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.