2014: The year in review

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Venezuelan of the Year, Marvinia Jiménez

This has been a bloody, complicated year for Venezuela. The nation wasn’t done ringing the new year, and already a wave of protests was bien announced. The phenomenon termed #LaSalida degenerated into violence from both sides (most of it from the government), and the end of the year catches us with our pants down: a full-blown economic crisis, political prisoners galore, and a clueless, thuggish government.

It’s not a year we would like to look back on, but if we must … we might as well do it with a little bit of humor.

Here are our 2014 Caracas Chronicles awards, compiled by the entire Caracas Chronicles crew.

Rising Star Award: Dolartoday.com. The website was indispensable this year. Up, up, up went the dollar (at latest count, it’s at BsF 173 per dollar), and up, up, up went the hits on the main source for the black market dollar rate. The website has grown, and it even has news now … well, sort of news.

Biggest menace to public health award: No, it’s not chikungunya. No, it’s not dengue fever, or illegal mining, or water pollution in Margarita. The most ominous threat to Venezuelans’ mental health came from rising pop starlet Daniela Cabello, aka Diosdado’s little princess. Next time you can’t find Acetaminophen in the drug store, think of how many dollars were spent on auto-tuning the little brat’s voice. #SePerdieronEsosRiales

Enchufado of the year: The term has jumped the shark, but the lifestyle sure hasn’t. This was the year of the enchufado, the elitist chavista who is only lining his or her pockets while doing the government’s bidding … or sometimes doing nothing at all. This is one of the hardest categories, what with Elías Jaua and his nanny making such a strong showing, Delcy jumping from post to post, and dozens of chavistas shaking in their boots at the threat of losing their US visas and their US assets. But of all the enchufados, none has shown more resilience than Tibisay Lucena, the president of the CNE. By getting herself re-elected at the last minute, she is making sure we watch every strand of her hair come election time for seven years to come. Hats off Tibisay. You’re the ultimate survivor.

tibisayconrollos (1)Loser of the year: Jorge Giordani. Not only did Hugo Chávez’s former economic guru leave in a huff, he also left us a whopper of a resignation letter. Part heartfelt confessional, part marxist rant, it reads like a candid laundry list of violations of the Constitution, and as such it will become an indispensable document whenever we leave this behind. To this day, Giordani remains an outsider in the government, in the outs and unforgiven by the ruling clique.

Winner of the year: Leopoldo López. Love him or hate him, he is now the leader of Venezuela’s opposition. We don’t know much of what goes on inside Ramo Verde, but here’s hoping that López comes out of there a wiser, better man. Hats off to his wife Lilian for pulling off the feat of becoming a public figure while simultaneously dealing with a horrific family situation. #BautizoDeFuego

Biggest comeback of the year: Tear gas. It had been a while since Venezuelans were doused with “gas del bueno,” but after the riots earlier this year, the government made sure we knew that dollars for Brazilian tear gas canisters would always be available.

Most likely to end up in an Embassy next year: Rafael Ramírez. The man went from PDVSA head honcho to economic guru in a flash, only to be demoted to foreign minister. His embarassing attempts at convincing OPEC to decrease production do not bode well for his future government employment prospects. Where will he go? My money’s on Tehran.

monica-spear.jpg-revistaColor of the year: Red. It’s not because of the squalid PSUV, but for all the people we lost this year. Monica Spear, Geraldine Moreno, Bassil Da Costa, Genesis Carmona, and (literally) countless other Venezuelans died at the hands of either the government, or the mobs the government has allowed to fester. The worst part of all of this? We might look back on 2014 as one of the “peaceful years.”

Region of the year: Gochilandia. No group of Venezuelans captured the imagination of the opposition world quite like our Andean compatriots. The protest movement began there, and it lasted longer there than anywhere else. San Cristóbal, capital of Táchira, was hit hard, and a tense calm now reigns in the region. The gochos proved yet again why they’ve always had Venezuelan history grabbed by the nuts.

Michelin-starred guisos: The PDVSA plane rides. No corruption scandal was as galling as this one. There were bigger, badder scams during the year, and there were some that were more interesting (Maria Gabriela Chávez’s scam with Argentine rice shipments gets an honorable mention), but no single scandal flies in the face of what chavismo claimed to stand for more than this one.

Panamanian of the year: Maria Corina Machado. The opposition legislator was a lightning rod of attention this year. She was unceremoniously thrown out of Parliament for accepting to speak out against Venezuela at the OAS as a guest of the Panamanian Embassy. She was only briefly heard at the forum, but the move was the excuse chavismo needed to kick her out of Parliament. Still, even with false accusations of murder and treason circling her, she is standing strong.

He-said-what? Award: People are mistaken when they say Nicolás Maduro is no Hugo Chávez. He is Hugo Chávez … put in a blender, with his words scrambled, after being run over by a truck, with a bottle of vodka in his system. The President simply couldn’t string coherent phrases together for more than five minutes. We think his best bit was at Robert Serra’s funeral, when he confessed to a woman that he had no idea what to do.

Things el Chiguire Got Right Award: It’s a tie! Whether it’s correctly claiming the currency has no value, or that the increase in the minimum wage is worth squat, our friends at the satirical website proved that in Venezuela, life imitates humor imitates life.

Biggest disappointment: Henrique Capriles. I’m sure some of my co-bloggers will not agree, but by staying away from the protest movement and then bashing it once it had died down, Capriles burned his bridges to a large segment of the opposition, coming across as tone-deaf and short on empathy. He continues to be in the news, but he is looking more and more like a former candidate, someone who used to be famous for … something. Capriles needs to reinvent himself if he is to stay relevant. We can only hope that he does, because the opposition needs him.

Meme of the year: Julio Coco. I still don’t get why the left-wing opposition “activist” was relevant this year, but he was. Here he is in the video that launched him.

Video of the year: Capuskicapubul! Featuring Mr. Loso.

Tweets of the year: In a year when Twitter came of age in the Venezuelan public sphere – what would we had done without it? -, two tweets stand out: Carabobo governor Francisco Ameliach ordering chavista paramilitaries to attack the opposition, and Andrés Izarra reacting to Obama’s outreach of Cuba.

Profession of the year: Journalism. In a year when the media hegemon finally swallowed the country, a few brave journalists took a stand while, also, reminding us of why they are essential. They are the real deal. When we grow up, we want to be like them.

Most surprising development: The new bromance between Obama and Raúl Castro. Could it be that this … will become with time the most important news story of 2014? A close runner-up were the tanking oil markets and the Venezuelan default debate, but deep down, we all knew it was a matter of time, so it was less of a surprise than the détente on the Florida Straits.

Most insightful reader: The comments section is chock full of interesting characters, but one who stood out – particularly with his insights on the Venezuelan-Default-That-Is-Surely-Coming-But-We-Don’t-Know-When – was McPapas Medianas.

Post of the year: This post by Quico almost made Caracas Chronicles explode. A re-tweet by social media sensation George Takei meant we got millions of hits in a single day. We were delighted Venezuela was getting all the attention, but the increased traffic freaked us out. The game changed on the blog after that one …

——————–

It can’t all be fun and games, so we wanted to make the last category a bit more special: Venezuelan of the Year.

This was a year marked by the government’s intense assault on civil society. The long-brewing Venezuelan civil conflict spilled out into Venezuelan streets, grocery stores, and barrios, and the government responded by imprisoning kids, violating human rights, and denying people basic staples.

If there is one person that epitomizes the struggle between an entrenched elite and the majority who now opposes them, it is Marvinia Jiménez.

A simple seamstress with a disability, she had the gall of pissing off a female National Guards-woman for, apparently, “breaking her nail.” Marvinia’s attackers were never punished, but the video of her savage beating was seen by thousands. To this day she stands tall, unyielding in her beliefs, confident in the future, demanding justice.

Marvinia Jiménez is the face I want to remember from this year.

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Finally, on a more behind-the-scenes tone, this year was challenging for us … for a number of reasons.

I tried to steer the blog in a different direction after Quico handed me the reins in February, but I have been thwarted in my attempts by the events on the ground. It is difficult to strike a more optimistic, conciliatory tone when the government has cranked human rights violations and boneheaded economic policies up to eleven.

We welcomed new writers, yet the challenge to incorporate more voices remains an inviting, yet still unfulfilled one.

angel de amparoWe don’t know what 2015 will bring, but we promise to keep attempting to provide a sane voice in Venezuela’s public sphere. We won’t always succeed, but we’ll bleed on our keyboards trying. We’re absolutely exhausted, but proud of what we did this year.

We’ll be back January 5th, everyone. Feed your souls and hug a loved one.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks blogueros y blogueras, for all that hard work!

    It can’t be fun writing day in and day out about Venezuela, even though the stories must be told.

    And thanks to the comentadores y comentadoras too.

    It’s a bonus to have such great commenters adding to the reporting in very valuable ways.

    Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!

  2. Thank you so much for this blog. I’ve been interested in Venezuela ever since visiting there in 2012 and this is one of the few places I can go to find up-to-date news and analysis in English. Have a good break and pass on my love and good wishes to your country!

  3. Thanks for the hard work, guys. CC is an invaluable resource for those of us who are far away. I hope to see more of Audrey’s posts next year, they’re my favourite and there’s not nearly enough! Happy holidays.

  4. In the same way that the entomologist catalogs and classifies bizarre insect specimens inhabiting the depths of the Amazon jungle, you guys also make the register of the absurdity happening in Venezuela.

    So, thanks Juan and the other contributors at Caracas Chronicles for your tireless effort in trying to put some order in all this chaos. The future generations will thank you too.

  5. Thanks for keeping us informed of the details we see every day in the news.
    You’re doing a great job.

    Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year from Isla Margarita!

  6. Thanks for all you do. You make it possible for outsiders like me to understand your country. I look forward to another great year following your blog.

  7. Oh boy! “We’ll back January 5th” is a tricky statement. Every time you guys give us a date to be back…well you are back much much sooner.

    Happy holidays to you all, and thanks for the blogging.

  8. Beautiful post, Juan. Thanks to all the contributing writers who posted their perspectives … through a glass darkly… and the commenters who added the spice when not sprinkling much-needed humour. Above all, thanks to Quico whose early vision made this blog possible.

    • Beautifully said, Syd. We are all very greatful for the exceptional, often thankless, extraordinary efforts of Juan, Quico, Contribitors, and Commenters. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All.

  9. I forgot to mention something in the main article: we had our first CC intern this Summer! Thanks Rachelle! You folks will be hearing a lot more from her – not in CC, but in actual media.

  10. I know this comment is Off-topic….not everything in our kicked country is related to politics, But I cannot miss the chance to comment on the last picture that illustrates this post:

    The *“Angel of El Amparo”* is located in the sector of the same name in the west Maracaibo, almost unknown outside of the Zulia state, recently reached his 42th anniversary.

    Some press notes about that (sorry English-only guys and gals, all of them are in Spanish, but your favorite online translator can do a good job 😉 :

    http://www.laverdad.com/zulia/64038-el-angelito-de-amparo-42-anos-de-tradicion-iluminada.html

    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81ngel_de_Amparo

    This can be of special significance to all “Maracuchos” living abroad…

  11. re: red as the color of the year… why is there no recognition of the venezuelan deaths caused by opposition violence? or any reflection on the failed tactics of the guarimbas? it would have been nice for the blog to distance itself from the most fanatical wing of the opposition (something chavismo has consistently refused to do)

    • why is there no recognition of the venezuelan deaths caused by opposition violence?

      Using the same line of thinking, the motorizados would be claiming, “See, you made me do it.”

    • “…why is there no recognition of the venezuelan deaths caused by opposition violence?”

      As much as I’m tempted to give the disdainful “You don’t deserve an answer”, I’ll speech it clearly for you, asshole: THERE WERE NO DEATHS CAUSED BY ANY OPPOSITION SO-CALLED VIOLENCE.

      Unarmed people fending off murderers armed with rifles, shotguns and 9mms, yeah, poor colectivos, echitos ellos.

      2 years with your bastard idol six feet under, by the way, enjoy.

  12. Dear Juan, Quico and crew: CC is a must-read for anyone willing to get a broad and consistent view regarding political, economic and social developments in Venezuela. The team of bloggers and also most of the readers who post comments offer invaluable insights and diversified approaches to relevant questions in Venezuela which are also very useful to understand issues in other countries in the region. Keep up the excellent work! I have recommended CC to many of my business colleagues and also my personal friends and will keep on doing so. Thanks for your qualified contribution to our enlightment!

  13. The best English-language source on Venezuelan politics. Hope you guys have a wonderful year in 2015. And well, for the Venezuelans who still live in Venezuela ―like me― I hope we can make it through this very difficult year to come

  14. Also, the thing I’m sure chaburrismo will give us venezuelans as a final gift to close this year:
    Another blackout.
    They did the same just in 2012 when the year was ending, just to “revenge” against Venezuela for daring to be happy a couple of days after the wax doll kicked the bucket there in castrolandia.

    Also, expect to have more, and worse, massive protests in 2015, people won’t need too much convincing to go out and break some asshole’s face when you and your family have spent 3 or 4 months starving (Real famine, not “I’ll eventually find the product so I’ll keep quiet at lines”, I mean “I’ve searched for that shit for 6-9 months straight and it’s no-fucking-where!”)

  15. “…failed tactics of the guarimbas?”

    Who were planted in the Opposition protests by the Regime.

    “…most fanatical wing of the opposition…”

    You mean, like, anyone who actually opposes Chavismo?

    Troll…

    • Sounds a lot like the other red imbecile who said that the girl that was raped by vielma mora’s bodyguards in Táchira deserved to get that because she was removing a guarimba barricade, even when there were absolutely no blockades at all in that time.

  16. Thanks a lot for a year-ful of news and analysis guys.. Reading you non stop since 2011, and you’ve become even more relevant this year, imho. For what awaits us next year, count me in as a daily viewer and commenter.
    Feliz navidad!

  17. CC crew: Gracias por todo el trabajo y toda la informacion. Se han vuelto idispensables. Ahora a amarrarse los pantalones que lo que viene es candela en el 2015. Saludos, y feliz navidad!

  18. Thanks CC for all you have done this year. And, I would like wish all you cyber-warriors out there a happy holiday. I would wish us all a happy new year, but I am afraid that ship has sailed. Let me wish you all the best of luck “en el daño que viene.”

  19. Delcy Rodriguez is now our new foreign minister, while Ramirez gets the UN Ambassador post. Here’s to a 2015 full of diplomatic embarrassments….

    • So Ramirez, one of the few people in Chavismo who actually knows how the world works and knows what is coming, gets to babysit the infant terrible, Maria Gabriela, in N.Y., while Delcy, whose foreign relations credentials are limited to shopping in Europe and Miami, looks after the big strategic picture in the world…

      Got it. Well done, Nicolas. You are doing a good job. Keep it up…

      • This probably portends a change in Pdvsa and the Oil industry . Our guess is that Cilias favourite is coming down from Citgo to take charge of things , The last nail is struck in Ramirez political coffin and with it perhaps a lot of other people will find themselves out of a job . The flower of corruption will now bloom like never before . !!

      • Well, after seeing M.G. Chavez get the UN Rep job, I think it’s safe to assume that merit, credentials, education and experience mean precisely dick to these guys now.
        It’s not like we’ve had ideal FMs, but Delcy is the kind of person that has no self-restraint or class. I wonder if she’ll actually curse out some European or American diplomat.

  20. Very good year in review post. The only missing ítem was the “Submissive Behavior of the Year” by OAS ambassadors who voted to silence Maria Corina Machado. They are the same weasels who applauded when Obama announced he was forming an alliance with the Castro Industrial and Commercial Conglomerate.

    • “They are the same weasels who applauded when Obama announced he was forming an alliance with the Castro Industrial and Commercial Conglomerate…”

      And then they raged when Obama in the same hour signed the law that revoked visas and bank accounts from the boligarchs.

      Yep, those fuckers are all bipolar xDD

  21. How is the agreement between Cuba and USA will affect Cuba’s ability to advise Maduro and PSUV’s choices for AN? Please share thoughts on parliamentary election results for 2015… If the Oppo can distribute their resources wisely and rally for the last two months without any fuck up in the candidaturas… Man we can win… There is a lot of chances in next year’s parliamentary elections and in the end that’s the basis of any given democracy.

  22. Anyways can’t wait for 2015, I love election phenomenons, and Venezuela has plenty of that. I am waiting for this blog to go back to all that election geekness and mapping and predicting with lots of excels that got me following the blog. :). A 2014 without elections made it kind of boring to follow Venezuela politics, but hope to continue following this blog. to all, happy new year

    • I don´t find amusing that crap of “election geekness” and “predicting”

      Elections are won by chavismo, whether you like it or not. For us who live(d) (t)here, elections are mad rollercoaster that ALWAYS end crushing our souls and submerging us in despair.

      Venezuelan elections should be classified as risk factors on getting heart disease.

      In fact, calling “boring” a year like 2014 just because it did not have elections smells sadistic to me. This year wasn’t “boring”, was utterly sad and hopeless.

      • Well opinions are opinions. I might be interested in election articles. I guess you have a different reason to follow this blog. Sadistic for calling this a boring year. Well might be, according to your point of view 🙂 Me thinks differently, there is something about 2015 parliamentary that makes me think the outcome is gonna be different, and that has to do with knowledge and approval rates among candidates, where oppo is nowadays better positioned than PSUV in many territories… the system is so screwed that we might have a crazy surprise whenever Maburro choses to move the elecion (I think he will move them through a bullshit excuse to May or June)… anyways my original question was about Cuba’s role in all this advising PSUV…. how will Cuba act upon Maduro from now on? Is Maburro the freak on a leash we all think he is>

  23. Most part of politics blogosphere probably everywhere is annoying for the high content of over-ideologized opinions, especially in the comment section. Not here.
    Some day stupidity, pretentiousness, oppression, incompetence, etc. in those portions will fall.
    All the best in 2015 to all writers and commenters of caracas chronicles in its 14th year of existence as for the people of Venezuela except a relatively tiny group of few, who benefit from the mess.

  24. I loved seeing Maria Corina Machado get beat down during the National Assembly brawl this year. Great entertainment.

    That b**** is a traitor, who needs to be taught to know her place.

  25. I, for one, was comforted when Madurro announced that he will announce latest final plan. I once had thought 2015 was the year in which the revolution would bear the fruit of economic prosperity but since have become unnerved by its prospect for success. Now that I understand that one more year of formulating revolution processes is necessary I am more upbeat. One year is not too much to ask, especially when success is just around the corner. I just hope the new plan has a catchy title like “The Great Leap Forward” or something. Otherwise, I’m not sure I will be able to muster sustained enthusiasm.

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