Photo: RTVE retrieved

Images out of Venezuela have become Rorschach tests, those vague inkblots that a psychologist’s patients interpret in different ways, to provide the analyst with insights into their emotions and personality. When offered to both Venezuelans and foreigners, the Rorschach image that the country’s reality conjures reflects people’s political ideology and its related coping mechanisms.

Take the recent example of videos depicting supermarkets in Venezuela filled to the brim with ketchup. One Rorschach subject favoring Maduro, rather than identifying the wall of ketchup, linked malnutrition in Venezuela to the U.S. decision to classify pizza as a vegetable in school meals. These people aligned with Maduro don’t describe reality; rather they project the most relevant smear they can find against el imperio. The Maduro supporter believes that feeding population ketchup, and only ketchup, is equivalent at some level to classifying a carbohydrate as a vegetable in readily available school meals.

This case reflects the rhetorical strategy Maduro supporters have resorted to: deflect accusations against Maduro by comparing the dictatorship’s actions to those of his adversaries, regardless of how inappropriate these comparisons may be. This strategy isn’t exclusive to Twitter trolls, as the top echelons of the illegitimate regime have perpetuated these comparisons for years, to deflect accusations of corruption, mismanagement, drug trafficking and even harboring terrorist organizations. On his TV show “Con el Mazo Dando” the regime’s Number Two, Diosdado Cabello, brought up domestic abuse allegations against Mexican journalist Fernando Del Rincón in response to his reporting on the Venezuelan crisis. Rincón has faced consequences for these allegations, being fired from Univisión in 2008.

Tareck El Aissami, another alleged drug trafficker, has circulated videos of Skid Row in Los Angeles, depicting the urban blight that has struck parts of the second largest metropolitan area in the United States. Arguments that the United States should address and improve domestic problems are fair game, but they cannot be used to smear a country as a whole or even claim that these problems are comparable to Venezuela’s socioeconomic crisis. The United States is a country of more than 330 million people with a GDP per capita several times larger than the average across Latin America and other developing regions. Definitions of poverty in the United States are incompatible with those of the developing world because the impoverished of the United States have social safety nets and general standards of living that would be unimaginable amongst the world’s poorest. Left-leaning Vox has addressed these claims in a piece last year stating that “it is incorrect and misleading to draw an equivalence between poverty in America and poverty in low-income countries.”

These facts don’t matter to chavismo, as the removal of context is critical for them because once the context is reinstated it becomes clear how severely their revolution has failed. Rorschach tests are of further use to study the cognitive dissonance of chavismo; not only does the Maduro patient misinterpret single images, they’re also incapable of identifying clear similarities across different images.

In Maduro’s eyes, “Venezuela no es un país de mendigos,” his constituents are too proud to accept stockpiled humanitarian aid from the U.S. consisting of food and medicine. Maduro’s high regard for his people, however, appears to have changed shortly thereafter. Russian foods and medicines, offered mere days after the U.S. effort, were enough for him to change his mind and accept the help. Unlike the U.S. effort, Russian aid was accompanied with 100 Russian troops, and the chief of staff of their ground forces, arriving at Maiquetia airport in late March. The reading of the Rorschach image of Russian military planes in Caracas and decades of Cuban intrusion, somehow, is compatible with Venezuela’s independent sovereignty.  

Chavismo had two decades to fix the mismanagement of its original boogeymen, AD and COPEI. Instead, they tripled-down on the strategies that led to their predecessors’ downfalls and added resentment of the private sector for good measure. Venezuela’s current crisis is chavismo’s and chavismo’s alone. Their worldview has no heroes; it has no positive role models. It takes the equity proposed by socialism and perverts it into a world where we’re all equals only in our inability to redeem ourselves from the wrongs we may have committed. The plane in which we’re all reduced to sinners is the only plane in which Maduro’s humanity can be sustained.

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Michael Khayan was born and raised in Caracas before moving to New York in 2003. He has worked on climate change issues and sanctions related research on Venezuela. He graduated from Adelphi University in 2015 with a BA in Political Science and Psychology followed by an MA in International Relations and Economics from Johns Hopkins SAIS in 2017.