It was a super hot Saturday in the Centro de Caracas, our teeming, disgusting downtown, and a big mass of people were screaming and complaining about the chaotic line for the Carnet de la Patria — the hazily explained new Membership/ID card the government now insists we all have.

“There’s no one in charge here, no one”, one lady told me. She was maybe 55 and trying to shield herself from the sun with a piece of cardboard that she found in the trash. She’d been standing there since 5 am; it was 11:30 a.m. not even one person in line had gotten the coveted carnet.

These lines are big even by Caracas standards, and they’re made all the creepier by the fact nobody knows what the carnet is for exactly.

“You have to come here de corazón,” she said. “I owe a lot to la revolución and to Chávez, I want to prove that I’m a real chavista”.

Days earlier, a friend asked if I thought we really needed this “Carnet de la Patria”, my answer was simple: “No,” I said, then thought better of it. At least not por ahora.”

These long queues to get the Carnet are making me second guess myself. There’s nothing new about lines in Caracas, but these lines are big even by Caracas standards. And they’re made all the creepier by the fact nobody knows what the carnet is for exactly.

By the time I get to this line, people had spent more than seven hours waiting.

“I’m doing this because I want my ‘bolsa CLAP’,” —my PSUV-delivered grocery bag — “and maybe a credit from the government, for my business (…) you have to be with la revolución to make that happen”, a young man told me.

The Carnet de la Patria is the last in a creepy, creeping set of “carnetization” efforts the government’s increasingly keen on. First, there was a carnet for all the “Misiones”, then they offered the “Carnet del Psuv”, for the party faithful.

“I’m doing this because I am a chavista”, an older man with a PSUV cap, jeans and a red t-shirt told me, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I can at least use it to show to all the opposition people that I’m chavista, from the bottom of my heart (…) we are more and we are here pa’ lo que venga“.

“It sucks to be here, but a friend told me that someone told her that if she doesn’t have the Carnet de la Patria over the next month, they are not getting the CLAP bag”, a lady in ther mid-30s told me, looking tired as she tried to find a place to find an affordable bottle of water. “Everyone has the Carnet, even a friend, that is “escuálida”, already has the carnet, you know… just in case”.

Around 12 o’clock the first person in line finally got the Carnet. A group of young guys were in charge of all the process, they belong to defunct diputado Robert Serra´s Brigades. In the process, they ask for your name, address, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and if you are part of any of the “Misiones del Gobierno”. They also ask which political party you support, too.

“Maybe I’m going to need this for food or medicines,” a young lady holding a baby in her arms tells me. “I don’t know, but we are seven in my family, and only two with a steady job, I can’t afford to lose my CLAP bag or my tarjeta.” I ask her which tarjeta she’s talking about, and she shows me her Tarjeta Hogares de la Patria a giveaway scheme for mothers worth Bs.50,000 to her each month — 7.000 Bs more that the minimum salary.

They ask for your name, address, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and if you are part of any of the Misiones del Gobierno. They also ask which political party you support, too.

The former governor of Cojedes state and now Urban Agriculture Minister — the low-key but powerful Erika Farías — told Mario Silva that, in the future, the Carnet de la Patria will work as a debit card for the payment of CLAP bags: “If my family loses the CLAP bags we can’t afford to buy rice, milk or pasta. At the market, everything is too expensive. Maduro said in TV that with the Carnet they will be able to know the needs of the people, so maybe, if I’m lucky enough, i will get a house”, the young mother explains to me.

“I don’t have a house, maybe after this I will get one, who knows, you have to try”, a guy working as a mototaxista told me. He was looking tired, still with the helmet of the moto attached to the bell and eating an empanada and Malta. “In Venezuela you have to have faith, it’s the only way. I hope that this government gives me a house, and that the CLAP bags get better, that’s why I’m here”.

37 COMMENTS

  1. It’s amazing how the opposition is so deathly afraid of debunking this whole discourse of becoming a parasite as the only way to progress in life…

    • I do not usually agree with you but you are spot on with that comment. The question remains, would the opposition ever have a chance if it decides to tell the truth?

      • Are you sure? Because there are lots of people that would, even begrudingly agree that they would have to work to have stuff.

        You know what you should promise to those people? that they’ll OWN THEIR STUFF, AND THAT NO ONE COULD COME TO TAKE IT FROM THEM JUST BECAUSE THEY WOKE UP IN THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED.

        Now, there are those who won’t like the whole “work to eat” thing, who are those? The bachaqueros, the gestores, the coimeros, the corrupts, the malandros, in short, the country’s DETRITUS.

    • the opposition got the same gameplan, just with less crime, economic incompetence and drug bussiness, in Venezuela populism have always being the number 1 political gameplan, and a ignorant crown always extending his hand at the sound the sirens chant, thats what got us in this mess in the first place

  2. Reading this I get the feeling not much has changed in 10 years. Still an idiocracy standing on the shoulders of rojo-rojitos in the millions. A wonder there is any opposition left…

  3. No comparto la crítica hacia la gente. En cualquier lugar del mundo y en cualquier época la gente reaccionaría igual. Para mí esas personas son víctimas de un sistema perverso y está fuera de lugar culparlas. Si tú cambias el sistema, eso deja de pasar. Y a la inversa,si por alguna razón lograras imponer el mismo sistema, no sé, en Francia, por decir algo, la gente haría la cola igualito. Los culpables son quienes impusieron el sistema y sus cómplices. No el vulgo, sino las élites.

    • The lady that raised me (who is now around 90 years old) lives in a barrio in Venezuela. Not too long ago she was offered to join Mission Robinson to learn to read and write – she refused as she already knew how to errrr read and write….. “But Dona you will collect X Bolivares” her answer “Soy pobre pero no vagabunda”. This is the issue in Venezuela, across all social classes people like her are a tiny minority. Note relative to her wealth this handout would have been material.

      On another note, I would suggest everyone in the opposition get a carnet de la Patria and then at a specific date organise a masss “Carnet de la Patria” bonfire day where people burn or tear them up. That would be cool. Or organise a social media event on how you destroyed your carnet de la patria.

      • Definitivamente víctimas de las circunstancias, yo siempre me he opuesto y me opondré a esa ridiculez de culpar de todo a las víctimas, tradición asquerosa de mucha gente de Venezuela por cierto.

        Tampoco creo en eso de que es absolutamente imposible proponer un modelo económico diferente a esta porquería del rentismo que crea parásitos.

  4. i, not sure if you are correct or not but it seems that the people of Venezuela are particularly prone to rent seeking from the government based on historical precedence and the central theme that petroleum has played over the past 1/2+ century.

  5. Es cierto que ha sido un problema histórico, pero es una tendencia que podría cambiar en muy poco tiempo si existiera la voluntad para ello, y esa voluntad no tiene que venir del pueblo sino de las élites, las principales culpables. Esperar que el pueblo no acepte lo que le ofrecen es absurdo. Yo salí de Venezuela hace años y mi experiencia me ha llevado a dudar de cualquier tipo de determinismo tropical y de hecho creo que el determinismo tropical es un discurso que sólo sirve para… hundirnos en el abismo del determinismo tropical. Los venezolanos no somos especiales ni somos culpables de ningún pecado original. El pueblo es el mismo en todas las épocas y todas las naciones;las élites son las que hacen historia y producen los cambios relevantes. Por eso, no veo con odio a quien hace la cola. Sólo siento tristeza.No quiero participar en esa gran proyección del fracaso que hacen nuestras élites sobre nuestros sectores populares. Ellas fracasan y luego le echan la culpa al pueblo. El que se sentó a dialogar, es mucho más oscuro que quien hace la cola para el carnet de la patria. Es responsabilidad de las élites restaurar la república y si ellas no se alzan, la dictadura no va a caer nunca. Al final, la historia las señala a ellas, no al pueblo, que es anónimo. Las traiciones, la estupidez, la cobardía, todo eso tiene nombre y apellido.

  6. i, not being Venezuelan I am here to learn. Had to use “google translate” for that wall of text, sorry my spanish is terrible. How likely would it be for any politician to be elected in Venezuela if they were to promote an end to state subsidies of fuel/energy and food/medicines? Not that I can disagree that the elites have propagated this phenomenon for decades but how likely is that “el pueblo” will support any party that promotes walking away from past practices? These are serious questions, I have have not a clue as to the answers, though my presumption is that this prospect would scare many more than “more of the same” under the continuation of the Maduro administration.

    • History is a heck of a teacher…”El Pueblo” has grown dependent on the government for everything. The culture that has been assimilated by “El Pueblo” is that one of dependency. Look no further than the United States. Social Security was never intended to be a permanent “program” yet here we are paying into that vacuum that I will never be able to collect. Who will be the first “politician” that will raise their hand and say “enough is enough” and end Social Security? Yeah that’s what I thought.

      • The Social Security is a poor example, and your facts are a little off. People pay into the fund their whole working lives…in the vast majority of cases people don’t get anything for free. And you will certainly collect, unless you pass away before retirement…Even with no changes to eligibility or revenue stream, SS will still pay out 74% of benefits to people in 2090. A lifting of the tax income cap would fully solve Social Security funding for at least 100 years. They could also easily move the retirement age back a few more years. But as you hint, neither would be popular.

        (And it was, AFIK, meant to be permanent. However, it did not include SS for things like disability as it does now.)

        Your larger point is correct, of course. The masses everywhere usually respond to free stuff, whether it’s expanded programs without paying for them or tax cuts with no accompanying cuts in spending. But Venezuela is on the extreme end of this behavior.

        • My example is poor. How about this…

          The Federal government is forcing me to pay into a fund for something I don’t expect nor want. I should be allowed to “opt out”. I don’t want to depend on the federal government for anything other than to protect our borders (national defense), defend our interests abroad and to regulate interstate commerce. For those things I am happy to pay federal taxes. Each individual state is responsible for the balance of governance. We, like “El Pueblo” have grown dependent on the Federal government for everything else.

          and get off my lawn…

      • Two falsehoods with your claims about the US Social Security system.
        (1) It was intended to be permanent.
        (2) You WILL be able to collect. The US SS is not bankrupt. The only problem is that it will not be able to deliver 100% of promised benefits after 2032 with the current projections. If not corrected, then it can only deliver 70% at worst case.

        There is no comparison between the US SS system and what is going on in VZ. The US SS system provides help to people disabled during their working life, and pension benefits when you are old. It only pays money, not housing, food, or medical care. And it was never designed to be your only pension. It is a safety net for our citizens that need the most help, and nothing more.

        In VZ, their system is providing the resources for all citizens’ life needs, no matter their age, health, or working status. It is a total dependency on the state for all your needs, even critical ones like food.

    • I agree with you and you pose a great question. It is hard to convince people, but not impossible. My point is that at least you have to try. The oppo is not trying, because they think they have to convince people after they win the elections (even if there are no more elections!) and not before. So they say they are just faking to be populists to win votes and that only after winning elections they will convince people of the need of a real change, but I believe that doesn’t make sense. What happens is that they all end up compromised. Tied to populism and in this case to the dictatorship. Sorry I wrote in Spanish, I thought that, since my first comment was in Spanish, you spoke Spanish. I am sorry for my bad English too!

      • i—thank you for the cordial response. No need to apologize, I understood your first post but after a few more cocktails it was just “easier” to use google translate on the second. So speak spanish, nope, understand just enough, I guess. From an outsiders standpoint (at least this one’s) the MUD/Oppo find themselves in a very difficult position; should they go forward with, as you say, “faking to be populists”, or try to convince the voters of the need for wholesale change? What percentage of the population in Ven./US would even understand a discussion about exchange rates/economic/trade policy? There are those “here” (the US) that believe tariffs would be paid be the country in which production takes place vs. the end consumer, some of my own family members included. This may be an easy argument to make on economic grounds but as soon as those on the other side of the discussion start with the “but common sense, yada yada yada” it can be very hard to explain the actual principles involved and convince them that their common sense has no historic precedence in reality. Again, thanks for the friendly response, seems for about the past two weeks that has been lacking around this site.

        • I don’t think they have to be taught all the details (even though that is the ideal). You just have to lead them in the right direction. But there is no way to lead them in the right direction if you are not honest. As I understand it, in politics you can make a promise and then forget about it, but you can’t expect to carry on what you never promised in the first place. And even more importantly: we are in a dictatorship, so we should think what does it mean to do politics in this condition?

    • Its oversimplistic to think as ‘the elite’ as one homogeneous group , there are always many elites with different views and capacities , often having divergent positions , none of them is omnicompetent or possessed of magical powers, they all can incur in mistakes or be sidestruck by supervening circumstances they cannot control. or foresee……elites and what ever passes for ‘the people’ ( also a highly artificial construct) share in many respects the same culture , many of the same human weakness ……..the role of random happenstance in shaping fate is too often underestimated…..!!

      Not sure the divide between elites and ordinary people is so sharp and clear, there is a exchange and flow and interactions between different social groups that makes some groups of ordinary people more elitized than others and some so called elites strongly wedded to many habits of thought and conduct of many groups of ordinary people ……!!

      The temptation to look at things from a binary , black and white , simplified perspective is sometimes overpowering , but reality tends to be more subtle , complicated , hazy and ambivalent that our lazy minds would like ……..!! Im always skeptical of epic cowboy and indian visions which pits the absolutely guilty big people from the absolutely innoncent noble brave good people ….intellectual maturity demands more !!

  7. It isn’t, “In Carnet De La Patria We Trust”, it’s “Carnet De La Patria We Will Need” to survive, for such essentials as the CLAP food bag, Misiones membership, State government employment, and, eventually, any legal transaction, such as public notaries/registries/etc. to buy and sell vehicles/land/homes/et. al., and, for who knows what else the Communist government will invent. This is the same Cuban Pueblo control booklet, just modernized from paper to plastic, and using computerization instead of manual annotation..The long-suffering Venezuelan Pueblo, now 90% of the total population, is just continuing its on-going history of subservience, to masters from indigenous chiefs,through Spanish colonial administrators, hacendados, military chieftains, the Petro State, and, now, Cuban Communism.

  8. Damn, this is just too much #TropicalMierda at once. This phrase from the mototaxista sums it up pretty good: “In Venezuela you have to have faith, it’s the only way.”. Faith in getting handouts from a deadbeat country; good luck with that…

    Anyways.. Excellent post!

  9. It’s amazing how many people still declare themselves as “thankful Chavistas”. Regardless of the highest inflation, worst economy, lack of food, hunger, worst crime and murder rates, poverty, lack of medicine, etc, etc. Say what you will, but “el pueblo” is often incredibly ignorant, amnesiac, bordering on masochistic. They don’t like to work too much, and have “el gobierno” give them everything for free.. And many are quite corrupt themselves, they’ll participate in any illegal, cheesy scheme every chance they get. Not all, but many.

    It’s a shame. 7 hours in line to get some bogus ID, hoping to get freebies, IOW “enchufarse”, to keep plugged into the corrupt regime, leeching, hoping to get free pasta and rice, or perhaps a house.. And while in line, some of them sick and hungry, they still praise Chavez.. Unbelievable..

  10. What caught my eye was this: ‘they ask for your name, address, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram’

    Name and address, I can understand – but why your social media accounts? Are they planning to follow you for your witty updates, or do they intend to monitor what you say? Or retweet? Or what your friends talk about? If I could, I wouldn’t answer that question.

    And, I’m not sure those quoted are looking freebies – hope, perhaps, but there will be great fear about losing access to CLAP

  11. Here is another thought….just a thought, in Canada when I was growing up and going to school, the worst insult you could throw at someone was: “wellfare recipient” The government changed the word wellfare to “social assistance” because the word well fare had such derogatory connotations. Now how did that start? Canada is pretty young, my great grandparents were european immigrants. Did they bring those proud values over from across the seas? You don’t deserve anything you don’t work for, that’s the way I was raised.

  12. Some purportedly populist policies of using social programs to help people who thru no fault of their own , because of the vicisitudes of life and fortuitous circumstance find themselves the happles victims of poverty or want are really founded on some of the most cherished principles of liberal democracy ……….

    Perhaps the most noted exponent of the philosophy of justice in a liberal democracy is John Rawls , Rawls proposes that one essential task of a free society is to provide a ‘safety net’ to protect the basic well being of people whom life has placed in a situation were they are vulnerable to the worst scourges of poverty , a principle which he denominated the ‘safety net principle’.

    Populism in part proposes a system of governance which is compatible with this safety net principle but taking it some steps further , one by proposing that poverty and want are to be blamed on a wicked class of people , ‘the rich and powerful’ who gleefully delight in exploiting and victimizing poor people for their own venal benefit …..thus arousing highly divisive passions which destroy a countrys inner cohesion.

    Additionally Populism also spouses a system of governance where patronage and public hand outs (irresponsibly using public resources or resources abusively taken from private resources) serve as a means of attracting peoples political sympathies and loyalty , which ultimately lead to the ruin of the state and of the economy.

    The dilemma is one of properly prioritizing the preservation of a countrys financial health and public investments such as education or the promotion of business growth that undergird and ground a countrys capacity to improve the lives of its citizens in a sustainable fashion without altogether abandoning the safety net principle which is so essential to a just social order.

    Sometimes the safety net principle is applied with excess and becomes inseparable from the worst kind of populism , setting up a limit to separate one from the other is not easy to do. Explaining the need for those limits is something that has to be done although with caution so as not to give ammunition to the enemies of liberal democracy that the recognition of those limits represents an effort by the wicked elites to deceive people into giving away their ‘social conquests’…..!!

  13. “…I hope that this government gives me a house…”

    Gives?

    Well, that certainly puts it in perspective. Most people are happy to earn enough of an income that they could afford a house. Why bother, when some omnipotent Government can “give” you one just by accessing a card. Free stuff for everyone. What could go wrong?

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