Lots to smile about

So we finally have a successor. Today, Hugo Chávez named Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro as his Vice-President.

Long rumored to be Havana’s favorite in Caracas, Maduro’s succession to heir-apparent is a sign of where the tide is turning within chavismo. There have long been rumored to be two “strands” within chavismo – an ideological civilian branch, headed by Jaua and Maduro, and a narco-military branch, headed by Diosdado Cabello. (I know Adán Chávez is in one of those, but I forgot which one.)

It’s important to note that Maduro has never been elected to executive office. He has been a legislator and a minister most of his political life, but never a Governor or a Mayor. This raises some questions about his electability. Then again, before 1998 Hugo Chávez had not been elected to anything either, and look how that turned out.

Finally, Maduro is a surprisingly moderate choice for me. Personally, I can’t recall Maduro having ever insulted me, my children, my faith in my country, or my mother as most chavistas have. The fact that he used to be a bus driver and is now second-in-charge is a tribute to his talents – sorry, but it can’t be all sucking up. And as Foreign Minister he did what good Foreign Ministers do – do the boss’s biddings quietly.

If you compare him to the other people we have had as VP (Incompetent Isaías, Asinine Adina, Defalcating Diosdado, Repugnant Rangel, Joyless Jorgito Rodríguez, Characterless Carrizalez, and Humdrum Jaua) well … next to that group, he’s Harry Truman.

Anyway, this could all amount to nothing, and Chávez could end up in power until William and Kate’s grandchildren are crowned. But this type of Kremlinology can be a fun distraction.

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  1. I too recalled some “nice” Maduro moments when he was Congress President, but, overall, I find he is probably better than any of the previous ones…and, personally, I prefer a civilian to any military as vice-president.

      • Carolina, I highly condemn any homophobic remarks but let us be clear, the whole Venezuelan society is HIGHLY homophobic. In Venezuela, when you want to insult a politician or an adversary and he is a man, you either say or imply that he is an homosexual.

        I had a post about it:

        If my memory serves me well, I recall that at least Maduro excused himself for his remarks, whereas other public figures have never ever done that.

        This being said, in no way I endorse Maduro. The “nice” in my comment above was ironic. He was not nice at all while he was President of the Assembly.

        My point is that if I had to choose between different evils, I prefer to pick the non-military.

        And between two civilians, I would pick the least extremist.

        As for your implication that canadian are not homophobic, yes, the society is more tolerant and more politically correct than Venezuela, but crimes against gay are sadly still committed here in Canada.

  2. I agree with you, Juan. Maduro is a moderate choice, and I see it as a positive sign. He is a much better politician than many available alternatives. Gee, some people just want to keep seeing everything as bad news.

  3. I think it is time for this blog to do some soul searching. 

    You have just laid down the first brick of the foundation for Maduro’s future campaign: this guy has appeal in the opposition.  Anyone can now link to this post as proof. 

    Why? Because you feel guilty for not having been objective in the coverage before the election? Because you want to step out of the bubble? 

    Face it, this is a partisan blog and you guys should never pretend to be objective.  

  4. Bueno han mejorado un poco, cambiaron a un tira piedras comunista por un conductor de autobus anti-gay. Se siente que el pais va progresando.

  5. I see it as the best choice so Chavez does not have a referendum on succession. Cabello and Silva can share power in the back ground as Maduro would be very acceptable to the international community and the military while they figure out if new elections are in their best interests. It does tell me Chavez is very ill.

  6. Y mientra tanto en la Legión del Mal…

    Pinky, Thumb & Index organized primaries for Chavismo’s candidates to governors. Alfaro Usero et al woul be quite proud of this cogollismo.

    Good thing chavismo is a clean break from the past.

    • Oh dear, Venezuela is developing relations with nations opposed to imperialism, how awful. How dare Venezuela not only have relations with good pro US dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

      • What a boring jerk. The world does not revolve around the fucking USA. Venezuela could have chosen to seek help, counsel and business from any country in the world, and we chose to make a big deal of getting in bed with Syrias, Iran, Zimbabwe and Gambia among others, instead of learning from Sweden, Norway and Finland. That is one of my biggest problems with this govt. There are models that work, where there equality, where there is a safety net to help people who are going through a rough time. And my govt chose to ignore that and be best buddies with a bunch of horrific authoritarian and totalitarian govts. What a wasted opportunity.

        • Just a note of caution on the socialist systems of the nordic countries… I am currently living in Finland. My observation is that, while their systems are stable and function, they are not very efficient. And secondly, the reason these systems do function in these countries is because the populations and cultures are extremely homogenous and stable. I do not think that these systems could or would function in a sustainable manner in most of the countries of the world with diverse populations.

          Also, from a purely personal point of view, I find the culture of these countries to be stagnant and boring. I don’t knock it from any sort of moral or principled perspective. They just aren’t my cup of tea.

          • Certainly. No society is perfect. But to pick up Iran and Gambia as allies means that your foreign policy is not about helping your own people to live better, but about sticking it up to the US.

        • But here’s the rub: what are the relations between each of Sweden, Norway and Finland towards the US vs. towards Cuba?

          (El enemigo de mi enemigo es mi amigo…)

      • C’mon Viva Chavez! Say what you will about Iran, but Syria? North Korea? Libya? I am not saying the country should only be friends with the US and Canada -and remember, OPEC, the non-aligned countries doomsday weapon, was formed by the Adecos!- but at least with people that align themselves with really progressive views of the world! I mean, Gadaffi was a victim of the most recent popular revolution, the Arab Spring and Al-Assad is also fighting that same popular movement! Isn’t the current Venezuelan government all about rule of the people?

        And, as many on the “Antiimperialismo” camp seem to conveniently forget from time to time, it bears remembering that as recently as last year, the main percentage of Venezuelan oil exports -and commerce is the main kind of relationship between two countries, not speeches in the UN- was still going to the US! That is 40 percent of Venezuela’s main resource going to the “Empire” and only 10 percent to China. Where is the opposition to imperialism when the main example -according to the current government- of that policy is still Venezuela’s main trade partner?

      • Ok let’s start by dropping some knowledge…KSA is a Kingdom…so if you want to say Venezuela is a Democracy because we have elections, well you cannot say they have a dictatorship… And If you want to know Venezuela is a Semi democracy ( yes in policy making process papers and political science definition…that means no es lo uno ni lo otro sino todo lo contrario) And Please before putting any comment about the Middle east that is a whole different issue, that I would recommend do not read the issue for american media …because it sucks…and there are so many things that cannot be explained only with the side of “American Hegemony” … Besides I think , Viva CH that the new plan of your “government” ( sorry it would be mune too, however i’m on a list so I have no rights apparently) , is looking for the interplanetary peace…Paz a carajazos como en Siria

  7. There’s been no mention of why it was entitled “Maduro-damn”: bearing in mind that the phonetically identical Madurodam is a miniature version of a real Dutch town, the term was surely chosen with a subtext which, as yet, eludes me. Pray tell!

    As for how ‘acceptable’ he is, I am reminded of cold-war times when the west ostensibly tried to identify hawks and doves in the Russian politburo, with a view to configuring the western stance to bolster the doves. A major defector whose name escapes me (finished up teaching at Cambridge, I think) arived on the scene and told them it was all rubbish: “They’re all hawks”, he stated, “the ones you have as hawks want to bomb you to the stone age at ten tomorrow: the ‘doves’are willing to wait until two-thirty”. So too, the latest Vice-P gent: he can’t be where he is without having proven his dyed-in-the-blue worth time and again. That his command of and dexterity with aggressive language leaves him verbally hamstrung occasionally means naught; neither would it endear him (relatively) to a now alert international community either.

    • Precisely, Madurodam is a diminished carbon-copy of the real thing. Maduro will probably turn out to be a diminished version of the real thing… Anyway, if a pun is not immediately understodd, it didn’t work.

  8. Let the transition begin!

    Depending on Maduro’s level of exposure to the media I see two directions they can take:
    1) if we see him 24×7 in TV & press it means we’re on full campaign mode again (Datanálisis and C21 will be elated). Clearly they’ll be trying to turn him into a plausible contender and give him plenty of head start for the elections that will follow the Pelona’s visit.

    2) On the contrary, if we only see him now and then as some sort of Miraflores’ Bar bouncer my read is that the constitutional amendment to skip elections is coming in full force. Be afraid

    Of course, they might go for the two scenarios in parallel. That’ll keep him from grabbing to much power before The Prince goes and will hedge their bets considering Maduro is one of the less charismatic politicians in Chavistown.

  9. Iran is opposed to Imperialism? What do you think Iran is attempting to do but establish imperial hegemony over the middle east via Hezbollah and Syria?

    North Korea only exists because it was saved from its fate at the last second by China which sought to establish its own imperial puppet (remind me, when are there elections in North Korea?). Chavez is not fighting imperialism at all, he is befriending the most aggressive imperialists of the present day.

    If he wanted to make friends with clear non imperialist powers, he’d pursue Switzerland, Finland, South Sudan, Thailand or many other options. Not Iran and Russia.

  10. I think you guys are being far to optimistic in assuming there would need to be a referendum to forgo new elections. What would stop Chavez from ordering the supreme court to rule the vice president shall serve any remaining term? It makes no legal sense, sure, but who will stop it?

    They can word the ruling any silly way they want, the national assembly can vote in favor (along party lines), ban, that is more than enough cover. Many other countries make a mockery of their constitutions, why should Venezuela be different.

    • This kind of thing reminds me of how Somoza used to retain power for his cronies. Slowly, though, it saps all democratic legitimacy so that when someone pushes back, no one outside objects.

  11. Reading these posts you almost make me want to vote for Maduro next time around. Unbelievable, but this is the intellectual side of Venezuela so completely believable.

  12. Is Maduro really a homophobe? Who knows. To me, that’s the wrong way to read his homophobic attacks against HCR. What he was trying to communicate was something different: “I’m just as willing to go down to the gutter level to attack my boss’s opponents as anyone.” To me he was just working to establish his loyalty, his bona fides as an attack dog. That the attack was homophobic rather than, say, anti-semitic or Godwin-driven nazi talk is purely incidental.

    I have no idea what the guy really thinks about gay people in his fuero interno. But I don’t get the sense at all that it’s sensible to judge that by his attack on Capriles. That attack reveals him as a chavista, nothing more.

    • To me that is irrelevant. Well, OK; not exactly irrelevant, but the distinction is meaningless. When you are using being gay as an insult, when you demean gay people in a campaign rally just because it fits your political purposes, I do not care if you are really a homophobe deep in, because the biggest problem is not how you really feel about me, but that prejudiced people feel vindicated in their prejudice and you send to everybody that it is OK to demean others just because of their sexuality. Also, that he was president of the parliament and they never found time to discuss civil unions when they found time to go against pornography and video games is not a good sign.

      Mind you, I would not be supporting Chavez even if his govt would have approved full marriage equality, the same way I do not support him and when I go to dad’s house in Valera the meals are mostly Mercal food.

      • Most Venezuelans are usually casually homophobic. I think that Nicolas Maduro is as homophobic as the average man of his generation, regardless of social strata o political orientation. Many people just don’t have a clue about what an homophobic comment. Probably they just think that only saying that homosexuals should die is offensive. Nothing about se perdió esa cosecha or jokes about anal sex, maricón and the like. Its the usual we are just kidding, is nothing serious Venezuelan answer. When you start talkin seriously about the matter most people consider “fin de mundo” and unmoral thinks like civil unions. What I mean is that probably Maduro is faithful reflection of the view that most Venezuelans have on homosexuality.

        • I still think that, in general terms, you need a wider spread of homophobic comments to be understood as a homophobe. I mean, have we ever heard Maduro attack gays in a context different from attacking Capriles? If we have, I’d have to own up. But until he does, my sense is that he lacks scruples generally, rather than has any specific animus against LGBT folks. A general purpose bicho, rather than a narrowly homophobic one.

          Then again, I read things like:

          “La homosexualidad no es ninguna transgresión a la sociedad. Desde tiempos de Calígula y aún antes, la exhibición de elementos homosexuales ha sido siempre privilegio de las oligarquías y aristocracias y de los curas corruptos, no un asunto del pueblo, que ha estado siempre ocupado en sobrevivir y en luchar por sacarse la explotación de encima.”


          And OK, I sort of have to give up.

          • F.T., Maduro was just, once again, stooping down to lick his boss’s boots. Greater generalizations cannot be made.

          • You are right. But the point is that it does not really matter, as his behavior vindicates and enable people like that writer. He can go home and stop thinking about gay people, you are probably right, he is not obsessed about us, but we do have to live with the crazies that feel more righteous than usual and don’t stop thinking about us.

        • “That attack reveals him as a chavista, nothing more.” We are in big trouble if 54% of Venezuela’s population can be described in those terms. El camino está empinado.

          • Homophobes are on both sides. People on both sides probably dont see anything offensive with using a gay slur to make fun of a chavista (jokes on Jesse Chacon, María Cristina Iglesias and Juan Barreto). That article cracks me up, machismo is only a product of capitalism (we all know the advanced position of women outside western societies)

          • Indeed, Venezuela needs to advance a lot in LGBT rights. I am used to private citizens being like that. You develop a thick skin and you stop caring, when even your family speaks in those terms you need to stop caring. Things are the way things are, that is why I never expected civil unions or anything. What is new here is such an attack from a govt officer, the blatant hypocrisy and the relentless homophobic campaign.

            As the writer of that article has shown, it is pretty easy to make things even worse than they are.

        • You guys are missing something important here…

          Venezuelan culture is simply not amenable to political correctness. The idea of reforming speech codes so as to not offend particular subgroups of society is alien to us, and a great majority of those who become familiar with it think of it as a fruitless, silly and academic exercise. Everyone loves to joke about “los y las diputados y diputadas” and that’s how most of PC is perceived, even among the purportedly offended minorities; e.g. an old friend from high school likes to joke about the word “afrodescendiente” because it magically makes him “not negro anymore.”

          In fact, with respect to the rest of the world, we are the rule not the exception. PC is a phenomenon exclusive to Anglo-Saxon and historically Protestant countries that, via their cultural dominance, has gained some traction among the academic and political elites of the rest of the world. But it’s just nonexistent everywhere else: East Asians, Africans and Eastern Europeans are notoriously non-PC when it comes to race and ethnicity, gender relations, the Jewish people, etc.

          You also have to consider the difference between speech and intent. Most Venezuelans aren’t racists, and given our mixed ancestries most of us tend to think poorly of things like racial purity and ethnic separatism. However, our speech can be quite racist in content by most PC standards. There was an interesting slapfight here a couple of weeks ago because someone innocently dropped the word “gringo” and an actual American took offense. I won’t claim that the same thing happens with homosexuality, but maybe the intent isn’t as harsh as the speech itself…

          • In countries with human rights codes which are respected, intent is not a defense. Nor is the fact that ‘someone told me to do it’. I appreciate you have to look at the venezuelan context- but this guy is not running a grocery store in the middle of the bush. He is foreign minister, giving a public speech.

          • I do not care about PC, but about having equal rights. I enjoy a good gay joke as everybody else. And I can live with people thinking I am disgusting, as long as I can walk in the street with no fear. Now you cannot do that even if you are straight, so that’s a moot point.

          • There is a line between politically correct and offensive, and just because someone doesn’t complain about a remark doesn’t mean that he is not or should not be offended by it. Clearly when a mother calls one of his son negro, or the word is used between a couple it would be ridiculous to consider that racist, its a term of endearment that has no implications that black people have any type of genetic behavioral patterns. But when a politician links homosexuality to weakness and cowardice as Maduro did, or condemns it as an immoral lifestyle choice like Rosales its just not politically incorrect, its offensive and reflects the underlying problem, that unlike what you mention about the not existence about racism (which is debatable and more complicated than that) there is still a strong strain of homophobia in Venezuelan society. The problem is not Maduro or political correctness.

      • LOL at this part:

        […] aquí fenómenos como el racismo, la homofobia y cualesquiera tipos de discriminación, no son parte de nuestra idiosincrasia, sino un contaminante importado, desde que los españoles utilizaron el racismo para justificar ante sí mismos las atrocidades que cometieron contra nuestros antepasados […]

        Yeah sure, Spaniards brought racism and ethnic supremacism. Tell me more about the Latin/Greek/Arabic etymology of phrases like “Ana Kariña Rote” …

  13. I don’t know if Maduro is a hawk or a dove, the only thing I know if that his picture doesn’t make me want to spit on my screen as it does the images of: Chavez himself, Jaua, ElAissaimi, Cilia Flores, Aristobulo, Diosdado, Blanca Ekhout, Jessie Chacon, Jorge Rodriguez, Jaqueline Farias, Tarek, JVR, la Fosforito, Rodriguez Chacin, Tibisay…….etc

    • So, he might be a son of a bitch, but at least he hides it better…

      I recall thinking more or less the same thing about Bashir Assad when he came to power.

  14. The only “insult” I can recall Maduro making was on a chavista march along the Av. Francisco de Miranda in 2005 and Maduro was on top of a truck with a microphone addressing the marchers and the residents. As we came into Chacao he said something like “Greetings to the mayor, Leopoldo López, son of Hitler”.

    Thinking about it now several years later, it was not an insult at all – it was and still is the truth! 😉

  15. While we’re at it, I remember while he was at the national assembly he called the opposition deputies a bunch of “monogolicos.” Pretty tame for chavismo, but probably pretty offensive if you have a developmentally disabled brother or sister. He was called out by an organization that represents the mentally handicapped. Just thought I’d add.

    • Hmm, I get the feeling we have in Maduro someone who is not particularly smart or biting in his insults. More power to him!

    • Fair enough.
      From 2006 pa’ ca’ – on the generation of new politicians – who has called the president “mariquito” or anything like that, that needed to apologize?
      Maybe I missed it.

  16. I believe you guys are making quite too much of Maduro’s VP selection. As many of you have already said, there has been many more VP’s than presidential terms during Chavez’s tenure, and many of those have been both civilians (Rangel, Isaías and Jorge Rodríguez, Elias Jaua) and considered as moderates, such as Isaías Rodriguez himself at some point. Maduro is a loyalist, first and foremost, and has been on the rise ever since the failed coup d’etat. I just think that maybe it is not the same to be Chavez’s voice, when the president has a very clear idea about what he wants to say in a international context, than to handle Exec VP duties and be held accountable by his own boss for every real or perceived mismanagement. He could be followed pretty soon by another civilian, a military officer, whoever suits the position more to the president’s whims in the future.

    • Interesting article. But the guy doesn´t mention at all Chavez´ illness; instead he develops that theory of disintegration within. For me, no illness, no disintegration. Another Cuba with Chavez grandaddy writing his lines while Rosinés governs with Iron fist…

  17. Don’t forget that Maduro is married to Cilia Flores… whom, among other things was the leader of Guerreros de La Vega.
    En este país, la gente no tiene memoria.

    • Are they still married? I remember a few years ago there was a loud break-up when Maduro was with someone else in New York while Chávez was giving the “devil was here” speech.

  18. Alright, CC is officially in Stockholm syndrome mode. Gonna take a week away and see if things have improved by then.

  19. So much fuzz for a very common word like Marico? Come on!
    Although certainly it was not done in a jovial way I think the context was not homophobic.
    I won’t discard that the term is used to insult, but in Venezuela the word itself is used in so many different ways that trying to translate it into faggot (as they did in Toronto with the Jay’s shortstop) is in my view silly.
    Some of the uses:
    Epa marico – hey buddy
    Tu si eres marico – you are so stupid
    No lo dejes caer marico – don’ let it drop man

    No doubt he intended it as an insult, and more properly to say that they were sissies. But to say he is a homophobic just for that, it is far fetched.

    This is one of the sort of things that people want to bring to Venezuela from other cultures that will not fit in Venezuela for years to come.

    • I believe we all here venezuelans reading tis blog are smart enough to know he didn’t used it in that context. When Maduro says “¡sifrinitos mariconsones!” he’s not saying “those wealthy buddies!”. FFS.

      • Exactly. Venezuela until recently had signed on to the same package of basic principles of human rights that the rest of the Americas has signed on to. It is not a cultural thing. If Venezuela wants to go back to the stone age, it can opt out. Wait a minute…thanks to Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela IS opting out! Chavismo has a more advanced approach to human rights that will be a beacon for the world. Thanks to Nicolas Maduro, the least worst option for VP!

      • “No doubt he intended it as an insult, and more properly to say that they were sissies. But to say he is a homophobic just for that, it is far fetched.”

        The use of the world as an insult is ingrained in our daily lives, but even some gay people in venezuela use it to insult others and not necessarily to call the other faggot.

  20. How many here think Chavez Would appoint a nicer more helpless VP? How many people think that someone as a persistent member of Chavismo could actually be amenable or even more amenable?

    Maduro is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.Just ask the Bolivians who had him organizing a golpe just so Chavez could get his way.

    I rest my case for Stockholm S.

  21. Just a data point about who Maduro is:
    Some years ago Chavez came to London. The day of the most public talk I was with a group of opposition Venezuelans (15-20) outside the venue, which was on a corner. The police had divided both the Chavista crowd (30-40 non venezuelan looking and including some well known Westminster-rent-a-crowd people). When Chavez arrived the chanting on both sides grew stronger, and at some point I felt our group began falling to the front on top of each other. I thought it was part of the emotions running high that someone fell, but what was my surprise when I realised that it was Maduro and somebody else who, on a completely uncalled and surpresive attact, jumped on the group and pushed it forward, with people obviously falling on top of each other. He was then stopped by the police who were quite unhappy with the situation, as they were concentrated in crowd control. They did not understand the depth of what was happening, and Maduro squizzed out and dissapperared.
    Did he have anything to win with that display? No. Only a bullying rush. It took a while for our small crowd to realise what happened.
    That is my image of him. Watch your back


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