Stepping forward


Venezuela's VP Maduro speaks during a rally in CaracasAs it’s natural at a time like this, most pieces written about Chávez’s passing take a step back and consider his legacy in broad perspective. For my piece in the IHT, I thought I’d take the opposite tack: stepping forward to consider the way President Maduro – the phrase still rather sticks in one’s throat – is choosing to play the politics of the here and now.

Key bits after the jump.

You might expect that, at a time like this, with their beloved leader on his deathbed, Chávez’s closest followers would try to create space for quiet reflection, dignified grief and national reconciliation. But no.

In the speech, which brimmed with insults and accusations, Maduro expelled two U.S. diplomats for plotting to destabilize the country and called on the president’s supporters to close ranks ahead of an imagined, imminent U.S. invasion and various other unspecified plots.

The paranoia and incitement were deeply unsettling to witness in a country where civil peace, more often than not, feels like it hangs by a thread.

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  1. National reconciliation? That might be possible if you were fighting an autocrat, and not the representative of a majority who want to exercise their right to run the country.

    • Chavismo chose to rule by confrontation and decree, rather than consensus. Yes, he had a majority, but democracy implies recognition of the opposition as part of the nation, not as an enemy to be vanquished or annihilated.
      So, yes. National reconciliation. Even when people like you and the PSUV leadership make it really hard with the us-versus-them rhetoric and the abuse of power…

    • And there you have it folks, the attitude displayed by yoyo simply demonstrates what many in Chavismo are incapable of doing, listening and considering the other side’s position.

      IF you think, yoyo, that everything is peachy keen and there is nothing to fix in Venezuela, then you really must examine yourself and your surroundings.

      46% is one hell of a minority, and we have the right to be heard and to have a constructive dialogue. We have the right to defend our principles without insult.

      Get used to it, yoyo, there is gong to be dialogue and there needs to be reconciliation.

      If chavismo does not accept this, you won’t last as much as a fart in a hammock

    • That’s the fascist take on “democracy”. Whatever the majority, the popular will, the genuine pueblo wants, through the person of their Chosen Leaders, goes. No challenges, no minding the rest of people who are not enthusiastic and thus not pueblo, f*** them.

      The republican take on democracy is that it’s a method to elect people to public positions. There’s an election, yes, which is just a poll. Of the opinion of the public, which is naturally fragmented and diverse as that of a set of individuals. Still the majority choice is elected and sworn in. But you know why it works? It works because the people whose candidate was not elected get to live after it. It works because the elected candidate has to hold to a Constitution of rights of everyone and limitations on their power, so the rest of people who did not elect this person find it easier and more convenient to wait for the next election, negotiate and dialogue, rather than resort to violence.

      • Sadly what Chavez preached was that his followers are not citizens in the ordinary sense of the words , people who have a responsability for joining their opponents in making a life together in an united country but Warriors ,, fierce , proud, ruthless, angry warriors engaged in a war to the death with a demonized and dehumanized opponent consisting in this case of 45% of Venezuelans . When you are a Warrior reconciliation is not in the books, only extermination of your foes so as to proudly exhibit your self as mighty and invincible . This was the late Mr Chavez outlook on ‘democracy’ , the tyranny of the mayority not the cooperative coexistence of those who share a country . As mentioned before there are two versions of democracy , one which corresponds to the modern liberal idea of a Policracy where the mayority takes the fundamental decisions of public life seeking a consensus with its many opponents , and another which we can call Monocracies where only one party or man takes all the decision with special delight if it means abusing the minority . Mr chavez always suscribed to this latter kind of democracy as do his current followers. In a war the only way of relating to your opponents it thru violence and coercion never through dialogue and compromise.

  2. That post underlines my current fears.

    There are roughly five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and Chavistas have not yet reached the anger stage. When they do, they already have the officially-sanctioned scapegoat on those “criminal oligarchs”.

    • Expect the nationalization of more of the banking sector this year. But anger is out of the question. We’re still in control, and can still trust most of our leaders.

      This event might make some of you realise that Chavismo was phase 1 of a process that is more about the supporters than the leaders.

      • “that Chavismo was phase 1 of a process that is more about the supporters than the leaders.” Sorry, but no. Chavez made it impossible by surrounding himself with people who have the charisma of a wet sock, the cult of personality its simply too strong for anyone in the red ranks to take his place.

      • Yoyo:

        I indeed agree with you on that more of the nationalization of the banking sector is expected.

        As the sources of Chavista government financing dry up, it is logical to take the next step: To finance itself using Venezuelan people savings. Nationalized banks may be fed a higher proportion of government-issued bonds at whatever interest rate they decide. Just take a look at “Banco Industrial de Venezuela” for an example.

        This will go on up till the bonds are worth less than the paper they are printed on. The ones left to pay the bill will be the gullible customers of those nationalized banks.

        I dearly invite you to put all your savings on them to support the revolution.

  3. Wow, Quico, you’re on fire this week!. It’s not only quantity but the quality of each and every one of your latest articles has been extraordinary (not that it was bad before, anyway). Me quito el sombrero!

  4. Ok. So it might be too soon to start talking about this, but then again 30 days is also too soon.

    I’d like to put forth the idea that Capriles not run for president, but instead someone else like Falcon or Ledezma. What do people think?

    My reason is that the opposition is gonna lose regardless, so we might as well not quemar someone with real chances in the future and instead give some other leader the benefit of national exposure. Falcon may be the moderate, ex-chavista that sensitive times like these might demand. Appealing to the median voter, moving away from the traditional oppo brand, yadda yadda.

    Then again, if the moderate strategy did not work for a strong candidate like Capriles, then maybe we can afford to do a 180. Especially if we accept the fact that, as other in this blog have pointed out, we are unelectable (at least in the short term).


    • should be an attack dog…no more autobús del progreso crap…NOW’s the time for a (rhetorical) bomb-thrower. Who do we have with a knack for bomb throwing? Marquina?

      Marquina Presidente, ueón!

    • I don’t see a problem with Capriles losing, again. I mean in terms of this suddenly making him un-electable going forward.

      There are numerous examples fo folks running 2,3,7 times and winning on the last try.

      Datanalisis February poll shows Capriles ahead of other oppo by 70%. Can’t ignore those numbers.

      Given the recent events, it would be interesting to see how that affects polling within the oppo field.

      The other question to ask is, are they going to respect the Constitution or bend it, yet again?

      I think there is quite a bit of bending ahead!

    • Capriles candidacy is a fait accompli. Falcon is probably a more credible candidate to some disenfranchised chavistas given his background, but he’ll very likely endorse Capriles again because right now he’s already campaigned nationwide.
      Although I like Ledezma, I am probably part of a weird minority in Venezuela that like old-school politicians. He is stigmatized as “vieja política” and that’s a huge flaw nowadays.

      Capriles is not my cup of tea, but many people like him. I just hope this time the guys running the campaign can pull their $#it together and give us something more than “I’ll do what Chávez do” nonsense.

      If Capriles wants to become a statesman, he better begin behaving like one. What about some serious, out-of-the-box ideas? What about cutting the populist blahblah?

      Capriles campaign will also need clear and simple explanations (not condesdending crap, please) on how he will solve all our current problems: blackouts, scarcity, inflation, corruption, improductivity, high crime rates. People have had enough wishy-washy speeches.

        • So, winning the upcoming election is about discouraging chavista voters and promoting abstention on their side more than winning new voters? Probably.

          Nonetheless, I believe that a better campaign from our side is necessary. That was my position back then and it’s my position right now. Based on your election post-mortem, I’d have guessed that you had a similar POV…

        • Otherwise, we are going to an irrelevant election to choose the lesser of two evils: an incompetent idiot blinded by ideology vs. a clueless “populist” with no idea whatsoever of how to get us out of the ditch…

          • Capriles goal is to win using whatever arguments are useful for the purpose without outright lying . Like St Paul he must be ‘all things to all people ‘, after he wins then he can start worrying about the specifics of dismantling the bad , improving the good and setting the ground for the long term changes he can start working on withoug setting off a rebellion of the chronically discontent . Im sure he has lots of ideas but cant advertise them all without attracting fire from all those of us who think we have better ones !! The oppo must give him a bit of slack and not be too punctilious about the policies he can publicly advance. I worry a bit about some externalities of his image: a clean shaved , soft spoken , nice, boyish looking , well brought up , white altar boy !! Most of our countrymen would probably feel more enthused about a darker skinned , tough looking , rough talking , gravely voiced , maybe hirsute he man type . Maybe this is why they are now attempting to start proceedings to eventually inhabilitate the former gov of zulia and Falcon . This is nothing to do with the mans talent , character or intelligence. Its just the way the more primitive mind of our fellow countrymen works .

          • Indeed. There’s an image problem with Capriles. Nobody is buying the whole “I am a better Chávez” because he does not act, look or speak like Chavez did. He is a kid from “el este del este” that works hard and is sort of an empty suit when it comes to political ideas. Regular folks will not buy the “I am just like you” speech. So, what about he being what he actually is? It’s not about pretending something he’s not. Campaign should be about what he can offer and not pretending to be Chavez 2.0.
            For instance, there is no point in praising the misiones. The focus should be the sorry state of both misiones and the gov infrastructure (hospitals, schools, prisons, highways, etc) and how he can improve them.
            And you are probably right. There’s no point in scarying people away talking about an increase in oil price, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a honest talk about the sorry state of our economy? Because the only explanation most common folks have is that crazy stuff about an economic war and international conspiracy against Venezuela…

        • Given the machinery that Chavismo pulled out in October, absenteeism would seem to be the way to go.

          However, I doubt the MUD would go that way, and I also doubt it would be effective.

          I think the MUD has nothing to lose by turning away from Chavismo Light

          • MUD should call thing by its name. If the economic situation is effed up, and not even Super Hugo can avoid devaluation, what’s the point of sugarcoating that turd?

            Speak load and clear: the country is not as rich as people imagine. we are in deep $#it and we need to stop doing wasteful stupid things. Poverty is an issue, but there’s better ways to fight it than populism.

            That’s what real statesmen are supposed to do…

  5. “And now, Chávez’s hand-picked successor is telling the man’s grieving followers that we — those who disagree with him — are responsible for the illness that took his life.”

    He “levelled up” in FACE and Chutzpah both, with this insinuation alone. That’s quite a lot of face from people who enthusiastically seconded the suicidal course of action and decisions taken by a desperately ill man, for almost two years. Like going for reelection.

  6. >>> … choosing to play the politics of the here and now.
    Snarlings of the cornered cur are best observed with detachment.
    Let the hysterical Side Shows abate …
    Ask yourselves… they now kow-tow allegiance to Nick?

    Puedo volver, callar, forzar la realidad.
    Puedo doler, arrasar, sentir que no doy más.
    Puedo escurrir, pasar, fingir que me da igual.
    Puedo incidir, escapar, partirme y negociar la otra mitad
    Puedo romper, olvidar, comerme la ansiedad.
    Puedo salir, girar, ser fácil de engañar.
    Puedo joder, encantar, llamarte sin hablar.
    Puedo vencer, palmar, saber que sin vosotros duele más.
    Puede ser que mañana esconda mi voz por hacerlo a mi manera.
    ¡Hay tanto idiota ahí fuera!
    Puede ser que haga de la rabia mi flor y con ella mi bandera.
    ¡Sálvese quien pueda!

  7. Yes, the Maduro speech yesterday afternoon was quite aggressive and puzzling – I didn’t really understand the whole point of it until the 5:30 PM cadena.

    But I heard someone at the Cesar Miguel Rondon program this morning commenting that, while in the afternoon Maduro was overly aggressive, at night he looked like a lost child. And that got into me: we are back to a rudderless ship.

  8. Eliminationist: more easily described as hate talk geared toward eliminating the political opposition, more or less. Had to look that up. I first thought it was some weird compounding of “eliminate” and “nation”

    • Where the use of adjectives (and adverbs) normally weakens the strength of prose, ‘eliminationist’ was, I thought, effective.

    • Frightening concept…. “Eliminationism is the belief that one’s political opponents are “a cancer on the body politic that must be excised — either by separation from the public at large, through censorship or by outright extermination — in order to protect the purity of the nation” ” (thanks wikipedia)

      All this talk about cancer has triggered a bout of hypochondria, I’d really like to move on.

      Ah, to turn a(nother) new leaf… 30 days and counting.
      But really, after all this theater another defeat is not acceptable. If nothing else the messianic story should be inverted on its head. God has spoken: give the opposition a chance.
      For those who don’t believe victory is possible: the fat lady hasn’t sung!

  9. No surprise to me.That is the standard Cuban/Fidel playbook in times of crisis. Do not think..Be fearful. Since Venezuela is essentially a province of Cuba now,why the suprise?

  10. So how long has the devil been dead? No one knows, except of course those in the Chavismo inner jerk circle. What is most telling, came yesterday when interim President Maduro came to the podium prior to the death announcement to say that Hugoito’s severe respiratory condition had been caused by enemies of the state. Some are reporting that he passed at the end of December 2012. I believe it was not yesterday which appears as an orchestrated date to coincide with Stalin’s.

    Closer to the truth would seem that Mr. Chavez has been on ice for days, weeks or months as the interim government consolidates it’s position. It is a shame the press has been wiped into submission and has failed to report accurately any real facts that would help support the Opposition concerning the change in Venezuelan government power. As a people, it seems as if the fight has already been lost and those hopes for democracy and freedom only wishful thinking,

    What baffles most outside of Venezuela and many inside the country is the total disregard for any semblance of reality when officials spew information. Yet, many Venezuela’s embrace the idiocy from these officials as gospel. Crazy.

  11. Chavez ruined Venezuela in the many ways enumerated on this Blog. Maduro (kept in house by his tias until his early 20’s, since they considered him a “bueno para nada”) is even worse than Chavez (hard to believe, I know): less intelligent, more incompetent, more a lackey of Cuba, a poorer bull-shitter (Chavez’s only real strength), and as much or more insulting of the Opposition. That being said, he will probably win the upcoming election, not so much for the post-mortem pro-Chavez sentiment, but for the usual voter intimidation/buying. The majority of Venezuelans are POOR, and even more POORLY- educated. Rational Oppo arguments tend to fall on deaf ears to those “enfranchised” by Mercal, Misiones, Government Employment, Pensiones, Promise of a New House, and the threat to disenfranchise them if they vote the wrong way. Only when the money runs shorter/out, since oil is not going up enough soon enough (and could well go down), and inflation literally eats them up alive (a set of 4 tires on my wife’s car today costs one year of a sueldo minimo, which is what most earn, if they’re lucky), will any real disenchantment of the masses set in. It’s better that Maduro/Cabello eventually receive the payback from the Bolivarian Socialism Revolution Ruin of Venezuela!

  12. I hope that the opposition does not win. These coming two years will be the crash of the Venezuelan economy. While it will not be the end of Venezuela, as it will still have oil, it will mean that the nation will have to sell off many of it’s nationalized companies to continue to opperate them. I don’t want to see this happen with the opposition in charge, especially since they won’t be able to stop it, simply being too late. I want Venezuelans to hate Chavismo and everything it stands for, and that it means Chavismo winning to suffer what they have brought about. Only then will the people wake up.

    Mind you I am no longer in Venezuela, so I can see how those there will want to try and do what they can to get Chavismo out, even though it may mean that due to the position Venezuela is in Chavismo has a better chance of returning if the blame for the current situation is placed on the opposition.

  13. A simple side point. Chavez has been dead officially for less than 24 hours. Is that enough time to embalm the corpse so it does not have to be refrigerated. The casket was outside in warm weather today. Or did Chavez die and was preserved weeks ago?

  14. One question: will Capriles or any other serious current oppo candidate be allowed to run?

    There are no established rules for this election. The CNE could declare that opponents of Chavez are disqualified, because this election is to choose his replacement.

    Or rules for filing as a candidate could be jiggered.

    Or the leading oppo figures could all be arrested for complicity in the poisoning of Chavez, or some other crime.

    Then the election pits Maduro against some minor Chavista dissenter, or some hapless oppo no-hoper (or both).

    Maduro wins, and chavismo has six more years of “legitimate” power.

    Would foreign governments accept this? Under Obama, the US government has referred to the Iranian mullahcracy as “elected”….

    Will there be economic chaos in the next year? Sure. And the chavernment will blame it all on hoarders, speculators, saboteurs, and foreign agents. Expect thousands of arrests, show trials, and mass executions. (The prisons are already overloaded. Probably the chavernment will establish labor camps in the deep jungle, and dump prisoners there – both the existing criminal prisoners and the political prisoners to come.

    That Chavez died on the anniversary of Stalin’s death seems a grim harbinger.

    Under Chavez, the regime followed in one way the pattern of Nazi Germany, in that the leader was an immensely charismatic figure, actually beloved by much of the public, and loyally obeyed by his henchmen. Thus police repression in Nazi Germany was not particularly severe or extensive. The Gestapo was not very numerous (smaller than the East German Stasi), and thousands of people of known anti-Nazi sentiments were left at liberty – even some important figures like Goerdeler.

    Chavez dialed it back another notch. He allowed opposition media and politicians to operate, but crippled them. He relied on his charisma, mass media domination, and use of state funds to maintain “democratic legitimacy”. It worked, though he had close calls in 2002, 2004, and 2012.

    Contrast to Stalinism. Stalin had no charisma, no poiitical appeal. He knew that his henchmen obeyed him only out of fear and greed, and that the people submitted through fear and deception. Thus the gigantic purges and deportations, and the constant search for alleged traitors and saboteurs. Hitler did not fear even distinguished anti-Nazi ex-Weimar politicians. Stalin feared even loyal and distinguished Bolsheviks who were not utterly submissive to him, and his own secret policemen – murdering many of both.

    With the loss of Chavez, his followers may adopt the Stalinist model – physically exterminating all opposition and terrorizing any potential dissidents. They will need scapegoats for the economic and infrastructure crash, and a lethal witchhunt would kill two birds. Plus the new jefe may want to eliminate his chavista rivals (again following Stalin).

    Another question is to what extent the chavernment is now controlled by Cuba. The Cuban regime will do anything to stay in power, and they are dependent on the survival of the chavernment.

  15. Rich : Methodical blood shedding for political reasons is either the result of a very cold sociopathic personality (Stalin , Castro) or an inbred cultural custom , I doubt despite their language that Maduro or Most of the Regime Followers have the guts or inclination for indulging in that kind of murder.( they have never shown that inclination) .It could happen of course starting with a few incidents and then people getting carried away with thoughtless passion , but murder in Venezuela is usually linked to territorial disputes between shantytown bands, drug vendettas or more pedestrian criminal activity . A real capacity for mass violence like you find in Colombia or Salvador or Guatemala or Northern Mexico is missing in the Venezuelan psyche . Those places are scary because a culture of violence has real deep roots there , here its a sign of the break down of social and family order in the margins of society creating young men who find virile dignity in deeds of violence and mayhem ..


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