The president walks around the streets after dark, after inaugurating some newly refurbished houses on cadena nacional. But instead of waving at him, people openly show their contempt; an impromptu cacerolazo ensues. It’s not the same to protest in the comfort of your home than to get right up in the faces of the president’s body guards. But in Villa Rosa (Margarita Island) that’s just what happened according to a couple of videos that went viral last night.

 

We still don’t know a lot of details about what happened, and lots of contradictory stories are making the rounds — Maduro went crazy! Maduro punched somebody’s grandmother! Casa Militar raided every home in the area!

From my very partial little post as a sociology prof, this incident has already done its job illustrating perfectly how, as Max Weber argued over a century ago, power and authority are not the same.

Someone is powerful when he can make people obey even against their will. Authority is something different: authority means that people are willing to accept someone’s command. The difference lays in legitimacy: authority rests on people’s consent. It cannot be imposed, it is given (or not) by those that you seek to rule.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen Nicolás Maduro and his inner circle engage in increasingly panicked attempts to showcase the power they still have: they throw opposition leaders into dank cells, block highways all around the country and shut down metro stations to impede people coming to Caracas’s protests, they deport international journalists to avert negative news about 1S protest.

To be sure, Maduro certainly has plenty of power: he controls our economy, most our media, the military, the Consejo Nacional Electoral and the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia. He can force us to do plenty that we don’t want to do: stand in line for four hours to buy a bar of soap, shut down the land border to Colombia, demand we jump through hoops to buy foreign currency to travel abroad.

But power has limits when there is no legitimacy behind it, and the huge September 1st demonstration just showcased that dramatically. For all the government’s heavy-handed use of power to dissuade people through fear, thousands walked from every corner of Caracas demanding our right to a recall vote. And that show of defiance in Caracas had consequences, consequences for the perception of legitimacy in the rest of the country, consequences we saw vividly on display last night in Villa Rosa —once a chavista stronghold, now the kind of place where people are not intimidated by armed bodyguards and are all too happy to cantárselas al presidente to his literal face.

Power won’t protect Nicolás from people’s open contempt forever. Winning an election is the ultimate basis of legitimacy and that is now out of his reach. The only remaining question is not if this new reality shown in Villa Rosa would be able to change our institutions, but when it will. And latest events show Venezuelans are trying to obtain this change as fast as they can.

 

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Is a PhD sociologist and researcher at Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales and Sociology Professor at Escuela de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Blogger and collaborator of SIC Semanal and ElUcabista.com.

38 COMMENTS

  1. “Maduro certainly has plenty of power: he controls our economy, most our media, the military, the Consejo Nacional Electoral and the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia. He can force us to do plenty that we don’t want to do:”

    Incorrect here. Maduro is just a pawn. Heck, even Cilia has more “power” than him. And Cabello’s thugs, and many others. Maduro doesn’t control anything. The economy, the media, the CNE, the TSJ are controlled by thousands of corrupt ’employees’ and ultimately backed up by the corrupt military and corrupt police.

    These are simply thousands of Thieves, trying to stay in power for a while, to get another piece of the pie. Maduro is backed up by many crooks, thousands, only because they are allowed to steal. By no one likes him, and he really has no powers. What has he decided lately? To send some people to jail? That’s Cabello, and the corrupt military’s decisions.

    People tend to blame the presidents of nations for everything. Including in countries like the USA or in Europe. But presidents are just a part of the larger machinery. In a classic dictatorship, yes a president has a lot of power. But Vzla is an unusual type of neo-dictatorship, ultimately controlled by the military and many, many other crooks. Countless ‘ministers’, and government ‘oficials’. Maduro is just a clown. They keep him there so that thousands of other crooks can keep stealing, while he takes the blame. And those are the real heavy-weights, PDVSA, Corpoelec, thugs like Jorge and Delcy Rodriguez and Luisa Ortega. Thieves like that are much more “powerful’ than Maduro. And they are the ones ‘controlling’ the economy. It’s not just one illiterate dummy, it’s thousands of thieves you have to blame for Vzla’s disaster.

    • Bravo! Finally.someone has said what i was thinking. The problem with ftoro et al is that they think the regime is some nazi party or the mussolini. After Chavez death it took a life of its own. But beware, is not only people trying to get money. Actually many more are people who think they know better and believe they cannot risk a change now, the left and extreme left. This is something seen everywere in america. Thats why many left parties do not dare to call Venezuela a dictatorship or an undemocratic regime and at tge same time call what happened in Brazil a coup.

      • Maduro is the face and main voice of a dictatorial regime which includes various political factions (and their leaders) forming an inner circle of power, his decision making power is not absolute but shared with these various faction leaders , there are divisions among them but they are joined in their fierce defense of the regime and in fighting for its survival , there are other interest groups which have a stake in the survival of the regime , some of them in the military others in business, the motive is not just monetary , there are also people who are heavily fanatized by their ideology and some that simply are bessotted with the narcicistic rewards of being part of that near absolute power.

        Power is an aphrodisiac Kissinger once proclaimed and once you become addicted to it there is little that you wouldnt do to maintain it in your grasp. Even if the regime is not monolithic in its inner structure the factions that compose it are tightly bound by their common need to ensure its hegemonic dominance and survival so any attack on Maduro is an attack on all of them. !!

        Power is not just the capacity to use naked force and violence to coerce others into a state of obeyance , the essence of power is its legitimacy , its capacity to induce a mayority of people to willingly and peacefully obey it with a minimum use of coercion or force , the latter is always there but to be used only exceptionally in a highly cirscunscribed chirurgical fashion . Where such legitimacy is lost then what is left is not true political power but naked force , the massive and methodical use of force to keep a population in abeyance represents a state of force , it is the failure of politics and the triumph of violence .

        What is happening now in Venezuela as that the regime once grounded on the legitimate support of a very slim mayority has lost almost all of its legitimacy and is now opposed and hated by a large mayority of the people under its ‘control’ . Hence it still retains a tattered rag of purely formal legality to cover the naked illegitimacy of its rule .

        One quality of authority is its legitimacy , its capacity to call on a large mayority of the citizens to obey its commands willfully and dutyfully without having to be intimidated or threatened with brutal exercises of force. Thus the attack on Maduro in Margarita by a throng of unarmed citizens only wielding their spoons and caceroles is an ostensible sign that the regime has lost its legitimacy and only sustains itself thru the use of threats intimidation and acts of force and thus that it no longer deserves to be obeyed or respected ……..

        In the end regimes that lose their legitimacy in such transparent manner dont last long !! Oh and still to come is what ultimately happens with the toppling of the regimes finances if Pdvsa is unable to refinance the 6000 million US$ that it must pay its creditors in the very short term. That may prove a lethal blow to the regimes continuance in power .!!

  2. Wow!!! Now we are talking!!!

    It reminded me of Dilma’s last public appearances, when the house of cards started to collapse in all fronts.

    If the ex-chavistas in the MUD tell the people to “tone it down”, “to show restraint”, “to respect the authorities”, send them to hell too, and do the same with them!!!

    Compare: https://youtu.be/JcnrTgG7EnE

      • If he is as inept and corrupt as Dilma, how come he managed to make the Brazilian stock market reach the highest closing level since 2014, then? It seems investors don’t agree with that assessment.

        https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/%5EBVSP?p=%5EBVSP

        What left-wing media (CNN, NYT, HP, etc) says about him is often biased. He’s definitely not perfect, but economy-wise, far better than Dilma, Maduro and even Capriles.

        If you are that guy who used the nickname “Juan” here, you should like him, since he appointed a Harvard educated ‘elite’ as ministry of finance.

  3. I can hardly wait to speak to my die-hard-Chavista buddy who claims Margarita is a chavista paradise. He’ll probably remain silent until he gets his marching orders from the powers above.

    • Margarita? Chavista paradise? He has been smoking something that is definitely non-regulation. Margarita is 90% Oppo. The Chavistas stay very quiet and keep their heads down in public.

  4. Paging Brigadier General Manuel Vera Boada, chief of toilet paper, sanitary pads and disposable diapers .(aka Chief Ass-wipe) presidential clean-up needed in Margarita Get you ass-wipes on the go ASAP.

    • When it comes to Toilet Paper, Sanitary Pads and Diaper Management, there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved. The top military have to delegate, generals give orders to lieutenants, and ultimately the soldiers do the dirty work.

  5. Its a monument to human stupidity that something so outdated and irrelevant as a forum of non aligned countries continues to exist in a world were one of the two superpowers that gave meaning to that ‘non aligned’ status fell 25 years ago into the garbage dump of history!!

    That a bankrupt regime such as ours is anxious to act as host to such silly assembly of countries is a sign of how desperate it is to pretent that it still is, at least in appearance a noted’ member of the international community.

    Another frivolous effort to distract the population from its sufferings and humiliation and make believe that Maduro is an ‘important world figure’!!

    • Firstly, you are 100% correct about the NAM being irrelevant pretense in today’s world, and it being a pathetic attempt to claim international legitimacy.

      However, I suspect that this is going to backfire on them. Something will happen during this summit that will expose the regime to even more humiliation and international contempt than they are already facing. I can’t say what that might be. All I know is that they will step on their dicks again. They just can’t help themselves.

    • Es que en inglés no hay distinción de género para las ocupaciones (verifiqué y sí aparece “professor” en la bio). Muchos cariños!

  6. The sra and I were watching La Hojilla last night on one of the many ChavezTV stations and the host was claiming that the video actually showed people chasing Maduro because they love him. We have our own version of Baghdad Bob it seems. He showed only the top video, not the one below which I thought was more damning.

    BTW, during a rant about the Asemblea Nacional, the host repeatedly called Henry Ramos Allup a cono e madre (which I think translates roughly to mother f…er) on national TV. The sra gasped the first time. For me it was something of an epiphany as it seems we have absolutely reached a tipping point where these guys know their days in power are numbered and are now pulling out all the stops. The big question is how far they will go to maintain power.

  7. Did I get this right, the journalist Brauilio Jatar who linked to the videos of Maduro’s stop in Villa Rosa is being charged with money laundering?

    WTF?

  8. Off topic : relative visited Ipfsa food super market yesterday (where most Caracas military buy their food) and was surprised , one by the empty shelves and by the scarcity and poor quality of their veggies and second by a large crowd of supermarket employees having a loud exchange with their supervisors about how food shipment had stopped comng and this was hurting the income they got from reselling it !! Seems like even army families food outlets are suffering the effects of shortages. Wonder what really is the mood of the military when shortages and inflated prices have started hitting them as hard as the rest of us….. !!

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