For Whom the Bailoterapia Tolls

Ironically, the defining tweet of the "Toma de Caracas" came not from the big opposition demonstration but from the squalid little chavista counterdemo.

The significance of the tiny video in this tweet may not be entirely obvious to you unless you’re a hardcore Venezuelan politics junky of a certain age. But if you are, your jaw hit the floor (along with mine) watching it. Because “Bailoterapia” —a latin-inflected dance aerobics routine— has long been a metonymic icon for the opposition leadership’s political cluelessness.

It all goes back to the two month December 2002-January 2003 era General Strike. Caracas had big, daily opposition demonstrations virtually every day back then, but as protests dragged on and it became increasingly clear they were failing, the erstwhile Coordinadora Democrática started to panic. Unsure how to keep its supporters turning up to rallies whose purpose was increasingly opaque, they started holding Bailoterapias at each event.

The sight of everybody’s aunt doing Dance Aerobics at what was supposed to be a transcendent political protest crystallized this diffuse feeling that the opposition’s leadership had no any what it was doing. That it was unmoored and unserious. That the people following them didn’t really understand what it was they were doing there. Bailoterapia is an icon of the failure of the early anti-Chávez movement.

Which is why seeing a Bailoterapia, 14 years later, at a chavista counterdemo is….is…

Wow…just wow.

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