Just finished Jon Lee Anderson’s (infuriatingly paywalled) New Yorker piece about the ranchification of Caracas. Anderson well justifies his reputation as a journalistic legend here: the piece really is a remarkable read. (Update: Prodavinci published an authorized Spanish version)

It comes at the lawlessness angle we’ve long covered in this blog the other way around, as it were: from the bottom up.

Instead of doing what Juan and I usually do here, which is look at the great institutions of State (the tribunals, the CNE, PDVSA, Fonden, etc.) and note the way they operate without any consistent reference to law, Anderson looks at the malandrification of everyday life. He notes the way a squatter building is run or Juan Barreto’s new party/militia is put together, underscoring the menace that hangs around the swaggering, gun-toting thugs who run them and the thin, threadbare veneer of bolivarian socialist rhetoric hung around them.

One point Anderson makes shrewdly is the way the prison crisis has burst the banks of Venezuela’s hellhole jails and now inflects urban culture as a whole.

In his telling, jails have come to serve as the go-to model of authority in down-and-out urban settings. The Pran’s way of obtaining and sustaining power over his fellow inmates has become the template for how you run any kind of community in the absence of a deadbeat state. Prisoners released from jail go out and put those lessons to work in their barrios, or their squats, or their colectivos, gradually giving more and more of urban Venezuela the taste of a pran-run jail.

It’s amazing, reading all this, to reflect that just 13 years ago, at the start of the Chávez era, it was still possible for an intellectual like Carlos Zubillaga Oropeza to write a book like La Marginalidad sin Tabues ni Complejos, setting out a roadmap for WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) values to first gain a foothold and then gradually colonize the large swathe of the country that had no interest in them.

What Anderson’s piece shows is this process in reverse, with Pran values gnawing away deeper and deeper into every last remaining citadel of WEIRD Venezuela. Because what is the squatted Torre de David if not a giant, concrete-and-steel metaphor for that?

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  1. Sometimes I get the feeling this blog would like its readership to believe that nothing bad in Venezuela has roots going back beyond 1999.

    When were the prisons built, and how far back can we trace modern prison culture? How old are the oldest colectivos in 23? When did violent crime start trending noticeably faster than population growth? Why was a landmark skyscraper totally abandoned after a fortune had been invested in its construction on a prime location?

          • You can’t have dialogue with anyone who can’t see beyond his hate for the government to rationally analyse all of the causes and origins of violent crime.

          • A government of 14 years with so much grip on all its institutions plus the oil bonanza shouldn’t have this jail situation. Period.

          • Do not for a moment think I favor the pathetic chaos we must call government, but la cuarta was shit and I don’t even see its perpetrators acknowledging this fact. They talk about it as if it had been an age of enlightenment and civilization. No: it had its moments of light; it had one or two accomplishments, but it was bullshit. The fact that this is bullshit on steroids doesn’t detract from that, and calling anyone who mentions it a PSF blah blah blah only makes you look more than a tad Altamirachacaocafetalesque.

      • Aren’t you too a foreigner, Toro? I love how you bring in the PSF insult to distract from the fact that you probably don’t even remember what Caracas looked like before 1999.

        Questions about the true origins of Venezuela’s major social ills are things that reporters (even foreign correspondents like yourself) ought to be interested in getting straight. Assuming they are intellectually honest (I’d hate you exclude you because of this).

        • I have no problem acknowledging that the Chavez government has failed to ameliorate these social ills, but it does no good to pretend as though Chavez is the cause of them.

        • pcv, I’d like to ask you and yoyo a question.

          Why do you all keep insisting that we want to return to 1997 and back?

          Why do you assume we want to return to THAT?

          The main reason Mr. Chavez won in 1998 is BECAUSE A SHITLOAD OF PEOPLE WERE AGAINST EVERYTHING THE CUARTA STOOD FOR!!!! Coño!!!!!!!!!

          Since then, Mr. Chavez has presided over the biggest THEFT of resources and CASH since the 1849 CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (adjusted for inflation).

          Regardless of Mr. Chavez’ intentions, he has allowed, looked the other way, encouraged and otherwise IS RESPONSIBLE for the current state of affairs in Venezuela. When you are an autocratic president with all the power he has had since 2004, when you by hook or by crook ENABLE all the laws you want, and DAMN whatever those who disagree with you think, then the BUCK STOPS WITH YOU.

          Just like the man you love to have as PRESIDENT FOR LIFE, you supporters LOVE TO BLAME EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING EXCEPT YOUR OWN SELVES for the failings of this INCREDIBLY STUPID and WORTHLESS REVOLUTION.

          So for the last time, enough with the “all you want is the 4th all over again”. WE most certainly do not want that, nor do we want this incredibly prostituted and POS 5th Republic that could not find it’s way out of a wet paper bag using a machete the size of Simon Bolivar’s Sword..

          Any reader of this blog that DOES want the 4th again, please chime in so as to set the record straight for yoyo, pcv and the rest of the clueless ones that show up now and again.

          Se cansa uno, vale, de esta cuerda de pendejos. Con razon les dicen PSF, no joda!!

      • I was just thinking something similar, that CC and the New Yorker would like it’s readership to believe that nothing bad happened in Venezuela before 1999.

        • Poor Jon Lee Anderson one day is going to retire from a life of war reporting in some of the worst hell holes on earth only to have extranjero Chavista-sympathizing blowhards stalking him at conferences for the rest of his days.

      • That’s a great quote Adry… How long do you think they would keep going on blaming the IV republic? Evidently 14 years, more money than even in the history of Venezuela, strong popular support and absolute power has not been enough to improve Venezuela, what else did they need?

        • What’s more interesting than your question is its reverse: If with all they’ve had they haven’t solved the problems, how can they blame those who came before them for the problems if they had much less mony, much less popular support, and much less power to prevent the problems?

      • I couldn’t find another mention of Uribana on the site, so I guess this goes here: The UN OHCHR has issued a statement on the murders at the jail. Here’s the link: .

        I don’t know what “seriously concerned means in this context, but in any case, here is the text. How long till the Chavernment leaves the UN as it is clearly an instrument of imperialism?

        “We are seriously concerned about a riot which took place on January 25 at the Uribana prison in Venezuela leaving 58 inmates dead and around 100 injured, in the context of an arms seizure.

        This latest example reflects an alarming pattern of violence in Venezuelan prisons, which is a direct consequence of poor conditions. Chronic prison overcrowding, lack of access to basic services and the generalised presence of firearms are widespread in Venezuelan prisons. These conditions are further exacerbated by judicial delays and excessive resort to pre-trial detention.

        States are guarantors of the lives and physical integrity of persons deprived of their liberty. These persons are under State custody and therefore the relevant State authorities bear responsibility for what happens to them. States must ensure that conditions of detention are compatible with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They must also be compatible with the right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, as recognised by international human rights instruments.*

        We call for prompt and effective investigations into this incident with a view, where applicable, to identifying those responsible and to obtain redress for the victims’ families.

        We also call on the Venezuelan government to adopt urgent measures to ensure that conditions of detention comply with international human rights standards. In line with the recommendations made to Venezuela under the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011, such measures should include the adoption of a comprehensive prison policy, training of penitentiary staff and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism.

        *This humane treatment is a basic standard of universal application which cannot depend entirely on material resources, and which must be applied without discrimination, as stated by the Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No 9.

    • You could even be half-coherent with these comments, if the situation had improved somewhat but not that much or stayed more or less the same. And if this government had just a couple of years, and had effected no changes in the Constitution or system of government, according to them a Revolution. The situation has worsened and then worsened some more and then some more. Are you trying to make a case that after 1999 government became much worse?

  2. As “Uslar Pietri said : A Government is nothing more than the expression of a reality”

    I think people tend to forget that.

  3. Our system of government:

    “Llevamos tiempo así, llevamos tiempo siendo una abortiva y original combinación de Gorilato con Pranato (A.P.B dixit), que se encuentra bajo la conducción de un grupúsculo militaroide militarista, que por la gracias de Jebús, ahora se encuentra acéfala.”

    Source (worth reading):

    Cut some slack to Iris Varela, all her attention is now probably tied to news from Cuba and CIMEQ, where the Gorilla-Pran headquarters are rumored to be now.

  4. Toro, you justify your reputation as an foreign-observing hack. You’re so out-of-touch, you may as well have been living in Japan your whole life. Anderson’s article is a parody of elitist journalism. He describes Venezuela in the decades before Chavez as a “beautiful place for beautiful people”. What an inaccurate and fairly disgusting sentiment! The oil money in the 1970s did not help anyone but big business and the politically well-connected (i.e. the New Yorker’s readership). The “neglect, poverty, corruption and social upheaval” had its start under the 1980s and 1990s. (But, please, let’s not find fault with the failed economic policies of this period, since the opposition would like to bring them back!) Notice that Anderson admits that “by the time Chavez assumed power, in 1999, the city center was neglected and run-down.” Indeed, anyone living in Caracas can recall the city being this way long before Chavez–there has NOT been a dramatic change n society that can be specifically blamed on Chavez. Yet like Toro, another foreign correspondent, Anderson proceeds as if Chavez is to blame for all of Venezuela’s past and present problems.

    • Hey, My Mom lived in Lagunillas Shanty town in her youth, thanks to Beca Fundayacucho she was able to go study in UDO and get her degree in Geology. She’s been workin hard ever since, raising three daughters. So guess what, “The oil money in the 1970s did not help anyone but big business and the politically well-connected” is not entirely true. Venezuela’s strong middle class was built form people like my mother, helped by the goverment.

      • I second that, My grandmother rised her 6 children alone(and she barely was bachiller), guess what?all of them minus 1 who didn’t go to the university are middle class now, they had becas all along their studies(well, just 3 of them got fundayacucho) and their cuartico de leche, and my mother started going shopping at the age of twelve and guess what, she just had to go to one supermarket to obtain all they needed, and when she started working she couldn’t have las horas completas, however, with the first pay she recieved she could pay la inicial de un chevete(we are talking about 40 years ago), who can say that now?

        P.S did you just creat those stadistics out of thin air or are you providing source?

    • You miss your own point: there’s been a dramatic change for the people responsible for the oil rent.

      Will you shoot your meal ticket? It impresses me that you don’t have a plan to avoid starvation. Chávez is Santa Claus.

    • WTF dude? I mean, 14 years, the oil bonanza, the control of all branches of government, a charismatic leader whose decisions are respected by the majority of the people…And nevertheless the government has not in the very least improved the situation. How can you defend it?
      Maybe Venezuela was already a country with significant insecurity, but the government has had all the power to change that reality, and guess what?: We are as country in worst conditions.
      Why do you want to blame others? It may be ridiculuos to ask this government to solve every single issue….but it is unforgivable that things are now worst.

    • Your points are far from truth, Chavez and the revolution is responsible for making bad things into worst.

      The whole idea of revolution was to replace the entire rotten political body for a new fresh and yet rotten body. The rest is the same, even worst than before.

  5. Quico, I can’t believe you mentioned Zubillaga’s book! I have been thinking about that one for days because it all came to be. The people at the margins of the “civilized” society were majority and he very rightly said that it was unsustainable that a minority (the WEIRDs) could keep control of the country and continue ignoring the reality that was just in front of them. His solution seemed a little too conservative for me, he advocated for traditional family nucleus when even in WEIRD societies families were evolving. But he was right on, if we didn’t “Coopt” (no idea the term in english) the marginalized and sold them our values, then the elite would be completely obliterated and the values of the margin would come to dominate. That’s exactly what happened. Of course by the time he wrote that book we had wasted the opportunity by electing Caldera and having 5 years of hanging on for dear life to a dying system, Chavez had won and we know that his values and those of his revolution are the opposite of WEIRD.

    I think in this case the Pranification is both bottoms up and tops down, the goverment acts like the biggest Pran of all and the social fabric has deteriorated to the point where only force and violence rule. Difficult situation indeed.

  6. The V Republica is the monster child of the Cuarta , the seeds of all we see today were slowly being sown in the 80’s and 90’s , the initial cancer cells appeared before Chavez but once he came into power it went full drive into methastasis . It might never have happened if the benefits of globalization that made oil prices explode had made their first appearance in the late 90’s. The crisis would probably have been smothered by government largesse, but all the time the root problem, the decomposition of the poorest people ragged social fabric would have continued to fester. A democracy is only so strong as the weakest and most vulnerable of its participants. First task for a new born democracy will be to rekindle the spirit of paternal responsibility and self control in those prosmicuous bragging machos that people our shanty towns to at least give their children a fighting chance at building ( with organized society’s help) a bettter life for themselves.

  7. I really dislike the whole “WEIRD” thing, please stop it! I do mean it, the whole concept is simply elitist and mistaken.

    I had scribbled a couple of notes after having read a previous post where I think FT introduced the notion in CC’s analysis, but then thought I just let it go by. But here it is again!

    The meaningfulness of the term is essentially its based on flawed dichotomous logic. “Our values” are positively defined as WEIRD values, while “their values” are simply defined in negative terms, as non-WEIRD or “majority” values. Nothing in reality actually works like that. Not helpful.

    • saying you dislike a concept and calling it elitist is not the same thing as critiquing it. where’s the beef?

      I mean, I get it that the label is a little corny, but I like it because it underlines the tension between enlightment rationalism’s pretention to universality and the reality that, in a society like ours, almost nobody knows what it’s supposed to be about, nor cares really.

    • I remember from the poverty study conducted by years at UCAB by Luis Pedro España and his team that they described it as pre-modern and modern. Not sure if it sounds better, but the point is there are two sets of opposing values in our society and it would seem that our world view is so different that there is little hope for dialogue even if Chavez were to die tomorrow.
      One point in your favor that maybe the weird acronym does not reflect is that by having rich there it would seem that it’s a class issue and that’s not true. The pre-modern values, to continue quoting from the UCAB, study crossed class and geographical areas, meaning it wasn’t urban vs. rural and it wasn’t rich vs. poor. It’s a matter of two visions of society and our roles and responsibilities and the role and responsibility of the government.
      Maybe we need to find a better way of describing it, but the dichotomy is there and it’s worth discussing it. I would like to hear your thoughts about what rubs you the wrong way, is it the acronym or is it something else?

      • “Maybe we need to find a better way of describing it…”

        How about:

        Three great, underlying discourses govern Latin American thinking. This can be seen in the history of ideas, the observation of political events, and the examination of artistic creativity.

        First there is the European rationalist discourse, imported at the end of the eighteenth century, structured by instrumental reason and its outcomes in science and technology, driven by the possibility of deliberate and planned social change tending to realize universal human rights, expressed in the texts of constitutions as well the platforms of political parties and in the scientific conceptions of humanity and their consequent collective manipulation, and invigorated verbally by the theoretical boom of the various positivisms, technocracies, and of socialism, with its doctrinaire rousing of civil or military or paramilitary movements of revolutionary intent. Its key words in the nineteenth century were modernity and progress. Its key word in our time is development. This discourse acts as a screen onto which the aspirations of large sectors of the population, as well as the collective psyche, are projected – but also as an ideological vehicle for the intervention of the great foreign powers in the region and is, in part, a result of that intervention; only in part, however, because it is also, powerfully, a function of Latin American identification with rationalist Europe.

        In parallel, there is the Christian-hispanic discourse, or mantuano discourse, inherited from imperial Spain, in its Latin American version, typical of the criollos (white elite) and the Spanish colonial system. This discourse affirms, in the spiritual dimension, the transcendence of man, his partial belonging to a world of metacosmic values, his communion with the divine through the Holy Mother Church, his ambiguous struggle between transient interests and eternal salvation, between his precarious terrestrial citadel and the firm palace of multiple celestial mansions. But, in material matters, it is linked to a social system of inherited nobility, hierarchy and privilege that found its theoretical justification in Latin America as paideia (the dissemination of western culture to the Americas) while, in practice, it left as the only route for socioeconomic improvement the remote and arduous path of race whitening and cultural westernization through miscegenation and education, exasperatingly slow twin paths, strewn with legal obstacles and incremental prejudices. But, while access to equality with the criollo class was in practice closed off to the majority, the discourse entrenched itself over centuries of colonialism and persists with silent strength in the republican period up and into our time, structuring aspirations and ambitions around the personal and familial (or clan-based) striving for privilege, noble idleness through kinship rather than merit, built on relationships of seigniorial loyalty and protection, grace rather than function and territory rather than official service, even on the fringes of power. The mantuano ethos survives in a thousand new forms and extends through the entire population.

        Finally, there is the savage discourse, executor of the wound produced in the pre-European cultures of the Americas by their defeat at the hands of the conquerors, and in African cultures by their passive transfer to the Americas under slavery, executor also of the resentments produced in the pardos (mixed bloods) by the indefinite postponement of their aspirations. It is a vehicle for the nostalgia for non-European, non-Western ways of life, a refuge for cultural horizons apparently closed off by the imposition of Europe on Latin America. To this discourse, both the rationalist European and the hispanic-colonial discourses are foreign and strange, strata of oppression, representatives of an alterity that cannot be assimilated and cannot rid itself of the savage’s apparent submission, occasional rebelliousness, permanent mischievousness and dark nostalgia.

        These three great underlying discourses are present in every Latin American, though with intensities that vary according to social class, place, psychic level, age, and the time of day.

      • Yes, I know that it’s not just about money. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to find chavistas among well-off families or opposition voters in low-income neighborhoods. A better question could be: What does make a person have – or choose – a pre-modern or modern worldview? Could we somehow change that?
        I remember a discussion in the economist about how nature might influence whether a person is conservative or liberal. In the end it’s a matter of Nature+Nurture. I guess you could say the same about chavistas and opposition in Venezuela.
        Going further, the whole thing about us being unable to understand why chavistas are chavistas does not sound just like democrats talking about republicans?

        • I never liked the Maslow model, the needs are framed in ways that really make look like a person in the lower end of the model are incapable of spirituality and in a country like Venezuela where religion is part of the mix it seemed too simplistic.
          But your point is totally correct, and the UCAB study does show how do you develop a pre-modern, modern worldview and they proposed a way to do that. I rembember that programs like El Sistema were considere really successfull, they provide structure for teamwork, socialization, rules, etc. But of course the main problem is we have to assume that this is a 20 year project or even more considering the situation the country is in. And it will be the kids the ones who will change, there isn’t much you can do with people already socialized one way or the other. Most of the social programs should focus on kids, nutrition, education, etc. Totally contrary to the social model of this government.
          As far as I know those recommendations were even presented to our absent president early in his presidency and he wasn’t able to even understand the power points and the graphics explaining what type of social intervention would help more to reduce poverty. Very sad indeed.
          But if you find any of the books from UCAB Proyecto Pobreza, I really recommend reading it, it’s absolutely riveting and scientifically very sound.

          • There’s some truth in Maslow’s pyramid, but as most of the theories on human behavior it has its shortcomings. The spirituality you mention, I don’t know if the subject is ever adressed by Maslow.

            It is pretty sad to realize that chavismo gave up the chance of actually overcoming poverty and turned a golden opportunity into a power grabbing scheme. Just like Mr. Anderson points out, almost an entire generation has passed and the revolution is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

            I did read the first UCAB book on poverty a couple of years ago (more like 5, actually) and I could relate to many things there. Not because of my personal story – I was raised as a petit bourgueois – but because of the stories I listened from my mother. I believe there’s a new book, a follow-up to the first one, but I haven’t read it yet.

  8. Drop the “educated”. It rubs people the wrong way. And you can keep the acronym (WEstern, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic).

    • Your absolutely right!!, common venezuelan’s see the existence of any even indirect recognition that other people may have something that makes them legitimately superior as threatening and offensive , we are passionately equalitarian because if someone is bettter than us then that hurts our hypersensitive pride like crazy, thats why we have to cut any outstanding achiever to the lowest size ( Cabrujas wrote about this somewhere) . thats why words like elite or educated make us so angry and cant be alluded to.

  9. One thing I have always said about the concept of “modern” vs “pre-modern” values that Moraima quotes here is the fact that, positively speaking, modern values can only be sustained within rich societies (note societies, not countries). The minute living conditions start worsening, they still go out of the window and are replaced with something a lot more sinister but closer to “the way things have always been”. I mean, the whole human rights movement started about 200 years ago and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was only adopted in 1948, a few years after an economic crisis had turned one of the most civilised nations in the world into a murderous machine of revenge and annihilation against its own citizens. And we have had feudal or quasi-feudal systems in most parts of the world for a lot longer than our still newly-minted democratic republics.

    Our enlightened rationalism is less than 500 years old, tops, and our history as a species of blood-thirsty abusers of the Others is a lot longer than that. “Homo homine lupus est”, anybody?

    We still have slavery and forced servitude in the form of African militias, South American and East European sex-slaves, and things like the boys in El Salvador who are forced into Mara membership and are tattooed their “allegiance” on their faces for life. Not pretty, but the facts are there.

    Here in Mexico we are watching as a few communities in Guerrero state are starting to organise “communal police” forces, nastily similar to the origins of the paramilitaries in Colombia.

    So “modern” sensibilities are still a luxury for many. I am not justifying it, let it be clear, I am just saying what is happening on Venezuela’s communities right now is to be expected of the absence of a state to provide education, infrastructure, services and currently even food on the shelves. Our country never did a good job of transferring the ideals of the ruling classes to the “pataenelsuelos” (nasty word, agreed) that supported them, and in the last few decades just kind of gave up on it…

  10. >>>> … La perspectiva de una buena vida en Venezuela atrajo a cientos de miles de inmigrantes del resto de América Latina y de Europa, quienes ayudaron a darle a Caracas la reputación de ser una de las ciudades más atractivas y modernas de la región. Tenía una espléndida universidad —la Universidad Central de Venezuela—, un museo de arte moderno de primer orden, un elegante Country Club, una serie de buenos hoteles y exquisitas playas. A finales de los años setenta, cuando las mujeres venezolanas se convirtieron en perennes ganadoras del concurso de Miss Universo, la mayoría de los latinoamericanos consideraban al país como un lugar hermoso para gente hermosa. Incluso su criminal más infame, el terrorista marxista Illich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos El Chacal), fue un todo un dandy, con un gusto por los pañuelos de seda y el whiskey Johnnie Walker. En 1983, en lo que puede haber sido la cúspide del encanto de Caracas, fue inaugurada la primera línea del Metro y el Teresa Carreño, un complejo teatral de clase mundial.

    Esa ciudad APENAS puede PERCIBIRSE HOY..
    AND that , my freinds is the crux of the matter
    Caio exp

  11. There is nothing wrong with a social class or rather a set of social classes promoting their values, particularly when their own survival is at stake. All social groups do it. I kind of like the WEIRD acronym. Why? Because we are weird. We’ve always had the feeling that some other country has elected our governments. We’ve always disliked the cultural values of marginal society, which happens to elect our governments.
    However, we have put a taboo on these topics: too ugly to be discussed openly. The problem has been that ruling classes have been shy about proclaiming what they believe in, perhaps because they didn’t believe in anything. Shall we say that we were mediocre as a class, or will some of you take offense? In the end, ruling classes have not ruled. That was Venezuela’s biggest problem. Compare it with Colombia, where ruling classes have indeed ruled.

  12. Excellent point !! except our ‘ruling’. class never really took up the job, they delegated the joyless task to a class of professional pols so as not to be bothered with the problems posed by keeping happy a huge mass of marginals . Marginals were appeased with a corrupt system were people got freebies and goodies without having to work for it , think of all the reposeros at the state controlled ports , then money got short as oil prices dropped and it became necessary for some pols to start thinking of reform , of forcing Venezuelans to actually become hard working and competent to survive ( Cap II) , ultimately the ‘ruling’ class together with every one else got fed up with their shenaniggans and turned on these pols and destroyed them making way for the rise of the one truly genuine megalomaniacal messiah the marginals could identify with .and now were stuck with him or with whatever he leaves behind as his legacy !!

  13. Truth is, that there will always be malandros. There’s no way to change that. It’s not just about nurture. It’s in our nature. We do not the descendant from angels, but from savages and murderers. And for that reason there will always be a need for law enforcement. Malandros are not a consequence of capitalism, and crime will not just vanish because somebody wish really hard for it.

    If the government keep on postponing the crime issue until the end of capitalism, the murder rate will never go down in Venezuela. Besides, law enforcement should not necessarily equate repression or human right violations, as it has happened before in Venezuela.

    We need experienced, prepared guys with some common sense instead of mediocre people like Iris Varela or Pedro Carreño taking care of these issues…

  14. Malandros are made not born , they come from fathers that abandon them shortly after they are born and mothers which havent got the means or interest to give them the love and attention they need to develop as more normal human beings , Such innattention makes them become malnourished , diseased , the victims of stunted mental growth and to grow up emotionally maimed and resentful . Their only shot at gaining some kind of faux dignity is by participating in deeds of gang violence or some other criminal or semicriminal endevour. This is what father A. Moreno an antrhopologist who has dedicated decades to the study of marginal life and the malandros psyche tells us ( he has lived in la Bombilla for decades now) , mix this with our macho , sexually anarchist culture and the chaotic unstable life that deep poverty implies and you have the perfect milieu to reap a big crop of malandros each year . We have more malandros now because inordinate population growth among the less fortunate classes finally reached a level where the dyke which good mothers and grannies built to give children some semblance of loving attention broke down leading to an explotion of malandros. In the US they had lots of malandros 30 years ago , their violent crime rates were sky high and climbing , they came from big city gethoes where drugs and a cultural pattern of child abandonment similar to ours was prevalent . then two things happened , first state by state they begun legalizing abortion , leading to a state by state reduction in crime rates ( by attrition in the birth rate of those most likely to become malandros) , as years passed the crime rate of those states that had legalized abortion first fell more and more so that now they stand at a minimal level . The second thing they did was get serious about fighting crime , about putting criminals into jail and keeping them there for long jail terms , the US has one of the worlds largest prison populations . In Venezuela we dont have the serial killers that they have in the US , instead we have the irresponsible macho men and women who through their paternal neglect, and prosmicuous disorganized personal lives are serial producers of malandros , that take out their frustrations and traumas on intercine gang violence and the murderous victimization of normal society .

  15. An interesting feature of this story reflecting a broader political battle of another stripe in Venezuela is the growing influence of Evangelical christianity, particularly within chavismo. Last week, I attended daily mass at a Catholic church in Barinas and instead of what I usually see, the format had changed to include a four piece pop band, copious amounts of clapping, and a new pastor who delivered emotional, hour long sermons. In the surrounding neighbourhood, evangelicos were going door to door on a daily basis seeking new converts. This change in format in the Catholic church was clearly a response to that. The Catholic church clearly is in a battle to hold its constituency. I don’t know what this all means but one normally associates evangelical christianity in Latin America with the right and far right, however, in Venezuela it seems to have found a different home, particularly among socially mobile chavistas.


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