Quico says: An old and dear friend writes in from Washington:
Hey, um, sorry your country’s officially crossed the line into People’s Republic territory…
AU finally managed to reschedule “Venezuela: An Inside Look” with Ambassador Alvarez. I did manage to ask a pointed question, which he wasted many perfectly good and innocent words in not answering. You will be pleased to know that although the AU School of International Service community tends to lean WAY left, the atmosphere was markedly – well, not hostile exactly, but verrry skeptical. I was a bit surprised. I think it was the Radio Caracas TV shutdown that did it.
Hey you! Hmmmmm…Álvarez, huh? I don’t know whether to thank you for grilling him or nudge you towards psychiatric examination. You spent time in the same room as that man…WILLINGLY??!!? I’ve met dentist’s drills more pleasant than Bernardo Álvarez.
I think, in your situation, I would’ve approached it differently. Maybe tried to organize a “Sulk in bed in your grottiest pajamas while Hugo’s enablers gab” counterprotest. Every bit as useless, granted, but way more enjoyable.
Sorry, sorry, I don’t mean to be glib. I’m just deeply bitter. It’s not that I’m upset that the tide of opinion in the leftish academic north has finally started to turn, how could I be? I’ve been working for that for years.
It’s just deeply frustrating to see it finally start to happen precisely when it’s least useful. Five years ago, when there was something to play for, then your email would’ve made me happy. Back when Chávez was still struggling to establish autocracy, when the oil market had not yet left him floating on an ocean of cash, when parts of the state still had the capacity to check some of his more delirious excesses…five years ago, sure, then it might’ve meant something.
But Christ, I was in Caracas five years ago. I remember the look that would come over foreign journos’ faces when some over-wrought oppo talking head tried to persuade them that, the way things were going, in five years we’d be pretty much in People’s Republic territory. You could see the journo’s one eyebrow rise, you could see that condescending smirk come over his face, and you just knew that talking head was being inexorably filed away in the “cranks and obsessives – ignore” folder of his mental rolodex. So OK, sure, it’s some minor comfort that those names are gradually being re-filed in the “prescient observer” folder, but big fucking whoop. There’s nothing left to do now.
So yeah, I’m pretty ambivalent towards messages like this one (gotten a bunch of them this year, so pardon if I vent collectively on the pretext of yours.) I guess the penny was never likely to drop for first world audiences – focused as y’all are on the Middle East – until Chávez took a big, symbolic, visible step like the RCTV-shutdown, and Chávez wasn’t likely to take such a step while a big loss of international legitimacy could still undermine his control of the state. By this January, though, with every nook and cranny of the state under unquestioned control and with no elections to worry about for years, he had nothing left to lose and nothing left to fear. So he moved, and he got away with it. For the Nth time, he played us and he played y’all up north. So it’s authoritarianism on five engines from here on out, hurrah!
And now – after all the shit we’ve seen – NOW we’re supposed to feel better because El Pais in Madrid and some grad students in DC finally wised up? Sorry, dear, but it’s not the bon pensant left’s sympathy I want, it’s my democracy back.
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