Photo: EFE retrieved

At this stage, it would be ludicrous to expect the dictatorship recognizing its massive failure with the future it promised. Chavismo turned the page from the script of a country destined to materialize the 21st century socialism, politically leading the south and conquering space with satellites, to one that deals with the electrical crisis by changing light bulbs. Government leaders disavow not only factic reality, but even mathematics, happily stating that their economic supervision has “reduced prices 130%.”

But I confess to the candid wish of hearing an opposition leader (any!) recognizing their own failures.

Considering that a year has passed since the massive protests and a civil society referendum as a powerful weapon to defy illegal elections (only to see the rapid deterioration of the country and the opposition), one might expect someone to own up.

I confess to the candid wish of hearing an opposition leader (any!) recognizing their own failures.

I clearly remember the anxiety before the presidential elections of 2006 and 2012, where almost all polls predicted Chávez’s victory, thinking that someone had to consider the possibility of failure and anticipate the loss of confidence that would follow in opposition faithfulls. When speaking with political actors, they repeatedly said that the argument of failure is not a sexy idea to win over supporters, it’s rather a beast to run away from. Hope is the main product politicians sell. Even false hope.

In psychology forums, I heard requests to plan the reconstruction of the country, as if the end of an era was around the corner. It’s not that I’m a pessimist (though I’m a bit weary of positive thinkers), it’s that I find it wiser to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

But even in a manic-depressive country that can go quickly from “nos jodimos” to “ahora sí es verdad que se acabó esta vaina,” it seems like false hope can run dry, and I believe we’re witnessing an extended hopelessness and distrust. Politicians of all colors are discredited.

Hope is the main product politicians sell. Even false hope.

In the Vanderbilt Public Opinion Poll that gathered data at the beginning of 2017, the country was already at its lowest point in support for democracy, and 76% of the population considered most politicians to be corrupt (far higher than the rest of Latin American countries, which are not precisely cozy with their governments).

Yet, we haven’t heard an actual reflection of how and why all efforts and proposals have so utterly failed. Political figures have either retreated into blaming each other, or are trying to rebuild alliances with the broken pieces that remain.

Venezuelan psychiatrist Fernando Rísquez once described our nation as manic-depressive, oscillating from total hopelessness to sudden denial, where everything is wonderful and possible. What manic-depression fails to do is to deal with loss by mourning that which cannot be recovered, so conditions can be reevaluated.

Another psychiatrist who developed his work in Venezuela, Rafael López Pedraza, warned of “titanic” personalities who disavow failure, loss and limitations, such as a president who denies being sick and treads on against doctor’s warnings. López Pedraza suggests that the only cure for titanism is an acute awareness of failure and recommends Rafael Cadenas’s Fracaso as the best medicine.

Venezuelan psychiatrist Fernando Rísquez once described our nation as manic-depressive, oscillating from total hopelessness to sudden denial.

To cite one last mental health expert, Ana Teresa Torres, novelist and psychoanalyst, also reflected on the place of mourning in our political landscape. In two recent texts, she describes the state of confusion and distrust that the country’s moral tragedy has generated, warning that even though it might be deserved, history doesn’t end, life does, and there are lives that have been lost in this tragedy. It’s necessary to tread through this painful fact, if we’re to identify new possibilities that we can truly believe in.

Public opinion often looks towards psychologists and psychiatrists that can offer tips on how to handle suffering. Some people want a pep talk; talking about mourning may trigger depression and news about suicides suggest that indeed some surrendered to melancholia.

If the work of politicians is to simplify reality, the task of reflection is to make it more complex and, therefore, more authentic. I surely can’t tell you where do we go from here, but it’s urgent to recognize where we are, and maybe the answer lies among lesser known, but very important compatriots.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I don’t know much about psychology, but this Jorge Rodriguez fellow is apparently the regime’s Chief “Shrink”. And at says a lot, because this is a regime that’s done a lot of shrinking. They shrank the economy, shrunk millions of waistlines, shrunk hundreds of thousands of lifespans, shrank the population, shrank half the oil production, and managed to shrink 99.99% of the value of their currency.

    • That MFEr makes Machiavelli look like a piker. He is a psychologist by training, with a chip on his shoulder because his father, who kidnapped American glass executive Bill Niehous, was executed extrajudicially for it.
      Sister Delcy, our deranged VP also carries that chip and has publicly stated this is her vengeance on Venezuela.

      Ahí lo tenéis, pues.

  2. The Venezuelan political system, before Chavismo, like many other Democracies has been based on TWO BIG DENIALS which are officially enshrined in the Constitution, no less…
    More than a Democracy it could have better described as a Populist Republic.
    1) “No education or relevant experience is necessary to qualify for Presidential candidate, State Governor, etc.”

    2) “The People will vote every time for their best interest because they know the best policies for the future”

    Wake me up when you can back up these two statements with factual evidence.
    This is at the very core of Venezuela’s downfall with Chavismo.

    • come on, those are part of the basis for democracy. The biggest issue is not that anyone can run for the presidency or that anyone can vote (that is what those 2 statements are meant to ensure), but that we lack strong independent institutions that balance the government. Look at the US, the president cannot just tell the federal reserve to print money whenever he wants, and instead, the federal reserve’s chairman has the job of keeping inflation to about 2% every year. It works because it is resistant to politicians abuse. The same can be said of institutions like the FDA (for the safety of food and medicines), the judiciary (to a big extent but not completely independent), the CIA and FBI, among other federal institutions.

      Other examples include the administration of governors and majors are also entirely independent of what the president says whereas in our country the president essentially assigns the budget (indirectly). Congressmen and senators are also the same. This is not to say that we must look at the US as our example to follow as they have plenty of weaknesses too (too much dependency on the party, legal insider trading among senators and congressmen, payments from companies to politicians, among others).

      Now look at our country, the president controls monetary policy, the judiciary, the diputados, and the electoral party. He assigns the budget to the governors and controls most of the industry in the country. There is anarchy in Venezuela, so everyone does what they want. But meaningful action can only happen if directed by the president himself. That is our weakness, and it existed to a lesser extent even before Chavez.

  3. “I surely can’t tell you where do we go from here…”
    Fortunately for you, I can help.
    Each and every Venezuelan that desires the restoration of their democracy and the removal of the criminal regime, needs to take a long hard look at themselves and decide that they will not tolerate this regime one day longer.
    It is up to the Venezuelan people, especially the men that exhibit a cowardice that many of us consider unimaginable, to wrest control of their country away from this criminal regime. The “drone attack” showed the world the paranoia and cowardice that the military displayed so ridiculously. That should be an inspiration to anyone that desires a free and democratic Venezuela.
    The students have protested and died. The mothers have taken the streets. Where are the men?

      • MRubio
        I believe you. I have read what you have posted about just trying to find day labor. The people that were unemployed but still wanted double pay for working for you on a Saturday exemplified the thinking.
        I don’t think that I will ever understand Venezuelan culture or Latin American culture.
        The one thing that amazes me is the level of corruption that is tolerated. It has infected the whole society. This will be the greatest stumbling block to rebuilding the country. They don’t seem to care how bad their personal situation is, as long as they are getting more than someone else. Eventually this ever shrinking pie will have very little for anyone.

        • Thanks John, we do happen to have garlic planted. My woman found a head that was starting to sprout, I read up on it and prepared a bed. Also, it’s getting tougher and tougher to find here and I do love garlic bread…..when we can find bread…..and when we can find butter…….and when we can find garlic all at the same time.

          • There was a news story about researchers being able to isolate a compound that is in garlic and create a process to produce it in large quantities. The compound from the garlic is said to be effective against strains of bacteria that are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
            When your package arrives, you will find a few things to make your meals much tastier.

    • How does Maduro keep the army and security forces loyal with worthless pay under the hyperinflation environment? Aren’t their families suffering as well?

  4. Dolartoday (always a laggard when it comes to reporting forex rates) says 83.47 BsS to USD. In a few days one zero will return. How long it takes for the other 4 zeros to follow is anybody’s guess but I would give it no more than 2 months.

    Maduro talks about fiscal discipline and then pumps BsS into the economy with gifts of 600BsS to millions of ‘Fatherland’ card holders. They are creating electronic money out of thin air which is much faster than physical printing.

    More fuel for the hyperinflation fire.

      • Tom
        Many times at the end of a Dolartoday story there is a link to the source. I use that link. Dolartoday is blocked but many of the others aren’t.

    • Yeah, Stepdaughter #1 called from Maturin today and said that only a few shops were open today in the city center, and that there were plenty of national guardsmen patroling the area. She heard one woman complaining about a price and threatening to call them.

      I think most shops that would otherwise have opened have remained closed and the few that did open probably withheld merchandise for that very reason.

      The idiots think that there’s nothing wrong with demanding that a shop owner sell product below his cost, but ask one of them if they’d work free of charge and they look at you like you’re crazy.

      • I asked you about that the other day, and you said you weren’t worried about your “fired” maid seeking revenge by turning you in for sugar price because of prior entanglements. But you also don’t paint much of a “neighbors watch out for each other” picture.

        Maybe they will also starting jailing merchants who don’t accept petros …

        • AG, there’s that risk certainly, though as it relates to the fired maid, it’s minimal. My woman helps her and her family out in all sorts of ways. They show up her with some sort of emergency, and they’ll get help. In fact, we do that with most anyone from here in town.

          I recall the night a guy showed up here almost in tears. I recognized his face, but he wasn’t a regular client. His wife was at the medicatura and needed an injectible medication for a severe migraine and resulting high blood pressure. Amazingly, we had exactly what he needed.

          He told us he had zero cash with him but would give us his watch to insure that he returned with payment. We sent him away with the medication, a syringe in case they had none at the medicatura (I knew they didn’t), and his watch.

          That stuff gets around town quickly because as they say here, “everyone knows who’s who” in the small pueblos.

          Now, having said all that, the GNB is not beyond hauling a merchant out of shop in handcuffs because he’s selling something at above “fair pricing”.

          • MR – as the saying goes, that which cannot continue, won’t continue.

            If products cannot be profitably sold at the fixed prices, they wont be. Maybe some inventory will get cleared out, but after that …

            The Aporrea site reported earlier this week the the regime had reached agreements with Cargill and Polar to provide some number of these products at the fixed prices. But there was little detail as to what was really “agreed to” Maybe they sell some items at a loss just to avoid being expropriated just trying to wait this regime out.

          • @ Another Gringo: I am not so sure about the Cargill agreement.

            1. Cargill (US entity) is forbidden from doing business with the Chavistas.

            2. I doubt Cargill is altruistic enough to offer goods at a profit-loss prices to the contemptuous Chavistas.

            3. The Cargill/MacMillan family has enough money in their back pocket to purchase Venezuela. They can take the write-off. Believe me. They are the largest privately owned business in the United States.

            Maybe wishful thinking from the Aporreans?

          • It was announced as “news” by noneother than the Venezuela News Agency. Here is the link:

            https://www.aporrea.org/economia/n330194.html

            No doubt Cargill has international divisions. The US sanctions, to my knowledge, do not prohibit any US companies from doing business in/with Venezuela or having subsidiaries operate in Venezuela. For example, US companies buy and sell millions of Dollars of oil and oil products with PdVSa and apparently we also import fish and oily crabs and some of their remaining imports come from the US.

            The sanctions prohibit financing the government (incl. PDVSA). No selling of new bonds, no extending credit terms that are defacto financing terms, etc.

          • My girlfriend is accountant for small business. The other day one old hag chavista was over the moon about her carnet bonus and raising the minimum wage and gossiping about this with other coworkers. My girlfriend was in the office with the owner, and the owner whispered to her that “she wont be so happy once she loses her job.”

            The backstory, the owner is tired of running a ferreteria and there is just no profit in it and this business is not just a charity providing employement for the employees (as socialist think). They are going to sell off the rest of the merchandise. Not restock. Close the santamarias. Get rid of most all of the employees and ya!!

            This story will repeat itself all over venezuela as the chavistas try to destroy the private sector (which ultimately will lead to their downfall by bringing on the zombie apocalypse where there is nothing to buy because nobody is restocking the shelves). When stores are empty, the only places for the monkeys to loot will be the CLAPers (who themselves are hoarding it and selling it black market).

          • @Another Gringo

            Oh, I don’t doubt that there are ways around the various dictates from the United States. I just don’t think Cargill cares that much about Venezuela. It is a loser for them. (and everyone else)

            I met some of the Cargill family at a benefit in the Twin Cities a few years back. They are very down to earth and very much into philanthropy. I don’t see them giving a worthless Bolivar towards Venezuela. They didn’t get to be the biggest private company in the US by doing stupid things with their wealth. Any loss in Venezuela could be written off with a wave of the hand.

            Polar, on the other hand, has an interest in Venezuela.

            But… I have been wrong in the past! (Just ask MsGuapo!)

            @guacharaca

            Years ago, before we got the last of MsGuapo’s family out of VZ, we sent a lot of cash for them to by as much non-perishables as possible. Lots of canned goods, dry beans/rice, etc. Garden variety Boy Scout 101 stuff really. With about $100 per month, they stocked up their pantry to the brim with stuff that would get them through about 6 months without spending a worthless Bolo.

            The day they left, they gave their goods (everything) to an old widower in their building who said he would keep an eye on the place. He literally cried. He couldn’t give a shit about the TV or any furniture… he looked at the food and thought he hit the jackpot. For a guy like him, he could live for YEARS off of that stuff. Big 25# bags of rice and beans? Cases of canned chicken and other meats? (including SPAM!).

            Every dime he didn’t have to spend on food he could spend on something else. The point is to not let anyone else know you have the food… bitch about the high costs just like everyone else and lose a few pounds if you have to convince El Pueblo that you are doing without too!

            We haven’t been able to keep up with him. I hope he fled. We heard that squatters moved into the building where the relatives lived, so I expect everything is wrecked

    • If tomorrow Maduro was removed ( by whatever means) and a “new regime” was installed it seems that any groups, organizations that would participate in investing in rebuilding Venezuela would know upfront that a large portion of their financial investment would be siphoned off into the pockets of the new regime. For that reason it seems to me that it is going to be difficult getting funds to rebuild “The New Venezuela”. Anybody have a feel for this?

      • Tom
        You are absolutely correct. The level of corruption that is tolerated in the Latin American culture, not solely Venezuela is a baffling reality. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it illegal for US companies to pay the bribes that are expected in many other countries. I have read complaints by US executives about them being at a disadvantage in comparison to companies from other countries that either don’t have or enforce similar laws.
        There is a possibility that developing oil assets from scratch in other areas may be less expensive than trying to correct the mess that is PDVSA and the Venezuelan oil industry. Liability for environmental issues would be a big concern.
        In regards to other manufacturing operations, many companies that left will need incentives to return. The lost manufacturing capacity has probably been replaced in other plants. Robotics and other technologies has increased productivity and reduced the demand for workers. Especially unskilled and uneducated ones that Venezuela has an abundance of. So many educated professionals have left the country and begun new lives and careers, I believe an absence of qualified individuals will be a challenge for many aspects of Venezuelan industry going forward.
        Then there is the crime and the collapsed infrastructure. This is going to make it ever harder to recruit foreign workers to Venezuela. Everything from schools to medical care impact attracting the foreign investment that Venezuela needs.
        I think it will be a very long time before foreign direct investment returns to pre Chavez levels.
        Since I retired about 10 years ago, I have been reasonably successful managing my own investment portfolio. I don’t think I would be very positive about Venezuela’s economic climate for at least another decade, if the regime fell today. There are always opportunities at different levels of risk. Venezuela will be a high risk country for years to come.

  5. Yes, the few that opened probably claimed to be “out of stock” on many if not most items. I don’t blame them.

  6. Does anyone know of protests in Washington DC for Saturday Aug 25th?
    I see protests are scheduled against Maduro in Vzla.
    I am hosting many Venezuelans who would love to participate.

  7. People dont take account of what the article says about how 70 odd % Venezuelans no longer believe in democracy and a huge number think that most pols are corrupt (the regime repeats this line about MUD pols using their trolls in the media which gets taken up by the uncautious) and the oppo (and sometimes the regime itself) bombards us with news of the regimes generalized corruption ….so if this is the case you havent got the climate of opinion to rebuild a democracy …….. In that case what you have to wish for is a competent dictatorship that at least gets us out of this whole by doing away with the current regime and instituting a new one which even if authoritarian at least knows how to run things..

    • I guess I would argue the semantics of the word “democracy”.

      Venezuela is the ultimate democracy, in that there is no rule of law, only mob rule. That 70% don’t believe in democracy is absurd (IMHO) as in my view, 70% think that they should have sway over the other 30%. That is what democracy is. (I would argue that about 50% of Americans couldn’t tell you the difference between a democracy and a republic)

      If Chavismo were to evaporate into the ether today, without a doubt El Pueblo (the 70%) would STILL want the current form of “democracy”, where they (the 70%) get to tell the other 30% how “things are going to be!”

      What El Pueblo really wants is for Chavez to be reincarnated and save Bolivarian Socialism (their democracy). Which, in my opinion would be AWESOME, because while El Finado had the uncanny ability to orate endlessly, he still wouldn’t be able to pull dollars out of his ass the way he could when PdVSA was functional. He would be Maduro without the bus driver affect. And in the end. El Puelblo would get to see how vacuous Chavismo is. (Chavez unfortunately died before the wheels came off the economy… so he is still a saint to them)

  8. BTW, good article Manuel.

    Capriles must fall. HRAllup must fall. All the corrupt c*(ts in the MUD must fall. Opposition, Chavista, TODOS!!! Politics here is nothing more than a professional wrestling match, where the winner is already determined in a well choreographed script concocted behind closed doors and over 18 year old whiskey and cuban cigars. And most of the pueblo are worse than die hard fans of pro wrestling because they believe this bullshit is real.

    Seriously, I could not believe people on social media were actually trying to defend Capriles. They all need to go. I hope he gets 10 years in prison.

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