Monday, June 25, 2007

The cadena of fear: Carabobo in Caracas

Yesterday was yet another anniversary of the battle of Carabobo, our Yorktown (our Austerlitz?, our Waterloo?), that battle that made the independence of Venezuela irreversible.

Usually at that date the armed forces hold a nice rally on the Carabobo field, in all regalia. The background is not bad, graced with the famous Carabobo arch, with lots of space for crowds to attend the festivities, a large tribune for officials, speeches and what not.

Well, under Chavez things have started to change. First the governor of Carabobo was barred to attend the festivities, a little bit as if there were an official event at Yorktown and the governors of Virginia and Maryland were asked not to attend because they were of a different political party than the US president. But soon that arrogance was not enough. Even though the military parade was accompanied now with some bizarre floats of popular inspiration, Chavez found out that more and more of the people who attended did not pay attention to El Supremo speech, having quite a party trying to get their hands on free food or drinks, if not outright screaming to try to get to Chavez and ask him for a house or what not.

This year, Chavez is hurt by the student dissenting protest, a general animosity as per the closing of RCTV, and duly scalded by the failure of the intended pump and circumstances of the bridge reopening when crowds of neighboring shantytowns crashed the party. Thus Chavez did not take chances: Carabobo now was held in Caracas, as a private ceremony between Chavez and HIS army, the one he will use to stop the invasion of the Empire.

On the left side below you have a picture of the cadena (you know, that compulsory simultaneous broadcast over ALL airborne media of Venezuela).

Let me list how many thing were wrong with that picture and why I think they were intended as such.

  • The Carababo arch replica. In perhaps one of the lowest moment of an under kitsch revolution, since Chavez could not go to Carabobo, Carabobo went to him, even if it was as a papier mâché monstrosity. For a Venezuelan like me, there is nothing as ridiculous, and yet as insulting, than reproducing the Carabobo arch on a Caracas sunset background. The cheapening of Carabobo significance is beyond contempt.

  • And let's talk about a sunset celebration. Why did Chavez chose to hold it so late in the day? Is it because he did not want the nearby barrios come down to watch the parade as they are fond to do? After all, when you live in the barrios you must go home by sunset if you can otherwise you increase dramatically your risks of not returning safe at home.

  • And speaking of attendees. How come the "people" were not invited? Only the government officials and a select representation of the armed forces were attending. There were no onlookers anywhere that I could find. Is Chavez that afraid of any booing, or of any pseudo-assassination attempt, or of any unwelcome solicitation that he must limit the people that come close to him? Or is he afraid that if the gates were open nobody would show up? Can he not fill up paid buses to cheer him on Sunday nights?

  • And speaking of the selected military. We saw a lot of weapons but few soldiers. Only some cadets and some elite corps. The troupe was not there, only selected elements (the most faithful? the most indoctrinated?) were in attendance. That by itself was too weird in a day where the Venezuelan army celebrates itself. The party was for only a few this year who were blessed with the words of El Supremo.

  • And speaking of the words of El Supremo. What about calling the US the worst, most cruel or what not Empire that has ever existed? Genghis Khan anyone? Hitler is now forgotten? And this while the US soccer team is visiting? I will pass on the rest of the speech which did not improve much on that.
I could keep going on with this analysis but the reader already detects the point: a victorious government, a government which has the initiative, which holds the high ground, which incarnates the high moral values of the country does not need to hold such a pitiful show. It does not need to be as vulgar or as arrogant. Chavez yesterday as shown to us that he has lost the initiative. All points out to a last minute arrangement, made it more palatable to the army by announcing a 30% pay increase for them.

There was a little incident that says a lot not only about Chavez bloated ego and his sense that all belongs to him, but about his lousy management style. At one point he wanted to show a Kalashnikov. So he screamed for a soldier to rush up to him and bring a weapon (empty of any bullets, I am sure). Some young guy beat the other ones and Chavez said "ten days leave for him". That is right, because the kid was the first one with the gun at Chavez feet he will get ten days off from his military duties. A little bit as if I were screamign from my office "coffee" and the staff would fight over each other to be the first one to bring me the coffee in the hope I will say "one day bonus". If business were run like that they would soon be totally bankrupt. But I suppose a revolution has to be run as such, on high sycophancy levels.

To finish this post I will leave you with one of those artistic and "meaningful" fade outs that the cadena treated us with. You can see the bloated, military dressed and ridiculously sashed Chavez, with in the background the pitiful show he put up last night. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.

PS: all pictures taken from my TV

-The end-

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