Diplomatic Inanity

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sancho-panza-y-burro_-dore1Canada is in da house! Today we have a Guest Post from Sancho Panza, who went to see Venezuela’s Ambassador designate to Ottawa give a bit of a speech and lived to tell the tale…

On Thursday, February 26th in a balmy Toronto, in a beautiful room of one the University of Toronto’s most beautiful colleges, an extraordinary meeting took place. Venezuela’s Ambassador designate to Canada and two learned academics presented with laser-like legal precision Venezuela’s evidence of a US supported attempted coup d’état against Venezuela’s democratically elected government.

If that sounds mostly untrue, and a little uncritical, you would be correct. The date is accurate though. Also a fact is that the meeting took place in an unbelievably beautiful room of Victoria College — renowned for having Northrop Frye, one the English-speaking world’s greatest-ever literary criticism theorists as one of its past Principals.  But the rest is a total stretch.

To be clear, Toronto is suffering through its coldest February in recorded history.  But watching a room full of passionate, well-financed ignorance — willful, wasteful and otherwise — left me colder still. It was the only really extraordinary thing about the evening.

I’d estimate attendance at around 225 to 250.  It was a mostly well-orchestrated affair (surprising, as it was coordinated by Venezuela’s consular staff and if you have ever attended any Venezuelan Consulate to obtain service you will have an acute understanding of this unnecessary aside).  Videos, music, simultaneous translation, flags, signs, and a variety of consulate staff handing out a variety of translated pamphlets. It was Rio Caribe on a Friday night.

Post-national anthems, we got to see this video of Quico-favorite Daniela Cabello looking radiant and resolute in red, “cleverly” in the company of others (children, seniors, national monuments — 4F of course) also in red and all looking quite revolutionary.

She provided the sort of clarity on Venezuela’s truth (plus costume changes) that Maduro’s cadenas just can’t match.

The Ambassador designate, looking small and ill-at-ease out of military uniform, was accompanied by two persons described (perhaps a bit loosely) as academics.  They all sounded like they were desperate to be in military uniform.  They all offered perspectives (that might also be loosely described as analyses) on geopolitics, on international law, on human rights, on the ethics of transgression and the narratives of resistance.

Essentially, in between standing ovations and chants from a fairly sizable Honduran ex-pat contingent, the audience was advised that the US was perpetrating a slow-motion coup on behalf of the 1% in Venezuela.  We were advised that you can’t trust the corporate media and that we are all soldiers of the Fatherland. We were told that the 1992 golpistas’ transgression was a valid coup attempt as they had good intentions and were brown-skinned like the majority of Venezuelans. We were also advised that last year’s student effort was illegitimate as it was orchestrated by the non-brown-skinned 1% and various international provocateurs – and was always intended to be violent.  Evidence provided included edited video clips of students (faces hidden behind t-shirts to defend against tear gas so you couldn’t quite discern their non-brown-ness) picking up tear gas canisters and throwing them (from whence they came).

We learned that the Misiones are fantastic. That democracy is alive and well.  That the rule of law and human rights are fundamental to the Maduro Government.  That Europe (Greece and Spain) is following Venezuela’s inspirational lead.

The academics on display were: Victor Rivas and Donald Kingsbury.  Their academic chops/bona fides were not.  (Note to self: never recommend UC Santa Cruz to anyone, save folks wanting to sport hipster moustaches).  After two hours of hubris, the evening did not appear to be nearing a Q & A session.  One might assume that the organizers were fairly confident that no one would have any doubts in the veracity of Daniela Cabello’s dissection of the truth about Venezuela.  Magic realism was alive but not particularly well at Victoria College.

On the upside, revolutionary musical interludes were frequent.  The evening — felt a bit longish by this time however — especially when we were advised to put our hands together for the next proponent of workers of world uniting — advertised as a Young Communist Worker.  Even though a very well catered reception was promised, my salida was early, was voluntary and was no real hardship.

As I reflected on the nonsense offered up by these affable revolutionary poseurs I wished I had juxtaposed their sopa de mondongo with some of Frye’s most famous works: Fearful Symmetry (1947), Anatomy of Criticism (1957), and his study of how the Bible provided the symbolic underpinnings of Western literature, The Great Code (1982). I didn’t, but I did recall his observation that “there is only one way to degrade mankind permanently and that is to destroy language.”

The Ambassador designate and his highly qualified friends are well on their way to a new dialectic. The presentations outlining “the facts” related to US interference and the pamphlets that listed the “rebels” behind a February 12-13, 2015 US attempted coup are fairly fantastical reads. The new dialectic is not a method for examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth. The new dialectic is not concerned with facts.  It is founded in fallacies and non sequiturs and bias and hatred and Daniela Cabello and the decibel level of Ambassador designates’ exhortations.  It was all quite unfortunate and apparently not a bit embarrassing for those who offered it up.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. What is happening in Venezuela is an unrecognized propaganda war which is not fully understood, because either there is a lack of interest in following the news, or language barriers , or there are classical knee jerk emotional reactions to fear, blame and pride.

    In order to influence what happens inside of Venezuela, the world wide propaganda war has to be addressed, taken apart, ridiculed, and clarified at the expense of a great deal of resistance on the part of the believing masses. Political correctness will have to be ignored because it is the tool of some major lying and manipulation and it is accepted by a large percentage of the Western world

    It’s amazing what these False Socialists/ Criminals can accomplish by just planting the seeds of doubt, especially among people who are already repressed and manipulated by fierce political correctness.

    It doesn’t even take genius to implement this stuff .The path is well trodden: play the race card,call Democrats Fascists, blame the US or the West and encourage paranoia against corporate media and the elite.

    Look at Greece and Spain.It’s a Cancer that is spreading.

    All it takes is a seed of doubt for people to wonder what is really happening in Venezuela.When we need them to understand ,instead( at best) we have doubts and confusion.At worst we have people believing in the ” Revolution”

  2. Would be nice to see them attempt to explain why it was necessary to have Daniela Cabello of all people put together a promo. Like Bill Clinton choosing Chelsea explain his extramarital affairs. It’s quite fitting of course since shes a member of the inner circle but youd think theyd choose someone with a more meaningful and ideally international reputation.

    Curious to know who was in the audience?

  3. Here in Toronto, I can tell you that a free dinner catered by the Venezuelan Embassy is quite an attractive proposition. You can perform the personal “sacrificio” which revolutions require, and fill up on those lovely arepas they used to eat in Venezuela at the same time.

    As the young lady in the video tells us, “ignorance enslavers people”. Yes, yes it does. And so, imagine the consternation when she informs us that before the present government, “MOST of the people were LITERALLY STARVING to DEATH” . Nowadays, the subways and gondolas run on time, whereas before, you can see that soldiers used ack-ack guns to prevent that.

    No wonder she supports this new government. After all, you can see that she herself is quite healthy, hardly starving to death. She is also very tastefully dressed (designer, I believe.) And, she is not being fired upon, either! Thanks for the objective info, unidentified young lady!

  4. “…were brown-skinned like the majority of Venezuelans…” Are they playing that card? Really? Aagggghhhhhhhh

    • Come on. They have been playing that card for more than a decade now.

      Its a kinda of cousin of the whole “you are an oligarch/you are paid by the CIA”, but for consumption of the racially obsessed North Americans.

    • Are you kidding? They’ve been playing that card since February 5th, 1992.

      Or do you really think that their definition of “pueblo” includes white people?

      ARRRR FAVORRRRRR!!!!

      • What is ironic when considering that most bandits inside the Chavista ruling elite are actually white… Hehe.

        Unless we consider that people like Giordani, Luisa Ortega Dias, Rafael Ramirez, Arreaza etc. can’t be white given that they happen to be socialists (aka “Quico’s rule”: “only right-wingers are white”. But that would be nonsense.

        • You are expecting logical consistency? From this crew? Good luck.

          Think of it like a movie… to enjoy it requires a degree of “suspension of disbelief”.

          • “You are expecting logical consistency? From this crew? Good luck.”

            Their only logical consistency is this: they are always right, and the ones against them are always wrong.

            “Think of it like a movie… to enjoy it requires a degree of “suspension of disbelief”.”

            That’s true, but the problem is that I could never apply a “degree of suspension of disbelief” to real life situations. Reality was always knocking on the door telling me: “Hey, this is not a movie, maybe these guys are lying to you! Wake up!”, hehe.

      • “Or do you really think that their definition of “pueblo” includes NON-chavista people?”

        There, fixed it for ya.

      • Racism is what entitled you and your family to underpay the help.

        If you want the kind of freedom that allows you to exploit brown people, move to the US where plenty are desperate enough to clean your house and feel proud about it, since they don’t have a government that cares for them.

        • In the U.S., there are so few people “desperate enough to clean your house” that the cost of maid service is so high, that only the most wealthy can afford it. A maid makes far more money in the U.S. than a medical doctor does in Venezuela.

          • Your resent knows no bounds. To say that a brown doctor makes more money cleaning your family’s filth speaks very little of you. No wonder commander Chavez said that your opposition aristocrats “no volverán”.

          • nowhere did Roy state brown-ness. Must be your guilty mind that betrays you, dspur. Is that what lies behind your adherence to a revolution that does not promote egalitarianism, in general? Guilt?

          • Everyone should be proud of the job they do, regardless. Ashamed should be those that take away from those who have worked hard to own what they have.

          • “Everyone should be proud of the job they do, regardless.”

            That’s exactly the kind of liberal BS exploiters tell to colored folk.

            They live in subpar neighbourhoods that are a more prone to violence and theft; they earn less than white people schools require, and when they end up in subpar jobs that pay less than their master’s, they’re told to be “proud about what they do”.

            That they should be “proud” of having the opportunity to clean white people’s filth.

          • dspur: does your latest manipulation-to-distract mean that your Revolution does away with any job that requires cleaning up of any filth or mess? Say, nurses? teachers? office cleaners? recycling center personnel? garbage cleaners? street cleaners? I’m trying to frame your verbiage to reality, and it’s falling dreadfully short. Please help.

          • “I’m trying to frame your verbiage to reality, and it’s falling dreadfully short. Please help.”

            What entitled you to speak in such an uppity, unpleasant way?

            You sound like an antiquated, posh englishman.

            “It’s falling dreadfully short”?

            Who the fuck says this in regular conversation?

          • Are you afraid to answer the simply-phrased questions, dspur?

            For one who manipulates verbiage in order to promote a revolution that neither applies to reality nor ensures equality in any given population, your classist framing is transparent.

          • That’s what I get for engaging the troll… a huge kerfuffle over nothing, and it didn’t contribute one whit to the theme of the post. Sorry.

          • ‘Well, that just shows how racist you are for refusing hire brown people.’

            See how this works? You are racist if you do and racist if you don’t.

        • 1. Is there something wrong with cleaning? Are people cleaning houses desperate and pathetic?

          2. Why do so many brown people risk death and deprivation to travel to a country whose government ‘doesn’t care for them’? Why don’t brown people in Florida take leaky rafts through shark infested waters to try to get to Cuba, where the Castro regime will look out for them?

          3. Why are you so angry, hateful,and spiteful? Are you okay?

          • You trivialize the suffering of brown people so that they don’t revolt because they’re taught to be “proud” about their submission.

            This particular exploiter doesn’t bother recognizing that house-cleaning and other shitty jobs are reserved for brown people and other marginalized groups.

          • My wife is a ‘brown’ person. Actually, most people here (the US) consider her black, she’s far darker than Maduro or Chavez. She was a teacher in Venezuela before coming here, where she worked as a nanny and also cleaned houses on the side for awhile before finally getting her credentials to being able to get a teaching possession here. I helped her clean houses at times.

            She submitted to no one and was exploited by no one. To automatically assume that anyone who performs cleaning or similar tasks for wages is ‘submitting’ is insulting, frankly. It’s also insulting to assume anyone who pays someone to clean their house is ‘exploiting’ anyone.

            You should ask the ‘brown’ people waiting 6 hours in line to buy diapers or one package of harina pan, being forced to sing pro-Chavez songs by a bunch of thugs in uniform, about submission.

          • “To automatically assume that anyone who performs cleaning or similar tasks for wages is ‘submitting’ is insulting, frankly. It’s also insulting to assume anyone who pays someone to clean their house is ‘exploiting’ anyone.”

            When the Halvorssens are born with norwegian silver spoons in their mouth and those that haven’t, the voting mass, are convinced to be “proud” of their brown struggles and conform to their birth preconditions, there’s no speculation involved in describing their exploitation. Maybe one of the browns that got killed in the ghetto they were born in had the capacity to be the next Leopoldo Lopez but no one knows since he didn’t have the resources to buy his way into Harvard like Lopez’s norwegian daddy did.

          • dspur: You should ask the ‘brown’ people waiting 6 hours in line to buy diapers or one package of harina pan, being forced to sing pro-Chavez songs by a bunch of thugs in uniform, about submission.

            You should also ask yourself if one of “the browns” (for you and your ilk can only see people by their colour and size of their pocketbook, not by their character) that got shot by rabid National Guard goons, or motorizados, in peaceful demonstrations over the past year plus, or while getting off a city bus, had the capacity to be the next Leopoldo Lopez… whose daddy is not Norwegian, contrary to your latest spin routine.

            (dspur runs shitting in his pants before replying to reality.)

          • Nothing in your answer responded to what I said. Why did I get sucked into this nonsense? Now, if you’ll excuse me my wife wants me to clean up before dinner…she is a serious exploiter!

        • Where I live, the going rate for housecleaning is $15 to $25 an hour. Not exactly exploitation or desperation wages.

          • Where I live in Florida, a cleaning crew of three comes in for two hours and leaves with $75.00 Cash.
            They work hard and fast and are treated well. The community colleges are dirt cheap and there’s financial aide available. Sure some people are born with family money but most are not and seem to do very well here.

    • Esa vaina es lo que más me arrecha, la manipulación y explotación de los resentimientos de la gente contra las clases medias que por vainas del destino estaban formadas por los pelabolas del sur de europa…. que happen to be kind of white!

      Soy bastante “marron” por cierto, el negro de la famila, y al principio de toda esta desgracia mucha gente asumía que yo era chavista. Así que la estupidez viene de ambos bandos: ellos que lanzan la idea y “nosotros” que se la compramos.

      • “estaban formadas por los pelabolas del sur de europa…. que happen to be kind of white!”

        And you can ask the old folks from sur de Europa who emigrated to countries like Venezuela in the past how they used to live in their home countries. A lot of them will tell you that they didn’t have enough food to eat, some will tell that didn’t even have electricity at home. That’s how “priviledged” they have been in their lives. The poor in Venezuela probably don’t even know how it is to endure that kind of poverty.

      • y acuérdate, venelondoner, que ‘ellos’ son, en la GRAN mayoría, blanco-blanquitos con un profundo sentido de culpa racial, por no decir inmadurez intellectual, lo cual ha facilitado la “compra” de una ideología que en el fondo NO promueve la igualdad para todos.

  5. So Sancho Panza did not stand up ans scream that it was all a scam?

    I kept reading til the end, waiting for Sancho to make a scene… what a disappointment!

  6. Was the event reported by the local press or media ?? if so in what terms ?? , has there been any past reporting of Venezuelas situation ?? of what sort ?? do you think this lovingly choreographed incestous event might have changed uncommitted peoples view of the situation in Venezuela ??

    • It was not reported in the media in Toronto. Solidarity meetings with one or another cause are very frequent here, and not usually considered newsworthy. I doubt it changed a single mind.

    • If he could spare the time (away from windmills) he might have said: “La libertad, Sancho, es uno de los más preciosos dones que a los hombres dieron los cielos; con ella no pueden igualarse los tesoros que encierran la tierra y el mar: por la libertad, así como por la honra, se puede y debe aventurar la vida.”

  7. “(Note to self: never recommend UC Santa Cruz to anyone, save folks wanting to sport hipster moustaches).”

    That’s right, because if you’ve seen one banana slug, you’ve seen them all.

    • U.C. Santa Cruz does have a reputation as a party school and as “second tier” university. No doubt, someone who applies themselves can get a worthwhile education there, just as anywhere. But, by the same token, it is probably an easier place to skate than some other universities.

      • On a separate note, if you have never been there, it is a truly beautiful place. There are redwood forests close by, and the coast and the coastal mountains south of Santa Cruz are a must see.

  8. Is there some kind of special training class this clown government sends all their people to on how to use certain hand gestures? Every time a clown comes out and speaks on behalf of this govt, they all try really, really hard to get the hand gestures right.

  9. To gain some perspective on the two academics who participated in the propaganda session:

    Donald Kingsbury. Lecturer

    Interests: Latin American Politics, with emphasis on Venezuela and the Andes Region; Contemporary and Comparative Political Theory; Marxism, and post-autonomist thought; Postcolonialism, ethics, and violence.

    Publications and Research: articles on Latin American Political Theory and contemporary politics in Venezuela in the journals Historical Materialism and Theory & Event; “Between Multitude and Pueblo: Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and the Government of Un-Governability” in New Political Science; and an on-going project on Simón Bolívar and the politics of myth for a forthcoming edited volume on Bolívar and Culture in Latin America.

    Victor R. Rivas, Ph.D. University of California at Berkeley
    Sessional Lecturer, Latin American Studies. St. George
    victor.rivas @ utoronto.ca

    Interests: Contemporary Latin American literary, film, and cultural studies; Nineteenth-century Latin America and the ideological legacy of Simón Bolívar; Cultural resistance, non-canonical, subaltern, and testimonial literature; Comparative US and Canadian Latino/a texts; The politics of culture and media; Postmodern and postcolonial theory and criticism.

    Professor Rivas’s work as a journalist was published by the Associated Press, USA Today, and El Nacional, among others. He directed and produced three documentaries with Luna Lobo Films: Sanoja, Tambor y Canto. Andanzas y memoria de un decimista (2008), Estado Cultural: Hacia un nuevo paradigma de la cultura venezolana (2007), y Rejas: Poesía carcelaria de Iván Padilla Bravo (2006). He teaches core courses for the Latin American Studies program: LAS200Y Latin American Studies: History, Civilization, and Culture and LAS301H The Postcolonial Imaginary in Latin America.

    • The two academics present seem to be both adjunct instructors and not necessarily full-time tenured faculty. I make this point not to disparage adjunct instructors but rather to underscore that the participants are not necessarily representative of political views of all, or even some, faculty at UofT. I have met one of the academics and can say that he’s a long time chavista and I believe Venezuelan. The ‘non-event’ at Vic College seems to be part of a fiction the govt is spinning abroad, which includes the recent propaganda event the last few days in Madrid: http://elpais.com/m/politica/2015/03/01/actualidad/1425241674_872956.html

  10. Is Victoria College hard up for funds or what is going on? The hands off Venezuela crazy-fests used to be held at OISE.

    • Good question, Canucklehead. And one for alumnae to ask Victoria College the next time it sends out requests for contributions.

      Now that elite activists have presented revolutionary wares at their well-catered event, held at the beautifully appointed rented room at Victoria College, the plebean rungs will follow in another few days, at OISE. Yes, the hands-off Venezuela crazies will be frothing again at the mouth, along with the Luis (sic) Riel Bolivarian Circle, plus others, sponsored by two communist groups (plus one socialist entity pa variar la vaina).

      • Due to a CUPE strike, the OISE venue has been changed to one nearby. “in support we won’t cross picket line.” says the modified poster for the event organized by Hands-off-Venezuela et al.

        Where’s the support from these faux communists of workers in Venezuela who have been clamoring the Maduro government to be paid their back wages and benefits?

        Again, it’s all a sham.

        • The whole notion of an NGO of foreigners called Hands Off Venezuela is so absurd and self-contradictory, that it is unlikely that any particular position they will take, such as on unions and labour rights, will offer any consistency or coherency either. If they want to show solidarity with labour, they should hands on Venezuela and picket the consulate down the street…

    • The coup was justified because a majority of brown-skinned people took place in it? So coups made by a majority of whites are illegitimate. Imaginate tu.
      Where would Venezuela be if the proceres had been rejected as leaders for being white?

  11. Verga…es que ahora Canadá está más llena de comunistas que Bélgica? O es que es más barato organizar un evento de esos allí? Aquí hace tiempo que los boliburgueses no organizan una vaina semejante.
    Solo aparecen en eventos de tercera junto a los grupúsculos más radicales de la izquierda de la Benelux (usualmente de los francófonos, porque ya a los flamencos el chavismo en general les da grima)

    • The irony is that some people show up at these events who fled from regimes with the same tendencies as the Chavez/Maduro regime, to show their support for what Maduro is doing.

      • one of the sponsors of the upcoming event organized by Hands-off-Vzla et al is Casa Salvador Allende. I wonder what that sponsorship entails: raising a knuckle-sandwich fist in the air? Or bringing along cookies?

      • In the same ironic wavelength, I get people to loudly condemn stuff over here in Spain that, frankly, is very much wrong… and then support “the revolution”, which does exactly the same shit but to a even worse degree.

        When the Spanish government makes stuff like legislating that protest of all kind are now subject to administrative sanctions that can go to thousands of €, I would like to be able to oppose that stuff without somebody that is going to praise chavismo :/

  12. Never as this last year have I seen more attention being given to Venezuelas dark situation by big name international figures , media and world class organizations , the depiction of the situation is always one we can identify with , clearly critical of the regime its heavy handed despotism, mismanagement , corruption and crazy antics . Just saw an article on the 15 worst off places in the world, Venezuela ranking as the very worst by far. inflation , shortages , crime , goverment abuses its all there plus the crazy lying and histerical histrionics of Maduro and his entourage. !! . These pathetic little efforts in Toronto and Madrid are but a drop in a bucket facing a veritable flood of denunciations !! Without realizing it the regime crossed a line , the line that divides the laughable and stupid to the sinister and criminal and the now the whole world is turning against them . The attacks are so pervasive and harsh that one can understand their paranoid assumption that its the result of some kind of world conspiracy. If they really wanted to know what has caused it they would only have to look at the mirror. But …thats the one thing they are incapable of doing.

  13. It’s a fairly simple dynamic to understand. A small percentage of mostly-white land and business owners and politicos had a staranglehold on Venezuela resources basically since the Spaniards got tossed out or amalgamated into the society. Social justice, human rights, distribution of wealth, educational opportunities were largely denied the brown folk who muddled along but could never find a foothold on their native turf. Eventually the few had most everything including an almost shocking contempt for the lower classes. The tide had to turn but the conductor was so bitter and fanatical and ignorant that while he was correct about the wrongs done to the underclass, he mistakenly thought that by pulling the top down, the bottom would automatically rise. It didn’t, of course, so he threw money at it, meanwhile getting rid of virtually everyone who could actually do things needed to run a modern country. The elite had to be punished. He lays off half the professionals running the old sector – the country’s cash cow – and fosters an attitude that educated folk are all right wing thieves and scouldrals. That professional competancy is a kind of borgeois posturing. Of course this was a recipe for the institutions to tumble down. And maybe the whole rotten thing had to simply go up in smoke before a reconciliation and rebuilding could ever happen. The question now is: How bad does it have to get before the disasterous socialist experiment is junked and a viable economic system is put in place and the institutions and infrastructure can be rebuilt. There is probably no going back to the days of the few hording the piggy bank, but the future looks anything but clear.

    Seems like we need a miracle.

    Juancho

    • Juancho,

      It sounds like you are buying into the Chavista narrative of history . Venezuela has/had a substantial educated middle class that was multiracial. I am not saying that it was perfect, but it wasn’t as bad you are making it sound.

      • From what I can tell, Venezuela was not as class ridden as some other Latin-American countries, nor as divided on race. But there was a correlation between race and class, with the wealthiest and most powerful being almost exclusively white, and the non-white being predominantly poor.

        And while there was a substantial middle class, it was still much smaller than the working class and underclass. Class divisions bred resentment that Chavez tapped into.

  14. I just checked the U.S. State Department Daily Briefing. Apparently, there was a meeting today between the U.S. Chargé and the Venezuelan MFA. However, that meeting was just ending when the briefing started, so the Press Secretary could not answer most of the questions the press had, of which there were many. Tomorrow’s briefing would be well worth watching.

  15. Roy, for many years I lived in a nice area of Valencia, next door to a general on one side and a doctor on the other. I rubbed shoulders with countless people in the middle class you mention. But I also visited every state in Venezuela except Amazonas and once outside the main cities, that middle class was not in strong evidence, especially in places like El Tigre, where my wife grew up. And there was no question that the bulk of power lay in the hands of few, who didn’t give a damn about the lower class. This is not Chavista narrative but the simple facts of the matter. The Spanish mandate from day one was to squeeze the land of every last Real and shoot whoever got in your way. You’d have to be remarkably enconsed in middle and upper class enclaves to believe otherwise. That much said, we all know that Chavez was half right about the people and the imbalance of power and resources, and almost entirely wrong about what to do about it. Such a gran narrissist can never do much to pull the bottom up and has totally polarized the country. But it was long overdue that such a corrupt and exploitive system should blow up. It was rancid through and through. And now the Revolution has only worsened things, by many fold. My sense of it is that every side is going to have to come clean before any big shift can happen. Foir both sides and every side, it’s always the other sides fault. There’s so much anger and hatred out there it shocks the system. My oldest daughter is doing her residency in a state hospital in Caracas and the place is like a war zone. Looking back, the idea that a multiracial middle class was anything but a smug minority seems clear. They did, however, keep the institutions on line and without those, the country has no foundation – that much is increasingly obvious. That much said, there are certain incontrovertible facts: First, the country was for many years dominated by a largely white elite who horded power and resources and typically were ruthless and shamelessly corrupt. Second, an eductaed, multicultural middle class was starting to dilute the powerbase of the elite, while the dirt poor majority were starting to bark out loud (thanks in part to social media, whihc was like pulling a lantern into Plato’s Cave). Chavez was a political and cultural wakeup call to everyone in the country. He recognized a glaring problem but had virtually no emotional sobriety or savvy to seek a reconciliation, and instead sought to destroy those he felt had betrayed the pueblo for any number of reasons, some of them valid. And lastly, the power suddenly shifted from a very small, highly educated, mostly whilte powerbase, to a very small, undereducated, multicultural powerbase that are in their own way twice as corrupt and ten times as incompetant as their former jefes. The big loser is Venezuela itself. There was, as Roy pointed out, a significant professional class who made sure basic services stayed functional. Especially the petro and energy sectors, which presently are in almost toally dissary. Most of my inlaws worked in these fields and I have seen with my own eyes the slow corruption and brain drain of this small but professional class. But I still believe that the whole mess was avoidable if the rich elite – and the middle class Roy mentioned – had made some little effort to pull the botom up. Now the bottom jumped to the top, in many cases, and without any wherewithal to do the necessary work, the country is literally falling apart, one turbine at Guri and metro in Caracas at a time. Fact is, the previous political and social order was simply unsustainable, the replacement, moreso. And until that time that MUD, or the oppostion can come in from another vector, they likely will remain as toothless as Capriles is right now.

    Time to start over. The questiona as I see it is – does the country have to melt down entirely, so any future is starting from scratch?

    I think Lopez could really do some work, so I hope he survives and gets a chance.

    Juancho

    • Juancho, Thank you for taking the time to clarify your analysis. I disagreed with your initial comment, because I think that Venezuela had developed a significant middle class and I thought your comment extreme. However, as it relates to the rural areas, I cannot take exception with anything you said about how Venezuela got to where it is today. The previous governments did neglect the rural areas of the country and focused on the cities. Obviously, in retrospect, this was a grave error. Kepler’s comments (in other places on this blog) regarding the need for land reform are an example of how Venezuelans outside the urban areas were neglected. This resulted in a large migration to the cities looking for opportunity which, in turn resulted in the “rancho” phenomenon in the urban areas. This migration to the cities is also a common historical trend that accompanies industrialization. Venezuela handled this badly.

      As for the question of if the country has to completely “melt down” before it can be rebuilt, that is the heart of the question that divides the Opposition. What is the “other vector” that you referred to for the MUD to pursue?

  16. Your analysis is impressive in its breath scope and in pointing to some important aspects of venezuelan society . I think it misses the mark in thinking that this has ever been a country of strong powerful rich socially isolated lily white elites lording it over the mostly brown impoverished masses.

    The reason why this is a tad misaligned depiction of venezuelas social structure is that the hard nosed social elites were mostly wiped out during the war of independence and the civil wars that followed, those left were mostly impoverished , politically marginated groups while political power ( and ultimately wealth) was taken over by the humble origin soldiers of our war of independence and the caudillos that claimed the aegis of power as a result of the civil wars that afflicted our country until General Gomez put things in order and created the country .

    First this has always been a poor country , even big land owners werent rich , what brought people prosperity (and not that much of it ) was political connections with gobt big wigs and urban commece and financial trades , we never developed a large industry , When general Gomez took over we were one of the poorest countries in latin america .

    Politics were the big equalizers and they favoured those of humble origin who were succesful in political life and civil wars more than the sliver of well born white descendant of the mantuanos still surviving at the edges of political life as courtiers of the uncouth but powerful caudillos .

    If you look at the social origins of our presidents you will see that most of them were of low to low middle class origins , Paez , Monagas , Guzman Blanco , Crespo , Castro , Gomez , Lopez Contreras , Medina , Perez Jimenes , Romulo Betancourt , Leoni , CAP , etc The countrys oil wealth created many opportunities for social mobility creating a middle class which was mostly white and brown (the darker hues of skin colour not being as well represented ) , but politics was for the most part the gateway to wealth and power rather than inherited familiy fortune.which did exist in isolated pockets but did not have that much influence in how things were done ..

    Social mobility (fed by oil wealth) to the extent it created a growing middle class did provide the people that the new business and official bureucracy used to man its positions , simply because education made it necessary . But there were no stiff social barriers to a person of humble origin to start a career in business in
    the professions or in governemnt that could make him achieve middle class status .

    The social problems were mostly due to combined effect o three intertwined phenomena , the warped demographics represented by the huge birth indexes among the poorest overrunning the countries modest inrstructure of health and educatonal services , their movement to the shanty towns of the big cities and the break down there of the social mores , the thin social fabric that held their life together making for a new kind of poor , the fatherless abandoned children of the barrios with no habits of social control or self discipline let loose in a world full of thugs , drugs, crimes and prosmicuity . These include a lot of emotionally damaged people , people which cannot be rescued to become responsible self supporting productive citizens just by exposing them to some years of formal education. The Character is not made in schools but at home and by the modelling of an stable extended family , but in this world most homes are unstable or dysfucntional , and without a socialized character the transformation into useful citizens is very difficult .

    There is more to write but there is not enough space , but do appreciate juachos analysis adn would hope for a more extended exchange soon,

    . .

    • Like your optics, BB.

      I would add some thoughts when analyzing the contemporary social problems in Vzla. For one, a mostly transparent border with Colombia allowed, for too long, hundreds of thousands to migrate to Vzla without proper documentation. These migrants naturally wanted to build a better life for themselves, given the oil generator of wealth, when compared to the impoverisihed economic engines of their source countries.

      So without documentation, Vzla had no way of quantifying the numbers. Perhaps, too, cédulas were easily bought, the process given a blind eye by politicians too eager to have these ‘indocumentados’ vote for them.

      Taxation, too, was lackadaisical, mostly affecting property and business owners.

      Just some thoughts, none properly fleshed out nor quantified.

      • Syd : thanks for the added comment , it makes a lot of sense that such inmigraton added to the hellish broth that was cooked in our barrios .!!

  17. Great commentaries from all here. My observations are based mostly on actually being around the axis of power wherever I was and seeing who was there and how they were acting. I first went to Venezuela as an American working on a network TV show circa 1982, and met my future wife in Canaima. My sense of the historical perspectives offered her per social order and race (color) are especially germane to the years when, as Bill mentioned, Venezuela was poor. By 1980, the oil dollars were staring to pour in and so were all the undocumented estranjeros looking for a better life in Caracas, Valencia, Barqui etc. And once that petro dough was on hand, the educated white folk stepped up to the front of the line in a hurry.

    As mentioned, I had relatives working in the energy sectors and at the top of that heap you rarely saw darker skinned jefes. This was an awkward situation for me at times because my wife’s family are rather dark skinned folks from the depressed part of El Tigre, a place called Dog Town. To say that the darker folk were not considered “less than” by the power elite simply does not square with my direct experience there.

    But be that as it may, Ray mentioned the neglect of the rural population and for anyone who has traveled widely in Venezuela, that was for many years the majority of the country – millions of folks scattered across outlying areas far removed from Trigal Norte in Valencia, etc. What Roy said – that the government handled this demographic poorly – does not quite capture the flavor of the beast as I saw and experienced it. My feeling is that there was little to no sense of social justice (no model for it at all) and so those factions of the population that did not directly contribute to the power and wealth making of the elite – or those in power – were not “treated poorly,” they were entirely ignored and written of as irrelevant. They were, in a human and spiritual way, almost entirely unseen, shoved to the margin, and called upon only to fetch us a coconut or a Polar or some nice barbacoa – but only when needed as such. And the women were toys to be used and forgotten. We all saw this happen for years and it was terrible to witness.

    The contempt that this hidalgo attitude gestated in the vast lower class was downright palpable by 1990. When I used to spend every Christmas and New Years over on Isla Margarita, with relatives there in Ascunscion, one could feel a certain tension rising in the streets. The system simply was not set up for middle of the road, or lower, to make their way. Here in the states, the bulk of daily work and regular power is done by and held by middle-of-the road folks. In Venezuela, unless you were contributing to the wealth of the higher ups, you were basically a non-entity. This is a gross generalization of the social strata back then but you get the idea. In my mind, Chavez was exactly right in trying to empower this vast, lower class, but his methods were totally misguided by narcissism, stubbornness and spite. Instead of putting the bulk of funds into health and education, in a systematic way, Chavez went for cosmetic fixes and vanity projects. Have you seen the bridge he built down in Anzoátegui. Jesu Christo pues!

    Anyhow, the “different vector” I was mentioning is something I’m not quite sure about, but it seems unlikely that MUD had found the sweet spot just yet. I think Lopez might be able to sort through this given enough time and resources. But everything is so up in the air right now, from what my daughters are telling me, that’s it seems like anyone’s guess where this crazy fandango might go in a month or a week. We just hope it doesn’t devolve into a bloodbath.

    Juancho

  18. Juancho,
    Thanks for your broad-brush impressions of Venezuelan society, some of it truthy, some of it coming across as exaggerated, not to disparage your perceptions. Perhaps your views are to be expected from eyes whose formative years were spent in a vastly different environment, during a time when there was a veneer of social justice for all (except for Blacks), and a very thin veneer of respect towards women.

    Perhaps the awkwardness that you perceived (for your wife) presumably at events in the energy sector, where you say you rarely saw the darker-skinned in the top echelons, has something to do with your and your wife’s backgrounds, meaning, perhaps you both came from very narrow social frameworks, whereby neither of you were exposed to a large number of variances. You also mentioned that you have relatives in that energy sector, and with no specifics, one wonders if those relatives are by marriage. If so, why would your wife have felt so awkward? In sum, I found too many holes and haze in your account, no offense.

    Those who have not been exposed to a wide variety in a social strata is more prone to form a personal perspective of anomalies, in one country, without taking into account that those same anomalies exist in one’s home country. For instance, you talk of the disparity in social (and racial) strata in Venezuela, as though it were unusual. Could there not be some myopia at play?

    I was lucky to grow up in Caracas, exposed to different cultures, races, religions, and economic levels. But never did I come across the hyper-segregation (that you noted in Venezuela) as I did in large pockets in the United States, during my decade there, in the 70’s, when work entailed travelling through 36 of its 48 contiguous states.

    I could go on, but this will do for now. Thank you once again for your well thought out and valid views.

  19. Syd, I grew up in a totally bicultural part of LA, California, and not only had both Spanish and “The English” going on in my home, but also was active in sports and so rubbed elbows with blacks (from little league on up), Asians, and many Jews then, and in later life working in entertainment. What’s more I traveled, mainly for work, to over 50 countries. I’ve seen humanity with it’s pants down and with a tuxedo on – every which way. So a “narrow social framework” is not definitive nor yet does it peg my background in even a superficial way. And yes, there were and still are racial issues, at once glaring and subtle, here in the US.

    My point could be made very simply per the politics and social melt down that occurred in Venezuela: While from an upper middle class enclave in old Caracas, diversity was the rule (as it was in Valencia, where I spent much of my adult life), once you ventured into the suburbs, where millions lived, you might see many things but you’d rarely if EVER see a white or light-skinned campesino. Again, you might and would see plenty of people of color in the wealthy or middle class, educated urban areas, but the problems did not erupt from those places, or from the white, light-skinned minority, the vast majority of whom worked as professionals or in/close to the halls of power. While racial profiling like this might seem facile, I spent years with this demographic in slums like El Tigrito and the shitty parts of Anaco and so on (with relatives from my wive’s side), and I heard the arguments from what later became those marching point for Hugo. I also got sick of defending myself for the grievous transgressions of George Bush and past US meddling.

    The point is, a majority of Venezuelans, mostly urban, and few if any of them white or light-skinned, felt disenfranchised, for perfectly good reasons, and Chavez played right into their existential wound, one admittedly not felt so acutely if at all in the tony urban areas.

    Bottom line: Any national reconciliation will have to address these people and their existential torment – which in many cases runs generations deep – or I suspect that MUD and every other opposition party will dead end against what is rapidly becoming a political farce, managed by a bus driver miles out of his league.

    Juancho

    • Juancho,
      You indicate having experienced a wide social framework in your country of origin (where significant suasion toward conformism results in more homogeneity than in other parts of the globe), and because of your TV assignments around the world, resulting in short-term parachuting into select destinations. Yet, in spite of your apparent fluidity among different cultures and races, you weren’t able to bridge the social awkwardness you/your wife felt at a social event among higher administrative rungs in the “energy sector” in Venezuela, as per your very skimpy description of the scene.

      Driving home the point, do you think you’d feel awkward if you accompanied your wife (who was from the poorest section of East L.A.) to a function of Beverly Hills hot-shots? Or does awkwardness only pertain to certain social settings of vast differences, in Venezuela?

  20. Last stats I saw ( admitedly some time ago) showed Venezuelans to classify themselves as 55% brown ( mestizo) , 33% white ,10% negro, 2% amerindians. Except for the Andes (which has more whites than other places) and the coastal central regions ( which concentrate the blacks) , most everyone else shows mostrly some share of brown . So brown is the predominant colour among Venezuelans . Among middle classes white and brown are more common (black less so) . The thing is that what marks your social mobility isnt race but the enviornment in which you were born and brought up. This is so because society prizes the kind of character traits that mark a person who can best function in the business and professional world today and since upbringing and family milieu and education have a big influence in how you develop your character and life habits people from a backward or impovireshed background are handicapped in developing the character traits that foster their social mobility.

    For years I was witness to how people in highly techncratic organizations were selected and promoted , and I saw no prejudice in how they system allowed people of humble origins to rise to the top ladders of responsibility , rather the opposite , it was a source of sattisfaction to see how some people of very humble origins ( which sometimes included very humble origin guajiros blacks and even whites whose parents where anything but educated) rose to top positions but basically because of their talents and hard working habits and practical acumen. The company made an effort to find and recruit and educate people who whatever their social background showed that they had the personal wherewithal to rise to the top of their profesions . The big problem is that there is a new kind of poor , which are born and bred and take their social cues from highly corrupt and dysfunctional social milieus andffamily enviroments that warp the development of their personalities , people who even if offered the educational opportunities of poor people of past generations cant always take advantage of them to improve their situation .

    Of course the lives of these people isnt always very sattisfactory , they see others make it and advance and they stay behind developing grudges and resentments and are always ready to exculpate themselves from their situation by blaming those whove had better opportunities to achieve a more comfortable life style that they can ever hope to achieve , This is sad and trublesome , because they ar easy prey of hate mongers who use their resentments and frustrations . Chavez is a case in point.

    In the past the ordinary middle class didnt really participate in politics, politics was left to a class of professional pols who were for the most part inspired in lofty ideals but who didnt know hot practically to improve the lot of the most unfortunate except by giving them cushy jobs to reward their political loyalty , soft social benefits to attract their favour , and a heady discourse of how much they cared about them because they were heroes and saints and deserved the wealth of the world . While being verbally and superficially colly modled and celebrated in actual fact they were grossly neglected .

    Any new govt has to take the task of improving their lot much more effectively and seriously, but it must recognize that there are whole slaughts of them that are almost impossible to recue to become more economically competent and self supporting , who are a lost generation , they can be fed and celebrated to make them feel important but they cant really be incorporated into the kind of Venezuela that needs building .
    That being said to the extent there are misfortunates that have the personal wherewithal , the work habits , the sense of responsability for their own lives and specially for that of their children every effort should be made to give them the tools and means educational or other wise to improve their lot and become productive citizens . Not just because of their votes but because as human beings its a dreadful waste to lose their potential contributions to a better Venezuela .

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