Venezuela’s 2016 Memoria y Cuenta (our tropical State of the Union) address has just finished.
It was followed – and overshadowed – by an unprecedented, electrifying 35-minute long, point-by-point rebuttal, in cadena nacional, by Henry Ramos Allup, the opposition president of the National Assembly:
Watching Ramos Allup’s remarkable performance by an affable, assured, somewhat cranky but enormously experienced Henry Ramos Allup, all I could think of was this clip:
9:00 Henry Ramos Allup closes the session
8:58 “If you want dialogue, I can guarantee you will get plenty of dialogue here.” HRA
8:56 We have an atavism, a terrible history in Venezuela and Latin America over the participation of military men in politics.
8:55 Ramos Allup now lecturing the government on what the constitution says about the role of the military. #OMG
8:53 Ramos Allup dice “no me voy a encadenar”…en cadena nacional!
8:50 “Dialogue is news here because it’s so exceptional. I assure you, Mr. President, that if we did this more often it wouldn’t be news, it would be routine.” Ramos Allup then praises the appointment of Aristóbulo Istúriz.
8:49 Ramos Allup: Of course there was a ton of “punishment vote”, because you guys did a bad job. If you’d done a good job, we wouldn’t have benefited from people thinking you did a bad job!
8:48 This is not a speech Julio Borges could have given.
8:47 “Sucumbir a la tentación de tener cada vez más bolívares con los mismos dólares equivale a tener bolívares de menor valor…” Drop mic.
8:44 This is a point-by-point rebuttal. Real time. Live. On the floor of the National Assembly. Nikki Haley, eat your heart out.
8:42 Ramos Allup: “Let’s put our feet on the ground and try to solve this big problem the country is in.”
8:40 “The price of the dollar isn’t fixed by a webpage, it’s fixed by the market.”
8:39 Ramos Allup “start getting used to the idea that the image of public men is subject to discussion.”
8:38 Look, Henry Ramos Allup has given better speeches than this one. Still, people tuned in to VTV right now are watching people debating with the president one-to-one, in a civil tone. That’s huge.
8:36 Politics is back, baby. #RamosAlluping
8:35 Ramos Allup going directly after chavista propaganda shibboleths. #Electrifying
8:33 I have a feeling the only thing people are going to remember from tonight is this impromptu little speech at the end. Chúpatela, hegemonía.
8:32 Ramos Allup is still harping on the Bolívar portraits! #LetItGoHenry
8:30 “Mr. President, we’ve been living for 17 years with this government and for the first time somebody calls for dialogue. The economic outcomes have gotten only worse because the model is wrong. If there is a sincere call for dialogue, of course, we want that, who could want for lines, insecurity to continue?”
“If you don’t want to listen, you may as well block your ears or leave the room, because I will say what I am going to say.”
8:29 Henry Ramos Allup hijacks the Cadena Nacional. I’m lovin’ it.
8:28 Ramos Allup notes how hard it was to get to this speech. “May no one get it wrong, we are now an autonomous constitutional power that will debate, will legislate and will oversee.”
8:26 Now Henry Ramos Allup…on Cadena Nacional (!) calls his speech “somewhat heterodox” and “with the same discursive style as President Chávez.” PSUV deputies cheer, taking that for some sort of complement.
8:24 And after a final little run of North Korean style slogan chanting, that baffling ordeal of a speech is done.
8:23 Did Maduro just cite a poet saying “a hero is he who resists while others hand themselves” in to honor the heroe del museo militar?
8:18 Thanks Táchira State governor Vielma Mora for helping him “combat the thousand demons coming from Colombia…” #Trumping
8:17 We’re officially bored here…
8:15 Maduro now actually citing the border closing with Colombia as a revolutionary triumph. #TorturaChinaChronicles
8:09 In a way a speech like this clarifies why a guy like Chávez would’ve tapped a guy like Maduro to succeed him. The two are the same, in a lot of ways. They share a basic inability to grasp the world through anything but the most constrictive of ideological blinders, a basic propensity for circular conspiracy theorizing, a basic inability to look outside their own certainties. In a way, they’re the same. It makes some sense.
8:04 Maduro now actually talking about Utopia. And not blushing, somehow.
7:59 Suddenly, he’s shocked, shocked about the distortions that “have arisen” – notice the sneaky use of the passive voice, it’s like they just dropped from the sky.
7:57 Maduro announces a plan to raise the price of gas. First good idea we’ve heard all night.
7:53 OK, we’re at the very end of my patience here. In a way, it’s sad. It’s clear Maduro will go to his grave never having pieced together how muched he’s damaged his country.
7:41 Maduro hands the Economic Emergency Decree to Henry Ramos Allup. His pitch is self-refuting. You can’t spend two-and-a-half hours demonstrating utter economic incompetence and illiteracy and then turn around and demand extra power to run the economy.
7:21 Maduro says he’s the only thing keeping Latin America from becoming Africa. #SeLoDijoUnPajarito
7:07 Maduro cites Evo Morales, among others, in the context of claiming there’s a giant conspiracy against him. Odd how there’s no economic war against Bolivia, and coincidentally its macroeconomy happens to be decently run. #SospechosoEso
7:05 Maduro quoting Lawrence Eagleburger (!!) to back his Economic War conspiracy theorizing…lindo.
7:03 “A veces nos ponemos repetitivos…” ¿Me lo dices o me lo cuentas?
7:02 Today’s BCV report blamed 60% of inflation on @DolarToday. Maduro just made that 70%. Both numbers are – what’s the polite word? – insane.
6:59 The problem really is that conspiracy theorizing is always circular: for Maduro the proof of how well he’s doing is how awful everything is, because it proves how desperate the right is to attack him. #SiSeguimosVenciendoAsiNosMorimosDeHambre
6:57 We’re back to Serranomics. A parallel reality where Maduro is the victim of the economic catastrophe he’s caused. #CultDeprogrammingPlease
6:55 After a break talking about oil and gas projects, we’re back to the non-conventional warfare stuff. I’m serious, I think he really buys this stuff. Nobody’s that good an actor. #OneTrackMind
6:50 I also want to live in that wonderful country Maduro is describing!
De acuerdo con ENCOVI, la pobreza estructural ha aumentado de 21% a 29% entre 2014 y 2015.
— Marino J. González (@marinojgonzalez) January 15, 2016
6:46 Citing Eva Perón, “where there’s a need, a right is born.” #PopulismInEightWords
6:45 VTV now running some sort of Propaganda Video on one side of a splitscreen during the MyC. #ThisIsWhyTheyKeptIndpendentJournosOut
6:40 Maduro continues to boast about his administration’s success in homebuilding just a few hours after the Central Bank announced a 20% year-on-year contraction in Construction Sector GDP. #AhOK
6:37 “Venezuela has 5% poverty, it isn’t easy to say this.” (Likely because it’s an insane lie.)
6:35 “You guys have the Metropolitan Mayor’s office and you’ve never built a single house! You’ll have to topple me to approve a privatization law!” This is a great issue for the opposition, they sound like total lunatics.
6:25 Maduro to the opposition deuputies “You guys get overconfident and then April 13th comes, con todo cariño se los digo [subtext: que los voy a joder]”
6:23 Maduro tiene la maquinita de imprimir billetes trabajando 24/7. A eso es a lo que llama “política anticíclica.”
6:20 Maduro sees wages rising. The country understands the real meaning of this slide: hyperinflation.
6:17 Maduro alludes to the “catastrophic numbers” BCV published today and manages to somehow brag about how well the revolution has handled them.
6:16 As 76% of Venezuelans fall into poverty, Maduro wastes everyone’s time with nominal minimum wage charts.
6:13 When you hear him talk about the economy you realize Maduro really does think of himself as a victim of the economic crisis, rather than its author. What the guy needs is cult deprogramming.
6:10 Maduro says the bourgeoisie has launched an investment strike in Venezuela. #WhoIsJuanGalt?
6:07 Serranomics Section here.
6:06 Conspiracy thinking, blame shifting, rinse, lather, repeat. #RhetoricMaduroStyle
6:05 Maduro argues the collapse of oil prices is the outcome of a massive international conspiracy to undermine OPEC.
5:59 Maybe I’m naïve but you know what, I think Maduro genuinely does believe this Economic War stuff. He’s that limited.
5:57 Maduro says he’s willing to talk about this or any other topic needed for the peace of the nation. #ThatsNew
5:54 Nicolás Maduro talking restorative justice and proposing a National Commission for Justice, Truth and Peace following the 2014 violence, in place of an Amnesty Law “where the culprits pardon the culprits”. We’re through the looking glass here, people.
5:51 So far, so boilerplate. Now trying to perpetuate the myth of 2014…Zzzzzzzz…
5:43 Rare crowd shot of opposition deputies looking non-plussed.
5:41 Henry Ramos Allup entirely impassive as Maduro hands him a gift on the greatness of Bolívar. #NeverPlayPokerWithThatGuy
5:39 “Simón Bolívar, sacred meeting place for Venezuelans” says Maduro, obviating the basic point of chavismo’s outrageous appropriation of his memory for partisan purposes.
5:38 Maduro again complains about the treatment of the pictures of Chávez and the new-style Bolívar portrait. State TV has this whole focus-only-on-the-PSUV-side-of-the-aisle thing down pat.
5:35 “What do we want in 2016? For peace to drape over us all or violence that could take us no one knows where?” #Apocalypsing
5:33 “I met Deputy Ramos Allup right here in 1998…”
5:30 Maduro now pissing on me personally, “many people wrote that there wouldn’t be elections.” #EnoughIApologizedYa!
5:28 “La oposición a la revolución bolivariana ha conquistado una mayoría que hoy ejerce.” Stunning that it feels like a victory to wrangle a statement of the obvious out of the guy.
5:26 OK, the
insultfest speech is about to get going.
5:25 Susana Barreiro in da house
5:22 Nicolás Maduro cannot bring himself to say “Bloque de la Unidad.”
5:20 Henry Ramos Allup telling Nicolás Maduro what he can and can’t do. The one bit of relief we’re likely to get tonight.
5:19 PSUV doing its best to make it all feel like a business-as-usual authoritarian state of the union.
5:17 State TV’s marching orders are clear enough: tight shots showing PSUV deputies only. An absolute Orwellian disgrace.
5:13 Henry Ramos sends Julio Borges, Freddy Guevara and a few others to go fetch the prez. Fun!
5:10 A carefully setup State Television video feed scrupulously avoids pointing a camera at anything newsworthy. #ADisgrace.
5:07 A bunch of military goons disgrace themselves by paying homage to a corpse. Yuck.
5:06 Maduro arrives. Private media have once again been barred from covering the event as the Presidential Guard (Casa Militar) stages a virtual takeover of the Palacio Federal.
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