Chavistas are from Mars, the opposition is from Venus

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upside down movieThe worst part about Nicolás Maduro’s New York Times OpEd is not the amount of lies it contains, but the fact that most chavistas honestly believe them.

Whether it’s the claim that chavismo has reduced poverty, enhanced democracy, or provided great health care and education, they really buy the whole dog-and-pony show. I venture to say that Nicolás Maduro himself probably believes every single word his flunkies wrote for him in that OpEd.

To me, the real tragedy in Venezuela is that the two sides cannot agree on anything (well, we both want the Vinotinto to do well … or do we?).

There is no single truth in Venezuela, no common ground on which we can both stand in order to bridge our divides. It’s not just that we have different ideas, it’s that we have different ideas about what reality is – all of it. It seems as though both sides live on different planets.

When we can’t even agree on who has killed more people than whom, dialogue is impossible. So while we have some fun countering Maduro and picking apart his bogus claims, we would be wise to put this particular tree in its proper topiary context. That’s where I went this week in my Transitions piece.

The value added:

In order for Venezuela to be viable, dialogue needs to happen. But with the two sides’ positions so diametrically opposed to each other, there is little hope that a solution can be found.

Judging by recent electoral outcomes, the two sides in this struggle are of roughly equal size. But their outlooks are so radically different that it sometimes seems as if they live in different countries altogether.

As the international community tries to separate truth from fiction and play a constructive role in trying to foster dialogue, they would be well served in keeping their expectations low. Judging by where the two sides stand, dialogue has never seemed less possible.

1 COMMENT

  1. When there is no dialogue, it is not always equally the fault of both sides.There is great danger in falling into moral equivalency arguments in thinking that.Some people never have the goal of truth.Some people never have the goal of compromise, and some people never give in unless pretty sure of obtaining the greater benefit.The idea that this is not so is the greatest delusion.

      • Ronaldo,

        No. What Firepigette expresses is a universal truth. One we frequently forget, at our peril, because of our penchant for fairness, impartiality and objectivity. We forget that often there are not two equal or equivalent sides to every story.

        • well said…this is the misconception and one that Maduro et al try to push: they do not want any dialogue but they keep up the pretense despite the clear – to anyone with even half am ounce of knowledge of the situation – contradiction of their actions.

  2. “The worst part about Nicolás Maduro’s New York Times OpEd is not the amount of lies it contains, but the fact that most chavistas honestly believe them.”

    I’ve come to feel that the worst part of this blog is that the people who write for it seem to actually believe a lot of the non-sense that they write.

    In fact, the first sentence of this post points out the principle problem – that neither side, including the opponents of the government, are willing to admit that the other side is probably right about some things and they themselves are wrong about some other things.

    In this kind of climate the only way to resolve things in a civilized fashion is through elections. That was recently done and will be done again in the future so in the mean time it might be a good idea to stop throwing molotov cocktails.

    • Elections where cheating takes place on a regular basis? Where the military transport PSUV-voters in buses to the centres whenever they want and where the paras threaten the others?

      A Supreme Court led by a former Chavista policitian, preceded by another one who thought separation of powers is bad for the State (just like the kings of France thought before the Revolution)

      That’s why Chávez and his military men went to murder hundreds of people in 1992 ( claiming they did that because of the hundreds – they said thousands – who were killed by CAP and Allegro alone and not by the military themselves)

      • Even if the Chavistas won through fair elections, their concept of democracy is that 50.1% of the electorate has the right to do whatever they want to the 49.9% who lost. That is not democracy. That is “two wolves and sheep voting on the lunch menu.”

    • No, creo que equivoques, dinos alguna cosa en que el gobierno tiene razón, por ejemplo en los últimos seis meses, alguna póliza o acción en que el gobierno tiene todo el razón.

  3. Well Juan, Chávez spent a good chunk of his life (15 years) for something like this to happen, and frankly we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not that I’m fully confident that we’re a 100% percent right, but that Chávez pushed the idea that we are 100% wrong so much that it’s taking its toll now. Oh, the government wants dialogue? (something I doubt), then perhaps it shouldn’t have spent all those years setting this kind of situation.

  4. Juan,

    In stating that that the Opposition and Chavistas are split 50/50, I think you are falling into the same trap that much of the mainstream media has by assuming that the elections have produced a fairly accurate snapshot of the electorate. The electoral shenanigans have consistently skewed the results of the elections. I think the actual split in a fair election is more like 60/40 in favor of the opposition over the last five years. Currently, I think that a truly fair election would result in something closer to a 65/35 split or better. Take a look at the recent poll figures: http://devilsexcrement.com/2014/03/17/poll-numbers-suggest-venezuelan-government-is-in-big-trouble/

    That notwithstanding, I agree with the premise of your article. When we can’t even agree on the facts of the history of the country, how is debate possible?

      • And THAT “reality” concerns money, and who dispenses it. Right? If I have ALL the money, and can dispense it as I see fit, then calling something an “election” is really beside the point. Right?

      • Elections = Reality check
        You are correct, but not perhaps in the sense you intended. When government power is used to assist Chavista campaigning- a violation of the Constitution that Chavismo wrote- when government employees are convinced that they need to vote Chavista to keep their job [especially if Chavismo wins], when there is “assisted voting” at voting centers, and when the CNE is completely controlled by Chavistas, elections really are a “reality check.” Elections under these conditions are a reality check for how much Chavismo needs to put its thumb on the electoral scale in order to win.

        When the Chavista thumb is taken off the electoral scale then elections will truly be a reality check.

        • I couldn’t agree more. When trying to explain to an outsider WHAT is going-on in Venezuela it is best to keep it in simple terms, as noted by Boludo Tejano above. Money. The Chavistas have grabbed the ‘golden goose’ by the neck (PDVSA/oil) and have refused to let go. Simple. It goes to the very heart of what Chavismo is all about. The golden goose is now in the possession of a radical minority, who with the droppings/excrement of said goose, are easily able to turn that minority into a tenuous majority. “We have the money now and will dispense this money according to whom we wish. See if you can stop us now!” But now that the goose appears to be cooked, and the golden eggs dropping at fewer intervals, even those watching the drama from the hills of the Avila may begin to wonder whether or not this was such a great idea.

  5. The Revolution requires epistemic closure. Because it will inevitably lead to a shining future, the statements made by its leaders on the way to this goal must be broadly true. (Education! Housing! Health Care!) Statements by the opposition must therefore be bad-faith complaints tainted by impurity (squalid) or because it represents invasive, foreign material in the pure body politic (imperio).

    Typically, epistemicaly-sealed systems like this have an ability to maintain themselves in full force even under the pressure of events, until one day, everything falls to pieces because the illusion can no longer be sustained.

    I don’t believe the leaders of this government can see outside of their closed box. So I doubt anything could come from negotiations. I’d want to see some concessions first, as a precondition to sitting down for negotiations at all, since that act will tend to demobilize protest.

  6. The Chavistas BELIEVE everything that is told them because for most of them, …their economic existence depend on it. It’s all about the money, always has been. ALL government jobs are in the hands of the Chavistas. ALL PDVSA jobs are in the hands of Chavistas. ALL social welfare programs are in the hands of the Chavistas. If I had one of THOSE jobs, or was the recipient of such government largess, and was told by an ex bus-driving slobbering moron that the moon was made of green cheese and sesame seeds, I’d believe him! “Anything you say! Right. Gotcha. You’re our leader. Er. ah,….don’t forget to throw some Bolivars my way,….OK?”

    • Well said. If the Oppo were in power and throwing money their way, but more efficiently, then Chavismo would have a hard time even getting 25% of the electorate.

  7. Great post on a meaty subject , and yet there are some statements that might need a closer look.
    1.. Dont think that all oppo opinion and all Chavista opinion is alike in their blind fealty to one position or the other . there are certainly a percentage of die hard oppos and die hard chavistas , but there is probably a wide in between spectrum of opinions between the die hard loyalist and the softer and more flexible sympathizer . People might feel simpathy for one position or the other but its not equally fanatized or hard boiled , there is a lot of chavista discontent and incredulity even if there remains a nostalgic or sentimental basic identification with chavista core imagery and rethoric. The govt has many flagrant failures that many Chavistas are not shy of accepting . This softer stance is according to polls bigger on the chavista side that on the oppo side .
    2. The govt has adopted a siege mentality , they can never be wrong except ocassionally where some flawed chavista appointee has failed to live up to his revolutionary responsabilities , their core emotional position is extremely shut virulent and tough , that was the dear defunct leaders style . it would be easier for the oppo leadership to go for some kind of compromise than for Maduro and his cohorts to give an inch . Also they feel they ve got total institutional control so why should they give in on anything , they are invincible !! they dont need the oppo so why do any compromise with them . What can the oppo contribute , nothing !! only the business people might help and they can be treated apart .
    3. Is there any part of the Chavista agenda that the oppo leadership can approve of even if with reservations ??, I do think there are many things that the oppo can support on the Chavista agenda but that if the leadership does so its going to get blasted by the more radical oppo people. Can the oppo can up with a program that sattisfies part of the chavista program and yet retain the support of the mayority of opposition opinion ?.that might help .
    4. The govt is totally unscrupulous , does not feel bound by any rules of honesty or fair dealing , is flagrantly false and manipulative , the oppo is an enemy tht must now or ultimately be destroyed so how you manage that kind of posture . Its like negotiating with Hitler !! . .

      • Rene : You play with the cards you got , gain some temporary advantages , manouver to create embarrasment for the goct when it finally backtracks . get some Chavistas to keep some doors open , take advantage of whatever minor concessions are made , you never go for 100% success but for what is feasible , thats OK . But rule #1 never boloney your self about where you stand with your adversary , its a throw of the dice and you have to be much stronger before you have the cards to play a better game and maybe get your opponent in future to engage in a more reliable discussion process. ,

  8. One look at the clothes and travels and cars of the boli-burgueoise tells me that they don’t believe the bullshit they sell for a second.

    Elections here aren’t an actual measure of anything except the power of the Statist machine, you know that.

    Overall, this is the kind of outcome that you get when military men take the decisions. Is not about working together for the good of the country, is about demanding a complete surrender of the enemy, when even a small concesion is a defeat.

    With that, and the fact that an oppo victory means that a lot of narco-generals will be getting a visit of the DEA, and the regular boli-burgueoise will be going to jail on corruption charges, they have the will to see a lot of corpses to save their hides.

    Personally, I never expected a different outcome.

  9. To engage in a bit of nostalgia, it seems to me that Hugo Chavez was more of a strategic liar and a purveyor of half truths or obvious nonsense, than a non stop blatant outright liar like his successor. I think this speaks to their relative abilities in personal persuasion. Beating up journalists and closing down independent media indicates to me that they are consciously seeking to manipulate the facts. As for their followers, there are a great deal of faithful, and there are a large number who know better but in whose personal interest the facts are not important…right now.

  10. I agree with you partially. Discussions about the past should be avoided which is where most disagreement occurs.

    I think we can all agree in the goals. From there we have to work our way to how we reach them.

    • Heh. I refuse to make a fucking line for rationed food and to live at the mercy of thugs for their 10+ years old grudges against AD and COPEI.

      That’s all the conversation about the past, barring some desilusional fans of Pérez Jiménez.

  11. Back to the article… I dont agree that the problem is the lack of dialogue or even the vastly different point of views that men in power and men in opposition have. Such is not the problem. Such is the CONSEQUENCE of the real problem. And the real problem, I think, is the erosion / destruction of all institutions in the country thru which the voice of opposition can be heard and taken into account. That includes the electoral power but also the Congress and Judicial power. “Dialogue” can not just simply happen when the other guy has all the guns and you sit there defenseless and without protection. And, mind you, if this institution problem is not fixed soon we may see the wave turn at some point down the road and see the now defenseless opposition guys abusing power.

  12. We do have a very important common ground to build on: The Constitution. Both sides support it and that is no small accomplishment. That is a solid foundation on which to build a new country.
    Yes, I understand that the current government violates it all the time. They do not want to be restricted by it and are trying to build a system that is not enshrined in its articles. However, insisting on following the Constitution is probably the best path out of this mess.

    • article 350 isn’t being respected, nor are several other choice cuts from the Constitution. So if one side is impeding the observance of several articles from said Constitution, how can both sides support it? Your idea is good but it is not based on current reality.

  13. In any country with a radical left, they have a different interpretation of reality. Their information is often called disinformation here. Venezuela is just the only country with other parties were they govern. I fear that Constitution won’t help, when you have profound differences in the interpretation of whats real.

    I hope Santa Sede, Chile and perhaps Brazil send competent people for mediation. You seem to have not much hope in those international missions. Probably you know better.

    Credible rumors, that Juan Arango will stay 2 more years in Borussia Moenchengladbach. Good news 😉

    • errr, yes just send it from your phone (oh, I mean HTC) to your email account then open your email account from your computer…or even more radical, look for the CC website online from your computer! Woohoo…21st century dude.

  14. Both sides can agree in that the goal is to do good. More specifically, both sides can agree on the goal of reducing poverty. The problem resides in that each side thinks that the method in which the other believes this should be done actually does harm. We don’t need to offer a different goal, we need to offer a different *method*.

  15. I’m sorry, but I’ve been getting a giggle out of the title all day. Given the discussions on rampant machista culture in Venezuela, was it intentional or unintentional to cast the opposition in the female role? If so, spectacularly witty.

    • I remembered what Rodrigo wrote me a few posts back: los venezolanos son muy cursis.
      El post me pareció una muestra de ello.

  16. I totally disagree. The main reason agreement is not reach is due to the radicalism of both group of leaders that have taken the Chavismo and Oppossition. These groups of leaders does not truly represent the whole population. This can be easily seen in the polls. This is why some people say : why some may defend the Chavismo?. Simple answer: because the smallest part they get, the smallest attention they get, it is much better vs what was offered by Adecos and Copeyanos. The Chavismo, following Cuban standars, has convinced people that what they give is too much, thus reducing significantly the standard of living of people. Evidence of this is the popularity of Barrio Adentro, the worth health system created, but highly appreciate because it solved, at a very lower standard of quality, daily health issues. It is very difficult to agree to either part when the ideas are always presented as a confrontation and exclusion. You are with me or against me. There is no interest to build a common ground. The Chavismo is following the old arguments of the almost dead Cuban dictatorship and the opposition lacks of real political skills ending just saying no or the opposite to whatever the government says. When you put together people of the barrios the situation is different, mainly because both sides are sufferes of the same crisis. I have done it. It is amazing how you will find a common ground when you talk about food, education, transportation, jobs, etc. Medium class people have always tried to solve their problems by building their own space, but putting away a chunk of the population that today represents the majority, poor people. The middle class is the one that have the power to make changes in every society and it needs proper leaders. I see few leaders capable to build a common understanding. The medium class cans do this because it has better education and more resources, but in Venezuela It is absolutely important to keep in mind why Chavez reached power. His arguments were based on realities though his procedures were terrible (Castros’ inspiration). Unfortunately the IV republic was a disaster, but the V is even worth. what will be the future?. A radical from the right?. A modern version of Pinochet?. Both the extreme left and the extreme right touches, and both offered the same: confrontation.

    • The future is a middle ground, but with emphasis downscale, and governance by educated/competent/non-corrupt institutional administrators, with independent institutional checks and balances built into the government. There is no other lasting alternative, in a Venezuela so impoverished that even its middle class is poor by real economic standards enjoyed by functioning first- and even second-world democracies.

      • Totally agree. However, is it possible in Venezuela?. The corruption initiated by Carlos Andres has penetrated so deep the layers of the government that seems quite difficult to find solutions. It is hard for me to imagine an officer of the transportation department (Fiscal de transito) resignated to his pretty low salary when he may get a lot of money from drivers just by not given them a fine. This is a small example of the issue. We are not talking of a small amount of money. These people can make a monthly salary in a few days. The corruption is the drug if Venezuela. The phase ” put where there is….” was created in times of Carlos Andres, and today is 100% valid. At time I am really concern about the actual possibility of Venezuela to recover to a level were a new generation can built something much better. These have proved that both extremes, left or right, are the same. The government is acting just like any dictatorship. However, methods used in the 70’s are afar away. Today regimes like this are using legal measures to abuse. The international community is not prepare to deal with it. Oil and money buy as usual the right of the people to be free and live as anyone deserves.

        • I think the international community starts to build up to stop this mess.
          Chavismo has a heavy element of dis-information. I am talking about the leaders and thinkers of course, not the common women or men. In my country Germany Chavismo magically attracts people, who are into that. Thats what it makes nearly impossible to negotiate or even discuss with Chavismo. They create their own reality. They are used to it. To negotiate you need a common ground, certain principles. This is impossible with people, who are so used to create their own imaginary world and change it every 10 minutes, if they like.

  17. Unasur mission ->
    I’ve never heard a chilean Government representative that plain-talking like todays of the presidente de la comisión de Relaciones Exteriores Jorge Tarud (PPD, which I consider left of socialists).

    “Considero esencial que, para que se produzca un diálogo entre el gobierno y oposición, acompañado de los cancilleres de Unasur, es la liberación de todos los estudiantes detenidos, como también, de uno de los líderes de la oposición, Leopoldo López”
    There is much more of good stuff -> http://www.theclinic.cl/2014/04/06/tarud-llama-al-gobierno-a-exigir-la-liberacion-de-todos-los-presos-politicos-en-venezuela/

    money quote: El legislador dijo que nuestro país “sufrió la represión, la tortura, el encarcelamiento y la muerte de los opositores en un régimen dictatorial y, por lo tanto, sería una inconsecuencia el no levantar la voz en favor de los derechos humanos y la democracia”.

    Se han demorado mucho, dando muchas vueltas. ?Pero al final cachan su reponsabilidad que tienen frente al Pueblo Venezoelano?

  18. My wife is Venezuelan and I’ve visited Anzoategui five or six times during the last ten years. Staying in a modest Barrio I’ve gotten the unfiltered opinions of people who were once middle class and have seen their economic status erode. Chavistas support Chavez policies for reasons of their pocketbook only. Maybe you’ve got a phoney-baloney PDVSA job or survive by eating the crumbs from political graft, if that is your only income or potential income,

    When the graft money and the phoney baloney jobs disappear. When there are no more handouts then you will see the socialist ideology discarded. Venezuelans are at heart; business minded, entrepreneurial, narcissistic, envious and self-centered, wasteful and gregarious people who love sexy women and Scotch whiskey. Not exactly qualified to be drab olive communal socialists surviving on rations.

    I expect the US to sanction VZLA in a month or two. Sadly this may make things worse as the source of US hard currency gets even scarcer. Maybe then the Chavistas will sit down and create an inclusive govt. but it’s got to get much worse before they are truly motivated.

    • Many people leading warped lives take ferocious personal pride in partaking of a highly sectarian and virulent tribal identity , one which invests their emotional selves with an enthralling sense of glorified rage and force , of moral superiority and distinction , specially when it is spiced up with feelings of scorn and loathing for a rethorically demonized enemy who is blamed for every thing that is wrong in their lives and in the world.!!

      They like the goodies they get as members of their tribe , and thats an important factor , but they also get an strong emotional kick from feeling superbly strong , forceful , violent, special and proud about their fanatized tribal identity . . I suspect that the loyalty of the most stalawart Chavistas stands on these two motivations , one material and another psychological and that for quite a few the latter is the strongest motivator.

      If you ever try and persuade them of changing sides those motivated by fanatical motives will not budge an inch, while those mainly motivated by gratitude or interest in a better life will be more amenable to a change in opinion if properly served with an incentive they can believe in.

      Most people dont get it but people whose lives are full of frustrations and doubts about their personal worth and tribal identities find proud pleasure in their sectarian passions and rages . Thats why the govt is so intent on flooding their followers minds with images that spike up their sense of rage against the oppos , using lies and disinformation and by celebrating how strong, noble and invincible the regime is..!!

      Thats why the govt needs to be so violent and virulent and vitriolic and intolerant of the opposition , thats why they pay only lip service to any effort at a dialogue , because tribal hatred in an essential part of their brand . If they go for compromises and political pacts its like the makers of coca cola changing their products formulas so it doesnt have any fizz.

      For appearances sake ( because their image is taking a beating ) they might grudgingly make some minor concessions but they will not make any concession that puts their brand at risk .!!

      The increasingly poor performance of the regime as paternal hyper generous providers of goodies to their followers is bound to make many of them dissatisfied and thus more exposed to the possibility of adopting an oppo view of things . But there will always be a group for whom the emotional rewards of fanaticism are always the most important in ensuring their fealty to the regime .!!..

  19. Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a
    few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but
    I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different
    internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

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