Over on The Guardian, Rory Carroll is back to his old Caracas stomping grounds with a long piece that’s a strong contender for the title of The One Article You Need to Email To Your Gringo Friends To Explain What’s Going On Here This Week™.
Chávez’s absence from many rallies has given him the air of Banquo’s ghost. He hovers in the form of television appearances, and occasional, relatively brief public appearances, an echo of the man who used to barnstorm the country and wade into crowds. Winning the election under such circumstances would be a triumph, and he may well pull it off, but it will not shake off the sense of fin de regime.
His legacy will be debated for decades, much as people still argue over Juan Peron in Argentina. Many outsiders made up their minds long ago. There was Chávez the dictator who jailed opponents, sponsored terrorists and left his people hungry. And there was Chávez the hero who empowered the poor, deepened democracy and stood up to the US. While based in Caracas for the Guardian from 2006 to March this year I would hear both versions on trips abroad. Dublin, Shanghai, San Francisco, it didn’t matter where, opinion was polarised and passionate. And completely depressing. This was Venezuela of fantasy, a cartoonish projection, each side parroting simplicities and distortions as revealed truth. The reality was more complex and fascinating but if I broached oil dependency, or details that determined the fate of the revolution, eyes would glaze over. Few wanted to hear nuances of political economy. They wanted tales of the demon or gospels of faith.
Ah, to see those words in print…it’s like a balm.
Of course, I’d been trying to corner the market on The One Article You Need to Email To Your Gringo Friends To Explain What’s Going On Here This Week™, so I can’t really say I welcome the competition. Still, it’s a crackin’ good read.