These people are hungrier and poorer by the day, and their faith in the abstraction of socialism is long gone. Maduro, to them, is a clown and there’s only contempt for the rest of the lot. Many don’t even like Chávez. They may deny it, they’d rather keep quiet than admit they messed up, but deep down they know El Comandante screwed them.

They see it in the mirror as they grow thin, and I see it too, as I walk up the stairs of my building, greeting neighbors as equals, and not as foes. That’s the thing with crises, sooner or later you have to hold yourself accountable for your decisions, and people here, in Guarenas, really chose wrong. This has been my home for the past ten years and, during that period, I’ve been surrounded by people who still have portraits of Chávez in their homes. They voted Maduro into office and will deny that there are political prisoners or Human Rights violations in this country.

Last Sunday, election day, I asked them about the election itself, which I never do, just to see why they supported this government to the point of self-sabotage. My neighborhood, Menca de Leoni, brimmed with activity. There were Puntos Tricolor every fifty meters or so. As the bus made its way through the street, I could see children playing and people strolling around while others lined up for their carnet and their bono Niño Jesús near voting centers. Maduro, Jorge Rodríguez and Erika Farías promised a reward for those who voted red, and they mostly came through in Guarenas, so people were in high spirits.

My closest neighbors are three women. Two have dogs and we’ve found a way to bond by avoiding arguments and talking about their animals and lives. This has given me an understanding of systems like CLAP and the carnet de la Patria as successful political tactics for the regime.

¡Hoooola, mijo! ¿Y la abuela?

Sooner or later you have to hold yourself accountable for your decisions, and people here really chose wrong.

That’s how Libia, the first woman in my floor, greets me every time she sees me. She’s about 60, but the bones are so prominent beneath her skin that she looks much older. A housewife living off a pension with her two children (both of them with cognitive disabilities), she’s the only source of income in their household. She voted for the criminals whose actions reduced her chances of survival; if she falls ill, if anything happens to her, her two sons will be completely helpless. Now, the CLAPs are the only way she can even eat or provide for her children. When I asked her about Sunday’s elections, she just shrugged. “If it weren’t for Chávez, I wouldn’t have my pension. But I didn’t vote this time, politicians are all the same.”

The second woman, Doris, lives with her son and daughter. She’s a nurse at Guarenas’ main hospital and although I’ve come to like her personally, I have no illusions about her principles; she’s the building’s CLAP coordinator. She collects the money every month and brings the boxes to the building. “I left home at 5:00 a.m. (today) and got back at midnight. It was a lot of work. We went to each building with wheelchairs to help the old and sick.” I originally thought she only worked with the CLAP, but she’s also a member of the UBCh and Unamujer. She’s not a member of the local communal council because “they never do anything. Back when we worked with Corpomiranda, they offered the council a chance to manage the whole thing, but food started to go missing, they didn’t want to work, CLAP took over and now they’re angry at us.” She worked for Héctor Rodríguez’ campaign and also for Luis Figueroa, the new mayor. “We work really hard for the community and they must do the same” she says, utterly convinced.

The third woman, Dilia, is a full-time housewife. Her daughter and son-in-law are the breadwinners of the house; my sister has a better relationship with them than I do, but we treat each other cordially. She’s a member of the local Consejo Comunal and the building’s unofficial management, and she’s not doing that bad, even if it’s been a while since she’s thrown a party. “I don’t vote. I voted for Chávez but not for Maduro or his people. And the opposition’s nearly as bad.”

They all fear that they might lose access to their “benefits” if they don’t have the carnet, a fear more than justified since the government has been making explicit threats lately.

“When Chávez was alive” she adds, “he had things under control, but these people don’t know what they’re doing. The CLAP arrives whenever they want and the boxes have less products each time.”

However, she still got her carnet. “Just in case I need it. We never know.”

Despite the difference in contexts and motivations, they all fear that they might lose access to their “benefits” if they don’t have the carnet, a fear more than justified since the government has been making explicit threats lately. I don’t condone these people’s support for the regime, but I understand. Supporting the system of control that will guarantee your demise is completely counter-intuitive, but the connection to crime, to high-scale embezzlement or drug-trafficking, isn’t evident to them. This is a circumstance unrelated to their survival and the story repeats everywhere now. It’s no longer chavistas who depend on this type of blackmail anymore.

Chavismo has always been good at using violence and turning everything into a weapon. They’ve weaponized hunger now, and they’ve been successful in stomping down public demonstrations. That doesn’t mean they’re more popular than a year ago, or that they’ve regained people’s trust; people are just running out of options, and they will do whatever they must to provide for their families. We may want nothing to do with carnets de la patria or CLAPs, but a lot of people just don’t have a choice.

Of course they take the carnet and the grocery box. Of course they promise to vote for PSUV candidates, even if they don’t. Some, like Doris, still believe in the revolution after all these years and actively participate in the government’s schemes. Others have never refused the government’s gifts and figure this is no time to start. And if the government plan succeeds, even dissidents will learn to fall in line.

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Reading about these three different people (Libia, Doris, Dilia), I am more convinced than ever that Venezuelans are no different than those seeking “something for nothing” in every other country I’ve been to. It’s ignorance (willful?) and class hatred/wealth envy.

    The United States is full of these types. They will do anything. Keep their mouths shut… look the other way… put a sign in their car window… say “the right thing”… vote for this/that candidate… providing they get their meager bit of reward. And they justify it by saying, “If I didn’t do this, someone else would get it, and I wouldn’t have anything”

    • I would say for the majority it’s a case of voting for short-term self-interest in difficult times. I also think there is a sizeable minority of Chavistas are experiencing a psychosis in which the government propaganda is true – I mean, stop for a second and imagine how you would feel if you yourself actually believed it? Is a collective psychosis, engendered by government propaganda, the same as ignorance?

      I think everyone votes with self interest at heart anywhere in the world – be it a low income voter interested in social programs they may benefit from, or a high income voter who wants to cut social programs for lower taxes – so who can blame a hungry person voting for continued food aid? Bear in mind when Chavismo finally falls, the condition for the poorest people is only going to worsen. Imagine losing CLAP when that was a big chunk of your weekly calories and you have no job or savings. I doubt debt restructuring and IMF intervention will mean more help for people relying on CLAP. I think it’s the poor that get most screwed in Venezuela – regardless of whether they voted for it or not.

  2. Question: If you took the CLAP bags out of rotation, exactly what would most of these people eat? With the money now all gone – actually worse than gone with billions owed and foreign vendors no longer willing to extend credit – how much longer, specifically, can the CLAP scam last? Doesn’t Maduro and family have a business importing the CLAP bags so they earn a little something on each bag? The situation is eroding fast but where is the tipping point?

    • when the tipping point comes people willl have no strength left in them to fight, we barely had a few months ago.

      Also some poor old person who hasn’t eaten for days can’t really do much against a cop, PNB, Guardia or colectivo.

  3. *Something for nothing:
    CADIVI dollars to take Ricardito and Veleria Estefania to magic kingdom

    *Something for nothing:
    CLAPS to feed Yuleisi and Yosner

    Everybody feels entitled to something, somehow some people think that their needs are more justified.
    Ignorance is hard to define… sometimes.

    Keep fighting

  4. Finally, and quite well done, a post that describes for us outsiders how the Chavistas prevail in Venezuela. When it falls, and it will fall, the really sad thing will be how difficult the transition will be for people who have succumbed to the government dole.

  5. Sounds more and more like Nazi Germany every day:

    Fuck everyone else. I have to worry about myself.

    And this article/blog is trying to make an apology for this, making you understand that it’s not their “fault” for acting and behaving this way,

    Bullshit.

    My only satisfaction these days comes from the fact that CHAVISTAS are now hungry.

    Let them eat the mierda they voted for.

  6. If so many people vote their inmediate personal interests , fears and delusions without understanding (or even caring about ) the economic fundamentals then is ordinary democracy really viable in Venezuela , seems as if here the operation of ordinary democracy is dependent on people who cant really understand how a responsible government is supposed to work , if thats the case maybe full democracy isnt for us if we want to lead decent lives , its like trying to use mud bricks to build an skycraper ……..isnt it staring in our face…..?? I really would love to have someone giving me a more hopeful answer !!

    • No me se las condiciones en Venezuela – never really did – but the idea on a fundamental level is that some level of honesty and willingness and hope has to be there, then it isn’t so much “democracy” that works, but the magic hand of free markets. When you have the free market to buy, for example, seed and other necessary agricultural supplies, the people who own the land and crops will do everything necessary to bring them to harvest and replant. The people who have neither the capital, nor the organizational capacity, nor the will to own and operate a farm, will end up being employed, and given organized orders to fulfill. Maybe some gain expertise, and try their own ventures. The same is true for shopkeepers and oil drillers. The “hand-in-glove” to free markets is democracy, but those elected must be in tune to the critical necessity of private property, capital investment, and free markets where competition sets prices, and the whole thing becomes fluid.

      The “Tweet” way of saying it is: in actual history, free markets and capital preceded democracy.

  7. Yeah, we know, the whole thing is “Vote for us or you’ll starve to death”

    We already know that.

    People here are missing the fact that the drug-nephews are gonna get condemned, and HARD, all while singing a bunch of hilariously good evidence to drag down the biggest heads of chavismo such as drogadado and alsaimer.

    Ah, you also missed how roy “panchero” chaderton was asking for death penalty for “the corrupt” when he actually was asking to slaughter every non-chavista person in Venezuela.

  8. What might be telling is this sudden push (I heard) toward presidential elections. What’s u with that. It’s impossibly to believe that within Chavismo there is no one who knows that you cannot foster a national style which is now totally beholden to imports (food, medicine, etc.) to sustain physical existence, and that the ready monies are now or soon will be gone to import much of anything, certainly not to sustain a 31.57 million people. They must know that foreign aid will be required sooner than later. My guess is that Maduro or at least someone is hoping to cement Chavismo in place so they can use said aid in a way to maintain their power. That is, they believe they can negotiate the terms of how the aid will be used and distributed and the system into which the aid will be poured.

    Except it will never happen that way. Aside from emergency humanitarian aid, the IMF and other outfits will never make loans into a system which has no potential or desire to ever pay it back. And as everyone knows, the Chavistas are incapable of negotiating change in their economic and governing style – if you can call it one. The real implosion might only come when Maduro has to negotiate – or get nothing. Their illusion it seems is that they can somehow carry on with their mad revolution exactly as it is and still get others to pay for it.

    Who here sees that happening?

    • “And as everyone knows, the Chavistas are incapable of negotiating change in their economic and governing style – if you can call it one.”

      And no one from the opposition has ever mentioned the above as a negotiating point. Venezuela does not have a political crisis. It has an economic crisis!

  9. From bad to worse. From oilprice.com

    “Recent shipping data has revealed there are four tankers waiting to load crude oil and fuel oil at the port of Paraguana and another eight waiting at the Jose port—PDVSA’s largest export terminal—to load refined oil products. There are also ten vessels waiting to unload refined products for the Venezuelan market, but payments to the sellers have been delayed, and now so is unloading.”

    I believe that’s call “stuck in the water.”

  10. Ira….exactly…..let them eat their Red fucking shirts.
    My Girl says that she feels for “the people”……bullshit is rite….one thing is for sure…if you dying..starving…crawling on the ground in Venexuela…..people just watch.
    Self preservation…..its time to be selfish and take care of yourself.

  11. For the sake of your non-VZ readers.
    (1) What is a “carnet” (in your context)?
    (2) What is “bono Niño Jesús”. Is that a Christmas bonus? If so, from whom? The government? Employers?
    (3) I’m pretty sure I know what a CLAP bag is. A periodic bag of groceries paid for by the government. Correct? Is this a means tested benefit? Or can anyone get one?

    • 1) “Carnet de la patria”: Government-issued identification card that seeks to replace the actual identification cards that have been always used in Venezuela, said card is now used as a mechanism to discriminate between people who “exist and have rights” and the “right-wing enemies that deserve to starve to death”, it’s a modern-day version of the cuban rationing card. It’s also a cheap trick that one “enchufado” (Hyper corrupt millionaire chavista swindler) uses to get millions of dollars in the process too.

      2) “Bono niño Jesús”: Bonus paid to a minimal segment of the population of about 500.000 Bs, which are less than 5 $. The bonus is obviously given only to the most fanatic chavista partisans, since about 80% of the public sector workers won’t get it anyway because “right now there’s no money for that” (Because chavista swindlers have that money stored in bank accounts getting interests)

      3) CLAP bag: A box or bag with an amount of food products that’s a crucial part of the chavista swindle to suck the public arcs into its pockets, chavismo currently holds a tight monopoly on the food production and distribution across the country since they’ve been confiscating (actually plain stealing) and seizing production means during years and also they implemented a brutal monopoly on the management of any foreign currency within Venezuela, effectively killing the production apparatus after a decade and provoking a murderous scarcity in basic need goods (Scarcity that supports their black market, known as “bachaqueros”).

      The CLAPs are used as a political tool to enforce obedience, since they are pretty much the ONLY way to have access to about half of the much-needed food for many (Because chavismo itself crafted the scarcity, monopoly and black market), those who aren’t liked by the fanatic chavista that’s responsible for the distribution in the respective area will simply be left without the chance to buy the bag (The bag isn’t free, it’s PAID too), so no, not anyone can have access to it (And everyday less people has access to it since the black market bachaquero chavistas directly take the bags and sell them at tens of times the price, like taking he 10.000Bs package and reselling it at more than 600.000 – 700.000 Bs)

      The CLAPs are also a means to cheat and swindle the public vaults, since they’re used along the exchange control (The law that enables the chavista monopoly on all the foreign currency in the country) to suck millionaire amounts of dollars from the country, you see, the boxes are sold to people at roughly 10.000 Bs, which according the chavista monopoly are equal to 1.000$, then the chavista-owned company (Usually owned by a military man such as Osorio or a relative of Maduro) buys more boxes at mexican exporters at 20-25$ the same box, racking him a very socialist and anti-capitalist net gain of almost 980$ in the process, for each box.

      • Can they discriminate when issuing a Carnet de la patria? If it is the government issued ID document, then won’t all citizens be entitled to one?

        So if they don’t like your political stance, they can deny you an ID card?

        And why do they even need this document? What is wrong with passports? At least those can be used outside of VZ.

        • The Carnet is used as a political tool for proof of support for Chavismo, notably to the outside world.

          Of course you can be identified with it, but it’s the FEAR of being identified as a non-Chavista that forces people to vote non-Chavista. You don’t want to lose your CLAP, or your government job. And remember that nowadays in VZ, a HUGE number of people work for the government.

          And passports? Forget it.

          They don’t have the paper, organization or motivation to print new ones (no, I’m not joking about the paper), and a large % of the population is ions away from being able to afford a passport these days.

  12. Guarenas people.. perfect example of the average Venezuelan pueblo-people: tragically under-educated, if educated at all, still with Chavez pictures in their homes, proudly displaying their massive level of sheer Ignorance. With very low moral standards, ready to participate in any twisted Guiso any minute, most of them of Chavistoide payrolls, leeching one way or another, complicit with the criminal Narco-Kleptocracy.

    Out in the rest of the country, our beloved pueblo-people are usually even worse, incredibly ignorant and corruption-prone, when not fully corrupt, every chance they get. Millions and Millions and Millions of them, not just the the Chavista ‘gobielno’. Our people. They created what they have, they participate in it every day, they are the reason of the mess. Ignorant, usually highly corrupt, used to “mangos bajitos”, constantly begging for freebies, and far, faaaaaaaar less “bravos” than the National Anthem advertises them to be.

    Sheep. Yes, that’s what most have become. Ignorant, corrupt, complicit, culpable sheep, that is.

    “Donde esta mi clap?”, “cuanto hay pa’ eso?”, “bajate de la mula, chamo”, ” una vainita hay pal’ fresco, pana”.. “Chavez vive”.. “Vaya loco, una segunda ahi”, ” “tremendo tigre mi pana” “se saco una buena boloña”.. that’s our ‘courageous’ and supposedly hard-working people.

    That’s why Kleptozuela is where it is, and will remain there for a long, long time: the quality of its people ain’t great. Pathetic. Ignorant, corrupt, lazy people… the only way you elevate their level is by educating them, as they did in Chile or even Costa Rica, heck, even in Colombia they are much better educated. You control such ignorance and savagery with tough laws, send the criminals and thieves to jail, until they learn how to behave and govern themselves. That’s what Venezuela failed to do with all that oil: educate its people. Teach the rules of law and the merits of hard work. That’s why AD/Copey and the previous generations of Venezuelan are also culpable for today’s debacle. They did not educate ‘el pueblo’ over many decades of so-called democracy. Kleptozuela is what you get: an endless, lawless, miserable mess. After a while people get used to the chaos, the unfathomable corruption, the low standards of living, like these people in Guarenas, they seem almost contempt, acostumbrados, en su propia salsa. Que la gozen.

  13. “Un pueblo ignorante es instrumento ciego de su propia destrucción”

    Paper that all over Venezuela, and for irony, draw it coming from the mouth of Bolivar wearing a red beret while Chavez smiles and winks on the side, for more sting. Some will get it.

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