The silver lining


Alma-GuillermoprietoOne of the few good things about the Bolivarian Involution is the fact that so many talented people (Jon Lee Anderson, Mario Vargas Llosa) take interest in Venezuela.

Case in point: the great Alma Guillermoprieto.

Writing for The New York Review of Books, Guillermoprieto tees off on Mario-Silva-gate, and does it with a flourish and style that is simply enviable.

Sure, I can write a quick post about Cuba’s influence on Venezuela, but I don’t have the talent to conjure up the verb “to mainline,” as in …

The Cuban government depends for its very survival on the oil Hugo Chávez mainlined to Havana until his death in March…

And while all of us have used many a creative epithet against Mario Silva, none of us has written something as lyrical as …

What is surprising is that the canary should turn out to be Mario Silva—always so unctuous in his dealings with the powerful, poisonous when in striking range of the weak… Silva’s program, La Hojilla (“The Razor Blade”), on which Chávez liked to appear, was where the regime’s enemy of the moment was always dipped in the acid of Silva’s scorn.

The acid of Silva’s scorn… that’s simply delicious writing right there.

There’s more.

Silva would seem by any light a cynical man. But in the audio he is earnest, troubled, even depressed, as he confesses to Palacios. “I have a visceral, emotional, fucked up fear…that we’re sending all this shit [chavista power and the chavista state] to hell,” he tells the Cuban agent.

Guillermoprieto doesn’t just rant, she ponders and almost (gulp) psychoanalyzes her subjects. When describing Diosdado Cabello, for example, she says

He is a former army lieutenant, former conspirator with Chávez in their failed coup attempt of 1992, former governor of the state of Miranda (which he lost to opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in 2008), defeated rival for the post of Chávez’s dauphin, and the man Silva refers to as “that very great son of a whore.”

In other words, she gives the basic bio, but she ends with a zinger, with what really matters.

When discussing another aspect of the Silva tapes – the fact that the Minister of Defense gave Silva weapons – she paints us a picture.

Silva goes on tell the Cuban agent that he has obtained five more fusiles (automatic weapons) from the defense minister, bringing his total to twelve. A certain amount of debate recently has revolved around what Silva meant by “we got them,” and why it is that the defense minister sends a television personality gifts of weapons.

“Gifts of weapons” – makes you wonder if they came with a bow or something.

As an amateur writer, I enjoy these pieces not so much for their content but for their architecture, for the creative way in which they’re put together.

Some of you are too young to know this, but for a time Venezuela was so stable, it was boring, a wholly uninteresting place. I doubt Alma Guillermoprieto would have satisfied her muse by writing about something as pedestrian, as infantile as Ciliberto and his jeeps – a scandal that consumed the nation for months on end in the 1980s.

So yes, Mario Silva may be a national disgrace, and chavismo is indeed a cancer eating away at our national soul, but at least it inspires the greats. I guess even chavismo has its silver linings.

HT: Daniel.

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  1. “Gifts of weapons” – makes you wonder if they came with a bow or something.

    A Bow? I was under the impression that the revolution’s soldiers were more into firearms. I mean not everyone can be Oliver Queen you know…

    • Cuba is under U.S. embargo and every economic problem in Cuba is the U.S.’s fault.

      the U.S. is Venezuela’s number 1 trade partner, and every economic problem in Venezuela is the U.S.’s fault…

      • quoted from my link:

        “”””one of the doctors told us that the US is systematically buying up companies who sell pharmaceuticals to Cuba – for instance the Indian company Dabur – so that the blockade can extend its remit. This literally means that children with cancer are not able to get medicine because the US prohibits it.””””

        • I notice you are incapable of sticking to the subject, ever. Why? Because your positions make no sense.

          People here, on the other hand, generally would like to see an end to the embargo as it would quickly undermine the Castro regime, but Castro and Cuban exiles work in concert to make sure that doesn’t happen.

          • Amazing how reality is twisted upside down for you guys.

            I bet you wish the people who have the power to rescind the embargo were as clever as you, right?

          • Who has the power, congress. The fact of the matter is the cuban exile commuity is emotionally invested in it, so we continue along the populist route. The closest in came was during Clinton, but Castro’s actions made sure rolling it back would be impossible.

            More recently, the US offered to stretch a fiber optic cable, but Cuba demanded the abillity to charge telephone users rates which would have counteranded US law, knowing such a demand would be politically unfeasible.

            Yes I wish I could change voters minds, but unlike you I am not so delusional as to think congressmen in Florida can do a 180 and piss off their voters, not going to happen.

          • Yes yoyo, the economy is doing great, as you say, only 6.1% inflation in May and growth with oil at 100 dollars was 0.7% for the first quarter. Way to go the revolution!

          • As twisted as claiming the US is buying up pharma companies to extend the embargo and then citing Dabur Pharma….which was taken over by Fresenius Kabi…. a GERMAN company.

          • What embargo? You mean one country’s sovereign decision to allow or disallow commerce with another? Do you realize that a system that depends on the commerce of an opposing system cannot be the flagship for sovereignty?

          • Yes the US is so mean, not trading with Cuba. In fact, no one could ever have predicted that the US would be hostile to a communist state on its borders. How can a revolution produce anything more than $20.00 a month salaries under such unexpected circumstances? Cuba has every right to demand free trade with the US, and the US must obey!

      • In addition, back in the 1950s the Fidelistas claimed that the involvement of the US in the Cuban economy was the “cause” of Cuba’s backwardness. As the partial embargo of the US is the current “cause” of Cuba’s backwardness. Get you coming and going, as you point out.

  2. Alma Guillermoprieto is one of Latin America’s most excellent journalists. She has an incisive way of seeing things and simply gets to the heart of the matter instead of wrapping everything up in useless wording. I met her once in New Orleans and thought her one of the few writers in the region who has her head screwed on right. She gave a talk at Loyola University on the Mexican Drug War and had very sane views on the whole subject, a far cry from some US university professors with their pie-in-the-sky logic on almost everything.

  3. I would say it’s a partial embargo since the US has been the number 1 importer of food stuffs to Cuba for over a decade and Cuba can get mostly everything else it needs from the rest of the world but the embargo has cause some big problems, is a major contradiction and like Venezuela the bureaucracy is the problem, both peoples want real socialism not some reformists idea of Chinese style capitalism. Chinese capitalism is not any better than the US and may be worst.

    Venezuela should cut off the oil to the US, that is a major weapon it has against the US economy and the government thinking it can cozy up to Kerry whose is one of the architects and sponsors of “Plan Colombia” while in the Senate has made Colombia the 51st state of the US. Another foreign policy blunder by the bureaucracy and many Bolivarians at the grassroots realize it.

    As for Lee and Llosa not so bright, just pimps for US imperialism at least y’all have a sense of humor sometimes.

    • If Venezuela stopped exporting oil to the US, it would instead sell it to China, and the Chinese would turn around and sell it to the US as they have been doing. Really stopping US consumption of Venezuelan oil would require an international effort, without that it would be symbolic.

      The ONLY thing Venezuela could do by itself is cut production by 50%, thereby making sure no oil goes to the US. But even someone like you realizes Maduro would last about a day without oil revenue from the US. I WISH Maduro would do it, what a hoot it would be! I wonder, would Diosdado coup him first or would “the grassroots” storm the palace and hang him from a tree? What do you think?

      • What about the Saudis unleashing their real production capabilities for “a while”; while meaning Venezuela sinking deeper in the happiness sea of shit…
        I don’t really think is possible to stop selling oil to the US, not because of them but, because of us.

    • I would say it’s a partial embargo since the US has been the number 1 importer of food stuffs to Cuba for over a decade.
      To your credit, Cort, that you point that out. Cuba may import food and medicine from the US, but it has to pay cash. Given the way that Cuba has stiffed its creditors, payment in cash is prudent policy.

      • agree, BT. Perhaps it was his dream of a weekend at the 23 de enero resort hotel that helped Cort clarify his thinking. Whatever the case, we finally have a leftist who makes partial sense on a long-promoted canard (whine…Cuba is so poor because the United States has an embargo against it…whine). The only thing I’d change would be a preposition. Cort, honey, you can’t import to a country. It’s either export to, or import from. ok?

    • Please do it so that you will see how stupid you are as nothing will happen. Do you know the word fungible (Hint: It has nothing to do with your feet)

  4. OT: The blockade may cause Cuba some problems but not nearly as many as Castro claims , the main problem is not that Cuba cannot engage in international trade , there are dozens of countries all over the world which would trade with Cuba IF IT HAD ANYTHING TO TRADE , the problem is that Cubas ruined economy produces nothing the world wants , so even if the blockade is lifted, what would it use to purchase its imports . the Blockade is more a symbol which the Castro regime uses to play the weepy innocent victim of the Wicked Imperialists than the cause of the misery that cuban people suffer in their daily lives The whole world knows that Cuba is a PARASITE state absolutely dependent on Venezuelan oil to give their people the minimum necessities . All of that just so that Castro can play the international revolutionary hero. They want to lift the embargo? all they need to do is something almost all countries in the world do in the ordinary course . allow for free elections to be held . Why is that such a problem for Castro that it will not hold them even where they can make the lives of the cuban people much easier ( in his view) . Alma Guillermo Prieto is not just a great journalist to judge from what I ve been able to read through this blog, she is a hell of a good writer !!

    • Bingo! No more callers, we have a winner!

      Excellent observation BB, but Corte et al will ignore because the truth is so inconvenient to their supposed goal to achieve the socialist dream state

    • The blockade may cause Cuba some problems

      “Embargo”, not “blockade”! Castro and his apologists deliberately use this mis-statement – do not assist them, ever.

  5. Two items of note. Was back in Pto Cabello this week after not being there for almost 8 weeks. I was amazed by the lack of vessels. No vessels waiting with wheat or corn to discharge and only 3 container vessels and none waiting. This bodes very ill for what will be on the shelves in the next few weeks.
    Also, I was passing through Paris to Caracas last week via Air France. I thought I was waiting at the wrong gate at Charles de Gaule as there were only Chinese workers. I asked the Air France reps and they estimated that for the last 6 months every day the flight to Caracas has had more then 100+ Chinese workers on it, 7 days a week. These guys were certainly not technicians or engineers or specialists, they were labourers to work in construction…..and Venezuela has no unemployed??? Also, they all seemed to have Cedulas and the ones I saw showed that they were Venezolano even though hardly any of them spoke any Spanish and knew where they were really going.

  6. Since this began with observations on the language factor in an able offshorer’s commentary on Venzuela, contributors hereto might get interest-mileage from a jaunty little (5-minute) vocab test from The Economist’s langug blog, “Johnson”. It’s at and has a couple of enlightening comments at the end, after the results. Those so minded might give it a whirl.

      • Es muy revelador el test, aunque habría sido mejor si permitiese verificar la correcta interpretación de las palabras examinadas.

        Es una pena que no haya uno parecido para el español.

        Aun así, aquí tienen un test que, si bien no da un estimado del total de palabras, permite tener una idea general sobre el manejo que se tiene del idioma de Dios. (Carolus V dixit)

    • Interestingly, most Trolls would probably outscore most non-Trolls on this Blog, since they read a lot of Commie/Socialist/Bolivarian fiction. Also, when living in NYC, it was estimated that the average street New Yorker normally communicated with only a few hundred-word vocabulary (I’m sorry, Syd, but I didn’t know of you then, and you were obviously not one of the average).

      • jejeje on the fiction, except that the vocabulary used to pitch commie/socialist/Bolivarian one-way tickets to utopia is so damned limited and repetitive. With reason. Who needs to communicate when one reaches nirvana? I mean, you’ve got imperialism (bad), oligarchic (bad), capitalism (so bad), class struggle (good), grass roots (good), van and rear guards (whatever).

        Then there are City cab drivers with an admirable language of their own …

  7. Bolivarian Involution. Nice I like it! But I think it works only in Spanish. In English should be The Bolivarian Devolution or Degradation or Declination


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