Sunday, March 17, 2013

Three countries

The wake is suspended, Chavez rests for the time being in a military museum, an old barrack to ensure past presidential safety at Miraflores, now unable to ensure safety in an area that has been overcome by slums. For a military that was never able to understand what the civilian world and democracy meant, it is a fitting resting place for Chavez, unable to find permanent ways to diminish poverty, and even less to insure the safety of the people in the slums where crime rates are maybe the highest in the world. Eventually someday the wake will be restarted  when his remains are either taken to his wished for resting place, Sabaneta where he was born, or to the Pantheon where political expediency may want him for his final home.

Now it is time, when abject electoral campaign allows, to ponder what these two weeks of "grief" and its two months prelude when we were deliberately lied about Chavez real status, meant.

From this corner it is clear that the country is split into three parts. At least psychologically.

The one where I am, the small minority, the irridente skeptics,  never bought the whole show, even if some supported the ideal that chavismo was supposed to represent. We knew we have been lied to all along, since Chavez complained about an "old knee injury". But then again we had known for many years, some like me since 1992, that the whole things was a mere lie. For us the display of the last two weeks was nearly an obscene display of necrophilia. I suspect that none of us was happy with the death of Chavez, knowing too well the awful inheritance he left us, enough to dampen the sprightliest possible occasion of one's life in years to come.

And then there is what is possible the bulk, those that do not care much about anything, who vote or not, who can be made to vote for Chavez even if they do not like him, because they are scared to lose a freebie, because he is amusing, because he is dead. Many did cry for him, and many of those who cried for him yesterday may not remember him well ten years from now. That lot in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant and yet it is the one that decides the future of the country when whimsy strikes them in unison.

The third part of the country is the one who I find it unfathomable. There is the small group that actually celebrated Chavez death, proving that they were moved by the same deep pulse than the hundreds of thousands that lined the streets of Caracas to cry real tears over Chavez. And yet my fascination if for those hundred of thousands who mourned Chavez genuinely and yet have not received any permanent benefit form him with the possible exception of a better self esteem.

I remember when I returned to Venezuela, scarcely more than a year before Chavez was voted. When I arrived he was low in polls. And he rose and I could not believe how such an uncouth violent character could rise so easily. My first epiphany was to understand why so many "men" followed him. He was telling them that their troubles in life were not because they left for Friday at noon to start drinking beer, or came to work still half drunk or with a bad hangover on Monday. Their trouble was not because they had more than one neglected child with more than one woman. Their trouble was not because they refused to follow rules at work or looked down on education. Their trouble was because of AD. AD, the political party of the old system, was the only thing that had stood between them and their concept of happiness and Chavez was going to look at that.

Such a redemption speech was certainly powerful and was able to attract not only those too ready to fault their shortcomings on other but those who should have known better but felt wronged by the old system and sought some form of biblical retribution, even though they have been shedding bitter tears for that 1998 cast ballot. And yet it did not explain why women also started gravitating towards Chavez, although later than men did.

I understood later why women would also vote for such a macho, violent, misogynist, homophobic and irresponsible character. That epiphany came when in a public meeting a few days before a Valentine's day he said that on February 14 he would give it hard to his his wife of then "te voy a dar lo tuyo". Thinking about that I realized that he was also redeeming women of el pueblo of their own shortcomings, their refusal or inability to rise above their situations, to free themselves of these abusive men. Not only Chavez was telling them that they should put up with the men described above because Chavez was a living proof that these men could finally account for something, but he also told them that they should continue in their ways and that it was right to prepare their daughters to follow these steps, that they should shack up as soon as possible. Never in 14 years you heard Chavez speaking strongly against irresponsible parenting, against men that refuse to assume their responsibilities, against 13 year old parading their wares instead of going to school.  True, some laws were made for that but look in Chavez oral record for a truly strong speech on that matter. At best you will find a very indirect advice, a suggestion to behave better. On the other hands social programs that support, willingly or not, that "life style" were created......

That third group of the country I cannot understand. It is true that lack of education and poverty can lead you to such behaviors which deleteriousness the victims cannot perceive. But then there are so many tales of people rising above their condition and opposing chavismo...  Even if it is true that the wish to fight poverty existed, that it accounts for Chavez support, it is also now painfully true that Chavez has used poverty and its moral consequences to create the seeds for a tropical fascism, such as the one we have been witnessing in growing shame since last October. For this he turned some of our vices into virtues.

I, for one, am unable to understand the fascist mind. And maybe it is why I cannot understand so much hysteria instead of genuine grief.


  1. Charly12:36 PM

    Daniel, this writeup of yours on the third group is stunning. How true.

  2. Daniel, did you read about Mata Figueroa saying that Chavez has a bastard child in Margarita?
    And he's saying it with pride, the macho-military-man pride, the one you describe very well as the third group. So Chavez happened to have a daughter that he abandonded and never looked after or cared about, and that's a good thing?“chavez-tuvo-un-amor-en-margarita”

    1. Yes, and observe my restraint not to bring that up.....

  3. Charly5:35 PM

    I remember this foreigner trying to explain to me the essence of Chavismo, five or six years back. His theory was that for so many Venezuelan kids and adults alike, Chavez was the father figure they never had at home. An astute observer I would say.

  4. Milonga6:06 PM

    Dano, that really sums it up, what a great post!

  5. Brilliant post, Daniel! I've been directing friends to this blog, because it's so well written and comprehensive.

  6. Charly9:55 AM

    Daniel, a bit of the light touch for francophones.,21657

    has a very interesting take on the role of the immanence vs. transcendence distinction in the secular religion it discusses as fascism. As the article points out, fascism, like Christianity, is based on an understanding of history as traumatic and evolutionary, and of the humanity-god relation as divided into immanence/transcendence. For fascism to be viable, it must energize itself from a reservoir of immanence in the mass of followers, which it "empowers." But what constitutes immanence for you, as a descendant from Judeo-christian scientific Europeans is rather different from what constitutes immanence for the modern and young Venezuelan masses. Where a single word for offering/victim exists (e.g. "opfer"), victimhood is hard to disentangle from the notion of self-sacrifice. Or in Christianity, were victim=sinner, self-sacrifice is needed but not enough for redemption (Christ is also needed). In post-Christian Venezuela, the concept has evolved such that that self-sacrifice by the new Christ Chavez is enough for salvation since, "thanks to the oil Chavez gave us," the only sacrifice required of the masses is the expression of loyalty to the leader by participation in rituals of "traumatropisms, sacralized moments that serve to narrate foundational traumas."

  8. Anonymous10:41 AM


    I just returned to the USA from Caracas. I was there for business and it was my first trip. Seldom have I experienced the warmth as I did there. The people with whom I interacted are kind, generous and desperate to be industrious. They have something I did not expect.


    Buena suerte.


  9. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Señor Daniel,
    Your Paragraph about the third group the country steems the very core of the Venezuela's story. Seeding poverty guarantee the power to the poors Hero. This simple rule is the only guiding principle of the Chavez era. He knew that he could'nt solve this problem if he wanted the glory (the money) in Venezuela. It is a lot easier to make the masses dumb and he destroyed the remaining social structures that may help to get out of that mess. That kind of political Pragmatism is well known and also pursued by the political oposition. All the want this masses (votes) to be at his side. That people (the big bangladeshian Cast of our country) are the indicator and result of the politics of plundering and Circus. A worst case oil country feating the worst Nigeria.


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