Last Sunday, a fair-haired woman in her forties closed her eyes, smiled, and exhaled a sigh of deep satisfaction. Not aware that anyone was watching her, she looked up into the sky and said to herself out loud “…Por la patria!” as she deposited her ballot in a box, beaming with sweet, hopeful delight.

As I made my way back to the subway after spending some hours at the makeshift center the government had set up for the National Constituent Assembly election in El Poliedro, a former concert hall on the outskirts of Caracas, I closed my eyes and exhaled in despair with my own realization: These Venezuelans don’t live in dictatorship.

Ever since Tibisay announced that 7 districts of Caracas, around 800 thousand voters, would be bunched together into one massive polling station in El Poliedro, in a last-minute move that further cemented the haphazard nature of this strange election, I’d wanted to see for myself how this was going to work. I also wanted to see State oppression in the flesh — public employees being mercilessly coerced into showing up.

The hour-long metro ride to La Rinconada station was mostly silent. It was also free of charge. That El Metro was even open at all on a day when MUD announced a demonstration was in and of itself, remarkable. Because La Riconada is the last stop for that line, it was safe to assume that most passengers on the train with me were riding to vote. Already, it struck me as eerie that I was not surrounded by militant party organizers dressed in red shirts, or that no last-minute campaigning was being done. As I emerged from La Riconada station on the crowded escalator, the only signs that an election was happening at all were two small posters taped to the side of the wall promoting candidates.

The scene in front of El Poliedro, a colossal domed structure reminiscent of Disney’s Epcot center sphere, was jovial and chaotic. People were milling about in disarray, trying to figure out how and where exactly to form a queue. Reggaeton blared from a pair of speakers set up next to an Arepera Socialista food truck, and different sized tents dotted the semi-crowded landscape, offering shade to the requisite stray dogs.  As I searched for clues on where I should go, a frail old man handed me a government newspaper filled with propaganda, complete with Diosdado’s latest Mazazos on the back. I was almost thankful as it would make for interesting reading material while I waited, but, more importantly, I could bury my nose in it when the VTV camera crew came around to ask me why I was there. Turns out I never had to resort to my prop, I only saw one cameraman the whole time I was there.

I finally spotted a man holding a handwritten sign that said Chacao, the district where I would normally vote, standing on a patch of grass. I made my way to the improvised line that began to form in front of him, careful not to draw too much attention to myself, and trying to run through what I would say if the man asked me to sign a check-in form. No such luck. Everyone was either minding their own business, or too busy trying to figure out next steps to engage in usual cola chit chat. That’s when I began to let down my guard.

After half an hour of waiting under the sun, the Chacao line that went nowhere grew to around 30 people. Absent was the usual chatter about who the favorite candidate was or who to vote for, or the swarm of hopefuls vying for my attention. That’s when an enthusiastic woman with Constituyente gear finally approached us handing out chuletas, pamphlets explaining how to vote. She made sure to answer any questions I might have had and warmly thanked me for my vote. She was the only candidate I would see that day working the lines. This was not a competition over votes, I soon came to understand. It was an act of solidarity.  

Katy grew restless when she noticed things weren’t moving along, so she took it upon herself to hustle and get us inside already. The gated entrance to El Poliedro was flanked by dozens of National Policemen with riot shields, looking intimidating in their somber new uniforms and red berets. As I stood in line, I could see Katy in the distance negotiating our entrance with one of the officers. Every now and then random people would come up to us and ask where the lines for Sucre or Libertador where. Is there a special line for senior citizens? Are we all going inside as a group? Nobody knew, it was mostly shrugs and confusion. It was all very Venezuelan. 

Eventually, thanks to Katy’s stubborn appeals, our Chacao line was led past the guarded gates and into the empty parking lot. We were told to line up, single file, in the massive expanse of asphalt, for reasons none of us would really ever understand. A guard escorted our line past hooded Military Intelligence agents shooting the shit, and a couple of air conditioned buses, as we made our way to the front of the building in formation; a pointless exercise, we would come to see, since chaos and confusion once again set in.

I was left to my own devices to figure out which of the dozen single-file lines leading to the voting center entrance I was supposed to join. Some thought we were lining up according to cédula number, others thought we should be organized by municipality. None of it would matter anyway once we got inside. The only semblance of instructions came by way of a rotund military officer who bellowed confusing information on a sound system, he looked tiny perched on the impressive balcony above us. “Those who vote in Municipio Miranda [there is no such thing] stay downstairs, those who vote in Libertador come up here!”  “Please open the gate and let in personnel!” He called out to no one in particular.

“Now is when the real revolución will come!” I heard someone say. I scanned the patient crowd of around a thousand people for looks that betrayed their unwillingness to be there, I listened for anyone griping under their breath about having been forced to show up. “I really hope the opposition can see once and for all that we are democratic, and learn by example,” the woman in front of me said longingly. “I really hope we reach 10 million votes,” answered the man behind me. “It’s looking like we will.”  It was close to noon.

As we inched our way closer to the voter ID station where CNE personnel would check your name against a database, the orderly lines became a huddle of shoves and shouting. A National Guardsman signaled to me that I should walk right past the men behind laptops, so I did. I was never checked against any voter roll.

Once inside the dome, a welcome respite from the noisy crowd, the atmosphere was laid back. People wandered amiably about the maze that had been set up with cubicle partitions as if touring a trade show or convention, looking for the booth that would stand in for their polling station. I walked past a camera crew in the middle of an interview, which drew a small crowd in an otherwise ample hallway. “It is someone important?” I asked no one in particular. “We are ALL important,” said a man cheerfully. I asked a woman in a militia uniform where my voting center was. “It doesn’t matter, just vote anywhere, these are all contingency stations.”

There was no queue before the voting machine I picked at random. Only a woman standing behind the cardboard screen, looking confused. “Chica can you please help me? I don’t understand what to do.” The miembro de mesa helpfully guided her on what buttons to press. When my turn came up, I handed her my cédula, scanned my fingerprint and concentrated on following the 8 steps I’d memorized for how to vote null. I was relieved when the machine spat out a printed ballot with the words NULO prominently displayed.

I am registered to vote at U.E. San Juan de Dios Guanche, but the screen said I voted at U.E. Santiago de León de Caracas. Splitting hairs, I guess.

Instead of the usual voter notebook with my printed name and cédula, a second miembro de mesa scribbled my misspelled name onto crumpled sheet of paper and asked me to sign next to it. There was no ink to dip my pinky into.   

I could’ve very easily sauntered to another booth and voted again, but I decided against it. It felt exploitative. I felt dirty sabotaging a process that, however fraudulent and evil in its intent, people had genuinely pinned their hopes and aspirations on. I was sad when I left. Sad for the people who were being used and deceived by a government that championed them. Sadder still in knowing that what they saw as an empowering exercise of their civic duty would do little change their lives, to bring food to their tables or medicines to their sick children. 

Back in Eastern Caracas, another group of Venezuelans were also busy trying to take back their hopes for a better future. My welcome back to Chacao metro station came in the form of a tear gas attack, as a throng of people desperately leaped over the turnstiles, gagging and choking and running over each other as they fled from the repression above. It’s back to dictatorship, I thought.

The real Chacao, you immediately realize, its like the upside-down version of the happy, Poliedro-based Chacao only government activists are invited to. 

I went to the Poliedro thinking I’d see a gaggle of coerced slaves being frog-marched into an election each of them secretly loathed as much as I do. But that’s not what I saw. Baffling though it is to us, there are still millions of chavistas who are genuinely, intimately excited to vote in support of the Constituyente, even if most were unsure about what that even meant or who they were electing. The opposition as a whole —and I personally— can’t understand that, and so we tend towards denial. But it’s true.

The 72 hours that followed showed the profound contempt chavismo’s leaders have for their own followers. As colectivo members from the 23 de enero protested the CNE over seats they felt had been stolen in the melée, it was hard not to feel a bit of reliefto know for once they’re experiencing what it means to have zero power as you face down a State that hates you. The brazen lies about turnout, the stolen seats in 23 de enero, the entire cheating at solitaire charade with millions of made-up votes underline once more how monstrous the lie chavistas have sold really is.

But they’ve bought it. Intimately, to the core of their being: they still believe.

67 COMMENTS

  1. They have been broken or brainwashed.

    One of the worst things about chavismo is the generation of people who have been raised to truly believe that the work is an insulting exploitation, that any reward to said work that’s not only for themselves is a brazen theft from their entiltement and most risible of all, that the chavista leaders actually cared by them any bit.

    The brainwashing is real, those minds have been destroyed beyond repair, other than waiting for that generation to die there’s not much to be done for them, as most of them are too old to be taught otherwise.

    Heh, you voted null, I wonder what would have been your reaction if the machine decided to cheat on you and slam some votes for La Máscara and Valentín Santana :V

  2. Great piece Emili, good you posted photos too.
    You know, I am not surprised at all that a narco regime that has failed so spectacularly still has real supporters.
    Temer from Brazil at 5% support is less popular than Maduro, go figure.

    We take these things for granted but we should never forget that the majority of people (regardless of social or economic level) are full of opinion but know next to nothing about politics, economy, history etc Some can’t even understand how bad is to block a recall referendum for instance, let alone more complex economic policy.
    We are all born ignorant and it takes a lot of effort and time to learn and understand.

    And oh yeah, you can bet your mama that there was the coercion factor that you wouldn’t notice simply by anecdotal evidence gathered in a line talk.

    • You’re right to say that, but regardless of understanding economics, history, law, etc, people have to be able to understand hunger, fear, scarcity, poverty. That is a universal language that is understood from a very early age.

      • Sure but those are basic human needs that don’t need to be learn or understand,
        On the other hand Voting in the ANC and deciding among the candidates is an “intelectual” high minded exercise, or at least is supposed to be.
        In reality it comes down to a tribalistic act (us vs them) more than a true informed and objective decision.

  3. Agreed. Thank you for the adventure. In a separate note, the shots of El Poliedro brought memories of Van Halen back in 1983

  4. You’re absolutely right, Emi, to say that we just don’t understand. Personally, this is something I REALLY struggle with almost every day. Day after day, I see numbers that put Maduro’s approval ratings at somewhere between 10 and 25%, which is, of course, low. However, Hollande once reached 4% in France, Dilma reached 9% in Brazil, and there are many other cases like that. How is it that Maduro, with a much worse economic, political, and social reality, can still muster up double digit levels of support?

    There are still, unfortunately, a large number of people that still supports this government. I just can’t find the reason why anymore.

  5. For those that live in the slums “it is not fair” that some live in an apartment building. And it goes the same for every material good and even for things like intelligence, beauty, etc. It is pure and evil envy.

    Normally all humans suffer from envy attacks as well as from the others so called “capital sins”: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

    Now communism instill in the masses that the social differences are caused by the rich and offer them the hope, a dream that the revolution will fix and that never materializes.

    And then they are those that could be called “well to do” that embrace that ideology but those are actually less rich than somebody else and it is the same envy that motivates them.

  6. Absolutely heartbreaking, given that Venezuela’s future depends on the faithful waking up and realizing what chavismo has done to them.

    The last line of your article, “They still believe,” is harrowing and reminds me of the closing line of 1984: “He loved Big Brother”

    • Calm down, this is just her subjective impression, an anecdotal evidence, a very unscientific visit to a voting place, thats all.
      To really know what they actually thinking about the ANC you would have to conduct a poll and it would still be difficult to determine the truth given that support for Chavism comes loaded with both coercion and stigma.

      • Good point, Toro V. Even in the hypothetical poll you mention people’s real reasons might not be revealed. My shot in the dark guess is that it might be a combination of the affective or emotive, ideology & propaganda, personal benefit, some pressure, lack of viable alternative from their perspective, etc. One point to consider is that the opposition really don’t talk about a plan or platform if they were to be in leadership. Perhaps not the time for that now but people like to know what they’re trading the current situation for, regardless of how crappy it might be.

      • Data Analisis claims that Maduro has around 20% approval ratings. This falls in line with the anecdotal evidence written in this article. Yes many of them might be corced but the fact remains that the governemnt still has support of a significant minority even in these abismal conditions.

        The most simple explanation is that these Venezuelans are delusional. It truly is the land of magical realism.

      • Hi Toro, thanks for pointing out that this analysis would not hold up to standard social scientific methodology. Indeed you can only go so far on anecdotal evidence and participant observation. Good enough for an article for a blog, but not a masters thesis.

        One more layer is geography. At the Polidromo you have music blasting, cheap arepas and lots of chavistas shipped in. Of course, when in Rome do as the Romans do. Mimetic behavior psychologically speaking.

        Furthermore, it is a concentrated site and therefore is unique compared to the rest of the polling places.

        A more scientific approach would be to survey enough polling places to have enough data points to make your statistics more robust. Of course that would take a team of researchers, or frantically driving around all day (and not everybody has a car in Venezuela).

        I liked the effort, but need to include a disclaimer that these are observations taken from one data point and there is a lot that cannot be asked without blowing your cover.

  7. “More than changing the constitution, the main goal is to govern without limits,” said another analyst, Benigno Alarcon.

    The question is: Can he also govern without money, because what’s left is going fast. As Torro has repeatedly pointed out, so long as petro cash is rolling in, Maduro might be able to hang on for ages. Like a cockroach.

    • Or if diosdado (or somebody else) kills maduro, then diosdado could use that as an excuse to unleash a Lybian (cagaffi era) style of politics where opposition people will be pursued and slaughtered by the thousands.

  8. “Baffling though it is to us, there are still millions of chavistas who are genuinely, intimately excited to vote in support of the Constituyente, even if most were unsure about what that even meant or who they were electing. The opposition as a whole —and I personally— can’t understand that, and so we tend towards denial. But it’s true.”

    It’s really not a baffling phenomenon, when you consider the fundamental sociological causes. Most complex human issues are the result of a combination of multiple factors.

    Case in point here, despite the atrocious reality under Chavismo, despite the hunger, crime, inflation, poverty, destroyed economy, lack of medicines and food, despite the international condemnation of Kleptozuela’s criminal narco-regime, despite the clear historical precedents of total failure of “socialism” and communism worldwide.. Millions of ‘pueblo’-people still venerate and adore a beast called Chavez. A vicious dictator who destroyed Venezuela for 14 years. More than half of the population still love him.. And millions even support Maduro, even today, perhaps 15-20% of Venezuelans. Go figure..

    Here are the various contributing factors to explain this :

    1- Enormous lack of education. Real education, basic history, geography, economy, news. No one likes to admit it, but our beloved “pueblo” is often very, very ignorant and under-educated. (Blame Ad/Copey, btw)
    Many people have no clue what a Republic is, Power Separation, real democracy.. NPI..

    2- Media brain-wash. The Castrista method has worked after 18 years of media control, drilling stupid shit like “imperialismo”, “economic war”, “derecha fascita” “burgueses”, Sifrinos.. Millions of people bought into that, (which is explained in part by point #1 and 3)

    3- The social alienation lower and middle classes of people felt after 4 decades of being ignored by Ad/Copey, when deep divisions, jealousy, hatred developed against the “burgueses” who stole tons of cash and did little to incorporate, educate and lift the poor, uneducated majority. Chavez of course exploited that deep resentment, and Chavistas still do today.

    4- Populism: Many Venezuelan’s have grown accustomed to expect everything from “el gobielno”, freebies, services, regalitos, viviendas, free gas, free transportation, etc..

    5- Massive Corruption. Guisos y Tigritos everywhere, at all levels. Enchufados everywhere. Over 2 Million public employees, leeching off the criminal narco-regime. Plus all the Chavista politicians, the army, the military, mostly corrupt “Chavistas”. All they really care about is $$$$$, of course.

    Combine these inter-related factors, plus a few more, and you’ll be less baffled about the sad-but-true causes of this Chavistode Kleptozuelan Social Phenomenon.

  9. Thank you for this perspective.

    The most ignorant of the ignorant/poorest of the poor/most miserable of the miserable don’t know/don’t care to know/will never know what dictatorship is/means. It all might even actually make life easier for them. I can barely stomach messages from “the other side,” but the little I see makes scary sense to me; how “others” might interpret it.

    God help us. But we ARE more.

  10. And a stupid bus driver has once again outsmarted the best political minds the opposition has to offer.

    This one is over, put a fork in it.

    • Amazes me too how the barrio has continued to outwit the Venezuelan educated classes, paper educated that is. Maybe had education been targeted, a number of years ago, towards the less privileged instead of the moneyed folks (generally speaking of course) things might have been different. Seems that those studying for a degree in resentment have succeeded with ease.

  11. Thank you for the trip to the Poliedro to witness the electoral charade (from the pictures it looks at the most crowded/biggest attendance). Unquestionably, the regime still has loyal followers in the face of an unmitigated disaster. You can travel anywhere in the world and find people enamored with tyrants past and present. Of course that can be attributed to many factors together with ignorance, but that is what it is.

    Since it appears that many of us are not willing to throw the towel, as proven on Jul/16, recognizing that not only this is your home, but also that there are good people that do not deserve this ignominy and worse things to come, please entertain me with the following thoughts:

    Among the most important of dependents to the regime are the FANB delinquents. Since the clans controlling the regime act just like a Mafia, siphoning money and making illegal deals to keep afloat (repression and “loyalty” require a huge cash flow), we can’t expect to be too bland with sanctions hoping that things will change. They”ll keep giving the finger and issuing sword replicas.

    The cash flow has to be stopped. Painful, yes, but the fact is that most of the funds coming from the oil sales are not being used to buy food and medicines. The regime does not even have to spend much on that department, they just have to allow humanitarian aid. But of course,they want “peace” and they wont.

    Cuba is not prepared for another “periodo especial” which will unavoidably happen if Venezuela’s lifeblood stops flowing.

  12. Thank you very much for this peace. It seems that for a few, this whole “revolution” and their part in is quasi-religious. The glorious revolution, the sacred struggle against the imperio and the rich, validates their existence, their efforts, their hardships, they are soldiers of the revolution towards a just and fair society.

    It is probably more than these fanatics can bear to let themselves start to accept/think the obvious, that it’s all a lie and that life gets worse and worse and promises are never kept. It would destroy their self image, and evaporate their self worth and sense of identity and meaning. It would be more than they could bare, they would be utterly broken, even more so than they are right now.

    At this point, those that still believe, that live under the spell, are beyond all hope.

  13. Excellent points by all. Seems like, sociologically speaking, there are too many moving parts and perspectives to form a cohesive internal movement strong enough to force change from within. Even if Maduro went flat broke tomorrow, with no cash flowing in, there are millions who would mistrust handing power back to any opposition, for fear of the being ignored and shunned once more.

    Could it be that what is needed is some kind of nationwide reconciliation, Abe Lincoln style, that could rally people behind a common vision for the future?

    No idea what that might be or how it might find traction but the antagonistic dynamic now in play seems so entrenched that it probably precludes substantive change. That’s what’s so frustrating in watching this tragic drama play out – for all the suffering and circling the drain, nothing much changes, like a Circle of Hell from the Inferno.

  14. Emi, I completely DISAGREE with this unscientific/limited sample concluding that “there are still millions of chavistas who are genuinely, intimately excited to vote in support of the Constituyente??” How can you say this, when the respected/reputable UCAB study said only 2.4mm voted, many of them coerced, of which RSM says 25% were nulos? How many of these voters did you see in the Poliedro, where 800m potential voters could have voted, and yet where there was relatively poor attendance?. Regardless of Datanalisis (always con Dios y El Diablo) 20-25% claimed NM support, I doubt if max 15% of a real 12mm or so voluntarily-registered REP=less than 2mm would voluntarily, uncoercedly support this Regime. Only a real, universal, secret vote would reveal my assumptions, and this will not happen until the Regime is removed by force….

      • I don’t think so. You said “millions genuinely, intimately excited to vote for the Constituyente'” I said maybe less than 2 million would voluntarily vote uncoercedly for the Constituyente. You may have seen your interpretation of uncoerced enthusiasm, but on an extremely small sample from which a “millions” conclusion cannot be drawn. I personally saw many downscale barrio voting centers with virtually no voter lines, no youth, no males, and only handfuls of women worried about losing their CLAP bags, pensions, and Misiones. And, if you say your main point is that those you saw voting, mistakenly interpreted as representing “”genuinely, intimately excited millions”, were not aware they were voting for a dictatorship, well, yes, that is correct.

  15. Mario Silva has just upped the ante on that. These Chavistas know what is coming and the spindoctors of ideology are trying to put lipstick on a pig now.

    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/causa-delgadez-del-venezolano-segun-chavistas_197068

    Yeah, pumpkin arepas can be pretty good. But most barrio people are pretty ignorant, especially in terms of gastronomy, and live off of just pasta and cheese whiz (quite literally). And, hey a Konuko (urban agriculture) is a great idea, but again, most people are too ignorant or lazy to do that. Never can take out the lazy and stupid factor that Chavistas try to brush over.

  16. According to recent polls some 23% of venezuelans declare themselves regime sympathyzers , notwithstanding the blame that clearly attaches to it for the hard times we are all experiencing and the many abuses and acts of corruption that its top people incurr in on a routine basis…..

    According to the same polls some 52% still consider themselves Chavistas even if some half of them no longer support the govt that Chavez left behind…..having become aware of the corrupt and incompetent nature of the regime .

    These figures are amazing given the extreme misery and hardship that we now live under and their blatant violation of all traditional freedoms and rights …….there is something very wrong in the many people remain faithfull to such putrid regime despite the debacle they preside over.

    So how do we account for this strange and perverse’infatuation’ of so many people with a regime so sick and inept.??

    Of course there is that old argument that they lack ‘education’ or that they have been ‘brainwashed’ (little education making them vulnerable to stupid but arousing discourses…) , some might argue that with an average IQ of 84 statistically some percentage of the total population is just plain stupid and easy to deceive and idiotize by selling them the flattering notion that they are really revolutionary superheros fighting epically against a malign group of supervillains …..

    It sort of makes you wonder how much faith we can place in the natural common sense of people to asses the true merits or sins of their rulers …..

    • There were no polls, I believe, but I am sure the percentage of Germans mourning Hitler in late 1945 might have been as high…and bear in mind a lot of people fall out of love with their icons when these icons get beaten.

    • Bill, this is why Vzla and the rest of the world need to evolve from Old fashion Democracy to SmartDemocracy.
      What I mean by SmartDemocracy is to implement two basic but fundamental changes or “Bug Fixes”

      1. Require high qualification standards commensurate to the critical job of the Presidency. No more caudillos, bus drivers, cheap ideologues or TV celebrities. We need professionals with experience here.

      2. Rise the threshold that allows people the right to vote.Older than 18y/o good, pass a certification on the basic understanding of governance, politics, economics, etc. Fair !
      Living is a civilized society is not just about rights and receiving free goodies but also responsibilities.

  17. Very good article. Maduro might have 20%, but I bet the “revolution” has a much higher support. 20 years of hate have done a lot of damage.

  18. A good number of people supported and support Trump in the U.S., which to some is difficult to comprehend. Although there are large differences between that support and regime backing in Venezuela, one similarity is a general discontent with traditional policial parties and their cronies. Trump also exhibits ‘caudillo’ traits such populist appeal, personalist politics, authoritarian inclinations & a kind of messianism.
    To say the people or pueblo in Venezuela is ignorant and should be educated is a little condescending to say the least. Perhaps they would be better educated if historically the state had made that a priority. But then again education level does no necessarily mean better political choices – Simply look at who was elected prez in the U.S.

    • Yep, some people are confusing Educated with Political knowledge. Two very different things.
      For instance, I have an uncle Chemistry Engineer, upper middle class who got a PHD in France speaks 3 languages yet voted for Chavez in 1998. Obviously he has a good education in his specialty but had zero knowledge in politics and current affairs because quite simply he was always busy working crazy hours in Pequiven and no time to read the news let alone understand other subjects in economy, history etc.
      He thought Chavez was a moderate but with a strong personality that was going to drain the Caracas swamp, end corruption and eradicate poverty. Just what we needed LOL
      I wonder if he bothered to check Chavez resume and if he would hire someone in Pequiven with no education nor experience for the job?
      it is mind blowing !!!!
      Irene saenz in the other hand had a Political Science degree with experience in government but she couldn’t overcome her beauty pageant image and was always questioned in her qualifications!!. Not that she was the best candidate but millions times better than Chavez for sure.

      • Chavez’s campaign was fashioned by old Commie fox Miquilena, and was rational in its promises to correct Guanabana corruption/abuses–problem is, once elected, Chavez basically abandoned his campaign platform and turned progressively more autocratic/Leftist. Irene’s best claim to fame, apart from an easy Chacao mayoral stint, was being the lover of a married major bank pres.,who embezzled the bank into bankruptcy, but not before making Irene/sister rich.

  19. Great piece – what does the other side think? So basic, yet so powerful. For Americans, the parallel with the support for Trump (another populist) is striking. Democrats are dumbfounded with Trump supporters – “How can *they* be so foolish?’ Don’t *they*realise that they are voting against their own interests, etc?’ But is it much more complicated than that. In one sense, it does relate to identity (be it class or ethnicity) and trust (or lack thereof) with the opposition. This is fundamental – for Democrats in the US as it may be for the opposition in Ven. How do you ever begin to bridge that gap? That’s when you begin to register some inroads….

    • “Democrats are dumbfounded with Trump supporters – ‘How can *they* be so foolish?’”

      Let me fill you in:

      Trump supporters are dumbfounded with Democrats – “How can *they* be so foolish?”

      Chavistas are dumbfounded with “Opposition” voters – “How can *they* be so foolish?”

      It’s tough to understand others when you are so convinced in your position. It’s all so clear to you, but they just don’t get it, eh?

  20. Emiliana, what a great and honest post. Reminds me of my adventures in Catia so many years ago in a referendum vote. This line about how it feels “to have zero power as you face down a State that hates you” is deep; describes how I felt when I lived there and why I decided to leave.

  21. If so many people in the highly advanced highly educated US are capable of favouring a narcisistic chaotic thuggish Mr Trump, and so many ideological follies of the right and left , and in britain the seemingly disastrous Brexit decision, is it so strange that backward Venezuela might favour the rise of a Chavez or to a certain extent maintain some loyalty to a grossly failed regime like that of Maduro ?? Isnt there some kind of intrinsic flaw to a system that relies so much on the whims and foibles and recreational passions of the masses…….., not that no similar flaws exist where power is concentrated on a small group but can we improve on the system so it doesnt produce so many disastrous decisions and or governments ?? Note that Im talking about improving not about absolute remedies , these are unlikely to exist , but assumming such improvement is possible , that you somehow make collective decision making a much more sane or balanced process HOW exactly do you go about it ?? I take note of nostrums that in the abstract outline the principles that might allow such improvement but then what exactly will an improved system look like , are there any models to follow in todays world ??

    • The solution is not rocket science. It just need Legislators to be more open minded and rethink/reform democracy in terms of QUALITY not just QUANTITY.

      PROBLEM: Millions of people voting for things they have no clue about. Sometimes voting against their own interest and victims of mass manipulators. Ending in chaos and disaster as we can witness all over the world.

      SOLUTION: Voting Licenses. (No magic, just common sense.)
      No need to reinvent the wheel here. As a civilized society we have been doing this for millennia to filter the junk out and impose order, from driving, fishing, hunting, selling, flying, professional practice permits etc. Why not for Voting? Big mystery !

      What is the point of having a Democracy when its own rules allow for its destruction ?
      If we don’t make these few changes, we will always be an election away from a catastrophe.

      • Alright, I think it’s time for someone to answer your ” all encompassing solution.” If we do what you say, then how can we ensure that the needs of those who wouldn’t be represented wouldn’t be ignored? Why would those who are able to vote have any incentive to take those who can’t into account?

        • The basic sin of our Culture is hubris, the sentimental and beatific belief that ordinary people are naturally omnicompetent in their capacity to understand and decide how to organize and run matters pertaining to their collective interests in a sane manner, which is evidently absurd …….., do you let children or retards the freedom to take the crucial decisions of their lives ….of course not ……., do you let Witch Doctors take the place of trained physicians because they offer always popular magic remedies and good fortune spells ?? certainly not ……many people dont know their best interest or prefer to nurture grotesque passions that cant resist any rational scrutiny .

          Perhaps some improvement might be achieved putting greater constraints in the qualifications that people who offer themselves to occupy public office must meet in order to propose themselves as candidates for such offices, its the way many non governamental organizations work to fill in through continuous assesment of peoples performance their capacity to hold ever higher corporate jobs ……its called meritocracy !! Its not perfect but maybe it might help a bit…..

    • Trump is polling very badly and his admin the most dysfunctional in modern history. I prefer to avoid comparisons or to interject DTs personality into BRV politics. The U.S. is more than it’s President and the team in place now blows the Obama team away. That’s the reality of the situation. More done with BRV under DT so far than under entire Obama tenure. And a lot more to come.

  22. It’s pretty obvious that this girl doesn’t have a minimal idea of how “millions of people ” look in the same place at the same time….

  23. It’d pretty obvious that this girl doesn’t have a minimal idea on how “millions of people ” looks at the same place in the same time

  24. A prevailing theme in these comments is that the Venezuelan voter is too stupid to cast an intelligent vote. Are we not forgetting that in 2015 they voted overwhelmingly to throw the bum(s) out? Are we forgetting 16J? The truth is that Venezuelan democracy has been subverted by a thugocracy that cares not one whit how the people voted.

  25. Lorenzo this ‘turn around’ happened after 15 years of crass and criminal misgovernment and abuse literally destroyed the country , after Chavez for more than decade held impassioned sway over a great number of Venezuelans sympahties ……, its like saying that someone who smoked all his life with total disregard for the consequences for his health , suddenly discovers the vices of smoking after he has lost his lungs to cancer or his heart to hear disease………, our current thugocracy is the beloved child of more than a decade of democracy , now we recognize its true nature but for years millions of venezuelans were enthralled by its promises and rethorical excesses………and even now quite a few millions are still aroused by them .

    HIstorically the follies of crowds have been again and again amply documented but still most dont understand it , its not just that so many are naturally stupid , but that hearts warped by contentious and pretentious passions makes people who are intellectual illiterates or resentful of their personal mediochre lives think stupidly , act counter to their best interests even if strictly speaking they are not mentally impaired.

    We cannot ignore these limitations of conventional democracies that makes them into ticking time bombs in so many common social circumstances …….and hence must provide some more efficient protection agaisnt its excesses,

  26. Bill & Toro…What would you suggest these “qualifications” be? What are the people’s “best interests”? Who decides these things? On the surface, the black and white are easily determined in the minds of many but often it is the decisions made in the grey area that are the most difficult, most contentious and most important to daily life. Take the gasoline subsidy, clearly this is costing the regime (and if continued any government to follow) billions of dollars, encourages the black market and corruption. How many Venezuelans would support doubling/tripling raising the gas price to actual cost? Should all of these people lose their right to vote?

  27. If you want to rise as a manager in an organization you have to perform certain jobs beginning low in the hierarchy and climbing as your SPECIFIC job performance is assesed favourably by panels of people who have succesfully done it before using a proven methodology , as you go from job to job they become more demanding and difficult , all the while competing with people who are doing jobs at your same level , you spend 20 or 30 years doing this , in the process some people are determined to be more competent than others and are thus given the opportunity of showing how competent you are vs your peers in achieving concrete goals , at some point your performance of 20/30 years offers confidence that you will be able to competent to assumme higher responsabilities, practical measurable achievements tll people a lot about whether you have the knowhow , expertize, character , qualities to be allowed to become a candidate for higher office , its much more than a beauty contest or having the most rousing rethoric or being able to induce people to feel the most fierce passions ………. Best interests are the same as you would probably judge to be your best interests , having a job that earns you (and your loved ones) a humanly rich , comfortable and secure life and being protected from criminals and hoodlums. It can be broken down into many different things but they are more common than one might think………

  28. I was born in the former Yugoslavia, but had lived for over 30 years in Vzla. To me the country was okay, it had its opportunities for hard and smart working people, regardless of origin. I truly adapted to the country but always had a B and even a C plan in mind, cause most Venezuelans–in my rather Slavic worldview– lack a depth of analysis. The whole of society is quite shallow, teenage minded, they were, and some still are, totally unaware of world issues. As some commentators say the level of education is appallingly low, its all about emotion.

    Since Chavez came I told and warned most of my friends and acquaintances that Venezuelan was gonna end up worse than Afghanistan or Colombia, as a joke I said it was going to become a Macqaquistan or Thugistan: they scolded me, told me I was crazy. AND now look where the country is headed !!! Sadly there are 3 generations fraught with chronic gullibility and cognitive dissonance, It will change by way of Blood, Sweat and Tears, and more B.S and T. The playita and rumbita times for them are over, Welcome to world history

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