Gary was an Aussie living in Holland who had shown up early to my talk at Utrecht, eager to learn more about the Bolivarian Revolution. Weather-worn face with stubble forming a wannabe beard and sporting a gray Lenin cap, Gary was friendly and outgoing and one I recognized was going to be the first to raise his hand in the Q&A at the end of the talk. When I probed a bit to see what he knew about Venezuela, I was regaled with five minutes of regurgitated SiBCI propaganda. Deep sigh. Here we go again, I thought.

This happens all the time: I end up in a private conversation with a member of the audience and then suddenly I begin to hear a cascade of Bolivarian propaganda as the subject turns to Venezuela.

It’s so much easier talking to an audience that knows nothing at all, and knows it knows nothing, than it is to try to undo a worldview assembled by chavista media. And chavista media, as any Caracas Chronicles regular knows, has a powerful, extensive and deep hold on people around the world, but especially people on the Left.

But I’ve spent most of my adult life in the Left, hanging out in that no man’s land between the anarchists and the socialists. So it’s the Left I’ve been talking to, especially over the past four years that I’ve been supporting the Venezuelan opposition.

I know from my own process that you can’t expect people to change overnight. It took me a long time to get used to my new position after I came to see chavismo for what it is. It was an experience of X, Y, Z, and that doesn’t happen fast.

When I probed a bit to see what he knew about Venezuela, I was regaled with five minutes of regurgitated SiBCI propaganda.

Jumping the international talanquera carries many costs: people you’d come to see as friends and allies treat you as a pariah. As a writer, I soon found that places where I used to publish had limited tolerance for my apostasy. Counterpunch, where I’d published pro-Chávez articles for several years, soon stopped offering me a platform.

Gringo Chavistas tried to silence me. It backfired. The following year on the tour that my wife and co-editor, Marcy Rein, organized for our first book together, Until the Rulers Obey, I decided to use every occasion to speak out against the Bolivarians. I drove 12,000 miles around the US with Marcy, and then through nine or so countries in Europe giving talk after talk. It’s the least I could do to atone for having supported this awful regime for so long.

When I got back from that trip I got another anarchist publisher interested in Venezuela. They suggested a political memoir, which became Home from the Dark Side of Utopia, coming out in August of last year. On the tour for this book I tried to focus on anarchist community centers and anarchist book fairs, and what I began to discover fascinated me.

People like Gary popped up everywhere in anarchist circles: Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin and now here in Utrecht and Amsterdam.

At first I was puzzled: How could anarchists support a process led by a military officer?

As far back as 2006 I’d found this perplexing. I was in Montevideo then interviewing a young man named Pablo who was part of an anarchist organization that had split with the anarchists in Caracas (presumably the Libertario group) precisely over the issue of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Jumping the international talanquera carries many costs: people you’d come to see as friends and allies treat you as a pariah.

“Wait a minute,” I said, stopping Pablo in the middle of his explanation. I remember the moment vividly: we were sitting in a beautiful little café with varnished wood walls and a long bar with what looked like an early twentieth-century platinum espresso machine. A slight breeze was coming in through an oversized open window.

“You split with an anarchist organization because you support a socialist project led by a military man?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes,” he told me,” because we’re also anti-imperialists and we support a unified front against imperialism first and foremost.”

At the time I was sympathetic. Anti-imperialism mattered to me. But I didn’t know then, as I know now, that Chávez was simply trading one form of imperialism for another, or for others. And that the “Latin American Unity” he proposed was nothing more than smoke and mirrors while he signed deals with Chevron, Chinese, Russian, Canadian and US corporations. Entreguismo and deals with empires proliferated at the same rate as did the rhetoric to the contrary. As Damián Prat pointed out to me, never has Venezuela been more under the thumb of empires than it is under chavismo.

The socialist Left, I came to see to my dismay, didn’t care. Bereft after the collapse of Real Socialism, it had an insatiable thirst for the rhetoric, the words, the symbols. They mattered so much more than the grubby reality of Venezuela under the Bolivarian Revolution, the bolichicos and enchufados handing out rolexes and skydiving for fun.

I didn’t know then, as I know now, that Chávez was simply trading one form of imperialism for another, or for others.

There were a few honorable exceptions: some Trotskyists, and most anarchists and supporters of the democratic left still affirm principles over rhetoric. And let me also be clear: anarchists, by the very nature of their political stance, are overwhelmingly disposed to not like the Bolivarian government and to see all governments as some form of mafias, even if there are those Pablos you’ll also find in anarchist circles, especially in Latin America.

In any case, the bulk of the socialist left continues to be caught up in the phantasmagoria of socialist symbols and language which, in the case of Venezuela, they mistake for a “Revolution.” That helps explain why the Chilean students of the University of Santiago and the Federation of Students of the University of Chile (FECH), and anarchists like Pablo supported the government of Maduro against the Venezuelan students in 2014. But the petrodollars are also hard to pass up.

“Libertarian socialist” Michael Albert admitted in a February 20, 2016 fundraising email appeal that his “work” for Telesur had been sustaining his left journal, Z Magazine, since mid-2014. Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! and the Pacifica stations have toed a solidly pro-Bolivarian line, and their programming is popular among a whole range of the left, from anarchists to Stalinists, from liberals to revolutionaries. Whether it’s radical cachet (again, symbols) or Bolivarian oil money, or both, the Bolivarian Revolution is still rarely publicly questioned in socialist circles of the Left.

And while the “Bolivarian Revolution” had lots of cachet, until very recently it had even more oil money. Before he went “Galactico,” el Comandante easily outspent the “imperialists” in a propaganda war that by the time he died he had clearly won, buying “useful idiots” like Michael Albert, Eva Gollinger and others to regurgitate his propaganda into the socialist feed troughs. As Casto Ocando points out, the same year the US government National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funneled $53,400 to the opposition to help with the 2004 referendum, Chávez spent $553,699.43 “funding the Washington (DC)-based Venezuelan Information Office for salaries and expenses in order to improve his image in the US.” (Home from the Dark Side of Utopia, p. 302). From my perspective, it’s a toss-up whether chavista media hegemony has been more complete inside of Venezuela or abroad in Left media outlets.

The bulk of the socialist left continues to be caught up in the phantasmagoria of socialist symbols and language which, in the case of Venezuela, they mistake for a “Revolution.”

Where there has been an opposition point of view aired in left circles, it’s been mostly outside of the US in the old social democratic and liberal press like The Independent and The Guardian. For “discriminating” North American Leftists, these papers provide fresh, critical perspectives (even if they also often print Mark Weisbrot’s chavista pap) unlike anything found in the US.

The problem, again, is that in Europe, these papers are associated with the failed Social Democrats and neoliberal “Left” of the likes of Tony Blair and Francois Hollande, the “Socialist” former president of France. The Independent and The Guardian, in other words, are the European Left’s version of the “bourgeois mainstream capitalist” newspapers. And goodness, everyone knows you can’t trust the “capitalist” press, right?

Given this view of the press, where do Europeans like Gary go to get their news? Well, Amy Goodman, Z Magazine, The Nation (which just published this pro-Maduro propaganda piece on May 1st) and so on, of course.

Because what’s very clear on the ground in Europe is that the democratic, liberal, and even socialist, Left has been been discredited in much the way the old pre-Chávez Venezuelan social democratic Left (AD, MAS, etc.) had been discredited as a result of its support for neoliberal austerity programs and its disregard for the suffering of poor Venezuelans from the late 1980s on. We’re seeing the same phenomenon sweep over Europe today and populists are also rising to challenge neoliberal socialists like Hollande, in France, and other center-left politicians elsewhere.

The Left, simply put, proposes no realistic alternative to “socialism lite” than the failed Leninist program that has been re-tried and re-failed for a century now: nationalization, destruction of markets, centralization of power all implemented by an unaccountable vanguard who ultimately has to rely on repression, and more repression to keep the whole utopian project going. The purest version of that model is very much alive in North Korea, Cuba and now, to a great degree, Venezuela. Stepping into that void left by the far-left and the neoliberal-left are the populist-nationalists, and they’re changing the political landscape everywhere.

Before he went “Galactico,” el Comandante easily outspent the “imperialists” in a propaganda war that by the time he died he had clearly won.

My Dutch host, Jeremy, made this clear to me when I remarked that many of us in the US were inspired to see the Dutch people had rejected the populism of Geert Wilders and the Party of Freedom. “Yes,” he said, “but only by voting for a populist who adopted his ideas.” Indeed, some felt that the recent elections in the Netherlands was just a contest of one populism beating out another.

I arrived in France the day of their election where populist Marine Le Pen was to make a strong showing. My friend Isidor, who’d organized a presentation for me at the anarchist social center in Lille, described the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon as a “French Bolivarian” who, if he won, would join ALBA —yes, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America… In those elections the [neoliberal] Socialist Party managed to scrape together a measly 6% of the vote while the French Bolivarian came in fourth, trailing Le Pen by less than two points. A couple weeks later the urban liberal Left managed to pull together behind the “neither Left nor Right” Emmanuel Macron to trounce the populist Marine Le Pen and keep the French working class in their place.

That night in Lille Isidor had set up a viewing of a cut of the film my Venezuelan co-director, Arturo Albarrán, and I are still working on under the title of “In the Shadow of the Revolution.” A Mélenchoniste “Bolivarian” arrived and we had an intense discussion after the screening in French, Spanish and English. Again, the Bolivarian found our film “negative” and “one-sided” and he felt it urgent to “correct” the perceptions by detailing all the “advances” of the Bolivarian Revolution. But he found no allies and eventually one anarchist, who evidently knew no English nor Spanish, but gathered enough from the French translation to understand what was happening, stood up and told the Bolivarian that he didn’t care about “advances” since they were being carried out under a dictatorship. And he left. Nearly shivering with the cold since we showed the film in the unheated basement, we closed up the center, said goodbye to the Bolivarian and Isidor and a few others of us went out for dinner at a late-night Turkish restaurant for the best falafel in Lille.

I got a close-up of the European identity crisis precipitated by the influx of refugees and the deindustrialization driven by globalization when I was in Italy. There the populist Five Star Movement (no joke: it was started by an Italian comedian) is challenging the liberal democratic system that’s being blamed, and to a degree, rightly so, for these converging problems.

I rented a scooter to get around Rome and being so newly mobile I decided to check out a squat on the other side of the city that a Dutch anarchist had told me about. Halfway there I hit a traffic jam and I followed other scooters a quarter mile up to the front of it, winding my way through a maze of stopped cars. We were halted there by a line of policemen, and beyond them a group of dozens of tall dark African men who were yelling in a language I didn’t know, but knew enough to know it wasn’t Italian. Someone later suggested they may have been Senegalese refugees, but in any case, they were very angry. I suspected it had to do with something happening down a side street where I saw a policeman and a couple of African men near a blanket with some items that looked like the Chinese knock-offs African refugees all over Europe are reduced to selling to survive, should they be so fortunate as to arrive in Europe in the first place. The policemen waved the scooters through and I passed around the angry men and stopped the other side to look back at them. That’s when I realized I was trembling.

The Left, simply put, proposes no realistic alternative to “socialism lite” than the failed Leninist program that has been re-tried and re-failed for a century now.

Along the highways in the bushes or tall weeds or off in a small copse you’ll see the camps where these new immigrants try to hide away from the authorities. They’ve come for the promises liberal societies offer, the fulfillment of which they are forever refused. The palpable anger and frustration of those denied and written off as a “basket of deplorables” is justified, and their ranks increasingly include not just immigrants but also native Europeans of the working class, excluded from the benefits of liberal globalizing capitalism. Ironically, those who most benefit from the liberal democracy of French socialism or Dutch or German social democracy are those of the urban educated liberal left. And that’s the divide the world over: in Venezuela, the United States, Turkey, and Europe, where the urban population continues to support the liberal, neoliberal and “Left” globalizers against the rural, or marginal urban working-class populations. Venezuela, it appears, was by strange irony the vanguard of this world-wide process we’re seeing unfold as liberalism implodes and populism rises to take its place.

I left Utrecht a few days after my talk there to a date in Amsterdam at a now legalized squat called Nieuw Land. Gary was so intrigued that he decided to follow me there to see the movie. I was glad to see a familiar face, even if I’d only met Gary a few days before. And now, I noticed that, whereas during my talk in Utrecht when Gary’s body language and facial expressions showed resistance and discomfort with what I was saying, he now seemed to be relaxed and receptive. It was the first showing of the film that I’d made with only minimal introduction, so I was happy to see that it was convincing and forceful. It should have been, given that it includes interviews with Margarita López Maya, Tamara Adrián, Felipe Pérez Martí, Damián Prat, members of Bandera Roja and union workers from Guayana, including Rubén González.

The objective of the film is simple: to show, as Damián Prat argues in the film, that “contrary to the [government] propaganda, the greater part of the modern and democratic Venezuelan Left, the immense majority, is in opposition to the government of Chávez” and that the Maduro government, as Felipe Pérez Martí argues, is “extremely right-wing.”

In the film, Bandera Roja member and union activist Feliciano Guzmán (and this is in 2013) went even further, calling it a “fascist military government… that doesn’t even rise to the level of being nationalist.” I should say that I’m probably more convinced by Guzmán’s description of the Bolivarian government than I am of Martí’s, but then again, it’s likely that Martí might now concur given present circumstances.

After presenting the movie there was another good discussion and a Venezuelan named Adrián who I’d met earlier in the day at the Climate March joined in to give background and respond to some of the questions from the audience. A dozen or so of us, including Gary, hung out around the bar until one a.m. discussing politics and Venezuela in particular.

Venezuela, it appears, was by strange irony the vanguard of this world-wide process we’re seeing unfold as liberalism implodes and populism rises to take its place.

I haven’t been met by throngs of people: in Glasgow, Scotland, only one person showed up, an extraordinary woman named Gehan who was just “curious about Venezuela,” and she and Molly, from AK, and I had a great conversation that made the whole experience luminous for me. Elsewhere the audience has been, on the small side, a dozen or so, while the largest has been a crowd of between thirty and forty.

I’m never too concerned with the numbers and I’m delighted to have the chance to argue with Bolivarians when the opportunity arises. Sometimes, like with Gary, I see a dramatic change in their perspective as a result of our discussions. Other times it seems to have made no difference at all. But I’ve also learned never to trust appearances.

Two years ago Marcy and I spoke at a fairly prestigious left-wing university in a large (40 or more students) class. The professor was a Bolivarian supporter and he kept reminding the class, in one way or another, that he didn’t share our point of view. Now, a week or so after the presentations I just gave in Holland, I got an email from that professor. It was short. He wrote, “When we met we disagreed strongly about Venezuela. Although there were some real gains in the early years of the revolution you were right and I was wrong about the future of Venezuela. It is a total mess there which you predicted.”

I could quibble with the professor about the presumed “gains” of the “early years” and argue that Venezuela was a “mess” two years ago, so, in fact, I “predicted” nothing —and I did tell him that. I take no credit for changing the professor’s mind, but could it be that my own honesty might have inspired him to get just a bit more honest with himself and take a second look at Venezuela from a slightly different angle? I hope so. In fact, I could hope for nothing more.

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  1. Just one of those examples of the remnants of the useless and even murderous waste of money that’s the chavista propaganda, people in Venezuela has been killed only so chavismo could do this:

    • Gems from our lefty friends in Canada:
      The reality is that despite widespread street protests, the government enjoys the support of about two-thirds of the population, according to independent opinion polls, Burbano said.

      In January 2016, the opposition-controlled National Assembly was held in contempt of the constitution by the Supreme Court of Justice over fraud charges involving opposition deputies from the state of Amazonas who were recorded illegally offering payment for votes. When the Supreme Court ordered the National Assembly to hold elections to replace the corrupt deputies, the legislative ignored the order and refused to remedy the situation, Burbano said.

  2. Thank you for this piece. It is quite a tricky and frustrating thing to believe in social justice and have to deal with people in liberal and radical circles that just gobble up the propaganda. I do find that the older and whiter people get the more resistant they are to take a second look at Venezuela. The younger latinx folks know whats up. Loved that you mentioned Amy Goodman and Democracy now. I watch the headlines everyday and am always so upset at their editorial line when it comes to Venezuela. Ive seen her a couple of times and have had personal arguments with her. Your books are on my reading list! Gracias!

  3. “Extremely right-wing”? The Madurista regime has continued and accelerated the Chavista program of seizing private enterprises in the name of the people. How is that “extremely right wing”?

    • Choosing to let people starve so they can keep paying bondholders and a small handful of enchufado importers is pretty clearly a right-wing policy. And when is the last time they “seized” anything? It’s pretty clear that right now they’re looking to privatize whatever they can. Look at the AMO, for instance.

      • Classical Lefty. Do all the damage you can while never owing up to your own ideology’s failures.

        Haha classical good joke. Laughed so hard I got the Trotskys.

      • Clorox was seized during Maduro’s term, as it’s been done more recently with dozens of bakeries.

        Big or small, seized businesses imply ruin and bankrupcy for their former owners, but more so for the middle or small ones, since the big ones as Clorox can simply pack and leave.

        And, what was the thing they’re privatizing, Adam? We’ve yet to see the first seized business being offered for privatization by chavismo.

        The letting of people to starve to pay the privileges of a little group can’t be more left-wing, after all, they represent “the people” so they’re entilted to determine which is better for those stupid sheep, which are completely stripped from any rights to own anything, as the chavista lie claims that “giving any property would lead its owner to sell it for booze and to dump the wife and kids to the streets”

        • Kimberly Clark, GM plant, you name it, they’ll take it if they can gut it for profit. “Looking to privatize”–must be talking about a country different from Venezuela–oh, I get it, take it over and give it to DC/cronies (Ven coffee producers, anyone?) to “privately” run it into the ground….

    • Yes, XXI Century Socialism is now extremely right wing! If you don’t understand, well, you are just going to have to buy The Book.

  4. I need to confirm this video. It is from la Iguana tv, which is obviously shills for the Chavistas. It shows Venezuelan ex pat protesters presumably in Europe. On the other side of the police line it looks like Chavistas embedded with Communists and other leftist dupes.

    Now given that the “Chavista hunting” across the globe has been pretty fierce (and there are hundreds of videos on youtube of this), I would not be surprised if they try to get protection from violent anarchocommunist groups like ANTIFA. This is just pure speculation on my behalf, but I see the potential.

    If you are not familiar with ANTIFA there are thousands of videos on youtube of these guys.

    This will add another dimension to the Chavista hunting and maybe it would be wise for Venezuelans abroad explain to Western Alternative media what is really going on. And maybe get support from American, Brits, Germans, Swiss and whoever might have your back. You know how the Chavistas will sell this. And there will be a witch hunt for them even in Venezuela. So it will be pretty easy for them to sell this notion that “they are the Jews” when people are painting red crosses on their front door. Peoples businesses, peoples lives and an entire country has been destroyed by the Chavistas and their Socialismo Chimbo that some people will take justice into their own hands. Just read todays El Nacional:

    It is going to get ugly and we know why. It is not because the opposition is fascist!! Hardly. It is because the Chavistas are nothing more than incompetent malandros. We have to control the narrative. The Chavistas cannot be let off or even celebrated by these leftist dupes. They have to know that these Chavistas are nothing more than snake oil salesmen and should be back in Venezuela suffering with the rest of us…or when this government falls they can go to Cuba. Fuera!!! Fuera!!! Fuera!!!

    I used to drink the red koolaid, then I went to Venezuela and saw what is really up with their robolucion.

  5. Hey, we need to be actively trolling these sites, like democracy now, real news and such. It is all too easy to slam people who dont know what they are talking about. Trust me, it is all too easy!!! Like a cat playing with a mouse. It is all about controlling the narrative and us cyberwarriors have to do our part.

    It is not fascism vs communism as the government wants it. It is everyday people who are f*(&ing fed up with this bull shit and what to throw the people who destroyed Venezuela out of power. And when we do. Chavismo will be dead and there will be social stigma for being a Chavista in Venezuela.

  6. So it wasn’t ‘real socialism’. Another leftist bailing from a failed government. What a surprise. On to the next poor victim….

  7. The death of the Supreme Court Justice Sonia Coromoto Arias Palacios will hopefully have some of the regime’s tyrants questioning if the curse of the Dabukuri is upon them.
    Whether we believe it or not, if it brings more paranoia to the criminals, all the better.

  8. This article is a perfect example of the stupidity which put VZ into the condition it is now:

    The author claims his hatred for American Imperialism…then claims the Russian and Chinese Imperialism that replaced it is just as bad…

    But doesn’t have a fucking clue as to what Imperialism means in the first place. It doesn’t matter that he went anti-Chavismo after being Chavista.

    A fucking idiot writing a way too long article which means nothing, and is still clinging to meaningless words like Imperialism to defend his hypothesis.

  9. Cliffton,
    Thanks for your post.
    I am a Venezuelan who has been living in Europe since the mid nineties. I have been active trying to lobby eurodeputies, writing to journalists in a couple of countries, meeting them, etc.

    Marx said religion was the opium of the people but for a long time that place has been largely taken by ideologies…ideologies which ultimately turn into what Milan Kundera called imagologies. In fact, I would go a bit farther than Kundera and say ideologies are not so that different from imagologies..just incredibly wobbly set of beliefs that are not based on anything scientific, notwithstanding the Marxist pretentions on science or the formulas produced by most economists professing one or the other ideology.

    In this context there is very little desire by most people involved in these movements to really find things out, most only have a burning desire to get a confirmation for their credos. They do in universities what is called social sciences, some-positivists- try to use methods of theory falsification as natural scientists do, with little success, while others just completely reject them. And at the end they have nothing to fear for their failures.

    Trotskists are not really much better than Stalinists. They just happened to follow the cult of a guy who was demoted from power before he could do as much harm as Stalin (but Trotsky was definitely no saint).

    It is a tragedy people who are supposed to read more about history than the average citizen are so incapable of learning from it.
    It is a shame people who are paid to be professors at a university do not make the slightest effort to follow a course on economics 101 and then go through some rather simple data coming from Venezuela already in 2004.

    • Thank you, Kepler. Your words often manage to put my messy thoughts into a semblance of order – your argument of imagologies is something I have long been struggling to put into words, particularly when discussions around the impending UK general election arise.

      • Very good. Ideologies require study, reading, historical perspective. Imageologies require only superficial thought, and, above all, slogans to babble, better yet if they are personified in a glib vacuous, but charismatic, leader.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. On every point. All we can really hope to do is “peel away” a few of the honest people clinging to the idols (ideals) oppressing them in the name of “liberation.” And I always appreciate your comments. Thanks!

  10. Congratulations to Mr Ross to share with us, the readers of CC your intellectual journey into opposition to Chavismo but more importantly your efforts to travel to convince others of its flaws. It would be a better world if all of us , both the right and the left, would challenge our own ideological blinders.

  11. I’ve spent a lot of the last months getting very angry at stupid “leftists” in Spain that buy the whole narrative. Like, groups of “combative youth” mocking the actual combative youth (and old) protesting a regime that left them without food, medicine, elections or security and now represses them. Like having the same people that call for escraches and “surround the Congress” here in Spain call the opposition in Venezuela “fascist doing a coup”.

    The socialdemocratic left in Europe is dying because all the socialdemocratic parties have abandoned the project, content with just being the same neoliberal stuff as the right but with gay rights and minority rights. The rest of the left, in a great deal, is the same guys that used to cheer for Stalin, Castro, etc. Incapable of delivering any new insight or new proposal, they just want to feel good about a revolution somewhere being sucessful. The ones that are misguided but honest get to understand that supporting the Bolivarian “revolution” is to support a criminal regime; most of them do not want to face that and prefer to buy the propaganda so they can keep playing the “courageous” role of supporting “the poor” and being “anti-Imperialists” without having any hurtful reality check.

  12. We glamorize ourselves morally and ideologically by passionately professing causes and ideas that condem the values that support the ‘powers that be’ , thus investing our identity with the role of romantic warriors and redeemers of the poor and suffering,of the saintly victims of social injustice …..which voluptuously bathes us in moral vainglory …..!!

    In the late XIX century women of fashion flattered their social pride by wearing large hats adorned with big feathers, in our time largely bored and mediochre people adorn their identities with fancy revolutionary ideals. The better to show off their morally exquisite personalities …….

    As Rousseau once wrote …one can only reason with people …’in the silence of the passions’ , and these people are for the most part shock full of grandiose political passions….!!

  13. This Left vs Right dichotomy is so XX century.
    You would think that the younger generations would come with something on their own but nope.
    The only dichotomy that people should care about is the end goal Prosperity vs Misery.
    ANY smart and well thought out policies that give us more prosperity should get the peoples support. <—Period

    Unfortunately that is asking too much, as in non realistic, because the truth is that the complex matters of economics, politics, society, welfare, international affairs, etc will remain by its very complicated nature off limits to the average citizen (~90% of the population of any given country). Yet Democracies have empowered them with votes regardless if they know or not what and for who they are voting for.
    Otherwise the PEOPLE in their supposed infinite wisdom would have driven their own democratic countries to infinite prosperity for all.
    LOL Nope!!!

    By the way, I am getting sick and tired of this self perpetuating myth about Chavez getting people out of poverty, just because during that time he borrow irresponsibly tons of money on top of receiving a windfall of $$ from the high oil prices to maintain popular support.
    He didn't do more than give people more chickens and aspirins to "cure" cancer and leave us with a big dept.

    Populism is nothing new though, what is new is the fall of reputable journalism and the rise of misinformation bubbles and conspiracy theories, courtesy of the internet. the INFORMATION age was not supposed to turn out this way. But folks keep underestimating the ignorance and stupidity of the human race.

    For good and bad it used to be that Big Media and the Elites had more power moderating the political discourse keeping the crazies out of the political scene.

    The current status quo is no longer sustainable, we need to keep evolving and make the leap from Democracy to Smart Democracy, moving on from Left vs Right to What Works for all.

  14. By the way, I am getting sick and tired of this self perpetuating myth about Chavez getting people out of poverty, just because during that time he borrow irresponsibly tons of money on top of receiving a windfall of $$ from the high oil prices to maintain popular support.

    Indeed. In order to be able to distribute more money, such as Chavista claims of reducing poverty, you need to have more money to distribute. If you want to distribute more money on a sustainable basis, you need economic growth. Period.
    In 1998, the year Chavez was elected, the export price of Venezuelan oil was around $11/BBL. In 2013, the year Chavez died, the export price of Venezuelan oil was around $100/BBL. How did Chavez do in using the oil bonanza to foster economic growth?

    A comparison of Venezuela’s economic growth compared to the rest of the world shows that the Chavista economy, even when propped up with high oil prices, performed much worse compared to other countries. In 1998, Venezuela’s GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $) was $15,839. By comparison, the per capita income of Upper middle income countries was $6,753 in 1998. Trinidad and Tobago, like Venezuela a petrostate in the Caribbean, had a per capita income of $15,362 in 1998.

    GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $) % growth 1998-2013
    East Asia & Pacific (excluding high income) 189.4%
    Trinidad and Tobago 101.5%
    Upper middle income 108.7%
    South Asia 102.8%
    Middle income 95.3%
    Lower middle income 82.0%
    Peru 76.5%
    Least developed countries: UN classification 57.3%
    World 44.2%
    Low income 37.8%
    Latin America & Caribbean 30.2%
    OECD members 19.3%
    Venezuela 15.2%

    By all standards of comparison, Venezuela’s per capita economic growth lagged behind other countries. Consider the Caribbean petrostate comparison with Trinidad and Tobago: 101.5% compared to Venezuela’s 15.2%.

    Peru makes an interesting comparison with Venezuela for two reasons: 1) both countries had a mineral-exporting boom during this time, and 2) Peru was superior to Venezuela in both poverty reduction and in economic growth. From 1998 to 2013, Peru’s per capita income in constant terms increased 76.5% compared to Venezuela’s 15.2%. From 1999 to 2013, extreme poverty in Peru fell from 20.5% to 4.4%- and 4% in 2014. From 1999 to 2013, extreme poverty in Venezuela fell from 20.9% to 9.4%. Peru’s poverty reduction statistics are more believable than Venezuela’s because they occurred concurrent with outstanding economic growth.
    As Venezuela’s economy has collapsed in recent years due primarily to Chavista mismanagement but also due to the collapse in the price of oil, not even a PSF would believe that the poverty statistics for 2013 during $100 oil are the same for 2017 with $40-$50 oil. Venezuela’s current per capita income is today lower than it was in 1998, when the price of oil was ~ $11/bbl.

    World Bank: World Development Indicators. Economic growth data.
    CEPAL/ECLA Stats: Extreme poverty and poverty by geographical area.

    BTW, if a PSF makes the claim that the above per capita income stats are invalid because they come from the “imperialist” World Bank, a two-pronged rejoinder comes to mind. First, that GDP per capita (constant LCU) from the World Bank will give the same results. Second, that GDP per capita (constant LCU) comes from the governments themselves. That can be readily checked by comparing the World Bank’s GDP (constant LCU) with BCV data: Producto interno bruto-Por clase de actividad económica-A precios constantes de 1997-(Miles de Bolívares) . Checks out VERY WELL.

  15. There is obviously a lot of rubbish published on the left about the bolivarian revolution, Counterpunch being one particular example, but it seems to me some of the most trenchant observers have come from the left or left liberal points of view. Christopher Hitchens, Alberto Barrera Tyzka, Jon Lee Anderson, Manuel Caballero, Rory Carroll, Teodoro Petkoff, that brilliant guy who covered Venezuela in Gatopardo, just to name a few. Dare I say it, but Quico writes in this tradition. What do these people share in common? They share an Orwellian sensibility- by that I mean, they are, like the author of Homage to Catalonia, constitutionally incapable of exchanging their powers of observation for the approbation of their peers.

    So before we excuse ourselves as being simply of a period, or of an entire half of the ideological spectrum, I think it is only fair to pay some respects to the mainstream mass market bourgeois leftie journalists who were perhaps weak on their Chomsky and who perhaps (who knows) in their heart of hearts found Amy Goodman unrelentingly predictable, tedious and unlistenable…those ‘sellouts’ who knew, as it turned out, exactly what the f- they were talking about.

    • Chomsky is a good example of one strain of this, I think. To his credit, he seem to have come off the wagon when he realized what the “revolution” was about. Like, 10 years later or so.

      Because they are so desperate for any success story against “imperialism” and “capitalism” that they project their wonderful academic ideas of what that may be on people that everybody else can clearly see dont embody anything but ignorance, hatred and greed. But as he doesnt have to actually live the “revolution” as done by them, he can just keep that illusion. Just read some other leftist account of the “gains” of the “revolution”. Just talk about the hopes of “change”. Just keep believing. Is easy when you dont have to see it and suffer it.

      Again, good for him to have realized that the real revolution was not that perfect spherical body of goodness in his theories. But with his track record, one has to wonder why would you want to listen to somebody that may be right in some of his criticisms of the current system, but is at the bare minimum so politically naive as to fall for thugs like Chávez. Hell, I’m not a world-class intellectual and I had the red beret bastard figured out from the start.


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