The Counterrevolutionary Potential of the Video Selfie

The most interesting experiment in subverting the Communicational Hegemony in Venezuela today is Henrique Capriles's video selfie campaign. Yes, really.


If you have Facebook, odds are you have seen this video. It shows Yuraima Rondón, a working-class woman with a Chávez signature tattooed on her arm, showing the middle finger to the Maduro government. This is not your usual self-serving, loyally deranged, Aporrea-type rant. Behind the camera is none other than Mr. Henrique Capriles himself, putative leader of the Opposition and selfie pro. Filmed about two weeks ago, it’s his most popular online video to date: 2.2 million views and counting.

Why is the video so successful? Apart from the picturesque quality of a middle-finger to Maduro protruding from the very forearm of a Chávez tatoo, the opposition Yuraima embodies is refreshing. She’s no stiff Prados-del-Este type, no self-serving Caraqueño pundit, but pueblo — and pueblo chavista at that. And even though Capriles is no protagonist, prone as always to gaffes and lost threads of thought, his presence in the video says enough. He is with el pueblo, deep in Barlovento and Chirimena and Cúa, arm-to-arm with the intimacy of a selfie.  

As you can tell from this other video, selfies have a peculiar authenticity. Just compare them for a second to a staged political ad, fake smiles and all. The limited extension of the arm from which they are filmed usually forces the cast to get close together, as is the case with this family in Chirimena. There is no film crew, no script, no formality. It’s all live, spontaneous, candid. Capriles finds himself in this house in the first place because he had to use the bathroom. There’s plenty of banter, the conversation feels honest.

When at minute 3:37 Capriles tells Pedro:

It is for el pueblo… What I do I do not for any political colour. We have talked before and you know I also work for the pueblo follower of Chávez. I also work for them. That is why, when I ran against Maduro, almost a million Venezuelans who before had voted for Chávez then voted for me. Many people know me and they know I work pa’ tol’ mundo.

he drives the point home powerfully.

Another reason these videos have gone viral is, of course, that they feed off from social media. Capriles doesn’t hide that this is his goal, telling Pedro’s grandchildren to look for their video on féijbu. For, surely — who doesn’t have Facebook these days? By moving the focus of his online campaign from Twitter to Facebook, which is of much wider use in Venezuela, Capriles has hit the jackpot.

Here’s another. Filmed a day after the one with Yuraima, it refers back to it (while mentioning the triquiñuelas of the 6D voting card) with this wonderful slogan: “el seis de diciembre, usted le pinta la paloma, pero busca la manito”. It is set in a small-business in Cúa amidst the women –each more coqueteshly echanted than the next of being filmed by Capriles– in charge of its running. Here’s the knack: the lead female repeatedly addresses the viewer. And in this instance the viewer is not the Maduro government , but us the audience. She tells us to bet on change, to not fall for the electoral trap of the sudden raise in the minimum wage, to be united, and so on, all the while somehow thinking that we, the future viewers of the video, will, like herself, be del pueblo: “A strategic raise, pueblo… This is the way, this is the solution, pueblo…”. For a sifrino like myself saying something like that would be awkward, but you get my point.

What makes these videos enthralling is that the people being filmed are communicating with a voice that has only just been given to them. The voice of grassroots protest coming at last from the organized medium of the Opposition. JulioCoco famously quipped about the failure of #LaSalida that “we could not take on some outsiders’ protest”. Now, we are not only sharing this protest, but also voicing it in selfie form. By making it public, we make take ownership of it.

These videos are all the more potent for two reasons. Not only do they breach the total media blackout the Opposition in general and Capriles in particular face, but also they dislocate the myth that Opposition types are but oddities in the barrio. Even those that only flicker for a second in front of the camera seem, through their complacent smiles, to want change; all working-class but stemming from different Mirandino towns, each tell the same story. They are fed up with the government and Capriles is at home in their dwellings.

What’s more, they are not afraid of saying it all in public.

This matters. However much the opposition’s bloviators go on about how we lack a ‘historical narrative’ or ‘intellectual dimension’ with which to face ‘Bolivarianism’ –whatever that is– truth is what we have truly lacked all these years is a certain ‘touch’ with the grassroots.

Our country, doomed with clientelism and demagoguery (as exemplified by Yuraima’s fixation of getting her car back) often associates socioeconomic background with culture, and assumes the populist falsehood that only people of the same background can overcome the same burden of injustice.

Throughout the sixteen years of Chavismo, this claim to cultural fellowship has been their most powerful monopoly. It is now clear that monopoly is crumbling. Turns out even our awkward Capriles can deliver good jokes with punch-lines that land, that he is culturally (if not socioeconomically) in his element in such a setting. And more — that he’s actually welcomed there.

These selfie-videos ultimately disprove the idea, held by chavistas (through distrust) and by us (through embarrassment) that we, the opposition, are altogether too awkward, too culturally foreign, too socioeconomically detached, to strike a convincing populist tone. To be ordinary, that is, and celebrated. And this, believe me, is not only good news for the 6D elections. It is encouraging in a much deeper sense of Venezuelanhood.

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M.A. in Economics from the University of Edinburgh. Madrid based. Wealth management, roots in banking and microfinance. Voracious reader of Classics, specially the Russians, and History. Caraqueño and Caraquista, inescapably a lover of Salsa, wheat talk and Rum. Fascinated by South America's indigestion of modernity, owes his political understanding mostly to Octavio Paz, Ivan Karamazov and dad.


  1. Great post, Andrés!

    I see you’re very interested in the role of technology in politics and how emerging media is able to effect social change: you should read Hacktivismo, by Santiago Siri, an Argentinian political activist, alumnus of Y Combinator (la crème de la crème of Silicon Valley accelerators), founder of Partido de la Red and Democracy OS. I really want to discuss this topic with many people, so let me know if you do read it.

  2. Hey, Andrés. It’s Marco, one of your 2009 classmates from your school. Just wanted to commend you for finally writing your first piece on CC. I too share your viewpoint in how modern technology and social media are helping break barriers imposed by governments and elites, and this is a great example of it. And as for Capriles, I still don’t get how so many people dislike him. He’s not perfect, don’t get me wrong, but for sure, out of all the major politicians in Venezuela, this including both chavistas and opposition, he’s the one who seems to be the most in touch with the people and who isn’t afraid to approach anybody no matter their political leaning or background.

    • Nobody denies that he works hard but he wimped after after the presidential elections when there was a real window for change.

      Many people, myself included, think that his religious fanatism is blocking his ability to lead in situations that require bolas.

  3. Excellent post! I would add that the feeling of cultural fellowship you mention is something Capriles trained for. He developed it over years of practice. He didn’t talk like this (hint: he knows what’s the proper way to pronounce “facebook”) back when he was the new mayor of Baruta. This is his strategy. And it’s not a bad one.

    • Excelent post! Also I see what he did there, but I’m still struggling: isn’t his persona a bit patronising? As if the *only* way he can connect with el pueblo is by changing his demeanor entirely. Genuine question here.

      • I think he’s become that persona already. Probably he even talks to his parents in that tone.

        So yes, that is the way he found to connect with el pueblo, according to his personality needs. He metamorphosed for that very purpose. That is not to say every Oppo politician has to do so, it’s just what made it for him.

        • You are waaaaay off in this one, believe me, He knows darn well how to talk to whom.
          I can tell you are not a fan of Capriles but his strategy is soooooo good that even you had to admit it was a good one.
          He’s found a way to connect with “el pueblo” that goes way beyond “talking the talk or walking the walk”, a connection you wouldn’t understand because you don’t have it within you.

      • I agree it’s patronizing. But I think it’s also necessary. I don’t know that it’s the *only* way to connect with the masses, but it’s certainly a way that has proven effective many times in the past. Maybe if Capriles were a great orator, or had some great capital of charisma (a Renny Ottolina type), or was a religious leader, or something like that, he could afford to stay away from this theatricality. But as it stands, that’s all he has. And I dare say that’s all any of the current opposition prominent figures can hope for.

        I’m sure of one thing: a “tell it like it is” approach to political discourse will get the opposition nowhere. You can’t expect people (regardless of socioeconomic status, btw) to understand and accept why it is that gasoline subsidies actually hurt them, or that devaluation is necessary. The indoctrination of decades doesn’t go away with a few brutally honest speeches.

  4. Capriles has been doing this sort of thing for a while. Whether it pays results on 6D, we shall see. I do want to point out that however chavista Miranda outside the municipalities of eastern Caracas; pro-opposition people have always lived there as a minority. And however small that minority is, it’s still there. Opposition supporters are not only found in wealthy neighborhoods.

  5. I like what Capriles is doing there, powerful torpedo to eh chavista myth!

    However, it comes to show the limited distribution any messaging against the regime has been allowed to have in the times of the chavista media hegemony.

    the regime has been uber strategic in its advance, first corrupting the military starting with plan bolivar 2000, fast forward to sukoi fest 2015! , second by tinkering with fair elections, and following with the media hegemon, conatel control and colectivo violence.

    What I am trying to say, is that its a chess game, and the democratic and nationalistic forces are facing a well placed board for strategically placed pieces ready to keep their game alive. We, on the other hand seem not to be looking more that one move ahead.

    It will take much more than cute selfie videos and periscope speeches to gain an upper hand in this match.

    • To continue the pleasant and deceiving analogy just for the joy of it: I think they are playing a tactical game as opposed to, as you said, a strategic/positional one.

      We were playing the Spanish and we allowed the Marshall Attack. That is, us being White gave them a free tempo for a pawn. We had the natural advantage (the lastest Datánalisis poll, say) but the board is now set for them to try throw us everything plus the kitchen sink to mate us. Maybe this new campaigning strategy is like one of those prophylactic moves that are needed in such positions. And maybe, just maybe, they will sacrifice everything and in the end the combination will turn out to be flawed. Just like this: (Marshall-Casablanca 1918).

      • …The Russians also play! we would be damned to stop trying and giving up. agreed.

        I keep hoping for that black swan event, or in your analogy, a brilliant defense move a la Capablanca) that is able to dismantle such an all out attack.

  6. Esta muy bueno el artículo pero me hace ruido la cantidad de venezolanismos que tiene, todo esta en una especie de spanglish criollo. Pareciera que el target son venezolanos que hablan inglés, más reducido imposible. Si quisiera mandarle este artículo a un amigo que sólo habla inglés no entendería todo.

    • I agree. The Venezuelan English thing also appears in many other posts.
      It is like: “we just want to look at our navels. We are part of a very exclusive group”.

      And I really feel sick every time people here mention they are sifrinos, as if that were a relevant thing. They are really proud of it even if they don’t pretend to: “sifrinos pero cercanos al pueblo”.
      It is not about being proud or ashamed. Who cares?

      • In this article it might be relevant though…

        I refer to the awkwardness of sifrino-ridden political campaigning in the opposition all throughout. It is not about pride or shame — just a rhetorical device, dear Kepler.

    • De acuerdo contigo, no solo por los Venezolanismos, sino que esta claro que el autor del articulo piensa en espanol y luego traduce al ingles, por lo tanto al leerlo esta mal redactado con frases como estas que jamas le he escuchado a una persona de habla inglesa: “he drives the point home powerfully”…. “even our awkward Capriles can deliver good jokes with punch-lines that land” …

  7. What did she mean by “perdí mi carro y todaví no me han dado cuenta”?
    She lost her car how?
    If I lose a car here, in Europe, the only way the government is going to give me one back – or the money for that – is if it was responsible for its loss, be it because the mayor destroyed it or some governmental agency was responsible for its loss.

    In the former Soviet Union you could get a car if you were a high level apparatchik or artist or the like or you had to wait a lot of years for your car, if at all.

      • Definitely. The State is us. If we are to give her money for the car, we need to take that money from the salaries of teachers for a lot of children or basic medicines for the elderly in public hospitals. How mental is that?
        And no one in Venezuela has the cojones to discuss this and people have been saying since about 2004 that we might discuss about that “after the elections”.

        • Well, as you can see, she has a Chávez tattoo on her arm. And she doesn’t seem to regret the tattoo, or the fact that she voted for him, so that should answer why her mentality is like that.

      • Precisely. But what does stupid Populism feed on, where does it get its fuel?

        Corruption y la ignorancia del pueblo. If you don’t fix the latter first, as Simonsito Bolival, el pelucon boliburgues sifrino mayor said, they are screwed and will continue to screw themselves for decades. Mud or no Mud.

    • “What did she mean by “perdí mi carro y todaví no me han dado cuenta”?”

      It means that the revolution knocked at her door, Kepler.

      In Venezuela, everybody’s chavista until the revolution comes for them.

      She still tries to defend her false god, skillfully denying any relation of the “loss” of her car with the two only choices in that matter: Either she got it stolen, probably at gunpoint by the same choros that shiabbe used to hold as “holy defenders of the poor”; or it doesn’t work anymore because she couldn’t afford the repairs and spare parts for it, thanks again to the brilliant policies devised by the sharp vivo himself, shiabbe.

      Now, if she told “the revolution was a hoax, I gave shiabbe my vote and he BETRAYED US, as well as his “son” maduro is doing it now…”, well, that would’ve sounded quite more convincing there…

  8. Why on earth does she depend on the state, aka the major, to fix her car? That’s what we need to change or we are for ever going to be just medios para los fines de quien sea que este en el poder – Capriles included.

  9. Capriles has done a remarkable job of transcending the limitations of where he comes from. Having to rely on the goodwill (and bathrooms) of strangers can be an important step along that road.

  10. I don’t understand I always thought that Capriles never really focused exclusively on the middle or upper class sectors. It has always seemed to me that he was always willing to walk among the pueblo. Thing is that these poor schmuck are finally reaping what they’ve sowed with blindly, idiotically and superficially supporting these red devils. The government has always capitalized on the poor’s lack of foresight and general ignorance. But now even a blustering fool knows that if the status quo carries on he’ll die of starvation before new years.

  11. The difference between Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez is Harvard. But Venezuelans still love Chavez and Capriles. They think Cuba is amazing. Coz they’re so smart and alfabrutisados.

    • The difference between Lopez and Capriles starts with an H all right, but it is not Harvard it is HEART, Lopez is only focused on Himself and his political agenda, he just wants to be president no matter what, whereas Capriles wants the well being of the people of his country, even it that means he has to set aside his personal life.

  12. Capriles has been excoriated for being Jewish (sort of), for being elitist, a tax attorney, a poofta, a this and a that but in most every clip I see of the man he’s embedded right in the pueblo, and seems just as home with the bereft as with heads of state. Abe Lincoln? Probably not, but I’d say the difference between Capriles and LL is not Harvard but the dust on Henrique’s shoes. Then again, we might see a different Lopez if and when he gets outta goal. That much alone time changes men.

    Social media has, indeed, changed the landscape forever. Great read.


      • “LL’s never talked to the people” and “LL’s a backstabber…”

        Geez, with friends like these…

        It never ceases to surprise me how easy people in Venezuela tends to bash some folks just because some stupid artificial prejudice like “being sifrino”.

  13. Yes its quite true , in a disfunctional democracy ‘one must stoop to conquer’, there are so many substantive issues that should be the object of public debate , and yet political figures must play to the idiocies and conceits of the most populous ignorant to stay in the game !! popular passions and delusions must lovingly be catered to , one must become folksy and flippant to gain the electoral traction on which political popularity feeds !!

    We are talking about how well the game is being played (and yes it being played with laudable adeptness) but dont discuss how corrupt and misguided the whole game is !!

    • Seriously, the pueblo in general has become a liability to progress instead of being an asset. Instead of being the working class engine which impulses the country into an age of industrial and agricultural development they’ve become the catalyst in which this wrenched populism grows and where the plague of thugs and criminals thrive and breed without discouragement.

  14. This is the “I am chavista, but not madurista” idiotic rant all over again, which “secretly” means “I know I helped to fuck up the country by supporting a megalomaniacal tyrant who dismembered Venezuela, but I will never admit that in public, so I’ll instead blame somebody else, just like that swindler that made an imbecile of me did all the time…”

    Though it’ll help excise chavismo from power in time, it won’t guarantee that it gets completely cut and banned from power, as they are trying to keep the “godhead holy symbol” shiabbe.

    People tend to enjoy the dictatorship until they get the pointy end of the stick.


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