Sunday, December 17, 2006

Venezuela News and Views has hit the 4 years mark

Unnoticed with the current events, this blog has reached its four year anniversary (and 1424 posts with this one).

I started writing in December 2002 to tell my US friends and acquaintances about the extraordinary civil movement that brought the longest strike/lockout in our history, not to mention the first time these two activities went together. A true middle class rebellion about a regime that has proven ever since that we were absolutely right then in trying to force it to back down on its hegemonic course. Since then Venezuela has become a plebiscitary regime where a true majority rules undemocratically by increasingly refusing its basic rights to the minority. That much is clear since December 3.

I did not know then what a blog was. I had to be told: “more people should read your e-mails”. It had to be set for me. Early January the first post appeared; but these first posts were some of the letters that I had written through December 2002. Thus, if the technical date is January 2003, the writing started in December 2002. And that is the right date because this blog has been the description on how Venezuela ceased to be a fully functioning democracy. Today we are now in a very imperfect democracy, to say it nicely, or an already semi authoritarian state to be blunter, which shows all signs of an evolution towards a permanent legal dictatorship.

In this regard the job of this blog is done. What could I write now to criticize Chavez, to expose the moral misery of his regime, which I have not already written? And written in many forms sometimes… I cannot go on for 6 more years rewriting the same stuff, where the only changes will be new ministers or an increased level of verbal violence. I need a change of pace and objectives.

Never was that blog destined to gain votes against Chavez. To begin, it is written in English, a learned language for me, as opposed to my native French and Spanish. Because the way this blog started, as letters to friends, a format that I kept for several months this blog had to remain until today an eyewitness account on what is going on in Venezuela. The focus on Venezuela was deliberate and rarely did I stray out of the traced path even if quite often I itched to do so, to discuss, for example, US politics which I know quite well for the years I lived in the US.

Now the record is complete, the tale has been told, a new story is starting, that of the recovery of democracy in its full sense. The only thing left is to build a large index so the documents that I quoted, the things that I saw, the ideas and comments I expressed, can be set in the Internet archive for anyone to read and weep.

Contrary to what some seemed to perceive in my Sunday 3 late night depression, the blog will not close. It just needs a change. First, I have discovered to my great surprise the power of blogging and how much help you can bring to people away form Venezuela who have links to the country still and find solace in the modest posts I wrote. A blog has a personal touch that exiles cannot get from on line version of newspapers. Over 4 years I have realized what a huge responsibility an established and serious blog can be. Not for the number of readers: this has been for the start a niche blog and could never aspire to the thousands or even ten of thousands of daily readers that some blogs do get. The best I ever got was this year where November 2006 was the all time record, a record that I anticipate might never be broken. Yet, the records breaking November is not enough to explain that since 2003 the average unique daily visitor is 458! That today Technorati puts me in the top 20,000 of the world millions of blogs, and that a few months ago for some strange reason I even made it to the top 14,000. For a niche blog, a very specialized blog in a world of CNN platitudes, these are pretty good numbers.

Personal satisfaction, I must admit as modestly as possible, comes that many publications and media thought my opinion on any given issues, the latest big coup being to be published in the BBC as one of the only two opposition positions invited to express in that feature. I do not know how I made it, as I never consciously sought it. But I suspect that consistency over time, a refusal to go down to the gutter of cheap insults against an abhorrent political system, has provided a steady approach which over time attracted some interest. My enemy was always Chavez and his nefarious persona, not the people that have been cheated by him into submission. They are victims, even if sometimes too willing, too content to make a fast buck.

Thus the question becomes what to do. Over the years there have been regulars, many of them, even if they did not post comments. Over the last two weeks I have received about a hundred mails of support, truly astonishing, mails that still today I am trying to reply to every each one. Unwillingly together the readers and this blogger have created a small net community. Together, because the only real influence on the blog has been the input of the readers over the year, even from pro Chavez readers who have forced me to be sharper in my criticism and forced to get better at trashing chavismo, while I must say with some satisfaction, they have not improved a bit in their defense of chavismo: “idées reçues” and pre-chewed notions allow them only so much creativity.

This post is the end of an era, the all against Chavez period of this blog. In the coming months, as long as I can keep writing, I will bring progressively changes in focus, in themes to be discussed. I have long learned that the only way to write convincingly about something for so long is to write about something you know. I know about Venezuela, I know a little bit about Europe and the Americas, I know very little about the rest of the world. I know nothing of Rap, but Opera holds little secrets for me. In short, there are many things I would like to discuss with readers that certainly have the talent to write a blog but prefer to read other folks words. I will be happy to oblige, free of charge, as some weird type of public service. I see the blog becoming a center for discussion where I bring the material on occasion, where I will invite more and more people to post, where I have some other projects that I will see if I can complete. Venezuela will still be at the center but we will discuss more than politics, and we will foray elsewhere. It will be a place where we can wait for the fatidic denouement that will come sooner or later in Venezuela, waiting because there is little we can do now as Chavez holds everything. We will wait for Chavez to commit all the mistakes that he will commit and see what happens.

I will also keep this blog chavista free. For 4 years I have had to endure too many insults, too many tendentious and useless posted comments whose sole objective was to distract from the central issue of a given post. No more. Now chavistas are allegedly 63% in the streets and they are enough to entertain themselves alone. Surely, how could we be perceived in this blog as a threat today? It is not that I will ban a Chavez admirer just because s/he is a Chavez admirer. But I will demand standards, the same as I apply to myself if they want to see their ideas considered here. I want to have fun now, I want readers to have fun, to discuss varied things, to enjoy the little bit of Venezuela that Chavez will allow us to enjoy in the coming years. Maybe after all I am finally doing what chavismo wants me to do, to quarantine myself, to go to an internal exile. So be it. What can I possibly discuss with the 63% who voted for Chavez? The weather? Even discussing the price of avocadoes might become a hazardous topic. They do not want me and I feel under no obligation to them anymore. They can go to Chavez for their needs, I will take care of mine.

And this perhaps is the true reason of why I have been able to keep blogging non stop for 4 years, to reach a daily post rhythm since sometime 2005. Each time I sit down to write a post I am forced to settle, to calm down, to put in perspective all the banalities and horrors that I have heard or witnessed that day. Only when some order and some understanding comes can I start typing. Truly, a blog can become a daily self therapy session, the catharsis of the day. And if one is consistent at it, and sincere in his words, then the readers also can experience some of the needed catharsis that Venezuelan need so badly. I understand now all the diarist, the Samuel Pepys of history: that daily exercise in four years has become my mental nightly beauty routine, the time when writing on chavismo misery allows me to rise above it, to escape it. That, with the faithful readers, is the best reward.

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Practical Considerations:

This means that as of today my writing will be on purpose more erratic. After posting my conclusion on the Venezuelan election yesterday my debt to Venezuela is paid. As the holydays are upon us I will write much less and use the vacation time to start building the heavy and needed index. I will write on occasion though. If you post a comment do not be surprised if it takes a day or two before it appears.

I also have the great pleasure to announce that apparently Alex Beech will stay for a while as a co blogger. This is really great. Thus we might still have at least a couple of entries a week until sometime in the middle of January the “new” Venezuela News starts taking shape, after that needed time of reflection.

One new feature will start already. I will post on occasion a series of articles titled “What Venezuela voted for: XYZ”. These will be original articles in Spanish or English that will illustrate the consequences of given all power to a single man and that will be accompanied by a short comment (do not expect the lengthy articles of these last 4 years, I will be much briefer from now on). Something that surely the bulk of the alleged 63% did not think of when they went to vote two Sundays ago. Overtime the collection of these articles surely will be eloquent by itself. Other new features are under work as to how their feasibility and interest.

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