The Depth of Those Caracas 2002/Cairo 2013 Parallels


APTOPIX Mideast Yemen ProtestsReading this, it’s hard to shake the feeling that what Egypt is going through now is some bizarre alternate-universe version of what we would’ve faced in April 2002 if Raúl Baduel had been named Carmona’s Defense Minister on April 12th.

Despite inheriting intractable political, economic, and social problems, when Morsy ascended to power on June 30, 2012, he had choices — and he chose factional gain, zero-sum politics, and populist demagoguery. In a system without functioning checks and balances, those choices generated increasing levels of polarization, destroying trust and crippling the state. These decisions were a reflection of his hostility to criticism and his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s denigration of the opposition’s role in Egyptian society. In the period prior to this year’s June 30 mass protests on the first anniversary of Morsy’s swearing-in, when concessions and compromise might have found an orderly way out for Egypt, Morsy instead grudgingly offered airy promises and hollow gestures.

The fateful, misguided decisions made throughout his tenure and in the run-up and aftermath of the June 30 protests have now put Egypt on the cusp of civil strife and violent conflict. An intransigent, isolated president chose to ignore reality and set the country on the course for an undeniably unfortunate military intervention into civilian politics. While Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood will undoubtedly now assume their more familiar role as victims, significantly aided by the brutality and stupidity of a repressive Egyptian security sector, the primary responsibility for Morsy’s ouster and Egypt’s perilous state resides with the deposed president and his Brothers. None of this was inevitable.

Fascinating stuff. (The corollary of course being that if Morsi makes his way back to power, the Egypt of 2024 might end up as basketcasy as Venezuela is now…)

As I think about it, though, the main difference was that Chávez was a far more skillful, intuitive politician than Morsi is turning out to be.

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  1. Fidel Castro mentored Chavez on how to neutralize the military against future golpes. The top military leadership in Venezuela is in debt to Chavez and controlled by Cubans. They did not get their positions by experience and wisdom but by loyalty to Chavez.

    The next Venezuela constitution needs to make the military independent. Then, just maybe, the constitution and laws will be obeyed.

    • The next constitution? The current constitution isn’t much use, so why should the next one be any better? Maybe the problem has more to do with the institutions or the electorate, or for that matter with democracy itself! The checks and balances stop working largely because when they work, people forget why they are there. It’s the same old story: “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it!” (Winston Churchill).

      The Chavez era should serve as a quick-study to learn the vulnerabilities of democracies.

      • Quite right Gordo constitutions are only as good as the institutions that are entrusted with upholding them and institutions are in the end people who are trained and accostumed to acting in a certain way out of a sense self respect and sprit d corp. The phrase about the lessons of history is actually by George Santayana a spaniard transplanted to Boston at an early age who taught all his life in Harvard !!

  2. Off topic but…
    We won! We won! We won the Snowden sweepstakes!
    More drama for this beleaguered country!

  3. Comparing this to Venezuela, two things come to mind. One, Morsi didn’t have Fidel’s ear and didn’t engage on a speech of offering free domestic appliances and what not while establishing in power securely. Or, the Egyptian people, much older (and wiser) country than Venezuela, (with all the savagery you see on the TV included, no better than Venezuelans lately), are the real bravo pueblo that forced the guy out quickly because they saw where this was going.

  4. I agree with Ronaldo, but I think the Fidel angle is less relevant than the military angle. Chávez knew the military inside and out. Morsi does not, and in fact views them as the enemy. As a tactician, Chávez was far superior. Remember when he admitted the April crisis had been artificially generated to prompt a purge in the military and in PDVSA? Fidel may have had a hand in this, but Fidel certainly didn’t know which buttons in the Venezuelan military he needed to push.

  5. lets not forget that they recently deposed a deeply entrenched decades old dictatorship, so egiptian public opinion is must likely divided in a three way between the muslim brotherhood, the secular democrat idealists and those who want a restoration of a mubarak era rule, Morsi’s mistake was to try to rule egypt with only one group against the other two without generating some sort of power sharing consensus among the population and the army

  6. One thing we need to bear in mind: both the Muslim Brotherhood and the commies have been trying to infiltrate the respective armies for many decades now. But then: it is intrinsically easier for the commies (even before Douglas Bravo) because of ideological clashes.
    Another thing: let’s never forget Venezuela’s Alpha and Omega: oil. Although Egypt also exports oil.
    Oil production had been declining for years now.

    Chávez managed to ride the oil boom wave. The Muslim brotherhood hasn’t.

  7. the main difference was that Chávez was a far more skillful, intuitive politician than Morsi is turning out to be.

    No disagreement with that statement. Chavez had a very good feel for how much increase in his power the populace would tolerate at a given time. At times he bet wrong, such as the December 2007 referendum, but most of the time he was right. Whereas, Morsi’s steps in increasing power were much faster than those of Chavez, as if he were simply following the “one election one time” blueprint.

    For comparisons regarding how the futures will compare, bear in mind that there is a very wide difference in the relationship between Chavez and Chavismo compared to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Chavismo consisted of the followers of Chavez. Before Chavez, Chavismo did not exist. After the death of Chavez, there are already signs of Chavismo fracturing. Morsi is admittedly but a foot soldier in the Muslim Brotherhood, which existed over a half century before Morsi took power. With or without Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood will exist and be a powerful player in Egypt and the Middle East.

  8. Very similar dynamics, as most events in history; however, I do think that the religious component of Morsi’s agenda made it a more difficult pill to swallow for some despite of the strong support of others. He didn’t have time to neutralize the military as Chavez did, and he’s paying a high price for it. No matter what the final outcome is, this was definitely a good exercise for the Muslim Brotherhood to test the waters with a “non-combatant” approach. I really hope Morsi is gone for good; I doubt it though.

  9. I don’t know Arabic, but if it the translation is accurate then you’ll receive a lecture in politics, tolerance and freedom from this kid

    • I think this wee child should give lessons to ALL our politicians, ALL of them. Chavistas won’t attend because they already have 祖國 (patria in the language of one of our current masters).

  10. One difference is that Chavez had an enormous amount of oil money to spend. If Chavez had mismanaged to shut down all agriculture and manufacturing in Venezuela, the oil revenue would still be enough to keep the people alive (if barely). Egypt is a much poorer nation, with no major revenue source.

    Chavez could throw money at the poor and the military, and the bolibourgeois, and the middle/upper classes. Morsi had no money for anybody.

    Another is that the Egyptian army is far more political than the Venezuelan army was. Mubarak was a thinly screened military dictator. The Venezuelan army had (AFAIK) stayed out of politics for decades before Chavez came in.

    A third major point is that Morsi’s program was seen as immediately, existentially dangerous by a lot of Egyptians. Christians and secular Moslems fear the Moslem Brotherhood much more than any Venezuelans feared chavismo. And Morsi’s actions in office indicated that he (and the Brotherhood) were using his tenure to gain the power to carry out that program. Chavez in power enacted big chunks of his program, to some degree at the expense of the soclal classes he denounced. But there was never (AFAICT) the sense that total socialist revolution (like Cuba or Russia) was imminent; there were no other countries where that was happening. Whereas Islamic totalitarianism is present and rising in several countries.

    That might be considered superior political operating by Chavez, I suppose.


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