When Unity Becomes a Wedge Issue

Can you tell the chavistas apart from the escuacas in this pic?

The lazy point to make about La Vino Tinto’s exhilarating run at the Copa América this year is that it’s a rare, exciting moment of National Unity – fútbol as the one last bastion of non-polarization in a politically fractured nation.

But there’s an odd paradox surrounding that line: celebrating the “unity” La Vino Tinto has brought about has become a partisan talking point: only the opposition goes there, the government never does!

Which isn’t that surprising: when you’ve built so much of your political raison d’etre around the notion that some Venezuelans are good and others are bad and the government is about boosting the good ones and keeping the bad ones under control, any social event that tends to flatten those differences is a threat to you. There’s nothing more threatening to chavismo than having Venezuelans cheer viscerally, from the gut, and as one over something meaningless but fun.

There’s a spark of mass tribal self-identification implicit in all that where class differences recede and political narratives of division seem viscerally out-of-place. Unity is our thing – the government knows it, and fears it.

Tonight, as the whole nation sits down together to cheer on La Vino Tinto, the very non-partisanship of the whole affair will quietly undermine the entire narrative structure the regime has spent 12 years painstakingly trying to built. Which is reason enough, even if you don’t give a toss about the match, to cheer the boys on tonight.

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  1. FT I understand and agree for a different reason. As an American that happened to be in France during the Women’s World Cup, I was very excited to see the ladies beat France. Then came the final. I privately supported Japan as they needed and deserved something to celebrate. Maybe I will support Venezuela for the same reason.

  2. Unity is our thing – the government knows it, and fears it.
    Love the selected photo, depicting that very unity .. and pure unalterated joy.

  3. Kiko, I think you are very wrong on this one. Anything that makes the broad population feel good is good for the incumbent. The question in my mind is whether this feel good time will last enough.

  4. Actually, one of the most obvious signs that the Gobierno is lost without Chavez is the absence of politicization of the vinotinto’s achievements. Do you remember the whole “oro para la revolución” or whatever the slogan for the Olympic team was? If Chavez had been at 100%, then every little thing accomplished by anyone with a Venezuelan flag on his clothes would be lauded as an accomplishment “solo en socialismo”.

    • Hey, don’t malign the Paraguayans unfairly like that – the Italians of South America are the Argentines. Unless you mean futbol style? If that’s the case, call the Italians the Paraguayans of Europe, because Paraguay has had this style much longer than Italy. Italy used to enjoy offense once upon a time.

      Whatever else you can say about the game – and there’s no doubt the Vinotinto created better chances, just didn’t finish them (much like the U.S. women in the Cup final, though that example was even more extreme) – Justo Villar was the best player on the field that night, as he was against Brazil.

  5. Sorry guys. La Vino Tinto lost to Paraguay in overtime penalty kicks. Score was 0-0 until then.

    Too bad, since it seemed to me that Venezuela had controlled the ball better throughout the game.

  6. Excelente trabajo el de la Vinotinto. A pesar de que lo que voy a decir suene como picao, Paraguay Ganó única y exclusivamente porque sólo podían ganar en penales, nuestro football hoy estuvo por encima del paraguayo.

  7. Starting in the World Cup, Paraguay won only one game in regular time…

    Pero bueh…ahi vamos Vinotinto! 3er lugar en copa America y de aqui al mundial!!

  8. Even if the way we lost sucks, I’m happy for the team and hope than we take the 3rd place on Saturday. Uruguay will win this thing.

    The regime has tried to take the vinotinto for their benefit, like the 2007 Copa America, but they have also tried to change the vinotinto color, just because. For them, all must be rojo, rojito.

  9. Hombre, Francisco, qué pavoso eres! Si no hubieras escrito este post estoy seguro de que hubiésemos ganado por dos penalties de diferencia.

    • Que penalties ni que nada, si Francisco no dice nada ganamos 3 a 0, vistes cuantos estupidos postes agarramos? Y el gol anulado por fuera de Lugar? Paraguay NUNCA estuvo cerca de algo asi. Uno que otro chute al arco pero nunca amenazaron con seriedad.

  10. This is out of topic, but I find a bit baffling Venezuela’s “wedge issues” in Wikipedia. Take a look:
    Globovision, our economy, Chavez, I get that. But Middle-East politics? And Tom and Jerry? I couldn’t help but remember all the complaining because the TV channels were showing cartoons and the so called media black out in April 2002. I am surprised that April 2002 is not at the top…

    • Well, Middle East is clear:
      Chavistas support on a block anything that is against Israel, oppos also tend to support anything that is for “Israel” (at least the ones in government now).
      Chavistas will support terrorism and say it’s just a response to injustice.

      I still haven’t seen someone from the opposition speaking out about the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories invaded in 1968. They will often – but not all – just take over the position of the US on that issue.

      Chavistas will always support whatever Russia says and they will discuss about Southern Ossetia even if they don’t really know where Russia…oppos don’t even bother, but Chavistas will discuss against the wall. Chavistas know they have to talk about Kosovo, although they don’t know about Chechnya. They will discuss about how Serbian cities were bombed by NATO but they haven’t heard anything about how Grozny was completely destroyed by the Russians.

      Now, Tom and Jerry: that’s obvious. Chavistas see themselves as Jerry and Tom as Uncle Tom or the Mossad. Oppos, on the other hand, consider Tom is the national government or Chávez as person and they are Jerry.

      Pensar en bloque es la divisa.

      • invaded? I don’t agree with current policy regarding the Palestinians, but talk about Chavismo rewriting history.. geez Kepp

        • Lazarus,
          Invaded according to very basic international law. You don’t use a religious text to prove your point, specially because those people who believe in that text are much more European than the Palestinians who were living in that place since time immemorial and are closer to the Jews you read about in the synagogue or at church than those newcomers who are mostly arriving from the US, from Russia, etc.
          So yea, the Israeli government very much invaded that territory and is carrying out ethnic cleansing. No wonder that very government was one of the few to go all the way to support the Apartheid regime in South Africa for many years, in a very shameless fashion.

          • By the way: History is not what you read in Exodus by Leon Uris, really. Or some weird extrapolation about the book of Joshua and applying that to 1968.

            Things are a wee bit more complicated than that.
            Unfortunately, it seems a lot of English speaking oppos seem to get their history lessons from US films or visits or the like. And that is a real problem. It is almost as disastrous a basis for “history” as reading the VTV site.

            So: basically, Chavistas on one side and oppos on the other do tend to take automatic positions because they don’t reflect on what sources they are trying to analyse and do not doubt the fist thing they hear from their side.
            Of course, siempre hay excepciones.

            This is all I have to say about this as it goes OT.

          • Jan 17, 1964, The PLO, founded in Egypt, signed a charter with articles that proclaimed Israel an illegal state and pledged “the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.” And so started the armed conflict.

          • You know Lazarus, you just don’t know when to quit do you?

            The zionists started illegally entering the Holy Land in 1946, smuggling weapons and trained men to harass and commit acts of terrorism against the Palestinians residing there. Zionists were allowed by the British, in charge of the Holy Land at the time, to carry weapons. Palestinians like my Uncle Francis went to Jail for having a rusty non working musket. If it weren’t for the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem intervening, he’d probably still be there.

            I wish my father were alive to tell you how the Irgun and Hagganah, led by Menachem Fucking Begin would surround a village and threaten anyone who left their home with death. They would then proceed to blow up the houses with all inside, leaving one person alive to tell the story at the next village. My father witnessed this in 1947.

            So get your facts straight before you speak or write, Lazarus.

            Matter of fact, do like your namesake and revive elsewhere, for all I care.

      • My God, we have UNITY, or at the very least, a third way!
        For if Chavistas see themselves as Jerry and Tom as Uncle Tom or the Mossad, and Oppos…consider Tom is the national government or Chávez as person and they are Jerry, then both sides consider themselves JERRY!

        • Indeed but if they found about it, they would both consider themselves Tom until they found the other also did it and so on ad infinitum

      • Kepler,

        You mean we don’t have enough issues, divisions, and complications in Venezuelan politics, so we should introduce Middle East politics in the mix as well!!?? Why don’t we tack on abortion, the death penalty, and the designated hitter rule as well?

        • Well, I think that in fact we don’t have enough public affair issues. There seems to be only one issue for both sides and it is wether Chavez should go or not. Have we discussed discrimination, military -civilian relations, education or health care financing, to name but a few? I know that these and many other issues do not resonate in Venezuelan politics, but as long as our public affairs dispute is reduced to belonging to one side or the other, real issues will not be addressed.

          That most people don’t care about them? I know it and I have been told so for the last 30 years. But to me, yes, we should have more issues coming to the public arena. Middle East politics? Not really, but maybe talking about it helps us to bring our own public issues to the fore.

          • So long as Chavez is in power, that IS the only issue. No real debate on any issue is possible while that continues. Once that singular issue is resolved, I have no doubt that the issues you are talking about will all come out of the woodwork. But, not until the main obstacle to such open debate exists.

          • I agree on that being the only issue now. I don’t think that after him, these issues will come up and become important. As long as oil revenues keep flowing and its management does not change, my guess is they will remain non-issues

          • All I am saying about such things as Tom and Jerry, Chechnya and the Middle East is that both sides almost always take positions on an automatic manner, just because.
            Now, regarding IS the only issue: no, it is not. If you want to get rid of Chávez you do need to talk about a lot of issues. They are not Tom and Jerry, Chechnya or the Middle East, but they are about pluralism, accountability, real debate, human rights, plan for sustainable development, corruption versus honesty and the like.
            And we need to show our ideas regarding that. Whether we prefer Tom or Jerry, whether we think Russians are wankers in Grozny or the Chechen rebels or both is another matter, albeit it would make us a favour if people in general see each one of us have the cojones to articulate from time to time an independent position on those things and show we don’t think just what one leader tells us.
            But definitely we have more issues than “take away Chávez”. Chávez is just a manifestation of a larger disease and unless we bring about an open discussion not in Globovision but in Quíbor and Maturín about those issues (pluralism, accountability, human rights, development) we ain’t getting rid of that military bastard

        • I spit at the designated hitter rule and designated hitters. This is why the high and tight screamer was invented — to bring justice back to the game. Stay the hell away from the plate abu Designated HItter.

  11. And returning to the topic, I think that the opposition can use this story as a good example of what can be achieved when we work together as one nation. What would have happened if the trainer had insulted and discriminated half of the players? What would have happened if half of the players tried to ruin the efforts of the others? What would have happened if the best players were not included because they didn’t have friends in the right places?

    Like LL recently said, the opposition have to sell the idea that it takes a team to build the country we want. There’s no human capable of changing the fate of a nation, no matter how talented or brilliant he is*. That’s where chavismo have failed and we must succeed: team-building.

    * Si el moribundo tiene algún talento, sería la capacidad de engañar a quien quiere dejarse engañar…

  12. FT, I guess you have a reason to write Vino Tinto instead of Vinotinto. Although the first might be right for the wine, in the case of our national colors, it’s the latter that has become a particular name. BTW, all teams and individuals that represent Venezuela, are Vinotinto. It is an honor to wear that color, as it should be in any country, and it is hard earned. In any sport.

    • David,

      tu dijiste:

      ” It is an honor to wear that color”

      Ayer comprobamos lo maravilloso que es ser un pueblo unido… Sigamos en esa tónica! Ayer no ganamos un juego, pero ganamos gloria, respeto, orgullo y fuerzas para seguir la lucha! No perdimos, GANAMOS! Que viva Venezuela, que viva la Vinotinto y que viva la Unidad !

  13. The sane thing is to let football be… football. You cheer for your team as you see them in a game you like and love. Whoever does not like it, can ignore it, nobody is going to force it down their throats.

    The insane and widely hated thing is to politicize everything, including sports.

    The opposition has to do several things. Among them show people that they are the sane alternative: the one that will let things be. Yes, laissez passer, laissez faire, laissez vivre goes well beyond economics or politics, it’s a valid philosophy here and everywhere.

    It’s quite effortless too. Cheer for the team, love football, play football, embrace your fellow football fan/player regardless of political preference, avoid carrying over politics into football.

    • I’m not talking about claiming the victories of a national team as the property of any political faction. I find that disgusting, indepently of who is doing that and I totally agree with you. But that is not what I suggest.

      What I’m asking for is the use of the achievement of our football team as the example to follow as a nation. United we stand, yatta yatta… Like FT points out, unity as the opposite of polarization is the way to go. They should strenghten the message!

      • I agree. And a related topic: pluralism. I don’t know why nobody seems to mention that word in Venezuela. Does it sound too abstract?
        I wonder what would happen if the oppo would start confronting Chavismo with that 10-letter word time after time.

      • “We will let good things be”, “We will not taint things with political strife”, “We will not make the issue divisive”.

        are actually valid, sane and natural statements… particularly when there’s a faction insanely working towards the opposite end. Else, they are stating sane ways to live.

        The football analogy may be useful for political purposes. Though football in itself seems zero-sum.

        I would stress that team members in any given sports team are in it VOLUNTARILY and work together because they decide to do so. Their opinions and actions count or else there’s no team.

        And look at the big picture: Sports done well are in themselves good for everyone involved.Teams play against other teams in a spirit of friendship, and even the losing team gets something out of it. Annihilation is never an option (not in a Republic and in democracy either, why do you think they were created?).

        The real unity achievable as a nation is not being in a team that wins (or loses some of the time), it’s treating everyone like a person you would willingly play for and against. A friend. A buddy. Even a stranger whose shins you would respect because you expect him to respect your own shins. Play well and loyally.

        Suggest to Venezuelans that voluntary association and a sporting, chivalrous treatment of those on the other side (team) are the way to go. This is understandable to all who have ever played a game.

    • Loro,

      It’s not about carrying over politics into football -it is about learning how to be a group and work together as a group, something Venezuela has had a hard time with.Caudillismo divides.

      Nelsen Mandela used this technique in South Africa as well.Without Unity we will fall prey
      to the worst of politics.Politics works through divide and conquer.

      • Unity with a capital U is impossible, because a nation is heterogeneous. Only totalitarianism wants Unity. Or extreme Nationalism.

        Sports and games can happen because there exist different individuals (and teams) playing according to rules they agree to obey. Not harming or destroying the opponent, not cheating on them, not despising the opponent as inferior or unworthy, that’s un-sportsmanlike. Bettering themselves, teaching each other and achieving mutual regard through the game.

        If Paraguay, Chile or Venezuela were enemy countries the teams couldn’t play. They play because they are friendly and play each other often, because they are sister countries.

        If instead, you say, let’s have sportsmanship, fairness honesty, chivalry, courtesy, civility, respect for opponents… that’s what sports is about.

        It’s much more opposed to the message chavismo sends than any unachievable Unity we could imagine. And it’s dearer to the heart of anyone who has played a game loyally with friends.

        • So, this is pretty much the message that the opposition need. The MUD should just probably copy&paste this comment… Two thumbs up!

        • You are talking about something that is not Unity in this case Loro.There are different ways to apply the word that can take on different meanings.

          only totalitarianism wants Unity ?????

          wrong.they want uniformness

          Unity(or harmony), which is not uniformness, can be achieved only from diversity

          • Unity, at least unity of purpose (not of thought, that also is impossible, even in any two parties) is the message you might want the opposition to have in mind for next election. Unity means being one.

            For the rest of Venezuela, specially for many who still vote Chavez and for many who view the opposition as not much better than chavismo, another message is necessary.

            The name of it is civility. Or fraternity. Or courtesy. Or respect. Or sportsmanship.

            Maybe Hugo, or Adan Chavez is telling them to go for the knees and shins, to use elbows to break noses. We want none of it. We want fair play back in Venezuela.

            You will be, in the future, be able to play against us with whoever you want in your team. But it will not be civil war. It will be football, it will be elections. In fact, once normalcy returns, we will play against each other too. But we will play, not kill each other.

            Get it?

  14. And then…

    “@chavezcandanga: En mi modesto opinión y basándome en hechos observables, NOS ROBARON EL GOL DE LA VICTORIA!”

    “We wuz robbed!” Interesting – and despicable – attempt at trying to stir another fight.

  15. I saw a comment on Facebook last night from a Venezuelan acquaintance complaining about people who live outside of Venezuela but still root for La VT. The argument was something like: “I hate people who don’t even live here, that complain about things in Venezuela all the time and now they spend all day saying they love the Vintotinto.”

    Hopefully that won’t be the attitude when the nightmare is over and some of those who left, come back to begin the reconstruction…

  16. I really get a kick out of Chavez screaming fraud and declaring that “we have the authority” to approach the federation. What a hypocrite.

  17. I think some of you need to ponder on the meaning of Unity.We cannot unite things that are not separate 🙂

    Unification in the sense of political unification would mean acting together with cooperation, and as a unit, not becoming one.

    Becoming one could only happen upon death. 🙂

  18. A good example is what the Eastern Germans did in 1989. They had organisations of all kinds. There were those acting under the coordination of the Lutheran church. There were those who were proto-social democrats (and later came up under the SPD). There were those who were more Christian democrats. There were others who were more connected to the West German FDP (liberal which is right in Europe). There were a lot of other groups. They all shared logistics, they shared the few resources they had and they all marched as a FRONT chanting WIR SIND DAS VOLK, we are the people. They didn’t do it in Berlin only. In fact, they did it as much in other places.

    • Kepler, This is a good example of Unity in politics which has nothing to do with the uniformness so desired by totalitarians.


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