I remember when I arrived to the US, decades ago to do my MS-PhD, I met several Iranians. They were reasonably fresh from leaving their country, maybe a year or two before the Ayatollahs took over, maybe a year or two after. It did not matter, they all shared two things, a cosmopolitan worldly view of the world and a deep reluctance to talk about their country besides the ritual “yes, it is bad”, “we still have family there” and the ever coming “No, I think that I am staying here because, you know, an US degree is more marketable here than there”. Clearly, none of them wanted to get into details, none wanted to admit that they were never returning home.
Tonight out of the blue I recalled some of these scenes, when I chose to walk my dog for her midnight pee rather than listen to the high pinched, almost bratty voice of Tibisay. What for? Whatever edge Chavez had, I would read it on tweeter as soon as I plugged back in.
While I was working at the Election Day coverage I was urged to write about what would happen to this blog depending on the result. I really wanted to do it before the results came, thus in a hurry this afternoon I wrote that post. Now in hindsight I realize that deep inside me I knew what was going to happen, how for all appearances something was missing. That is what pushed me to write so crudely about what I would do if Chavez were to win, because I knew deep down that there was that possibility.
And it was walking my dog in the cooler night air, with all of my neighbors inside in silence while from downtown the fireworks were starting, that I went back to my Iran friends from long, long ago. I am not going to keep blogging as I have been doing because like them, I am ashamed of my country. I understand that now, why they always tried to avoid talking about their country and why they tried so hard to become as American as they could get away with. They were embarrassed that their kinsmen had surrendered to an obscurantist cult, a return to the middle ages, or whatever passes as middle age obscurantism in Iran’s history.
I am certainly upset and somewhat depressed at Chavez victory. But to tell you the real truth, I am strangely relieved because a few decisions have been made for me and now I just need to refocus my life. To understand this you need to recall that I am a scientist and that no matter how hard it is for us, there is no such a thing as bad data. Data is data, period. It is up to one to figure out its true implication.
When I predicted a Capriles victory by 500K, refusing, note, to get carried away by those who said 1 million or more, starting by Capriles himself, I never forgot to mention that abstention was the key, if not of victory at least on the margin of victory. My mistake in the end was to see that abstention was not going to be that high and then fooling myself into the capacity of Capriles to peel out directly votes away from Chavez as compensation. It did not happen, half of the people that abstained in 2007 and 2010 went back to chavismo in what we are told is the biggest turnout in a couple of decades.
During the day I was seeing all of these people voting, and the first reports of the mini CNE here did indeed worry me although I never let it show, though I resisted the natural urge of exit polls, remembering how those flopped in 2004. The lack of abstention propelled Chavez to his third term. It is thus necessary to look at the data and interpret it.
The people who reelected Chavez today know exactly what they voted for. They know about crime and violence. They know about inflation and scarcity. They know about vulgarity as a way of life. They know about political prisoners while the most corrupt cast of our history roams the streets free. They know about power outages that will never be solved, about public services getting worse everyday, starting with the vaunted governmental misiones. So, why did they vote for Chavez? For a free washer? For the promise of a cheap and low quality housing for which they will not have good utilities and no job to keep it up?
People who voted for Chavez voted for him because of Capriles (it would have been the same with Leopoldo Lopez and even Pablo Perez for that matter). They voted against Capriles because they were reminded that education matters, that to get ahead in life you needed to improve yourself, respect some rules, respect thy neighbor. And they cannot do so or are unwilling to do so, same difference in my book. Chavez in 14 years has transformed into virtue what were the vices of Venezuelan society and thus, as I wrote more than once, Chavez was the true conservative, reactionary, candidate that you vote for because you are afraid of change. People vote for Chavez because even if they have no running water or electricity, they feel good about themselves because the president of the country is as flawed as they are, and in the mean version of flawed. He is the one that will insure that you may remain a sinvergüenza.
Chavez did not create them, they existed already when he became president. He just reinforced their beliefs in a worthy self loathing transformed into a weird arrogance: el resentimiento social. That is why invasiones are OK as long as they do not happen with your property. That is why you put up with the harsh life conditions we suffer now because whenever you feel like abusing society you need not feel guilty about it. True, not all chavistas are like that and some still, for some strange reason, believe that their salvation will only come from the state. But every day more and more are becoming resentidos.
The harsh fact we are facing now, with a result so clear of 54% out of 80% voting, is that 43% of Venezuelans hate people like me. Maybe not to the point of killing me but to the point of trying to screw me in any which way they can. And many of them indeed have no problem to kill me if given a chance. Now in Venezuela you will have all the trouble in the world to manage employees, to be served according to what you are willing to pay for, to demand that public servant do the job they are appointed to do. Because if you feel that you have rights then they will see this as a direct impingement on their comfort.
Do you want me to keep writing about such people?
When I started writing this blog in December 2002 the world thought that Chavez was the real thing. Now, outside of fringe creeps, the whole world knows that Chavez is a thug. I like to think that I contributed to this greatly. After all, in a mere three years I went from obscure blogger to writing a piece for the BBC for the presidential election of 2006 where I hinted at all that was going to happen in front of Chavez imminent reelection. Then came the 2009 referendum and I never quite recovered, my blogging changed to a certain bitter self indulgence, heralding the inevitable outcome of today.
Now outside they know that after 6 disastrous years Chavez still managed to be reelected as if nothing. Their question now is going to become why that is possible. We are a country entering international ridicule. And I want no part of it; I am too embarrassed to explain that 40% of the people that live around me are sinvergüenzas and that most of the 60% else are rather spineless. I cannot justify that I am still hanging out with them. Just as my Iranian friends were embarrassed that women at home gladly wore back the Chador just to make a point, even if it demeaned them immensely. They may regret it today but it is too late as it will be too late for that chunk of maybe 10% of the electorate that may have voted for chavismo for fear of losing their job or some other cowardly excuse. They are doomed to a mental Chador and they do not know it.
To finish this I do not want to put any blame on Capriles. He believed in what he did and he did it well, too well surely. His problem was that with most politicians of Venezuela they did not have the courage to lose an election based on true principles, to force the sinvergüenzas to vote for Chavez in full knowledge of the situation. Instead they pretended that by promising a better chavismo, a Brazilian Lulaesque approach, they would convince people. As I anticipated already in the primaries discussions, they failed because when everything is said a sinvergüenza is not going to try an ersatz when he already has the real thing.
Need I remind you that I voted for Maria Corina Machado in February? Sure enough she would have done less well than Capriles, much less maybe, but at least she would have educated the people, forced them to consider the real option to get us out of our mediocrity. People would have known of a true different project so at least when chavismo fails, as it will do sooner or later, cancer or not, all such regimes meet their demise, people would have a clear idea on where to go, what the option is, even if they do not care much for that option. Now, after the Capriles' campaign the country as a whole thinks that chavismo light or hard are the only valid options and thus our agony will be unnecessarily prolonged, even if Chavez were to croak tomorrow. Once again, we have missed our option to a real education. Along those lines if there is one thing where I truly failed is to let the absolute need to get rid of Chavez force me to go along and pretend to agree with at least some parts of the MUD proposals.
I am not going to stop writing on what will happen next in Venezuela, not immediately. I will continue to blog for a while, trying to reach December with electoral analysis, scenarios and what not because like any good experiment a scientist makes, he writes a paper about it even if he is going to change his research interest. In December the blog will reach its ten years mark so I am aiming at that.
But when January rolls in things will be different. I do not know yet what it will be for sure, but one of the goals will be to create a more private and civilized sphere, away from the chavismo mental lumpen. A private refuge for those who want to discuss literature, history, art, music, tourism, related to Venezuela, perhaps. Political articles about Latin America instead? Too much blogging over the years has delayed too much reading and it has to stop. I need to refresh my mind. To survive the next years in Venezuela, there is a need for a classy place where few are welcome. As a start I have restored the full moderation policy so that as of now I will not have chavistas and assorted anonymous write whatever they feel like writing. Posting in the comment section will be a privilege and too bad if maybe I get zero comment in the end. I am now beyond all of that, beyond blog competition, beyond google analytics who beat all blog records tonight, beyond the possible glory of a black out by CANTV, beyond citation by JVR, beyond interviews, beyond.... And mostly beyond saving those that do not want to be saved.
And believe it or not, tonight coexist in me two feelings, depression and relief. The problems of my country are not mine anymore even if I have to suffer from them.