Twelve years on

happy-birthday-cakeTwelve years ago today, Quico published his first post on this blog, and Caracas Chronicles was born.

It’s difficult to remember exactly what Venezuela was like on September 20, 2002. The April 11th events had just recently unfolded, and the PDVSA oil strike was yet to materialize. The thousands of oil workers that were summarily fired during the strike were still at their jobs. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice was not yet an appendix of Miraflores. Chávez’s Recall Referendum was still two years away.

We’ve gone through a lot, haven’t we?

In this very first post, Quico hit on a recurring theme of what was to come, talking about the “strong undercurrent of farce that now permeates public life here.”

In that post, he talked about a now forgotten general, Romel Fuenmayor, who asked for the TSJ to impeach Hugo Chávez. Well, Fuenmayor has long vanished from our public sphere – this was the only  proof of life I could find from recent times. Other public figures have also come and gone, people such as Aponte Aponte, Velasquez Alvaray, Lina Ron, Willian Lara, Hugo Chávez… folks who were once relevant, but now belong to history.

The characters change, but the feeling of “farce” is ever so present – witness how, just a few days ago, the President of Venezuela accused the opposition of spreading tropical diseasesI guess the Revolution keeps us interested that way.

This past year has been one of deep changes on the blog. In February, Quico retired from his post as main editor, and I tried to take the blog to a different place, incorporating new voices and striving for a change in tone. Back in February, I wrote that “[w]e need to look hard – into the Venezuelan psyche and into Venezuela’s institutions – to see where we’ve failed.” I saw the continuation of the blog as an exercise in introspection, as a way of understanding the chavista psyche, relating it to ours, and finding a connection that was, and is, so missing from our public sphere.

Then, a few days later, everything changed.

Two weeks after I took over, all hell broke loose in Venezuela. Protests erupted, the government’s paramilitary gangs went on deadly rampages, and hundreds of people were seized. Some still languish in prison.

Writing about Venezuela from a position of empathy with the other side was a non-starter, an exercise in tone-deafness that simply had no place, and no audience. The idea of writing about Venezuela by trying to bridge the divide between “us” and “them” … died at the hands of the colectivos, along with Génesis Carmona, Bassil Da Costa, and the countless others who have suffered since then. The notion that we could understand chavista policy-making crashed into the reality that these people really seem to not care that the country is going down the drain.

In spite of not meeting our stated goals, we’re proud of what we’ve done the past year. I think the new roster of writers keeps things fresh, even though they don’t write as much as I’d like them to (ear tug). And Quico still chimes in from time to time. For example, thanks to the unlikely combination of the dramatic events on the street and a re-tweet from a Mr. George Takei that came out of nowhere, this post became Caracas Chronicles’ most widely read article ever, literally reaching millions of people. Thank you, Captain Sulu!

In spite of it all, we will continue trying to think of the long game, of putting our daily madness in the context of the broader trend. As I tried to say the other day, this feels like the latest incarnation of a deep process of social and economic collapse that began long before Maduro was in power. Ultimately, Maduro will also pass, but the process he is hopelessly trying to steer will remain.

We hope to be around to write about that, too.