Saturday, November 22, 2003

Reasons for a Recall Election on Chavez
V-The break up of society
Friday 21, November 2003

Perhaps the very worst consequences of the Chavez administration was the reawakening of many of the old devils of our collective soul. For political purposes and to try to shore up his political base Chavez has not been above using the worn out racial and social code words that were supposedly a thing of the past.

One would be a fool to try top pretend that before Chavez we were just a happy-go-lucky people. We were not, and in the late 80ies, poverty painted itself in darker shades of skin. We also had to wait for Chavez to get the first Miss Venezuela that could arguably pass for African American, though certainly many of her predecessors were not lilywhite.

However, no matter what, if you had a lot of money, you could buy a house wherever you pleased and religious, social origin or race would not be a significant factor. Your check book potential was. Except for Rafael Caldera all of our democratic era presidents were some form of mestizo, albeit a diluted one. Claudio Fermin in 1993 was the first African Venezuelan to almost make it to the presidency with a more than respectable 25%. Not to mention that Chavez himself, definitely the darker of our presidents that was elected with a comfortable 56%, many of these votes coming form a rather whitish middle class.

In trying to shore up his support at home, and even more overseas, Chavez has played the racial card as early as 1999. This has acquired a degree of ridiculousness unthinkable in Venezuela. We called the October 12 holiday “Dia de la Raza” or “day of the race” as an allusion to our ethnical make up from three races that did mix up to such a degree that today 60% or more of the population is a mix of one sort or the other. Yet, last year the name was changed to “Day of indigenous resistance”. It is not rare to hear declarations such as “this is the first government in 500 years that defends the people”, which of course goes against any factual historical record of Venezuela. Even Chavez sort of hinted that it was OK to question the presence in Venezuela of anyone not of Native American stock. One wonders what are his plans for the African Americans that were carried against their will to these shores. But in depth thinking is not necessarily a characteristic of the revolutionary heroes.

If one combines inflammatory racial discourse with the consequences of an ever growing economic disaster and its widening circle of poverty, it is easy to see that we are heading for trouble. Chavez seems to like the idea. Or at least does not try in the very least to mitigate the growing social chasm. The discourse these days is “if you are not with me, then you are my enemy”, assorted with all sorts of insults. This goes even a step further than a racial and social speech which oddly seem now the intellectual baggage to sustain the violent discourse, ever more fascist in tone, particularly among some of his noted underlings.

Even if Chavez were to leave office tomorrow it is doubtful that the natural conviviality of all of Venezuelan social classes will be reestablished any time soon. A social fracture has taken place and it seems that Chavez power can only feed from maintaining the fracture. Divide and conquer is his motto. If we want to avoid the worst, we must remove him from office. It might not be enough to repair our social fabric but we must start somewhere.

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