I’ve long had this hazy sense that poor old Heinz Dieterich jinxed the revolution. Labeling this whole thing “Socialismo del Siglo XXI” was tempting fate, virtually inviting all the old ills of 20th Century Socialism to come roaring back, just to make a point. I realize that’s all more superstition than hard-nosed political analysis, but the scenes from Cúcuta over the last week have brought this feeling home with a vengeance.

“Dieterich, vale, empavaste la vaina.”

It’s now been eleven months since Alfredo Serrano convinced Nicolás Maduro that the reason Socialism had survived in Cuba was that it’s an island. It has no borders, so price-controlled goods can’t leak out of the borders.

Maduro’s decision to shut down the border with Colombia was seldom interpreted under this Cubanization lens, but it was arguably the government’s most literal effort to date to make Venezuela Cuba-like.

COLOMBIA-VENEZUELA-BORDER-CLOSUREThe border closure created a kind of low-rent iron curtain — el Alambre de Púas de Hierro. On the ground, it was all a bit of a farce, with smuggling continuing virtually unabated, only with fatter commissions and kickbacks all around.

But the move had one more consequence: it set the stage for the Nth demonstration that of 21st Century Socialism’s completist obsession with repeating all of the mistakes of its 20th Century counterpart.

This month, a border closure designed to keep people from carrying off goods from Venezuela to Colombia collapsed as as many as a hundred thousand Venezuelans went to hunt for groceries on the other side.

It’s as though somebody in the government has some sick sense of humor, and realized a year ago that unless they closed the border at some point, they’d never get the 1989-style barajita of hordes of people cramming to get out of the dystopian nightmare the workers’ paradise has turned into.

The exodus was such that, in a cruel twist of fate, supermarkets in Cúcuta started to run out of merchandise: no store is prepared for 100,000 people to turn up one day desperate to buy whatever is in stock. These days, Venezuela is exporting shortages.

[Update: Though I’m told an ongoing truckers’ strike in Colombia  probably has more to do with the Cúcuta shortages than the Venezuelans.]

Somewhere in Caracas, an old, die-hard MVR-then-PSUV mom just had a health crisis, her doctors advised her children she is in no state for shocks, and now she’s watching the scenes on the news with her kids voicing over the footage: “thousands of Colombians surged into the Bolivarian State of Táchira this weekend desperate to enjoy the glorious fruits of socialist liberation!”

Goodbye Lenin indeed. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, ñuetumadre.

36 COMMENTS

  1. ¿”1989-style barajita” o “1989-style baratija”? No soy venezolano y no sé si es un error o no pero lo parece.

      • Vale, aclarado pues aunque sigo sin saber muy bien qué pinta ahí esa palabra. Los que no lean en español (se ha convertido ya en un acto reflejo el acordarme de ellos cada vez que leo un venezolanismo por aquí y no suele haber menos de dos o tres por artículo) lo tienen mucho más difícil que yo.

        • Entiendo que puede ser frustrante, pero sin esos venezolanismos la cosa pierde sabor…

          Claro que yo tengo la ventaja de poder meter la pata en ambos sentidos y soltar venezolanismos, españolismos o gallegismos segun mayor vergüenza tenga que pasar

    • Hola Rafael. El uso que hace quico del término ¨barajita¨ se refiere a una construcción verbal muy común en Venezuela pero no antigua. Relacionada a la actividad de coleccionar cromos de equipos deportivos particularmente de la casa editorial Panini.

      El término se usa para expresar que eres coleccionista de algo y te falta o ya tienes un ítem específico, Un ejemplo del uso podría ser algo asi:
      Supon una persona propensa a los accidentes pero que una se fracturado un tobillo y de repente se lo fractura, le dirías: ¨esa era la barajita que te faltaba¨

      En el uso específico del artículo se entiende que un gobierno que hizo una colección de penurias típicas de los regímenes comunistas, le faltaba esa ¨barajita¨tipo 1989 (año de la caída del muro de Berlín) de multitudes escapando de la pesadilla en la que se convirtió el ¨paraiso de los trabajadores¨

      Te concedo, no es una construcción verbal fácil de entender si no eres Venezolano, aquí se usa con frecuencia.

      • Gracias por el comentario. En España el uso de esa palabra es distinto pero ahora sí que queda aclarado todo.

        • El traductor de Google, al escribirle diferentes opciones tales como “cromo, barajita, baraja” o “estampa”, lo traduce a “chrome, barajita, deck of cards” y “stamp” respectivamente (asumo entonces que barajita no tiene traducción literal), así que creo que para los angloparlantes como que se entendería un poco mejor usar “stamp”.

  2. “It’s now been eleven months since Alfredo Serrano convinced Maduro that the reason Socialism had survived in Cuba was that it’s an island, and so price-controlled goods can’t leak out of the borders, because islands have no borders.”

    The first blatant lie there is that there’s no “socialism” in Cuba, or Cubazuela. They are disguised forms of neo-dictatorships, authoritarian regimes. They may give out a few freebies, “viviendas”, cheap transportation, or cheap education (to brainwash kids with horrible and false ideals), and some healthcare.. look where healthcare is in Vzla..

    Actually the Castros and Venezuela’s “socialists” are the most fervent Capitalists. They love the good life, good food, money, travelling.. They live like top Bourgeois, while people starve. And that’s the idea, to begin with: sink people into poverty or convert them into their corrupt schemes. Force them to join the ever-expanding “government” so that they become complicit with the mess.

    The Cuban model ain’t complicated:

    Isolationism, yes. Then you start blaming all the local problems of external “evil” empires.. You build certain fake alliances, depending on the times.. (Nicaragua, Bolivia for Vzla, now the USA for Cuba..), Before that, you force the best, most educated, brightest professionals out of the country. Massive Brain-Drain- You force any rebels out (look at Miami, full of Cubans, or the 1.5 Million exiled from Vzla)
    Then you impoverish the rest of the population, older population, more docile, or young ones, used to the system since they are born-

    You also put to jail any major opposition leaders, or loud opponents. Leopoldo, etc. Cuba’s jails are also full. And you utilize the bribed, corrupt military and police to repress people as soon as they revolt in the streets. You beat’em up a bit. You set up a Reign of Terror of sorts. Where people are scared to death to even speak too loud against the regime.

    Then you perpetuate the regime in power for decades, with fake “elections”, as we see in Cuba and Vzla, and you neutralize any independent powers (Parliament, MUD, etc) .

    And you keep bribing Millions of people, so they join the “socialist government”, while most other people starve.

    Nothing new.

    • Nothing new indeed.

      In Latin America there is this romanticised view that communists would always possess noble non-authoritarian souls, that they would act as if they were responsible ‘fathers’ guiding ‘their’ desperate children, and they would also take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as if they were priests, nuns and monks, but that couldn’t be further from truth. And if they don’t act exactly like the described above, well, they are not really communists then, right? Actually, we can say that they have to make a vow of obedience toward their party at some point, otherwise they will be purged, but it will be it.

      I blame liberation theology, that has really confused the people for generations to come. Thank God the same pattern don’t happen toward nazis, fascists, otherwise we would be even more screwed.

        • Yes, there are some similarities, but fascists are known for destroying other peoples’ countries more than their own. In pre-war fascist Italy people weren’t in lines for hours seeking food. Venezuela today is more like the Soviet Bloc.

          • Read the following link: http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm

            After a study of the various characteristics of the various fascisms of the 20th century, Dr. Lawrence Britt found 14 defining similarities. Of the fourteen, I make it eleven and a half that apply equally to Chavismo.

            And the fascist dictatorships of Francisco Franco (Spain) and Suharto (Indonesia) did not attack or destroy their neighbors.

          • Alright, nevertheless an East German citizen waking up in Venezuela today after being in coma since 1989 would still see more similarities between the scarcity/economic problems in Venezuela and his home country than if he had woken up in any of the countries mentioned on that site (ignoring the periods of war, of course). Fascists didn’t try to micromanage everything like the communists still do today. They didn’t expropriate all big factories, all the big farms from their owners. In spite of being lunatics too, it’s almost as if they could get economics a little bit better than their red peers. Actually, many of them perfomed “economic miracles”, and without an oil boom distorting everything.

          • I am going to finish this argument agreeing that you make good points AND by noting that none of the “isms” have completely definitive meanings.

            I would also note that any society that allows either the extreme right or the extreme left to prevail ends up with a repressive dictatorship.

  3. Es cuestión de tiempo para que los cucuteños comiencen a quejarse que los venezolanos los dejamos sin productos.

    Creo que esa es la razón por la cual no van a abrir la frontera este fin de semana. Reposición de inventarios

  4. I find it odd that no one has mentioned the recent death of Hugo Chavez’s brother, Hannibal, due to the shortages of anti-biotics in the hospital in Barinas. He died because of common food poisoning, which, incredibly, the hospital was unable to treat. Had Hannibal been among those crowding to get into Cucuta, perhaps he could have been saved. Under Russian and East German communism the state had set-aside special food stores and hospitals for the elite. The Chavista’s, apparently, never really thought this thing through.

    • He Probably died from a complication . A rare one that can land you in I C U . Probably had other underlying issues that complicated the situation

    • It sounds like it was more complicated than simple food poisoning. He had the runs for weeks and then his heart exploded. Happens all the time in Barinas.

  5. The massive flow of hordes of desperate Venezuelans crossing the frontier to Colombia for brief periods to buy essential necessities and return home, glaringly showcases and underscores the crass incompetence of the Venezuelan regime to provide the population with access to those essential necessities ……..(the images have been filling the front pages of some of the worlds most important media) ……….. .

    The image of this exodus of hungry people rushing the frontier to buy subsistence goods at Cucuta , any way you look at it, is a HUGE PROPAGANDA EMBARRASSMENT for the regime , something that deeply hurts its image and credibility throughout latin america and the world. Something that makes all the different institutional initiatives to attack the regime’s legitimacy from within and in different international forums seem all the more justified and necessary.

    If this is so ….why did the regime allow it ??…….one possibility is that it couldnt help it , that the pressure of rage and discontent was running so high in the frontier states that they had to allow it of face a full fledged street rebellion ……it may also be possible that the army personnel at the frontier allowed the initial rush on their own out of simpathy for the plight of the people massing before the border…….which forced the hand of the regime to allow the crossing to avoid having their commands begin to be methodically disobeyed by the army personnel with the repercusions that would entail.

    Dont recall Maduro taking the measure as flowing from his sole initiative, rather Vielma Mora appears to have allowed it (maybe acting on Maduros orders) , but in a very ambivalent way, once saying that it had been part of a conspiracy of right wing commandos , another that he had indeed endorsed it but that it would not be repeated, then allowing it a day early than expected ……, later trying to sabotage it by taking groups of regime toughs to the fronteir to harras those crossing over, afterwards by saying that people had crossed the border to sightsee and buy luxury goods …..and finally stating that no more crossings would be allowed until the border situation was regularized thru agreements with the Colombian government……which would be the subject of discussion these coming days…!!!

    This flip flopping by the regime on the subject of opening of the border signals a state of inner confusion and doubt inside the regime leadership……..about what to do to face the crisis they are facing …….it may also be a sign of a serious breakdown in the decision making capacity of the regime …..!!

    • “If this is so ….why did the regime allow it ??…….one possibility is that it couldnt help it , that the pressure of rage and discontent was running so high in the frontier states that they had to allow it of face a full fledged street rebellion ……it may also be possible that the army personnel at the frontier allowed the initial rush on their own out of simpathy for the plight of the people massing before the border…….which forced the hand of the regime to allow the crossing to avoid having their commands begin to be methodically disobeyed by the army personnel with the repercusions that would entail. ”

      Chavismo doesn’t want to face anything like the dreaded guarimbas from La Salida (Which started because people got fed up with the regime to the point that a rape was the last straw on it), it shows that chavismo lacks the full support from the colectivos, which won’t be so willing to go to the streets to beat up or straight murder protesters happily as they did in 2014, they learned that they’re risking to get lynched by furious mobs at least, so a lot of them might claim that “I’m not getting paid enough for this!”

      “… Vielma Mora appears to have allowed it (maybe acting on Maduros orders), but in a very ambivalent way, once saying that it had been part of a conspiracy …”

      Well, you can’t expect one of the most sadistic governors in the chavista regime to appear weak at any rate, right? After all, we’re talking about the same guy whose wive torched the governorship buildings to blame the protesters and have a “valid reason” to send the colectivos into their murderous rampage during La Salida.

  6. Quico, yo espero que Kimi y Noe no entiendan español. Tan serio y sabido que se ve el papá para tener que lavarle la boca con Ajax. Y eso que saliste joven de la Tierra de Gracia.
    Thank you for the good work,
    Mercedes

    • Guat??? Really??? There’s not even a *fuck* in there… Or *asshole*… Or my favorite *sonofabitch* … C’mon, it’s almost impossible to write/talk or think about the Venezuelan crisis wihtout swearing…
      One of the reasons this blog has been so succesfull is the classiness and superior writing of the whole team. To throw 2 or 3 four-letter words here and there is not shameful at all.
      FYI Ajax is MIA since 2013.

  7. Just thinking this through a bit, I’m curious about how they paid for the goods, given the foreign exchange restrictions. Would the shops in Cucuta accept Bolivars (hard to imagine)? Or, because of all the smuggling that goes on near the border, are Colombian pesos relatively easy to obtain on the black market?

  8. “…21st Century Socialism’s completist obsession with repeating all of the mistakes of its 20th Century counterpart.”

    I don’t see that at all. The chavernment has avoided some of the worst mistakes of the USSR (collectivization of agriculture, total nationalization of industry and commerce) while making lots of new and original mistakes (CADIVI). (And continuing one of the worst mistakes of the previous regime, the gasoline subsidy, for which there is no precedent in any XX century socialist country.) Also, the chavernment has never claimed a monopoly of political power as Communists did, nor established a formal and complete monopoly of mass media, nor (thank heavens) made political dissent criminal with mass executions.

    • “…collectivization of agriculture, total nationalization of industry and commerce…”

      The massive expropiations that are one of the main causes of the chronic scarcity today say the contrary.

      Cadivi / chavista currency monopoly is a way of “nationalize” the money of people, as they can’t freely use it to aqcuire whatever they want to, as it’s supossed to be.

      The gasoline subsidy was just a blatant plunder of the public funds, which the corrupt justified on the so-called caracazo.

      “…chavernment has never claimed a monopoly of political power as Communists did…”

      Except they do have such monopoly, as any instance of power they lose, they inmediately have it stripped of all power and function, the most recent example is the AN.

      “…nor established a formal and complete monopoly of mass media…”

      The “Comunicational Hegemony” proves otherwise, ALL the national TV channels wither belong to a chavista group or are directly controlled by chavismo, as well as almost 99% of the rest of media; also the absurdly deficient internet connection (soon to be the most ridiculously expensive in the continent) is a means of political control to deprive people of news from other sources.

      “… political dissent criminal with mass executions…”

      On this one, the only thing they never managed to do was to carry on fusillades in the Bolívar plazas, the rest, you missed the nail again. Any dissent is treated by the crushing propaganda as a complete “betrayal to the country” to ju8stify any revenge on them, the discourse of chavismo is the most loaded with hatred and vitriol since the nazis and chavismo issued the murder penalty through all its paramilitar / parapolicial non-formal shock troops, aka the colectivos, which executed 45 persons during the guarimbas in 2014 and began with shcu practices since april 11 when Chávez ordered the Llaguno Bridge butchers to rain gunfire upon the “Cafetal crazy old ladies”.

      Chavismo has used the criminals as a weapon against society, that’s the reason the murder and crime rates in Venezuela make the country barely more livable than today’s Siria.

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