Juan Nagel’s writes in Latin America Goes Global this week arguing that the comparison between Trump and Chávez is kind of silly. It’s a pretty good read.

As Juan puts it:

The insulting and divisiveness were not the worst of Chávez; the worst came later in how the former lieutenant colonel dismantled the checks and balances of democracy and corrupted the State. The caricature of Chávez as just a uncouth blowhard to make a political point is downright insulting to those of us still suffering from Chávez’s toxic legacy. […]

Chávez was not always an uncivil loudmouth. In 1998, when he first ran for president, he ran a disciplined campaign that drew many disaffected moderate voters to his fold. He also disguised his radicalness, saying that Cuba was a dictatorship and packaging himself as some sort of Tony Blair-Third Way moderate leftist.

I think Juan’s getting at something very real here. Say what you will about Chávez, but he had Long Game. He knew how to delay gratification. The Comandante was entirely happy to wait for years, over a decade in some cases, for the right time to implement some part of his master plan. Some people would call that strategic acumen, but I think it’s much simpler than that. It’s impulse control. His outbursts were controlled, planned, designed for a particular purpose. Chávez ad libbed constantly, but he never exactly improvised.

By contrast, one of Trump’s abiding traits seems to be a catastrophic inability to delay gratification. Ever. At all.

The realization crystalized for me Friday, after Trump’s epic press conference after the Republican Convention, in which he insanely rehashed every beef he ever had with Ted Cruz and threw in some added musings on the respectability of Melania posing nude for GQ, just for good measure. It was pure id, a rant so plainly counterproductive and devoid of strategic sense you sort of had to rub your eyes. It’s as though the strain of reading a prepared text just 12 hours earlier speaking to the convention had sapped all his will power, all his capacity for restraint. It’s, as Jon Favreau has mused, as though you can forecast a Trump eruption with eerie precision to the 24 hours after he’s forced to read a script from a teleprompter.

All this makes Trump much more erratic, but in some senses much more error prone and less ultimately dangerous. Because it would take not just charisma but enormous self-discipline and self-control to carry out the multi-year plan it would take to actually dismantle the institutions of the American republic the way Chávez dismantled ours. And there’s just zero sign that Donald Trump has any of that.

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  1. Sometimes it seems like we’re trying so hard to convince ourselves that if Trump wins everything is going to be OK…

  2. Trump is a showman and he knows his public very well, his audience is the American right-wing people. And in that sense he is a lot like Chávez, because Chavez also knew his audience, he could address directly his public like no other, he could really touch their hearts. In comparison, someone like Capriles, Hillary or Ted Cruz cannot without sounding fake and even pathetic. Billionaires like the Clintons talking about the 1%, come on, hahaha!

    Trump and Chavez, on the other hand,,are what we may call “natural born politicians”. It’s in their blood, it’s so much charisma that you want to vote for both. However, in all the years that Trump was just an entrepreneur, he had shown a lot of restraint and prudence, otherwise he wouldn’t have built such an empire, with towers even in Istanbul. It’s a bit naive to ignore all his previously life as a businessman, and to select just the last months of his life as a politicians to create a profile for him. The “polemicist Trump” is something recent, almost a persona. Trump is a TV person, just like Chavez were, while Hillary is just another Capriles.

    I guess we know who wins in the end, hehe.

    • Trump’s business acumen has more “flair” than substance. His success has been more a result of creating a brand, then creating value. Real business men build their enterprises on foundations of principle and integrity. Trump’s image is a massive media fraud.

      • I agree that Trump’s image is mostly a persona, just notice that he had never cared much about politics in his life, nor about Muslims or illegal immigration, he never cared about religion either, he was pro-abortion until some months ago, and that’s what make “real conservatives” like Ted Cruz hate him so much. Nevertheless, he’s still millions of times better than the Clintons.

        But I disagree about his businesses being fake or lacking substance, and his supposed lack of principle and integrity. His enterprises wouldn’t have lasted for so many decades without principle and integrity, he would have ended full of enemies by now (no endorsement to be the next president of the US) and possibly behind bars, given the strict US laws.

        • He has made plenty of enemies in business. Very few construction contractors will deal with him. Those that do are more ruthless than he is. The only way to manage construction contracts with Trump is to have deep enough pockets to be able survive prolonged lawsuits.

          • From what I have heard of NYC in past decades, you had to be very smart and very careful, not to mention very competitive, to do something like build a building AND make money on it. Youse gots some guys in NYC whose doesn’t always play what’s like “fair”.

            Trump is, in my opinion, looking to do something for this country, the USA, and he’s laying down directions and principles. I sincerely doubt we will see an 18 foot wall along the border with Mejico – but what we may see is illegals deported without delay, and making it known that it is a “stupid thing” to sneak across the border. If you have ever stood legally in line waiting for a visa, you may deeply resent those who say “muevete tu, pa’ ponerme you”, those who come in illegally, as if our laws were just a joke. I end up waiting in line behind people who haven’t even bothered to learn to speak English, AND I’m paying for the services they receive “for free”.

            To me, Trump’s signature line is “Make America great again”. This country has deteriorated towards a welfare state, and has let in people who hate the USA – I know, I ended up talking to one – and people who think there really are no laws here, and join street gangs who deal drugs and assassinate others. The notion that the USA is a “melting pot” does NOT mean it is a latrine.

            We had an avowed socialist-communist, Bernie Sanders, running for President. If you ever listened to that guy speak in Congress, he sounds very much like Chavez and Castro and Mao, ranting about how “big business” and “corporations” are destroying the country and blah, blah … it’s hard to listen to. He reminded me of a Gonzales Congressman (Henry Gonzales, I think, fat guy, with jowls), who lectured after hours to an empty Congress hall, and said amongst other things that, “Interest is money paid for nothing”. Completely delusional, out of touch, no historical background, no sense of property at all, apparently.

            Trump graduated from arguably the premier business school in the world (Wharton), and did not sail around on a yacht being a playboy in Monaco with his inheritance, even though he could have. Many have inherited fortunes and squandered them, producing nothing. I looked at condos in Trump Towers and thought they were very “affordable” – what passes for “affordable” in NYC is astronomical – but they seemed like a very reasonable price for what you got. He got into a very tough world of business, and augmented his fortunes. You have to respect his academics, his business, his achievements, and his motivations.

            The Democrats and those on “government payroll”, those who would vote for Chavez, may howl bloody murder.

      • I’d add, I’ve yet to see evidence indicating Trump built anything more than he inherited. His foray into reality tv suggests he had nothing better to do with his time and abilities.

        • That Trump increased his inherited fortune is pretty much evident, and even if he had just kept it what he received, it would already had merit. Most people can’t even do that. And don’t you see any Trump foray into Real Estate in Canada, Canuck? That’s really unfortunate. I believe Trump is focusing on Latin America and Asia now.

          • Actually, had he invested his inheritance in an S&P Fund, he would be wealthier today than he actually claims to be. And I doubt that his real net worth is what he claims.

      • I have never in my life seen the media so frenzied about attacking anyone.

        The US has a creeping socialism, the latest phase of which is mandated health care – the government telling you you must buy insurance or pay a penalty. It is not as blatant as elsewhere, yet. It is still socialism. Trump would be significant in breaking that trend of complacent idiocy. The American population is delusional, not Trump.

  3. Nagel’s article, while making a solid point, seems to miss that the real basis for the Chávez-Trump comparison is not in style, but in substance.

    Sure, it’s true that Chávez dismantled the country’s system of checks and balances, but that was possible due to Venezuela’s frail institutional environment in 1998. Will Trump have the same leeway in the US? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he will not try and that he wouldn’t do so, if the US institutions were weak. This became evident when – after agreeing to participate in the Republican primaries under a set of rules – Trump pushed for the rules he considered unfavorable to change (i.e. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/433368/donald-trump-gop-convention-rules).

    Name calling as a political strategy is neither new nor unique to Chávez or Trump, that is true. Yet, once again, Nagel’s article (and those to which it responds) points to the epidermic similarities of form; however, the substance of this name calling is where the parallel can – and must – be drawn: both Chávez and Trump view politics (and, arguably, life in general) not as a civilized competition of diverging ideas, but rather as a confrontation amongst enemies. Furthermore, said (figurative?) annihilation is made possible by a blanket of impunity of the aggressors who are ‘on the right side of history’ as Chávez would say and that Trump has articulated as free legal defense for his followers
    (i.e. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_56e2da10e4b0b25c918198c2).

    That Chávez’s ousting of PDVSA employees seemed like a carnivalesque and tropicalized version of The Apprentice there’s no doubt, but again, the problem is not the form, but the substance: both el Comandante and the Donald not only share the authoritarian view that it’s their way or the highway, both gloat on the oversimplification of complex phenomena (Chávez, the 2002 oil strike; Trump, illegal immigration) not as an analytical tool, but as a used-car salesperson pitch, with complete disregard of the underlying conditions. It’s that “selling the sofa” logic. But that oversimplification does not derive from ignorance, but rather from the utilization of a theological narrative that posits ‘the leader’ (be it Chávez or Trump) as a Messiah, the only one anointed to “save the people” (Chávez) or “make America great again” (Trump). In Chávez’s case, that became evident through his many invocations of the religious rhetoric, while in Trump it is built on the constant calls to faith in the form of “believe me” (https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/05/24/donald-trump-relies-heavily-simple-phrase-believe/0pyVI36H70AOHgXzuP1P5H/story.html).

    Yes, there are obvious differences between a third world strongman who thought of himself as the reincarnation of el Libertador and a pompous capitalist full of hot air and vile rhetoric obsessed with overcompensating by putting his name on everything around him… but those differences – more times than not – are not necessarily in terms of form, but of substance… and that’s the problem Nagel fails to see.

    • The hyperlinks in your comment does not hide how preposterous it all is. The *substance* of Chavez was his ability to write a new Constitution, dismantle the judiciary, and dismantle Congress. He remade Venezuelan institutions in his own image, thereby changing Venezuela’s political landscape for good and giving him absolute power. *That* is his real legacy. His view of his opponents, his rhetorical style , and his messianic tendencies are just sideshows. Continuing to say that Trump is just like Chavez is absolutely, horribly off the mark.

      • Juan, I agree that the de-institutionalization of Venezuela was Chávez’s legacy. My argument is that – while that is what is visible and palpable – the motivation (authoritarianism) is identical for Chávez and Trump. Different styles? Different games? Sure! I’ll give you that, but while that is true, both show an absolute disdain for following any normative limit to their own twisted realities.

        • Sure, there are similarities (one of the unexplored ones – both of them make a certain subsegment of their opponents say things that sound positively unhinged). But the similarities are superficial. Playing them up to be actual similarities in terms of governance is a stretch, and it diminishes Chavez to a caricature of the evil mastermind he really was.

          The Alo, Presidente Chavez was just a show, The real damage was done in the courts, the decrees, the referenda, the elections, PDVSA, etc.

          • But the Alo, Presidente show was where Chavez generated the political energy to enact his decrees and appointments, to win elections (not just for himself, but for the Chavistas in the AN, and state governments).

            Without the popular support, Chavez would have fallen long ago.

            Having said that – someday, perhaps, true and deep history of Chavez will be compiled. That history will need to document and analyze Chavez’ policy decisions across his tenure – what exactly he did and (if possible) why. That may mean interviews with his closest henchmen, and review of all the internal memos, orders, letters. Sometimes an appointment diary is revelatory – he met with XXX the day before YYYY??

            Other major historical figures have been “worked on” in this way. The evidence is often obscure or partial. Axe-grinding partisans produce cherry-picked or “enhanced” accounts to damn or beatify them. It has sometimes taken generations of scholarly work to get at the full truth about Napoleon, Churchill, Lincoln.

            Only when such work is done will it be possible to assess the real abilities of Chavez.

      • Juan, off the mark for who? For us Venezuelans? Sure, but that is absolutely not the point.

        If you are talking about legacy, then your argument is flawed; you’re comparing apples and oranges since it is all hypothetical with Trump. If you’re talking about the POSSIBILITY of Trump being as bad as Chavez for the country, then your argument may be valid as it is virtually impossible that he will do as much damage as Chavez did. But what is the comfort on that? That “oh, it is all ok, let trump win because it will not be as bad as Chavez”? Again, you are right that the comparison is “off the mark” but not in this specific context.

        All the comparison is attempting to be is a warning sign of populist demagogue anti-establishment candidates that focus on division/hate. We are immigrants here, we are the different/bad ones here too as we were in venezuela…. we know the worst case scenario of the discourse, why not share it as a very real possibility? The end political/economic state will be different but the social damage will be similar.

        Let’s remember that this conversation is not about us in Venezuela, is about another country that has welcomed us so we have a responsibility to raise flags when we see them.

        • Comparing Trump to Chavez when, in essence, they are very different strikes me as using a Chavez caricature to score a political point. I don’t want the memory of Chavez to be distorted, least of all to help pundits in an electoral race that is none of my business. As Venezuelans, we need to be guardians of Chavez’s memory, and that means not letting it be transformed into a watered-down caricature of what he really was.

          • Honored you responded to my comment, and let me be clear, I understand your point: you want to ensure that the legacy of Chavez is not minimized to a caricature. It is a beautiful goal, yet in my opinion, very naïve.

            …I’m afraid to remind you that Chavez true legacy is not really found outside Venezuela so there is nothing to reduce – even a quick scan of the comment section in the articles Francisco referenced above shows that the image of Chavez abroad is one of public service, helping the poor, working for the forgotten, etc.

            If the goal is to ensure the true legacy is not minimized, we need a different starting point. Comparing Chavez to someone as visible as Trump may actually work to progressively build the image of what Chavez truly was…. and if at the same time it helps avoid a ridiculous megalomaniac to win here even better. It will be a win-win for me.

            I respectfully continue to disagree with the argument against “reducing Chavez to a caricature”. I’d rather he be a sad oversimplified caricature than a folk hero or a “nothing” in the world’s collective mind

  4. Agree. And Trump is not surrounded by a looney tunes team of marxist economic advisors hellbent on destroying the economy for the sake of denying that there is a market. When you fail to mention that the worst legacy of Chávez (the destruction of the Venezuelan economy) is tied to his believe in discredited economic ideas you are doing a favor to people like Pablo Iglesias or Jeremy Corbyn. Chávez is not a cautionary tale for the appeal of populist rhetoric, it’s a cautionary tale of the re-branding of marxism as anti-establishment hip ideology.

    • You nailed it, thank you. Trump is a menace to american mental stability but not to its institutions. On the other hand, Sanders is full of marxist rethoric, that combined with the reigning political correctness would have an easiest path to destroy american institutions and establish even bigger regulations on economie and social life.
      Sanders was the real “populist and socialist” menace (as Chávez was)

      • “… menace to american mental stability but not institutions” is a fantastic phrase to define the situation.

        However, respectfully disagree with the perspective of a “populist and socialist” menace from Sanders – under the same token of checks and balances in the American system, Sanders would not have been able to push the system as far to the left as he wanted. Reducing his speech as marxist is also a bit narrow – there are many different shades of socialism around the world with differing degrees of success but again, we cannot reduce this conversation to a very simple “black and white”. I understand we are hurt that the “21st century socialism” destroyed venezuela, but let’s not confuse it with the complete definition of a spectrum.

        BTW, a little sidebar: Political correctness is a coping mechanism – hoping that future generations won’t see the divides that previous generations did towards some groups within society. It may drive us crazy at times, but it is what keeps this society from shooting each other (with assault rifles, but that is for another article…)

        • I don’t mean this as a denunciation of the left as a whole, but the insidious resurgence of an ideology that pretends that the Berlin wall never fell.

    • Yeah.

      They definitely would have felt the “burn.”

      But, you know, it’s easier to make fun of thinking patterns poor people find relatable than address politics.

  5. Trump/Chavez comparisons promise to be an enduring source of perplexities. They differ in that Chavez promised a futuristic, paradise for the 21st century, while Trump promises to make America “great again”, to bring things “back” to the wonders of the past.

    In both cases, their promised lands are unachievable dream worlds, and neither could provide a coherent plan for how it was to be achieved.

    Both rely heavily on televised authoritarianism to undergird their perceived “authenticity”, a fascist category which deprecates thought while honouring the supposed deep identity of leader and people.

    Historically, the precise relationship between the Great Leader and his (always his) political party is an important predictor of the level of carnage to come. Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin had militarized parties ready to do their bidding, no matter what might be demanded. Trump especially is far from that; the Republican Party has not been transformed into his shock troops. Por ahora.

    • “both cases, their promised lands are unachievable dream worlds, and neither could provide a coherent plan for how it was to be achieved.”

      Well, Trump has already created more jobs, paid more taxes and spent more on housing than all the populist politicians in Latin America combined. And all that with private money.

      Tell what you want about the man, but that he promises unachievable dream worlds is kind of absurd. Ask people in Panama how many jobs Trump has created there in the last decades.

      I don’t know where you live, but if it’s in a relevant city the chances of some jobs being created by Trump near you as we speak are high, at least that’s the case for my city.
      That’s something very palpable, isn’t it? And also differs him from the populists we like to elect in Latin America.

    • What Chavez may have promised is neither here nor there. It’s what he delivered – that is what defines him. Nothing Trump can deliver comes close to creating the carnage of what Chavez delivered. Not the Wall, not the naming of judges, not the reshaping of NAFTA or NATO.

      • A president of the USA who does not know what he is doing can create more carnage and havoc than a hundred Hugo Chavezes. That’s just a bad president. Not even close to the kind of lunacy that springs from the brain of a guy like Trump.

        • A bad American president can do a lot of harm, but that’s what checks and balances are for in the US democracy. Chavez was much more than a bad Venezuelan President – he anhilitated Venezuelan democracy. These are two completely different situations – the analogy breaks down on its own!

  6. More or less the parallels are important, but yes, he also seems to lack impulse control.

    But in any case, I do not want to bet on exactly how much damage he can do, and what factors in himself or the Republica party or whatever is going to minimize it.

  7. Besides that, here in the states there’s something called rule of law, an inexisting legal principle in Vzla. I’m sure Trump will be “trumped” if he tries any arbitrary decision without consultation. But Clinton? Oh boy, oh boy.

    • Rule of law?? haha––like the few dozen we have on immigration and don’t enforce them?

      If we keep with the current flow of illegals in one hundred years the states will be another lawless brown country.

      Build that fuc*ing wall, and deport the rapist and thieves––including all the recent venezuelan illegals that are fuc*ing up Florida.

      If this keeps up, gonna be just like what the colombians did to Venezuela.

      • Absolutely clear who you’re voting for. You’re quite a stereotype. Very sad actually.

        Think what you want… That attitude will just keep you as you are: arrogant and ignorant. Your immigration facts are quite flawed for you to make that assertion, but what can you expect with the level of conversation here

        Wondering why are you trolling Venezuelan-specific websites If we are so terrible… Im sure you’re even using pseudonyms, either from the person that invented the encolsed postage stamp or maybe you are just are misspelling John Gant from Atlas Shrugged. In any case, I hear you, and I feel sorry for you

        A veces me encantaria que estos foros estuvieran en español, para ver que tan bien te iria debatiendo en otro idioma.

        • Podemos debatir en español si quieres? En ningún momento he dicho algo malo de los venezolanos, mas bien soy uno. Hay una clara diferencia entre inmigración legal e ilegal, solo hacia referencia a la ilegal, que siempre perjudica a los países.

          And if your looking for the Atlas Shrugged character its John Galt not Gant–– jeez.

          • Me di cuenta que habie escrito Gant por error al terminar. Supongo que eso anula mi credibilidad en esta conversacion. Oh well… somos humanos a veces y obviamente por mis comentarios te daras cuenta que soy el tipo de persona que detesta a Ayn Rand.

            De acuerdo con la diferencia entre inmigracion legal e ilegal, pero hablar de un “lawless brown country” nos pone a todos en el mismo plato. No importa que seas como yo que llegue aqui a estudiar y luego trabajar o de 5a generacion que ni siquiera hables espa~nol o que seas ilegal: El discurso nos afectara a todos – preguntale a Arpaio en Arizona si le temblaba la mano en parar a gente “marron” aunque fueran legales

            Quizas tu vision sea mas fatalista que la mia respecto a los inmigrantes – con 11millones de ilegales (~3% de la poblacion), la regulacion existente y la escala de entradas/deportaciones el panorama no es tan negativo como lo pintas.

            El discurso de construir muros, y devolver a los inmigrantes, etc con la agresividad que hablas no es productivo. Y nos va a afectar a todos aqui. Usar lenguaje como “Rapists/Murderers” no distingue a los buenos de los malos, nos pone a todos en riesgo

          • Dirty venezuelans are controlling the BOD of many Sofla HOA and COAs…..chavismo.is alive and well in these communities where residents have to undergo pure hell. You have NO IDEA what is happening

        • John is correct about the illegal venezuelans in Sofla. You have no idea…they ruined Doral and that includes the venezuelan mayor Boria who is not respected by his peers in coral gables, miami and miami-dade. A good deal of them are covert chavistas and they are involved in every scam available. Soy venozolano y los investigo en mi otro trabajo. But John is a fool supporting Trump.the narcissist.

      • A Venezuelan talking about “another lawless” brown country” JUST WHOA!!!! Cuántos palos de “blanco” aguantas?

  8. I think this is quite an oversimplification of the problem here… of course nobody is 100% like another person, but dismissing Trump as “Not Chavez” because of things like “he’s error prone”, “he does not have a long game”, etc is also missing a key point. He is actually bringing the worst of Chavez’ style to this country in this particular moment.

    The article suggests that “The insulting and divisiveness were not the worst of Chávez… The worst came later in how the former lieutenant colonel dismantled the checks and balances of democracy and corrupted the State”. This is where the argument is flawed in my view: THE DEFINITION OF WHAT IS WORST DEPENDS ON THE CONTEXT WHERE YOU PLACE IT. In this country, where racial lines, immigration tensions and foreign terrorism are very real and present in people’s daily lives, the insulting & divisiveness ARE ABSOLUTELY the worst traits from Chavez that Trump could have.

    The “beauty” of the US political system is that it would be very hard to destroy checks and balances as Chavez did – it is after all one of the few (or the only?) developed countries that has not had a change of political regime in the last 250+ years because power is not concentrated enough. So I agree that from an economic and political standpoint Trump may not be able to inflict as much damage as predicted so quickly, and he would probably be out for a second term, but the damage to society will be lasting.

    As a woman, and immigrant of this country this is particularly concerning. Do not dismiss the very real risk to society (and to us specifically) from this guy bringing the one trait from Chavez that basically damaged key values of our society for several generations


    P.S. Thinking more about it, the worst for Venezuela was the dismantled checks&balances, but that would not have been possible without the structural divide he created… let’s not oversimplify issues for us either. It is a very complicated weave of mess Chavez created here

  9. Very few similarities between Trump and Chavez. Both Megalomaniacs crave power and glory. But Chavez was a reptilian Liar, as this article explains. He weaseled his way into power, and then slowly started changing his ways, and became a Castrista Dictator. Chavez was a false “socialist” he also craved money and properties.

    Trump may be impulsive – and dumb – but he believes in what he says and doesn’t flat-out lie, as Chavez did. He’s quite transparent, and would not turn into a Pinochet in the USA.. That’s impossible here, with Congress controlling everything. And we, the American people, would knock out a dictator like Chavez or Maduro in less than a week. Plus the military here would never stand for the crap the Venezuelan corrupt military stand up for. And the Judiciary powers here aren’t totally corrupt as in Vzla either. So any politician can’t get away with much here or in other civilized countries, Europe, etc. There are checks&balances, Laws, rules, real democracy, police, FBI, CIA, etc.

    Trump is just a Capitalist, with a huge ego, rather stupid, but he makes some reasonable points in various areas. Chavez was just a Liar, a thug, a dictator. Very different animals.

    • Trump is corporativist, not capitalistic. He’s against free trade and he wants to force firms to bring back jobs (whatever this means), threatening them if they don’t. He’s also against free movement of labour, or at least his vision on immigration suggests this. Also, he fosters state champions, and has always been linked to government. Partially using the power of the State to squash smaller competitors in the US, by underpaying and threatening to use lawyers. So no, Trump is not a capitalist. He’s what is now known as crony capitalist.

      • He’s not against free trade. But if China taxes your products, you tax China’s products. He wants to sell more in China. He doesn’t want to “force” firms to bring jobs back. He wants to create the conditions so that they prefer to come back. His immigration vision is simple: come in, as long as it’s Legal. And of course he’s a Capitalist, he’s all about getting rich and acquiring properties. And as I said, there are laws here, and Congress rules. They approve or disapprove everything.

        That said, he’s a stupid megalomaniac, not as smart as he claims. A clown. The other option ain’t much better, though, the insufferable Hilary Clinton..

        • Getting rich and acquiring companies is not what capitalism is. Capitalism is about a market economy in which the State doesn’t have a dominant role. Chavez daughter also has a lot of money and properties? Does that make her capitalistic? No, the method is what matters. If you do it with your own skills and without government support that’s capitalism. If you do it through a government contract that’s crony capitalism. Trump is a crony. Great part of his business is hiring lobbists to get favors. Now, you also said that Trump has not threatened companies. Well, he threatened Ford to a 35% tariff on imports from Mexico (since they build a plant there) if they don’t hire more people in the US.

          If you go to his webpage you would see that he opposes TPP, which is basically about reducing tariffs (not with China).Also, the US has been very protectionistic towards China, by not following WTO rules. You can fact check that. The steel industry is just one of the examples. Trump wants to increase these tariffs even more. Again, you can see his speeches.

          Coming as long as you’re legal means a government restriction to immigration, How restrictive his policy is, remains to be determined. But, a guy that claims that Mexican immigrants are rapists, and that wants to put a full ban on muslims, doesn’t strike me as the type of guy that would favor more immigration. I hope he surprises me, but I sincerely doubt it.

          I’m not saying Clinton is good. She isn’t. But, at least she seems to have more sense than the Donald.

          • Well, you have your opinion, I have mine. One thing’s for sure, It’s very easy for me NOT to vote on this election. I totally dislike both candidates, almost as much as I hated Ted Cruz. I would have voted for Marco Rubio..

  10. Sorry, but Chavez never disguised himself as a moderate a la Blair. Chavez lead a Coup d’etat. Also in 98 he threatened with eliminating AD from the face of the Earth and fry the heads of their leaders in oil. I think we should stop sugar coating the facts: we willingly elected a freaking dictator in office. Yes, he promised we would not be like Cuba, because it was unpopular at the time and he said it in a Univision interview. But, he was not a moderate.

    The comparison is about style. And yes, in style Trump and Chavez are similar. Insulting the opposition and separating groups as us vs them. I agree that Trump is less of a concern than Chavez, but both in character. Trump seems less dictatorial (as incredible as this sounds) and because check and balances in the US work. Juan mentions this in the article, and I agree. But I think for our sanity, we should stop thinking that Chavez really deceived us. We knew he was not a democrat. The Venezuelan people would not regret the dictatorial state of the country if we had enough money (as they did when oil price was high).

    • Yes, he disguised himself as a comeflor:


      Trump would have kicked Yanez out of the studio, he already did that to another journalist not so long ago.

      Also, Chávez threatened the ADs and the mass slaughter only while he was surrounded by his fanatics, he would’ve never done that in front of any people who would boo him for that.

      At least half the people who voted him thought that he wasn’t going to be a dictator, you aren’t taking in account that most of the people in the country have been brainwashed to believe that everything against AD was good and all that bullshit since the 60s, people were so stupid on average in Venezuela that they came to believe the ADs were THE DICTATORSHIP, I’ve seen people so abysmally dumb to the point they claim that “CAP’s dictatorship had to release Chávez because they weren’t able to keep him imprisoned for lack of proof about the so-called coups.”

      The people in their most were convinced that the coup against CAP was a good one, regardless on how many people were killed, because they thought that CAP killed more people in the famous caracazo bullshit.

      • The guy threatened with mass murder (yes, in front of his followers, but no moderate would have done this). People was looking for a strongman on purpose and they got two for the price of one. Chavez and his successor. Again, no one would say that he wants to be a dictator before an election. That doesn’t make people moderate or comeflor as you say. It’s really hard to be a comeflor after a coup attempt.

        You say half the people would not have voted for him if they would have known that he would be a dictator. Afterwards, we gave a him the possibility of eternal reelection if he wanted to. The fact is that Venezuelans sacrificed their individual freedoms in exchange of subsidies and government expenditure. They knew the guy was not a democrat and elected him three times (even after clamping down almost all independent media). Once we start feeling shame for who we elected maybe we would move forward. Like the Germans did. Say “you know what, we really fucked up. We were not deceived, we knew we were giving a lot of power away to the president. Let’s not do this again”. Then we may move forward.

  11. For a glimpse into Donald Trump’s real character, read the following article about Tony Schwartz, the man who was Trump’s ghost writer for the book, “The Art of the Deal”. The man has absolutely no moral compass.


    Francisco’s argument that Trump would not be capable of dismantling the U.S.’s democratic institutions has merit, but I am convinced that he would try, and I would rather the theory not be brought to a test. I don’t think that the vast majority of Venezuelan’s believed that Chavez would be capable of this task either, but he managed it anyway.

    • Really? You actually think Trump will push for a new US Constitution? This is really out there. It’s a bizarre claim that I have not seen in even the most extreme webpages. #TrumpLosTieneLocos

      • No, I did not say that, Juan. But, I do think that he would weaken the institutions and probably provoke a constitutional conflict. I am more worried about the damage he would do to U.S. foreign policy, over which the executive branch has near total control.

        • If you want to make the case that Trump is like Chavez, you have to be marry yourself to the belief that Trump wants to change the US Constitution, shut down Congress, take over the courts, and basically become an authoritarian. Otherwise, whatever comparison you draw is kind of pointless.

          • Juan, my point was, in saying Trump is not like Chavez, you are largely comparing what Chavez did after he became president with what Trump says he will do not having become president. That comparison is inapt. It is not proof that Chavez is not like Trump.

            What will Trump do if elected. Nobody can say for certain. What we see is Trump appealing to voters in a similar way to Chavez. What we see is Trump’s view of himself, and his view of the role of a president, as similar to Chavez’s. What we see are very similar personality traits (i.e. grandiosity, vindictiveness, a propensity to humiliate people and lie, a well honed ability to manipulate public opinion, a propensity to threaten people who disagree with him….I could go on and on…Trump even talks about himself in the third person, like Chavez).

            That we cannot say Trump will do everything Chavez did if elected does not make the comparison “pointless”. Nobody can say with any certainty what he will do, but we do not elect people blindly. We make an assessment from what we know, beginning with what the candidate says. Trump clearly does not know himself specifically much of what he wants to do or how exactly he will do it, but argues that it will in any event save the country from ruin, which is itself an indicator of a certain type (much like Chavez). But what he says he wants to do reinforces evidence of a dangerously authoritarian mindset.

            Trump, as the Washington Post editorial board put it (a paper also dismissed by Chavez repeatedly as having a nefarious hidden agenda. although unlike Trump, I don’t think Chavez banned WaPo reporters from access to his rallies), is a clear and present danger to American democracy. Trump is an immensely popular figure with a clearly authoritarian mindset running for the executive office of the most powerful country on earth.

            I don’t know how this conclusion is not blindingly obvious to a Venezuelan who has lived through the Chavez era, but to dismiss respected journalists who articulate this view as somehow completely off base or frivolous, with a line of reasoning that does not follow, does not in any event make a satisfying read and is not up to your usual standard, in my view.

  12. One parallel I see with Trump & Chavez is how they play(ed) to the insecurity and frustration of their target audience.

    Both are using “us vs. them” messaging to rile those who may have otherwise remained indifferent.

    Trump is definitely baiting the WASP “tribe” by continuously harping on the threat to the WASP culture that non WASP Americans represent.

    Chavez always used a “pueblo vs. the rich” message to lift his campaigns. This continued unabated, and indeed got even worse as time went by.

    Should Trump win, how is he going to deal with the expectations of his base constituency to keep out Muslims, build a wall between the US and immigrants and “make America great again” and so on? Even if he does win, there won’t be any way he could impose these.

    One silver lining in a Trump win could be the rebirth of bi-partisanship in Congress. Some Republicans and all Democrats uniting to stop his “vision”.

    Cosas veredes, Sancho!

  13. Both Trump and Chavez have narcissism, paranoia and opportunism as central traits. I’m not qualified to diagnose a sociopath, but both seemed to me to exhibit those characteristics. Biographical descriptions of Chavez do not indicate to me that he was either a great planner or a particularly adept strategist. Nor reports from people close to him. He had no managerial skills. What he had was unlimited funds, an eye for willing tools, an instinct for the fissures in relationships that can be exploited, and the Cubans as his Swiss Guard.

    I’ve always feared since first seeing Chavez that far from being an anomaly he was a sign of the future. He was a warning sign of what can happen in a society marked by deep economic inequality, notwithstanding developed democratic institutions. The people turn to a strongman who offers easy explanations and simple solutions, with little basis in reality, and once a nation goes that way, it is hard to see the road back.

    There are an infinite number of parallels with Trump. The most striking at this stage is the willingness of people to believe that he will somehow be more controllable in power, and that he basically understands the average guy. Neither Chavez or Trump understand people in the conventional sense. They know how to manipulate people. They understand how to drum up and exploit weakness, fear and uncertainty. They both travelled a lot but have a deeply parochial outlook.

    They both give/have completely improvised, rambling and perversely fascinating speeches. Neither were/are drinkers or sleepers. Neither has had close friends or successful marriages. Both have a fetish for baseball caps and Vladimir Putin.

    A great difference is their socio economic situations. But whatever mental condition the two have in common appears to transcend that difference.

  14. I read this article and many of its comments as ‘Chavez is worse than Trump’ and therefore comparing them is silly. Is it that Trump is not a ‘Marxist’ that makes him less dangerous or more palatable? The danger of having Trump as President of the U.S. is very real, as many have noted, including many Republicans. It is not just about the political system but about the fabric of society. Trump has elicited the worst in people, and this can go far, and is already going far, unfortunately. The com
    parison Chavez/Trump is useful as Americans should “mirarse en ese espejo”.

  15. Start with populist socialism and you eventually arrive at a communist totalitarian dictatorship.

    Start with populist nationalism and you eventually arrive at a fascist totalitarian dictatorship.

    Pick your poison.

    • It’s easy to pick your poison knowing the past of each man.

      1- Chavez’ credentials: an obscure unknown military man with a coup on his back (1992).

      2- Trump’s credentials: for at least four decades a widely known global entrepreneur that spends and earns money investing private money on real estate, hospitality and miss universe contests.

      I know that Latin Americans, very unfortunately, would always pick poison number 1, that’s our miserable fate, but since Americans are another people, they tend to pick poison 2.

  16. If you are going to compare 2 people, at least compare them entirely…. What exactly makes trump divisive? Is it because he is the only candidate not full of shit? Just because the majority of people are scared and offended with the truth.

  17. “Francisco’s argument that Trump would not be capable of dismantling the U.S.’s democratic institutions has merit, but I am convinced that he would try, and I would rather the theory not be brought to a test. I don’t think that the vast majority of Venezuelan’s believed that Chavez would be capable of this task either, but he managed it anyway.”

    Completely different guys, completely different countries. Chavez could have never pulled his tricks and lies in the USA. He lied to get to power, and then he started Bribing and corrupting everyone to stay in power. You can’t do that in the USA or Europe. It’s the Boiling Frog technique, you slowly tighten the screws so people don’t freak out. Eventually, you disrespect the Constitution and the rule of Law. In the USA, that just doesn’t fly.

    And what makes you think that stupid Trump wants to “dismantle US’s democratic institutions”? He just wants to tighten the borders, be more competitive in trade, grow the free economy, and build up a weak USA military. You can only do that, in civilized, developed countries like the USA, with Congress approval, and the approval of an independent military generals, and of the majority of the people.

    No one can really change much in the USA. Here, it’s all about money and freedoms, for centuries. And Trump doesn’t even intend to change that much, anyway, born and raised in this system.

    • Tighten the borders? Illegal immigration is at its lowest in over a decade.

      Be more competitive in trade? I honestly don’t kneo what he is proposing that may fall into this category…renegotiate trade deals I guess?

      Build a weak is military? Weak? It is unquestionably the strongest in the world and its not even close.

      He’s a con man with no beliefs, no morals, and no shame.

  18. Lots of comments about Chavez and Trump as persons, politician and whatnots. We may be forgetting (although Juan dedicates a paragraph) the people that feel or felt attracted to them. The people that got disenfranchised from the old politics, from corruption, partisan interests and from an overall sense of failure derived from unfulfilled expectations. Those are the ones that elected Hitler, Mussolini, and Chavez and support or supported old and neo-dictatorships (the strong men agenda).

    We cannot forget that Chavez, like it or not, won all but one election and in spite of being control of a lot of stuff his power derived from the electorate. Hence, he managed to convince the people, the same way Hitler, Mussolini etc, that his method and his approach were the better choice. (Arrechese quien se arreche).

    Thus, the only true comparison I may see here is the ability of both Trump and Chavez to resonate the frustrations of the people and re-conduct those to their own benefit.

    Whether or not Trump will destroy US in the same fashion Hitler, Mussolini, Chavez, Assad and (why not) Putin is a matter of history mixed with speculation. However the similarities of their approach to acquire power and the mental condition of the people that ultimate make the decision of supporting them is hard to dismiss.

  19. “Trump credentials”? Ask the small business and contractors he’s ripped off! Please. You don’t have to be a liberal to see right through Trump’s BS. Do you even read the information that is available everywhere on this??

    • Even if that were true, how do you go from ripping off small business to becoming a dictator? Ha!

      Now if you have asked me back in 1999 if it ywould be clever to elect someone who actually tried a coup seven years before, I would have warned you, but you would probably have called me paranoic, anyway.

  20. Everybody who compares Trump with Chávez, specially in Venezuela, like to put aside the fact that Chávez presented himself as the BIGGEST comeflor for the election in 1998, he was even more moderate than Salas Römer and Irene Sáez together.

  21. I have to say, it bothers me that being critical of Chavez, Maduro, and “21st Century Socialism” is often associated with being right wing….as if, in order to be legit in the “oppo”, once has to embrace someone like Trump. This is not so! Rationally speaking, Trump doesn’t represent the best of capitalism. He represents what happens when people abuse of the system. He represents the worst of America and brings out the worst in all of us.

  22. I think a weakness in Mr Nagels argument is that he lately compares Trump prior to achieving public office with a demagogue like Chavez once in office. And he mistakes in my opinion Chavez as some sort of stealth socialist in his early days. Chavez was not in my view some clever dissimulator. He was not a liberation theologian or a student of Marx. He simply took the direction that served his interests best when he saw it. And like Trump, he was sitting on a pile of resources (not of his making) that made it look like genius.

    Confidence that the checks and balances will curb presidential actions in a Trump presidency is I think the same confidence that led the Venezuelan middle class to support a guy who staged a fail coup before running for elected office. It was just wishful thinking. The two institutions that would provide those checks and balances in the USA- the courts and legislative branch- are at this time deeply dysfunctional. And Trump makes no secret of his contempt for both.

    I think dismissing two highly experienced journalists who understand Venezuela and the USA very well in this way indicates an ideological blind spot for the authoritarian mindset, where the far left and far right meet. Authoritarianism dressed up in a suit and tie is the same as if it wears a beret and fatigues.

    • Canucklehead, you are saying that Trump’s plan is to rewrite the US Constitution, shut down Congress, and redo the judiciary, and therefore the comparison between the two is spot on. This is an insane proposition to be making. Really.

      • You forgot to add the complete obliterarion of the country’s sovereignity and handling all of its resources to an invading power, which is exactly what Chávez did on Venezuela.

      • Authoritarian presidents do not all act in the same way, nor are their abuses identical. Trump has essentially invited a foreign power to hack the emails of the former Secretary of State. And he’s just running for office!

        Will he re write the constitution? I don’t know. He evidently has not yet read it. Clearly. He wants to dump Free trade agreements. He wants to place a religious test on entry to the country. Well, other authoritarians have done worse, but what he is proposing should shock the conscience of anyone with a concern about fundamental human rights. Is he a racist? We are now into absurd debates about whether saying racist things makes you a racist. He courts white supremacists.

        In short, the insane propositions, to name only a few, do not come from Andres Oppenheimer or Rory Carroll. (Or a couple of your faithful readers) .That is just not a tenable assessment. They come from Trump. Venezuelans, of all people in recent times, know this creature.

        • “Will he re write the constitution? I don’t know.”

          That right there tells me we’re in two different wave lengths. No point in arguing about this anymore.

          Dumping free trade agreements, building a wall, making insane propositions are one thing. They do not amount to a wholesale remaking of US institutions. But perhaps you are, erm, reading different literature than I am.

  23. Well, you fix your problems and let us American’s worry about loudmouth braggarts. Which in my opinion is far better than a known corrupt politician and professional liar.

  24. I am shocked at how many otherwise rational people here are supporting Trump. it just goes to prove that Venezuela does not have a monopoly on Kool-aid drinkers.

    • I agree with you, Roy! Furthermore, it is sad that this is happening. As if it is natural for folks in the oppo to be mas papistas que el Papa when it comes to supporting the most retrograde views on this country.

  25. “The danger of having Trump as President of the U.S. is very real, as many have noted, including many Republicans. It is not just about the political system but about the fabric of society. Trump has elicited the worst in people, ”

    What many people do not understand, is that The USA is not Zimbabwe or Venezuela. There is true separation of power, a mighty Congress, and rules, and a 200+ year tradition of democracy. Any half-crazy egomaniac like Trump would be under control, every step. A lying crook, and thief, and egomaniac like Chavez, can only get away with murder and mass corruption in countries like Venezuela. Not here. Too obvious. Too many laws. Old judicial system.

    That’s one of the reasons everyone wants to live in countries like the USA or Europe, and, first chance they get, get the hell out out disaster, corrupt countries like Vzla. Like most readers and writers and bloggers here did. Outta there.

    Things work here in the USA because there is real police, real Justice systems, not that much corruption, and a free economy. Plus better education. Miracles do not happen overnight.. as Capriles and many others dream..

    Know what? As much as I laugh and dislike Trump, he would probably be a good president for Venezuela. Then again, the corrupt, narco-military in charge doesn’t want a tough guy in charge.. they couldn’t STEAL as much money every week.

    In the USA, we are stuck between the unpalatable, politician Hilary Cinton, and the megalomaniac Trump. To be honest, I’d prefer to live with Trump, because Congress rules here. And he’s more fun than freaking Hilary. Wouldn’t mind watching a few different things from the Obama Mess. But pick your poison is correct. Ted Cruz was even worse. Mario Rubio would have been much better. Thus, I won’t vote this time, and let Congress handle this mess.Just a matter of principle.

    • I will be voting for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. It doesn’t even matter if he has “no chance”. I can’t support, in good conscience, either Trump or Clinton.

        • It isn’t a protest vote. I agree with his political views, and think he has practical fact-based approach to governance.

      • Conscience has nothing to do in this case. It is a matter of dealing with the least evil. Voting Libertarian or not voting has the practical effect of sending Hillary to the WH. If that is what you want, go for it, just be aware of it.
        Remember what happened when people stayed home during the National Assembly elections of 2005 and before?

  26. One thought on the changes in Hugo’s politics over time – I’m not so sure it is only a matter of ‘reveling’ his true beliefs or ‘plan’ over time. He had an eclectic mix of ideas in his consciousness and experiences when he ran in 1998.

    Just like many others in LatAm who years earlier would have embraced Cuba, for example, or socialism as such had changed their political programs in a third-way or more liberal direction (e.g., Lula,).

    So, it can also be that in response to intense experiences and failure of his more liberal political program once he was in office a couple years events caused him to ditch the newer, more liberal parts and revert to the more authoritan-commandist-socialist politics.

    Indeed, his early economic policy was more in the direction of standard liberal stuff (unfortunately , I forget the title of an interesting book detailing this by a fellow at UCV.)

    And there was also the piece in Foreign Affairs by F. Rodriguez in 2008) who explains his H. Chavez’ economic politics changing in step with events, not simply a ‘revealing’ of some hidden program:

    See: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2008-03-02/empty-revolution
    “Chávez’s behavior is typical of such populist economic experiments. The initial successes tend to embolden policymakers, who increasingly believe that they were right in dismissing the recommendations of most economists. Rational policy formulation becomes increasingly difficult, as leaders become convinced that conventional economic constraints do not apply to them. Corrective measures only start to be taken when the economy has veered out of control. But by then it is far too late.

    “My experience dealing with the Chávez government confirmed this pattern. In February 2002, for example, I had the opportunity of speaking with Chávez at length about the state of the Venezuelan economy. At that point, the economy had entered into a recession as a result of an unsustainable fiscal expansion carried out during Chávez’s first three years in office. Moderates within the government had arranged the meeting with the hope that it would spur changes in the management of the public finances. As a colleague and I explained to Chávez, there was no way to avoid a deepening of the country’s macroeconomic crisis without a credible effort to raise revenue and rationalize expenditures. The president listened with interest, taking notes and asking questions over three hours of conversation, and ended our meeting with a request that we speak with his cabinet ministers and schedule future meetings. But as we proceeded to meet with officials, the economic crisis was spilling over into the political arena, with the opposition calling for street demonstrations in response to Chávez’s declining poll numbers. Soon, workers at the state oil company, PDVSA, joined the protests.

    “In the ensuing debate within the government over how to handle the political crisis, the old-guard leftists persuaded Chávez to take a hard line. He dismissed 17,000 workers at PDVSA and sidelined moderates within his government. When I received a call informing me that our future meetings with Chávez had been canceled, I knew that the hard-liners had gained the upper hand. Chávez’s handling of the economy and the political crisis had significant costs. Chávez deftly used the mistakes of the opposition…

    (Apologies … a long quote.)

    In any case, I think it iS likely much of his ultimate program came out as things progressed …

    • I think this is a very good point Tom. I agree that the final project was probably not in Chavez mind from the get go, What was in his mind was to stay in power, and this is the defining characteristic of any dictator. From the initial Constitution he reconfigured the Judicial system, he changed to an Assembly with only one chamber (effectively reelecting all members, so he dissolved the Legislative power). More importantly, he increased the term of the president to 6 years with one immediate reelection and made it very easy for himself to modify the Constitution afterwards. So I think he was unlike people like Lula or other third way candidates (I don’t like them either, but they didn’t seem to stay in power forever).

      As time passed by, he reconfigured the system to achieve his goals and remain in power. Also, to increase his powers. Attacking all elements of a liberal society.

  27. I think a lot of us on here are overselling the United States’ democratic institutions. While they may not be susceptible to a Venezuela-style assault on separation of powers, the last twenty years have shown that government has become polarized to the point that Congress is almost paralyzed and what would otherwise be non-partisan issues (appropriations, climate change, the running of the bureaucracy) become new grounds for discord. Throw in a megalomaniac like Trump and you have the perfect recipe for policy inertia. While Trump would be highly unlikely to declare himself dictator for life and destroy democracy in the U.S. as we know it, a man with a huge ego, a penchant for not knowing much and caring even less, and a general authoritarian streak could hamper U.S. policy interests in the short term. Trump is a showman and seems to care more about the crowd than about governing, otherwise he wouldn’t make inflammatory and unworkable propositions which any college sophomore can point out as being fallacious.

  28. Quico & JC, nice piece. I agree. In fact, you’ve captured the essence of the subtle difference between the two aforementioned clowns. The recent events of today where Trump is literally asking Russia to spy on his behalf only confirm his inability to exercise self-control.

    Maybe I will take great pleasure in highlighting that our narcissistic megalomaniac was more self-controlled than theirs.

  29. good point but completely disagree with the “less ultimately dangerous” part. he is the greatest threat to American democracy right now.

  30. DJT and HCF are both pathogical. Both have narcissistic personality disorders. Chavez is known to have been worse, narcopathic or sociopathic narcissist. Its more complex than this but this is a baseline.

  31. Trump vs Chavez? Definitely a comparison relevant exclusively to Venezuelans. I found that out after spending a week in academia in Gringolandia. There, Chavez is still an unknown,or is he a know unknown to paraphrase Rumsfeld? Whatever! He is irrelevant.

  32. Word.

    Trump hate is a lot like Chávez hate: more about fear of the poor and less about politics.

    Tbh though, I am part of a deeply weird section of humanity that would love either the D or Hillary. As far as vzla is concerned, I believe they are both sane enough to represent our interests. Also, Quico says, the US governmenr is the US gvt. Even Cheney coulsnt being it down, one of several carachters conspicuously abscent from present day hate.

  33. The method of communication that two people use is hardly a way for comparisons. How about the ability to invest in properties and generate capital (Capitalist) vs the ability to soak up books by Marx (Communist)? These two are as opposite as it gets.

  34. Why are you worrying about who Americans might elect?
    Your country is swirling down the toilet, and you are worried about my bowel habits?


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