I must start by apologizing to the readers: this Happy New Year Post is late due to health circumstances of a relative, fortunately now under control. You know, end of year excesses. So let’s start by wishing all the readers of this blog a good and productive 2008, with some of the Caracas fireworks. And let’s set the tone of this post right here: the success of this blog is due to its readers and even more so this year.
I must thank readers because this year this blog has reached numbers that I would have never dreamed to reach when I started 5 years ago, not even knowing what a blog was. Because it also turns out that in a few days this blog will be five years old. It all started when US friends suggested that I publish in a blog the letters I was sending them thorough the “paro” of 2002-2003. Over time Venezuela News became a specialty blog that acquired a following and some modest renown. Last year for the presidential election the BBC asked for a blurb. This year I have written several articles for other pages and got requests for yet more pages that I had to decline for the time being because simply I have no time. Besides, writing here I can indulge in some sloppy English, but publishing anything elsewhere is not as forgiving.
The diverse statistics for this year are interesting. First this last November and December are respectively the second and first most unique visitors count ever. More than in August 2004, more than in December 2006. The blog through the years has become consistent enough to attract more attention, even for issues that the casual observer might not consider as pressing as a presidential election. Even the Technorati ratings have placed this blog regularly between 18,000 and 25,000 out of the millions of blogs followed. For a niche blog, a dedicated anti Chavez 365/365, to reach the percentile top 2% is quite a feat.
But this year there was something truly special and it was the creation of a blog for the NO to the constitutional reform written by readers of this blog. That effort, a first among Venezuelan blogs as far as I can tell, and certainly a first in English, was quite something. The quality of the texts submitted by the different readers, from newbies to experimented blog writers was quite something and created perhaps the best documented English language page on the dangers behind the Chavez constitutional reform proposal, thankfully beaten for the time being. Truly, over the years this blog has acquired perhaps undeservedly truly great readers, readers even willing to put their neck out to support a cause, an extraordinary precedent for the difficult times that will be coming.
Of course, the impact of readers, even some of the pro Chavez ones, has been essential to force me to write consistently and factually. That the pro Chavez readers do not like the facts I chose to discuss about is another matter, forcing me two years ago to set up a moderation system. After all this blog is dedicated much more to those who suffer from seeing Venezuela's decline under Chavez and we have absolutely no interest in reading apologies or sycophantic tirades that support or apologize for Chavez. We have long ago made up our minds on the man and the only thing we are interested to discuss is what truly hides behind Chavez words and actions. The rest is only a show to seduce the naïve, as we just saw last week with the hostage release show.
But the success of this blog, as modest as this one might be, has run its course. The extraordinary effort put last year amazed me. I thought that my blogging days were over when Chavez was reelected but he gave us so much fantastic material last year that blogging became more intense than ever. Still, let’s all face the reality: there are only so many ways to describe the evil behind Chavez and this blog has probably covered 99% of them… And it has been a success: I do not know how much blogs are read by foreign press and media, but we have succeeded, and I include here Miguel and CcasChron and even now absent Alek for his archives, just to mention the most prolific of the lot. Today the Chavez image is tarnished, on the decline, only praised in more and more restricted left wing circles which bear more resemblance to covens than to any strong political movement.
Thus there is really no point continuing trashing Chavez day in and day out: readers and this blogger can congratulate themselves for a job well done. Because let’s not be cheap with praise for the readers: their demands, their criticisms, their strong comments, their mails have shaped my writing all through this years. Any quality or success Venezuela News and Views has obtained could have never been obtained if I had not had to rise to the level demanded by readers.
But what to do now? Let’s review first this past year. The marking point was the closing of RCTV and the unleashing of the student force. We are talking here of the better educated students, the ones going to the better schools. Let’s not delve on the social implications that might be hidden before that, while keeping in mind that even most of the students coming from lower classes and that manage to enter these schools tend to oppose chavismo anyway as the recent UCV elections clearly established (we are waiting for chavista newly formed universities to hold internal elections, something not about to happen as from the own admission of their student representatives who claim that elections are unnecessary since anyone of them can speak for the lot, or some such nonsense).
If there was a key political moment in 2007 it was the start of student protests in Caracas last May June. And if there was a key moment in the blog it was the post “The week the Bolivarian Revolution died”, which was amazingly prophetic now that we can look back at it and how it heralded the second semester as the constitutional reform tanked badly. That post will be one of the most important post ever written in this blog, perhaps the most important one of all. All the rest of the year, from Antonini cash bag, to the nationalization of CANTV become mere incidents in front of the student protest wave which single handedly reshaped the whole political discourse in Venezuela, even as it gave rise to the most abject form of counter propaganda from chavismo, ranging from Chavez himself asking the slums to go down to Caracas to crush the protests (they did not) to tasteless video montages trying to link the large student protest to some silly international conspiracy theory.
Thus we open 2008 with a new political climate, made cruder by the failure of Chavez to get the FARC to free a meager three hostages. And thus it is time to question the purpose of this blog. For sure there will be plenty to criticize from Chavez. And it will be as fascinating to narrate the decline of Chavez than it was to narrate the build up of his power through these past 5 years. But now it is time to add new objectives. For example I have avoided all along to discuss what could be done to Venezuela. After all I was writing in English and anything I could write had little if no chance to be applied. However now that we see a possible end of chavismo it is time to discuss projects, how to rebuild Venezuela. Perhaps I am sensing a new project to get readers involved in writing their opinions on what could be done?
There is also another reality: next year I will have less time to blog, and I want to write about something else. Less posts, more about foreign policy or cultural matters, which have found some interest in readers. Should I indulge some? At any rate this blog will change, will be less Chavez centered (I need to do a better archive so I can avoid repetitions).
So this is it, a milestone was reached in 2007, and Venezuela News and Views should evolve to something different. It is time to take chances with more reader participation (sorry, moderation stays) and to look more often outside of Venezuela. And perhaps other projects that I have had in the back burner for eons. We will see. But right now, to all of those regular readers, regular e-mailers, regular commenters, my best wishes for 2008, hoping that we live together what promises to be yet another exciting year of political events.