Photo: retrieved / ModoGráfico

In September this year, one of the most successful fake news in Venezuelan history turned 20 years old. Repeated by politicians, scholars, journalists and prestigious publications, tribunes and thinkers; assumed true by defenders of the accused. In sum, it’s been 20 years of rampant validity of an unfounded rumour that may never be recognized as such. Without further preamble: Chávez never said that he’d “erase adecos off the face of the earth” when he took power. He never said “I’m going to fry their heads in oil,” and never promised that he’d “dissolve them with muriatic acid, with battery acid.”

Although he never said that, he ended up doing it, which contributed to the good health of the rumor. Chávez didn’t squander any efforts in his determination to destroy Acción Democrática and the remaining political parties in Venezuela. Paradoxically, out of the many threats the leader of the 1992 coup uttered, the one he didn’t make has always been held as the most credible.

On October 12, 1998, journalist Alfredo Peña interviewed presidential candidate Hugo Chávez Frías on his TV show in Venevisión. A month before, in September, the Polo Patriótico candidate enjoyed 41.6% of the electorate’s support according to Datanalisis. By October, that figure would climb three points up to 44.8%, and by November, after the gubernatorial elections, it would reach 49.6%.

Although he never said that, he ended up doing it, which contributed to the good health of the rumor.

During the interview, Chávez said that he’d filed a complaint that very day before the National Electoral Council, “so that, as the Bible says, he who has eyes may see, and he who has ears may hear.” Then he went on explaining that, as part of a “wild dirty war,” his contenders hired actor Gonzalo Cuberos to imitate his voice saying precisely those phrases. As proof for his accusation, Chávez brought—and Alfredo Peña, who called him “commander”, rushed to play on air—a video showing Cuberos saying that Chelique Sarabia had “contacted him” to go to a studio on Wednesday, September 24, to record the aforementioned phrases.

Once the video, which had been played during Chávez’s press conference before going to Venevisión for his interview with Peña, had concluded, Chávez said that he’d given the recording to Dr. Edmundo Chirinos, who was analyzing it, and added that he’d requested the National Electoral Council to suspend the broadcast of a TV spot that referred these phrases and included the impostor’s voice saying them. It was an advert where a red beret was crushed and a few women around a cauldron full of boiling oil were saying that, if he was going to fry the adecos, he’d have to fry all Venezuelans. The spot was taken off the air.

In an essay published in the magazine Nueva Sociedad, March-April 1999, researchers Luis E. Lander and Margarita López Maya say: “Throughout the campaign, generally taking advantage of some slight mistake in his discourse, Chávez was stigmatized as authoritarian, fascist, anti-democratic, instigator of violence, with a personality that wouldn’t hesitate to destroy institutions and unleash a climate of terror leading to a civil war if he won.” And a few paragraphs later, they mention “his promise in a public rally that he would ‘erase Acción Democrática off the face of the earth’ or that in case he was victorious, he would ‘fry’ the heads of adecos and copeyanos,” as if it were true.

When this publication started circulating, the lie was scarcely six months old, but it enjoyed quite the fame.

“The point is,” said Alfredo Peña, “did you or did you not say that?”

“I didn’t say it,” Chávez said. “If I’d said that I was going to fry the heads of adecos in oil, they wouldn’t need to come up with this fraudulent operation, of cheating a man, a young Venezuelan, and record a voice that appears in the spot.”

Peña then retorted that José Vicente Rangel had written in El Universal on September 13, that Chávez had said in a rally: “The AD plague will leave no trace in Venezuela, because we’re going to erase it along with COPEI and Convergencia.” After the quotation, Peña asked him how he planned to make that happen, “the gallows, the firing squad, boiling oil?”

He did say that it was a metaphor to refer to a political model, not the people behind it.

Provoked, Chávez went on one of his rants (“I’m not threatening anyone, I’m calling for reunion, for peace, for reconstruction, humanistic economy, paying off the social debt…”), but he didn’t deny he was the author of “The AD plague.” He did say that it was a metaphor to refer to a political model, not the people behind it. “Anyone who studied second-year literature in high school can find out what a metaphor is.”

In his “Aló President” N° 137, on February 2, 2003, Chávez returned to the issue. He didn’t remember the name of the actor who imitated his voice by then, but insisted on denying that he ever said the “frying” phrase. He made a big meal out of the matter then, but made no emphasis on it. It’s as if he’d grown accustomed to those words in past years and he wasn’t bothered by them anymore. Perhaps he didn’t find it entirely alien, it was like a picture of cousin where he ended up recognizing himself.

Perhaps that’s why, among so many formulas of intimidation, so many lies and such a thick rhetorical mess, one of the most famous mottos tied to Chávez’s figure, more than any of the thousands he said himself in his long history of public appearances, was the one attributed to him by others.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. I read this additional piece of Chavez eulogy with great sadnes. Is Socorro feeling guilty? Beyond being a well written anecdote she says nothing about nothing. Please stop Chavez in CC and talk something else.

    • I had my “anti-socialist” aka “the truth of tens of millions of murders” post deleted. That indicates to me that someone is trying to hide something. Hard to hide 100 million plus corpses just by brushing some dust over them, but the socialists are still trying, by golly! And trying for more mass-murders.

      And deleting my post is no longer moderation, it is the same type “philosophy” that eliminated millions. If they don’t agree with your idiotic lies and oppression, just kill them. Same type of thought, Francisco. You’re on a very slippery slope already pissed on by Marx, Lenin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Chavez, and their ilk.

        • My post may have been misinterpreted as putting down the article. If so, that was an oversight on my part. I thought the article was a good example of detailed history (which I know nothing about researching). Some very amazing detail has been added to history, right down to what was on someone’s desk, at what time, and how it was or was not read, and the consequences it had.

          I just followed up with the thought that the real big, big, big fake news is this: “1. Socialism seeks to replace capitalism by a system in which the public interest takes precedence over the interest of private profit. The immediate economic aims of Socialist policy are full employment, higher production, a rising standard of life, social security and a fair distribution of incomes and property.” (That quote comes from some Socialist Congress held in Frankfurt – I don’t have a direct link to it.)

          The quote is just a very fancy way of saying “steal”. And I’ve already expressed observations made not just by myself, but by many men and women much smarter than myself, about what socialism actually results in.

          Again, this isn’t a put-down of the article at all, just a sequitur that popped into my mind about fake news. I also included that famous quote of P.T. Barnum, that there’s a sucker born every minute – meaning that is incredible how credulous mankind can be.

      • There’s not even a logic to the deletion of posts here:

        Pepe referenced Venezuelanalysis.com (harmless and I disagreed)…I posted something in response saying that’s not exactly a very credible source…and both posts were deleted.

        • @Ira: we probably don’t agree in much. But, in 2003 Venezuelan people were truly happy according to my modest personal research for the company I worked for. Happier than anyone else in LatAm. I think they still beat many in happy hopes. I’ve heard that Christmas parties have started as if nothing was happening around the enchufados bastards.

  2. “I’m going to erase adecos from the face of the earth, I’m going to fry their heads in oil.”

    I know there is a fair amount of teeth-gnashing and bed-wetting about Trump saying, “I’m going to make America great again!” and, “Build the wall!”… but culturally, who goes around spouting the hyperbole of, “I’ll kill and mutilate the opposition!”… and worse, who considers such a person electable and then ELECTS that person? Caterwaul all you want about Trump. He couldn’t carry the jockstrap of any number of third world electeds when it comes to bile and vitriole.

    This is the reason that my wife left Venezuela. LONG BEFORE CHAVEZ. There were too many people in her own life who thought exactly like Chavez did.

    If Venezuela wants any sort of hope for the future, it has to start in their own hearts. There has to be a wholesale change in the culture. And after reading the rants at Aporrea, I am not so sure that is going to happen in at least a lifetime. There are too many people who are willing to give Chavismo a pass due to “bad actors” instead of a faulty and epically failed paradigm of Socialism.

    • @ElGuapo: so many thanks for your post. Today I was so sad and disgusted in the way this discussion has been going. We left 40 years ago and good luck/bad luck we both made it through before the calamitous bad blood fell on everyone. Just as you well said. PS: we were told in 1980 that we were absolutely crazy. Before 1998 when we tried alerting friends and family all alike, they told us that staying abroad too long took us off reality, we were even crazier.

      I don’t understand why this CC continues the eulogy to Chavez and Maduro. This ”Kiko” guy as many call him familiarly is showing his true colors.

      Too bad, I thought we could rebuild from outside but there is no hope. Maybe in 1000 years. He’s just crossed some sort of Rubicon like a Cesar, now trying to persuade all that Chavismo is still good for Venezuelan. Silly.

  3. And what about the “rumor” that Chavez, if his original Golpe Militar had been successful, wanted to take Ven.’s top 300 AD/COPEI political leaders to the Poliedro before a firing squad; or that during said Golpe he attacked the Presidential family residence La Casona with similar intentions; or that (Penaloza, dixit), when in earlier years stationed near Maracaibo he tried to get his troops to rise up and kill his CO; or….

    • Head over to Aporrea.org. There are plenty of the faithful (San Roz, etc) who think that the problem with Chavismo has been not enough ruthlessness has been applied to the non-believers. After all, Lenin said so.

      • @RobertoN: Correct. My sister in law lived in a small apartment a couple of blocks away. AND I was trapped in Trinidad & Tobago for several days. Thank God, my wife and children, who had experienced the horrendous day, were able to make it to Sao Paulo that same night.

  4. Frying heads in oil es a Boves-like metaphor.

    It is quite possible Chavez used it to refer to his opponents because:
    1. Following Juan Uslar Pietri, many on the Chavez camp, perhaps even Chavez himself, believed Boves, not Bolivar, was the true spirit of Venezuela’s struggle for justice. For example: https://www.aporrea.org/actualidad/a107150.html
    2.Chavez was a braggard. He may have said words to that effect in private to people who then spread the rumor.

  5. I really liked this post. People look back on Chavez and view that time and that movement as a foregone conclusion, a mighty socialist cult that swept the land in one great swoop, but it was more complicated than that, as this anecdote suggests. Chavez played a skillful kind of jujitsu with the truth, and with his critics. He used their standards and their morality against them. He had a billion dollar megaphone to spread his propaganda, but he also engaged in this sort of close-in combat very well, in the way that malignant narcissists and sociopaths can.

    In that way, Chavez was in the great tradition of demagogues who hold their political opponents and the press to a vastly different standard on truth and accuracy than themselves, their families and their other cronies.

    And as with all demagogues and personality cults, his apologists engaged in absurdly close parsings and elaborate contextualizations of his rants, to prove that those rants did not indicate what they appeared to indicate… ignoring all the while, the obvious and indisputable indicators of his character and his tendencies that also supported those conclusions i.e. in his case, that he had organized and participated in an attempted military coup.

    He was maybe the first troll president.

  6. Not Fake News. 🙂 Exclusive: Venezuela’s refinery woes send fuel imports soaring: internal documents.

    (Reuters) – Venezuela this month plans to import over 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) of refined products to ease domestic fuel shortages caused by hobbled refineries and need to prioritize exports, according to internal documents seen by Reuters. …

    “Since February, we have not paid a single imported cargo with cash. We are exchanging the imported fuel for (Venezuelan) asphalt, virgin naphtha, natural gasoline, fuel oil, residual crude, whatever we have,” said the PDVSA employee who could not be identified because the information is private. …
    Venezuelan refineries have worked this year at historical low rates with some of them completely halted for weeks due to technical failure, lack of investment, delayed maintenance and insufficient crude supply.

    A refinery in Curacao used by PDVSA as auxiliary facility, the 335,000-bpd Isla, has been inactive since the second quarter. Earlier this month, Venezuela’s largest refining complex, Paraguana, worked at 19 percent of its 955,000-bpd capacity, and the smaller Puerto la Cruz refinery was completely halted.

    Venezuela’s fuel demand has decreased to 325,000 bpd in recent months – half the peak volume registered a decade ago – according to the PDVSA documents, amid a severe economic recession. Still, PDVSA has been unable to supply gas stations, airports, power plants and industrial customers, leading to drivers waiting to fill their tanks and customers fighting over cooking gas.

    From January through November, PDVSA delivered 270,000 bpd of domestic and imported fuel to the domestic market, 17 percent below the demand level, the documents showed.

    More at the link.

  7. Venezuela and the PRC:
    Strategy Page:Potential Hot Spots: Chinese Republic Of Venezuela.

    Despite diverting most food and other consumer goods towards the security forces, that did not prevent a growing number of soldiers and policemen from complaining that their families were going hungry, often because one soldier or policemen was under pressure to help get food for his extended family and was unable to do so. Commanders are seeking solutions to this growing problem but there is no easy fix. What many commanders do is informally tolerate their subordinates stealing from any Venezuelans that can be seen as Maduro opponents, or simply having anything worth taking. This now includes most Venezuelans so there are plenty of potential victims. Commanders who are caught doing this often get away with it by explaining it is an effective way to reduce open opposition to the Maduro government. The new leadership of the security forces was selected mainly for loyalty not competence in military police work. The government is aware that a growing number of its military units are unreliable and is having a hard time keeping track of who can be trusted, who can be accommodated (make a deal with in an emergency) and who is becoming more of a liability. Disbanding disloyal units is difficult and can be devastating for the morale of the loyal troops who have to do the dirty work. So that sort of thing is avoided and untrustworthy units are slowly dismantled by starving them of resources. With more criminals and shrinking and less reliable security forces, Venezuela now has one of the highest crime rates in the world. …

    China has approved a deal with Venezuela which allows a Chinese tech firm (ZDE) to develop an ID card that would include biometric information and also serve as a banking card (for private and government transactions.)

    Corruption, ELN moving to Venezuela, PDVSA, and more.

    Francisco Toro and James Bosworth at the WaPo: China exports its high-tech authoritarianism to Venezuela. It must be stopped.

    You’ve heard of “software as a service”? This is dictatorship as a service….
    It represents an early experiment in exporting China’s model for high-tech authoritarianism, with powerful computer algorithms calculating individualized loyalty scores to dole out or withhold privileges and life chances accordingly.

    It turns out that China’s digital panopticon is an export product. In Venezuela, Beijing is using the technology it has developed at home to help sustain a notoriously unstable client state’s leadership in place.

    And requests help from the US.

    • Typical Quico. Putting his energies where they do no good. I read the WaPo article. What a joke.

      You can’t stop technology, yet he advocates the U.S. “help” stop Maduro from using this technology to oppress the populace. Sanction Chinese tech companies. Yeah, that’s gonna help a LOT, right.

      Instead of asking the U.S. to simply stop Maduro, via military intervention.

      Plus, he has the balls to críticize Trump for not condemning this Chinese tech company.

      Quico, if he represents the Venezuelan mentality, is a perfect example of why Venezuela will never be saved, and maybe why it shouldn’t be.

      He’s a disgrace.

  8. I use ”Kiko” its easier to type when handling the phone on your right hand. Besides, it means a charred grain of sweet corn. I mean Quico.

  9. @Canucklehead: I do think that maybe not all but more than people want to accept. I see the Venezuelan newcomers in Texas, so-called victims of Chavismo, and they talk be just like Chavez and praise people like Bernie Sanders and infamous Ocasio-Cortez, next Democrat candidate to the US President post..

  10. I have yet to meet an ex pat Venezuelan who describes him or herself as a socialist, that I am aware, but maybe they’ve been hiding things from me. Surely there are some, and maybe they are in Texas.

  11. Just in case, not me! I’m registered Republican and 100% anti-anything-semblance-to-socialism.

    On the other hand, I’m very happy to meet you or anyone that comes pays me a visit! We can have a vivid discussion on how Venezuelan reinvented Socialism to justify all sorts of corruption schemes. With hard facts not opinions.

    PS: BTW, my last truly expat assignment was in Italy in 1998.

    • The hat gave you away. Who on earth makes those red baseball hats? I should have put money in red hats…20 years ago. They keep coming back into popularity. Bring back the hat!

        • Here we call them baseball caps, even if they are strictly for political rallies and holding down a comb over while golfing.

      • Fake News has been around for as long as there has been fake news.

        At the height of the Battle of Shrewsbury between the English King Henry IV of the House of Lancaster and an alliance of Scots, Welsh, and the powerful English Magnate family of Percy, there was a rumor that went around saying that the King was Dead, leading to panic in the Royalist lines. Henry had to tear off his helmet so that people could see his face in order to quash the rumor, and then declared “Henry Percy (is) Dead!” Indicating the death of the rebel leader, whose silence confirmed the truth and won the war for the Crown. And that’s a subdued example and a johnny come lately one.

        Intentionally fake news has been around for almost as long. Contemporary rumors are that Themistocles to have sent a trusted slave to the Persian camp near the ruins of Athens to tell them that he was interested in betraying the Greek cause and entering the King of Kings’ Service*, and advising him to blockade the straits with his vastly superior navy. Which the Persians did, cutting off all possible escape.

        They didn’t realize that rather than hand the Greek navy to the Persians, this was designed to keep the Navy from mutinying and falling apart altogether by forcing them to fight for their survival. The result was Salamis.

        * Themistocles DID ultimately do this, but much later in life. At the time he clearly was not.

        So I get a bit tired of the idea that “Fake News” is somehow oh so recent.

  12. @Canucklehad: These are some of the questions that you can ask naively to any Venezuelan expat and find out its true behavior, or was or was it not part of a corruption scheme. The answers can only be YES or NO. They are not intended to know if they are or not socialists.

    1) did you ever received USD from Venezuela, which was purchased at the official BCV ROE, and then sold them greenbacks while traveling to Venezuela, at the ”free” market Maiquetia airport?

    2) Did you ever revisit Venezuela, paid all local business expenses in cash, then claimed USD back home (USA) using the Cencoex BCV ROE?

    3) Did you ever use flight ”cupos” from a relative to acquire the USD government assignment and resell the greenbacks in the black market?

    4) while living in the USA did you ever used Venezuelan issued credit cards to pay for routine expenses in USD (I think the limit was up to $500/month)? I remember vividly one of these anti-chavistas bragging because he paid a NY weekend at the Plaza for only $50 (the actual cost was $5000)

    5) while in Europe or USA, OR other countries where Venezuela issued credit card were accepted, did you ever use those cards to pay somebody else groceries and why not’s and got reimbursed in cash dollar or euro bills?

    6) Did you ever cash dollar bills from USA or ARUBA, or else, ATMs, using credit cards issued in Venezuela, but not limited to yours but those cards belonging to relatives and friends (”raspando tarjetas”)?

    Etc.

    You don’t have to explicitly say that you are ”Socialist”, many of these ”victims” used these delicate techniques to make substantial amounts of money both in Venezuela and here in Texas. They would admit voting erroneously for Chavez, at least they have a speckle of honesty.

    Welcome

  13. @Canucklehead / @amieres
    Guys, you don’t have the caliber to argue with me. I must only read and not ask embarrassing questions. When you come with a solid argument please be my guest. I can only deduct that you answer YES to many of those questions. That’s even more embarrassing.
    Thanks,

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