Tempest in a teacup

La lista del terror
La lista del terror

The standard recipe for chavista taunting goes more or less like this:

1) Do or say something outrageous.

2) Watch the opposition commentariat go nuts.

3) Make sure the public image of the opposition gets tainted in a negative way thanks to their overreaction.

4) Rinse and repeat.

The latest from our bullies-in-chief came from Information Minister, and sister of Libertador Mayor, Delcy Rodríguez. (side note: what’s the correlation between having an Information Minister and being an actual democracy?)

In case you haven’t heard, Ms. Rodríguez published an error-filled list of opposition “figures” and the dates they left the country for their holidays, along with their intended destinations. Thanks to this list, we learn that Carlos Ocaríz apparently left for Miami on December 21st, and that Antonio Ledezma left for Lima on December 22nd. Delcy finds this appalling, and evil Mini-me Robert Serra went so far to say that it demonstrates the opposition “does not love their own country.”

Of course, the Twittersphere has gone nuts about this. Some have even gone so far as to say this violates human rights!

In normal democracies, politicians’ holiday plans, just like their private lives, are fair play. The public has a right to know where our public servants go on vacation, just like in the US, just like in Germany, just like in France. So in theory I don’t have a problem with Delcy’s list.

The problem with Delcy’s list is a) the use of privileged information; and b) the inclusion of private citizens such as Rocío San Miguel and Lorenzo Mendoza on this list. Then again, that’s a problem between them and the government. And ultimately, what problems has this list caused people like Henry Ramos Allup or Nelson Bocaranda?

This is just bullying, and the best thing to do with a bully is to ignore her. By making a big deal about the list, we give it the relevance it does not deserve.

But no, there is outrage, outrage about this. Fair enough, but this plays straight into the government’s hands. They can just sit back and say, “there … you see? The opposition is defending their right to vacation in Paris … that’s all they care about!

On the left, you have the people. On the right, you have the opposition. Insert wedge.

Let it go, folks. Nobody named Delcy can be all that dangerous. Enjoy your holidays in Paris and let her say whatever she wants.

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  1. One point:

    b) the inclusion of private citizens such as Rocío San Miguel and Lorenzo Mendoza on this list. Then again, that’s a problem between them and the government

    Up to when is this not a problem then? Until they include you too? Up to when do you brush off this sort of thing from a GOVERNMENT against private citizens?

    • Governments do nasty things to private citizens all the time. Of course it’s not right, but taking up as a cause en masse is over-reacting. Besides, Lorenzo Mendoza can defend himself pretty well if you ask me.

      • Juan, I have no doubt Mendoza can defend himself and I know ‘governments do nasty things to private citizens all the time’ but that still doesn’t mean they should be left alone to get on with it. Some of the reaction may be over-reacting but a lot, as mentioned in other comments here, is a very positive counter i.e. the replies with lists Delcy would never release which are both funny and highlighting things that need highlighting. One worrying thing, as Kepler mentions, is the lack of ‘official opposition’ response to this, BCV statement etc. especially when tame diputados are making such dumb statements like “the opposition hates their country because they go away at Christmas”, I mean FFS, such retarded efforts must be easy to counter.

  2. There have been three different responses from oppo figures :
    Capriles : Nothing bad about traveling , this is just another attempt of the govt to make a nuisance of something that doesnt deserve attention . ignore it ! ( acompanied by a photo of him spending christmas with a group of local firemen )
    Some MUD people : This is an outrage because the Constitution guarantees citizens a right to privaccy , by breaching the constitution the govt is exposing itself to be sued by those it included in the list.
    Others : If they are publishing lists , why dont they publish the list of those who got cadivi dollars or benefited from other govt related scams .!!
    Yet others started publishing photos of Chavez family members living it up in trips to Europe , fouting their luxury cars and expensive purchases , possession of hard to get dollars etc.

    Capriles and Juan are of course right , the list doesnt deserve attention , but I also enjoy the responses of those who gave it a boomerang effect by reminding people of other lists which might be published but we all know will never be because of the scandals they can reveal or of facts already publicized where regime related people are seeing incurring in the same or worse kinds of pecadilloes.

  3. I second Span.
    I know we are not Swiss or Swedes or Canadians or even Chileans but that Delsy character used information that could only have come from immigration/intelligence – i.e. from the State –
    to promote hatred and for political advantage.
    That is considered a violation of human rights. Had she used the pictures sent to her by journalists or by fellow travellers, it would be quite a different story.
    I repeat: she shows – not for the first time – the state security services are following the opposition and providing that information for political advantage, not because of some security issue.

    I am Rocío San Miguel and Bocaranda (even if I dislike that guy).

    • Gracias Kepler…but of course none of the newspapers made the focus this important detail the focus of this story. How I would agree with Juan that this is again the pattern of the “Operación Mareo” so nobody focus on the list of violent death in Venezuela, in December, in 2013 or during the last 15 years of the “red revolution”

  4. I don’t agree: the whole “it’s not strategic to accuse this violation of rights because that is not what people care about, and/or because they will say X about us” attitude is what shied us away from a fiercer stance when Amuay blew up. It’s what shied us away from defending private enterprise during the Dakazo. It’s what shied us away from marching on the 17th of April. It’s what’s leading oppo spokemen and women to say things like “Maduro está desperdiciando el legado de Chávez”.

    For once, it would be good to have a firm vision, principles and narrative from which to interpret every single abuse and policy. Ignoring these things en-masse is plain giving the game away.

    And this was an abuse. Only about a third of those in the list are current public servants, and they should publicly report any vacation or personal trip in legal sworn declarations. One may argue that party leaders might be subject to the same legal scrutiny, and I would support that if parties were receiving public financing. But any political use of this information is an unduly violation of privacy, and it is especially bizarre when it is used selectively. Sure, vacations of public servants and politicians capture public attention, as Brad Pitt’s vacations capture attention. That’s why they are covered through journalistic reporting (i.e. the links you provide).

    But taking private information collected by the State for administrative purposes, and having a Minister (another public servant) use it to make partizan accusations about the morale and character of opposition leaders that may or may not be public servants is quite the abuse of human rights. This would be a scandal in any normal country, and in returning to any sense of normalcy we should definitely revise our standards.

    • Correct. It is not about ignoring this, and doing so would hurt justice.

      The problem again is that those in the MUD do not have a list of things to say/respond to that have been thought out carefully and fully and passes a principles test.

      If all had responded: “I indeed traveled, I asked for vacations and I am entitled to those as any private citizen or public servant. The government is using state resources to spy on private citizens in a discretionary fashion and such act is illegal”

    • OMG. Yes! This! “it’s not strategic to accuse this violation of rights because that is not what people care about, and/or because they will say X about us”

      This 21st century trend of doing politics through focus groups and surveys is appalling.

      So what if some people have a problem with a certain stance or if they find it uninteresting? You can’t make and omelette without breaking some eggs.

      It’s borderline disgusting to see politicians as a class so unwilling to do the right thing, it’s fear of unpopularity, of having someone feel offended.

      This lack of conviction and willingness to be controversial has mediocre results at best tragic at worst. Can you imagine the consequences for mankind if politicians in the 19th and 20th century had used that kind of “strategic” (coward) thinking?
      * “If we go for independence/republic there might be bloodshed”
      * “We can’t speak too harshly about slavery, because we may loose some funding from landowners”
      * “Defending the slave and former slave constituency is a wasted effort, because they don’t vote”
      * “If we institute things like civil registries, civil marriage and divorce, we might offend religious people and loose the election”
      * “Defending women suffrage is nonsense in our machista country, we need to pander to men”
      * “If we build an hydroelectric dam, some small town or some ecologists may object”

      Leaders should not fear taking a right stance and doing the hard work of convincing people that some unpopular measures are necessary.

      • Love your comment have been thinking this in the back of my head for ages…..specially point 1. To paraphrase the born again X-ans, if living today (and born a true oligarch, albeit an enlightened one) the key question: what would Bolivar do? What would Bolivar do, if he saw our sovereignty handed over to Cuba? What would Bolivar do, if he had seen a man setting himself up to rule for life? What would Bolivar do if he had witnessed the subordination of all the branches of power to the executive? As you say, would he have sat down to ponder all the consequences of living (and defending) his principles?
        Probably not.

        • Come on, Jota…Bolívar was not what we learnt at school. Please, let’s stop this Bolívar madness. Why can’t we act like other people in the world? Not even in Turkey was there such a crazy personality cult around Attatürk or in France with Napoleon – ever.
          Bolívar was a centralist, a racist, he was incredibly contradictory and not at all innovative or original. Without the 6000 mercenaries Brión et alia got for him, without Páez and without Piar before that, Bolívar would have done nothing.

          90% of Venezuelans get crazy when one even criticizes Bolívar’s cult. This is NOT normal.

          • Bolivar once though of transforming the country into a British protectorate, he thought the country would gain by it . His constitution provided for a life long president with ample powers which spanned much further than those of an ordinary modern president. He saw organized political parties as spawning unwanted conflicts and divisions. He was of course responding to the chaotic conditions which followed upon the consolidation of independence. In the context of his time and historical circumstance he was not mad at looking at politics in a different way from how we view them today . We should not view him through the lens of todays favoured political thinking. He was a man of his times , sold on the idea of the need of an strong executive that maintained civil order amidst the crazed ambitions of his anarchic political enviroment . He thought that the Venezuelans character was too flighly and frivolous and quarrelsome to allow for a normal civil republic. (maybe he was right!!) . We should not look on Bolivar as the man with the answer to our current predicaments. He has been dead for close to 2 centuries now and even though Chavez and others have tried to appropiate the legacy of his brilliant rethorical pieces , he is too far removed from our time or circumstance to be able to serve as a guide to the laberynth of todays Venezuelan political problems.

          • Actually, Kepler, touche, couldn’t agree more. But considering that brandishing the Bolivar cult worked for them…..

        • No Roy, its the sign of an adolescent mind dabbling in histrionic grandstanding phrases by bathing his speech in the bathos of cheap XIX century rethorical melodrama.

  5. I was kind of on the fence on whether the oppo should’ve reacted (or to the extent it did) but reading this made me realize a very important element of the taunting recipe, it puts the oppo in a position of “palo porque boga, palo porque no boga”. What I mean is that not reacting at all could be seen as not standing up for respect of private data, etc. While reacting the way they did is falling into the trap of “The opposition is defending their right to vacation in Paris … that’s all they care about!“

    It also plays beautifully into the hands of the “if-you-leave-the country-you-hate-it” (or rather, not allowed to speak about it) idea, which of course, drives me crazy as someone who left his country but still takes an active interest, and is one of the reasons why I like CC so much. /minirant

    • I agree, not every response is the same. This is precisely the reason why you need to have the vision, principles and narrative straight.

    • Is it private data, though? Public figures don’t really have a private life these days. How is this different than if some journalist had snapped a picture of Ocariz shopping in Bal Harbour?

      I mean, ultimately, it strikes me as hypocritical to criticize the government for violating people’s “privacy” while at the same time posting pictures of Iris Varela at Universal Studios. You either think it’s private or you don’t. I tend to think it isn’t private info. (mención aparte para los privados)

        • Exactly, Rodrigo. Government officials should not be in the business of gossiping about and shaming private or public officials for any purpose, but particularly for clearly partisan purposes.

      • It’s private data in the sense that they got the info from the migration services or the police or whoever is in charge of that in Venezuela. If the media takes pictures of Capriles swimming in Aruba, or someone in Lima spots a politician in a restaurant, it’s a very different story.

        Maybe private isn’t the best word, but it should be kept confidential by the authorities.

        Also, it’s not (or it definitely shouldn’t be) a Minister’s job to say where people are spending their holidays. As Kepler mentioned, it keeps on adding to the whole party-media-government-State mess.

  6. You’re right Juan, it is just wash, rinse and repeat. But the alternative (doing nothing) typically encourages the bully…ask Capriles initially cochino, now the fascist devil.

    It’s an interesting question tough. Does act in a civilized way works in a non-civilized society?

  7. But I have to say there is another issue we might want to discuss more privately:
    how come roughly 90% of our top politicians ALWAYS, ALWAYS, bloody ALWAYS travel abroad for Christmas every single time there are elections a couple of weeks earlier and we expect
    a series of announcements/changes? And how come they didn’t have some decent speaker with some common message prepared?

    Sorry, but for me, the BCV “statement” is not only economic humbug but a serious violation of the constitution by making state officials state they shit on pluralism and accuse the opposition of carrying out a war against the Nation.
    And the MUD didn’t have a decent response to that.
    Qué? Nos estamos acostumbrando?

  8. I disagree.
    For the educated, the ones that know their rights and such, of course such a bully statement shouldn’t be of importance and it can be dismissed, but what we are missing here is the intention of the message and to whom is directed: stir up the social resentment of the poor, using a false reinvented nationalism. The message goes deep into those that can’t afford not even a short trip to the beach, those that see the opposition leaders as the “cuerda de sifrinitos”.
    Because of that, this should be challenged, to redirect the message, as Rocio San Miguel is doing. Being “pueblo” or “patriota” shouldn’t entitled anybody to act illegally.

    • I don’t understand. So we’re countering the stirring up of resentment by fighting for our rights to travel to Miami? That’s deeply counter-productive.

      It’s a no-win situation to fight back, so the bext thing is to just let it go.

          • Not everybody in that list is a politician.
            And if that’s the case, I want also to see where the people of the government went to.

          • State resources cannot be used for political purposes and much less for political smearing. I repeat: it was not people on their private time and resources who got the information about all those flights.
            In Spain the government has used police to follow up specially certain people, just in case they do something. That has produced scandals and only because there is the suspicion they did that for political advantage, not proof. Here the minister brags about having privileged information. And this is not the first time and people don’t do anything about this.
            And we have never ever talked about this with the foreign media and we don’t educate Venezuelans that this is completely a violation of the division between State and government. It can be the information of Paul McCartney or Obama or you, it’s the same: not with State resources.

            Else, please PJ/PP/Causa R should ask for the information of travels carried out by the Infanta or Flores.

      • In that case, the right response should be something like “Si, Delcy, me vine al exterior a descansar, te voy a llevar unos Toblerones cuando vuelva para ver si te relajas y aprendes a disfrutar la vida un poquito.” Something dismissive, tongue-in-cheek. Not this faux-outrage.

        • Una respuesta malcriada y arrogante a una actidud malcriada.
          El problema no es la tipa ministra Juan, el problema es que es lo que piensa Aleida Josefina en Caucaguita y la gran “mitad” de Venezuela, que sigue creyendole el discursito a estos farsantes debido a su ignorancia.
          La oposicion tiene que ser mas fuerte y responder con firmeza y argumentos directos cada vez que hacen algo asi. Rocio San Miguel hace bien en demandar.

  9. You have also failed to ignore this subject. Your first mistake was to write about this, just the oppo members made the mistake of react so outrageously to Delcy’s statements. The only difference between you and the oppo members you criticize, is that you made an outrage about their own outrage. You made sound points no doubt, but to no avail. In any case, the intention of ignoring this hiccup is folly.
    You said that the list was “error filled”. Is there more evidence to support that? Perhaps the list contains some dates that are true. Perhaps it is not entirely fictional.
    Whatever the case, the opposition is definately losing badly in this PR competition.

  10. almost every venezuelan who have the minimally necessary means to do it, travel abroad, besides, the goverment subsidies it with the insane cadivi exchange rates.

    I’m beginning to think that we are so helpless and frustrated that anything the opposition respond or don’t respond will be criticized, I would like that goverment people, specially mayors, would travel to the US or europe so they would see that it is possible to do good at their job.

    What it bugs me though, is how is possible that someone educated who have traveled abroad and witnessed the absence of street craters, fully functional basic services, no inflation and nice technology could still support the psuv rule.

  11. Adding to the tempest in a teapot theme, my 22 yr old daughter who is in design school recognized the logo on the shirt Delcy (not-to-be-taken-seriously) is wearing in her Twitter account foto. The brand is “Hollister California” sold by Abercrombie & Fitch. Wonder where she picked up that beauty? Go figure

  12. Legal violations are literally a dime a dozen in this country and basically ordinary people couldnt care less when they happen unless they touch of something that can happen to them , if you are in a long term struggle you choose your battles for maximum effect , you dont spend your self in inconsequential little reaguard actions . You husband your energies and strike hardest when the blow can hurt your enemy the most . Its not an ethical thing , its an strategic and practical thing .
    Of course if a law is broken you dont keep silent , you protest but dont waste too much energy in making it an earth shaking event . What Juan rightly points out is that its a frequent regime ploy to create diversionary attacks against oppo figures which really waste the oppos energies but gain them little when they mount a too big response. So what you have to do is to MEASURE and calibrate your response but dont fall for the bait of over reacting . Instead you try, to the extent you can,to attack the govt where it is weakest and make them over react bringing more attention to their abuses and failures of which there are many. Seen from another angle the response has two audiences , one: the oppo faithful who might get riled up with what the govt does in which case it may be useful to raise a ruckus because its always good to keep the fires of the oppo passions burning ( if it does have that effect ) , and the audience of the regular venezuelan who is not already sold on the intractable righteousness of the regimes banners and who might feel better inclined towards the oppo if the answer to some govt attack is done the right way. One thing I simpathize with is not to go chasing after every running rabbit but to have the discipline to choose your moments and your targets for maximum effect. !!

  13. Each person on Delcy’s list simply needs to start a web page that shows all past travel. Be open about it and Delcy will look even more stupid. Show the world that the opposition can be truthful and open about their activities. Chavistas are afraid of statistics and exposing their personal lives.

  14. Here’s another type of response (which I rather like):
    Napoleón Bravo ‏@napoleonbravo
    Terapia para cantar en medio del desabastecimiento: Hoy disfrute en el supermercado cantando “Patria querida” (Geraldine)

  15. I think it is outrageous. But I also agree with you in the sense that the response from the opposition may come across as self-serving to many people who are not privileged, even if it is not.

    One of the weaknesses that the opposition has is that many of its leaders are privileged. So it is hard for them to point the finger at, for example, a Chavez family member on a shopping spree at the Eaton Center in Toronto earlier this year (which largely went unnoticed except for maybe Venezuelans in Canada), as a means of calling attention to the misuse of state funds and corruption. That is one of the weaknesses the opposition has: its message is on point, but the messenger is sometimes “tainted” by privileges that look like the same privileges the boligarchy claims for itself.

    Wealthy or middle class Venezuelans may rightly complain about the corruption in the regime and the abuse of authority. They have every right to be outraged. But to a person who is poor, it may be difficult to distinguish between the nice vacation destinations of the entrepreneur (or whatever) and the nice vacation destinations of the socialist bureaucrat. I’m not defending what the authorities are doing in this case, but pointing out that what lies behind the hollowness of the response that you point to is a weakness within the opposition that goes beyond messaging. Call it: inclusiveness, which I think is a work in progress.

    • And to say that mcm has the right to travel to Frankfurt, but Iris is surely using stolen money to travel to Disney is implicitly classist. How can a pata en el suelo go to the US but stealing? Unlike rich people who do travel honestly with their means

  16. Cut her some slack, it musy be terrible to be both named Delcy AND the sister of Jorge Rodríguez.
    But seriously, there is a huge distinction between snapping a picture in a public place and using government data to expose then, tomorrow it could be their tax returns, grades of their children, adresses, car models and license plates that are released.
    Juan, as a public figure you have no privacy to the extend of publicly and legally available information. However, from confidential data, held by the government everyone has the right of this information not to be disclosed to harm you. In a country with rule of law Delcy would probably go to jail.

    I agree that is done to stir the most radical chavista and either way you respond to it it’s going to csuse a backlash.

  17. The perception that this is a scandal that damages the opposition or that this resonates in the country is only in the eyes of those who experience Venezuela by twitter and other social media. Noone here gives a damn about the opposition travels or the propaganda of the govt about it. This doesn’t resonate at all.

  18. As I said already: we have another problem here independent from that Delsy character.
    I know we have freedom of movement and so on and we can do with our money what we want.

    But it is always the same thing: almost all of our politicians, specially those who belong to the upper middle class or middle class + (and have thus a passport and preferably a US tourist visa), invariably go abroad, preferably to the USA or Europe, every single December after election time, when we know for sure there are going to be new measures against the people and so on…AND THE WORST IS THAT THERE IS NO ONE AT HOME TO RESPOND TO THE GOVERNMENT!

    I remember when I went to Venezuela at the end of 2006 shortly after election time. I told my sister Chávez was going to announce a lot of nasty things and our oppo would not be prepared because everyone would be in Miami or Paris or wherever. That is what happened. That happened in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now.

    Capacity of self-analysis? They are not Juan Rodríguez, private person. They are our top representatives, political figures.
    And yes: I still defend the fact the government cannot use State resources to gather PRIVILEGED information for political purposes. Period.
    These are two topics in one event.

    • To be fair… They drop the ball when they’re in Venezuela as well, not just when they travel abroad.

      Remember the Cadakazo? oppo figures managed to say only things like: “This is bread for today and hunger for tomorrow” and “We are also against speculation and usury”.

      But defence of private property? Defending the little guy like the Arab shopkeeper forced to sale at a loss? Nope.

      And to think MUD has specially designated spokespeople…

      To be clear, I do agree with you that someone from MUD should stay on call (de guardia), in holidays, long weekends, etc. so MUD can always respond to things like this.

  19. Opposition member are pissed off about this because they are embarassed they were caught. Delcy is putting them at an awkward situation. In Venezuela there’s this preconception that public functionaries are social workers who are forbidden fom indulging in any luxuries or leisures. If they do indulge, then they are crooked politicians, using the people’s money for their own benefit.

    Best way for these folks to treat the situation would be to express their right as anybody else’s to travel. Thing is the venezuelan opposition has never had the guts to be sincere about anything, starting with their political position. It’s all gray spaces.

    • In the public imagination Public figures are supposed to be these super human stoic heroic characters who shun the ordinary pleasures of modern life in order to sanctimomously dedicate themselves exclusively to serve the Public Good . They must live as puritan warrior monks dedicated to the Lofty Higher Calling of being a Public figure or Official . What other people are allowed is forbidden to them . This of course is silly UNLESS you make a point of being a revolutionary character who scorns capitalist pleasures and only find pleasure in marching and giving speeches and saying and doing magnificent thinks for the good of the downthroded whose lives you share.in which case you betray your principles by going shopping and vacationing in iconic capitalist playgrounds and luxury destinations Even in the US president Obama must take his vacations home in certain sanctioned places ( Marthas Vinyard ?) . If you are an oppo figure in Venezuela in what is virtually a police state , constantly watched and spied upon with no private life , then being able to spend a few days away from such oppressive enviroment is more than a pleasure , its a need.!! Why should it be all right for the thousand of Venezuelans who take vacations abroad to do so while its a moral crime for oppo figures to take short holidays abroad ?? It doesnt make sense and yet the govt is trying to serve these absurdities to their followers as big morsels of delightful evidence that the oppo figures are corrupt. !! If these are the crimes that they can be accused of why dont they make a similar fuss about the real horrible crimes they constantly commit against the future and life of the mass of Venezuelans with their mismanagement and blunders and personal corruptions . ??

  20. Of course they have the right! But they will never express it. They wan’t to be considered what you describe above: super humans. Just as they will never declare that the CaDakaso was absolutely a mistake, just as Capriles will never admit he is a center-right politician nor attack the government for excess spending and give-away.

    In the end, I think lack of sincerity is a generalized syndrome of Venezuelans. Have you ever had a Venezuelan give you an “in-your-face” no? It’s always maybe.

    • My comment about expecting public figures to be saintly stoic super heroes refers to a tendency of people every where not just Venezuela , All public figures therefore have to abide by this expectation . however non sensical . Some megalomaniacs like Chavez went beyond that and really thought himself a demigod .!! That was not only silly but out right morbid. More morbid still lots of stupid people in Venezuela bought his idiocy and still do !!

      • The real idiocy comes from the regime bigwigs who declaring themselves puritan revolutionaries opposed to all the frivolities of ‘capitalism’ can be found shopping or visiting the sights in the most capitalists of pleasure grounds . Oppo figures dont make a special point of hating the ordinary pleasures of foreign tourism in capitalist countries , so its more acceptable for them to visit those places than it is for Maduro and other regime figures to do so .


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