El Gran Dictador

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A great speech. A great video. Watch it until the end.

1 COMMENT

  1. This week, two family members in two different cities don’t want to talk about the situation over the phone anymore. It is hard, from so far away, to believe what is happening. It is happening.

  2. Nicolas Maduro isn’t my cup of tea, but if you call Maduro a dictator, does that do justice to all the people who voted for him?

      • The article is excellent, albeit I would say it’s much more than half the population that does not want communism, that doesn’t even want socialism as it is in Cuba. Most people in Venezuela don’t even have a clue about what capitalism or socialism in all of their flavours are (most everywhere).
        They all want more or less social programmes. The basic reason why so many Venezuelans elected Maduro is simply the fact they don’t understand the increase in state expenditures from 1999 through recently* was exclusively due to much higher oil prices.

        In fact, some very well educated people in Germany and the Benelux had difficulty understanding this: “but the government cannot be that bad if…” I had to go with them through charts (thankfully they are used to charts explaining economic and social issues on the media here) telling them how the money has been spent and what has been “achieved”.

        I believe we could reach many more still-Maduro-voters if we explain these economic facts in a better way.

        • Assume we could explain this to those many, as you believe. They would conclude that, yes, in fact, Maduro has been inefficient, even wasteful, with the oil monies. Then what? They would still have to choose between supporting Maduro’s government and an opposition government. Instead of choosing to support Maduro’s government because they think it’s good, they would choose to keep supporting it because it’s still less bad (for them) than the alternative. In other words, we can keep trying to show the negative aspects of Maduro’s government until they agree that it is worse than the alternative, or we could improve the platforms (i.e., promised programmes) of the alternative. As things stand now, from their point of view, the opposition alternative worsens their lives more than what Maduro’s government worsens them.

          • You raise a very valid point here, Torres. I follow many people on Twitter that are critical of Maduro but wouldn’t ever vote for Capriles or the opposition.

        • Kepler, could you share the graphics you used to explain this?
          I’m a Venezuelan student majoring in Human-Computer Interaction, I’m very interested in information design and I’m producing a short video that compares the daily life of a Venezuelan and a Bolivian: mainly the impact of inflation, scarcity and unsafety.
          I’m unsure of which indicators to use for comparing the economies. GDP per capita? Growth in production? Let’s talk 🙂

          • It depends what you are trying to explain to whom. Admittedly, I have used these charts mostly when talking to a bunch of people here in Europe. They are usually more used to seeing charts in their newspapers, their magazines, on the daily TV evening news. I still believe even people with very little formal education in Venezuela can fully grasp most of those charts, provided they get a little bit more of an explanation. A lot of people, even educated, have trouble understanding simple rates like “murder rate”. You need to tell a little story with that so that they imagine those 100 000 inhabitants.

            Some of the charts are in my blog, specially those posts with the label “economy of Venezuela” or “crime” or education (click on my name etc).
            I have started to add charts to Wikipedia for common use. A couple of them are in the article Economía de Venezuela.

            Some of the things I use the most:

            1) oil prices across time
            2) literacy figures (use INE data, mind also the fact most 100% illiterate were dying out anyway)
            3) murder rate, long term, specially as compared with other countries
            4) child mortality in Venezuela (slope does not change)
            5)* share of poverty not just from 1998 but from the eighties (you’ll see Venezuela touched rock bottom with oil prices and yet things are not evolving now as rosy as they should given the length of this oil boom)
            6) inflation as compared to other countries (see article on Economía de Venezuela in Wikipedia). This
            can be shown in two ways at the very least
            6.1) world ranking, a chart produced by Ms Lira & Ms Abadi or
            6.2) absolute inflation rates in Latin America, which I plotted…but on logarithmic scale, as inflation in the nineties in Brazil and Argentina was just astronomic. This chart is better for people who have a good sense of what a logarithm is and this excludes most Venezuelans, I think. The previous one is clear for everyone.

            Finally, you can also use pictures of supermarkets with milk and stuff like that in other South American countries such as Colombia or Chile. I had a post with some pictures from there in my Spanish blog.

          • Pero recuerda esto: más de la mitad de la población no tiene Internet en casa. Tienen su celular y en principio pueden acceder a Internet hasta cierto punto allí, pero la gente que queremos alcanzar en clases D/E no van a tener muchas posibilidades de ver vídeos de explicaciones en Youtube.
            Es allí donde, creo, los volantes tienen que intervenir. Hay que trabajar un poquito en crear volantes que tengan la información gráfica adecuada usando solo blanco, negro y tonos de gris y con un texto sucinto pero completo sobre lo que queremos explicar.

          • Gracias, Carlos!
            Tienes razón, volantear sigue siendo la manera principal de llegar a las masas. Si te interesa podríamos trabajar en colocar algunos de estos gráficos en volantes. Yo estoy en contacto con la gente de @volantear en Twitter, son muy receptivos y tienen una red de participantes bastante amplia.

            Saludos!

    • The people who voted for him received the consequences of their lack of perception and objective thought.Maybe it will be a wake up call for next time.

    • The German guy with the little mustache was popular and his party was elected. He is commonly understood to be a dictator, am I wrong?

      • Soon after being elected he prohibited other parties and dissenting views. Nevertheless he remained popular for many years, because of debt financed and lucky economic progress, not few liked the show and the propaganda. Oppositional Political leaders were isolated or put into concentration camps only months after the election. Parliament was resolved. There were no more elections.
        People who thought differently were bullied. I have an awesome personal text of an oppositional granduncle about that fear. First there was quite Colectivo style SA, but soon something more evil and organized. Soon the fascists controlled all organizations of professionals and created their own mass organizations.

        • He was probably very popular up to his very end as well, even if he needed to reign with terror. Millions hated him in Germany but probably at least half the population liked him still.

      • Yes, Canuckles. The guy with the little mustache, who was voted into office, is commonly understood to be a dictator. Except by those who tried to promote his or a related agenda, and by those who benefitted from the regime’s largesse.

        Beyond petty differences, there are a few parallels between Hitler’s then and Maduro’s today. Here’s one. In a combo of Exprópiese! with Misión Vivienda, then loyalists of the regime, living outside German borders, benefitted by gaining housing and large tracts of land, previously owned by Eastern European farmers. These were booted off their property, after a 24-48-hour notice by enforcing Nazi officers. Those farmers who had no neighbour to take them in, were rounded up for a dire end.

        Things got worse in the intervening years. Even though the guy with the little mustache was voted into office.

    • The people who voted for him were fooled into voting for him, it’s just that plain and simple. They were manipulated by their emotions into doing so, and some people would call them stupid, un cultured, brainless pawns and all sorts of insults but what people from the opposition don’t want to admit to themselves is that they also took the vote to heart, how many oppo people don’t feel some emotional attachment towards one of their leaders, or use their vote just to go against chavistas. Venezuelans are very passionate people, and passion can take you far, but passion alone, without reason or self control, will have in tears and pulling out your hair in the long run.
      Chavez and his heirs have used Venezuela’s passionate string to tie us down, but that isn’t exactly new in the realm of politics. All dictators have used their people’s emotions to awaken passions and create total adoration, as well as it’s byproduct: unadultered hatred. Sound familiar?
      As far as ‘doing justice’ to all those people who voted for Maduro, I think the past elections are subject better left untouched and hopefully buried, giving people grief about what they did or didn’t do isn’t exactly the best way to gain support from other sectors of the populations. When we let certain passions die, we are permitted to take the high road.

  3. With all respect . just as some like their drinks dry rather than sweet , I like messages to be a bit less mushy. , high blown , rousingly lofty. When words get too inflated like that they lose intellectual force , clarity of meaning , !!

    • http://www.rfksafilm.org/html/speeches/unicape.php

      “…liberty is the freedom of speech: the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest; to recall governments to their duties and obligations; above all, the right to affirm one’s membership and allegiance to the body politic-to society-to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage, and our children’s future.
      Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard, to share in the decisions of government which shape men’s lives. Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile-family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children and a place to rest one’s head -all this depends on decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people… “

      • SMB. Point taken , there is a fine line dividing great eloquence from kitschy speech . RK’s speech is superbly eloquent , the great dictator clip speech much less so. Chaplin always did like the portrayal of bathos and lachrimose sentimentality in his filmaking !!

        Not sure how RK’s speech would work in spanish , the strong melodic line in RK’s speech would be totally lost on translation .!! Words in each language can have a different emotional resonance and imagery There is a subtle cultural subtext that underscore or weaken the expressive strenght of words in a message.

        Maybe its my ‘fault’, Ive never been able to stomach ‘telenovelas’ , Corin Tellado or Paulo Coehlo , although at times ive found delight in watching series such as ‘Upstairs , Downstairs’ or ‘Downtown Abbey’. ( we all have our moments of weakness !!) .

  4. As per Wiki: “In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he would not have made the film had he known about the actual horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time.”

    I’d agree. When known atrocities are occurring, it is a VANITY to create that which draws more attention to the “artistic” production than to the atrocities that need focus. It’s why the video that MCM’s team wanted to show to the OAS was so effective. The facts, interspersed with text slldes, spoke louder than the “artistic merit”. Como debe ser. There were no musical crescendos to artificially whip up viewer sentiment, nor cinematic flourishes to distract from the reality.

    In contrast, the posted video “Ustedes No Odian” by Al Agua, takes as its principal sound, the translation of the climax speech in The Great Dictator, plus a secondary crescendo, over visuals of the real fighting, where you know people are dying at the hands of thugs. As such, I could only think this about the video: “Qué culebrón, qué horror.”

    So, no, it’s not a great video. It’s out of place.

    • I think artistic expressions are not out of place, ever. They appeal to different side of our humanity. MCM had an intent and a purpose. To appeal from a rational level its audiences to repeal the actions by the government. This video, in the other hand, appeals to emotions. The track combined with the images create something that bothers. Makes a reality something contradictory. Creates a need for change.

      • The overdramatized track combined with the images distract attention. You have two senses competing, and both are being bludgeoned. Ultimately, it annoys. It does not create a need for change.

        Had this video been shown to the OAS, I would have cringed, due to its lack of seriousness, lack of maturity, and overabundant narcissism (look-at-me-and-what-I’ve-created). As such, this video will appeal to the more immature set in society, those whose criteria is as yet not fully developed – if it ever will. Falta de seriedad.

        In spite of Chaplin’s later reservations over the making of his film, it worked at the time, because it was novel. It was fresh and original.

        This video is not; just a pastiche of sounds, designed to artificially manipulate. It’s insulting. And stupid.

          • then define your target audience. Because I’m not at the OAS, and I find it dreadful. Others, too, who are not at the OAS, have their reservations. I’m saying that HAD the video been shown at the OAS, it would have been shameful. Perhaps you’ll have to figure out that in the end, this “artistic” effort does not really do what it should. The reason is simple. The creator’s pastiche has been designed to showcase his efforts. The video fails. Except with you and a few others, who will clap and make the pastiche-maker very happy.

      • Rodrigo:
        Pásalo a tus amigos gringos-gringos de MIT y les dices que sean sinceros, que te digan si el vídeo está bien así o no preferirían algo con más hechos y menos música.
        La cuestión es: para quién concretamente va dirigido este clip? No nos digas “para aquellos que sean más emocionales”, sino trata de precisar en una oración qué grupo demográfico es ese y en qué país.

        • Los Amigos de MIT tendran mejores gustos musicales? La prueba?

          My opinion on the music, or yours, or the precious people from MIT, are not useful.

          Each input will displease someone and /orplease others, which is why we need a plethora or expressions.

          We need less criticism of effort and more effort of ALL types.

          • “We need less criticism of effort and more effort of ALL types.”

            To give input in order to improve the next videos can obviously be included inside your “effort of all types” argument. But if Rodrigo is really right about that kind of film working in Venezuela, than I guess the goal was accomplished. To awake the Venezuelans LIVING in Venezuela is all we should aspire for.

          • I disagree with you…if you want something more to your taste…do it , don’t criticize.The opposition in Venezuela criticizes way too much..This distracts from being productive, and getting more information out that will appeal to everyone.

          • Muy bien….Rodrigo…

            A video expressively done for foreigners could never include all the cultural aspects pleasing to the different types of cultures out there anyway.

            People are getting too picky.Time is running.

          • Bueno, buena suerte. Ojalá surta efecto. Sinceramente, he llegado a la conclusión de que
            la única manera en que esa gente cambiará su actitud será cuando pierdan su trabajo o dejen de recibir contratos del gobierno. Ni la violencia que hay en Venezuela parece moverlos a nada. La ven como algo en lo que el gobierno no tiene influencia directa. Tristemente parece que para toda esa gente es la billetera la que cuenta.

          • Yo no se si tendra efecto. Creo que definitivamente no resta.

            Una cosa que hay que reconocer le guste a uno o no, es que los Venezolanos, en terminos generales, son cursisimos.

          • Bueno, eso es verdad.
            Quizás entonces estos vídeos sean buenos para Venezuela. Para Europa les recomiendo cosas más al grano y sin música o con un mínimo de esta.

          • If we are doing film reviews here, I thought it had a sort of Coen brothers look to it that invoked disintegration and an ill defined anachronistic period.

          • Agree. And like films by the Coen Bros, its labyrinthian message gets lost in the cacophony of media and the entropy of time.

          • All very true, although certain Coen films are simpler/to the point, such as classics “The Dude” and “No Country For Old Men.” As for this production here being discussed, it would seem to be more for intellectuals of a university learning bent, rather than for poor Venezuelan barrio dwellers, for which Keplers charts wouldn’t work very well either.

          • Well, I was attempting to mimic Canuck’s pretense at being a film critic, but I was not nearly as successful. Yes, Coen films have a simpler story line. And yes, I agree. Neither this video production, nor Kep’s charts, are made with the general Venezuelan population in mind.

  5. I do have to say I find the cheesy music Venezuelans put on their videos absolutely counter-productive, at least for the average foreign audience and probably for most people in the country.

    In that: even in fiction movies music should be used sparingly. I have often found the more a director needs to use music, the weaker the rest of his production is. Music here is then not a little tool but a cheap instrument that condescendingly tell us: hey, hey, now you have to cry/laugh. It becomes insulting.

    If we criticised the regime for its use of sound tracks to show how evil we are supposed to be, we should also be a bit critical about our own production.

    This does not only apply to music. One of the things that I found more off-putting of Aló Ciudadano was this paternal way of trying to explain to us everything, as if we were idiots. This can be only good for those who need a program as catharsis. If the aim is to gain some more people, all these methods fail.

    Explain the facts. Try even to be the Devil’s Advocate. Let people think. Don’t treat them like idiots.

  6. “In that: even in fiction movies music should be used sparingly. I have often found the more a director needs to use music, the weaker the rest of his production is. Music here is then not a little tool but a cheap instrument that condescendingly tell us: hey, hey, now you have to cry/laugh. It becomes insulting.”

    Yes, the movie “Lone Survivor” is a good example of what you are talking about. That movie is so shocking because the battle scenes don’t have any kind of music playing at all. You can just hear bullets and screams. Any kind of song being played in the background during those brutal scenes would have completely ruined the atmosphere, weaken the message and disrupt the realism that the director has tried to portray.

    • bingo. If you want to weaken a message, add curlicues and flourishes, in this case, add two foreign soundtracks that are not in situ. Also, make sure that one of the foreign soundtracks (translation of Chaplin’s voice-over) is slightly mismatched with the imagery.

      In all, and in peacetime, this video would be a good exercise for analysis in a Vz film school. The first lesson: do not confuse the senses. Keep it simple, stupid. The second lesson: match the imagery to the sounds — must be in perfect alignment.

      • And, thirdly, and most importantly, know your target audience well so that you can craft a message effectively in terms of visual imagery/verbal message/and, yes, correct sound effects

        • Absolutely. I still have no answer to my earlier request of Rodrigo Linares for that target audience to be defined.

          Where this video succeeds is in pushing emotional buttons. And the result, at least on this blog, shows how easy it is to dampen critical thinking skills and seduce the quickly enchanted. The Cuban strategists with Hugo Chávez in their pocket knew what to do. They went for emo, and they got what they wanted. Faciliito.

    • Marc,

      There are as many people who would agree with you as not.Different videos can be made for different people….make one that is more to your taste.

      I personally do not like 99 % of the movies made, with or without music….but so what? There are many more people out there who do…

      I remember a friend of mine who years ago had a conniption fit over the fame of the painter Rouault, because she claimed that he was not a good colorist …her claim being that anybody could relate 2 colors by dividing them by a black line. s that so? Maybe….but he was a great artist for many anyway.

      Of course being a gran critique of art brings us a great deal of recognition.

  7. Sorry to barge in, boys, but you spend too much time tearing each other apart and bringing down anyone anywhere who tries to do anything about the sorry state of Venezuela. Rule #1 of successful activism: encourage, don´t destroy. Let a 1000 flowers bloom!

  8. El mensaje simple y humanista del fin de un clásico del cine, que demuestra como un discurso de odio y falsas promesas de una “revolución” desemboca en la destrucción de todo humano.
    Me recuerda a la película “No” de Pablo Larraín, que al final me gustaba más que pensaba antes. Aunque sea historicamente no demasiado correcto, contiene una verdad: Ganaron el referéndum por tocar las emociones. Igual en la insurrecciones contra los Gobiernos Comunistas en el Este de Europa había mucho simbolismo no exageramente profundo. Los spots del No igual tenían una música más cheesy.

  9. Okay, as a non-Venezuelan watching from the outside, I have a question for the people here.

    Do the Venezuelan economic and political elites who post on this forum in their impeccable English acknowledge any responsibility for the rise of chavismo? Do they recognize that their toleration of gaping inequalities of income and opportunity made Venezuela an ideal target for a left-wing populist like Chávez? Do they realize that if any post-chavismo government is to have a chance, it is going to have to address the issue of economic inequality, with a larger share of the country’s wealth going toward the poor? And address it in a way that, while hopefully less destructive and disruptive than what Chávez and his followers have done, is nonetheless going to cause discomfort to the elites, some of whom may have to cut back on things like shopping trips to Miami?

    Obviously I haven’t read everything on this site, but the content I’ve looked at shows very little such self-awareness. Too many contributors here sound like the Cuban exiles I used to hear on Radio Martí who, not content just to criticize Castro (a very reasonable position), used to insist that everything was great in Cuba under Batista (and in so doing lost all credibility with me).

    A lot of you guys seem to be doing pretty much the same thing as those anti-Castro Cubans.

    • The Venezuelan elite should be blamed for 2 things:

      1: Not recognizing that Chávez was threat to democracy since the very early beggining as CAP did. Mainly because this elite, despite their economic class, was socialist to the bone and used to nurture a good feeling toward all things red with a Che Guevara stamp on it. This elite only started trying to understand who Chávez was and what the Chavistas wanted in 2002 (kind of late…). It is not a coincidence that in this same year blogs like CC, Devil Excrement and others were created and started trying to dissect the beast for the first time (kind of late…).

      2: Not wanting to participate in politics and letting other bad leftist politicians create the fertile ground for the ascension of a strong charismatic figure like Chávez. One example: socialists in Latin America don’t see “inflation” as something “horrible”. They think that a high inflation will help the economy in the very very very long run. But in the very very very long run the population is desperate and will jump on the lap of any “macho” figure screaming that he will fix the economy and destroy the responsible for such a terrible economic situation. Well that guy was Chávez.

      So, I think they should be blamed for laziness (“politics is not for me!”) and ignorance (“Chávez is not that bad, come on, he is just a socialist like ourselves. Communism is gone and not a threat anymore. Huh…”)

      • Thanks for the reply, but I’m not entirely convinced. I have trouble believing that the majority of powerful people in Venezuelan economic circles (and the oil business) were a bunch of wannabe Che Guevaras. (Some students, intellectuals, and maybe public employees, maybe.) And you don’t address my question about what the anti-Chávez protesters propose to do to address the very real economic issues that made chavismo attractive to a large part of the population in the first place.

        I”m particularly bothered by the hostility on display here toward what I would consider more center-left democratic politicians like Lula and Bachelet, who, whatever their faults, have at least tried to offer opportunity to more people.

        I guess overall it’s not clear to me that the posters here really even recognize that the people who originally supported Chávez had legitimate complaints that weren’t being addressed. You guys want a business-friendly government, which is great, but I just don’t see how you’re going to have a stable, prosperous nation without making more opportunities available to a broader section of the population. And I haven’t heard much about that.

        • Marc’s first paragraph above is a good answer to part of your concerns, particularly since the political/social elites at the time (especially Caldera, et, al.) should have banned murderous failed coupster Chavez from ever occupying public office, as well as kept him/cohorts in jail for a good long time, as would have happened in most civilized democracies. I don’t see any real animosity on this Blog for the socialist programs of Liula/Bachelet, but rather just criticism of them, and other SA leaders, for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses of the Venezuelan Regime, particularly when these leaders suffered when younger by similar abuses in their respective countries. The Fourth Republic, with only a fraction of the $ in real income of this Regime, made far greater real/inflation-adjusted/hard currency advances economically/socially than the 15 years of Chavismo have made. The basically spontaneous student no-real-leader demonstrations are justifiably against a Castro Cuban super corrupt Communist/military dictatorship that will not relinquish power, even with Holy See intermediation, unless it’s physically forced to do so. I believe every thinking person on this Blog, as well as Oppo political leaders, are well aware that substantial social programs will continue to be needed in Venezuela, where the vast majority of the population is in the lower C to D-E classes socio-economically. BTW, it isn’t a “business-friendly environment”, it’s a democratic free market environment which most prosperous/advancing countries of the world are utilizing today.

          • Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful reply. I hope you are right when you state that “every thinking person on this Blog, as well as Oppo political leaders, are well aware that substantial social programs will continue to be needed in Venezuela.” I am not sure that opposition leaders are uniformly sensitive to this issue, but am perfectly willing to have events prove me wrong, and I acknowledge that you know more about the issue than I do. As far as my use of the term “business-friendly environment,” I’m sure you will agree that within the context “democratic free marked environment” there is a lot of room for debate about policies favoring workers versus business (two groups whose interests are sometimes, though by no means always, at odds).

            And just to confirm that we are not necessarily on opposite sides of this issue, I, too, have been disappointed that people like Lula and Bachelet haven’t been more vocal in criticizing the Venezuelan regime. I guess it just shows that, as somebody pointed out (on this blog, I believe), countries have interests, not friends.

            Thanks again for taking the time to engage with me. And it goes without saying that I with the best for Venezuela and its people.

        • One thing that you must get out of your head is the gringo cliche that people in high economic circles or the oil industry where in any way part of a uber powerful political elite . politics was a separate domain , demagogic , populist , clientelar , left leaning , with lots of lower middle class mingled with some ambitious lower class gents dedicated to it in a more or less professional basis . At the same time though reticent about business people and oil professional they tried not to be the virulent enemies of business or what a market economy represented . The middle classes and business people did business with the politicians because that was part of the system and the only way of getting along , but there was no animosity or scorn of poor people , largely because the clientelar system was generous , promoted education for all which made for a lot of social mobility . Most people in the middle class and quite a few in the high economic circles had only a generation before been poor people so the class lines were not as heavily drawn in some other places . The poorer barrio inhabitants were a social mess , through no fault of their own , much like what is the situation with black gheto dwellers in the US , specially because of the common social practice for men and women to pair only temporarily , have a child which is later abandoned by the father and then go on to pair of and have new children with a different couple who after a year or two separate and so on . This does not make for stable families or well raised nurtured young adults , this makes for a sick system of life which does a lot of damage to the psyche and good mental health of young people . These are people who for the most part dont know how to be productive or take care of themselves and so become the clientes of corrupt union bosses or political mafiosi that cater to their needs by giving them cushy jobs , subsidised goodies etc . all funded by the countries oil wealth , when oil prices went down this system went broke couldnt keep up with the candy coated ‘social’ bribes that kept everyone happy. Everybody , not just the poor felt betrayed by the corrupt political people that had used an irrational use of oil money to keep every one content. both the middle classes , the so called elites and the poor were united in their hatred and loathing of the professional political cliques that has so badly failed their hopes and expectations . Look for the huge mayorities of people from all classes who initially supported Chavez . There was no class war of any kind . Ordinary middle class people saw politics as essentially corrupt and didnt want to mess with it , they didnt think of the poor as their wards but as the wards of the politicos who used the oil rent to keep them at peace. Then two things happened Chavez turned virulent and megalomaniacal fostering a hate speech no one had heard before and oil prices climbed to incredible levels allowing the govt to flood the poor with subsidies and gifties that bought them their loyalty on a lasting basis , here were rulers who cared for the People and a megalomaiacal charismatic leader who was obsssesed with feeding on their adoration whatever the cost to the countries health or economy . Take this a very short initial explanation , but your naive cliche ridden ignorance of local history and real social conditions needed some correction which this purports to be . Gringos tend to be mushy romantic in thinking of latin america in very simplistic and ignorant ways , always the mean landed aristocracry controlling all the power and wealth , exploiting the poor scorned innocent masses and letting the mean gringo companies have their way and sharing in their corruption . We no longer have the stomach for that kind of sentimental naivete, Hope you are not a troll so that this explantion can be at least of some help to you in understanding the complexities of venezuelan social and political history.
          .

          • Oh, come off it. You aren’t going to gain any converts to your point of view with comments like those about my “naive cliche ridden ignorance.” You know nothing about me or my views. I have written nothing here supportive of the current Venezuelan regime. I simply suggested the possibility that in Venezuela as elsewhere, bad governments that ignore the needs of the broader population bear some of the blame when populist regimes that claim to address those needs come to power (even if those regimes ultimately make things worse for everybody). You can agree or not, but that is not a particularly extremist position, and a great many Latin Americans (including many not on the left) have expressed similar views.

            My original post was sincere and respectful. The tone of your reply was not. That is unfortunate.

          • My apologies Jeff , but do believe me when I tell you that some of the things you say are really far off field in terms of the poor knowldge they reveal about Venezuelan conditions and history , not your fault, most people go for the stereotyped explanations without giving them all that much thought. Its not your country no reason therefore for you to know all that much about its reality . Granted my tone was off but my facts were and continue to be right.

            Past govts were of all kinds but they all followed the clientelar populist model and as time passed became increasingly dysfunctional and corrupt , I would not be fair however to forget that many times they did manage to do a lot of good things for the country and for its people , good things in areas such as education and public health and laying the foundations of economic growth which are now being laid waste and destroyed . In the end however it was an expensive model to maintain and the fall in oil prices of the 80’s and 90;s could no longer allow for its upkeep hushering the coming of Chavez ..

            Venezuela has had its share of bad govts not simply because the pols were ‘meanies’ ignoring the peoples needs out of greed and selfish ambition ( which of course also existed) but because even if they were the purest and noblest most idealistic of leaders they were basically incompetent and ignorant in understanding what they could do and what they couldnt do with the resources at hand which are never unlimited and because the problems which have to be faced are in some cases near intractable as they have to do with deeply rooted cultural and anthropological issues .

            Once again my apologies for the harsh tone used in addressing your comment !!

          • The trick here is to have a real, as opposed to a propaganda-infused, sense of Venezuela’s past. While none of the former democratic regimes was perfect, it is important to understand that Venezuela had, for most of the 4th Republic, about the same level of equality as it does now, as measured, for example, by the commonly-used GINI index.

            Carlos Andres Perez, who had been elected to the Presidency when the Caracazo occurred, and was therefore the archtype of the old system, had been Vice President of the Socialist International, and was a prominent supporter of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua.

            It is understandable that the present regime wants to mislead us about the real nature of its predecessor, but maintaining a fully empirical attitude leads to better comprehension of Venezuela.

        • I think you have pretty good answers so far, but I will add this.

          What people rioting in Venezuela and commenting in this blog want is a restoration of some form of democracy, and if nothing else, a rotation of power. Regardless of their political persuasion, these is a consensus on this.

          What you currently have is government that has descended into a dictatorship during its 15 years in power. It uses all the power of a petro-state to intimidate and extort its people to stay in place. It has now enter the blatant stage of full violent repression.

          Yes, social injustice in Venezuela was what opened the political opportunity for Chavez and his ilk. And social justice will have to be a pillar of Venezuelan policy going forward going forward.

          • Thank you for your very reasonable reply. I agree with it, especially your last paragraph, which says essentially what I said in my original post.

      • Thank you. That’s pretty much all I was hoping to hear. My original post was motivated by the fact that sometimes it seems to me that some (but by no means all) of the comments I hear from some members of the opposition seem to basically want a return to the status quo ante. I don’t think that’s going to work. That doesn’t make me a chavista. Far from it.

        • Jeff, the best method available to fight poverty in this world is what people call the “Chilean model”: job creation, low inflation, high GDP growth, strong democratic institutions, high FDI, high HDI (that’s important because a good education and vaccines improve GDP per capita). So, that’s all you should be concerned about. To “fight inequality” while ignoring any of these points above is just like shooting a gun on water, you simply won’t be fighting poverty or inequality. Yes, the Chavistas certainly do give a lot of money to the poor, but with such a high inflation and scarcity of consumption goods all those handouts are just meaningless. They sure serve for propapaganda purposes inside Venezuela and overseas, but not very much beyond that. The chavistas were able to bankrupt a country which has the largest oil reserves in the world. And they didn’t stop there, they also created a dictatorship. What should I say more?

          • Marc, I’ll clarify. You stated, “the best method available to fight poverty in this world is what people call the “Chilean model””. I challenge that based on the definition of poverty. If, as is the case in most countries in the world, the definition is based on income, then by having a guaranteed minimum income of a certain amount would be the “best method available”. I emphasize: given this definition of poverty. If you use a different definition, then the “best method available” may be the “Chilean model”.

            The same applies to inequality. The most common measure of inequality is the GINI coefficient. Even then, there are several very different calculations for the GINI coefficient. The most commonly used calculation involves the variable of income in the denominator, translating to guaranteed minimum income having a direct, linear, and inverse effect on the GINI coefficient, making it difficult to be beat by any other method. Again, if you use a different measure for inequality, then the best method available may be the “Chilean model”.

          • Extorres,

            I didn’t say that Chile is the country with the highest income and less economic inequality in the world, read again my post and you wil see that I did not say that. What I did say is that the best way available to fight poverty (and consequently reduce inequality) is by doing what Chile has been doing for decades. If you want to disprove my statement than use bloody arguments to do so because I’m not answering your empty, wordy, confused and redundant rethoric anymore.

          • Marc,

            I pointed out that your statement regarding the best way available to fight poverty depends on the way you define poverty. I told you that if you define poverty via income, then income focused models are more efficient ways than the chilean model to fight poverty quite simply because the Chilean model is addressing other things besides income. *By that definition* the focused income model is “better”.

            I also pointed out that the same applies to inequality. If inequality is measured by income, then income focused models will be “better” than the Chilean model at addressing inequality, again quite simply because the Chilean model is addressing other things.

            These are both rational arguments, not empty, not wordy, not confusing, not redundant, not rhetorical, and, yes, unless you counter my arguments, then your statement about the Chilean model being the best way available to fight poverty (and consequently reduce inequality) has been disproved.

          • Marc has an excellent comment , but one thing that he forgot to mention is how parsing down the rate of population growth can really help those per capita indexes impact the well being of people . I wonder whether Chinas economic growth and rising living standards could have been achieved if they had never adopted the one child per family formula and instead had had a population growth similar to Venezuelas.

            Fighting inequality per se does nothing to help improve people living standards , if you want to be absolutely equalitarian impose a system where every one is equally poor and miserable , where in fact poverty is mandatory and seen as a proxy for social justice ( Cuba ??) . First concern is to make every body capable of contributing to economic growth and then start worrying on how the resulting wealth is best apportioned among all .

      • Imagine appointing management based on their ability, not loyalty to one man. What good is a Misión (insert whichever name here) that does not have supplies to treat or food to disperse? …or seeds to plant? The opposition needs to demonstrate that it can lead and deliver.

    • Dude the real Venezuelan elite does not post in Caracas Chronicles, it writes op-eds on Venezuela in the Financial Times, step forward Mr Cisneros! This elite and the boliburgoise one have done very well under the Chavernment thank you very much

  10. You pose very good questions, Jeff, and this thread encapsulates the problems of the opposition in Venezuela:

    1. Let’s have a major existential debate about the communicational value of something that will never be seen by the people who need to see it.

    2. Just by asking questions you demonstrate that you, the majority of the Venezuelan electorate and most of the rest of the world hopelessly misunderstand Venezuela and the arrival of Chavismo, which by the way is someone else’s fault.

    Just as well you didn’t express an opinion.

    Judean Peoples’s Front vs People’s Front of Judea.

  11. Jeff:

    And you don’t address my question about what the anti-Chávez protesters propose to do to address the very real economic issues that made chavismo attractive to a large part of the population in the first place.

    From what I can tell, the protestors are not waving economic monographs, but economic issues have been intensely debated on the three main English language blogs.

    If you have been reading the three main English language blogs on Venezuela, you will have noticed a wide variety of proposals. Here are some examples.
    1) Cut off the oil subsidies to Cuba, Alba countries, Caribbean countries. Some have proposed doing it over two years, some immediately.
    2) Increase the price of gasoline, but keep gasoline cheap for buses. There are a variety of opinions on this. This would hurt the better off more than the poor, yet the elitist commenters and bloggers on these three English language blogs have in general supported an increase in the price of gasoline. I would also add that in a previous thread you refused to answer my questions about how insanely cheap gasoline in Venezuela helps the poor, when it isn’t the poor who own motor vehicles. Why do you refuse to answer this question? [This is the third time I have asked you.]
    3) Stop the multi-tiered exchange rate system, and have the B float. [Which also stops a lot of corruption]
    4) Undo the expropriations.
    5) Regulations have to be cut. Venezuela News and Views, written by a small businessman in the countryside [who is an Obama supporter], has some good stories on the regulatory stranglehold in Chavezuela.

    All of these would help the Venezuelan economy, but it is unlikely they will be done by the current regime. By helping the economy, they will help all.

    You will probably not agree with me, but as I see it, the main economic issue that made Chavismo attractive was not inequality per se, but that in 1998, the year Chávez was elected, oil export revenues per capita [constant dollars] reached the lowest level in the half century since 1959. With less oil dosh to distribute, the Petrostate has problems. There are going to be a lot of unhappy people. Back in the 1970s, Venezuelans loved the Fourth Republic, because it had a lot of oil money to distribute- like now. By 1998, there was a lot less to distribute, which meant the Fourth Republic had to go. “Throw the bums out.”

    Yes, the Fourth Republic had problems, such as corruption. Chávez campaigned on stopping/reducing corruption. Yet in 15 years of Chavismo, corruption is worse than ever. [I used to work w Venezuelans in the US. They were oppo. When I told them that corruption was a reason that Hugo got elected, they replied that corruption was worse under Chavismo. And they were right.]

    According to the World Bank, inequality was higher in 2005 [GINI= 49.46] after 6 years of Chavismo than it was in 1998 [47.6] , yet Chavez won re-election in 2006 by a landslide. That doesn’t speak so well for the “Hugo reduced inequality and that is why I voted for him” hypothesis. [You could argue that GINI 2006 was lower @ 44.77, whereas I could argue that GINI was lower yet in 1992 at 42.1. But the point remains that this GINI data from the World Bank doesn’t exactly support the “Hugo reduced inequality and that is why I voted for him” hypothesis. [When I last checked, WB has no GINI data past 2006.]

    It seems to me rather condescending on your part to talk with implicit scorn about the Venezuela economic and political elites who post on this forum [implied: who don’t care about the poor, whereas I -Jeff- do .] when the odds are that by Venezuelan standards, you would be considered one of the elite. I refer you to The Hard-Up Elite.

    One thing that’s always struck me as particular is the way the Hard-Up Elite scrambles first world people’s categories and understandings about Latin America, to the point where they really can’t see them. This, in a way, is a testament to the effectiveness of chavista propaganda abroad. The image of the Venezuelan opposition as a bunch of fat cats is now so deeply ingrained in foreigners’ understanding of the Chávez era – even when the foreigners in question are largely opposed to the government – that the Hard-Up Elite fades almost completely out of view.

    Try to explain to your average European or North American that the vast majority of people who vote against the Venezuelan government are much, much poorer than they are, and all you get are blank stares back. “But, but…they’re lawyers and accountants, engineers and small business owners!” they’ll say. And that’s absolutely true. But they can’t necessarily afford more than one pair of new shoes a year. And that, also, is absolutely true.

    The above posting was also in the e-book Blogging the Revolution, which you can purchase and thus help alleviate inequality between the US citizens and Venezuelan citizens. If that is what you want to do, of course.

    Regarding Bill Bass’s and Jeffrey House’s comment about the previous governments, you might be interested in reading about a two-time President: Carlos Andrés Pérez – 1922-2010 – Fashion Victim This article can also be found in the e-book Blogging the Revolution. Which you could purchase and thus help reduce income inequality between Venezuelan and US citizens. Just sayin.’

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