Apocalypse is such a relative term

People walk past shelves mostly filled with the same product at a state-run supermarket in Caracas January 9, 2015. Lines swelled at Venezuelan supermarkets on Friday with shoppers queuing up by the hundreds to seek products ranging from chicken to laundry detergent, as a holiday slowdown in deliveries sharpened the OPEC nation's nagging product shortages. Queues snaked around the block at grocery stores and pharmacies around the country, with consumers in some cases gathering before dawn under the gaze of national guard troops posted to maintain order. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)

So this is what the Pendejo Sin Frontera defense of the revolution has come to: sure, things in Venezuela are bad, but it’s not cataclysmic. That’s what passes for regime propaganda abroad these days, as Gabriel Hetland — formerly of Aporrea, formerly of TeleSUR — takes to the pages of The Nation to tell us that, sure, 83% of households can’t afford enough food, but this guy saw one really clean CDI so, y’know, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

The sirloin (which, according to the author, may be missing from store shelves, but that’s a good thing!):

Is Venezuela descending into a nightmarish scenario, as these stories suggest? To answer this question I’ve spent the last three weeks talking to dozens of people—rich and poor, Chavista and opposition, urban and rural—across Venezuela. My investigation leaves little doubt that Venezuela is in the midst of a severe crisis, characterized by triple-digit inflation, scarcities of basic goods, widespread changes in food-consumption patterns, and mounting social and political discontent. Yet mainstream media have consistently misrepresented and significantly exaggerated the severity of the crisis. It’s real and should by no means be minimized, but Venezuela is not in a state of cataclysmic collapse.

So, people, quit your whining. As the author says, there is looting, scarcity, inflation, rampant crime, but … c’mon, it’s not that bad. Look on the bright side: as your kids cry themselves to sleep at night on an empty stomach, you can reassure them at at least we don’t have neoliberalism!

Gabriel Hetland, is one few, the proud, the total desperadoes: PSFs willing to go down with the ship. Just a few months ago, he penned an adorable letter to Bernie Sanders praising the late Hugo Chávez. So it’s not surprising that he sees happy people everywhere – whether they’re growing their own food, or glowing from the wonderful service they receive at free clinics.

I really tried to view this piece with an open mind, but he lost me when spewing out flat-out lies such as this:

Everyone I spoke to, regardless of their political beliefs, agrees that the government has lost significant support since the December 6, 2015, legislative elections, which the opposition won handily. There is also widespread agreement that this has not translated into greater support for the opposition.

It takes a special kind of talent to say that the opposition won a landslide election victory while – in the same paragraph – you claim that the opposition does not have greater support. This ridiculous claim is contradicted by major opinion polls, which tend to be a little bit more reliable than “everyone I spoke to.”

You’d think The Nation would’ve learned where mindless boosterism for failed leftist autocracies will get them…then again, what am I saying, it’s The Nation. Still, looking for the silver lining here, I guess it says something when even a radical, uncritical nincompoop like Hetland can’t muster a more stirring defense of the model he wants to export all around the world than “it’s not the apocalypse yet!”

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  1. Still, looking for the silver lining here, I guess it says something when even a radical, uncritical nincompoop like Hetland can’t muster a more stirring defense of the model he wants to export all around the world than “it’s not the apocalypse yet!”

    Had Don [as a form of address, not as a personal name] Hetland endured a tenth of Venezuela’s current state of dysfunction in his own country, he would be screaming bloody murder. The tendency of “progressives” in the US to be unadulterated fanboys of lefty tyrants, under the assumption that anyone who hated Washington had a good thing going, was the prime reason for my leaving the left. At least he came down and saw for himself- as best he could considering his biases. You have to give him credit for that.

    • It’d also this odious brand of thinly disguised condescension: If it’s in Latin America and not America America, functioning institutions and basic human rights are luxuries, not things to be expected.

        • I once had a German woman ‘inform’ me that I should be grateful for all of the social benefits that I had the privilege of receiving because of Chávez
          (slapped her in my mind – that she used the word ‘grateful’ really got to me…)

  2. “You may not find food in the markets after an 8-hour queue, but what do you want, just go and buy everything you want at any time? Be grateful that you’re not eating dirt!”

    —–Random chavista

      • Many here might think you’re kidding, but I know you’re not. I actually had a chavista claim the other day that the reason there’s no harina trigo (wheat flour) in the country is because of Lorenzo Mendoza.

        “What?”, I asked.

        “Yeah, it’s his fault because he’s the one who imports it.”

        “You mean to tell me that after almost 20 years in power, this government hasn’t figured out how to import harina trigo, and alternately, has allowed a single individual to dominate a most critical market?”.

        His response……..crickets.

  3. “Apocalypse IS such a relative term”, and, perhaps, for Venezuela the term for current conditions might be “cataclysmic”, with Apocalypse still to come. After all, Venezuela has already had the Anti-Christ, now is being governed by his minion, and is soon to suffer the fuill ravaging of the Four Horsemen….

    • ” … widespread changes in food-consumption patterns ….” (Yeah, like “We used to eat, and now we don’t?”) These guys have been going to school on Enron and Wachovia CEO’s, and Clinton spin-doctors and such … “losses available to shareholders” “negative growth” “descending up-trends” “socialist progress and innovation” “politically-free detainees” … I can’t wait for “brush fires water California” “blankets of ice warm NYC streets” “Mount Vesuvius eruption remedies Pompei’s pedestrian congestion” “Almargo stages coup against Maduro government” and a book, “The Genius of Delcy Rodriguez” (by an anonymous female author).

      • You have to be a paid Nation subscriber to comment. I doubt many CC readers would want to enrich the coffers of The Nation in order to comment. Thus far, no comments, which means that not even paid Nation subscribers- who consider themselves care to comment.[According to Wikipedia, circulation dropped from 187,000 in 2006 to 103,478 paid circulation in 2015.] The article has been up since Wednesday afternoon without a comment.

         In April the government took a series of measures to combat an electricity crisis, caused by Venezuela’s worst drought in 47 years, and extremely low electricity rates, which led Venezuela to have the region’s highest per capita electricity consumption.

        His discussion of the electricity crisis is woefully incomplete. He mentions the drought, and unlike most Chavistas and PSF, also mentions Venezuela’s low electrical rates. He does not mention that Venezuela has successfully dealt with droughts ever since Guri was built. Nor does he mention that Chavez didn’t approve the plans for expanding hydroelectric capacity that were in place when he took office in 1999. Nor does he mention that billions were poured into thermoelectric capacity in response to the 2010 drought, with little result.

        Don Hetland is not correct that Venezuela has the region’s highest per capita electricity consumption.
        Electric power consumption (kWh per capita), 2013
        Trinidad & Tobago 6876
        Chile 3879
        Venezuela 3254

        Don Hetland also ignores that Venezuela had the second lowest percent increase in per capita electricity consumption from 1998-2013 in the region.
        Percent increase,Electric power consumption from 1998-2013
        Dominican Republic 125
        Peru 98
        Ecuador 94
        Trinidad and Tobago 83
        Guatemala 76
        Chile 76
        Paraguay 75
        Nicaragua 74
        Bolivia 73
        Panama 73
        Uruguay 65
        El Salvador 59
        Argentina 58
        Honduras 57
        Costa Rica 47
        Brazil 40
        Cuba 36
        Colombia 35
        Haiti 33
        Mexico 31
        Venezuela, RB 23
        Jamaica -51

        None of these countries have had the problems that Venezuela has with producing enough electricity for consumers, even though electricity consumption has increased much more than Venezuela. A further point is that a decade ago, when Venezuela’s electric rates were more reflective of actual costs. Venezuela still had high electrical consumption relative to its neighbors. What lower electrical rates in the last 10 years or so did was NOT to vastly increase electricity consumption,as the above data shows. What low electrical rates did was starve electricity producers of capital for expansion of capacity. One more strike against Don Hetland.

        Don Hetland states that electricity rationing has been ” for three hours a day on a rotating schedule in interior states.” Is that accurate?

        In looking at what Don Hetland has written on electricity, it is a safe conclusion that he is a hack journalist.

        World Bank: World Development Indicators

  4. Just ask Mark Weisbrot. Everything is wonderful in Venezuela and Socialism is perfect. You can also ask Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, Harry Belafonte, Michael Moore, Chavez’s parrot…….

  5. Venezuela is obviously a horrible country to live in, terrible economy, inflation, lack of food and products, horrible health care, lack of medicines, world-record crime and murders, poor education, awefull traffic in major cities, pitiful highways and infrastructure, even pollution..street noise, repression by the corrupt guardia and police, political prisoners, violence everywhere, endless colas, lack of water and electricity.. you name it.

    Few countries are worse today. Haiti, maybe, Syria or North Korea, that’s it. Even Nicaragua, Bolivia or Guatemala are probably better to live in.

    But somehow most people seem to have money to spend. Many are enchufados, one way or another. No one really makes “minimum salary”, $12/month, or how would they even survive with 5 kids, cel phones, etc..?

    And most people who have not fled and left the country have slowly gotten used to the mess. Where are the massive protests and marches in the street. Very rare, if any. Year after year. People do their colas, go to work, do their little Guisos and Tigritos, or just survive somehow. It’s the Boling Frog effect. Slowly, people adjust and get used to the Mess. They stop fighting and reacting. They stop hitting the streets. They get scared by the violence. They are subdued, and become scared sheep.

    That’s how criminal regimes perpetuate themselves in power, year, after year, for decades. People just give up, or join the circus, start stealing for themselves, and become corrupted. Not all, but many.

    • just because people are surviving (& BARELY so, let me tell you) does NOT mean that they are earning well – geez, too simplistic

      People will never just start dropping dead
      colas, trueques, bachaqueo, desnutrición por comer poco y desbalanceado, menos consumo de productos y servicios no esenciales, etc. … we are not unscathed !
      – yes! matando tigres, “hacking the country” as the reporter Nick Casey nicely puts it, under lots of duress

      I also take issue w/ your depiction of the people as ‘passive’ and I don’t know where you live but protests have been increasing yearly and are quite widespread by now —
      they are also not being intimidated by all the obstacles thrown in their way to hinder the RR! mira todas las firmas, a donde se llega la gente para verificar…
      they haven’t stopped fighting nor reacting, they also don’t have arms – I don’t know what you would like to see here, civil war or something? just keep adding to our whooping death counts?! we are only civilians!
      we are all scared, if you are not then I quite honestly think that you are either reckless or do not give full credit to the powers of our current regime

      you know, authoritarian regimes have been toppled for a lot less reasons and in situations a lot less worse then our own and there are also those regimes that have survived through way worse conditions than our own! each one is unique and its end is always unpredictable – we are all fed the hell up and hoping that ours will fall soon!

      I leave you with some wise words written by the husband of the CC contributor Naky (do pay close attention to the last sentences):

      “El CNE decidió poner centros de validación de huellas en lugares hostiles. El PSUV ha tirado bombas lacrimógenas (como en Macarao) y en Aragua han hecho estas cochinadas para evitar que la gente acuda a sus centros.
      ¿Saben qué? En realidad le están dando la oportunidad a cada quien de crear su propia gesta, su propio relato épico de cómo lucharon por recuperar la democracia secuestrada. No son masa. Ni siquiera tienen un líder mesiánico que acabará con su individualidad. Son la historia.
      Venezuela también es esta gente movilizada que burla la barbarie, que sigue dándole una oportunidad a una salida pacífica antes de estallar.
      Si te vuelven a preguntar por qué Venezuela no estalla, responde que es porque nos necesitamos vivos. Sabemos que nos necesitamos vivos. Lo que viene no será más fácil que esto.”

      – Luis Carlos Diaz Vazquez

  6. Hace poco intercambié unos cuantos emails con una chavista acérrima que escribe en aporrea. Le parece muy mal lo que ocurre pero seguirá votando por ese partido. Lo que más me llamó la atención es que se queja de que el gobierno no escucha al pueblo pero ella sí que escucha al gobierno de modo que, al escribir, repite todas y cada una de las ideas de la propaganda chavista. Intenté hacerle ver tan solo esta contradicción pero por su puesto fue inútil. Para muchas personas romper la unión emocional con el chavismo está más allá de sus fuerzas. En Venezuela muchos han madurado ya pero otros se dedican a Madurar para retrasar así ese doloroso momento lo más posible

    • El peor problema con los chavistas es su enorme hipocresía, a muchos de ellos, como el 85%, realmente no les importa mejorar el país en absoluto, sólo están conformándose con frotarse un poco el ego, porque es la única forma de seguir engañándose con que si les ha ido mal en la vida ha sido por culpa de otro y no por su propia culpa o la de su familia; digo esto porque existe demasiado chavista al que le parece bien que “los suyos” estén explotando de dólares y dándose la gran vida en el imperio mientras los venezolanos se comen un cable, a ellos no les molesta que “el que les gusta” sea un criminal miserable, a ellos lo que les importa es que finalmente “el que odian” está jodido.

      Esa ha sido la cuerda más gruesa del títere, y la última que será cortada.

  7. Nagel, you should issue a correction. There has been “widespread agreement” (notwithstanding your objection) that the government’s defeat in last December’s legislative elections “has not translated into greater support for the opposition”.

    The claim is not at all “contradicted by major opinion polls” but actually confirmed by them. Your very own blog, Caracas Chronicles itself, published an article, Fun with numbers, Datanálisis style”, by Andrés Miguel Rondón, on March 31st, that acknowledged disappointing levels of support for the opposition.

    “The other big baddie out there is that only 38,9% of the country is comfortable with self-identifying as an ‘Opositor’ (PSUV: 32,8%; Independents: 26,2%). Worse still, when asked ‘which party do you support?,’ only 24,2% of respondents are willing to answer ‘the opposition.’ “

    Maybe the situation has changed in the past several months? Perhaps support for the opposition has recently skyrocketed? Let’s look at the Datanálisis polling data over time.

    In February, when asked ‘which party [or movement] do you support’, 24.2% answered ‘the opposition’. In May, 26.7% answered ‘the opposition’. (See Graph)

    Compare this to those respondents who answered “independents” (despite not being a party): 45.1% in February, and 50.5% in May. For those answering ‘PSUV’, 26.5% in February and 18.2% in May.

    In this time, the PSUV dropped 8.3 percentage points, while the opposition gained 2.5 — a clear indication that the loss in support for the PSUV “has not translated” into greater support for the opposition” (but rather in greater support for “independents”). This is the point Gabriel Hetland was making in the passage you cited.

    • No correction needed. The opposition’s support has grown, and continues to grow. Polls show that. See my comment below.

  8. Nagel, Hetland’s contention that the significant decline in support for the government has not translated into greater support for the opposition is not “contradicted by major opinion polls” but, in fact, confirmed by them.

    There is indeed “widespread agreement” on this. Caracas Chronicles itself published an article that acknowledged the modest levels of support for the opposition, based on Datanálisis polling data (from February). Such data, according to the author, refuted “the opposition’s political elite[‘s presumption]… that everyone who hates the government must, by default, love Them.”

    “The other big baddie out there is that only 38,9% of the country is comfortable with self-identifying as an ‘Opositor’ (PSUV: 32,8%; Independents: 26,2%). Worse still, when asked ‘which party do you support?,’ only 24,2% of respondents are willing to answer ‘the opposition.’ “

    Let’s look at Datanálisis polling data over time.

    Have these numbers changed since February? Back then, when asked ‘which party [or movement] do you support’, 24.2% answered ‘the opposition’. In May, 26.7 answered ‘the opposition’. That’s an increase of 2.5 percentage points.

    At the same time, support for the PSUV dropped 8.3 percentage points, between February and May, from 26.5% to 18.2%. In other words, the loss in PSUV’s support did not “translate” into support for the opposition! It went, instead to so-called “independents”: rising from 45.1% in February, to 50.5% in May.

    This is a clear indication that, although people are withdrawing their support for the government, this has not translated into greater support for the opposition. This is the point Gabriel Hetland was making, which you called a “flat-out lie”.

    • “En lo que a partidos y coaliciones políticas refiere, la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) lleva la delantera. De acuerdo con el informe esta integración fue calificada como positiva en su gestión por 58,6% superando de esta manera a la tolda roja (Psuv) quien solo recibió un 23,9% de apoyo.”

      Hmm – the MUD’s role is viewed positively by 58% of the population, and they just won an election with a whopping 55+ percent of the vote. This shows tremendous growth in electoral support. So yeah, I stand by my point – Hetland is lying.

      • One important development is how the burning issue is now not just between the Regime and the Oppo as was the case before the crisis hit us , but between the status quo (represented by the govt and those who still support it) and Change , including the huge mayority of people who are fed up with current living conditions and the govt”s corrupt incompetent handling of the crisis and want ‘out’. The latter might include people who formerly felt very strongly about their attachment to the dear defunct leader and his discourse.but which now having experienced the crisis feel angry at the govt for its failure to resolve it !!

  9. I have indeed heard the term failed state on NPR as a characterization of Venezuela today. I think that goes too far. Is Venezuela now like Somalia? hmmm

    When people in the media resort to hyperbole, they do Venezuela no favors because those who don’t see the severity of the crisis latch on to those examples of hyperbole to argue that the media manufactures and foreign agents have manufactured the crisis.

    • I heard NPR today and earlier this week. They dont really know what is going on beyond headlines. Tim Padgett knows but Tim was also starstruck by Chavez when he was alive so Tim does not impress me. He reminds me of Forero during his koolaid days

  10. Well, I don’t know about all that, but I read the entire article and it is the only balanced assesment I have read yet of our situation. Pretty awesome.

    The bane of the opposition is an inability to give the devil of chavismo its due.

  11. I understand what you are saying, but consider how much of Venezuelan territory is no longer under the sovereign control of the Venezuelan civilian government. From the territories controlled by Colombian paramilitaries and drug cartels, to the areas along the borders under “states of exception” that are controlled by the military or criminal gangs, to the territories controlled by illegal mining cartels, and to the “zonas de paz” that controlled by armed gangs… All of these have the same thing in common. They are territory in which the government of Venezuela has ceded its sovereignty and where Venezuelan law is neither applicable nor respected. These are areas controlled, effectively, by the Venezuelan version of “local warlords”. In what way is this different from Somolia other than in scale?

  12. An emergency shipment of food is being airlifted by the air force. They are bringing in ketchup and mayo from T&T ….seriously. The shipment also includes pasta and other basics. Ketchup is a staple for pasta, rice and poor man’s pizza: slice of sandwich bread with kethcup and parmesan cheese.

  13. The Nation magazine is against foreign intervention in Venezuela like I am. I’m glad that the OAS rejected the call for expulsion and sanctions against Venezuela. The Venezuelan people are trapped between two forces that agree that the government must pay even dubious foreign debt rather than feed its people. Neither camp prioritizes recuperating the billions of dollars that have been and probably are being embezzled. Under honest patrioticleaders $300,000,000,000 would go a long way towards getting the country on its feet.


  14. […] So, people, quit your whining. As the author says, there is looting, scarcity, inflation, rampant crime, but … c’mon, it’s not that bad. Look on the bright side: as your kids cry themselves to sleep at night on an empty stomach, you can reassure them at at least we don’t have neoliberalism!  MORE […]


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