same.

              • Alek, in La Bombilla de Petare kids will find tons of opportunities to engage in criminal activity with malandros and lots of reasons to drop out of school. Their households are in desperate need for money and will welcome whatever they can bring in. They’ll learn from a young age that by carrying a weapon and daring to use it they’ll get respect from their peers. They’ll learn that decent jobs are for dumb people who don’t have the balls to get una buena chamba. If their shy in nature they’ll learn to stick to someone who will protect them if they prove to be loyal.

              • “Alek, in La Bombilla de Petare kids will find tons of opportunities to engage in criminal activity with malandros and lots of reasons to drop out of school.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay-Z#Early_life

                I feel we’re going round in circles about this, though it is worth reiterating: crime and violence are not opportunities killers, quite the contrary. The most respected people in the barrios aren’t quite the ones who have the biggest guns.

              • While I agree with most of what Alek had to say, the example of a gangsta rapper like Jay-z is inappropriate. He is the epitome of indecency and thug-ism. A hoe like Rosita would fit his lifestyly perfectly. Whoever wants to make it in life can, who doesn’t, won’t. And btw, my cat knows right from wrong, since a very young age!

  23. Following the comments section with interest. Huevones vs. Arrechos, Alfiuni vs. Rosita, maduro as vice president… los antivalores promovidos por los cubanos para controlar.

    Until we call a spade a spade, we will nos begin to address the rigt probelm or get any more ahead towards a solution.

    Venezuela is a puppet state of Castro, who uses our resourses to further corrupt the society to further weaken its response. We need to read about ocupied societies and how they managed to regroup and free themselves….

    Largo desierto.
    Quico, the rot is grave, but my interpretation is also that much of waht we hear and see these days is conveniently promoted. Tehre is still a balance and a reserve of decency, but without the right leadership, it will remain undercover and untapped.

    Capriles attempted to gain power by being a chameleon and then change the system from within.
    The attempt failed. The Castrista puppet state must be asalted and then Venezuela can begin toe rebuild itself.

    Chavistas vs. no chavistas is a failed approach. Venezolanos vs. traidores saqueadores, piratas del Caribe is a more appropiate aproach IMO.

  24. Christina,People are not who they are because of opportunities.

    People are who they are because of innate abilities, drive, passion, intelligence, and willingness to work hard and take responsibility for their lives.

    As someone who lived in Catia for years, and then later in Caurimare for years, I had the prefect chance to witnesses this fact.

    That doesn’t mean that we should have no compassion for those in great need, but it does mean that we should recognize the steps people take to achieve what they achieve instead of attributing achievements to the opportunities that society gave us.

    Not to recognize that is not to recognize the power and dignity of the individual.

    Is it harder for the poor? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.But struggle only reinforces our strength.

    • From this standpoint politics are useless. Why bother to create opportunities if people are what they are no matter the environment?
      I’ll step of my soapbox now because I’ll end up jobless…

  25. Hope this post get some attention, maybe you could draw the parallels between some news from Mexico (this is not the first one involving some “beauty queens”) and what is going on in this case:
    “Una reina de belleza y reconocida modelo del estado mexicano de Sinaloa, México, murió a balazos durante un enfrentamiento entre el ejército y un grupo armado, informaron este lunes fuentes de la Fiscalía de ese país.
    María Susana Flores, de 22 años, “fue una de las personas que murió en los enfrentamientos de este sábado” en el municipio de Mocorito, “su cadáver quedó dentro de un automóvil en el que iban los agresores, los que se enfrentaron con los militares”, informó un funcionario de la Fiscalía.”
    http://globovision.com/articulo/muere-reina-de-belleza-mexicana-durante-enfrentamiento-entre-militares-y-sicarios

Comments are closed.