It was Thursday evening a few weeks ago as I rushed home from work. Suddenly, the music on the radio stopped, giving way to the beginning of a Cadena Nacional — a mandatory government broadcast carried simultaneously on every TV and Radio Station. My car’s cd player hasn’t worked for a long time, so I kept the radio on and listen to whatever Mr. President Maduro was about to announce. I can’t stand to watch his speeches on TV, but somehow I don’t get anxious at all when listening to them on the radio. Mr. Maduro was talking about the new Carnet de la Patria. As we found out, getting the Carnet de la Patria was the key first step to opting for a direct cash transfer scheme, called “Gran Misión Hogares de la Patria”.

Maduro was eager to introduce us to the schemes’ beneficiaries. From behind the wheel, I heard two women thanking for their new card while they were asked about their children. The third interview jolted me to my core. I stopped my car, listening enthralled, as she started crying.

“Thank you for calling me so quickly,” she said on air. I didn’t see her face or how the stage was set, but her image in my mind was of somebody crying, not believing she just won the lottery.

If health, education and freedom from extreme deprivation are considered rights, the state has an obligation to guarantee these things are available to all citizens entitled to them.

T.H. Marshall, in his classic essay collection “Citizenship and the social class” (1949) analyzed the evolution of citizenship rights in England from civil, to political, to social rights. In his analysis, social rights are strongly tied to democratic development, where the guarantee of a minimum social well being is necessary if civil and political rights are to be exercised by the majorities.

Social rights and social citizenship are key concepts for social policy orientations: if health, education and freedom from extreme deprivation are considered rights, then the state has an obligation to guarantee these things are available to all citizens entitled to them. So social services become something you’re entitled to demand as a matter of law, and courts of law become a venue you can turn to when your social rights are not fulfilled.

In Venezuela, our constitution grants all sorts of social rights. It’s just paper, though, and el papel lo aguanta todo. Almost since the beginning of Chávez’s first government, social policy was used as a political tool: investments were made when votes were needed, but people do not really act as though they understand are legally entitled to receive benefits from las misiones. That’s not what they’re about; they’re favors from Mi Comandante.

Social rights go hand in hand with the exercise of mass democracy. In Venezuela, today, we have neither.

And this new Carnet de la Patria that would allow its holder to pay for Clap bags or to receive any kind of new social benefit  can only be obtained through consejos comunales, your friendly neighborhood UBCh (ruling party local committee) or other chavista organizations. You are explicitly asked which party you support when you go to sign up. It isn’t hard to imagine how difficult it will be for people with different political opinions to obtain a Carnet de la Patria from his chavistas neighbors.

So there I was, all these years later, listening to a poor old woman crying on national TV thanking President Maduro (and President Chávez) because she now has a Hogares de la Patria card. She was so grateful because she was called only a few days after she got her carnet de la patria.

Let’s pay attention to this detail: In her mind, the card itself didn’t entitle her to any kind of benefit. She was lucky because she was selected. She took out the Carnet de la Patria the way you buy a lottery ticket: getting one is no guarantee, but what is sure is that you will not get a social benefit unless you have one.

T.H. Marshall understood social rights went hand in hand with the exercise of mass democracy. In Venezuela, today, we have neither. Today, receiving a social benefit depends on luck, like a lottery, or else on connections.

But many of us aren’t even allowed to buy the tickets to this particular lottery. And true citizenship, of course, is far out of reach.

Previous articleOf Charters and Grocery Bags
Next articleA Necessary Prisoner
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.

21 COMMENTS

  1. That’s the plan, to have the population in a continuous postration just waiting to be “selected” or “seen” by the all-powerful lords of the empire, so these can plunder the vaults at their leisure.

  2. Damnit. This is just as disheartening as the sad guys in 1984 who got jolly when they heard over the Party’s radio that the chocolate rations were raised to 30 grams per week (when they were actually reduced from 50 to 30 g/wk). I can’t believe this.

    (Great post btw Liss :3)

  3. The photo reminded me of the ones of voters in the 2015 elections. There was hope, and triumph. Then in 2016, there were millions in the streets, all over the streets. Now there are shadows of the past, so quickly gone. What happened?

    • The oppo shutting down their agenda for a fraud dialogue , MUD allies like UNT doing deal with Maduro and CO and others members signing a document where they admitted that the economic war did exist and they was part of it while simultaneously Jorge Rodriguez in a Goebbels-esque way bombarded the population with a disheartening and mischeavous propaganda.

  4. No right can depend upon someone else providing it to you. The idea that you are entitled to someone else’s work/property/wealth/time is the biggest lie sold by leftists all over the world.

    • I believe you just hit the $300,000,000 lottery on that ..,! That is to say, that is exactly correct. I have a friend here in the U.S. who believes that health care is a right. I am trying to avoid asking him the obvious point-blank question: “What gives anyone the ‘right’ to another man’s work?” I do not want to simple anger the guy. Some, I dimly realize, have to struggle mightily to try to get a grip on realities. It is always so very refreshing to hear or read someone like yourself. Ancient Chinese curse: “May you always be better than I!”

      • Ask him gently “if there is no more money and you demand your right to health care, and a soldier comes with a gun and forces the doctor to treat you, is that just? And do you want that kind of force used?”

        We are not so far away from that scenario as he will say. Today if I persist in refusing to go into debt to pay for someone else’s cell phone, e.g., I will eventually go to prison.

      • Maybe try this one: If the second amendment guarantees us each the right to own firearms, must then the “government” provide them to us all? [Step back when asking because his head might explode.]

  5. This just makes visible a country were there are some who are more equal than others , the nomenklatura and heavy weights are in class of their own , they live a life of abundant privileges …..then there are the Pueblo , a mass of people who in reward for their political loyalty are ostensibly protected from the crisis by the govt giving them access (by no means assured) to certain govt goodies and which have the fortune of getting a card that proves it ….and there are those whom the govt grants no rights and who must on their own using their own money try to survive the crisis !!

    Our society is now divided into three classes , the masters and lords (including the top military) the boliburgueses and other members of the red revolutionaly aristocracy …..below them .a mass of the people who if loyal to the revolution get a card that sometimes allow them some govt benefits …and finally at the lowest rugn the rest of the population , the pariahs and oucasts who are not treated as citizens but as people who are in fact strangers in their own land , who are owed nothing and must fare on their own ….!!

    Weve become a more stratfued hierarchical society than we ever were ……makes you pine for the good old days of the so called 4th republic…!!

  6. Have been meeting more and more VZs here in FL, and quipped to one that Miami was the new Galt’s Gulch. He stared back blankly, so I talked about Ayn Rand / Atlas Shrugged.. The two Vzs I was meeting with had never heard of the book or author.

    Is Ayn Rand known in LatAm? You all seem to know who Orwell is as well as some other authors who wrote in English, but I was kinda of shocked to see Ayn Rand missing. After all Atlas Shrugged seems to predict Vz but with a lower crime rate…

    • First, Rand isn’t exactly the most beloved author, particularly hard to diggest for South Americans because, well, we aim left mostly.

      Second, As if the common Venezuelan, no matter where they stand on any demographic, reads.

    • “Atlas Shrugged” in on my reading list, already loaded into my e-reader. I just haven’t mustered the courage to read it. Curiously enough, I just saw the book a couple of hours ago in a bookstore here in Buenos Aires.

      Anyway, to answer your question without any factual backup, I don’t think Ayn Rand is that well known around Latin America.

      • Ayn Rand was sort of a niche market. Socially maladjusted, privileged boys in their mid teens. I think the internet pretty much killed that market.

  7. It isn’t just goodbye social rights (as if the average Venezuelan ever understood he had any-NOT), it’s goodbye political rights, as the just-begun CNE-truncated political party registration process eliminates 90%+ of the existing political parties. The poor Carnet woman recipient forgot, in thanking Chavez and Maduro, to thank another kind benefactor of her hoped-for future largess–Fidel Castro, who, recently on TV, DC said was (even mentioned before HC/NM) also responsible for the wonderful state of the Venezuelan economy….

Leave a Reply