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An Ibsen Martinez tour de force

Rather than boring you with yet more of what I think – which I think is pretty well established by now – I will regale you with a translation of this extraordinary interview with Ibsen Martinez in Tal Cual Today

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on with Ibsen’s interview, translated and republished very much without permission:

“Chavez still hasn’t actually gone to work.”

Questioner: Shouldn’t we judge the government with a little more forebearance now that the president has confessed that watching TV is one of his daily activities?

Ibsen Martinez: I don’t think so. If he is watching Venezuelan TV, he is being submitted to torture because, except for a very few deliciously rawnchy shows, it’s really awful.

Among the reams of things that have been written about this political pathology in which we live, it’s bears wondering if in all these six years there has been a single real cabinet meeting, in the strict sense of the term. I mean, a meeting that starts, has an agenda, in which ministers are subjected to scrutiny, give explanations, sometimes disagree with the President. I seriously don’t think there has been.

What there has been is this agit-prop stuff, the obsession with being on TV. In that sense Chavez reminds me of those guys who go to the TV channels and spend the whole day waiting at the door hoping that some well-known artist might come out to ask for an autograph, and they waste their lives on that idiocy.

The obsession with the media, together with the fact that he never holds a cabinet meeting, make me think that in all these years Chavez still hasn’t settled down to work.

Q:Between vicepresident Jose Vicente Rangel, PPT Labor Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias and MVR Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello, the Golden Cynic goes to…? [all three major hate figures for the oppositon now, especially Rangel, whose peculiar brand of rhetorical curlicues often borders on the psychotically detached from reality as the rest of humanity knows it. -ft]

Ibsen Martinez: To the vicepresident. Diosdado is a guy who has never deceived us, he is transparent. But the vice presidents is one of the most sensationalistic cynics of contemporary politics.

It’s a topic worthy of study. It’s the question that brightens up conversations at parties, when these are dying down: “so what do you think of Rangel?”

Q: And what do you reply?

Ibsen Martinez: For a long time I thought he could be a key factor for moderation and, even, an element that could help teach the chavistas to improve their performance.

Until the last minute we were on speaking terms, after the coup in april 2002, when he was the head of a mis-named “Dialogue Table” that was no such thing, in which I participated very briefly, I still thought he embodied the soul of a moderator. But they tell me that now he defines himself as the most taliban of the taliban, which is a pity. (taliban, folklorically enough, has become established in Caracas Spanish as a synonym for “political extremist.” -ft)

Q: Isn’t Chavez in power about as dangerous as Michael Jackson let loose in a kindergarten?

Ibsen Martinez: I don’t believe so. Chavez is not a dangerous guy, in the sense that we usually give the word in a personality like his, which is authoritarian, ambitious and autocratic.

What I find most harmful in him is his disregard for the rule of law. The absolute absence of a relationship with the world of plato’s forms. That is what has exasperated so many Venezuelans.

This is a guy who invents a constitution for himself, made to measure, only to violate it permanently, and to no avail because those violations don’t even benefit him, but still he gets into that huge mess. The image is of the cartoon in which a guy draws the floor to a corner and finds suddenly he has cornered himself there. Probably when he is evicted from power, he will not be able to explain to himself what actually happened.

Q: Name three acts of pennance (gawd! catholic country -ft) that any repentant chavista should undertake now that he is on the opposition’s side.

Ibsen Martinez: – First, he has to help sustain in a convincing way the democratic calling of each of the members of the G-5 (the five main opposition leaders), and dissert for half an hour about the democratic spirit of AD chief (and, imho, rascal -ft) Henry Ramos Allup. Second, write 150 times that phrase so often used by chavistas when talking about Chavez: “well, that’s just his style, that’s who he is.” The last is to dissert coherently on the word “process” (the tag chavez uses interchangeably with revolution), which he kept talking about when he was a chavista and wouldn’t shut up about the process.

(he is cruel!)

Q: Do you still celebrate 4F? (Which is how Venezuelans refer to the coup Chavez led on February 4th, 1992 – not to be confused with 4D, which is an ice cream shop!)

Ibsen Martinez: Yes. It’s not that I celebrate it, it’s that it seemed to me something like that was going to happen. It shows how bad off we we were with the adecos (the AD government) that I even felt this little frisson just from seeing (AD dinosaur) Morales Bello at the end of his wits. That moment may be one of the few things I can thank Chavez for, having given me the pleasure of seeing some adecos running around like sprinters.

I did not celebrate the violence, rather the inflection point in a political system that just went to hell. Even with all we’re going through now, the fact is that we’ll no longer have a situation where (AD party chiefs) Lauria and Alfaro decide all of our futures and we hear about it afterwards. Just think, we were kept informed by Gonzalo Barrios! who they wanted us to see as some kind of master tactician but who was so old he couldn’t even talk, only mumbled. This, well, I don’t know if it is better, but it is different, more entertaining. Now we can feel we will have a recall, but that we will not go back to the days of Alfaro. Can you imagine the country if Alfaro had won, or Irene Saez, the dumb blonde?

Q: In one of your articles you recommended celebrating the “Day of the asslickers.” If your motion is accepted, who should preside over the event?

Ibsen Martinez: We’ve always had great asslickers, but when life gives you one of those personalities they call “charismatic”, the other side of the coin is the bash of the asslickers. Otherwise, the chief cannot be persuaded that he actually is. When we were invited to that Dialogue Table, Janet Kelly and I were absorbed looking at the faces at the chavista side of the hall when Chavez arrived and sat down. It was a drooling contest. I remember the girl who used to run CatiaTV, who would succumb to ecstasy, and there was one who was especially ecstatic, a Sidor labor leader, chubby guy. What was his name again?

Q: I can’t remember.

Ibsen Martinez: That is the thing with asslickers, you can never remember their names.

But one of the great asslickers, without a doubt, is el negro Isturiz (Education Minister, PPT.) I remember when he was head of the Constituyente and Chavez was traveling, and he felt icky about changing the name of the Republic, and he said so repeatedly. But it didn’t take more than one bang of the shoe from Chavez for him to cosponsor the motion. I don’t know him personally, but I find him particularly disagreeable.

Precisely for that reason, because he does what he can to be seen as an individual in that amorphous mass, and asslickerism cannot deal with him. He has opinions, he jumps ahead with them. I imagine he must open the doors to the cabinet meetings with Chavez.

Q: Do the members of (young, middle-class, center-right party) Primero Justicia need a bit more whorehouse in ’em? (Venezuelan expression, meaning do they have enough malice to face down the big boys?)

Ibsen Martinez: I don’t think so. In general, that illustrated and enlightened right wing that a country needs, I find that they’ve had a pretty good go of it, and you can see how fast they’re progressing. About the proliferation of NGOs and that whole pathology of ours where nobody wants to be a member of a party now but everyone wants to be a neighborhood leader, the fact that they’ve run away from NGOism and into party political life with a clear electoral goal, that I think is quite positive. And I realize that they’ve been getting whore housed up, with time.

Q: In this tornado of events, do those who opine much err much?

Ibsen Martinez: Certainly. Since the political environment started to heat up, expressing your opinions has stopped being a cathartic act. The revolution takes us to a space where you don’t have opinions, you have pronouncements of faith.

I would rather live in a society where you can have an opinion, retract, think about one thing today, another tomorrow.

Q: Should we have a media contents law? (the politically explosive government proposal that most think would gag the private media.)

Ibsen Martinez: Not at all. I find it futile to write a code that stipulates what can go out over the airways, because their intention is to gag. If chavistas could look towards the past, they would realize that it’s useless. The most docile TV in the world was the soviet one, and that was the system that collapsed the hardest. They managed to make TV something so useless, that Russians didn’t watch it. Then, these pendejos, Nora Uribe and all the other geiniuses of revolutionary semiology, can’t see that such a TV is useless. It’s futile that a country that’s so uppity, so free-spirited and so stubborn as this one that they could try to make a totalitarian communist revolution.

Chavez should reflect about what these six years have meant, because they’ve been a real nightmare for him.

[Ibsen Martinez is mathematician, essayist, novelist (in more ways than one!), top notch provocateur, and all around public intellectual…a national treasure.]

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Known to friend and foe alike as Quico, Francisco Toro is Executive Editor at Caracas Chronicles.

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