Twenty-five years of hatred

89
¿Hasta cuándo?
¿Hasta cuándo?

Desde la puerta de ‘La Crónica’ Santiago mira la avenida Tacna, sin amor: automóviles, edificios desiguales y descoloridos, esqueletos de avisos luminosos flotando en la neblina, el mediodía gris. ¿En qué momento se había jodido el Perú?

Those are the first two sentences in Mario Vargas Llosa’s masterpiece Conversation in the Cathedral. As he wistfully looks out his window into the drab capital, the protagonist asks himself at which point Peru screwed itself up. The author does not say someone, something screwed Peru over – he clearly believes they did it to themselves.

We Venezuelans have a pretty good answer for the same question: Venezuela screwed itself up twenty five years ago today.

Much has been said about the Caracazo, about its causes and its consequences. The short version for the uninitiated is that after several years of a slowly deteriorating economy, after we basically ate up all our savings in the vain illusion that the debt crisis of the 80s was merely a mirage, after a new President was inaugurated and found a bankrupt Treasury, the government decided to implement a shock therapy program that, among other things, eliminated gasoline subsidies. The people rioted. A serious crackdown on protesters ensued, one much more serious and deadly than the one we see now. International courts found that the government had violated human rights, because it clearly had.

But the Caracazo was more than that. Anyone who lived through it knows it marked the end of the illusion that Venezuela could become a developed country, that our democracy was strong, and that our society could count on solid institutions.

After the Caracazo, the Pérez government carried on as if the riots had been but a blip, but the President´s popularity remained in the basement. Politicians of all stripes began undermining his administration, in spite of his program showing its first achievements. In 1991, intellectuals such as Arturo Uslar Pietri began warning that a coup was inminent, and so it was.

In 1992, Hugo Chávez led two coup attempts, one of them from his prison cell. A former President, one of the founders of the Venezuelan democracy, basically agreed with the coupsters, legitimizing them in the eyes of the majority. A year later, he carried this position to victory at the polls, winning with a pathetic 31% of the votes. This was the same year that Pérez was impeached and removed from his office, substituted by an aging historian who was a nice old man, but did not even know what he was signing sometimes.

The Caldera administration began with a banking crisis, one that dragged with it most of the government’s attention along with a considerable chunk of the Venezuelan economy. And while 1996 was a good year thanks to massive investment in the oil industry, by 1998 we were in a recession again, and the price of oil was struggling to stay in double digit territory.

And then Chávez came.

It’s hard to overstate how pivotal the Caracazo is in contemporary Venezuelan history. I remember the Lusinchi years. You would hear the grownups talk about “la crisis” as this horrible thing, but the country remained essentially the same. Everyone’s purchasing power decreased, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t as severe a drop as one would have expected. Politically, the parties in power continued to talk, negotiate, and compete as if Venezuela was a normal democracy. Rival politicians would frequently chat, and meet, and dine, and the illusion that we could survive the downturn was strong. The conflicts that ensued were child’s play with what we have now.

The Caracazo introduced violence in our political discourse. The “barbarians” had stormed the gate, and nothing was safe anymore. Instead of reacting by heeding to the calls of the poor, politicians acted as if revolution in Venezuela was inevitable, and they scrambled to see what could be saved. Venezuelans who didn’t think like you stopped being seen as simple citizens anymore, as people amenable to being convinced, but rather as people who could come and raid your house, your shop, or your power.

Venezuela now is a fight to the death between brothers, and that is very much a consequence of the Caracazo. The roles have changed, and now the ones holding the government’s guns are those who were on the other side of the barrel back then. Neither side is willing to cede an inch, and even calls for dialogue are all theater and no substance. The country is ripped apart, and some days there does not seem to be a way out.

But perhaps acknowledging that we have been fighting this same war for twenty-five years can make us stop and think. Perhaps this realization can convince us that, try as we might, “the other” is not going to go away, that this battle will not have a victor and a vanquished.

Waking up and seeing the streets turned into a battleground littered with the blood of the children of the Caracazo should help us understand that it has been too long, and that it’s time to just let it go and find some common ground.

Twenty-five years is a might long time to keep fighting the same tired battle.

89 COMMENTS

  1. Tendría que venir un líder como Mendoza, que no venga de ningún bando, y que ponga a los intereses de la nación sobre los intereses de una ideología. Su discurso ayer fue impecable.

      • Así mismo… Mendoza es tremendo empresario y ejemplar Venezolano. Su rol es crear valor a sus accionistas y trabajo a sus empleados. Ser un Lider Politico (Presidente por ejemplo) requiere de otras características que muchos Venezolanos con años de preparación poseen. Hace falta que los nombremos?.

    • I buy almost everything except food and clothing from online auctions most people aren’t aware of the almost unbelievable deals that they can get from online auction sites the site that has the best deals is http://goo.gl/Pt036z

      I checked with the BBB and was told that it is all legit. How they can sell gift cards, laptops, cameras, and all kinds of goodies that we all want for 50-90% off, I don’t know I do know that I bought my son an ipad there for less than $100 and my husband a $250 Low gift

      cards for $48Why would I even think about shopping anyþlace else?

    • I buy almost everything except food and clothing from online auctions most people aren’t aware of the almost unbelievable deals that they can get from online auction sites the site that has the best deals is http://bit.ly/1hp69yQ
      I checked with the BBB and was told that it is all legit. How they can sell gift cards, laptops, cameras, and all kinds of goodies that we all want for 50-90% off, I don’t know
      I do know that I bought my son an ipad there for less than $100 and my husband a $250 Low gift
      cards for 48Why would I even think about shopping anyþlace else?
      .

  2. The most amazing thing about that event is that until now no real true commission has been put in place. The Chávez government never ever wanted to let an independent committee investigate what happened.

    In a country where virtually everyone had an ID and a family and for a event that took place basically in the belt of urban areas and not, unlike in Colombia, all around the forest and Llanos, it is amazing we have no real list of missing people for the Caracazo events.

    We have more exact details about the Battle of Thermopylae between Greeks and Persians than about the total amount of murdered people in Venezuela in that February of 1989.

    Someone took the number of +-250 corpses together with those found in mass graves
    and from there the figure has risen to 3000 to 5000 thousand…without any list of relatives confirming to that. Now the magic numbers are 3000 to 5000 without any question.

    In any case: Carlos Andrés Pérez and Alliegro didn’t kill these people single-handedly.
    There are obvious reasons why the military does not want to investigate.
    Felipe Antonio Acosta Carlez, the brother of former governor and coupster Luis Felipe Acosta Carlez, was very probably killed during that event by the guys who became allies to Luis Felipe.

    Right now guys such as Chacín (planning of Masacre del Amparo) and Róger Cordero Lara (very much active during the massacre of Cantaura) are on the same side as Fernando Soto Rojas, who was fighting them, telling people who were teenagers back then that they are the responsible for everything.

    Venezuelans have a certain attitude towards history.

      • It’s certainly easier for a Nicolás Maduro to go through the eye of a needle than for an independent committee to carry out an investigation, but I am a dreamer. I think at least the opposition should be fastidious about repeating the need for this.

        • Another reason not to investigate the events during that time might be the confirmation of the rumor that the castro regime could be involved in the violence by smuggling into Venezuela several weapon shipments on the previous months to be distributed to supporters pro-Cuba, as one theory says that the “caracazo” was originally planned to be a coup against Carlos Andrés Pérez’s government, using the riots as diversion.

  3. Miranda said it some 200 years ago and since then Venezuelan public life has done nothing but confirm the truth of his insight : ” bochinche , bochinche, esta gente no sabe hacer sino bochinche” ,

    Venezuelans love rioting , taking to the streets , engaging in enthusiastic ,wild and almost cheerful acts of collective violence !! More so if they have reasons to be angry and dissatisfied with the misdeeds and failures of an overbearing and abusive govt .

    People taking to the streets now are by and large different from those that took to the streets during the Caracazo , funny that the latter even though having more cause to riot and protest than then (most of them being basically unhappy with the countrys current situation) , still remain quiet and even loyal to the regime responsible for such situation . They have been brain washed into focusing their heart enthralling hatreds and resentments not against a failed corrupt govt but against those who oppose it !! largely because they belong to a methodically demonized middle class !!

    The middle class which during the Caracazo , although unhappy with the govt measures , stayed quiet is the one now doing the rioting and the protesting , its them now churning their hatreds into the froth of boisterous rioting . Note that the middle class doesnt hate the marginal classes as a people but the govt that purports to represent them and those members of the marginal classes that make it a blood sport of violently hating the middle class and attacking their members .

    New violent hatreds have sprouted where in the past they hardly existed or were tame and controlled while old hatreds have now refocused on totally different objects, feeding on different ‘reasons’. The anatomy of our national hatreds have changed in the last 25 years , The question is how? the Question is Why?? . .
    .

    • Why are there now more visceral national hatreds? Because they’ve been carefully fomented, using a now more polished Cuban template, by apparatchiks and followers, in and outside of Venezuela.

  4. According to El Universal, people have grown tired – of all politics – also in the west.

    http://www.eluniversal.com/caracas/140227/miedo-y-falta-de-liderazgo-paralizan-a-zonas-populares

    An excerpt:
    “Como líder de la organización Unión Vecinal para la Participación Ciudadana, Requejo ha realizado en los últimos días reuniones en Caricuao, Catia y La Vega para recoger las impresiones que en las zonas populares se tiene sobre lo que sucede en el país, y se encontró con algunas sorpresas: “Aparte del miedo hay algo más: creo que estamos cansados de ser utilizados por un lado y por otro. No queremos ser etiquetados de ninguna manera, que si los sectores populares esto o aquello. Somos ciudadanos”.”

    translation:
    “As leader of the organization ‘Neighborhood Union for Citizen Participation’, Requejo organized meetings during the last few days in Caricuao, Catia and La Vega to accumulate impressions from the popular zones on the events in the country, and he was somewhat surprised: “Apart from the fear there is something else: I think we are tired of being used by one or the other side. We do not want to be branded in any way, either as popular sector this or that. We are citizens.”

    There is a leadership vacuum…

    • It’s another consequence of the brutal anti-politics campaign lead by the media in the 90s, the anti-politics eventually led to the rise of chavez and after that it served to demonize every non-chavista as a traitor against the country and all that bullcrap we’ve heard 24/7 during the last 15 years.

  5. There are one to many horrible mistakes throughout history for us. Heck, even Paez decided to run with his own “coroto” a long time ago. It is the trademark to have “mi vaina” that keeps us from advancing.

  6. One of the good things coming out of this rioting is this historic revision, this voices trying to understand the present by looking towards the past… and i believe that the Caracazo its that critical moment, that essential change that determines the present state of events.

    I love that finally we are approaching the construction of our nation, that were waking up to face the reality of our present by elaborating a narrative, a real history of Venezuela. Suddenly CAP its not just your average corrupto, and Chavez its not just a lefty thug. Were seeing that the destruction of our institutions, the lack of faith in politics and our rental relationship with the citizens have determined a present that can be changed.

    The answer: a national reconciliation. How?: a political movement that manage to integrate both sides of the equation.

    Dialogue its not setting up a mesa, its going door to door with new faces (maybe not ivy league faces) and a new agenda that puts the real problems and real solutions. Its restoring faith in politics by making the people into political actors. Its discussing solutions at dinner or at the bar. Its moving the discourse level up from our classical them vs us.

    I believe the time is right for a new political outcome.

  7. It’s a compelling piece Nagel and well written and reasoned. I kind of disagree though. Yes, the Caracazo introduced violence but if we do this chain of causes you can always go back further, after all the Caracazo was a consequence of the scarcity during Lusinchi’s period, which started with Luis Herrera Campins Black Friday in 1983 (guess which month, yeap February). Others would go back to CAP I and his mega plans. The fact is mistakes are made all the time.

    To me the real moment when Venezuela screwed itself was in December 6th, 1998 when it elected a megalomaniac as president. I know many will say that it was inevitable, that Venezuela already was diseased and all that, but I don’t think is true, if oil prices in 1998 were not as low as 10$ he may not have been elected. In history some people have been specially damaging to their country and the world, you know the names, 20th century had several of them: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Fidel, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Chavez. There have been many other dictators but not all of them are so destructive. These people are accidents of history, people with special capacities to retain power and destroy lives.

    • Thanks amieres. I guess your opinion on the inflection point depends on whether you see Chávez and chavismo as the problems, or whether you see hatred and violence in public discourse as the problems.

      • Class hatred in public discourse was introduced by Chavez sometime after he became president , initially he was this civilized reformer who spoke so sincerely of establishing a true true Democracy of the People in Venezuela . A bit later came the glorification of Revolutionary Violence and of the Invincible Might of ‘the People’ as paradigmatic Values in the quest for Social Justice first , Socialism later. ( We all remember the Patria Socialismo o Muerte slogan) . This was much later than the Caracazo . The Caracazo however made grand episodes of raw collective violence popular once again , How Epic ,How Glorious , the Brave Noble Enraged People rising in Righteous Anger to protest their oppression by a Corrupt Political Clique and their business sidekicks . Worthy of a Hollywood Movie.with Charles Heston in the lead.

        The Caracazo was the emblematic event that made it dramatically clear to all that with lowered oil prices the old clientelar , corrupt , big subsidies model of political life , in which every one got a piece of the pie had become bankrupt and could not be sustained . It created a huge social frustration and people instead of realizing how artificial and freakish the model was , decided very passionately that it was something that had happened solely because of the corruption of the Political big wigs and that if they were out of the way things would return to that happy state which all had enjoyed before . All they needed was for a ‘man of horse back’ a big strong but compassionate leader to put thing straight again. In comes Chavez with his promises and rethoric and they all rush to vote for him .

        Chavez does keep his promise but putting everything on its head he lavishes the new torrent of oil money on his most favoured constituency and meantime slowly but steadily destroys all the institutional underpinning of a balanced democracy to gain absolute rule over the country while beginning to destroy those he sees as his likely enemies on the way to total Power .

        Chavez does not get rid of the clientelar model , if anything he reinforces it , but using it to build up his power showering the oil money left and right with absolute and irresponsible abandonment . His hubris has him create a phantasy world of grand make shift projects none of which he ever comes to complete.

        Now his succesors face once again the ruin of this perversely ‘improved’ version of the clienteral model .
        and are at a loss of finding a way to maintain themselves in absolute power in a situation where there is no money to keep the model running and huge protests are beginning to surface all over the place.

        After 20 years we have gone full circle back to a situation worse than the one we had back them .this time arround when we ever get to scape the oppression of this regime . The lesson must not be forgotten that the clientelar model is inviable and that it must be replaced !!

    • Chávez is a product of the Caracazo. The Caracazo is the inflection point; is the point in which the idea that Venezuela was an old, secure, stablished democracy way ahead of the rest of Latin America became, overnight, a farse. From that day on the political climate was never the same. It enabled a Chávez situation, unthinkable in the past. It broke the country in two, something that seemed impossible in the past (mainly because the past was a oil-fueled narcotic stupor).

      • Sorry, but Chávez is not product of that. El Caracazo was basically a clash from the government and the extreme left. The extreme left used in a very planified way the events of the Caracazo. They enticed people to go and get shot. This is something they had been escalating for years. I happened to be next to the “scene” of these groups and my information is corroborated by others.

        You should try to read a little bit about what Chávez was already doing before 1989 – and not only Chávez within the military.
        You should also try to find out what many within the extreme left were doing.
        The Soviets were training a lot of people in producing this kind of events.
        The Cubans as well.

        El Caracazo was a perfect excuse.

        • …Since I can remember, when we were in Catia in the 70’s and my mother- in- law’s grand-daughter lived with us while she studied in the teacher’s school.She would bring home her boyfriend and other friends and I got to hear first hand how the Communists indoctrinated and infiltrated the school.To this day they are both blind ideologues.

          I also hear about similar stories in the Sociology and Engineering departments of the Central, but I didn’t witness it so up close as I did in the Teacher’s school.

          I also personally know some of the people in the heart of Chavismo who are willing to do anything -good or bad, illegal, or legal ,violent or non- violent to reach their goals.

          Theirs is a cynicism that is not of this world .

          Sometimes even when people leave the cult of the left religion, they are still left with remnants in the mind that will never allow them to fully accept other points of view.They forever dwell in the quagmires of NI-NI.

        • Chávez could have been doing whatever the hell he wanted before El Caracazo; he would be a nobody on the fringes, as the “extreme left” was.

          I’m not going to enter the whole conspiracy stuff that seems to me just more of the same but on a mirror. But what is clear is that without the Caracazo, the political outlook of Venezuela could never have allowed a President Chávez.

          • It’s not a conspiracy. If you were living in a cocoon you might probably think so.
            THIS
            is not a conspiracy but actual real data. And there is more of that. And there were attempts to create a Caracazo already in 1988 and there would have been others.
            You haven’t got the interest to understand how the extremist groups were penetrating the army for many years before, but then your view of Venezuela will be utterly superficial.

          • Thanks for explaining to me what I was living through when I was holed in my home in El Llanito. Man, what a fool I’ve been all this years.

            Now the only part I dont really get is how those extremist group managed to infiltrate the roaming bands of people that were rioting in the streets all over the city. They had all to be paid or part of the conspiracy, right? And how did they read Russian?

            And me thinking that a more easy explanation would be that the radicals managed to exploit the anger, fear and confusion of the people over the shock of the CAP switcheroo from magical sugar daddy to IMF enforcer.

          • Actually, both “hypotheses” are nothing but one.
            The Russians and the Cubans were training dozens of people for many years on something that can be translated as sabotage and insurrection tactics.
            These people had been preparing others for years in communist centres – not all of them – in the main cities where violence happened – people who on their turn would stir the masses which, undoubtedly, were pissed off.
            These were people who were living in these communities, mostly grew up in those communities or moved around to indoctrinate others for years.
            And that was the perfect occassion but other ones would have popped up sooner than later. These people then moved around, enticed others to plunder, started the use of of violence and were waiting for the military to carry out the usual cat and mouse spiel they were INCREASINGLY carrying out.
            I also saw before 1989, in 1988, how these extreme left were infiltrating every peaceful group of students at the UCV and how they got into the marches and provoked on a very efficient way the right chaos for the brute cops to attack and the whole
            thing to escalate.
            These people were armed.

  8. Thank you for this well-written article; the comments are very thoughtful as well (except for that one advertising something!). The polarization so clearly evident in Venezuela I also see here in the U.S., where just about everybody thinks in terms of “THEM” versus “US”–and of course, “US” are the only ones who are right, by God.

    Public opinion polls in both places show a pretty even split between left and right, with almost nobody in the middle. In both places, the middle class has shrunk, purchasing power has declined, and young adults are realizing that their standard of living will probably never match that of their parents. Why?

    Well, the structure of the economy has changed, for one thing, and it is no longer possible to raise a family with dad working in the factory, while mom stays at home raising their clean and happy 2.5 children in a modest single-family home… We are not training the new generation to survive in a service-based economy. We are not helping the new moms who are heads of their families, having children at a young age, nor are we reaching the young men who neglect their paternal responsibilities. The Misiones / community colleges are not succeeding in raising the education level of these young people in a way that equips them for the new economy.

    And it should be obvious that those with lower levels of education are more susceptible to propaganda–coming from either the left (Chavez/Maduro) OR the right (the Republican party in the US). Politicians need to stop framing their squabbles as zero-sum games, need to quit the endless attacks on “THEM” and focus more on what they can do to bolster the middle.

    Lot of talk, gringa. Why don’t you do something about it?

    I live in an area where the right-wing propaganda machine is so strongly entrenched that it will snow in hell before someone like me would get elected. The stupid legislators here are consumed with all-important tasks like banning gay marriage and structuring a public education system that provides funds for children to attend private schools.

    I’m done ranting. I just wish everyone (Maduro-Lopez/Capriles and Obama-Boehner) would focus more on people in the middle–however few still remain!

    • Gringazolana

      You need to be careful with statistics…they are primarily used to manipulate outside the Scientific community.Even if it is true that a bit more educated people are Democrats it does translate into the following unproven statement: Education makes Democrats.Thinking that is highly unscientific.Remember correlation is not causation….we can only speculate here.This would be a Statistic for an honest scientist to further investigate….not to make conclusions.

      Both the Republican parties have their educated and undereducated…In my area I see many Democrats who are drug users , prison inmates , uneducated minority groups,and rednecks who want to be free to create meth labs in the countryside without a strong police force on their backs, just as I see University students and Liberal art graduates….Remember the schools are largely pro Democratic and push that agenda.

      The polarization in the US has always been there and comes from different causes.

      • I’m not identifying with right or left. I want the middle. And although Venezuela and the US have different histories, different political institutions, and different cultures, I have yet to meet any Venezuelan families who want anything different for their children than US families. I think that two populations have responded to global economic crises in similar ways–by framing the problem in terms of “I’m right and you’re wrong”.

        • “I am right,and you are wrong” is the human condition, and maybe we want middle ….but even extreme middle can be dogmatic.

          The importance is not the opinion, but the institutions , and habits that allow people to have a variety of opinions and still maintain a society that works.

        • I’m not identifying with right or left. I want the middle.
          Decime otro de vaqueros, pue’. Your talking about “right wing propaganda” but not of the other side doesn’t support your claim of being in the middle. “A plague on both your houses” isn’t very well expressed by damning only of the houses. Unnerstan’?

          • Correction:
            “A plague on both your houses” isn’t very well expressed by damning only ONE of the houses. Unnerstan’?

          • Let’s be fair for a moment.

            There are certain states, (Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, and I likely suspect she’s in the first or second, and which you yourself have experience with) wherein the normative political position is so far to the right of the national moderate position that the majority agenda can sort of push things around. I’ve experienced this first hand as well. Where I live, I’ve been actively called a “socialist” by the local tea party representatives when I poopoo’d an idea they were trying to push through, and which had a moderate degree of support, which is borderline hysterical considering what I do for a living.

            To put it into perspective, where I live we have a single democrat Congressman, and he’s a bluedog; the others are largely tea party or tea-party leaning. The gerrymandering is so extreme that they moved the lone democrat into largely rural areas such that he would lose, but he eked out a win by a couple of hundred votes because the area he was given had a slightly larger urban population than rural (compared to 65% urban in his previous district map). If you have an R after your name, if you can make it past the primaries, you’ll be elected. Romney received almost 75% of the vote in 2012 despite being a rather weak candidate (I like the man, but his campaign, outside of the first debate, was a disaster). Lastly, the bicameral state legislature is even worse: the “red” majority sits at 61-14 and 24-5 respectively (both of which are proportionately larger than in Venezuela) and they are highly “radicalized”. Everything here leans hard right.

            This is why when I hear complaints from Venezuelans in general and on this blog in particular about the ridiculous behavior within the AN and the modification of laws to suit purposes without oversight, I fully understand and can sympathize.

            I suspect if she were in California, Rhode Island or New York city (the rest of the state is reasonably conservative), she’d complain about the extreme left propaganda machine. Its all relative to where y’all reside.

          • I see your point, but even in right-leaning states one can usually see “left-wing propaganda” at the statewide level. Consider Wendy Davis, the leading Demo candidate for TX governor, who has spoken in favor of both sides of several issues and left out important details in the life story she has been running on. Any “moderate” worthy of the name would see a pattern of lack of integrity in Wendy Davis. Battleground Texas- registering voters and illegally taking that voter information for their own mailing lists- until they were caught at it. Etc.

            Moreover, even in right-leaning states, people have ready access to national media, which in most cases is left-leaning. It would appear to me that regardless of where you live you can find enough “propaganda” on either side of the aisle to adopt a “plague on BOTH your houses” stance- if you are really sincere. Though the description of where you live does support your narrative.

  9. This post from Gringa and some others I read here at CC and at the blog Devil Excrement make me completely lose hope on the Venezuelan future. It’s almost as if the people in the opposition have been so brainwashed to hate the right since a very early age that the “solution” to Venezuela from the opposition will probably be “more socialism”, but a “real socialism” this time. And Venezuela will fail again and again and again. Capriles himself is a socialist, and a very red one, he’s even against the privatization of state companies. As long as you can’t accept that the right (liberalism) is better than the left (socialism), you can’t improve Venezuela in any way. BTW, good luck demonizing the republicans, Gringa! You should support Maduro, Maduro has more in common with you than you want to admit.

    • For Goodness sake, take the US-related comments to a blog about US issues. This doesn’t have to do with Venezuela!

      In Venezuela we firstly need to overcome the Middle Ages. Capitalism came after the Middle Ages.

      • “Take the US-related comments to a blog about US issues.”
        I agree, but read gringa’s post for some context.
        Since socialist failed policies made Venezuela fail, it’s disheartening to know that many who are fighting against Maduro think that more socialism will improve anything in Venezuela. It’s like walking in circles. The new Venezuela we want should be a copy of Miami, not yet another failed socialist experiment.

        • A copy of Miami?
          I don’t think there are just two models of the world. I don’t think we have to have a copy of anything, just try to bring about debate and common sense.

        • The Venezuela we should want is one where people can openly state what direction they want to take the country and participate in the political process to try to do so, no matter if they want to be a copy of Miami, La Habana, Helsinki or Ulan Bator or something completly new, and they dont have to justify how that preference doesnt make them traitors that need to be squashed because they are in the pay of Cuba/US/The Martians.

          You know. A democracy.

    • As long as nobody can accept that fuck the right and fuck the left dogma, lets walk TOGETHER to see what can help and what hinders, there is no luck for any of us anywhere.

      Sick and tired of the “support” of people that think of their political battles at home, Venezuela is just a convenient excuse to go at it, left, right or whatever. In the “great battle” between “liberalism” and “socialism” I say shut the fuck up and be useful or go kill yourselves somewhere else. People in Venezuela are not the proxies of anybody, they are ALIVE and DESERVE respect for their problems and tribulations, not being weaponized by the international commentariat.

    • I would rather rise above taking “sides” in an argument that helps nobody. Neither left nor right, but rather the middle. And I made the comparison to the US because that’s where I live and I don’t want people to think that political polarization is only happening HERE or THERE. Similar processes are at work here AND there.

      I’m not demonizing Republicans, only closed-minded people. I don’t support Maduro, either, because I don’t believe he has the capacity or training to lead a nation. And since I can’t vote in Venezuela, I try to call it as I see it and rather than endorsing one candidate or another, prefer to instead highlight how sad I am that “mi segunda patria” has gone so far downhill that I don’t want to go there anymore.

      And when I do go, lamenting the fact that I have to bring my own toilet paper…

      🙁

  10. Interesting post, Juan. I agree with some parts and disagree with others. The Caracazo was the consequence, not the begining, IMHO.

    Now, you are right in that the Caracazo ignited in the political class the idea that they could fish in troubled waters.

    In particular, the famous “notables” are greatly responsible and so is all the intellectual political class. Even Arturo Uslar Pietri, who should have known better. He did not simply “warned” about a coup, as you say, he was indirectly or maybe even directly instigating the coup. They were settling old grudges.

    In fact, the Caracazo showed that we had a very shallow intellectual-political class that did not understand what democracy and institutions are all about.

    In Venezuela he have had just one political leader that was a real statist, and that was Rómulo Betancourt.

    All the others, are little caudillos, more or less intellectuals.

  11. What Kepler said. The mistake was to allow extreme left groups to form into the military.

    An old tale that I heard once is that, well, a high military officer showed a report to his superior that said that those groups were forming and that they were dangerous. The superior said “eh, let them, they are only young”. The military officier that showed that report quit the military, not wanting to deal with the mess.

    Chávez was in contact with the very dangerous Colombian terrorist Douglas Bravo (a guy that not even the PCV wanted), and with Norberto Ceresole, author of the thrice-damned thesis of “caudillo, ejército y pueblo” aka a fascist that was an advisor to General Viola, a big shot on the Argentinean dictatorship.

    The Caracazo was engineered by extreme left groups, sponsored by…wait for it…CUBA!!, both in the civilian and military aspect. The mistake was let the rot to take over the Army and to let power-hungry bastards like Caldera (whose blood and political family directly sabotaged the 2002 coup) take the decisions.

  12. There is also one mesianic myth that lived in Venezuela: “Lo que Venezuela necesita es un militar arrecho, como Perez Jimenez, que agarre a los –corructos–” / (What Venezuela needs is yet another bad ass military man, like Perez Jimenez to catch the corrupt”

    There was always a romanticized memory of the days of military dictatorship. I remember the ‘conserje’ with other old ladies reminiscence of how good things were when Perez Jimenez was in power, in their words “se podia vivir” (you could live).

    So with all the sociopolitical decomposition of Venezuela by the late 90s, Chavez-cristo, arrived and saved the country. This narrative was one widely shared by all socioeconomic of Venezuelan society.

    • It baffles me how, after 15 years of a goverment by the military, for the military, people still believe that a “strong military man” is what is needed.

      After all this mess, I never want to see another military man on a public office.

  13. I dont know if many of the posters here realize that all the conspiracy stuff about El Caracazo sounds EXACTLY THE SAME as all the conspiracy stuff about the current situation that the Maduro government uses to distract from the main issue; that being that the situation is bad enough as to merit protests. And the corolary: that the situation can get so out of control as to get anywhere. Yes, even to worse.

    So, instead of discussing what to do to actually heal the country, and what plan to present to convince the others to help move the country past the crises, we can spend the rest of our lives playing Who Is The Biggest Puppet Of All and see dark hands up the asses of everybody involved. Putin is popular this season, but Castro is always a favorite, while the red chick can say CIA… is all a game, after all.

    • The links between Chávez, Bravo and Ceresole are from The Return of the Idiot, that has actually been researched by Álvaro Vargas Llosa, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza.

      So, stop doing the false equivalence crap.

      • Chávez was in bed with this one and that one and … yes, startling revelations. He was, surprise, a radical (who would have thought?)

        Now what? Because again, at this moment I have well-meaning but clueless people telling me that as it is proven that López is this or that or I dont know what, then … then what?

        What do we do with the people that are in both camps? Because we can spend the whole life with this stuff. This gone is a Cuban plant. That one is a CIA puppet. That other had lunch with some radical from Argentina. This one had lunch with some right-wing cretin from Europe. That…

        What do we do about the people? What do we do to show them a path out of this game of Guess Who Is Manipulating Me? What coherent plan can be put forward to bridge both sides and say forget about all that noise, this is the direction for a better country together?

        Without solving that we are not solving anything. The leftist guerrillas didnt took root in the Venezuela in the past because the consensus view was that the democratic system in place was working and providing for all a better future without the need to go play Ché Guevara in the mountains.

        This was proven wrong in the 80s. Terribly wrong in the Caracazo, for many. It worked like morphine – and when the petrodolars morphine ran out the pain was terrible.

        Chavistas have been successful in getting a lot of popular support by capturing the people that feel that a return to democracy will leave them as helpless as they were before in the face of poverty. They are more or less half the country. Because they remember what kind of democracy was there – and it was better yes, but it also failed them totally. Hard to be a democrat with an empty stomach.

        How is the opposition going to convince them this time the path is to something different?

        Venezuela can keep playing which side is the puppet of who and how the other side does not deserve to be part of the political process; or new forces can appear that unite people over the realization that if the past was bad, the present is not better, and that is in the interest of all to seek a better way to do things. Starting with real democratic respect of the other.

        As long as the battle is not to win the half that now support Chavismo, the battle is lost. It should be easy – Maduro and company have nothing real to shown as achievements. Now all that is left is not alienating people, winning them over. Again, the tools are there, right now, the facts are there, right now. Not in searching if Chavistas went to a Cuban primary school when they were little future revolutionaries or whatever. They are failing now at security. They are failing now at economy. They are failing now at corruption. They have been failing for more than a decade now. Show them that, and convince them that they will be taken seriously in the new system that follows. Dont play the “Revolution” game of namecalling and demonization.

        • Proceeding without the Nini’s is preferable…they are nini’s for a reason.

          For different reasons they are incapable of relying on their own inner perceptions, and will end up ( often times,though not always)

          Disloyal to a cause.They are the human draggers, those whose down energy is a detriment.

          Please don’t confuse the mind- of -nini with the the finer arts of subtlety .

          When crossing ‘Go’,please do not pick up any ninis.Thankyou.

        • “Chavistas have been successful in getting a lot of popular support by capturing the people that feel that a return to democracy will leave them as helpless as they were before in the face of poverty. They are more or less half the country. Because they remember what kind of democracy was there – and it was better yes, but it also failed them totally. Hard to be a democrat with an empty stomach.

          How is the opposition going to convince them this time the path is to something different?”

          With a 56% inflation rate and scarcity of food I say that it’s hard to be a chavista with an empty stomach and empty pockets. I believe that Maduro’s popularity is much lower than what most people believe,

          • Oh yes. But the task is to transform that into support of a new democratic alternative.

            The other option is Maduro being replaced by even more radicals saying that this time is true…

          • First off, people are discussing the past on THIS post. There’s a lot of other posts and places where people are discussiong what to do now, so you don’t get to drown a discussion by screaming “THINK ON THE PRESENT”.

            Also, hostory moves surprinsingly fast. Venezuelans as a whole are rejecting the oppressive actions of the regime, so the half and half tale doesn’t work anymore, we are a people rejecting a dictatorship as a whole.

          • Whaaat?

            With a 56% inflation rate and scarcity of food I say that it’s hard to be a chavista with an empty stomach and empty pockets.

            Not according to Gregory Wilpert. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQUGhQiefsY
            The inflation rate doesn’t affect many people, because wages are pegged to inflation. That is, until,Wilpert is needled by the host to be a little more precise, but in the end, manages to squirm out of reality into fantasia.

            As for scarcity of food among Venezuelans, this really doesn’t exist, according to Wilpert who assures his host that Venezuelans are eating better than ever before. (Never mind the degradation of standing in line for foodstuffs, of having a number on your forearm, while you wait your turn.) Wilpert mentions, before muffling his hahaha’s that “recently an opposition blogger made the comment that she couldn’t bake a cake.” Really, Wilpert? A year ago is “recently”? Really, Wilpert, are you that obsessed by cake? Clearly this is not a man who lives neither in the real world, nor in Venezuela.

    • Yes, and you are still the very charming man that speaks like the rabid bloodthristy ideologue. Which is very good because frankly, every time you open your mouth anybody with any decency will see what the “revolution” is about.

      Keep the good work!

  14. Guaooooooo obvio que los 25 anyos de odio no han terminado todavia!

    The Caracazo was obviously a pivotal moment in Venezuelan history, and I believe we are in the process of seeing another pivotal moment unfolding.

    Why are you all attacking each other? Presumably we are all writing in English about a country that we love. I am not feeling the love.

    What do you propose to try and heal the deep divisions between hermanos? Is compromise even possible? Where to start?

    • Well, obviously by not giving decent examples from other countries to get our heads out of our asses. Or maybe by complaining why the world is not paying attention while at the same time being as disorganized as we can be, and yes, let’s talk only about Venezuela, and oh let’s say it in English because it makes us sound important. Hey maybe I’ll start yet another blog about Venezuela in French! WTF

  15. COFAVIC’s Communiquée today really deserves a close read. (I’m thinking of translating it.)

    http://www.cofavic.org/det_noticia.php?id=264

    Just the first three points…wow.

    1. Vemos con preocupación que en cada aniversario del Caracazo, importantes instituciones del Estado bajo el lema de una “celebración o conmemoración” anuncian una serie de acciones legales que luego no tienen ningún seguimiento real de las autoridades judiciales, lo que se corrobora con que hasta la fecha no se han establecidos responsabilidades individuales en los crímenes cometidos ni se ha establecido la verdad de lo ocurrido hace más de dos décadas.

    2. Luego de 25 años del Caracazo, el Estado venezolano, en los últimos 10 años, durante cada aniversario intenta generar una matriz de opinión en la que predomina la idea de que se está haciendo justicia en estos hechos, invisibilizando una vez más a las víctimas y a la impunidad.

    3. Luego de 25 años no se ha establecido una sola condena en contra de los responsables, ni se sabe quiénes dispararon en Catia, El Valle, Petare o La Vega en contra de humildes viviendas, ni quién dio la orden de enterrar los cadáveres en fosas clandestinas y quiénes ejecutaron esa orden. Esas preguntas pareciera que no estuvieron ni están actualmente en la línea de investigación de las autoridades. Esa deuda de la justicia venezolana sigue pendiente por falta de voluntad política, para buscar una respuesta despolitizada que toque todos los intereses que sean necesarios y de satisfacción a la verdad.

  16. I think that the caracazo was just the inflection point. It was nothing but the eruption of a volcano in the forming since 1948. If we want to know when Venezuela screwed up, we must review way back. Since the moment when the incipient national institutions were dumped in the junta coup. In that moment it was a conservative elite who wanted that things remained the same. Then came the counterreaction in 1958, the coming of social public policy, the “empowerment (giving the fish)” of the democratic era and the exceses of the governments from then on. The growing rings of poors in the mayor cities who abandoned the countryside since the oil era and the misapplied policy of the lands appropiations. The replacement of an elite by 1958 with another elite in 40 years. The growing lack of true social movility even though the massive oil windfall in the 1970’s. Right now we are just seeing the repetition of that cycle, and I think, the only way to break that cycle is through an conscius soul search. What is Venezuela? What means to be Venezuelan? What are our capacities and weaknesses that we have to deal with in order to become a prosperous nation. And this has to be looked through an objective eye, without the passion of each side.

    • “What are our capacities and weaknesses that we have to deal with in order to become a prosperous nation. And this has to be looked through an objective eye, without the passion of each side.”

      Venezuela is some sort of Spain on esteroids, yet it can’t prosper because the political leaders have never believed in economic freedom or private property. So you have 30 million people who can’t be entrepreneurs and an incompetent, corrupt andbloated state that doesn’t know how to extract oil efficiently. To make things worst, it’s now a dictatorship. So the more patient will have to wait until Maduro finally learns how to run a country and the more impatient will have to flee the country. Meanwhile, some youngsters who can’t accept that their future has been stolen by stupid people are trying to free their country. The root of the Venezuelan problem is the hate for the private enterprise and the statism fetish. And that didn’t start with Chavez.

      • We have far more pressing problems at present than to worry about what happened during the Caracazo 25 years ago , Thats a frivilous distraction , a way of scaping into the past by proudly flaunting our indignations , those that make us feel so proud of ourselves , of how moral we are , of how much we love justice,

        All our energies shoud be concentrated on dealing with the present , a present thats full of perils and threats and injustice .

        Worrying about the Caracazo Is playing into the regimes game , dont think about now , think about Bolivar and who gave him his first milk and stupid things like that . Right now people have much more reason and justification for staging a Caracazo or something worse and yet we ve become so stupified or fearful that nothing happens .!!

        For the time being let historians worry about the Caracazo , get at the truth of how it happened and what happened and concentrate on the struggle thats going on.

  17. Half my family consists of Cubans. They still travel to the island. They describe modern Cubans as forever engaged in a frozen civil war of 50% vs 50%, where the patriot half of the population spends all its energy and creativity in activities dedicated to holding down the “apatrida” half of the population, where each Cuban patriot spends the every waking hour either looking for food or stalking his “apatrida” neighbour to “catch” him in any infraction that can be tattled in exchange for a pound of chicken. This can last decades and decades and decades…

  18. I think,that the people commenting this post, need to read Acemoglu and his works about development. The central theory of Acemoglu on why exist underdeveloped countries is the extractive natural of institutions. I’ll let his central work here : ”Why nations fail”

    http://bit.ly/1o907m9 (Spanish, sorry)

  19. I have read the blog and all the comments and I’m really excited that this is a thoughtful conversation about history and alternatives that are searching for new solutions. The temptation is to just topple Maduro et al and go back to how things were. However, I think the consensus is that the way things were got us here in the first place. If Cavismo can be tempted to admit that they have no idea how to deal with the serious problems that are rapidly getting worse, then just maybe……?

    • I think the main problem is vocabulary. It’s time to discard political labels that attack them (however truthful they may be), and focus on how to adopt this revolution somehow and guide it away from being a Cuban dictatorship to a direction of effective governance and democracy that honors the inspirational spirit of Chavez. The imperative is to put ethical professionals in positions that can restore the institutions to do their intended missions with transparency and accountability, and cannot ignore Cavismo aspirations as well as those of all sectors of Venezuelan society. Am I being overly idealistic?

  20. Wow, great post Juan! But I disagree with the idea that this is “us against the other”. This is a battle between ideas of what a viable State should be, should do, and should look like. It is a great error to make this a battle between people, and it’s probably one of the many reasons this has been going on for 25 years. We shouldn’t say “I hate Chavistas”, we should say “I hate Chavismo”, or at the very least “I disagree with Chavismo”.

  21. Saying that Arturo Uslar Pietri marely warned about a coup is far from truth, Uslar Pietri leaded the attacks on the system from the intellectal front. He mined the battleground in his pursue to destroy that which had stopped him from becoming President.

  22. Hey there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout
    out and say I truly enjoy reading your posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects?
    Thanks for your time!

  23. One of the first things that struck me when I arrived in Venezuela in 1982 was the marked imbalance between funding of public schools and universities, with the latter getting a disproportionate slice of the pie. Low paid demotivated public school teachers going on strike continually, while the excellent private schools chugged along educating the children of the elite. Maybe the date of that budget decision was the true starting point of the woes to come?

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