From "Cult of Personality" to straight-up Cult

Barrera Tyszka
Alberto Barrera Tyszka

Chávez biographer Alberto Barrera Tyszka really nails the strangeness of our current predicament in this OpEd in El Nacional today.

The takeaway? We’re no longer really “the opposition”; at this point we’re the apostasy,

El Gobierno, desde muy temprano, ha impuesto sobre la muerte del presidente una condición de obligatoriedad religiosa. En el fondo, más que un duelo, estamos en la construcción de una idolatría. La nueva misión del PSUV es perseguir herejes.

Se trata de una diferencia importante. Una cosa es el respeto ante la muerte, ante el dolor, ante la figura del presidente, y otra cosa muy distinta es creer, aceptar y promover a Hugo Chávez, con su difícil enfermedad y su fallecimiento, como un sacramento celestial, como una nueva deidad a la que todos los venezolanos tenemos el deber de venerar ciegamente. El oficialismo está empeñado en mezclar estos dos ámbitos. El Gobierno confunde respeto con sometimiento. Pretende que la popularidad de Chávez se convierta en un instrumento de control, incluso de censura. Si no lo aceptas como redentor, nos ofendes y te conviertes en un miserable apóstata.

A powerful read.

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  1. He is perhaps the best colum writer in Venezuela , master of a fluent , elegant , rich style and full of original, subtle and memorable insights , never a wasted word . I dont know how well he translates into english , but in spanish he is superb.!! the piece is both hard hitting and humorous !! great choice from FT .

  2. Wow! He really “gets it”. This is one of the most gut-wrenching pieces I’ve read, without any ideological slant, that really had me visualizing what it’s like to be there. I’ve had some thoughts as to just why the meshing of religion/cult/freaky stuff is happening, and it occurs to me that this is possibly being used as a diversion, something to conceal the larger issues at hand, such as the economy and the violence, as much as giving Maduro a boost in the upcoming elections.

  3. Excelente articulo. A.Barrera Tyszka y Simon Alberto Consalvi (QEPD) siemprenfueron mis columnistas favoritos de El Nacional.
    I think this is the most dangerous aspect of the Bolivarian revolution. They have been working hard to create a religion around Chavez for the past four months (even more so than the past 14 years). They government propaganda machine is actually doing an impressive job so far, and I am sure when all is said and done will be studied in history books as as an effective example of mass manipulation. They know that the only way people can ignore the everyday economic problems and food shortages at least temporarily is by being in some sort of mystic trance about the death of a religious martyr, possibly at the hands of the evil empire. It is a rather fascinating phenomenom, actually, except for the [email protected]&%-up part that this is happening in our country.

  4. Oh well… my NEW new year’s resolution
    is to offer as a consolation prize
    to the Abject Oppo who convincingly
    self-flaggellates him/herself with the most
    convincing belief spelt out in this blog as to
    why the red ones will stay in power for the
    rest of eternity – [after april 14 results].
    Francisco has his undeniable unelectibility
    argument, Barrera Tyszka sets forth the
    ‘te conviertes en un miserable apóstata …’,
    anyone else?
    The winner will receive from amazon a
    ‘Red Suede Leather Whip With Metal
    Handle (Red;One Size)!’
    Check it out guys ‘n’ gals
    BTW , I kid u not, here is a review clip
    from a satisfied user ->>>
    I love this flog. It’s not harsh like a
    cat ‘o’ nine tails flog though it can
    still cause a good sting.


  5. I can’t wait for them to distribute more of those canaima laptops. The more they get out there and give people the means to really educate themselves, the faster their self-delusion will come to an end.

  6. In other words: if you really want to see change, donate to the canaima program, exchange programs that promote study abroad, or and any other educational program that increases interaction with truly useful sources of information.

  7. So, getting rid of Chavez isn’t turning out to be so easy…

    The very least one can expect is that the Maduro campaign will be all about continuing exactly where Chavez left off, building on existing structures, following the same principles and developing the same strategies.

    Hopefully Maduro will be a more hardened revolutionary. No post-election phone call to HCR. No patience with predictable questions from capitalist media. Reduction of the working day. Abolition of artistic copyrights. Nationalisation of banking sector.

    The last thing you guys want is a more efficient and capable version of Chavez, right?

    • Hmmm, Chavez is dead in case you missed the news. So there is no need to get rid of him.
      Maduro, your new leader, might be able to ride the wave of sentimentalism past the elections but I dont envy his position after that, as people have expections that will need to be met very quickly.

    • Maduro will not confront the Boligarchy, whether or not Maduro nationalizes the banking sector makes no difference. Maduro will still have the same dependence on international finance that Chavez left him with. Venezuelan steel and aluminum production has declined, and Venezuela is more dependent on imports and therefore international capitalism than ever. The revolution in Venezuela is moribund. Making it a true revolution that changes social relations would require a second revolution to overthrow the boligarchs, and it would be even more difficult to execute than the first given the governments iron control over the media.

      It’s time for people like you to move onto another country, Venezuela is used up and tired. Achieving true democratic people’s power is more difficult in Venezuela today than it was in 1998.

    • What’s hilarious is this pretension that there was ever a concrete plan from the outset. If anything ever opened my eyes over the extent of this blundering approach it is the video shown here of the cabinet meeting were Maduro gets ripped over the communes fiasco.
      But ridiculing these people neglects the fact that they are so dangerous, especially the non-ideological mafia elements amongst them.

    • “Hopefully Maduro will be a more hardened revolutionary”
      Well… I guess he’ll have to, lacking Chávez’s charisma, he’ll have to be more repressive in order to mantain order, not only in the country, but in his own ranks.

      “No post-election phone call to HCR”
      I’ll save this for when you get all Avatar in here and write long testaments about how the only thing Venezuela needs is love and understanding for the country to be reunited again (Léase que “love and understanding” en la mente chavista es conviértete al chavismo o lárgate del pais mamaguevo)

      “No patience with predictable questions from capitalist media”
      Yes, why would you have patience with the “capitalist media” that challenges you on your bullshit, all revolutionary media should ask submissive and easy questions!

      “Reduction of the working day”
      Venezuela is a country that produces so little, a reduction of the working day wouldn’t have such a big impact. So, yay! I guess.

      “Abolition of artistic copyrights”
      Yeah, fuck originality, we can steal whatever we want! And before you say Capriles stole the tri-color cap, I’ll quote Neil Degrasse Tyson “Its not who does it first, but who does it best” Capriles wasn’t the first to use a tricolor cap as a political symbol, but he was the first one to make it popular, otherwise, chavismo wouldn’t had felt the need to steal it (And no pun intended, “cap” the whole thing by celebrating the failure that 4F was)

      “Nationalisation of banking sector.”
      Given the government’s track record with nationalisations, I don’t see how this could possibly fail. *Sarcasm hat off*, also, you’ll might end up hurting some of your “revolutionary comrades” that have their guisos cooking up in there.

      “The last thing you guys want is a more efficient and capable version of Chavez, right?”
      If by efficient you mean a president who doesn’t need to make 8 hours speeches on his bowel movements, that works diligently, respects the laws (I know, I’m expecting heaven and earth here) Doesn’t promises things he cannot deliver and can work with his opponents leaving aside his owns prejudices, then yeah, I’ll like a more efficient version of Chávez, that’s if you think Chávez was efficient in the first place.

  8. The thriumphant rant of the trolls is ‘we will bury you’ because we have the ‘peoples’ undying support , what they miss is the sorry fact that even if they succeed in the end they will bury themselves , because the Venezuela that is being born from all the vices of the Chavez regime is an earthly hell , a nigeria on the caribbean , a totally dysfunctional country were every thing depends on a government which is corrupt , incompetent and despotic, chanting the praises of some megolamaniacal leaders !!

  9. I’ve been reading the blog for about a year now. This is my first post. Here is translation of the article. I apologize that is a bit clunky in parts. If any of you can help me improve it, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

    I’m ill. To the point that hearing Maduro on the radio I immediately imagine him with a cassock. A long, wide, and tricolored cassock. I also imagine Arreaza at his side, always quickening the pace, and trying to smile with that little altar boy face that gets confused when the bell tolls. I am ill, very ill. When I find myself with a soldier in the street, I feel an unstoppable urge to go up to him and confess. I don’t know what sin I’ve committed, but I feel guilty just the same. I am the metaphysical version of Pavlov’s experiment. I see an olive drab uniform, and want to be forgiveness. I am extremely ill. The first few chords of the National Anthem sound, announcing a cadena, and without even thinking about it I cross myself. Just in case. Every time we are less a country, and more a church.
    The experience of the citizenry is each time more isolated. The church state is not interested in civic discernment, but in devotion. So much so that whatever smallest doubt about the divinity of Chavez is now instantly considered an offense; a sacrilege. Don’t even think about bringing up concerns. Don’t risk it. Don’t ask. Since early on, the government has place a condition of religious obligation over the death of the president. In the background, more than mourning, we are in the construction of an idolatry. PSUV’s new mission is to pursue heretics. There is an important difference. It’s one thing to show respect for the death, for the pain, for the figure of the president, and a very distinct thing to believe, to accept, and to promote Hugo Chavez with his difficult illness, and passing away as a heavenly sacrament, like a new deity that all Venezuelans have the duty to blindly venerate. The party liners are attempting to blur those boundaries. The government confuses respect with subjugation. It pretends that the popularity of Chavez becomes an instrument of control, including censure. If you don’t accept him as redeemer, you offend us and become a miserable apostate.
    This week Nicolas Maduro said that Hugo Chavez, from heaven, certainly influenced the election of an argentine cardinal as the new pope. I think that in the Vatican, the self interests and power plays carry more weight than voices from the great beyond. I believe that the fundamental market for Catholicism is in Latin America, and facing the crisis that this institution is, the logic for survival put into power an authority from our continent. Thinking that way doesn’t offend Chavez, nor his followers. To think any other way is disrespectful.
    The same could be said for the reiterated claims about the supposed assassination of the president. A few days ago minister Rafael Ramirez added himself to those that have signaled the possibility that “they injected Chavez with cancer”. Beyond the medical debate, beyond the clinical unfeasibility of a conspiracy theory of this type, it seems really strange that after 2 years of illness and diverse treatments that just now this theory appears. But that is the least to be concerned about. The biggest thing, the really important thing is the criminalization of doubt. The official aim to make us feel that everyone who dares to suspect those in power is immoral. The governmental management of the death of the president proposes a change in the authoritarianism: now suspicion can be a crime.
    In the homily that Nicolas Maduro have on the day he registered his candidacy before the National Election Board (CNE) he spoke for the first time about the problem of insecurity. “Enough of the violence,” he shouted. “Enough of the crime,” he shouted. As if they haven’t been governing this country for 14 years. He wasn’t even capable of taking responsibility for that which hasn’t been done all this time. He didn’t even talk about the victims, of the terrible statistics that fill the country with blood. For me, those words, those incongruous shouts were a profound lack of respect for the more than 16000 Venezuelans killed last year. A lack of respect for them, their memory, their families. Certainly, it’s dirty to play demagogically with the pain of others.
    The most real Hugo Chavez, the one that maybe only his daughters, and closest associates knew, was probably very different from this character multiplied by the PSUV religious market. They desperately need to consecrate him. At every moment, and in every location. Day after day. Because if a god doesn’t exist, a church doesn’t exist either. And churches without gods always fail. And priests without a god are unsuccessful. They don’t have followers. They don’t win elections.

    • Excellent translation, Margarita! Here are a couple of things that I’d change: 1) “…and want to be forgiveness.” – …want to be forgiven; 2) “In the homily that Nicolas Maduro have…” – gave instead of have. Other than those, kudos to you!

  10. I think that the ready counter to this idiotic canonization campaign is to state the obvious. The “priests” are corrupt and soulless, as good apostles as Judas was, and the “faithful” have been complete morons (that without counting the previous 12 years).

    The obvious truth is also that Hugo Chavez was not going to make it. He had a grave cancer, and his only opportunity to live was to forgo reelection, if not outright resign the Presidence in June 2011. Not that I shed tears for greedy and hateful fools like Hugo Chavez. But clearly this all happened because chavismo is allergic to the truth.

    There are two kinds of chavistas.

    There are the high ranking ones. Those who knew the truth about their leader. Their telling the world that Chavez was going to return after December 10, or govern after October 7, was a cruel pair of f***ing lies. To top off all the ones they had said, to the world, and to a desperately ill man, whom they allowed to commit suicide, to ROT under the care of the Castros, all for the sake of secrecy and political advantage. So much so that Maduro is going to surf into Presidency on that dead chest of Hugo. And that includes, most sadly, the President’s family.

    There are the believers and followers. They are vastly less guilty. But! They went along with the lies, the usurpation of the Presidency, and were willingly, enthusiastically ignorant when they should have demanding anwers. In this they are akin in everything to the well meaning denizens of a totalitarian regime that prefer to “lalala” ugly facts like people disappearing because they don’t want to know the actual answer. Their complicity and stupidity completes the picture. Maybe if the corrupt would not do anything, those who actually loved their Leader could implore him not to kill himself. We’ll never know.

    Too bad they did not love this person enough, Hugo Chavez, whom they say they love more than anything, on one side, to speak to him frankly, or to the world in case he did not want to hear sense; on the other side to demand that the truth be spoken to them.


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