To Recall is to Live, Winning Ugly Edition

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teleSUR English recently had the curtesy to run a hatchet job on me built around this post, from December 2013, which they didn’t have the actual courage to link to. Classy!

Reciprocity dictates that I won’t link to their half-literate ad hominem, nor in fact respond to it.

I will, however, repost the 2013 piece which, to my pleasant surprise, has aged pretty decently. (Read it through and you’ll have no trouble grasping why Hegemon Corp. quickly concluded it was not wise to link to it.)


The Post 8D Agenda: Winning Ugly
thelma-and-louise

December 9, 2013 – After yesterday’s local elections, Venezuela finds itself facing an unusual juncture: the next elections, for National Assembly, aren’t due until the second half of 2015. In a normal country that may not feel like a long time, but in a country that’s settled into a rhythm of high-stakes yearly votes, 18-24 months without an election will feel like an eternity.

To be clear, it won’t be just any 18-24 month period. It’s likely to be a time of extraordinary economic and social dislocation. Bad as inflation and scarcity have gotten this year, there are important signs suggesting that what we’ve had so far is just a little amuse-bouche, a prelude to the real macro clusterfuck.  By this time next year, Venezuelans are likely to look back on 2013 as “the good old days”, a time of (relative) economic stability.

Barring an increasingly unlikely middle-east freakout able to drive a major spike in oil prices, Venezuela looks set to enter one of those periods of acut macroeconomic instability that, as a rule, take Latin American governments down with them. And there won’t be any elections around the corner to help mediate the coñazo.

Maybe the lack of elections is a blessing in disguise, though. Elections generate irresistible pressures towards populist posturing at a time when the country is poised to experience a concentrated dose of the reductio ad absurdum outcome of uncontrolled populist posturing.

Not having an election allows us a bit of space to pose the question differently: if, as we keep saying, democracy has collapsed in Venezuela, then the institutional link connecting “what the majority thinks” with “who governs” no longer operate.

But if popular support is no longer the government’s real base, then what is its real base? How is that real base likely to react to the conditions of sharply higher inflation and much more acute shortages likely to prevail next year? And what can the opposition usefully do to establish itself as a safe harbour from the economic maelstrom that that base can safely turn to?

To me, it’s clear: chavismo’s real base is less and less in the barrios and more and more in the corridors of CADIVI and Fuerte Tiuna: a genuinely parasitary crony elite grown immensely fat on the corruption opportunities the Distortion State affords.

The criminal element – c.f., Cartel de los Soles – is an important component of this Enchufado Elite, but we shouldn’t be too hasty to conflate the making-lemonade-with-the-lemons-life-gave-me component with the outright criminal element. En esa vaina hay de todo, including a good number of one-time “respectable” people who are genuinely conflicted – trapped into a system that forces them into dealings they know don’t pass the smell-test, from the church-going businessman who knows CADIVI is rotten but can’t continue operating without playing along, to the Army Coronel who has to swallow his bile each time he arrives on base and sees the Cuban flag fluttering overhead.

In the post-democratic era, this is the backbone of the regime’s support: the people the governing clique genuinely can’t afford to alienate without placing their own privileges in peril. The real question over the next 12-24 months is how this compromised elite is likely to react to a sharply increased level of macroeconomic instability, and what the opposition can usefully do to position itself as an attractive camp to defect to.

Gradually, as chaos spreads and it becomes more and more evident that the government doesn’t have the minimal level of adaptability it takes to reverse even its most destructive policies, at least some portions of the enchufado elite are going to become more and more desperate for alternatives. Giordani’s death grip over the economic cabinet makes it hard to imagine the government taking a pragmatic turn. That to me spells a window of opportunity amid the chaos, one that the opposition better figure out a way to exploit.

For me, the road ahead is clear: the opposition should try to position itself as a safe pair of hands, the only camp able to bring a minimal acceptable level of macro order. That means speaking directly to the enchufado elite’s concerns. (I told you from the headline this is about winning ugly.) It means establishing your bona fides as having the kind of competence and capacity to effect change the government plainly lacks. And it means extending credible commitments to overlook a whole pile of shit that nobody decent would be willing to overlook…were it not for the fact that the alternative is even worse.

The opposition needs to suit up, in other words. It needs to speak directly to the people with the real power: the guys with the guns, and the guys running the roscas for whom the payoff in terms of privileges will increasingly be outweighed by the costs in terms of day-to-day chaos.

It’s just as well that this is our only option, because the opposition political leadership actually may have the means to pull it off, whereas it lacks basically everything it would need to speak to the people who matter less and less: the broad center of the Venezuelan electorate.

Watching TV stations that the opposition is barred from, listening to radio that self-censors any critical view, basically never reading, the broad electoral center could only be reached through the kind of intensive face-to-face politicking that the opposition has spent the last 14 years telling itself it needs to get serious about and never gets serious about.

And it’s not really a surprise: the oppo activist grassroots is geographically concentrated – one is tempted to say segregated – in middle class enclaves physically removed from where normal Venezuelans live. In the era of Media Hegemony, the organizational challenges to reaching these people face-to-face are daunting, though they might imaginably be overcome by throwing a lot of money at the problem. Except, of course, the government has been brilliantly effective at cutting off the opposition from those who might fund them, leaving the oppo parties chronically broke.

Let’s call a spade a spade: mass politics is a dead end for us.

It may be that the scale of macroeconomic chaos itself renders the government’s propaganda offensive (the economic war stuff) increasingly incredible even for the mass electorate, and that may add further impetus for the Enchufado Elite to look for alternatives. But that’s a process that’s likely to take place whatever the political opposition does or doesn’t do…precisely because the political opposition lacks the media access and the money it would take to communicate with that public.

Now more than ever the opposition needs the cold blood to take an unsentimental look at the regime’s real base of support. These are not nice people we are talking about. These are very nasty people. As the economy deteriorates, they’re likely to add desperation to  nastiness. Nobody can be satisfied that so much now depends on how they react to the intensification of the chaos that has already enriched them.

It will take real political skill to defuse that explosive mix, to turn it into part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent analysis, remarkably prescient, and, I hope that the increasingly untenable socio-economic situation will autonomously explode before the Oppo has to splatter themselves with Boli-Toxicity to find a solution.

  2. “As the economy deteriorates, they’re likely to add desperation to nastiness. Nobody can be satisfied that so much now depends on how they react to the intensification of the chaos that has already enriched them.”

    Desperation? You betcha. So desperate in fact that the wheels might be coming off this travelling feak show, and soon. Notice that the Chavista’s have chosen to send their very scarce foreign reserves to the evil capitalists on Wall Street (pause here for a moment), instead of allocating additional reserves for the importation of food. Store shelves are bare throughout the country and they’re shuffling scares money to Wall Street? Yup. Is this, like, for real? Does it get any more desperate/bizarre than this?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/16/us-venezuela-debt-idUSKBN0MC2HM20150316

    • The money obtained from the monetization of the gold reserves is being used to service the financial public debt falling due this first semester (about 4 billion USD) , then there are the 6.2 billion in debt payable towards the end of the second semester. Chinese debt has been in part rolled over so it is possible they will avoid default this year .but it will be done by sacrificing many essential imports the country desperately needs. Next year where more foreign debt service has to be paid is going to be a roller coaster !! . The govts popularity ratings are falling precipitously and if it scrapes bottom then they will need a big bag of tricks to keep themselves in power .!!

      • Just for the moment ponder the absurdity of it all. Were this a right-wing government, and they just announced they are cutting back on the importation of food for the poor (…!) to satisfy Wall Street bankers, what do you suppose would happen in the streets? How would the world media react? I dare say there would be an explosion of violence…

        • Final thought here: To what end? Are they expecting oil prices to dramatically increase? Er, and when? Or are they expecting new revenues to come in from having ‘fixed’ the autumn drawing of the Irish lottery? A brick wall is coming, and no one is looking up. So, they keep paying ridiculous interest charges on their bonds expecting, what, that the Wall Street bankers may lend them even more money in the future? That the plan? Really?

        • Dr Faustus, and herein lies the bottom line of the true problem which if not exposed over and over again, we will still be stuck til doomsday.

    • “Restrictions on dollars for imports have already caused shortages of basic goods including meat and olive oil, and the scarcity is weighing on the government ahead of parliamentary elections.” Really, olive oil a basic good? Who writes this shit…

      Ayer me tuve que calar a un guevon en NPR diciendo que “condemnation by even members of the opposition towards what they perceive to be internal affairs is a clear sign of the wide spread animosity most Venezuelans feel towards the United States…”

      • “…“condemnation by even members of the opposition towards what they perceive to be internal affairs is a clear sign of the wide stupidity that’s taken root on most venezuelan heads since cubans started to gnaw their brains in the 60s””

        There, fixed it for you.

  3. Very well done. You have good reason to pat yourself on the back for that one. Just one thing struck me…

    “Barring an increasingly unlikely middle-east freakout able to drive a major spike in oil prices, …”

    This time, in spite of a “middle-east freakout”, oil prices have plunged. Who knew…? That drop in oil prices has accelerated the time table.

    • I think the most interesting part about this angle is that Quico acknowledged something that not even Wall Street had priced into the sovereign bonds: the finances of the Venezuelan govt were pretty f*cked up, even before crude oil nosedived.

      The part that I think will haunt this shitty oppo for years to come…

      “For me, the road ahead is clear: the opposition should try to position itself as a safe pair of hands, the only camp able to bring a minimal acceptable level of macro order. (…) It means establishing your bona fides as having the kind of competence and capacity to effect change the government plainly lacks.”

      The reality…

      http://www.producto.com.ve/pro/sites/default/files/styles/620px_wide/public/main/articles/Campa%C3%B1a%20gasolina%202.jpg?itok=37x7oEsQ

      http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/150128/capriles-gobierno-quiere-tapar-el-hueco-fiscal-con-aumento-de-la-gasol

      • I think Capriles is just pouring salt on a sore wound. If the enemy begins to discuss a course of action they had for so long considered anathema, a profoundly symbolic course that your enemy historically associated with the failures of capitalism and of previous governments (CAP II), and if on top of that you know the course would, despite the likely political fallout, probably lead to economic breathing room, a partial respite from a crisis your enemy created and will end only when they yield power, how would you play your hand? Wouldn’t you also call them out as the hypocritical liars that they are? It’s win-win for Capriles, and more importantly for Venezuela, no matter what the government does.

  4. I think Greg Wilpert is running that from Ecuador. FT, their English content is going from bad to worse. The shills have no arguments: it’s all fallacies, spin, deflection and deception. Furthermore, the quality and quantity is the worse ever. Not a good moment for the PSFs. The biggest surprise this week has been Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept coming out. Did you read Glenn’s piece on Venezuela? You should post it here because Glenn is too high on himself and needs to come back down. Recall the movie got an Oscar and he got a new website. This is a journalist (GG) that poses as a privacy advocate and consititutional law expert. The truth is that Glenn has an anti-American agenda and is deceptive and not transparent. Glenn is is communications with the PSFs. That is very obvious to the informed and trained eye.

    • Come one… Anyone who could write, “As Weisbrot notes, every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada have united to oppose U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.” is clearly part of or in collaboration with the whole Venezuelan Media Hegemony. Glenn Greenwald makes his living by attacking the U.S. government from an extreme leftist point of view. He has farther ranging interests than Wilpert, but is certainly a “fellow traveler”, and are in close communication.

      I wonder if we will ever learn how much the regime spent on all the PSFery propaganda?

    • Kinda funny wouldn’t you say that Toro criticized Telesur for not linking to his piece… yet he didn’t link to the the Telesur piece either… You had to go search for it. Oh, isn’t it fun pointing out hypocrites?

      • Notice how Toro begins his sentence with “Reciprocity dictates”…
        Try having another crack at reading comprehension.

        • Wow, you certainly can read, but it about ends there. Providing a lame excuse for why you won’t link to it doesn’t mean you aren’t still a hypocrite.

          And, by the way, the Telesur article linked to SEVERAL of Toro’s articles and blog posts. Could you all possibly be more pathetic and idiotic?

    • As “Hatchet Jobs” go, this one was brutal. If someone had written that piece about me, I wouldn’t want to dignify it by providing a link to it either.

    • Yeah, selective linking abounds in that piece. Links to the actual article, no. Links to retraction post, yes.

      I wonder how many retractions telesur makes/prints/publishes.

    • Notice that while commenting and discussion are free here, there is no comment on the other page.

      I read this site often and admire its authors and commenters. God speed to all and I pray for Venezuela.

      Kathy Caldwell

  5. Logic doesn’t operate with criminals, that’s why they can’t stop destroying everything they touch, specially with this breed of marginal-lambucio-imbéciles that no matter how stupid and destructive are their actions, they won’t see past “how much can I stuff in my pockets before my time here runs out?”.

    The only good thing about chaburrismo is that they’ll drown in their own bile and shit, and they’ll be dead way before the rest of the country’s people who can actually figure a way of how to do stuff without becoming a fucktard criminal.

  6. A prediction: within the next five years there will be a military coup in Venezuela. It is logical: power speaks from the barrel of a gun. Maburro won´t last another 5 years and the opposition is very short on passion. So: the only other alternative is the army.

    • The army is thoroughly corrupted, hundreds of “generals” more than in the USA, all enchufadiiiisimos, new millionaires by the minute, down the ranks, almost down to the soldado raso, also enchufado from the start. They are happy

  7. “The international press could help Venezuela develop an opposition – even right wing opposition – that at least rejects that the goal of seizing power violently. All it would have to do is quit pandering to people who are still bitter that they must now win debates at home – among the Venezuelans they ignored for decades – rather than in the USA. ”

    That has got to hurt gipsies the most–couldn’t do anything in their country because they’re mediocre activists.

    • No, what really hurts is watching a regime that has destroyed the economy, degraded a free press, made a mockery of elections and separation of powers, (purposefully?) allowed violence to reach epidemic levels, made 4th Republic corruption look like child’s play, systematically uses violence and repression against dissident activists and leaders, and infuses and deploys hate as their main political asset.

    • This Telesur piece reminds me of the dozens of mediocre ‘activists’ who make exotic tropical locations the terrain for their self aggrandizing little adventures rather than engage in the difficult task of persuading their fellow citizens at home to follow their politics.

  8. Oh my goodness! teleSur is trying to take the position that the NYT is aligned against Chavismo? That is clearly one of their safer havens.

    Your post from 2013 was stunningly accurate. I’m surprised the mental giants at teleSur would want to shine a light on that post, at this time.

    One thing is clear, teleSur is a propaganda machine which spews the necessary message. No one who lives in Venezuela could believe the ideas and positions they try to put forward. Maybe that’s why the propaganda machine’s star commentator is that creepy US dork/weenie that was on oficialismo TV some days ago giving his razor sharp commentary on US/Ven govt relations, they have to get tinfoil hat wearing nut cases in order to find someone who finds their brand of KoolAid tasty. And the guy doesn’t even speak Spanish. I’m sure he’s really familiar with Venezuela and the intricacies of the political situation here.

    • Further, TeleSur recommends people “sample” the local press. Surely they would have a tough time finding anything negative about Venezuela in hegemony.com.

  9. “The money obtained from the monetization of the gold reserves is being used to service the financial public debt falling due this first semester (about 4 billion USD) , then there are the 6.2 billion in debt payable towards the end of the second semester. Chinese debt has been in part rolled over so it is possible they will avoid default this year ”

    Maybe, but how do we know that?

    What I’d like to know is how much the STEAL, in the meantime. We’ve heard that the deal with China, for instance, has been sweet.: sell’em oil with about 40% per barrel discount, 20% pa mi, y 20 ‘pa chi.
    Over the years, at say $100 per barrel, 2 million barrels a day, or whatever, how much is that in the Andorra and Swiss banks.

    And that’s only oil, only China.. not to mention the Cadivi new sweet deals for “medicine”…

    BILLIONS stolen by the minute.

    • Sledge the information on how much public debt service is payable this year is in an UBS report ( Macro Keys – Venezuela in the Direst of Dire Straits – of jan 15, 2015 . ) , the rest you dont know except you believe me and I beleive the people who told it to me . Up to you .

      I dont know that the Chinese are buying at a discount , what I know is that the money from oil sales goes direct to a Chinese bank where its held for a time until part of it ( some 40%-50% ) is returned to Pdvsa . The witheld money is partially used to pay the money the govt owes China in a particular period and partially as a guarantee deposit so that if the money coming in isnt enough to pay the debt the Chinese can use it to cancell the amount owed. Understand the Chinese have recently extended the payment period somewhat and perhaps reduced the amount which has to be witheld in guarantee to ease the cash flow going to Pdvsa.

      Dont know that there is any hanky panky involved in the Chinese deal , I think that some bloggers know more about this than I do. There are aspects to the deal which comercially are not favourable for Venezuela or which perhaps allow the Chinese advantages in how they profit from them but cant say I know that such asects involve any act of corruption.

      That having been said there is an enormous amount of corruption going on in Pdvsa in almost every line of activity it engages in , sometimes there are internal efforts to put a stop to it , but the powers that be dont always allow such corruption to be stopped or punished .

      Not everyone is corrupt nor happy with the corruption , but the guys who control things are either deeply steeped in corruption or tolerant of it ( so as not to embarrass the regime) .

      • Thanks for the info. It’s hard to exaggerate when talking about Venezuelan corruption. Now it’s at every level of society, from the military soldier to it’s hundreds of generals, to all levels of “private” enterprise, syndicates, and of course the putrid government. That plus the necessary give-aways to calm the poor masses, smaller enchufados everywhere, on phantom payrolls, getting free apartments or electricity or land or medical care, also corrupted of course with the Cubans, freebies everywhere, which is why 20% or so still support Chavismo.

        Historically, perhaps only in Iraq or Lybia have human being EVER stolen so much.

        And what people sometimes fail to see is that this lack of moral fortitude and moral values are directly correlated to our pervasive lack of education. (What I shall repeat verywhere over and over). The uneducated are easily tempted to steal when riches abound, even more than the educated; it becomes viral, at every level, contagious, unstoppable. Since lack of education also leads to professional Ineptitude, in doing business and politics, there are no control systems or any transparency or even Justice. No separation of powers, virtual anarchy, dictatorship, disaster = Vzla.

        Yeah, anout the Chinese, I’ve heard in many places, that the oil deal had been sweet. The Chinese are also highly corrupted (didn’t learn from the Ming dynasty, apparently), check it out:

        http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Increasingly-Desperate-Venezuela-Makes-Oil-for-Cash-Deal-With-China.html

  10. The Telesur commentary was just ugly. The country is facing a potential disaster of unprecedented proportions and here we have the Venezuelan people continuing to pay for acts of psf self stimulation. Depressing.

  11. One thing about corruption is that people tend to think that corruption is a high or middle class phenomenon but that the poor are largely exempt from it . Thats not the case at all . The poor are as drawn to corruption as any other social segment if not more. The sentimental tendency to idealize the less fortunate and represent them as goody goody victims , always noble and honest was bred into us by watching too many Cantinflas movies. The reality is that the poorest relish in corruption and always have.!!

    Much of the political corruption during the 4th Republic flowed through the less fortunate through the political patronage webs . Corrupt union leaders and members were allowed to engage in corrupt practices to share in the spoils of governent . There were 10.000 plus reposeros in the Instituto Nacional de Puertos who were paid for showing up on pay day. The poor fisherman in lake maracaibo were filmed throwing oil into the lake to be able to claim indemnifications from Pdvsa for ‘ruining’ their fishing , In cantv and other public companies they were allowed when working on a job to practically stop all work until the schedule allowed them to charge overtime .!! Even now if you work in a supermarket or even in a factory you are allowed to pilfer the products to sell throrugh street vendors or intermediaries for many times their regular price. (and woe to the employer that dares complain) . You can stay home loafing and cause the work process to slow to a crawl but no one can fire you. These are all acts of corruption !! The main victims of barrio crime are not people in the middle class but other barrio neighbors .!!

    There was a film on the life of Mexico Citys poor made by Bunuel ,a famous left wing but honest filmaker , he portrayed Mexicos poor as cruel and corrupt , he was assaulted by the mexican media and revolutionary glitterati , they liked cantinflas portrait better , he was barely able to exhibit the film , years later a documentary was made of hit life and in it he was asked about the film , he said some words which struck in my memory , he said that poverty corrupted the poor as much as wealth corrupted the better off classes except that the latter had the means so that some of them could scape the corruption ”

    All men are naturally venal , both the worse off and the better off , righteously vilifying venality on moral or ideological grounds doesnt alter this basic human universal . If you teach people self control and create a system where things are sufficiently orderly and functionally organized predatory venality can be controlled and minimized . But it will always be there . You can control or contain the damage but not do away with the instinct . The ancient roman pols used bread and circus to corrupt the roman people , the formula is still the same , only that the means of corruption have changed . Chavez made a big show of fighting corruption and there has never been a more corrupt regime in the countrys history than the one he founded !!

    • “One thing about corruption is that people tend to think that corruption is a high or middle class phenomenon but that the poor are largely exempt from it . Thats not the case at all . The poor are as drawn to corruption as any other social segment if not more. ”

      Which is one of the reasons I keep reiterating the infallible equation..

      Lack of Education = Ignorance = > Ineptitude and Corruption = Vzla.

  12. During the 4th Republic oil money allowed both the middle class and the less well off to be corrupted with gifties and subsidies and free loans and make believe jobs etc through an extensive but effective patronage system .

    When the oil prices fell the maintenance of the patronage system became economically unsustainable , CAP realized this and tried to wean the country away from its patronage and populist habits but everyone turned against him in anger and ultimately deposed him . The resentment caused by the bankrupcy of the patronage system made everyone turn agains the stablished pols and this opened the door for the narcicistic messianic demagoguery of Chavez to garnish untold political capital feeding on the resulting resentments .

    The poor were not excluded , they were included throught the benefits of the patronage system which after the oil prices rose Chavez was able to restart and increase with much more disorder and corruption than before leading to the crisis we now face .

    This explanation of what happened to Venezuela during the 90’s was suggested to me by an American professor teaching in la Universidad de Oriente . He appeared to be a moderate Chavez sympathyser , but very realistic in his analysis of Venezuelan conditions .!!

  13. “Patronage” , what a beautiful, medieval French word for populist corruption, with St Chavez as the former Patron protector of the poor enchufados.. Of course widespread “patronage” is unsustainable, even CAP realized that.

    To maintain a corrupted system, only the Elite can steal large amounts, can give Freebies to everyone. The Romans knew that, for example. But you must also do something for the poor while stealing a lot and living life like Semi-Gods.. You make sure the poor have jobs, that they are protected and well-fed, and also entertained. They always talk about the Bread and Circus method, but Romans gave running water, a novelty in those days and even hot/warm public baths for their populaces! They built roads, and cities, they kept farming.. while stealing a lot, sure, but only the Elite minorities and the armies, to a lesser extent.

    BTW, apparently se acabo el Trigo in Vzla, there may be no more BREAD in 2 weeks! Talk about a Real Revolution, The French one, that’s exactly what led the people to the Bastille, 1789. Se les acabo la harina pan.. for their baguettes.. Good thing Chavez prepared Maduro to use Yuca instead (famous cadena) casabe with coffee for breakfast.

  14. In Venezuela the parasite elite is formed by the bigwigs of the Chavista regime and the boliburgueses , they steal or waste or mispend all PUBLIC RESOURCES plus what they steal or confiscate from the work of the middle class to enrich themselves , bribe their followers (domestic and foreign) and pay tribute to their Cuban masters, plus they borrow what they cant pay or can barely pay by rationing the imported goods which the people need to meet their basic needs .

    In contrast to the Romans they build nothing , destroy all they get their hands on and then spend time in sessions of histrionic blustering self adoration and the vituperation of those they want to blame for their crimes. Their narcicism and self conceit and hate mongering and puerile playacting is something which can only be borne by the strongest stomachs . They are the masters of Puke .

    If free elections where held today they know that they would lose them by a factor of two to one so they have to carry out persecutions and wholesale human right abuses silencing all independent media to try and convince themselves that they still represent a winnable alternative . the elections are no longer being decided by bouts of rethorical fireworlks but on the queues which dot the landscape , waiting for goods which disspear from one moment to the next. !!

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