Of Fear & Hope: Embracing the Carnet de la Patria

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Photo: Retrieved from Carmen Meléndez’s Twitter account

Saturday mornings are pretty calm downtown Caracas, but last December saw huge lines from Plaza Bolívar to La Marrón (two Godzilla-sized blocks) breaking the trend, with chaos and racket. I arrived before 7:30 a.m., and lost count of how many people were waiting, arriving and losing their patience.

Old and young, mothers (with babies) and paperboard on the floor, evidence that someone got there the night before. At the Plaza Bolívar, a small group waited on chairs, heckled by the National Guard.

“You can’t be here, ma’am, move along” a soldier said to me.

“I’m sorry, but what’s this line is for?”

“The Carnet de la Patria.

“I’ve been here since 4:00 a.m.” a man in a baseball cap told me. “There were a lot of people already, a group for the Bono Navideño that we are not getting, but we hope to be included in the next if we get our Carnet now. Before the end of the year, we’re going to have that bonus.”

Although soldiers said people would stay for mere hours, one of the hopeful aspirants told me this was hasta que el cuerpo aguante.” Truth is, the line isn’t about getting some money, it’s about having less worries when going to sleep at night.

I know because this, sadly, isn’t my first report on the subject. Almost a year ago, most folks had no idea on what to do with their Carnet. It was all driven by faith, from people who expect to receive some benefit and from a government who expects this type of patronage to work.    

They trust the government to feed them more than they trust the opposition to give us prosperity.

This time, faith was mixed with a fear for the future. Beyond the inevitable opportunists, there are people suffering a crisis with no way to earn hard currency, and for them not having the Carnet means not having medicine or food. Ideology is irrelevant if you have no options. Fear, be it of guns or abandonment from the state, works. When you see people laughing in line about getting money for nothing, it is infuriating, but there are also many people in this crowd who see no indignity in these lines because they have no tools to understand the conundrum. For them, patronage has always been a way of living. They trust the government to feed them more than they trust the opposition to give us prosperity. Eighteen years in, and this is how little we have grown.

“I was too lazy and didn’t get the Carnet the first time,” a 56-year-old lady says. “But then you hear about your neighbor getting money. It’s worth it. We are not getting the Christmas bonus, but maybe we’ll get it for Carnavales. I’m getting old and medicines are scarcer every day. If what they say is true (that you won’t get any meds without the Carnet), it’s better to do this line now.”

President Maduro, meanwhile, described the process as “phenomenal,” extending the operation for days. More than 15 million people, allegedly, have a Carnet de la Patria and everything will be done through it. “With the Carnet,”  Maduro says, “we’ll govern from the bases, the towns, the missions.”

If what they say is true (that you won’t get any meds without the Carnet), it’s better to do this line now.

The fear that existed when the Carnet de la Patria was created is now a reality. Venezuelan culture makes it that, on December, expenses increase. The Government knows it and takes advantage of the season to give a little aguinaldo for those who get along with the show. Getting the Carnet means that you are enrolled in the PSUV? No, it just means that chavismo has all of your information.

You know what this is. There’s a plan for production and a plan for consumption. People must stick to it regardless of their actual needs, so you create a system to ensure that they feed themselves the way you want them to. Of course, nobody in the Party is subjected to the plan, the same way they are immune to all the other ailments affecting the verdadero pueblo. This is an old tale, and consequences may be slow, but they’re inevitable.

“People say that if you don’t have the Carnet, you won’t receive the CLAP bag. That won’t solve my food problems for a month, but it’ll help, and I’m not risking it” said a thirty-something woman with a baby in her arms.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. The moral of the story is that the average Venezuelan can be bought for 500,000 bs ($4.00) at today’s exchange rate. I’m shocked, shocked I tell ya.

    • The government has done a great job bringing people to the brink of starvation. I’m not trying to justify anyne here, but I know that if I skip just one meal, I get a really bad headache and I get cranky. I know f many people that skip one or two meals a day so they can feed their children. Many jobs that these people are qualified for just pay minimum wage; which won’t buy much nowadays and less and less everyday. So I guess I understand when many (not all) want to get a heaviky sibsidized CLAP box to compliment their food intake. People being hungry all the time is how the government want them because they know thatunder these conditions they can’t think/undersand anything else such as freedom, free productive markets, etc, etc, etc.

  2. “When you see people laughing in line about getting money for nothing, it is infuriating, but there are also many people in this crowd who see no indignity in these lines because they have no tools to understand the conundrum. For them, patronage has always been a way of living. They trust the government to feed them more than they trust the opposition to give us prosperity.”

    America since 1964

  3. Why do we assumme that getting a Carnet de la Patria automatically means that the recipient is a regime supporter ………he may be someone who is just taking advantage of a freebie and who otherwise is an opponent of the regime ………you think that all those people in eastern europe who paid lip service to communist calls for attending meetings or joining communist controlled organizations were real regime loyalist at heart or they just wanted to be able to enjoy vacations at a Bulgarian beach resort or have his name entered into a list that might allow him to buy a brabant car in 5 years time . When the time came none of these people did anything to defend the puppet soviet regimes and instead marched and acted against their continued rule ……..

    • For what it’s worth, posters on Aporrea have also pointed this out – that the card is obtained (in order to eat) by people regardless of whether they support or hate the Chavistas.

    • Good point Bill. If you look at history, something like the Carnet de la Patria is a poor substitute for genuine belief and loyalty in a system or a regime. And I think you mean Trabant (what the Germans called the “Trabbie”).

    • “Why do we assumme that getting a Carnet de la Patria automatically means that the recipient is a regime supporter……”

      Doesn’t matter to me, and I certainly have never assumed they’re all regime supporters. As I mentioned on election day, many I know who claim they are not regime supporters still showed up for their clap boxes……. I assume after voting for the regime

      For me the sinister nature of the carnet de la patria is multiple. First, as I’m sure you’re aware Bill, the regime advertises heavily domestically, and likely abroad as well, that those who sign up for the card and indeed supporters who are “plugged in” and agree with the direction of the government. By signing up, you’re in effect giving them a propaganda win.

      Secondly, data mined with the carnet is used extensively in the run-up to elections and on election day both to lean on card holders to support the regime, make sure card holders are aware of where the freebies will be handed out, and then to verify that they showed at the polls.

      Finally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised that the cards somehow play a role in ballot stuffing operations.

      Everyone has a cedula. Why a carnet de la patria? Well, we know why.

  4. The Aporreans are posting about “Constituent” Lucena being murdered. Example (google translation):

    “Yes there is a great relationship between increasing prices and killing Chavistas”

    “When you hear them curse because there is no cash or medicine, because the chicken already crosses the stratospheric heights, it is because they are enjoying in advance some murder of Chavistas that the opposition already has in its sights. Today, in those queues the professional mourners are happily celebrating the murder of Tomás Lucena in Valera.”

    https://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a257685.html

    • Any reliable details on the murder yet?

      I mean, getting killed in Venezuela these days is an equal opportunity crime, and doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about politics.

      • Good point. Also made by this Aporrean (Google translation):

        “In this sense, the death of Tomas Lucena, as of thousands of Venezuelans who are victims of murderers and psychopaths every year, is a fact that shows not only the decomposition of society, but in our country life is worthless. Here anyone is killed by a pair of shoes, by a clock, a computer, a car, in short, for those who have weapons in their possession and are engaged in crime, killing is a hobby.

        Now, the death of Tomas Lucena has a political connotation that I have to warn, because it is irresponsible that the authorities of the “constituent” and especially the brother of the president of such institutional slop, that is, the communication minister, Jorge Rodriguez, went ahead to describe this as a “political hired killer” ¹, when the body is still hot, which reveals the irresponsibility and insensitivity of the authorities, who do not even respect the wife, now a widow, and small children of this Venezuelan

        The unusual thing is that this “constituent” since it was installed had not made mention of the crime unleashed in the country, and less of the murders that occur daily and mourn many Venezuelan homes, and in some cases, do not even have the how to pay funeral expenses, because it is simple, that “political organ” only sees a virtual reality, to the point that for them, robberies, kidnappings, and of course, murders, are a lie that apparently is only true when they kill some of those who are active in the upper echelons of the so-called United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Or have you ever seen any condemnation of Delcy Rodríguez or his brother, Jorge, for a similar act in which a politician is not involved?”

        https://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a257668.html

  5. Gaby,
    This article is schizophrenic.

    On the one hand you write:-
    “Beyond the inevitable opportunists, there are people suffering a crisis with no way to earn hard currency, and for them not having the Carnet means not having medicine or food. Ideology is irrelevant if you have no options. Fear, be it of guns or abandonment from the state, works.”

    On the other hand, you write:-
    “They trust the government to feed them more than they trust the opposition to give us prosperity. Eighteen years in, and this is how little we have grown. ”

    The first analysis seems valid. The second is contradictory. You may not trust the government at all (unless we are talking about trusting them to deny you access to any means of survival if you don’t have a Carnet) but the Carnet looks like a requirement if you want ANY HOPE of food in the next months to come. Equally, you may fully trust the opposition to give you prosperity if they could wrest power from the regime, but you know there is no way that the opposition can offer you the means of survival in the coming months under any scenario.

    Right now, picking up a Carnet looks like a necessity for survival for the majority of the country who don’t have access to foreign currency – even if they loathe everything the regime stands for. What is the alternative on offer FOR TODAY? Let your family starve to death to make a political statement which no-one is listening to? Fear and hope are the controls here. Trust does not come into it.

  6. I, for one, haven’t gotten one, and don’t plan on getting it either. I don’t want to be part of the government’s perverse schemes.

    • My respect, sir. Even more respect if you don’t have any foreign income or rainy day funds in dollars. While I admire your stance, most people in the country cannot afford the luxury of high moral principles while they are waiting on regime change – a regime change which is looking more and more distant given the mis-steps of the MUD since early 2016. It really is too much to expect desperate people to accept slow starvation as their best option for today, just because it signals dislike of the regime.

  7. “Yes there is a great relationship between increasing prices and killing Chavistas”

    Some might say there’s a great relationship between increasing prices and killing poor Venezuelans.

    BTW, last week we sold a few hundred kilos of maiz trillado at 8,000 bs to the kilo. Today step-daughter No. 2 called and said that in Pta La Cruz it’s now selling at 26,000 bs to the kilo.

  8. “BTW, last week we sold a few hundred kilos of maiz trillado at 8,000 bs to the kilo. Today step-daughter No. 2 called and said that in Pta La Cruz it’s now selling at 26,000 bs to the kilo.”

    You are a saint! (or a bad capitalist ….)

    • Soon to be a failed capitalist. LOL

      As the saying goes, it’s easy to make a small fortune in Venezuela. First, you start with a large fortune.

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