Pax Chavista

Chavismo really is committed to peace. It's just that when they say peace, they mean the state that results when we shut up and let them do what they want.


Every campaign has its iconic moments – pictures, or events that shape the way we remember it. The 2012 campaign had a mortally ill Chávez in the rain, days before winning the election. The 2013 regional election had Clotilde Palomino and the Dakazo. And in this campaign season, one of the enduring moments will surely be this one.


The video shows Nicolás Maduro, in full goodfella mode, making the case that the opposition “better pray” that the government wins because if they don’t they will go out into the streets, had me thinking about the how each side views the concept of peace.

When I was young in Maracaibo, I used to walk everywhere. I would walk to the mall to buy used books, and I would take carritos por puesto to go to the movies. At night. When I was fifteen. With my buddies.

Yes, laddies, it was a different time. Venezuela was, in the 1980s, at peace.

Sure, there were muggings and robberies, but nothing was too bad that prevented me from hitting the streets when I needed to.

I think we could all agree this is what peace is about – the ability to walk around unencumbered without the constant threat of violent crime. Peace is inextricably linked with that sort of freedom.

But chavistas view peace differently.

We’ve heard it time and again – the only way to ensure peace is “if the Revolution is in power.”

Peace for chavismo is when we shut up and sit down. Peace means letting them run roughshod with the country without complaining. Why mess with peace by doing something as stupid as wanting a change in government?

It reminds me of Raúl’s old story of the soldier and the sifrina lady.

One time, a rich squalid lady from Caracas’ East End rabidly approached a soldier and asked him “how is it possible that you support this rrrrrégimen?”

The soldier looked at her quizzically, and said “well, lady, now we have freedom.”

“What?!” The lady was almost apoplectic. “How can you say that? Don’t you know that this regime is in cahoots with the Cubans? That there cannot be freedom when we are being led into communism?”

The soldier looked at her with a blank stare. “Well, see, for example,” he said, “before we couldn’t pee on the side of the road or In the sidewalk, because somebody would say something. Now … well … now we pee whenever we want. See? More freedom.”

Just like the soldier and the lady do not share the same notion of freedom, both sides in our political divide do not share the same idea of peace.

For chavismo, peace is what happens when the country they have kidnapped shuts the hell up. Leave them be, and nobody gets hurt. See? Peace.

A lot has been said lately about how a defeated chavismo will react tomorrow night. Almost everyone concurs that some form of negotiation will happen. Aunque claro, Quico anda en otro peo.

But before the winners and the vanquished begin negotiating this or that, we might as well sit down and come to a consensus on some of the more basic things.

What is peace?

Unless chavismo comes to term with the fact that their notion of peace is wrong, it will all be useless. Unless we talk them down from this lunatic position that sees dissent as a threat to peace, no agreement will last. We will go from one majority to the next, flipping and flailing away, with no stability whatsoever.

And that will certainly be bad for peace – both our concept, and theirs.