Twelve years on

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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.

1 COMMENT

  1. I only stumbled across this blog 8 years ago while trying to make even the slightest bit of sense of the insanity that was around me every day in Caracas and trying to figure out how anyone could deal with it, let alone put up with it……..And now with almost all the other news sources shut down you are even more critical especially to people stuck in the middle of this insanity.

  2. so, 12 years with “newspapers …written by Gabriel García Márquez” (F. Toro) and you showing the highlights here but I missed 11 because I found you one year ago !!…Argggg!

    it is very interesting anyway the comparison of that first post with what’s happening now in Venezuela. Chavismo had serious economic threats during those years but, 12 years later, it is still alive. It could end soon or it could be around another decade, who knows…

    Whatever it is, thanks a lot for your fantastic job in this blog.

  3. Venezuela draw my attention many years ago when that picturesque and idiosyncratic president we all know came to power. I had fun with some youtube videos but that was all. Then inflation and scarcity became serious and I was curious about why a country with so much oil has such kind of problems. Later on I read that second hand cars in Venezuela could be more expensive than brand-new ones I realized that something really distorted and weird was going on there and I started to gather more and more information. Now I visit caracaschronicles or check the newspaper covers of the country in lapatilla almost every day.

    On the one hand, I obviously wish that all this suffering and madness stops as soon as possible. On the other, I never get tired of reading news, posts… about Venezuela.

  4. I too felt the need to “to look hard – into the Venezuelan psyche” and under that pressure I started some weeks ago a long conversation in the comments section of a chavista journalism University professor (this person http://cotayorosebud.wordpress.com/ but she already erased it). After reading this post http://cotayorosebud.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/un-legado-re-legado/ in aporrea, that criticism made me feel that she may be reasonable enough to talk with but I soon discovered a die-hard communist who thought that it is great if the engineers and personnel who were fired during the paro petrolero now work in Canada or Colombia and make their oil industry stronger (they were the very bad guys and deserved that) or that felt pity for her dead iguanas during the guarimbas (the smoke somehow entered into her house and killed them) but never said a word about the human beings who died those days. She thinks that the solutions to the problems will come if money is given to the comunas, as if the country is just a bunch of isolated groups of people, and told me that in the Universidad Bolivariana where she works she tries to instill “serious and ethical” journalism to her students (how many professors teach “joking and unethical” journalism?) but at the same time condemns the editorial approach of “El Nacional”.

    In summary, it was a good lesson of “Venezolanía” which could help to explain many issues but, at the same time, Venezuela still remains for me as inexplicable as before.

  5. Also 12 years ago, Iván Simonovis was part of the security force in then-oppo held mayoral Caracas. An unarmed oppo march was on its way to the Palace of Miraflores, when Hugo Chávez decided to turn the tanks on his own people so as to block the march from reaching its destination. His order was rejected from within army ranks. What followed was chaos, street shootings, a brief coup, orchestrated by the military that also appointed in Chávez’ place Pedro Carmona, the (oppo) head of a business association. In the ensuing confusion and reversion of the recently changed Constitution, the military once again stepped in. Chávez was brought back and reinstated.

    Simonovis, and two other police officers were jailed for the deaths that occurred in the chaos of the day.

    Today, Simonovis is free and reunited with his family, only because a judge ordered house arrest so that he may receive medical treatment.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/ultimas_noticias/2014/09/140920_ultnot_venezuela_oposicion_simonovis_yv.shtml

    Today, the government continues to arbitrarily jail those who hold opinions that are opposite to party line, continues to fabricate charges, and continues to reject accountability for its actions.

  6. Congratulations Juan and Quico, sinceramente, for these twelve years. Without any doubt, Caracas Chronicles has become the best source of information, and the best framing of already known information about Venezuela. It is with pride that I have heard many, many times, while traveling abroad or in Harvard, foreigners asking me: If I want to be better informed about Venezuela, what shall I read, beside Caracas Chronicles. Un gran abrazo.

  7. “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.”

    I think it’s great you understood this in time. I was never a supporter of believing chavista leaders had a bit of decency left. Happy birthday.

  8. Happy Birthday Caracas Chronicles. The blog remains interesting, entertaining and informative and Juan you have done a great service keeping this space alive and bringing to it some interesting and diverse perspectives.

    At the heart of it, I think the writing here is what keeps people coming back to this blog and like all good writing, it is addictive. And paradoxically the writing, though mostly in English, brings to the international community some of the essence of Venezuela and of Caracas that people don’t get to see in all the grim news stories and stupid antics of the regime. And I’m glad Francisco has sort of re-joined the party he started. You guys are like the Keith and Mick of the Venezuelan intelligensia, although I could not say which is which.

  9. Congratulations to all those who work to keep this window on Venezuela live , truthful and exciting !! thanks to my talented niece whose love of good journalism directed me to this site not only because of its contents and inspiration but because it represented the best that journalism had to offer on the ongoing story of venezuela under Chavez . !!

    • I’m actually looking forward to that, as well. It kind of keeps me going to some extent. But I wouldn’t frame it as the Chronicles of the Rebirth of anything … if anything, we would be even more critical of a hypothetical opposition government. They are going to need some constructive feedback.

  10. Congratulations for your persistence, dedication and for your freedom of speech.I thank you from the bottom of my heart.Nothing has been perfect ; Nothing ever is,but you have gone the extra mile, and showed great love of country.CC has been a welcome oasis for people who love Venezuela, need a place to clarify issues, vent frustrations, and express their 2 cents.

    Bravo!

  11. Twelve years is great. Thanks for your passion, efforts, and perseverance. But I will welcome more the day CC is no longer needed because Venezuela returned to a true democracy.

    Sorry to say but CC may be needed for a long time.

  12. I wish I’d discovered CC since it’s inception, but I’m still glad to have been reading it for the past few years. It’s been an asset and the go-to source when most other outlets failed to deliver, which they did, more often than not. Respect to you guys and may Caracas Chronicles change it’s line from reporting chavista dystopia to reporting democracy as soon as possible.

  13. Thank you for your outstanding work and dedication. Caracas Chronicles has become invaluable for legions of expats who try to stay informed about Venezuela. I agree with some that your work is now more necessary than ever, when a significant portion of Venezuelan media has become biased and propagandistic. And I look forward to the day you can write about the re-building of the country as opposed to it’s demise.

  14. You hav to clebrate both the hard and thankless job, and the guts to revise conventional wisdom.

    CC remains the top Venezuelan blog, and it has fostered the readership of other interesting sites regarding the country, always doing so with a lot of generosity (and good natured snark). We all ned to get ovr ourselves and our self-important assesments.

    Thank you, always.

  15. The money quote:

    “The government is basically broke at this point”

    And that was TWELVE YEARS AGO!!!!!. Imagine that, twelve years ago this country was a paradise if you were to compare it with its current self.

    Twelve years have passed and we still beat the “broke government” thesis to death. We even think Maduro is in deep trouble due to him being “broke”.

    Anyways, thanks Quico. I’ve always admired your style as smart and insightful. Reading this is the first thing i do in the morning.

  16. What a great reference for understanding our screwed up nation.

    Thanks to all your efforts chronicling the disaster, as well as serving as a beacon of hope!

  17. Another year, another thank you for the great insights, the on-the-ground experiences, the crisp writing, the clean layout, the photographic eye-candy, and last but not least: THE FRAY!

    For Quico who gets exasperated with our various repartees, may I remind him of the slogan for the Yes campaign in Scotland’s recent referendum: Better Together. (Arroz con Pollo)

  18. A few weeks ago I posted a long comment which summarized recently Venezuelan history as I understand it. One reply was “this is basically the Cliffs Notes version of Venezuelan history”; another poster said he would swipe and use the whole thing.

    Well I was flattered. But the thing is, pretty much everything I know about Venezuela I have learned through this blog and articles linked here. And so I have learned enough that people think I know it pretty well. That’s how good a job you have done explaining Venezuela to a gringo.

  19. And yet, Venezuela of today is pretty much the same as the one you describe between the key milestones of the April events and the paro nacional of 2002-2003!

    IMO the divide you claimed to be unsurpassable between ya and them, is a false one.
    A fabrication of the foreign occupation to divide and conquer.
    There is no chance of dialogue between the sincere intent of concerned nationals and the puppets of a foreign interest, by design.
    Now, there is a REAL divide between modernism and the determinism of our seep phyque as a nation which is better described bye specialist as briceño and the 3 Minotaur read! Seminal in the analysis.

    We remain a
    Very pantallera society, a very egotistic society, and one where money
    Rules , regardless of the way it was gained.

    I am very proud of my heritage as Venezuelan, but regret that MY version of Venezuela, is a
    Minority one, not
    The one shared by the majority
    Of
    Non- modernists compatriots!

    My most sincere recognition to the CC team and followers for
    Keeping this reference alive, and a window into the Venezuela that I thought as being.

    The challenge remains the same, how do we recognize the others in the solutions ahead.

  20. Congrats on having the Blog I read to get a better grasp of what is going on in Venezuela.

    An Idea for Anabela: Write an article about how Maduro’s Government has singlehanded managed to provide supporting evidence to the main laws of the free market economics, and yet still refuse to learn anything from the experience.

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