A legacy of destruction

Supreme destroyer

Supreme destroyer

We all know the late Hugo Chávez destroyed the Fourth Republic, Venezuela’s institutions, its oil industry, and pretty much everything in his path. As we ponder his actual legacy, here are three things worth mentioning … that he also destroyed.

1. He destroyed the idea of Venezuela as a nation. What is a country, really? What is the fatherland? A group of people are born in the same piece of land, and they share common values. Somehow this “bonds” them together.

But can we really say, after all that has happened in the last month, that we are a nation? The tales of people – opposition people, mind you – being attacked in senseless barricades are starting to outnumber stories of National Guard excesses. The level of vitriol from one side to the other are, quite simply, scary to behold. I’m sorry to get all Nurse Ratched on you, but you all need some serious medication – government AND opposition.

One simply cannot envision an outcome where one side wins and does not take immediate, devastating, lethal revenge on the other side. The idea of dialogue, of acknowledging the other side and engaging it, is tantamount to treason. That’s how civil wars are started, and that is where we are headed.

And all of this is a consequence of Chávez – his style of government, his vitriolic rhetoric, his direct attack on the “other” as an enemy. The guarimbas, the repression, and the terrible things that are yet to come are his babies.

2. He destroyed the Interamerican consensus. Before we had the OAS, and it was a joke, but it sort of worked. Forums like the Interamerican Court of Human Rights were weak, but at least there was a shared agreement that we needed the forum, that we just had to make it better. The principle behind them was that our civil societies on their own were weak, and we needed to keep tabs on each other if we were to prevent our worst aspects from taking over.

Chávez’s main goal had always been to destroy these institutions. He didn’t need a forum where he would be scrutinized by the US and Canada, and small-ish countries that could be bribed. He then proceeded to create alternate forums – ALBA, Unasur, CELAC, you name it. Anything and everything to undermine what had taken decades to make.

Of course, an alternative institution was always going to be toothless, harmless for a thug like him who doesn’t really want anyone meddling in his business.

With today’s declaration that the OAS cannot meddle in Venezuelan affairs, with his outrageous move to cut off diplomatic relations with Panama for merely asking that the OAS discuss the Venezuelan conundrum, Maduro has effectively put the last nail on the coffin of the OAS. If he can get away with this, then what is the point of paying Mr. Insulza a salary?

3. He destroyed the promise of free trade in the hemisphere. Remember the early 90s? There was a hope that all countries would lower their trade barriers, that the free flow of goods and services and, yes, people would be a reality. All that is gone.

Instead, we have an ineffective Mercosur, a myriad of bilateral trade agreements between small countries, and between small countries and really big ones, and something called the Alliance of the Pacific made up of countries that are hugely dissimilar and incredibly distant from each other. For all their hubris, the Alliance of the Pacific seems glued together with Scotch Tape, one leftist populist election away from disintegrating altogether.

Most of this is a consequence of Chávez’s rhetoric, and his influence in regional politics. Who can forget the infamous Mar del Plata Summitt when the idea of a free-trade area for the Americas was essentially killed?

Chavez didn’t believe in free trade, or in freedom of any kind. When he talked about “Latin American Integration,” what he meant was choosing Latin American firms for his handpicked projects in exchange for political favors. It meant subsidizing Cuba in exchange for military support. It meant buying off the countries in the Caribbean. It had nothing to do with trade, and everything to do with power – his own.

I guess the measure of a man is taken by how he changes things. In that regard, Chávez was indeed El Gigante – just like a giant tsunami is also, well, gigantic.

77 thoughts on “A legacy of destruction

  1. But now he is dead, let us just make sure he does not rise once more otherwise we will have to kill him all over again. Good riddance!

    • “We will have to kill him over again.”

      Cancer killed him. And if you are talking about his cult of personality, it is alive and well.

      • Then we have to destroy his cult to ensure that neve, ever again, exists some other person like him that can get closer than a kilometer from any position of power.

  2. Juan, por eso es que hoy hablan de conmemorar lo que el sembro en vez de conmemorar su muerte…tremedo article…va directo a mi FB…gracias

    • Ah, techkampfer is correct here. Sorry, Juan. The Alliance of the Pacific is a GOOD thing. It’s one of the BEST free trade organizations in South America. There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (too lazy to look it up) where an impressive comparison was made between the trade organizations of the loons of South America ( comprised of Argentina, Venezuela, Brasil and Uruguay ) against the free marketers of the Alliance of the Pacific, which, by the way, includes Mexico as well. The free marketing ideas of the Alliance of the Pacific won in every category, hands down. Techkampfer is correct in pointing this out to you.

        • I think Bachelet will be the test case. While I am not a big fan of hers, I think she is pragmatic enough to realize that screwing around with the economy won’t benefit her at all.

          I also think it is profoundly stupid that the trade blocs in SA are organized along ideological principles rather than comparative advantage, economic theory and benefits. It seems that th leftist trade blocs seem to be searching for some sort of polar opposite to autarky that somehow doesn’t involve trade.

          I do rather like the AotP, although I agree with its relative fragility when threatened by political shifts. Even so, similar things were once said of the EU; especially in those post-war years between the Treaties of Paris and Rome. Time will tell.

      • What happens to it if Lopez Obrador wins in Mexico?
        If the next Peruvian president has the same Etno-Cacerista platform Humala had when he narrowly lost to Alan García?
        To a lesser extent, If post-Bachelet Chile goes into deeper left territory?
        In the case of Colombia, I’m not seeing someone like Piedad Córdoba as likely to reach the presidency yet.

        But that was Juan’s point.

        • I think Juan overstates the threat. CAFTA-DR survived the FMLN and Daniel Ortega getting elected as well as Costa Rica’s statist tendencies. It even survived several members joining ALBA. Maybe that was just because of the carrot of access to the US market, but I think the rampant distrust of free trade from the late 90s and early 2000s has abated quite a bit. So maybe a leftist could get elected somewhere who would pull out, but I don’t think there is the same popular opposition to free trade. So I think only an extremely ideological president would pull out completely instead of just maintaining the status quo with the Pacific Alliance.

          • The Pacific Alliance is in its infancy, and there are so many divergences between the countries, I find it difficult to believe in its long-term survival. Add to that the fact that all of these countries are basically competing for the same markets, and things don’t look good for them. Yes, it sends a nice signal for a country like Colombia to be in an Alliance with Chile, but it’s not going to change South America the way the EU has changed Europe.

          • Sure, they kept the previous treaties in force, but when the time comes to consolidate NAFTA, CAFTA-DR and the Pacific Alliance into a single Free Trade Zone, FMLN (El Salvador) and FSLN (Nicaragua) are going to be on the reluctant end of the spectrum.

            Maintaining the status quo equals keeping their partners behind too.

            If that happens, instead of achieving a nice simple unified market, and simplify trade to and from the region; the business minded countries are going to have to come up with yet another umbrella treaty, so there will be bilateral FTAs, NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, PA, and another patchwork treaty to partially advance despite the ideologically reluctant partners.

  3. Dunno man… I think you’re giving the man too much credit.

    1. Yes, we are a polarized nation, but you’re judging us by our lowest common denominator. The average chavista is not a colectivo member. Likewise the average opositor is not a guarimbero. Those are just fringe kooks. Maria Conchita Alonso will not rise to power. HCR will probably do, and I hardly see him doing something of the like.*

    2. The ICHR is a nice idea, but is anyone actually paying attention to them? Probably the biggest culprit is USA. You can say that Venezuela is just following suit…

    3. There’s still Mercosur and Comunidad Andina. Both groups even signed an agreement. I don’t know if they’re useful or not, but they’re still there. And even Venezuela is trying to become a part of Mercosur, aren’t we?

    * Are you seriously comparing GN breaking and entering, and shooting tear gas grenades inside houses to a heated exchange of words and punches between kooks and exasperated people? Seriously?

    • The main driver behind the Andean Community was the Colombian-Venezuelan trade. Once Venezuela left it, it became a less relevant trade association.

      On the other hand, Chavez propped his allies in Ecuador and Bolivia, who also shared Chavez’ misgivings on free trade. The constant refusal of Venezuela while they were in the AC, continued by Bolivia and Ecuador who still remain as members; led Colombia, Peru and Chile to seek trade growth outside of the trade bloc, thus creating the Pacific Alliance. The Pacific Alliance picked up integration where the AC dropped dead.

      Mercosur is an undead trade bloc. Its decision making mechanisms are cumbersome, it hasn’t reached a FTA with any relevant economic bloc (NAFTA, EU, China, India), and reform efforts are also hampered by disagreements between Brazil and Argentina. As a point of comparison, the French-German harmony has been, historically, the main boost behind the EU’s success. Venezuela joining Mercosur will give the founding countries a nice trade surplus with Venezuela, but Hell will freeze over before the Chavernment takes a constructive stance towards any Mercosur negotiated FTA.

    • On your first point, unfortunately, history shows that you dont need that many people to start a civil war.

  4. Point 3 would benefit from including Chavez killing the Andean Community.

    It was the most advanced integration effort in South America, and was just about to eliminate the need to use passports for intra-Andean travel. With another Venezuelan government, the Andean Community would be much more dynamic and advanced than the Pacific Alliance is today If anything, the Pacific Alliance is Colombia’s, Peru’s and Chile’s plan B after the Andean Community died..

    • Remember the Grupo de los Tres? A free-trade area between Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. Boy, where did that all go?

      • Oh yeah. That was a casualty of one of the Uribe-Chavez pissing contests. Was it after Chavez’ mediation was revoked? Because, off the top of my head, I think it remained in effect a while after the Venezuelan exit from the AC.

  5. The most heinous crime of Mr. chavez was the killing of the ethos of the public servant, that is the idea of serving the public good Granted, it was never a big thing among public servants of the previous regime, but it was there. Impeaching CAP was a testimonial that no matter how powerful you were, there was a higher authority that did not reside in a single individual, but in the ethos of the public administration accountable to public opinion. chavez behaved like Pablo Escobar. He was generous with the poor of Medellin and many people loved him like a saint. But Mr Escobar never behaved guided by a higher principle. He did what he wanted to do. He met with his hired assassins to plan the demise of people who pissed him off. He was a drug lord and commanded power from the enormous profit of the drug trade and the ruthless means he employed to achieve his goals. And Mr. chavez behaved in the same manner. Aponte Aponte told the story of the Friday morning meetings where they plotted who would get screwed that week, exactly like Escobar did with his thugs.
    The government of Venezuela under chavez worked exactly like a drug cartel where the only law was the whims of the SOB and nobody dare to challenge those whims. I remember the incident with one Clark Inciarte, who was in charge of a petrochemical facility and decided to increase the price of a product. chavez fired the guy in one of his Alo Presidente because the poor bastard dared to rise prices of a product without checking with him first.
    The compass guiding the behavior of all public officials was “What should I do to please the boss.” Instead of decision makers seeking to optimize the services and products under their responsibility, we had a bunch of buffoons trying to outdo the other in their ass-kissing competition. This created multiple failures in their ministries and institutes. The electricity failed, water failed, the paper failed, the cement failed. The idea of public service was replaced by the voracious appetite with which they kissed chavez’s bungle hole.

  6. Bottom Line: Are you better off than you were 15 years ago? Did the 21st century version of socialism work any better than the 20th century versions? Did the (as Obama put it) the redistribution of wealth work for ya?
    15 years ago could you walk on the streets of your beautiful city and enjoy the sights and the food and the feel of Caracas without the fear of death for carrying a cell phone or camera?

    I spent some time in Venezuela in 2011, and I enjoyed the street vendors, the people and the sights of Caracas. My best friend live there still, and I hope to visit again.
    I do not have answers to the situation there, I can only pray that my adopted country finds peace, and Democracy.

    Mi fe, mi oración y mi amor a toda mi gente en mi país de adopción ….

    • You write as if there were only one answer to your question. And if you’re white, professional, middle class and live say between La Candelaria and La California then there is only one answer. If you haven’t understood that there are people outside that area, even within a two-hour drive radius from Caracas who haven’t felt that they were worse off, you haven’t understood anything about Venezuela.

      There are people who got subsidized or free housing, however incompetently built or delayed, at least they saw the government doing something for them, who got access to electricity and appliances to furnish their new homes with, who got access to higher education – all these things didn’t exist for them before.

      That’s why the country is divided.

      Now, with the accelerating decay, yes, less well off people as well are starting to question if their gains are still there. Even the Mercals are empty these days, people are hoarding and bartering harina pan and oil when they can get them, and cooking gas hasn’t been delivered for a week in some places. But it’s a slow process and as Juan says, if the opposition can’t make an effort to understand these people and where they’re coming from, then yes, Venezuela is on the path to civil war. As much as Venezuela needs a better government, it needs a much better opposition.

      • There are also a lot of people who got subsidized or free housing in the 4th (Or any other benefit that allowed them to get out the slums and raise families with several children) and they worship the wax doll like he was the one who INVENTED those benefits.
        There are four kinds of people who support chavismo these days:

        1) The poor who actually didn’t get anything (Or didn’t wanted to actually to do anything at all) before and were suppossedly starving in the bottom of a gutter, that now are “named” and “aknowledged” by the chavista regime.
        2) The criminals that made their living possible thanks to the rampant impunity promoted by the wax doll himself (Be it street muggers, serial killers, corrupt politicians, drug dealers, or hoarding illegal street vendors)
        3) The “middle class” folks that are part of the “pugged ones” or “enchufados”, mainly those who not only lived from the stupid currency exchange control, basically multiplying money without any actual work besides having an acquaintance in the system.
        4) The “middle class” people that could have an actual chance of not needing any government assistance, that believe out of ignorance that chavismo was actually doing any good stuff, UNTIL they get screwed by a moron with a plate.

        There were social assistance programs way from before chavismo, it’s the propaganda hydra they control that filled so many heads with rubbish in the late years, there are many opossition-supporters that actually believe that chavismo came up with the idea of social assistance programs for the poor.

        • “There were social assistance programs way from before chavismo,”

          True, and of paramount importance in this equation was that Chavez benefitted from being in office while the biggest oil boom in Venezuelan history took place. He was flush with cash to throw at everyone and then tell them the only reason they were getting it was because he stopped the rich from stealing it. He never mentioned to his barrio supporters that the price of oil was $9 when he was elected but it shot up to $100 a few years later

          • To Ralph and Belisario: “…Mortgage loans thus became unaffordable to low-income families.
            As a consequence, the housing deficit of middle and low-income families increased substantially during the 1980s. At the same time, the poorest families were essentially excluded from the formal housing finance market, and left to settle for sub-standard housing using informal financing”. – Gilberto Enrique Chona Quifnonez 1991.

            Which is pretty much what I expected. If you can come up with something better I’ll entertain it but basically my conclusion for now is that you were just blowing hot air.

        • “There are also a lot of people who got subsidized or free housing in the 4th”: Do you have any useful references? I mean, from organizations of the stature of the OECD, UNESCO, World Bank, and so on. People just like to throw expressions like that out there, in the same way as they say poor people had access to higher education before Chavez. Given that the net enrollment rates in secondary school were around 50% before Chavez, and around 75% now, and that the poorest averaged 3.5 years at school before he came to power, I’m sceptical.

  7. Hoy hace un año de Tu Partida Huguito, jamás podré Olvidarte, dejaste un gran Vació en los Anaqueles, no hay Pollo, ni Aceite, ni Arroz, ni Leche, ni Papel Higiénico, ni un cepillo, solo dejaste Patria y con esa Mierda no se come. Tambien dejaste un Burrito como Presidente y la peor economia de todo el continente Americano.

    • En las reservas internacionales también dejo un vacío que será muy dificil de llenar. Gastarse ese realero sin tener mucho que mostrar fue su verdadero legado.

  8. Another one of his legacy was the creation of hate between social classes and; thus, achieve the break up of the country. Necessary ingredients to create fear, insecurity and crime; ultimately needed to achieve his goals.

    Although not as radical, Obama seems to be going in the same direction. I wonder if the book Chavez gave him had some valuable notes (ley habilitante = executive orders come to mind).

    • There is a lot to be said for Chavez aggravating the schism between classes by fueling a hatred of the other, but I would argue that Chavez was a symptom first of an already existent problem, he only exacerbated it.

    • “lthough not as radical, Obama seems to be going in the same direction.”

      Yes, asking for a raise in the minimum wage to keep up with inflation, he is really playing with fire!

      • I would suggest you pull the complete list of executive orders signed by Obama and compare them with the ones signed by all previous presidents. The guy is pretty much saying “up yours congress, I’m going to ignore you as a branch”. The minimum wage is a card he is playing this year: an election year. He has been in full campaign mode since last election.

          • Sorry,this is a blog about Venezuela so I don’t mean to change topics. But I was talking about congretional elections. They are every 2 years in the States. US Presidents do campaign to influence congretional elections.

            • This maybe the polarization that Juan was referring to. Obama is in no way headed down the same path. Any serious political analyst believes that he is at most a center-left politician. I wouldn’t even call him a social democrat. The world isn’t split between capitalists and communists. There are people located everywhere in between

              • Agreed, there is a long way to go before Obama can be seen as radical as Chavez. But there isn’t much “center” in this guy. He is as far left as USA has seen in a long time (if not ever). But this is not only about a single leader. We went from Caldera to Chavez to Maduro in less than 20 years. The slipery slope starts somewhere.

              • “He is as far left as USA has seen in a long time (if not ever).”

                On that note, let’s just agree to disagree and get back to the subject at hand.

        • Have you been paying attention to the absolutely useless wasteland that the “teaparty” led congress has become?

            • Obama definitely thought he was the next Chavez in 2008. Do you remember the idiots running around with communist flags at his inauguration? He and his pals finally got nerve enough in 2012/13 to go after the constitution (22nd amendment means he can’t be dictator for life), the bill of rights (freedom of speech, which Marxists only like when you say what they want to hear), right to protest and assemble, and promotion of gun grabs while he attempts to transform the police and military into his personal colectivo. to name a few. He also thought it was OK to use the power of government institutions like the IRS to attack and weaken political enemies and for basically threatening anyone who disagrees with his crappy Marxist agenda. Stirring up race and class hatred to get votes (if I had a son he’d…), handing out goodies at taxpayers expense to buy support? Blaming everyone but himself and his party? Heard a peep out of him about the race-based knockout game (victims are white, who cares?)? Sound like Chavez? Send in the Tupamaros!

              • Oh please, this is so lame. You left out his assault on your religious freedom and stacking the Supreme Court with feminazis!

    • So true in the US. Race relations are much worse now and the Dems are promoting class and race hatred to get votes. Chavez was a master at instilling hatred.

    • To all my fellow Americans out there: We really should try to avoid equating Venezuela and the U.S. The situations are simply not even close to the same. We all see events through the prisms of our own experience. This is understandable, but it just doesn’t work well in this case.

      • Roy, yes, two different countries, two different cultures, two different governments, huge differences between these countries. The whole discussion was framed around creating hatred between social classes. In that, the similarities are very clear. There are no prisms here. You have to just look at the presidential results on both of the last elections to see that societies on both countries are divided.

    • Seriously? Show evidence to substantiate your declaration: “Although not as radical, Obama seems to be going in the same direction.” And as for his ” thought he was the next Chavez in 2008. Do you remember the idiots running around with communist flags at his inauguration? He and his pals finally got nerve enough in 2012/13 to go after the constitution (22nd amendment means he can’t be dictator for life), the bill of rights (freedom of speech, which Marxists only like when you say what they want to hear), right to protest and assemble, and promotion of gun grabs while he attempts to transform the police and military into his personal colectivo. to name a few. He also thought it was OK to use the power of government institutions like the IRS to attack and weaken political enemies and for basically threatening anyone who disagrees with his crappy Marxist agenda. Stirring up race and class hatred to get votes (if I had a son he’d…), handing out goodies at taxpayers expense to buy support? Blaming everyone but himself and his party? Heard a peep out of him about the race-based knockout game (victims are white, who cares?)? Sound like Chavez? Send in the Tupamaros!” Again, you seriously need to show supporting evidence to substantiate your ridiculous assertions. And I mean, ALL of them!!!

  9. You need more interesting posts. though your post is factual and re states the obvious for the Nth time, it just isn’t fresh or interesting. I the current group stays on this track, it will, in no time, destroy all that was built by Mr. F. Toro’s talented pen and brain. His occasional posts even now, are close to the only interesting material that appears on the blog.
    To put it archly: sometimes if you have nothing to say, or worse yet something utterly stale to write, then just skip it. Nothing is better than plain old filler material.

    • Petrous : Your comment is both unfair and incorrect , this post is meaty and interesting to a great many bloggers as can be attested to by the many comments and exchanges it has inspired . We all relished Franciscos provocative and insightful contributions but the new format is in my opinion as good as ever , it deals seriously with a lot of different topics and has brought into the writting team plenty of talented new collaborators . Every so often as happens in any publication there will be some pieces which arent as inspiring as others but this is normal and does not deserve criticism !!

      Besides any new endevour needs a bit of time to put all its pieces together , to find its rythm , you cant rush something as ambitious as the project that this new blog represents !! Im for continuing to give Juan and the rest of the team a strong vote of confidence !!

    • It is disappointing that you indulge in this myth of nationalism… It never existed in the first place.

      Venezuela started out as two distinct nations, one of criollos, the other of black slaves and indigenous peoples.

  10. And the OAS was already useless before Chavez came to power, so I can’t say Chavez really “destroyed the interamerican consensus”, when there was none to begin with.

  11. “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Either we have hope or we don’t; it is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons …Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is.

    Hope is not the conviction that something will end well, but that it makes sense, no matter how it will end.”

    -Vàclav Havel

  12. I understand your position, but don’t be so blindsided.

    1. The identity of Venezuela as a nation was actually brought back during the Chavez administration, not buried. Before his government it was highly uncommon to see people waving the national flag or having pride for any of our national teams. When Chavez arrived into power this changed. We might live in a heavily polarized nation, but our national identity was actually reinforced during the Chavez administration

    2. Internationally speaking the Chavez administration was actually a huge success. This government was able to create small Latin America unity, something that had not happened since the wars for independence. The OAS and TIAR are useless, so really not much was lost there. I have no problem with the Canadian government overseeing the new international organizations, but being completely honest the US messed up the region for decades so they should have no say on our internal matters.

    That being said Maduro’s move to cut international relations with Panama is a rare surprise that shows that this man is not ready to have any type of seat in international affairs, much less the Venezuelan presidency. It was basically a little child’s reaction.

    3. No argument for this one. Free trade will continue to exist, but his administration screwed up Venezuela’s economy majorly.

    Whether we like it or not former president Hugo Chavez established his name in history much like Marcos Perez Jimenez did. Although their administrations had clear benefits for the country, they also did a lot of harm.

    I am just expressing my opinion. And if you were wondering, I am part of the opposition but also consider myself a socialist (at least the type that supports the governmental systems the Nordic countries have).

    • Gabriel,

      1) Flag waving has little to do with nation consciousness.
      I think the more flags people wave, the less productive they tend to be for their respective nations.
      What the country needs is people who are ready to deliver to the
      community, they who show how they can contribute to this abstract concept, however randomly created it might be.

      The concept of nation in Venezuela has been very fuzzy at most and that since the XVI century.
      Venezuela is still just a set of regions and a bunch of very different concepts on “Venezuela”.
      Chávez didn’t change that at all. On the contrary: resentments are stronger.

      What Chávez managed to do is to divide Venezuela even more: even between families. This has been on a similar extent to what happened with Franco in Spain, even though we didn’t have the terrible civil war Spain had. The amount of energy wasted in senseless pseudo-political discussions and in all kind of political acts without planning has been immense. I just try to imagine what would have happened had we focused all those hours on developing one field for Venezuela: agriculture, biotechnology, even simply primary education standards.

      2) OAS was not much of an organisation anyway, but Chávez managed to slow down even further any discussion about real integration. With his infantile tantrums, with his little cooperation towards the cocaine problem, he managed to destroy even more chances of Spanish American nations coming together.

      The way Chávez screwed up the Venezuelan economy makes it even harder to implement any real integration between Colombia and Venezuela. It’s even worse than it was when I was a child.
      I can drive from Amsterdam to Paris without having to stop anywhere but a petrol station.
      An Italian researcher can move to Stockholm to work on some study together with German
      and Spanish colleagues. Meanwhile, I had to see how Chávez declared he was “freezing relations” with Colombia and how millions got wasted on both sides just because of that and so much more.

      Caldera II (not my cup of tea) managed to raise petrol prices several times. Now, it is more difficult to raise those prices than in 1989. Even less Venezuelans, less or right, are now ready for a free currency exchange as they were back then. And that has real consequences for an integration.

      The socio-economic changes introduced by Chávez have definitely taken us back decades in the integration process and they have also given more support to Argentina and Brazil’s pseudo-leftist regimes, which have turned Mercosur into a farse, into a club of presidents who periodically take group pictures

      Sorry, I live in Northern Europe and I think you have to take a new look at your concept of socialism in this area. It’s social democracy in the context of very explicit pluralism and real debate. It means more than flag waving on a common picture (even if there is that here as well).

    • Well put , I also am the opposition but you have to call a spade a spade ! And you did well

    • 1) Chávez promoted a falsified and simplified version of Venezuelan history of good vs evil, where he falsely claimed that the period where most advances were made (1958-1999) was the worst, he constructed a identity of a motherland where only people who support his politics belong, he actually created a split identity where many Venezuelans don’t recognize the others as valid citizens of the country. I prefer not having the seeds of a civil war planted for the return of people waving flags and cheering drunkenly at a football match.
      2) He destroyed the Inter American System and undermined the supervision of human right abuses so he could get away with violating Human Rights. He stopped any attempt to modernize trade and give the region more competitiveness.
      3) He destroyed any work ethic or knowledge that might had existed in the country before him.

      • Chavez defined half the population of Venezuela “apatrida” (=stateless). He instituted policies (i.e. the Maisanta and Tascon lists) that in PRACTICE turned that “apatrida” half of the population into “foreigners” in their own country, by setting them up as prime targets for fiscal and criminal prosecution while cutting them off from all state resources and initiatives.

        The creation of stateless permanent residents out of autochthonous populations or out of populations that have lived in a country for many a generation is just a way of setting up a tribal state. Take Brunei, for example, with its ancient and officially stateless Chinese population as large as 11.3%! Many Islamic countries have this tribal set up. Even non-Islamic ones (e.g. Japan and its stateless Koreans).

        But few countries dare to treat as stateless a minority that is close to half of the total population! Venezuela dares because of the times we are living in… A wave of tribalism is sweeping South America. Peru and Bolivia are going in that direction. Venezuela is simply frontrunning them as part of a larger tendency. This tendency will result in the creation of huge populations of de facto or even official stateless descendants of Europeans, especially in cities where many migrated after the World Wars.

        This wave of tribalism is affecting Western democracies too. Western identity politics can be seen as an attempt to replace a normal state with a tribal one. The fact that the West is choosing not to take a stance vis a vis the rise of tribalism internationally may be the reflection that in the world of identity politics it is “politically incorrect.” to do this.

    • Nationalism is more than just flag waving and engaging in kitzshy sentimental theatrics , before Chavez we all felt as part of one country , now many of us feel as if weve become outcasts and pariahs in our own country, a country now ruled by a despotic clique bent on perversely alienating our most cherished values and pauperizing our lives . on making us feel as if we dont deserve to be Venezuelans .!! If thats fostering nationalism then ……..we have no idea what nationalism is ..

      A skewed form of xenophibia against the US , Canada and Europe is also not nationalism , specially as it is accompanied by a sordid surrender of national interests to the dictates of Castros cuba , the demands of Chinese economic expansion and the boosting of Chavez megalomaniacal follies as the redeemer of all latin american peoples.

      The pillorying of the US as the whippling boy of all Latin American Frustrations and Failures is shameful , its just a fancy way of playing the histerical role of noble victims of other peoples more succesful civilization while ignoring our own contribution to those failures !! A form of ethnocentrism that feeds on its resentments rather than on its real merits as a culture.

      Chavez missapropiated the use of the term socialism ( as practiced in scandinavia) and used it to hide the true tenor of his ideological biases , which made him a devotee of that tropical form of comunism practiced by Castro in todays martyred island of Cuba. !!

      • It is comical to hear the chavistas babble about sovereignty as the Cubans take over the military and the police, and the Chinese lock up the future oil production with their loans along with the ALBA parasites.

  13. One thing that Chavez did drastically change was the kind of political discourse used by Govt , it became and still is extremely vehement , ofensive , threatening , vitriolic brutal , flagrantly defamatory and frenzied when referring to real or madeup enemies and , kitzsh hyperbolic , declamatory and pretentiously pompous when singing its own praises. Also bare bald lies and boorish fables have now become an integral part of the fare served straight to the captive audience of Venezuelan citizenry . This discourse uses a savage language of confrontation and of shameless transparent deceit that ordinary people find difficult to bear.

    The effect of this discourse is to poison and brutalize the political climate , to create a chasm of barbed wire oratory and hatred between the regime supporters and its harshly dehumanized enemies. It is this discourse that is feeding the fires of opposition protests.and of the armed colectivos violent activities.

    One thing he could do and which died with him was to be entertaining and charming in talking to ordinary peoole regaling them with private anecdotes that personalized his connection with people , which made them bond with him .That touch of impish levity that he had is definitely something that Maduro however much he tries as never been able to master or inmitate .!!

  14. There aren’t 2 Venezuelas, there is only one…the other thing is called ” The Bolivarian Castro-Chavista Republic”

    2 different countries.

  15. Under Chavez the government failed to deliver at a minimally acceptable standard the basic services that government has long been delivering in the most rabid capitalist economies: policing (the only effective security in Venezuela is private), health (public hospitals and Barrio Adentro modules are a disaster), a justice system (the judicial system in Venezuela is a farce, jails are run by gangs), public health (dengue and malaria have exploded), public education (rather than increasing accessibility to good education, the government has brought down standards, politicized the cirriculum and punished the universities), environmental and occupational health and safety protections (the Yankees now get the blame for industrial and environmental disasters), labour rights and collective bargaining (a farce), power infrastructure (rodents and the CIA are blamed for constant blackouts), public parks (mostly unusable because they are dangerous and/or fallen into disrepair), public transportation (no progress made, old infrastructure insufficient), transparency around public finances (corruption flourishes), defense (why Venezuela needs to spend so much on military hardware except for use on its own people is beyond me, but maybe the Cubans know), international trade (Venezuela exports oil and cocaine, the benefits of which flow to a small political and military elite, and imports everything else), fostering regional stability through diplomacy (diplomacy under Chavez was essentially a function of the man’s personal mental state, which was not stable), a stable economy and currency (nada).

    So as a “socialist” experiment, it was a complete farce if measured on its own terms. What Venezuela got was rampant inflation and, paradoxically, an explosion of shopping malls and increased dependence on foreign powers (including the USA). Chavismo, for all the massive resources at its disposal, could not even, in the area I visit regularly, build a humble public swimming pool in the 7 odd years over which I watched that particular project unfold. It was just fundamentally incapable of putting public resources to public use, much less carrying out a “revolution”.

  16. Welcome to communism folks-a ruined economy, a police state, and a dictator. Mankind’s greatest experiment as Mandela once said. And it all relies on a cushion of capitalist oil money for its survival. That is the prop that needs to be kicked out from under it.

  17. Excellent synopsis….VNZA is becoming so isolated the Regime will not last much longer…Cut diplomatic ties with Panama?? But not the EEUU??? We all know why that will not happen…Este Gob. se va a caer, and the sooner the better so that the country can get back to business rebuilding itself and their shattered lives..

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