Photo: José González Vargas

How do you talk about something past, yet utterly present?

For the middle-aged Germans visiting the DDR Museum—some amused, others mourning—it’s like a trip down a formerly mined memory lane, now harmless through time and distance. The life you once knew, the oppressive regime you took for granted, is now an exhibit for children and tourists.

Imagine a Venezuela where we can say the same.

Usually, when talking to Venezuelan colleagues, the half-joking premise of a Museum of Chavismo pops up, an institution located in the vague idea of a Post-Chavista Venezuela, that catalogues and exhibits the corruption, abuse, mismanagement and violations performed by the “revolution” since 1999.

Considering that nothing of what’s happening to us is original, it’s not a bad idea to see the DDR Museum, dedicated to life in East Germany, for what others have done with the story we’re currently living.

While one can know the basics—single-party dictatorship, the all-seeing Stasi, the Berlin Wall—sometimes you forget that, for many people, this is their past and, in many ways, their present. The man in front of me waved amused to his companion a greenish East German ID card; another fellow, just leaving the museum, cheerfully whistled Auferstanden aus Ruinen. Through a window one could see children in the museum poking a Trabant, one of the worst automobiles ever made.

I can’t help but have a twitch in my eye because of the similarities with my own country. East Germany was ruled by the SED, the Socialist Unity Party, whose only opposition were dismal, powerless parties. During its 40-year history, it ran a planned economy defined by scarcity and low-quality goods, with an infamous intelligence service that “knew everything about everyone.”

Yet hyperinflation is a game you cannot win. By the time the perennial leader, Erich Honecker, stepped down, the GDR was asking the West for loans just to pay the interest of previous loans. Communist deputy Egon Krenz received power, but alea iacta est.

Berlin museums are an example of how people bring themselves together after near-Apocalypse. The detailed horror of the Gestapo and the Nazi regime at Topographie des Terror, and the bureaucratic and dehumanizing abuse at the Stasi Museum are a statement, but the best description I can come up for the DDR Museum is, basically, a Museo de los Niños about a failed socialist state.

© DDR Museum, Berlin 2017

Hosting over 250,000 objects, the place is divided into sections. Most of the exhibits are in large cabinets that you open to see everyday objects from the DDR, along with descriptions and data. In many cases, there are reproductions from originals that you can handle, inspect, and even play with.

For instance, in the school and education section, you go through the East German school system, from kindergarten to college (or, more likely, trade school). You open a lid and read about the communal potty training, the next drawer has drawings of children hugging soldiers and cheering for the government, the next is filled with textbook reproductions.

In news and entertainment, there are newspapers, snippets from radio and TV, and a continuous projection of their Noticiero de la Patria; in sports and athletics, they compared the performance of East Germany and West Germany in the Olympics and, in holiday and travel, they had a map of the few places the privileged could go to.

But where the museum truly excels is at how interactive and detail-oriented it is. You slide in your hand into Kaffee-Mix while reading about the coffee crisis of the late 70s, you turn a crank to see puppets of the opposition parties, cheerfully voting for laws the SED needed. You even have Haunted Mansion-style portraits of Engels, Marx and Lenin moving, and in true Museo de los Niños fashion, you can pretend-drive a Trabant with windshield projection.

© DDR Museum, Berlin 2017

But no doubt the most impressive element of the DDR Museum is their recreation of a pre-fab WBS 70 apartment, from shelves filled with boxes and cans from the era, to a computer-generated window view of apartment blocks with young pioneers and Trabants through the streets.

In the living room, a TV set ran clips from three or four East German shows, the most notable being Der schwarze Kanal, their version of La Hojilla, where a government pundit would show clips from West Germany and explain how these were filled with lies against the German Democratic Republic.

Today in Alexanderplatz, the iconic Berliner square that saw massive protests, you can buy pieces of the wall, old Soviet hats and Karl Marx piggy banks, among other Ostalgie knick-knacks. In Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point between the divided Berlin, you can take pictures with actors dressed as U.S. soldiers, waving Old Glory while Starbucks and McDonald’s loom in the back.

One is tempted to declare Germany’s case as a clear triumph of Western liberal democracy, particularly since Germany is now the fourth largest economy in the world, the first economy of Europe and, along with France, one of the pillars of the European Union.

Yet not all that glitters is gold: after a difficult political and economic transition, the region has flirted with Die Linke—a far-left party partially formed by remains of the SED—also a cradle for far-right movements, with Alternative für Deutschland being the most recent.

It’s still a long way until we have a Post-Chavista Venezuela with its own Museum of Chavismo. It’ll take a long time and patience to rebuild the country, and when that happens—that’s a when, not an if—here’s an example of another people who took a good look at themselves and, with honesty and pain, grew united, stronger into the future, while looking at the warnings from the past.

It can be done. We can make it.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. “an institution located in the vague idea of a Post-Chavista Venezuela, that catalogues and exhibits the corruption, abuse, mismanagement and violations performed by the “revolution” since 1999.”

    If you think that’s what going to happen you are utterly delusional, no offense meant, honestly. But what will happen in Venezuela will be more akin to Vietnam in the best case scenario, but most likely will be just like Cuba. Future generations will all “remember” the glory days of El Comandante and the glorious struggle of El Presidente Obrero, while denouncing the evils of capitalism and neoliberalism in which demons such as CAP sunk us into.

    So yeah, a lot of day dreams and wishful thinking.

  2. I don’t think it will ever happen. In all honesty, if/when Chavismo falls, there will be such an outpouring of grief and hostility that the national psyche may not recover. If anything, Chavismo bides its time until they get voted back in again.

    When your whole reason for being is “free shit for doing nothing”… and it is snatched away? I don’t know how El Pueblo will reconcile that. As much as El Pueblo wants change for the better, in reality they pine for the good old days of Chavismo, where the middle class/bourgeoisie and the vile wealthy Capitalists got kicked in the balls by Chavez, and he confiscated their happiness and passed it out in the form of freebies to his voters.

    El Pueblo gladly suffers… but the kick in the balls to the bourgeoisie is a must. Marx demands it.

    • Would someone explain to ElGuapo that “El Pueblo” is not getting any free stuff that is worth living without food, medicine, potable water, electricity, gas, ect….not to mention the high murder rate and rampant corruption. It is the fault of Chavismo 100% but you act like the relish it. If the had a chance they would vote for change in a heartbeat. Your not that smart and Venezuelans are not inferior to to you in any way. Things can and will change as they have throughout history.

      People who visit this site day after day are to hark on about how pathetic and inferior Venezuela is are imbalanced. You rarely see articles mention Marx and certainly not in a good way, but some commentators mention him and socialism redundantly. But redundancy is the sign of a simple mind. Some here fit that to a tee.

      • Oh they want change. They want better Chavismo.

        Also, I didn’t say that Venezuelans relish hardships. Only that they will endure it until their next Chavist Savior comes along.

  3. From my reading, it was the East German Stasi that gave “hands-on” training to the Cuban state police, and so Venezuela has by now “inherited” an important part of the East German apparatus – not as efficient, for sure, but apparently effective in keeping Chavismo in power.

    I got a laugh over the “coffee crisis”. Into the 1960s, some British were still adding chicory to their coffee to stretch it further. In the 1970s we knew a salesman who frequently went to East Germany and Poland (he was in electrical generation equipment). He said he never took local money: he packed his suitcase with women’s nylons and coffee, and lived like a king over there.

    • My sister visited the USSR back in 1987. I had visited in 1981. I gave her a few bucks for a fur rabbits hat (ushanka) that I wanted to purchase but didn’t have the cash for… and told her that if the opportunity arose, she should sell the 2 pairs of new with tags Levi blue jeans that she was going to bring in to barter. When they were out and about, she found the hat I wanted, and inquired about bartering the jeans. She got a case of vodka, a shearling Cossack hat and 2 ushankas for just ONE pair of jeans.

      I am wondering what Venezuela is going to have to barter, when even arepas aren’t easy to come by?

  4. A small contrast: marxism was brutally forced on the German people, while el pueblo begged for marxism and they still do. Until they reject mestizo culture el pueblo will always yearn to be slaves. ¡Viva la revolución marxista!

    • Mestizo culture? What is that? Another racist here…it seems they keep coming-
      El pueblo? Why do you say pueblo if you are writing in English? I know of a certain Venezuelan bloke who also kept using the word pueblo when writing in English.

      • The notion that Venezuelans begged, or even asked for Marxism is nonsense. The vast majority of Venezuelans, like the vast majority of people in general, have no idea what Marxism is. Nor would they support it if they did.

        This guy Davy Jones calls me a Marxist on a regular basis. It must leave him in a state of continual panic if he really believes what he is saying. Everyone is a Marxist!

          • Marxist is old-school. I just use Leftist.

            Most Leftists don’t know what Marxism really means anyway.

            Which is why they have no clue when they eagerly tip-toe towards it.

        • @Canucklehead “The notion that Venezuelans begged, or even asked for Marxism is nonsense. The vast majority of Venezuelans, like the vast majority of people in general, have no idea what Marxism is. Nor would they support it if they did. ”

          True, but that is missing the point. Yeah, lots of self-proclaimed Marxists don’t know about Marx. And lots of actual Marxists keep their leanings secret (like the Castros initially did) because they understand.

          But Marxism doesn’t just exploit calls calling for it by name.

          That’s the problem.

          Calls for a more equitable and caring society. For prioritizing the common good over the personal. For more generous safety nets. For peace. For shared ownership of resources. And so on and so forth.

          All of these *and more* have been things that Marxism and its adherents have correctly recognized they could latch onto. And they point to a a deep seated problem in the body politic in the same way that a weakened immune system makes it likely you’re going to catch a disease.

          This is how Bolshevism took and established power in Russia. NOT because most Russians identified with Lenin. THEY DID NOT, even *after* his coup. But a large enough majority did. Including groups like the Left-SR Party that actually won Russia’s election in 1917.

          They were naive enough to believe the Bolsheviks wanted similar things they did. So they were willing to go on working as the collaborators, cannon fodder, and coalition members of the Bolsheviks until the latter grew strong enough to dispose of them.

          That’s the problem, Canucklehead. And you don’t get to ignore it. The fact that you and Quico still compare Trump to Chavez because of how they speak while Quico argues Venezuela doesn’t prove anything about socialism underlines it.

      • El Pueblo is what the enamoured voting Chavistas call themselves. Calling them El Pueblo is a courtesy to them and to non-Spanish speakers. It identifies who exactly we are speaking about.

        In regards to the term “Mestizo culture”. It is also appropriate. As appropriate as saying, “Urban culture” do define the horrific antics of todays American inner city thugs and “at-risk” youth. Perhaps a euphemism, but it certainly paints an accurate picture of the type of people we are speaking of.

        Call it what you want, Kepler. It is a culture of indolence and theft. That culture is why nearly every home in Venezuela has bars on its windows/doors and broken glass on the top of tall walls.

        • You are really too kind and courteous to the mestizos. They are not so indolent as to be incapable of launching …..AN INVASION!

          • I have no problem with Venezuelan Mestizos. I married one. The prevalent culture is the problem.

            I am also a big fan of making it easier for the law abiding “invaders” to come to America. I would hire a bunch of them.

            Clearly YOU have a problem?

            White Guilt?

            ???

          • Yes, an invasion: millions of Venezuelans fleeing South; a few thousand financed by Venezuela/aupados by Zelaya/Cuba trudging North.

          • Guapo, this thing about who you married or who you hire is not a defense to your racial theory. i.e. is having married a woman or hired a woman a defense to a person being insulting to women? Of course not.

          • The bedwetters see RACISM around every corner. You can set your watch by them. Which is why the word had very little meaning any longer.

          • @Canucklehead “You are really too kind and courteous to the mestizos. They are not so indolent as to be incapable of launching …..AN INVASION!”

            A: No, they’re not.

            and

            B: The problem of doing as little as possible (at least where the tax man can see and calculate your liabilities accordingly), looking out for a “Get Mine”, and so on are real. My objection to it is the idea that it’s either distinctly Mestizo culture (there’s a reason why it’s often called “Creole With”) or that it is the main problem.

            “Guapo, this thing about who you married or who you hire is not a defense to your racial theory.”

            Except it’s not a racial theory, jagoff.

            Again: Learn the definition of Culture and its implication.

            “The part you attach to “mestizos”.”

            Let’s put this nonsense to a test, Canucklehead:

            If I tried to attribute some problems in modern German history to “Classical Prussian Culture” emphasizing unthinking and proud obedience to authorities and particularly the state….

            Or some Italian problems to “Sicilian Culture” regarding the mixture of unofficial corruption, strong man rule, vendetta, and lack of respect for the law that fermented in Sicily from the Medieval era on…

            Would you go off and screech about me being Raycis against Southern Italians and Northern Germans?

            Or would you not, because you’re a tiresome one trick pony?

            CULTURES ARE NOT RACE. PERIOD.

            And all of them are flawed. Many far worse than others. That isn’t Racism.

          • @ Canucklehead Part 2: My objection to Davy Jones and ElGuapo attributing this to “Mestizo Culture” is simply that I don’t think it is the main problem, and I don’t think it is particularly Mestizo.

            Sure, some aspects of Mestizo culture 9Especially from what I experienced in Northern Mexico and studied) were conductive to being stirred up so that revolutionaries (both good and evil) could recruit them to serve as cannonfodder in whatever cause. Hell, Obregon used the Yanqui and Mayo as well as the mixed race communities as cannonfodder to defeat Huerta, Villa, and Zapata.

            Distrust of state authority (which is pretty damn justified), interest in getting your own or that of your people (because the state is so predatory or corrupt you can’t be sure you will if you don’t), and so forth.

            I don’t think that is the main problem though. In the same way that Prussian culture wasn’t the main problem with the German regimes of WWI and WWII. And it’s worth reminding ourselves that most of the first generation of Communists in the Western Hemisphere were whiter than a Klanbake.

          • I made mention of this is a previous post, over a year ago.

            New neighbors in moved in here in tropical southern Minnesota, and the neighborhood mobilized. Men assembled to help unload, and women helped unpack and cook up some meals. The usual. “Many hands makes light work”. My wife said, “This NEVER happens in Venezuela”.

            When I first visited Venezuela, I was impressed by the number of domiciles where my wife had grown up that had either barred doors/windows or high walls topped with broken glass. (or both). I was also regaled with stories about how my wife’s family never invited anyone into their small home, as they didn’t want their neighbors to know what they had in the way of possessions. Any thing of value was snuck in in the middle of the night or otherwise hidden. I never gave it a second thought until the move in comment.

            The culture there was one of pleasant neighborliness, but that was it. Everyone wanted to know what you had, because they were always eager to take it. THAT WAS THE MESTIZO CULTURE that she grew up in. Her mother used to tell me all sorts of stories about the neighborhood.

            I have a Mestizo wife, a couple of biological kids with this beautiful woman, a native Guatamalan girl and a Sudanese girl that we adopted as babies. I am proudly colorblind, but I am not fucking stupid. I have a huge problem with cultures that embrace failure and willful ignorance. No matter what the melanin content/genetic makeup of these SHITHOLE cultures of failure and criminality, including Americas own “urban culture”.

      • The only English equivalent to the word “Pueblo” is “The People.” Except that doesn’t work, because the Pueblo implies poor, dumb people. And there isn’t a one-word English equivalent for that.

        Is this too complicated for you? Or are you going to also bitch about English speakers using the word “arepa?”

        • You are a proof there are very racist, evil people anywhere.
          Arepa has no equivalent in English. People like you are the ones who do not use the word black for people of dark skin but the [email protected] word because using black or African American “doesn’t work”.

          I hope Caracas Chronicles finally does something about your blatant racism.

          • @Kepler “You are a proof there are very racist, evil people anywhere.”

            And so the outrage duo keeps the beats coming.

            “Arepa has no equivalent in English.”

            Not directly. Though “Corn Biscuit” is serviceable in a pinch. Not perfect or with the exact same connotations , but it’ll do.

            “People like you are the ones who do not use the word black for people of dark skin but the [email protected] word because using black or African American “doesn’t work”.”

            Got any proof of that chowderhead?

            Please. Cite exact quotes.

            By all means. I’ll wait. Because I’M SURE you’re not petty and dumb enough to put forth an unsupported ad hominem.

            “I hope Caracas Chronicles finally does something about your blatant racism.”

            And I hope they do something about your unproductive personal attacks.

    • @Davy Jones Blaming this nonsense on “Mestizo Culture” makes about as much sense as blaming “Mulatto Culture” for the waves of crime that ravaged American Blacks after the “Great Society.” It may not be completely blameless, but it obviously isn’t the main problem. It is a political ideology coupled with shared human depravity, and those two things are sadly color blind to a remarkable degree.

      There’s a reason why Poeta C talks a lot about “Creole Wit”- and Creoles being whites being born in the Western Hemisphere.

  5. A few years back I wrote in my blog an open letter (post) in German destined to the head of the Linke party, notorious S. Wagenknecht. I called the post “Schokolade statt Kapitalismus”, chocolate instead of capitalism,
    paraphrasing one of her cheap slogans about “prosperity instead of capitalism”. That woman wrote a book about Chavismo and claimed in many places that Chavismo had eliminated illiteracy when in reality education just got much worse than it was for the average.

    I sent it with open copy to the German media, some journalists I know among them. Obviously I did not get a reply. The curious thing is that nowadays that Wagenknecht character, even if still head of the Linke, shares quite a lot of positions with the German far right.

    Another German, currently a professor of “history” (history my foot), Zeuske, wrote two “history” books about Venezuela. The Venezuelan regime financed a catedra of his on Bolivar. Zeuske, like Wagenknecht, was born in East Germany. His books are really disgusting propaganda.

    I keep repeating we can learn from others but to do so we need to be aware of the similarities and the differences. Communism in Europe at least did not screw up education in the way Chavismo or Castrismo did in our Spanish America. Venezuela was not split, so even though we can compare with other Spanish American countries, the comparisons are a bit more difficult.

    Also, Venezuelans on average have a much weaker sense of real history than most. The fact the average Venezuelan university graduate reads less than a Colombian taxi driver with no formal education complicates things.

    Venezuelans know what Bolivar supposedly said when he arrived in place X or Y, when he had diarrhea or
    was about to die. Most Venezuelan graduates would not be able to tell you in which century more or less Spaniards first arrived to the region that became Venezuela or what is the main language from which Spanish derives or – believe it or not – in what century, take or add one, Jesus was supposed to have been born (independently of whether you are Christian or not).

    Venezuelans need to do something about presenting the very basics on
    – what democracy is (not just elections but division of powers, separation of government from state, rule of law, accountability, etc)
    – what our economic history has been
    – how we are connected and how we compare to the rest of America and the world

    Sadly enough few of our intellectuals are humble enough to see how convey ideas to the people.

    As for the Venezuelan Stasi: to some extent they also got training from the Russians (of course, firstly from the Cubans).

    • @Kepler “The curious thing is that nowadays that Wagenknecht character, even if still head of the Linke, shares quite a lot of positions with the German far right.”

      It’s only curious if you don’t understand

      Firstly: an awful lot of what is called “Far-Right” shouldn’t be. Particularly most of the original Fascist parties, which explicitly defined themselves as “Third Positionists” (Ie: Between Left and Right) and socialists, just of a different stripe than Marxists, Anarchists, Social Democrats, or the like. But they’ve been persistantly painted as “The Right” both because of some of their allies (who were actually right wing, like Franco) and because of a persistant PR campaign (largely by the Kremlin) to t ry and bury the lede about their shared philosophical lineage with Marxism.

      And secondly: Because even when you move past this to talk about actual members of the Far Right (with regimes like the Bismarck-Ludendorff German Absolutism, Russian Tsarism, Francosim, and so on), it’s that they tend to be collectivist and authoritarian ideologies. The whole comes before the individual. Strong leadership is more important than consensus. Duty moreso than Rights. And so on.

      The shared DNA in at least a few important categories means these ideologies tend to value a lot of very similar things and generally sound alike more than Liberal, Constitutionalist, or Anarchist ones.

      Hence why Die Linke sounds like the NatSocs. Which was a phenomenon even the original NSDAP leadership noted, esp. Goebbels.

      “I keep repeating we can learn from others but to do so we need to be aware of the similarities and the differences.”

      Agreed.

      ” Communism in Europe at least did not screw up education in the way Chavismo or Castrismo did in our Spanish America.”

      My understanding is that it depended a lot on which country you were in. With Romania and Bulgaria getting hurt a LOT more than-say- East Germany or Poland. And things under the nightmarish clown Hoxha even improving because of how essentially nonexistent things were before. Likewise outside Europe.

      “Venezuela was not split, so even though we can compare with other Spanish American countries, the comparisons are a bit more difficult.”

      Sure, but it’s pretty close. Venezuela after all was not split, but Gran Columbia was. And while there are a lot of differences in it to account for, it can still do so.

      But that said, thanks for the post.

  6. Two quick points from someone who made a couple of visits to the DDR and was in Berlin for extended periods before and after the wall came down.

    Firstly, it looked and felt a lot different from Venezuela under chavismo. That is not to make any excuse for the ruin that chavismo has brought to Venezuela, or downplay its effects, but a totalitarian communist state in the 20th century was a different kind of nightmare to behold. People had internalized the fear and domination for decades, in a way that made the very act of speech in a public place with another person a fraught and complicated ritual. Why is that important for this discussion? It is important because we know that an extremely effective, deep-seated and powerful dictatorship collapsed, and was replaced by democracy, in a very short space of time.

    Second point echoes the author. The DDR came down, but we don’t yet know I think, the long term implications of all of that. There is nostalgia for the past. There are leaders who want to create a nostalgia for the past. There is resentment against the more successful and outgoing sibling. It gets passed down to the next generations. The status some had in their contained totalitarian society is gone. The “security”. The predictability. The sameness. The language. People often like those things. Meanwhile, their siblings on the other side of the country – or in the large cities- are doing well, outwardly focused, comfortable with their cosmopolitan, liberal and open society, and wanting more of the same.

    More than I intended to say, but the story of the spread of democracy in Europe is complicated, and not over by a long shot. But Germany seems to be at the hub of it, which is a remarkable thing for so many reasons.

    • This sounds like nostalgia for/of a small failed minority vs, the creature comforts/success/comfort of the vast majority–but, NEXT TIME, they’ll do it right!

    • @Canucklehead The first point runs into a catastrophic road block. “Firstly, it looked and felt a lot different from Venezuela under chavismo. ….a totalitarian communist state in the 20th century was a different kind of nightmare to behold. People had internalized the fear and domination for decades,”

      The problem, however, is clear:

      The Russian people obviously hadn’t internalized the fear and domination of totalitarian Communist rule in-say- 1918. Obviously, you could have lingering heeby jeebies and domination from pre-Communist despotisms like the Tsarist one in Russia, the Qing and various warlords in China, and authoritarian Eastern Euro independence leaders like Pilsudski in Poland and Pats in Estonia. In the same way we can talk of prior Venezuelan experiences under dictatorships like Castro, Contreras, and so on.

      But I’m fairly sure that was poor training for an experience where dissidents were killed by the hundreds, paramilitaries roved the street, informers spread their grasp, etc. Basically: what you witnsessed was (to borrow something from Marx) “Late Stage Communism” after decades of “refinement.”

      Venezuela’s been going through this in various shades for Quite some time- 1999 or so arguably- but it’s still nowhere near as old as East Germany and followed a much more “Gradual” Transition than it or the main ones did. The best comparison I can think of would be to North Vietnam circa 1965/6, and the general state of chaos and death is fairly similar.

      “Why is that important for this discussion? It is important because we know that an extremely effective, deep-seated and powerful dictatorship collapsed, and was replaced by democracy, in a very short space of time. ”

      I’ll give you deep-seated. But part of this depends on how we define powerful and effectiveness.

      The GDR wasn’t really POWERFUL. It was an appanage of the Soviet Empire, which it was reliant on for an awful lot of stuff, ranging from defense (no Soviet troops, no credible military position for the GDR) to funding. If you cut it off from Soviet support and chucked it into-say- the 17th century HRE I’m not sure how well it would have compared as an independent actor, let alone a powerful one.

      And while it was certainly effective at scaring the cripe out of its citizens and spying on lots and lots of people, it wasn’t that effective economically beyond it. Or even that *efficient* in its spying.

      Certainly, it managed to turn a large ratio of its people into informers for the Stasi. The problem is that when you get to those percentages, it’s kinda freaking economically nonviable. Not only do you need a massive amount of stuff to give them in order to keep buying their loyalty and a bloated bureaucracy to tend to all the agents, but you get to the point where you reach the NPD Problem the German Republic’s faced lately: that you have so many people “in” that it becomes credible that they can cooperate with each other to undermine their stated mission.

      This is one reason why the Stasi was such a money sinkhole.

      On your second point though, I agree.

      ” But Germany seems to be at the hub of it, which is a remarkable thing for so many reasons.”

      I disagree.

      The hub to me- particularly in terms of the initial shaking apart of Communism- seemed to be Poland and to a lesser degree Hungary. Which was probably important since these nations sat astride the USSR’s lines of Communications Westward. They drop out, East Germany gets isolated and falls.

      And indeed, it’s worth noting that the Wall falling was the result of this domino chain where Polland and Hungary began liberalizing their passport system, pressing Czechoslovakia to do the same, resulting in this indirect way by which Iron Curtainers could enter the West, making the GDR issue a statement on border policy…

      And the rest is history.

  7. The real museum we should hope for is the one that contains all from when Venezuela’s oil revenues went to the Estado; and everyone knew that the only chance of getting more than their share of these was to either be a redistribution profiteer, or be very close and suck up to these… those who gave away goodies like gas and offered preferential foreign exchange for trips to Paris… and much more, especially if some corruption was involved. The name of the museum could be “When we lived in somebody else’s business”

    Of course the Venezuelan visitors would know that since then all those revenues were equally shared out to all and we at long last lived in a real nation.
    http://theoilcurse.blogspot.com/2009/10/public-letter-to-his-majesty-king.html

  8. Venezuela is not Germany. We can’t keep comparing ourselves to Central or Eastern Europe. I know it might sound cool to think we might have a DDR-like museum where we can read about Lorent Saleh in El Helicoide, but that won’t happen. Venezuela’s problems run far deeper than Germany’s post war communist experiment. Like many here have pointed out, our population is uneducated, our institutions are beyond corrupt, and sadly, our Caribe way of thinking is a curse.

    I also think Chavismo is winning against hyperinflation. There’s no sign of them going anywhere.

    • Dos you say you think they are winning the war against hyper inflation???!!!!! I beg to differ. Prices increase on a daily basis now. I have been working in a hardware store for the last month now (one of the only places left in town with a working internet connection) and watch and listen as people come in to ask the prices of things and then leave mostly empty handed as they realize they can’t afford to buy even one of the items they came to acquire. Quotes used to be good for at least a week as of a month ago now they last hours not even days. The owner consults the distributor price list just before she gives a price quote to the client. In some cases the distributor fails to update or respond quickly enough an she sells for the last quoted price only to find out that the price almost doubled and she just decapitalized on that particular item. It’s gotten to the point now that she swears she is going to close this month and not bother to reopen. As of last week if she can’t get a recent price for an item she just simply will not sell it.
      To sight another example of how bad it is, I know 2 liquor store owners who are on the verge of closing their doors as well. One sold 1 package of cigarettes over the weekend (individually mind you) and the other sold 1 case of beer (again individually as in 1 beer and 1 cigarette at a time) which is something totally unheard of in this tourist town. The only people with long lineups of customers are the local Chinese grocers. Who incidentally pay everyone including the fair price police (sundae) to charge whatever they want. Every once in a while a shipment of regulated price chicken comes in and the lineups go around the block and it is bought up before the sun goes down. Everytime that has happened fist fights and break out and people have even been cut as they squabble over who was in front of who in the line up. I certainly don’t go anywhere near those stores when regulated food comes in. I value my life and know I would be lynched if I tried to buy subsidized food.
      You want to see how fast prices are going up? Go to mercado libre, Venezuela, choose an item and then read the questions section where people are asking the current prices. Dates are included. Most are in dollars now anyway and every time the bolivar devalues the price in bolivares goes up to reflect it.

      • I know things are bad Marc, those are crazy stories, what I meant was that hyperinflation won’t topple this government in my opinion. Suerte.

        • I beg to differ on that as well Capa. As Bill Bass has pointed out by daring to stand in these lines to listen to the conversations. Everyone hates Maduro, you don’t hear anyone defending that dictator anymore. And tension is mounting daily as Christmas is coming and people have already eaten their alginaldos (christmas bonus? Not sure how its spelled) Also a young man (24 years old I think?) from this town that my wife went to school with was murdered about a week ago. He was well known here for his opposition politics and his outstanding public speaking abilities and frequently led the local church in prayers. Very well loved and admired here. The first news we got was that he died of a heart attack but after an autopsy revealed that he had his head smashed in and his neck broken after being publicly threatened by Lacava the Chavista governor of Carabobo, people are in an uproar around here about that. If you stick your head out, you get it lopped off is the intended message. Lets see how long they can keep up that policy before people stop giving a fuck and start fighting back. If that happened to my young prodigy I would promptly go berserk and dedicate the rest of my short ass life and every resource at my disposal to avenge his death, this I swear.

          • This is sad to hear Marc, what was his name? Hopefully people start fighting back soon, but I’ve been hearing how people are fed up with Maduro since 2014, so it’s really hard to be hopeful in these dark times.

          • Celis Blanco Ramirez is his name. I really wish CC would write stories about these kinds of things. Stuff we need to bring out into the light so it will stop happening.

      • Marc, incredibly enough, often even having hard currency doesn’t help, since bolivar pricing is usually far out-accelerating the DT/other exchange rates.

        • You are right, the cash discount does’t really apply anymore since they are pumping mass quantities of cash out again. It’s like a pleasant surprise to get paid in cash but it doesn’t beget you any major discounts like it used to. I still don’t see any of it though, no need to bother. I have good credit everywhere I go and pay all my bills by bank transfer. Very few serious or dependable people around now. Have distanced myself from many acquaintances and lost almost all my friends because of the hunger factor. A hungry animal is nobodies friend.

  9. That Chavismo museum should include a cage with two rabbit skeletons.

    (I know self-praise stinks, but I’m patting myself on the back for this one.)

  10. There is no comparison , first the DDR system worked badly but worked (remember they were germans) goods from east germany when made available in the rest of the soviet are of influence carried a premium as bein better made that those from other comiterm countries , second they had booming prosperous west germany right next door so east germans could see from their tv stations how the otehr germans lived , this totally discredited all of the communist regimes propaganda , the impact was such that border guards had to be brought primarily from rural Turingia where the signal from West German TV did not reach …..thid difference when the regime finally collpased they fell into the welcoming arms of one of the strongest economies in the world which very generously decided to make the value of the DDR Mark equal to that of the West German Mark , something that brought the planned progress of the german western economy back 10 years …

    • first the DDR system worked badly but worked (remember they were germans)goods from east germany when made available in the rest of the soviet are of influence carried a premium as bein better made that those from other comiterm countries ,

      During my post-baccalaureate trip to South America, I purchased in Quito an East German kerosene camping stove for ~$10. I was glad to have it, having gotten tired of boring cafe fare of beans and rice. Without my stove, I would never have tried alpaca meat- or at least that is what the vendor told me I was purchasing. Before I went back to the US, I sold the stove to another backpacker.

      Before the Berlin Wall fell, the East German economy was touted as being rather productive. The truth came out later that it was productive compared only to other Comecon ( Commie) countries. There are some interesting before and after 1990 photos of Berlin.

  11. Jose, this is an EXCELLENT idea. Venezuelans, poorly-educated/uninformed in general, need to be shown/taught the horrors of Chavismo in impoverishing them, vs. other L.A. countries, in spite of Venezuela being a land blessed by abundant natural resources. One room alone could be filled by the hundreds of grandiose projects planned/never-begun/begun but-never-progressed/completed, but all completely payed for. Another room should be dedicated to the impoverished daily living of the average Cuban resident. And, so on….Actually, this Museum should be a pre-requisite of any IMF/WB bailout.

    • Is education going to work?

      My wife said during her years in Venezuela (she went to a private school. Her uncles funded her education) a lot of emphasis was put on the glory of Bolivar and the various generals who broke from Spain. Slightly less emphasis on the break from the vile Gran Colombians/Santander over the role of Federalism/Republicanism v. Strongman/Central government style politics. It was her impression that Venezuelans are enamored with the virile “strongman” type of government as opposed to the rule of law. It is ingrained in the culture. (She isn’t a fan of Venezuelan government. Period) If any change in that attitude is going to come, its going to have to be at a wholesale level for the entire culture.

      I don’t know much about the history of the region. Only what I can translate from various old Spanish language high-school level textbooks that I have read over the years.

      • It will help. As an example, Caldera’s Museo Del Nino in Caracas is an outstanding exhibit which both teaches/entertains children/their parents; my wife recently visited a similar exhibit in Atlanta, which doesn’t even begin to compare to its Caracas counterpart. It’s true about Venezuela’s constant fixation on its glorious past with Bolivar/et. al. (radio/print/schools) to the exclusion of present problems–it would be like being constantly reminded of G. Washington’s exploits in the U.S. I guess a country that constantly looks to the past…stays in the past….

  12. For instance, in the school and education section, you go through the East German school system, from kindergarten to college (or, more likely, trade school). You open a lid and read about the communal potty training..
    Jose Tapia, Allende’s Education Minister, announced plans in early 1973 for radical transformation of Chile’s educational system, Educacion Nacional Unificada, a.k.a. the ENU. Tapia stated that the ENU would instill “values of socialist humanism” in its students. Tapia also admitted that the ENU was based on the East German educational system. The Catholic Church hierarchy’s opposition to the ENU was the first time it had opposed the Allende government. Many military officers also expressed opposition- with one exception being Carlos Prats, then the head of the Army.James Whelan_Out of the Ashes: Life, Death & Transfiguration of Democracy in Chile 1933-1988 pages 395-396(413-414)

    I found it interesting that of the discussions on the Internet on the ENU, I didn’t find one that mentioned its being modeled on the educational system in East Germany. I had to document it with a book published in the 1980s.

    President Bachelet spent several years in exile in East Germany, as did Roberto Ampuero, currently Chile’s Foreign Minister. His memoir of his time in East Germany and Cuba indicate that Ampuero didn’t draw the same conclusions about real existing socialism that Bachelet did.Nuestros años verde olivo. I recommend the book to all Allende fans. Ampuero, once a member of Communist Youth, changed his mind.

  13. There’s not a person in the world who choose to live in Venezuela over East Germany. Life was dull and stifled there, but it wasn’t the hell hole that Venezuela is.

      • The Autobahn is a fantastic example of bad thinking:

        It wasn’t built so ordinary Germans would have greater driving experiences. It was built so the Nazis could better move the military for neighboring invasions/conquest.

        But it worked as a crystal clear map read from the sky for allied bombers to follow and blow the shit out of strategic areas and installations.

        Just ask Kepler. His father probably came up with the stupid idea.

  14. Having a museum dedicated to the Chavista era is good, lest we and our children’s children forget. The idea should be taken to its logical conclusion: building a museum describing the history of Venezuela starting two centuries ago.

    The museum would be linear in nature beginning with Venezuela’s first president, Cristóbal Mendoza, followed in chronological order by the fifty presidents until the present day. Accommodating to the curving contour lines of a hill the museum would have three levels.

    The middle level would serve as circulation of the total length of the museum and act as a frame of reference describing each of the periods. This level would connect with short ramps to a lower level and an upper level.

    The upper level would be open spaces with abundant natural light and ventilation, high ceilings and bright shinny surfaces with lots of color. It would describe the positive aspects of each of the periods, including those of the presidency.

    In contrast, the lower level would be hot, gloomy and dark with very low ceilings, have meandering claustrophobic spaces with fetid odors to suitably describe the horrors of each period.

    Visiting the museum the spectator would thus have a clearer perspective of the country’s history. For instance, that autocratic regimes are not the exception but rather the rule in Venezuela. The onlooker would also learn that the jailing, torture and killing of the political opposition was not invented in the twenty-first century; regrettably it has been practiced previously both in dictatorial and democratic regimes.

    The museum should be doubly open-ended. It should include prevision for expansion to accommodate the rest of the present century of Venezuelan experience. It could also go back in time, not only describing the colonial era but also pre-Columbian history.

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