Muse on the Loose, Cont’d.


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.

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  1. Excuse me for being inelegant, and take this from a gringo who has lived in Caracas for 10 years. But, for the long term future of Venezuela, would an opposition win on Sunday be premature? In some ways, would it not be better to have Chavez and his ship of fools preside over the coming economic collapse of this country and be forced to live with the consequences? Has the country deteriorated so far that this might be best? Is this a situation somewaht similar to Germany in 1945 where there needed to be a total collapse for the hard core supporters to repudiate the insanity and accept the need to change to rebuild and create the better country that we know Venezuela can become?
    I don’t want this……but given the divide and hatred in this country I have been asking myself these questions as I contemplate the future here and my and my families future in Venezuela.

  2. I think the criminal and kleptocratic tendencies of the regime, as well as its human rights abuses, are given a bit of a flyover (granted, there is no Gulag, and Chavez, as far as we know, does not eat human body parts, but Venezuela is not some Singapore-on-the-Carribean autocracy-lite). I understand however that in the press you have to make your point short and sweet and get out. Good good article. He gets it.

  3. “This was Venezuela of fantasy, a cartoonish projection, each side parroting simplicities and distortions as revealed truth.”

    Bloody hell! I used to laugh while researching about the idealization of the New World in the Old. You know, More and his Utopia, and why we were the only group of people nobody could call by one name. For Europeans we were Latin Americans, Ibero Americans, Indo Americans. Never Americans, that was another thing. America was North America, if you see what I mean.
    I bring all this up because is amazing how a gringo comes to Caracas, a city that as such, disappeared long time ago, a place nobody could really and truly understand, and here we’ve got Rory and his Venetales. He not only knows como se bate el cobre but also, he keeps himself a a healthy distancy from the mess. Poor all these Venezuelan parroting at each other their underdevelopment!
    F*** Off Rory!

  4. A good article?? Whilst the it is indubitoubly most ably couched, the article manages to tell it without actually conveying the enormity of the robbery and skulduggery that has been Venezuela’s daily bread for this last decade and a half: in short, it is brimful of tendentious codswallop. There is much to be barnied about but, in a ‘to-name-but-a-few’ vein, one might take:

    A) “And there was Chávez the hero who empowered the poor, deepened democracy and stood up to the US.” a) Are the poor empowered? No; and he never meant to. c) is democracy deepened? Quite the opposite; he never meant it to be. c) namecalling from safely distant ramparts is hardly ‘standing up to’. Journalistic claptrap.

    B) Law Professor Ruth Guerrero, with a ‘yen for learning’ (?) is pulled out of the sky and teaches – with her ‘law diploma’ (do you know any professor with a law ‘diploma’) in the dodgyest of academe, thanks to the Mission Robinson, in fact, a literacy program: an unsupported precarious claim. Journalistic claptrap.

    C) “Guerrero was referring to the single most damning critique of the revolution, one that has nothing to do with Chávez’s democratic credentials. Venezuela is falling apart. In the case of infrastructure, literally.” Absolutely right BUT so what, for heaven’s sake? The disaster mentioned — utterly divorced from democratic credentials — most certainly has everything to do with the regime but the article deftly sidesteps that. The writer is deft, I’ll give you that.

    D) “The economy is not falling apart. It is growing about 5% this year, with unemployment of around 8%.”
    Blimey! One wonders what qualifier would do justice to that slight of pen!

    E) “Cadivi – a currency control agency that tried to shore up the ever weakening Venezuelan bolivar”: Well, if that isn’t a case of cart-before-the-horse.. And, was original Cadivi for shoring up? (Thinks too: how come a nation that is awash with high-priced oil has a currency that is ‘ever weakening’?) Jounalistic claptrap.

    F) “Venezuela’s revolution has no gulags, no torture chambers, but in wasted potential lies tragedy.”; could not the conditions of the police commisarios and Judge Afiuni be called ‘torure’ without exaggerating? Jounalistic claptrap, verging on worse.

    G) “If Chávez were healthy he would have walked this election, his skills of enchantment steeled, as ever, by control of state resources and institutions.” The verb ‘steeled’ conveys what the writer wants it to but paints over the blatant illegality and outright theft that the sentence in fact describes. It also seeks to emasculate, a priori, any opposition victory, implying it to be due, not to the herculean efforts of the beleaguered opposition, but to a dimiminshed Chávez. Tendentious journalistic claptrap.

    H) “Chávez can boast genuine accomplishments. He put poverty and social exclusion at the forefront of debate. He made millions feel they had an ally in government.” Well, he did that alright but, to what end? To the end of – very ably – hoodwinkung the untutored in ther millions into supporting him unreservedly while he spent all their money and borrowed billions more on the strength of their birthright, namely, the oil-in-the-ground. Tendentious journalistic claptrap.

    On the basis of tha aforementioned, I would say that the winner of that “One-article Stakes” is still wide open.

    • I’m speechless. I can’t imagine how anyone can read that piece and find it blandengue. Rory was BRUTAL!

      I’m especially mystified that you pick him up on reporting GDP growth – a plain fact, easily predicted by the oil boom, deniable only from a point of delusion. Calling him biased for including things that are undeniably true and undeniably relevant doesn’t do anything beyond showing you as a raving reactionary, Neddie…

      • Close you eyes and picture a country whose economy “isn’t falling apart but growing at 5% a year and that has but 8% unemployment”: Is that Venezuela your’e seeing?

        Neither either did I say he was being blandengue but with his undeniable journalsitic skill, he attributinges a well-intentioned mindset to the PresMan at some point in time: have you ever heard any speech of his – or his cronies – that wasn’t hate-driven?

        And he would have done well to omit his effort to strip the opposition of merit if they win.

        So, when is THAT hands-dwon winner articlw coming then?

      • After 14 years of Chavez’ revolution, “the country is literally falling apart”.

        I can hardly imagine a more damning assessment of a country with oil billions pouring in.

      • I didn’t read “Chavez the hero empowering the poor” as a congratulatory fact but rather as a presentation one of the two narratives that seem to exist in Venezuela. Either Chavez is the savior of the downtrodden or he’s responsible for everything that’s wrong in the country. While I tend to side with the latter we can’t deny that a substantial amount of the population still continues to believe in the ‘savior’ narrative. Rory Carroll is brutal with Chavez and always has been.

      • FT

        If it is true about the GDP growth, does it benefit the hardworking, well meaning folks who are not Chavistas? Is the article clear in illustrating this point?Have the poor reached a state of empowerment? What is happening to the middle class?Don’t you find it a bit superficial the way this topic was handled?

        By calling Neddie a ‘reactionary’ you fail to clarify your disagreements.

        Perhaps your differences in perspective have more to do with the fact that Neddie has been living in Venezuela continuously for a great many years, and you are quite the ex Patriot! If this is not the reason, then it would behoove you to explain your divergence with a bit more than a derogatory term.Maybe it is wise to leave out the derogatory description entirely.

    • I agree with Neddie who is, perhaps the best wordsmith/poet we have among us, on this blog. Notwithstanding his typos, it’s clear that Neddie knows the weight of each word, when used to describe anything above the day-to-day banter of conversation.

      Anyone who studies in depth the English language – for literary or (elevated) journalistic purposes, anyone who studies the law (and I don’t mean Ruth Guerrero’s questionable credentials), knows that a meaning can be shaded in any number of ways by the selection, with a pair of tweezers, of the specific word that conveys a grade of shade. Le mot juste, in French, comes to mind. The exercise is not for casual writers.

      And Neddie is right. Using “steeled” as an adjective to accompany enchantment, gives that noun, and by extension, Chávez, a very great weight that:
      – compensates for his lack of health (note that Rory didn’t use ‘ill’);
      – overlooks the darker side, the vast waste and expense of that enchantment;
      – lessens, by contrast, the achievements of the opposition.

      As for the Ruth Guerrero *law diploma* through the Misión Robinson … I was not as astute as Neddie, in my first read, but since, have asked for clarification in the Guardian comments related to the article, not expecting Rory Carroll to answer.

    • Neddie, I, as a Ven resident, agree that the article, while on the surface seems critical of Chavez, is at least as much whitewash, although skillfully done. As for the future debating the merits/demerits of Chavez’s legacy, there is no contest–IT”S BEEN AN UNMITIGATED DISASTER!!! I’m sure Rory’s future left-leaning book will NOT reflect this! Kudos on your insightful observations.

  5. I hope no one is as pessimistic as me after seeing the footage from Chavez’s closing campaign rally… Holy SHIT thats a lot of people!
    Brace yourself for an difficult Monday morning…

  6. Ojo:

    Another point worthy of mention, is that Carroll is guilty of a not so white lie.When he claims that Chavez respected the results of the Referendum he should have said that Chavez pretended to accept the results only to turn around and ram through( by other means) the contents of the referendum that the Venezuelan people had rejected.

  7. Yeah, this is a brilliant article. I had not noticed that Rory Carroll was transferred to Los Angeles, which is a shame, because I always found his articles on Venezuela to be interesting and well written. If this ends up being his last piece on Venezuela, it’s a nice way to bow out.

    And that video of him getting attacked by Chávez in Aló Presidente never fails to amuse.

    Kudos to you, Rory.

  8. Hey the link to the “oil dependency” article seems to be broken, both at The Guardian’s page and here… any clue of what he was trying to link to?

    This article is awesome, I wholeheartedly agree it is probably the best of what’s been written in English in the mainstream media about Venezuela as of late…


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