“And, at this point, would anyone be truly surprised if one day Trump shoots an Apprentice two-hour special from the White House?”

from a draft of this post, before it was known that President Trump will still act as Executive Producer for the upcoming season of the Apprentice.

Post-truth is new up North; for us it’s old hat.

On November 8th, 2016, many intellectuals were swaffeled across the face by the election results of the U.S. presidential election. Today, a still shellshocked world will watch in astonishment as Donald John Trump takes the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States of America. As Venezuelans, we stand today alongside intellectuals in other parts of the world who’ve been here before and warned of the dangers of this kind of leadership; Russian intellectuals such as Gary Kasparov and Masha Gessen, or Italian writers such as Luigi Zingales and Beppi Severgnini. The parallels between Trump’s style and that of Putin and Berlusconi have been drawn. Now, as Venezuelans, we feel in our bones we have something to say to our American friends. But what?

For a decade and a half, we’ve struggled to explain what was going on in Venezuela to our English-speaking interlocutors. Post-truth is new up North; for us it’s old hat. The wall of misunderstanding and suspicion from intellectuals both in Europe and the U.S. regarding our distrust of the Bolivarian Revolution had felt like an indictment, at times: how could we stand in the way of Venezuela’s progress, of its people’s will? How could we be so condescending on the voting public that repeatedly gave Chavez carte blanche to rule the country as he wished?

Today, as Trump is inaugurated, we suppress the urge for an “I told you so,” and pivot instead to a “this is what you have to watch out for going forward.”

Like Chávez, Trump has built his power on a personal ideology of showmanship, where ideas and facts always take a back-seat to feelings, and to the appearance of ideas. Trump did not win the Republican primaries quoting Hayek, nor did he go into the debates channeling the positive moral posturing of a Ronald Reagan or brandishing a CV full of high-level governing experience. The only idea Trump has consistently championed is Trump. Venezuelans see it and can’t help a shudder. Chavez also championed himself above everything else, even above the new constitution that he himself had had tailor-made for his initial years in office.

Chavez and Trump share this obsession for showmanship, spectacle and power —or, more precisely, the arbitrary flaunting of power followed by the equally arbitrary decisions not to follow through their own proposals—, which was at the center of their relationship with their followers. Chavez became a reality television star after becoming President, Trump had been a reality television star before becoming President.

Trump’s reality TV catchphrase —“You’re fired”— coincides almost verbatim with Chávez’s famous, referee-whistling speech on April 7th, 2002 speech purging PDVSA of its top managers.

Firing people on live television, Chavez prefigured the best of Trump’s live-on-TV showmanship, the aspiration of the President-as-CEO for whom intelligence briefings are just a nuisance.

To seek to disarm it with facts is useless. In Venezuela, we’ve witnessed the the way the autocrats’ supporters doggedly dig in in the face of facts. Just recently, in the Washington Post, Paul Waldman shows how unprepared U.S. intellectuals are for this, in a piece titled “How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?” Waldman argues that once Trump supporters realize how weaker the U.S. is under Trump they’ll vote him out of office. It’s the type of wishful thinking that Venezuelans will remember well from the early years of our dictatorship.

It’s not results that keep a demagogue’s supporters in thrall, it’s their spell-binding narrative and the self-fulfilling rhetoric of blaming the Other. It is no coincidence that both Chavez and Trump present their great debacles—Chavez’s own military mediocrity demonstrated in the 1992 coup attempt and Trump’s disastrous brushes with bankruptcy— as some of their biggest achievements. It’s no coincidence that they attack their opponents as pathetic and weak, as escualido and apatrida— disqualified not by the strength of their argument, but by their powerlessness.

We in Venezuela know how terrifyingly plausible it is that, in four years, a Trump voter will look around at his declining quality of life and blame not Trump but an “economic war” with China or Mexico, aided by treacherous elites in Washington and left wing intellectuals, always eager to sell out the National Interest.

We know a Trump presidency will not be judged in terms of facts, statistics or results, but on the strength of his emotional connection with his base.

Even if some Trump voters do realize the mistakes and abuses of his government, there is the real possibility, already witnessed by us in Venezuela, that narrative-spurned hate towards the Democrats will make them cross their arms and yell: No volveran!, which is Chavismo all-powerful snake oil, a formula that pimps the fear of change under the appearance of a sound national policy.

Venezuelan have seen it happen. We know a Trump presidency will not be judged in terms of facts, statistics or results, but on the strength of his emotional connection with his base. That his performance will be judged by his performance.

And that once this logic of showmanship colonizes the public sphere, it is remarkably hard to evict. Unwillingly, Venezuelans to this day continue to stand in hour-long lines for a first row seat to the debacle that many did not want to believe could come.

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  1. Some writers in this blog have a very difficult time wrapping their heads around checks and balances and the limits of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the US Federal government. Good prose though…

    • Also, Americans simply wouldn’t allow the constitution to be quite so flagrantly ignored. We’d rather start killing people then become mere subjects of an autocratic government. We are not you and you are not us. There is no comparison.

      • Actually, we Americans do not act quickly. The 2nd Bush presidency shredded the Constitution in various ways, notably around conduct of the wars and torture, etc. I have less confidence than ever in my 70 years that we learn from our mistakes. We finally figured out that Nixon violated the Constitution over and over and got him out. Trump is worse for us and our institutional safeguards are far weaker than in ’74. Wish us well – we will need it. Watch this to understand what i mean. https://youtu.be/Xo7KWzOgnf8

    • Well, considering that the executive and legislative branches are under the control of the same party AND they have the chance to control the judicial branch as well, makes one wonder about how effective those checks and balances will be. HAVING said that there are some important differences: A) The hold on the Legislative Branch is not all that strong, B) It’s obvious that Trump is going to clash with a good deal of the party that has that legislative branch hold. C) Institutions in the US are a lot stronger than here. D) I am of the opinion that the level of tolerance to incompetence is a lot lower in the US than here, and E) one has to remember that this has been brewing since 2010, the party using that emotional connection has been consistently rewarded for its actions. Hopefully this will be its zenith and it will level off.

    • I agree. Also, that Middle America basically elected Trump, vs. the East Coast/West Coast/Liberal Media Establishment so irritates the latter, paraphrasing W. C. Fields’ classic comment on little kids/dogs, can’t be all bad….

    • First Constitutional provision rendered meaningless by the Trump administration: the emoluments clause.

      Checks and balances. A Constitution. Venezuela has those too. Caracas Chronicles has a running list of provisions of the Venezuelan Constitution that the regime has rendered meaningless, without consequence. It is instructive.

      I would not be so sanguine about the inevitable strength and health of American constitutional democracy, because I have seen what happened to Venezuela. “The system” does not take care of itself.

      • Only the citizenry can keep the system from failing. That is the big difference from Venezuela, and what you are missing.

        I would be more worried about Canada. Trudeau is an unabashed lover of dictators. Remember, he lovingly referred to Fidel as Latin America’s “longest serving President”.


          • I’ll be curious to know about those reasons, although perhaps not on this post or blog as it does not relate to Venezuela. Curious, though.

          • Kepler, I am worried that a new wave of short sighted protectionist measures will screw up a reasonably sound regional trading block. I am worried that Canadians are not immune to this kind of populism having, for example, elected a man named Rob Ford mayor of Toronto. I am worried that a Trump administration is now flirting with a criminal regime in Russia. I’m worried the small and urgently needed progress on climate change has suffered a huge setback. I’m shocked about the levels of xenophobia and the deliberate use of the slogan ‘America First’ which has a very particular and insidious origin having become broadly acceptable in public discourse. I do not see our institutions, or those across the border, as necessarily being strong against a concerted movement of anti institutionalism. The institutions I inhabit have people of competence and good will but they also have deep cracks, they need serious maintenance, and I see those same cracks across the border. To summarize, when America coughs, we get the flu. And American democracy has just contracted an illness, a form of cancer, where the chances of survival are only just say 50-50, and it is a form of cancer that seems to spread quickly, relatively effortlessly, and globally.

            People regularly assume Venezuela is just different. It’s not that different. I wondered since I first saw Alo Presidente, that this abomination could find its way to North America. It has. And rather than seeing Venezuela change and slowly heal I now see no end in sight, because rather than help fix Venezuelas shit, or at least mitigate it, America just contracted it.

            In Phillip Roth’s great novel, The Plot Against America, Canada was the place of refuge from American populism. When I first read that novel I thought it was interesting and fantastical. Now I only think the notion of Canada being the refuge from this plague as being the fantastical part.

          • This is a reply to your reply to Kepler’s reply.
            I just find very interesting that despite everybody’s belief of Venezuela being -politically speaking- a number of years behind Latin America, which in turn is decades behind the rest of the Western world, due to the oil money fantasy, the facts show that it is clearly the opposite… we are 20 years ahead in everything bad..

          • Carlos, that is exactly my concern. People acting out of fear and insecurity, including legitimate fear and insecurity, drink the snake oil of opportunists, enfermos, like Chavez, like Trump. Venezuelans for all their troubles now have a powerful ability. The ability to predict Donald Trump.

      • The U. S. Supreme Court, independent, no matter what it’s “leaning” may be at any given time, fairly/usually interprets correctly the U. S, Constitution; the TSJ is a travesty of injustice in its interpretation of the Venezuelan Constitution, and is the main block to democracy in Venezuela.

      • The Venezuelan system was never as strong as the USA system. Comparing the two is like comparing a chicken to a rhinoceros. I also sense that, behind his populist language, Trump has a very sophisticated perception of the world. Maybe this perception doesn’t jibe with the western ruling elite’s, but it makes sense to me. The point where I’m really disconnected from Trumpism is the proposal to move the USA embassy to Jerusalem. But I really like his proposal to ratchet down tension with Russia, that’s a key move the USA needs to make before it can move forcefully to deal with the mess Bush and Obama created in the Middle East, North Africa, and Afghanistan.

    • Gordon, the problem with checks and balances is that they are as strong and effective as the civil society backing them. When judges are labeled as ‘enemies of the people’, because they rule that parliament should have a say on a government’s decision, and the perpetrators can get along with it (UK recently), or when the opposition is labeled as ‘crooked’ and threaten with jail, and critical media as ‘staging a war’ against the government, and the civil society does not react unanimously strongly rejecting this attitude, then checks and balances are already in jeopardy. Hitler did not rise to power with the backing of the majority of the Germans, nor Chávez gained absolute power with the endorsement of the majority of Venezuelan (the constitutional amendments he proposed were rejected by the majority of Venezuelans in a referendum). The support of a strong and vocal minority, ruthless slogan and disregard for the truth (see Conway’s ‘alternative facts’), unopposed by the apathetic and inattentive majority of the voters, is all they needed to overturn the democratic institutions.

        • You mean in pre-Chavez times, a Venezuelan AG charging the president with embezzlement, a supreme court upholding it, and the senate voting to remove the presidential power of immunity from CAP for these related charges? And then the National Congress voting to remove Perez because he refused to resign?

          Yes. while I suspect you’ll no doubt find causes to object, on the whole, that’s a practical illustration of checks and balances in action.

    • Exactly. The great Phil Gunson included who goes from writing a brilliant piece to warning us about Trump with “this is how it begins” (Chavez). Please folks, stop worrying about America and worry about how America is going to save your sorry asses. For we may not.

  2. This article and the one preceding it shows why Venezuela is in the disastrous condition it is in. A man, or a population, who fears his own freedom is to be pitied.

    The problem with socialists is that they live off of others. When those others decide they have had enough, the socialist is seen as the thief and embezzler he is, and becomes nothing more than a criminal.

    Does that describe the ruling regime in Venezuela?

  3. “intellectuals such as Gary Kasparov”

    An intellectual just because he is a chess master? hahaha

    Anyway, if Trump is like Chavez, Venezuelans in the US should emigrate to other countries, avoiding the incoming chaos. I mean, you guys don’t want a repeat of Chavismo in your lives, right?

    But we know that they aren’t going anywhere, it’s just silly propaganda. They just want to look good before their Democrat friends in the US.

  4. “On November 8th, 2016, many intellectuals were swaffeled across the face by the election results of the U.S. presidential election.”

    Do you really believe that Hillary Clinton was a good or great candidate? she was a lousy candidate my friend. I do not know what will happen and how good or bad will The Donald be, but come on buddy, the other choice was Hillary Clinton! I do not understand how “many intellectuals” did not see this coming.

    Also, the world is not coming to an end. The US of A will have elections in 4 years and then again in 4 more years, you can count on that.

    • You are forgetting mid-term elections in 2 years. If Trump and the GOP screw things up too much, they will lose their power. Trump might still be able to do things by executive order, but a lot of his grand plans will be stymied if the GOP loses the Senate and/or the House.

      Obama faced the same thing, and lost a lot of his clout after 2 years

  5. With a majority in both houses of Congress, a soon to be new Republican majority Supreme Court, an intimidated media and protests confronting serious levels of police repression there’s little to check or balance Mr. Trump, who in a Democracy would be a private citizen. And coming soon – armed bikers and kluxers confronting protests.

    • You’ve pretty much gotten it all backwards. The media is not intimidated. They are doubling down. All of the world’s power elite are arrayed against Trump and doing their best to defend the status quo. The Deep State, including the intelligence services, is trying to sabotage his administration already. They have willing, McCarthyite lackeys in the media to help them with their vicious propaganda (for example, the Washington Post). The thugs who are beating up backers of a candidate are all on the left. They are rioting again. They are beating Trump supporters bloody again. The media hides this from you, but it’s online if you care to look for it or actually think for yourself.

      • He’s still angry that his candidate, the one that would put people into 4+ hour lines to buy anything, was reviled by about 90% of the voters.

  6. Here’s an alternate explanation, one that is actually logically consistent. With your explanation we have to do mental gymnastics in order to arrive at the silly conclusion that the same leftist pseudo-intellectuals who loved Chavez and now hate Trump did so for opposite reasons. Yes, this is ridiculous on the face of it. A much tighter, logically consistent explanation is that they loved Chavez for the very same reasons that they hate Trump. These pseudo-intellectuals are anti-American, big government leftists. That is why they loved Chavez. That is why they hate Trump. You see how much better that explanation is? There’s no need for insane rationalizations. These pseudo-intellectuals have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

    • Your explanation is just an attack. By calling those people “anti-American leftists” you’re just insulting them. They may well be anti-American or leftists or both, but surely you can come up with an explanation that isn’t the grownup, Republican version of calling them doody heads.

      Also, if you could explain how, beyond ‘left’ and ‘right’ leaning and without bringing up how stupid you find socialism/communism, Trump and Chavez are not the same damn thing, it would be great, because forgetting which side of the economic spectrum they may lean to, they’re both authoritarian dicks.
      With the added fun of Trump being immensely childish (see expressly wanting to one-up Obama’s visit to the Queen, never being able to let anything go, refusing to listen to anything that says he has the wrong end of any sticks).

  7. I would love Trump as an uncle for his sense of humor and drive for “success”, but never as President.
    He is mentally unfit and has no experience nor the education that that kind of job requires.
    At least he have some basic understanding of free markets, but still not so sure because of his protectionism/isolationism.
    To be honest, at 70 years old I think is time for any person to retire or slow down rather than taking a job so demanding like the USA presidency. Same goes for Hillary.

    Many experts on Trump predict he won’t serve his full term due to an impeachment or other major issue.
    His poll numbers are already low.
    Now, I don’t think the conditions in the USA are such that would give rise to an autocrat, unless some major unprecedented event happens like WW III or something.
    Despite my big disagreement with Trump, he has some good points and I like his independent thinking.

    Hopefully with lots of luck he could do good. But I just don’t see it how he will improve things, especially given his attitude.
    The mark of a great leader is to bring unity, respect and admiration from his base and I have a hard time to see that happening.

    One thing is a TV Show another is the real and complicated world.

    Lets hope for the best.

  8. I lost all respect for a number of author’s views here on American politics when they complained about Maduor’s socialism and then commented that Bernie Sanders would have made a fine president. The fact is that Venezuela’s “far right” would probably be left-of-center in American politics.

    You guys just don’t get it. And as someone the day Trump was elected, his opponents never took him seriously but the did take him literally while his supporters never took him literally, but did take him seriously.

    America will be fine. Venezuela? We can only hope.

    • Exactly. They completely forgot that, meanwhile Chavez was a social mistfit with leftist ideas on his mind, Trump is the opposite. Yeah, both might be showmen and stuff, but that has nothing to do with the decisions they take for the country.

      • I think that the flip flopping on some of the issues by Trump’s part is what draws from his credibility.

        I do not live in the US but I hope he does a good job, our world depends a lot on how well America does.

    • “…his opponents never took him seriously but the did take him literally while his supporters never took him literally, but did take him seriously.”

      Talking to those who support Pres. Trump they often seem to remark that he does not mean what he says, which by necessity, means that he does not say what he means. Each (his supporters) then is able to attribute to him whatever position it is that they wish to see. In four years there may be many who are unhappy with his performance, good or bad, because he has not put forward a coherent platform that everyone can agree he should be judged on. Each voter will be evaluating him on their on subjective scorecard. Whether he is able to take advantage of this or not is yet to be determined.

      • There’s a big difference between taking him seriously versus literally, and him not meaning what he says. It’s a matter of taking things to extremes.

        When Trump says he’s going to build a wall to stop illegals from crossing America’s southern border, his opponents want everyone to believe he means something akin to the great wall of China. Then when he says parts of the wall could include fencing, his opponents say, “see, he’s lying”. There will be no wall.

        His supporters believe there will be a physical structure constructed where it’s most needed, but most importantly, they believe that there will finally be some sanity implemented as it relates to the subject of illegal immigration. A sane and effective approach to the issue of illegal immigration as compared to what has been an open border, is a wall.

        • Thank you for the response, (you should know I reluctantly voted for Gary Johnson) my original position was neither Hillary nor Jeb. Your response seems to make my point, an interpretation, but not what the candidate said. Why no mention of those of who have overstayed their visas or using e-verify? What I am to make of his position on kicking out the 11 million illegals already here or moving the embassy in Israel? Is Mexico going to pay for the wall/physical structure? I am not sure he says what he means or means what he says. I hope Pres. Trump has a successful presidency, what concerns me most is his threat of tariffs and the possibility of a trade war. Not sure a wall is the solution but I don’t really have a problem with it other than the cost/effectiveness ratio.

        • Well said MRubio. You know the wall is not the single solution. 400 miles of new wall and fence not going to stop illegal refugee immigration. Gonna slow them down but won’t stop. Insecurity driving migration? what fuels insecurity? Cocaine? Where does the cocaine come from?….

  9. Thrilled at how good an analysis this piece contains …….getting deep into what makes a sick relationship between a megalomaniacal leader and his rage drunk followers tick …….bravo !!

    Of course the US and Venezuela are very different as are the ‘Big Ideas’ of the two men being compared , what is the same is the way a megalomaniac is able to draw the discontent of a mass of people and make it his own so that he gains their following , and the use both men make of vitriolically histrionic rethoric and emotional displays to cement a bond between himself and his followers ….. !!

    Predictions are useless , they are usually shots in the dark….we don’t know how things will develop however rational and realistic we try to be in our assesments …more than once what seemed to be crazy predictions became real …….!!

    Something that is not said is that if Trump fails to retain that following , with all his ultra conservative hoopla , Most likely it will not be a Hillary or a Pence that becomes the NEW POPULAR FAVOURITE it will be someone from the LEFT , like Sanders (or a younger version of Sanders) leading the pack !!

  10. Democracy is very, very, fragile. It can go wrong very quickly anywhere, not just in the third world. That is the truth.So I do think Trump can be a real threat. I have no confidence in the American Institutions because the world has seen greater things fall. But I do believe that at least we will see strong resistance from the american people if their liberties are actually taken away from them. Now, I am not american, so I am more worried my own country, Venezuela. I think the opposition should try to get along with the Trump administration. As much as I dislike him, I would like to have him as an ally, not as a foe. Even Maduro understands that. My priority is to defeat Maduro, and if Trump helps me… I don’ t give a damm about anything else. It is not like I get extra-points for insulting Trump in my battle with chavismo.

  11. I think most of the commenters here didn’t quite grasp the article. The keyword is “showmanship”. It’s the simple fact that Trump will twist everything his way in the next four years. This is not about socialismo, but about populismo.

  12. “…in four years, a Trump voter will look around…” Nice crystal ball you have there — can you tell me tomorrow’s lotto numbers? [Didn’t think so.]

  13. The commentary presents a totally ridiculous analogy, and shows a lack of understanding of the strong checks and balances in existence at the United States of America. It is rather unfortunate to see how this young PhD candidate at Harvard University has been brainwashed by his “liberal” professors, who work in a magical, faraway land called Academia.

  14. There was a time in the life of the US when a man called Huey Long , a very able demagogue , could have taken the US out of its rails and introduced a form of governance quite different to what the US has been accostummed to , those were the days of the depression and lots of people were disgruntled and angry at the way the country was going …….., so he could have made a run for it…he was stopped by an assasins bullet but he was a very dangerous man despite the maturity and strenght of US political institutions ……..dont think that Trump is quite the same but he could do a lot of damage before beign stopped through institutional action …..!!

    • Damage how, putting Americans back to work, meaningful work? Damage a system where Washington DC concentrates powers that otherwise should go to the individual states?

      I hope he does a lot of damage because all I’ve seen of the US in the last 30-40 years is a slow movement towards socialism.

    • If Woodrow Wilson’s Hegelian vision of progressive socialism couldn’t destroy the US constitution, Donald Trump won’t either.

  15. The actual point for people in USA to compare Trump with the putrid corpse has to go beyond the simple “they talk ugly about those who they don’t like”, you have to answer stuff like:

    ** Economy development: The maggot-ridden corpse deliberately DESTROYED Venezuela’s economy in order to build monopolies to seize all the country’s assets for himself and his cronies and to ensure the opposition would NEVER get money to finance itself against him; is Trump willing to destroy USA’s economy just to get some dollars into his pockets?

    ** Personal security: The pus-filled cyst deliberately left criminals unchecked as he made them his allies against the people, leading to an exponential increase in crime and the consequences we all know already, such as almost 30k murders per year with the gut-wrenching 99% of impunity for crime; will Trump make the criminals in USA his shock troops to choke the population into silence?

    ** Life quality: The castro-lackey not only drove about 80% of the venezuelan people into abject misery through his famine-spreading monopolies and carefully planned destruction of the Bolívar currency, he also made sure that every other aspect of the life was reduced to a mockery of survival in few years: Examples are plenty, no medicines, no food, no materials or supplies, everything has to be acquired through the black market that’s been created and is controlled by chavismo itself, the communist wet dream, the complete control of production means in hands of the party-government, and all of this to ensure people won’t ever dare to gainsay him, EVER; is Trump going to do the same to ensure he’ll be in the White House beyond the first four years?

    Forget the whole “me habló golpeao” thing, folks, THESE are the thigs you must see when you try to compare Trump with the manure bag.

    PS: shiabbe came to power through the most soft, “comeflor” speech of them all, people, stop the lies about how he was a warring rabid hound in his campaign, because he WASN’T.

    • Anyone with a sane brain will answer a big NO to all your points. But we know this is not about rational fact-checking conversations grown-ups tend to have, this is about propaganda, the kind of discussions the insane people at Telesur must have while having lunch. Caracas Chronicles has been treating us readers like idiots in the last days, unfortunately. Despite being (mostly) leftists, the writers here used to keep their feet on the ground, this is not the case anymore. They are flying.

  16. All the author is saying is that being overly confident about the strenght of democracy is extremely dangerous when dealing with populist demagogues like Trump pr Chavez. No one thinks (or wishes) the US will ever reach this level of misery. We’re only pointing put somw obvious paralellisms, the fact you refuse to see them just proves our point right,

  17. There they go again.. Comparing trump to Chavez, comparing the USA to Venezuela.. Smoking much Ganja in the early teens? Get a REALITY pill, and stop the crap about that here.

    Now let’s compare and equate England with Zimbabwe..

  18. “Obvious parallelisms” the only obvious resemblance between Trump and Chavez, the USA and Kleptozuela is they all like fancy restaurants, steaks and pretty ladies. Except one country has Celia, the other Melania, one serves the best clientelle in the world, the other scares any tourist far away from the kitchen.

    Let’s draw ‘parallels” now between Mandela and Maduro.. heck, both names begin with the same “M”.

  19. Being from the USA and having lived in Venezuela as an expat, I am truly dumbfounded how there can be ANY parallels drawn between the two countries. People who do so do not know what the hell they are talking about. Maybe they think they know about the US because they spent some time in Miami, in reality just an extension of Lain America. As an aside, any decent US high school senior could kick Maduro’s ass when it comes to understanding micro/macro economic theory.

      • Don’t let facts get in the way of an argument.

        The diversity of the United States is what helped elect President Donald J. Trump on November 8th. Not the lack of it.

        Pollsters were pushing a narrative and got caught.

    • I’ve lived half my life in Venezuela and the other half in the USA and have traveled around the world as well.
      I can assure you that there are aspects of humanity that are UNIVERSAL, from which you can draw valid comparisons and are equally applicable.
      But is also true that every country is unique in its circumstances and complexity.
      So we could argue adinfinitum about the validity of a comparison, but that is not the point here.
      As for the USA implosion, that could happen too. There is plenty of dystopian stories in books and movies describing the possibility of such scenario.
      It happened in Nazi Germany, and it happened really fast.

      That being said, I have read more accurate comparisons of Trump to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.
      Unlike Chavez and Maduro, at least Trump handle some basic concepts of free markets, thanks goodness.
      I can also say that Trump being an outsider brought to the discussion many important issues to the table such Global Trade, Immigration, Military issues, etc, unfortunately he is obviously unprepared and his character is deeply questionable since many of his public statements has been found to be flagrant lies. Sure, Politicians lie but Trump broke a new record according to the non-partisan organization Politifacts that keeps track and fact check Polititians statements.

      One common aspect about Democracies, no matter what country, is the ignorance from the average voter about the political candidates they need to choose from.
      For instance, no many people know about candidates from alternative parties, yet the consensus among voters is that they were sick and tired of the Washington Establishment. Yet they elected the same people to Washington with the exception of the figure head, Trump. lol
      Many Trump supporters argue that they voted for him because he is a “successful” business man. lol
      But that is just a myth propagated by himself all his life epitomized by his Reality TV show The Apprentice from who many people got to “know” him.
      Trump business “success” can only be compared to Paris Hilton (famous for being famous) or Snoop Dogg.

      There was a YouTube Video of Trumps’ Mother back in the 80’s stating that her son wouldn’t be a good president since he is extremely stubborn and won’t listen to anyone. I was perplexed how Hillary or Jeb Bush never got to use it against him.!!

      “God” save America.

  20. Another failure in the “Trump=Chávez” hypothesis is the assumption that Venezuela’s institutions served for something at the end of the 4th, which is hilariously naive.

  21. VZ and USA have vastly different forms of gubmint and separation of powers. Madura is a marxist. Trump is a capitalist. The “elites” in the USA have been fawning over Maduro and Chavez for decades, yet, the posts here conveniently wash over that.

    In every election in the USA where a (R) was elected, the media and elites all clammor to call him “hitler” “nazi” “dictator” as fast as they can. Yet none of these have been proven to be true.

    Yet every (D) elected has given praises to tin pot dictators south of our borders.

    Could President Donald J. Trump try and exceed his authority and do something “evil”? I believe anything is possible, few things are probable.

    We saw our fair share of dictitorial powers getting flexed most recently with the targeting of TEA Party/constitutional originalists with the IRS and FBI. “What is on your reading lists?” not a scant mention was made on CC.


    Please spare me and the rest of us Americanos your sudden love for our “elites”.

  22. The human mind harbours biases that distort our thinking, Daniel Kahneman has made a career of studying these cogitative biases and won a Noble for it . Human emotions are also prone to some biases that distort our judgement , for example the David and Goliath bias that makes us take sides with the ‘Little guy’ while vilifying the ‘Big Guys’ (e.g. Big Government, Big Business) , often, more than they deserve ….!! But one of the worst emotional biases is that which has us think in ‘antinomical’ fashion , so that if we have reservations about ‘A’ we are automatically supposed to be sympathetic to its opposite ‘B’ which may not be at all the case , we may well have reservations about both of them or ambivalent views about all of them ….. !!

    In this blog Ive seen this bias at work , if anyone has reservations about some aspect of Trumps behaviour or personality then he is automatically assummed to be a fan of Mrs Clinton and her party’s policies and philosophy ……..which is not neccessarily the case. !!

    I mention this because I do have a concern about Mr Trumps character and personality being the most suited for someone who holds the office of president of the US…..and dont want such concern or reservations to be attributable to my assummed sympathies for Mrs Clinton, Mr Obama or their politics .

    My concern has to do with Mr Trumps behaviour and words revealing a personality which is marred with a certain kind of deep visceral kind of narcissism which Ive to read about . There are different kinds of narcissism , one of them is described as a personality disorder by scholars of the human personality, it is the narcissism of the person who must always appear succesful and powerful in all he does , moreover who feels compelled to demonstrates his superiority by defeating and humiliating others (the losers) and whose ego is so vulnerable to any kind of criticism that he will respond savagely to any attack on what he sees as demeaning of his personal status as a succesful person.

    This psychological characterization is equivalent to that of what in vernacular language is known as the bully . Mr Trump is a bully and the bully behind his pretended strenght is really a vulnerable person because he will do things to defend or proyect his hipertrophic ego which are unscrupulous o unwise , Naturally such type of personality while perhaps tolerable in a business man is much less so for a person who must dealt wisely and prudently with difficult issues which are of fundamental importance to the US and the World. Mr Chavez was also a narcissitic megalomaniacal bully whose ideological baggage was much more toxic than Mr Trumps which as Mr Kissinger has said is a man ‘who carries no baggage’ unless of course you consider his need to protect and aggrandize his ego at all costs as a burden which can adversely affect his decisions as president of the US.

    There are some articles written some years ago by a Mr Joseph Burgo in the Atlantic on the subject ..”All Bullies are Narcissists’ being one of them (there are others) ….., it might be interesting for some of the more curious to seek them in the internet and read them, thought the subject of the articles is the famous cyclist Lance Armstrong its surprising how much of what he wrote several years ago seem applicable to Mr Trump..

  23. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but not their own facts.
    Fortunately the US Constitution is designed to address the issue of a public official violating their oath of office or committing “High crimes and misdemeanors” .
    Nixon resigned when he realized his Presidency would not withstand an impeachment proceeding.
    The problem with the Venezuelan Constitution is that it was written by Chavez for the benefit of Chavez and his party. The same thing happened with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Egypt had elections and then the party in power drew up the Constitution.
    4 years ago if you had told me that I would be voting for Trump, I would have laughed myself silly. Many people that voted for Trump voted to stop the Clinton organized crime machine. This election was the Democrat’s to lose and they certainly did that. The accusation of Russian interference in the hacking of Computers, does not diminish the fact that what was leaked was true. That is what damaged Clinton. Scores of countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation and / or paid Bill Clinton millions of Dollars for consulting or speaking fees, were rewarded with arms sales and US taxpayers money.
    Clinton’s indiscretions and ethical challenges are much more similar to the Chavez / Maduro era than Trump’s past is.
    For many of us Trump was not our first choice but Clinton was our last choice.
    I hope Trump has a successful Presidency. I also hope he is more influential in the OAS and pays more attention to our hemisphere. Time will tell. Americans have a habit of voting there pocketbook. A small recession destroyed the popularity and approval rating that George H. W. Bush enjoyed after the first Persian Gulf war. Perot ran as an independent and Bill Clinton was elected with much less than 50% of the vote. The people tat are screaming that Clinton received more votes than Trump conveniently forget that fact. If there had been a run off between the top two candidates, Bush most likely would have won and the Clinton’s would most likely never would have occupied the White House.
    As for the the protests against Trump. I will say this. Trump got more fat women walking in one day than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.

  24. For the past 15 years I have been reading the comments on the English language blogs about Venezuela which includes Caracas Chronicles as well as Venezuela News and Views and The Devil’s Excrement. For many years I have been married to a Venezolana, as a matter of fact I was married in Venezuela. For the past several weeks I have been reading various posts on your site likening Donald Trump to Hugo Chavez. I am no supporter of Mr. Trump and did not even vote for him, but the observations of the contributors are a bit short sighted and opinionated. It is true Mr. Trump is a very brash individual and he has been successful in business in part due to that persona. The only thing Mr. Trump and Mr. Chavez have (had) in common is their rude demeanor. Hugo Chavez had a military background and a limited education when compared to Mr. Trump. Hugo Chavez participated in an unsuccessful coup and was focused on one thing only; his own aggrandizement. Hugo Chavez was a product of his environment.

    Many years ago when I first met my wife and I traveled to Venezuela she told me that there was one thing she wanted me to know about Venezuela and that was “in this country everybody is trying too screw everybody else”. I thought this was ridiculous and that she was exaggerating: now I see some truth in her statement. I have pondered over Venezuela’s history and have struggled to understand the Venezuelan psyche: I still don’t.

    A few weeks ago my wife and I met with Naky Soto (a frequent contributor to Caracas Chronicles and a friend of ours) and her significant other Carlos in Reykavik Iceland for lunch. We were fortunate in that we were all visiting Iceland at the same time and were able to spend some time together. The conversation of course ended up focusing on the dire situation facing Venezuela. One thing we didn’t waste words on was comparing Trump to Chavez. You don’t do your readers a service making premature predictions about Trump and what it means for Venezuela. You would be better served giving an overview of the past eight years with Mr. Obama and the consequences that Venezuela faced from either his action or inaction. Mr. Trump just took office and I don’t believe anyone can yet judge the man.

  25. Oh no, Naky Soto has a boyfriend? Figures. ( 😉 ) Thanks for your post, Pampatar Gringo. Trump is to Chavez as fingerprints are to milkshakes. Not worth the time contemplating.

  26. The following is an excerpt from an article of last November where Francis Fukuyama asseses the risks which Mr Trumps accession to the Presidency of the US may entail:

    “….Like many other Americans, I find it hard to conceive of a personality less suited to be the leader of the free world. This stems only in part from his substantive policy positions, as much from his extreme vanity and sensitivity to perceived slights. Last week, when on a stage with Medal of Honor winners, he blurted out that he too was brave, “financially brave”. He has asserted that he wants payback against all his enemies and critics. When faced with other world leaders who will slight him, will he react like a challenged Mafia boss, or like a transactional businessman?

    A Trump presidency will signal the end of an era in which America symbolised democracy….”

    In his inaugural speech Mr Trump stated that he did not intend to make the defense of democracy a guiding principle of US foreign policy ……instead the US would try and serve democracy by giving an example to the world of what it could achieve….Mr Paul Ryan (Head of the Republican Caucus in US Congress) in turn said in an interview in Chas Rose TV program that he thought that the US should directly intervene in foreign crisis only to the extent that they involved a security threat to the US……’

    This is clearly an isolationist position…. which might not bode well for helping us Venezuelans scape our misfortunes ….

    Still I am a firm believer that one cant predict what might happen because too often the fate of countries change at a turn of a dime ….

  27. We Latin Americans are a curious bunch. We hate some authoritarians but love others. Donald Trump is Hugo Chavez for white people. He speaks to the resentidos and makes promises he knows he can’t deliver. He attacks the press because an independent media reporting all day long on his shortcomings is a threat. He is thin-skinned, abrasive, rude, and lies as he sees fit, even about insignificant matters.

    • That doesn’t matter, and that wasn’t the reason Venezuela is in ruins.

      Venezuela is a dystopia because three things Chavez did in order to secure political power and steal as much as he did:

      1) Destruction of all the means of production to implement party-controlled monopolies.

      2) Destruction of the currency’s value to sink the population into the povertu basement.

      3) Allying his regime with all the criminals in the country to use them as shock troops against the population.

      Every single populist that came before in Venezuela spoke to the poor, it’s a disgusting lie to try keep saying that “he was the only one who gave the poor a voice”

      Trump is not going to do neither of those three for obvious reasons, stop beating the dead horse.

  28. Its more than a stretch to compare a dictator like Maduro to Trump whom i did not vote for. Trump is a bully and at times a loudmouth but as of yet has done nothing that deserves such a shrill comparison. But I do note the author described the concerns of both Venezuelan and American intellectuals about their presidents suggesting that intellectuals are somehow superior to less well educated types. Populism, often excessive, is a reaction to corrupt elites who enrich themselves and ignore the less well educated. The way for the elite to eliminate the need for populists is to govern well and the little guys who will always constitute a voting majority know when the elites fail them.

  29. The basic message is not that Trump is going to replicate Chavez in his destruction of the country he presides ,that would be absurd , conditions are very different , but that just as Chavez thuggish narcicism and megalomania caused much damage to Venezuela Trump thuggish narcissism can damage the Interests of the US and what it has stands for because being a narcissist bulliy (same as chavez) he will tend to decide things on the basis of what most flatters his overgrown ego rather than on more rational considerations !! .

    This is not to say that some of his ciriticism of the status quo is not justified , but that his diagnostics and proposed therapy for what ails the US is extremely primitive and rough shod , extreme narcissists arent concerned with understanding reality but in managing appearances so that they look good and bring pain to their enemies , One thing we learned in Venezuela is that there can be a huge gap between what is bad and what is worst , The US has yet to learn the lesson…..!!

    • Nobody who has seen the speech Trump did at the CIA recently can tell me that he and Chavez do not have precisely the same broken, resentful, narcissistic authoritarian personality. The two are igualito:

  30. If Trump was a lunatic megalomaniac populist demagogue with some degree of psychopathy, Latin Americans would actually like him.

    They did support Chavez, Maduro, Dilma, Lula, Correa, Morales and the Kirchners, at least in the beginning, didn’t they?

    The day that they start supporting Trump, I will start to have doubts about him.

    • “If Trump was a lunatic megalomaniac populist demagogue with some degree of psychopathy, Latin Americans would actually like him.”

      Respectfully, Fuck you.

  31. “If Trump was a lunatic megalomaniac populist demagogue with some degree of psychopathy, Latin Americans would actually like him”.

    So never in its history have Americans been fascinated by lunatic, megalomaniac, populist demagogues with some degree of psychopathy?

    Really? Are you sure?

    I will not even discuss history with you, because there are too many examples of that fascination in US history and culture. I will only mention two very popular TV shows right now: House of Cards and Game of Thrones.

    The truth is those traits you mentioned are universal and they have ruined entire Empires, much larger and greater than the US. Solid institutions collapse, great nations fall, that`s a fact.

    The question is: how?
    Well, as Hemingway would put it “First gradually, then suddenly”.

    I agree that you can’ t compare Chavez with Trump, nor Venezuela with the US. Chavez was a monkey, but Trump is a monkey with a razor.

    Now, I do have hope for America, and I make no predictions at all, but I do see as a very bad sign, the fact that you are so sure of your institutions, even though Trump ‘s only message during his campaign was “Our institutions are shit and we have to fix them to make America great again”.

  32. Venezuelan and an American here. I’m seeing a ton of American exceptionalism arguments on full display here. It’s as annoying to me as it is alarming.

    Don’t be proud on this one and don’t fall for your own awesomeness. Learn. For fuck sake, if Venezuela is going to continue to be the Boschian horrorshow it is, at least LEARN SOMETHING FROM IT.

    You literally have an entire timeline full of schema violations that go back almost 20 years. If you think any of what Chavez pulled off was easy or expected, you’ve learned nothing.

  33. I do think CC has a blind spot when it comes to this type of reportage, which is that you’re dealing with the third rail of insane hyperpartisanship in the United States and the fact here that some of the American posters here are Trump supporters, whom like the rest of us, have common cause in Venezuela. (Full disclosure, I voted for Hillary)

    I don’t want to insult people for voting for Trump, though I am angry. The sad fact is, many did and that evinces a more complex spectrum of reasons, many I don’t fully agree with but must accept as a political reality.

    What I will say is — and I say this as a Venezuelan right now more than an American — the parallel between Chavez and Trump are eerie, and the ideological differences are superficialities. Those ideologies are blinding people from seeing the obvious. And it’s not just about style, but also the opening gambits. The marginalization of the press. The replacement of technocrats with unqualified party hacks. It’s all there so far and it’s really early.

    I also think Americans are too proud for their own good. They don’t understand that the giraffe and the mouse both metabolize energy the same exact way and hence can both die by cyanide, which hijacks the citric acid cycle. As the doctors say, the dose is the poison. Perhaps for the giraffe, the dose needs to be greater. So in that right I agree it’s harder to Venezuela-ize America. Harder, but by no means impossible.

    As far as Trump goes, there’s too much wishful thinking on this one right now, and I’m not going to tackle it because emotions are too damn high and nobody is behaving rationally anymore.

    But I do think (and perhaps this is because I am not a Trump supporter) that the scales are going to fall from people’s eyes in the coming months. But it’s not for here to pick that apart now.

  34. Dear all, this video came out today. It is addressed to President Trump and it’s about an American hostage in Venezuela. Folks are unaware we have an American hostage in Venezuela. They don’t believe it because the State Dept has said nothing. The media has followed suit and remained mum. This is the single most important issue facing US-Venezuela relations that even this blog has been unable to address.


    Josh was taken on orders of Cilia and Nicolas.

    To me, this is personal meaning all bets are off. We are not going to exchange the nephews for Josh.

    Does anyone have any ideas what’s next? Should the U.S. just sit on its ass like we have done for the past seven months? We knew this was going to happen.

  35. “Should the U.S. just sit on its ass like we have done for the past seven months? We knew this was going to happen.”

    Can you just clarify this for me? Are you suggesting, to a Venezuelan website, focused on Venezuelan affairs, meant for the consumption of Venezuelans. that the United States ought to do something about Venezuela?

    No, just no. Remember where you are right now and respect the people here. Some of us may hate Maduro, but we’re still patriots and a foreign invasion should be met the way any patriot would meet it. You as an American should dearly understand that.

  36. Seeing a lot of salty Americans in the comments. Seems to me that you can’t bear the fact that your people have made the same mistake that many developing countries have made: vote for the biggest loudmouth instead of the competent one.

    • Attack Trump and you’ll quickly find that all reason flies out the window. Which should tell you how intellectually fragile the basis for his support is.


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