Friday, January 28, 2005

The eternal Chavez

Browsing through Chavista sites, I found this article, written by William Izarra, that has such a suggestive title that I knew I had to write about it. The article is quite difficult to translate because it is written in classical Chavista style using exuberant words and long pompous sentences. Therefore, I will translate just the end that, in my view, wraps up the essence of the message.

The beginning of the article essentially repeats the official line concerning the intervention of the United States in World affairs, and in particular in Latin America. According to them, the Plan Colombia, that was first put in place to fight against drug cartels, has been transformed, since 2004, into an “anti-terrorist” plan to be able to justify the presence of U.S. troops in Colombia and in the Andean region. The objective being to “finish with the revolutionary Venezuelan process”.

The author then explains that even though the process implanted in Venezuela is based on a peaceful revolution inspired by Simon Bolivar, the U.S. is using its power to get rid of Hugo Chavez. According to him, the latest declarations by Condoleezza Rice, those of James Hill, supported by general Bantz Craddoch, as well as those of senator Bill Nelson synthesize the real spirit of the plan Colombia: “to eliminate radical populisms such as the one in Venezuela”. He then uses the example of the Granda case that, according to him, constitutes a “direct intervention”.

The home-made translation of the last paragraph is written below.

“But it is that Hugo Chavez and his revolutionary process is in the phase of Jump Ahead, he is put in the blood of the Venezuelan people. The January 23 march demonstrates the popular will to reject even with their life the imperial pretension to settle in Venezuelan ground. Hugo Chavez, the leader, has been made want and love by the people that vibrate of emotion for Simon Bolivar. Hugo Chavez is now the essence of that feeling and is, therefore, the leader that has gathered the seedtime of the Libertador. That is why the empire will crash against the people that consciously follow, with unbreakable strength, the man that woke up the emancipating spirit of Bolivar and the revolutionary will of fight. We are grateful for the existence of Chavez and we must endorse him, we must follow him in fullness and we must transmit him our positive energies so that his mind will always be lucid and his spirit will be full of the love of the people that will love him forever”

What I found interesting in the above paragraph is the intent of sanctifying Chavez image, to elevate him to some kind of religious figure. This is a very Venezuelan trait, that has been, in part, the reason of our series of bad governments. Venezuelan people, indeed, need a leader, a caudillo, a benefactor, but they also need a magical element, one that would make forget the harshness of everyday life and save them in difficult times.

Bolivar constitutes one of those magical characters that excite the collective imagination. In many small towns all over Venezuela, the image of Bolivar is venerated like that of a saint. Another important example is Jose Gregorio Hernandez, a mythical doctor and great benefactor of the beginning of the century who died when he was struck by a car, one of the few cars in circulation at the time, in Caracas, in 1919. His image is almost as familiar as Bolivar’s and, all over the country, people of all social classes pray to “their doctor” in times of difficulty. Americans would be interested to know that there is a US president that was also elevated to the level of a magic character. In many small rural towns, people still have his image in their living room, often adorned with dried palms obtained at the beginning of the Holy Week. A friend told me how he remembered that, as a kid, he traveled to the llanos to visit some family. His uncle took him to a very modest living room and showed him a picture. Do you know who that is? A great man, John “Fiyeral” Kennedy.

So now, it is Chavez turn to be “eternal”. He has wanted that eternity all along. He has been extremely skillful in tapping into the collective imagination and understanding that the Venezuelan people do not like just a leader or someone that would provide for an efficient government. They want someone they can fell in love with, and pray to. They want that magic that has, all through history, been so unfortunate for Venezuela.

This time is no exception.

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