Shooting for Parapara

Two parallel streets coming off the main road from San Juan de los Morros to Calabozo, each six or seven blocks long, with a Plaza Bolívar at the end.

That’s pretty much all there is to Parapara, a town of maybe 1,000 people in a parish of some 3,500, located thirty kilometers south of Guarico’s capital, where the coastal mountains finally give way to Venezuela’s vast central plains.

Arrive in Parapara on a Tuesday morning and the place is oddly idyllic: doors open and people chatting in a Plaza Bolívar that really works like a Plaza Bolívar is supposed to – as an open-air community center where folk of all ages and political views come together.

The pretty church on Plaza Bolivar

Depending on which numbers you believe, 12-20% of Venezuelans live in towns like this – easily more than live in Caracas. Yet they seldom get polled, or talked about, or listened to, or strategized over in political circles. And while a day spent chatting up folks up and down the main plaza in a single town does not a comprehensive study make, given the almost complete lack of political debate about rural areas in Venezuela’s public sphere, we thought it was important to give it a go.

Quico down with da kidz

“Crime?” says one of a group of high school kids we stop to chat with, “no man, that’s in San Juan. Here, listen, you could leave a stack of bills lying on that park bench there in the morning, walk off, come back in the evening and find it waiting for you. Aquí todo el mundo se conoce, that kind of thing doesn’t happen.”

I shoot Juan a staggered look that says, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Up and down the town’s two streets you see “Hay Un Camino” signboards and stenciled Pablo Pérez murals. We ask the kids who put those up.

“I guess people from San Juan came down,” says one, to general nods. The opposition is certainly visible here, but the kids can’t think of a single activist in town.

We ask the kids about their high school and they’re all into it. One of them wants to be a doctor, another wants to go to technical school. All but one, whose family farms, want to get the hell out of Dodge when they graduate: most of them to San Juan or Calabozo, one or two to Caracas. They have dreams, projects, aspirations. Just one of them is old enough to vote, and she’s not quite sure if she’ll participate in the primary.

“That Capriles seems ok,” she says, but then remembers “of course all my family is chavista.” She’s 18, politics is not high in her list of priorities.

None of her friends recoil in horror at the thought of her supporting Capriles. “Yeah,” one of the boys says “he seemed ok, Capriles. He even went to San Juan de los Morros and they brought a bus here to take people up to see him. I guess a few people from town went up, not many. I’m with Capriles.”

Then they go back to flirting with each other, but not without getting Juan’s name so they can add him on Facebook. Every kid there is on Facebook, they tell us. They really wish they had broadband, though.


Joaquín Crespo Wuz Here

On the other side of the Plaza is the ancestral home of Joaquín Crespo. It lies in ruins, covered in Pablo Pérez pintas. Crespo was also wise enough to get out of town, going on to build a bigger, better house.

Next door is Parapara’s Casa de la Cultura, a small community cultural center housed in the town’s last remaining Colonial-era house that’s in good repair. Inés, the lady taking care of it, takes a few minutes to tell us about the place. She says they hold crafts lessons, music and dance workshops, and they have a library. In the corner, a group of men are discussing upcoming activities in their sporting cooperative. In the room next door is where they practice their llanero music and their Joropo, Inés tells us. El Llano es música, Juan responds.

We got your culture right here, pal!

The library is blessedly ideology-free – the usual beat-up tomes of Eduardo Blanco and Rómulo Gallegos coexist next to dusty tomes of Enciclopedia Salvat, but nothing by Luis Britto García or Eva Golinger. The books seem to have been read.

As we walk out, Inés goes back to her radio program. Everyone listens to the radio in these parts.


Back out in the plaza we meet a set of guys – ages between 30 and 50 – from one of the 23 (23!) Community Councils in town. Their big thing is Misión Vivienda: they’ve gotten the green light to build two dozen new houses in town, in a place called La Lechera. Basically, that means the government has promised them materials so they can build some new homes themselves. They hold weekly meetings out on the street in front of his house and vote on every aspect of the project.

But the guys are frustrated. The red tape around the Misión is driving them crazy. “I had to go up to San Juan to get the one permit rubber stamped so I could send the second request for building materials up to Caracas, and then we have to wait. Eventually I guess we’ll rent a truck to go down to Calabozo to get the stuff but then we also need to work out the paperwork with the controllers who have to verify we didn’t steal it.”

He goes into detail on each part of the administrative obstacle course he needs to navigate just to get some building blocks and zinc roofing sheets for the self-built homes. It’s taken him months. No new homes are up yet.

They are all chavista, but they’re not sucking their thumbs. We ask about the opposition primary and while they’re not planning to vote, they are pretty well aware of who the candidates are and they sure don’t see it as a taboo to vote. “I guess some people in town are going to vote, and that’s good: vote in February and then vote again in October. I don’t know why the opposition says there’s no democracy here,” he says, pointing out the opposition propaganda hanging all over town.

It’s hard to deny he has a point.

This particular crowd is probably out of the opposition’s reach. They’re very skeptical. “I just heard Henrique Capriles say that he hasn’t taken away any resources from any of the Misiones in Miranda State. He must think we’re stupid, because everybody knows the money for the Misiones comes from the National Government. Of course he hasn’t taken away any money, he wasn’t giving it to them in the first place! So if you start out lying to us…”

Capriles doesn’t pass the credibility test with them, but when I ask them if they think they might be able to work with a Capriles administration they don’t recoil in horror. They’re skeptical rather than dismissive.

Then one of them launches into a rant, “And what about that Corina?! She’s crazy! That shit about Popular Capitalism, where did that come from? Man, if she was on 5% when she started, as soon as she said that she must have dropped to 3!”

The guy is snarling, his buddies are guffawing. Capriles inspires weariness, María Corina contempt.

Pablo Pérez they don’t know what to think of.  None of Perez’s messages seem to have gotten across, so they don’t really have an idea about him. They ask Juan why Zulianos just won’t back the revolution.

At least they know who the candidates are, we think to ourselves. They’ve even watched some of the debates. The opposition doesn’t have easy access to these guys, and a lot of the messages they’re getting seemed filtered through VTV, but it’s not a total shut-out either.

We ask them about crime. Contrary to the high-school kids, they say that recent infrastructure projects have brought people in from other towns, and bad stuff is happening. One of them even tells Quico that cocaine is available in town. We ask if they believe this is Chávez’s fault, and they disagree.

“Mexico,” one of them says, “is much worse,” seemingly unaware that they are repeating PSUV talking points. “It’s all the fault of the Americans who consume so much drugs. I know how that society is. I watch The Simpsons.”


Down the street we meet a street-cleaning crew from the Alcaldía, the local government, sweeping the street. Parapara is a rural parish within the more urban Roscio municipality, which includes San Juan de los Morros, the State Capital. The mayor here is actually opposition, a former PSUV, now PPT guy called Franco Guerratana who got 37% of the votes in Parapara but 46% in San Juan (in a three-way race).

We stopped in our tracks when we realized they were all wearing different kinds of shirts – “Hay un Camino”, “PSUV”, “UNT.” We ask about the apparel. They shrug and say they got the shirts and caps from different campaigns. Anything is good if it shields you from the unforgiving midday sun.

“Yeah, we’re going to vote in the primary,” one of the street cleaners tells us, “they’re going to force us to. We work for the Alcaldía, see?”

These guys are a lot poorer and less educated than the Community Council guys in the plaza. They don’t seem to have any real political ideas – what they believe in is clientelism.

“Of course, you have to vote for the guy who gives you a hand,” one of them says, “así es la vaina.”

But they’re bitter. Sweeping the streets in Parapara for minimum wage makes for a hard life, and one of the group doesn’t even have that.

“There used to be day labor here,” he says, “guys in trucks would come and pick you up to work in the lemon fields, picking peppers or tending corn or the cattle. It’s been years since that happened, though.”

Skinny, rugged, wearing a pelo’e’guama hat, the guy is a dead ringer for Juan Bimba.

We ask them about the Community Councils. They’re scathing. “There are 23 community councils in Parapara: 22 of them do nothing. Nothing! They just grab the money. There’s just one, up there in La Lechera, that’s really trying to do something. The rest? Well, maybe they get a couple of jobs to hand out, and then they give them out to their cousins.”

Everyone nods.

“That’s what it is, it doesn’t matter who has power here: if they have a job, some help, any kind of benefit, they’re going to give it to their cousin.”

Life is hard for these guys, ideology an unattainable luxury. Politics for them is a raw matter of power and survival: politicians have jobs to give out, they need jobs to survive. With private sector jobs extremely thin on the ground, finding a way into clientelist networks is a matter of life-or-death for them.

But lacking the education to set up their own corrupt networks, and lacking the family contacts and social capital to hook into existing ones, they’re entirely forlorn. For now they sweep streets for minimum wage in the harsh mid-day sun.


Life in Parapara is no bed of roses. This is neither a revolutionary nirvana nor a seething opposition stronghold. It’s a place where big words such as “socialism,” “Cuba,” “dignity,” and “fatherland” seem distant, far removed from people’s actual concerns.

Back in 2007, Juan wrote that until the opposition had a presence in places like this, it would be hard to compete with Chávez nationally. Today, the opposition has a tenuous reach into the town – largely shipped in from neighboring San Juan de los Morros – whether in terms of propaganda posters or of municipal jobs.

It’s easy to exaggerate chavismo’s dominance in the town, though. Hundreds of Paraparans do vote for the opposition, and always have.

But the coat-tail effects associated with having an opposition mayor are a little disappointing: in 2008, Franco Guerratana’s machine certainly did pull votes over and above than the opposition trend, but that didn’t really seem to carry over into 2009 and 2010.

Some opposition messages do get through, but they land in a town where  chavista social organization – for good and for ill – is solidly entrenched.

The opposition has little chance of winning in Parapara. But at least they have something of a presence there.

That is a big improvement.

53 thoughts on “Shooting for Parapara

  1. Quico, loved this article on Parapara, and I hope there are many more of small towns throughout Vz. Meanwhile, here are suggestions.

    When I got to this sentence, after mentioning PP and Juan, I wondered if it related to the preceding mention of Juan: “None of his messages seem to have gotten across, so they don’t really have an idea about him.”

    Replace “his” with “Pérez’s”. or however the possessive is written.

    Also, please provide a link to Juan Bimba. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Bimba) Some readers may not know who he is.

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  2. Great post! I always read your blog although I haven’t written before but I have to thank you for this article. It’s a fine example of how you get to know your electorate.

    Many times I read in opposition blogs (including this one) how people assume that voters living outside big cities, specially what can be considered as “monte y culebra” are already “lost” and no effort should be made enticing them to vote for an opposition candidate. Your work is demonstrating that this is wrong and hopefully attitudes towards the provinces will change.

    I am not from Caracas. I was born and raised in Vargas, a state close enough to make me feel part of the capital’s “elite” and I have never felt an outsider (I went to University and always worked in Caracas). However we all know how differently Caracas and Vargas voters act in elections and it’s to my shame that Vargas continues to be a major chavista state (less now thanks to Jose Manuel Olivares and other young politicians).

    I, sadly, live abroad nowadays and tend not to mix with any Venezuelan people here (it’s not Miami in case you wonder how I manage to do this). I find that they are, as Venezuela itself, polarised. There is the guy I hear in a Subway talking in a Venezuelan accent to a transfixed girl about how great the Venezuelan and Cubans revolutions are (me whispering to my kids so he doesn’t notice me) and then is the “sifrina” who I can see that straightaway classifies me as “chavista” the moment I tell her I’m from La Guaira.

    Yes, there is this group in the middle that don’t come from Barquisimeto o Valencia, but from Parapara o Macuto who may well vote against Chavez if somebody from the opposition thinks of visiting them, targeting them, making them feel they “belong” . Those are the ones that will make the difference next October.

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    • Yup. The sad thing in Parapara is that the only outreach we have is in the form of hardcore clientelism through the Alcaldía. The phrase the street sweeper guys used was really startling “claro, a nosotros nos llevan a votar obligados.” It’s supposed to be only chavismo who does this kind of thing…but it’s not true.

      But who’s out there making the case for the opposition? Nobody is…

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    • Yes, you found some “real people” and it always amazes me how strong and healthy
      they appear in the small towns and countryside. I could probably talk to them about anything
      but politics- they seem very uninformed. I get the point yoou are making about them being
      realistic in many ways, practical-minded, but, they seem very lacking in manners as I find in most people these days.
      And, they want wi-fi just to chat with friends, not to do research…

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    • Anelim,

      The amazing thing is that even until last year opposition leaders were not even going to the secondary cities, where about 50% of the population lives.
      The following cities have approx. 10 million people. There are a couple of other places that are de facto now cities, like Los Guayos. And our Caracas/Northern Valencia/Maracaibo people were not going there to listen to people, they were not taking them in their daily discourse.

      Maracay
      Ciudad Guayana
      Barcelona
      Maturín
      Turmero
      Ciudad Bolívar
      Barinas
      Los Teques
      Cumaná
      San Cristóbal
      Puerto La Cruz
      Mérida
      Cabimas
      Coro
      Guatire
      Cúa
      Guarenas
      Los Teques
      Ocumare del Tuy
      Puerto Cabello
      Guacara
      El Tigre
      El Limón
      Acarigua
      Punto Fijo
      Cabudare
      Charallave
      Ciudad Ojeda
      Palo Negro
      Cagua
      Anaco
      Calabozo
      Guanare
      Carúpano
      Ejido
      Catia La Mar
      Mariara
      Carora

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    • CI,
      While I love this area very much and feel very connected to it, the following statement is misleading:
      “Aquí todo el mundo se conoce, that kind of thing doesn’t happen.””

      The culture in that area is very much one of sharing, which in some ways is absolutely
      delightful.However the sharing aspect is often quite one sided.

      Just an example:

      My uncle in law had a middle class home in a poorer section of a country village outside San
      Juan.Because he had more money than most, those who entered his home helped
      themselves to whatever food was prepared( even when nobody was home), took utensils they needed, mangos growing on the trees, and dresses they wanted to borrow.The
      concept of private property is not the same as you or I might have it.I highly doubt that what this boy said is true.He may have said it, but you and I both know talk is often just
      talk.One of the reasons ” communism” appeals to people in that reason is precisely the lack of clear definition between mine and yours.

      And they are not as ‘sano’ as Chavez would have us think…..though people in that region
      are like anyone: good and bad.

      are like people anywhere: good and bad.

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  3. sorry meant to say ‘region’….communism appeals to many in that region.

    additional info:

    In that same fashion people with less money often live in the homes of family with more.Stealing is so rampant, that I learned to keep my purse with me at all times.However when one says ” steal” there it doesn’t have quite the same connotation.My own mother in law used to take food out of my fridge to give to other neighbors who had less.Unashamed.Different concepts.

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  4. Loved the Tag: “Monte y Culebra”.
    As any Venezuelian clearly knows, Caracas es Caracas, ….

    I worked in San Juan with the Sumate crews over 5 years ago. Back then even, most jobs in the Capital de Estado, depended either from National, Estado or Municipio coffers. People were quite aware of clientelism dependencies and the luxury of having ileology and/or political prefferences en contra.

    If anything, after 14 years of a sistematic attack on private enterprise, this dependancy, and the behaviour are stronger. For htis reason alone, and the clear message given out in the aftermath of the PDVSa firings, the Tascon/Maisanta tagging and the day-to-day clientelism, I do noy trust encuestas. People are naturally overriden by fear, and not open to discuss openly and candidly as before.

    Hence, I now see merit in the non-confrontational strategy used by the Capriles camp. I think MCM is spot on and correct in her approach, but the society is not ready to soltar la teta y ponerse a trabajar, at least not now and not before private enterprise can grow and offer alternatives to the Mision papa…

    Animo! gracias a Juan y Francisco por sus ultimas piezas desde LLano Adentro!…

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    • Parapara is typical Venezuelan village but it is not Llano Adentro. In fact, it is considered La Puerta de Los Llanos.
      It is not about polls. María Corina is NOT popular in those areas, like she is not popular in Guacara, in Los Guayos, in Puerto Cabello, in Morón, in Southern Valencia, in Tocuyito, in Bejuma.
      In fact, I can only see her popular in some streets of Prebo, Camoruco, El Vinedo, El Trigal, San Diego and even there, no majority. How do I know it? Not from polls.
      Every time a Caraqueno says “monte y culebra”, he creates a new Chavista.

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      • “Every time a Caraqueno says “monte y culebra”, he creates a new Chavista.”

        How true. As when people use montuno, cerricola, chancletuo referring to people from outside Caracas/big cities. Not to mention more classist and even racist epithets.

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      • Deal with it amigo. Its part of the vernacular. And as Quico’s piece ilustrate true.
        I do not agree with your causuality though. Monte y Culebra is true, I say it, I make a new Chavista… Totally wrong logic.

        We need to expain how, by targeting private enterprise, and by institutionallising mision Migaja, and Mision Sapo, Chavez is making life harder every day for paraparenses et alias.
        (Mind you, Adecopeyanos did exaclty the same, just less!)

        El reto no es sacar a Cahvez de Miraflores, el reto es sacarlo de dentro de nosotros! agreed.?

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        • Saying’ Monte y Culebra’ does not create a Chavista….how simplistic….when people in these regions use that term all the time :)

          What creates Chavistas is a complex subject that cannot be summed up in such a common little phrase.

          As someone who lived among the old adecos in the monte y culebra zones for years…. many of whom later became Chavistas,

          I noticed some parallels there were quite different from just reacting to a phrase like this.Most people are simply no that simple minded.

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    • Luis F,
      I agree with this statement:

      “I do noy trust encuestas. People are naturally override by fear, and not open to discuss openly and candidly as before.”

      Actually it is much worse now but there was always this factor in Venezuela.

      But I would add that Capriles will not be able to overcome that fear either.Fear of technology and people discovering your vote, fear of occult powers, fear of being different ,or fear of losing a job or of losing one’s vote.These might only be psychological fears, but those are the worst, and Chavez knows that one very well.

      I agree with you that some people think this way…perhaps many do….but to me it is
      unfortunate, because it creates an atmosphere where people do not feel free to truly vote
      their conscience.If people are reduced to voting for the person who least confronts Chavez it is not really a ” a vote for” it is a vote for appeasement.

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  5. San Juan being the gate to the Llanos does make some difference….It has a llanera culture but in a lesser degree.

    I remember my Uncle used to build roads in Apure every year.I wanted very badly to go there and visit so I mentioned it to him….he promptly told me never to go without him to guide me, because it was way too dangerous.As i didn’t relish the idea of going alone with him( not that I didn’t trust him fundamentally but I never thought he had good judgement and he drank a lot)..so I never went.

    Basically what he said was that the llaneros would get irrationally angry.If you didn’t eat their food or you declined any kind of hospitality whatsoever, you just might find yourself victim of a machete.This violent streak that he spoke of so often was also present in San Juan, only at a more tolerable.When walking the streets of downtown San Juan I had to face taunting , drunk and leering men at all times.I had to develop a very strong facade in order to keep them respecting me.It was shocking the things they would yell out.At first I didn’t understand what they said, but I would memorize them,and tell my husband and when I found out: ay, yay yay! It was war.I would walk through their barricades as though they were not there.

    Many of the local girls were quite victimized.Violent fights would also break out on the streets due to alcoholism and violent tendencies.Carnival time was basically throwing rocks and hard ice to people on the streets.

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    • “Basically what he said was that the llaneros would get irrationally angry. If you didn’t eat their food or you declined any kind of hospitality whatsoever, you just might find yourself victim of a machete.”
      Perfect picture of our very own llanero president! LOL.

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      • Yes Carolina, All jest aside there is a kind of terrible violence inherent in the llanos culture.

        My family is Oriental but a group of them is living in San Juan where we also lived a few years.People from Oriente are quite different from llaneros.They are far more tolerant, sweet, easygoing, and open minded than the LLanero.

        It can be quite dangerous to hang out in the llanos whereas I never felt the slightest fear in Oriente.

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        • These posts are hilarious. Yes, you get to the edge of the Llanos, they are crazy, and then they get progressively crazier. By the time you hit Cucuta, its a free for all! Gotta love them. Get out the narcocorridos and lets go to the local supermarket parking lot and drink beer folks…

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          • they are crazy … get progressively crazier … free for all!

            what generalizations, it seems to me!
            I’d never consider myself an authority on the interior of Venezuela, don’t know much about the deeper llanos. but I was once in San Cristóbal and San Antonio del Táchira. Connected with not a few in different types of businesses. Found people generally hospitable and gracious. I was treated with respect by men. Walked a lot. Never feared for my belongings or my person. Then again, we’re talking early 1990s. Maybe things have changed. Or maybe things are different on the haciendas.

            I just can’t believe that everyone in the Llanos — on the edges or in the interior — are that crazy/drunk.

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            • Syd,
              I have travelled insanely a lot in Venezuela. It was in part because my parents had a weird desire to see it all. I found they were exaggerating a bit but I am thankful they did.
              People from Táchira are different, very different from Los Llanos. I mean: people in the different regions in Venezuela are really, really, really different.

              One of the problem of Caracas/Valencia/Maracaibo people in politics now and before generally in developmental policies (or the lack of them) has been to overlook this.

              As I mentioned earlier, the history is pretty different and that counts. Most people in the Llanos are descendants of fugitive slaves, criminals and some of the native American tribes that were either hunter/gatherers or fugitives from the North after the Conquista.
              Their social traditions were some of the most screwed up of the nation.
              Most rich people there actually kept their children in Caracas. Education was always scarcer in Los Llanos. Táchira and surroundings had before the Conquista already agricultural nations who technologically were well ahead of those in the Llanos.
              And Europeans preferred to settle in those areas.

              During the Independence the Llanos suffered a lot and the few European families there were more likely to get massacred than in many other places.

              During the Federal War the Llanos was again plundered like the coastal area, the Valles del Tuy, but the Táchira-Mérida area were almost completely untouched. They remained OK while Venezuela lost almost a third of its population.

              When you hear the accent of someone from Táchira: it’s completely different from the ones in the Llanos. Try to count the swear words of a Gocho and a Llanero. Try to analyse their use of Usted/tú.

              Try to find out about the amount of single mothers in the Llanos as compared to Táchira.

              The surname distribution is significantly different in the Táchira-Mérida region from the rest of the country. Here you see my map on top 3 surnames per CNE records per state:

              There is no Venezuela. There are several Venezuelas.

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    • It is because of the alcoholism-I remember as a small boy very scared of “those people”
      We were/are very religious and we stayed away from them, but I saw insane fighting
      over anything and everything at any given moment. One of my grandfathers was a
      horror-story- so abusive and violent-everyone around lived in total fear for their lives-
      even family…

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    • FP:
      Were all local girls quite victimized? Was everyone throwing rocks and hard ice to people on the streets during Carnival time?

      I can appreciate that there are hoodlums in any town, anywhere, where there are limited economic opportunities for young and not-so young men. But to me there’s a disconnect between the limited pueblo experiences I have had in Venezuela and what you describe as general experiences of living life in a small town in the Llanos.

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  6. Congratulations guys! Keep on exploring Venezuela and let us know about it.

    The problem with information in Venezuela is that since Chávez took power there is such level of polarization that it is impossible to understand what people REALLY think. This has not helped the debate at all.

    Looking forward for your next entry!

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  7. Quico,

    Great article. Although I must disagree with this paragraph:

    “They are all chavista, but they’re not sucking their thumbs. We ask about the opposition primary and while they’re not planning to vote, they are pretty well aware of who the candidates are and they sure don’t see it as a taboo to vote. “I guess some people in town are going to vote, and that’s good: vote in February and then vote again in October. I don’t know why the opposition says there’s no democracy here,” he says, pointing out the opposition propaganda hanging all over town.

    It’s hard to deny he has a point.”

    He doesn’t have a point, because democracy is not only about holding elections, but independence of powers.

    You must have both to be legitimately called a democracy.

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    • There’s also the point that, in a democracy, you’re supposed to do what they voters voted for, not just have a vote and then ignore it and do whatever the hell you wanted to do in the first place like Chavez routinely does.

      Also, democracy isn’t about imposing on everyone what a circumstantial majority decided was the way to go. That’s called Tyranny by Majority, and it’s a whole other story. Democracy is supposed to respect minority opinions, not call them “apatridas”, “golpistas”, “pitiyankis”, etc, and treat them like enemies of the state.

      The most basic assumption in a Democracy is that all opinions have merit and all people are entitled to have and to freely express their own opinions. By those standards, Chavismo is one of the most undemocratic concepts ever.

      And wasn’t The Simpsons outlawed in Venezuela like 4 years ago?

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      • Again, the rule of law has collapsed in Venezuela. That’s really really obvious. But the Paraparans are on to something: pretending like there’s no meaningful electoral competition in Venezuela while there so evidently is doesn’t get us anywhere.

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        • It’s about trust. When you start out saying something that they know, in their gut, is false, i.e., “there is no democracy in Venezuela,” you immediately shoot down any possibility of a dialogue, of trust with swing voters. And yes, these are the swing voters, chavistas arrepentidos, people who like him but don’t like his government.

          We’ll be posting a bit more about this in the coming days, but keep that word in mind folks: trust. You don’t vote for someone you don’t trust.

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            • I think what’s important is that Paraparenses have the perception that with Chavez it’s still politics as usual because for them it probably is. They don’t perceive much difference from other times. For them democracy is something that happens during election times and then they are forgotten until the next elections.

              Also the fact that Chavez wins elections for most people overrides the authoritarian abusive aspects. Elections work as rubber stamp of approval of Chavez, dictator or not. Venezuelan democracy with Chavez is like a marriage where the husband is abusive and beats the wife and the kids and humiliates them but also treats the well at times and gives them money and says he is sorry and they don’t want to leave him. Many will say that’s not a family, that she should leave him and take the kids, but many will see them as a typical normal dysfunctional family.

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    • A political scientist would tell you that things like separation of powers are really the heart of constitutional government rather than democracy.

      Usually, the two points get conflated into one big thing (“constitutional democracy”) but they are analytically separate.

      Democracy in a restricted sense refers to a political system marked by a competitive dynamic between groups seeking power through elections. There are plenty of examples of democracies without a firm constitutional footing or much sense of the rule of law, dating back to the Second French Empire. There are also plenty of examples of liberal, constitutional states that aren’t democratic in any meaningful sense (Britain pre-1832, the Piedmont pre-Italian unification, and tons of others.)

      The Paraparans aren’t wrong in their intuition that they live in a system where groups compete and compete hard for electoral success, and calling that “democracy” isn’t far fetched.

      Which is not to deny the frightful implosion in law-based governance. The collapse of constitutional government in Venezuela is perfectly obvious.

      But so is the ongoing relevance of electoral competition in the political system. Would Chávez be giving away houses and washing machines quite so liberally if it wasn’t?

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      • Mision Migaja is implemented for lip service. TO have an argument to maintain and increase clienelist mindsets. Sigue cosechando de la siempra petropopulista adecopeyana, and it allows for an explanation of residual suport levels.
        Now, if you compare the amounts spent in mision migaja (actualy reaching beneficiaries) to the amounts drawn from public budgets, and furthermore, compare the amounts budgeted from the $$$ in revenues *(tax and oil exports) is where the messaging shoud be focused IMO.

        “De cada barril de petroleo, chavez solo te da una lata !” El resto se lo roban los cubanos, los de la mision XXXX, o se gasta en Armas, en don regalon, progaganda, etc.

        Donte esta el dinero?

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  8. Kepler you bited the teaser line!

    I am not making excuses for being from Caracas, or for having lived in el trigal Norte and Guataparo C.C. as I did. I also travelled extensivelly with my dad, an Engineer with “obras” all over the place…

    The problem with the divide Caracas/M&C is not that caracas has the best oportunities (or perceived opportunities) is the lack of alternatives people have monte adentro.

    If people depend on the municipio for a jornalero wage, and even so, have to put on whatever t-shirt is handed down to them by the campana de turno, to dress for the sun! then there is a larger problem out there.

    Chavez has systematically exsarcebated the clientelist machine, WHILE destroying the private enterprise. THe goal is clear, a more dependant society, an more easelly controlled people…

    I also agree with FPiggette, apeasement may not be the answer, but I need to trust the implied message behind the Capriles campaing: We first Win, then we do as we need to do!!!

    I NEED to trust this. However I may be disapointed once again.
    MCM and her team is, in my mind the right way forward, but i do not see her electable. Not yet.

    So I rather have a more certain semi good “oppo” national goverment, than a excelent potential one!

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  9. I loved the posting and I am enjoying the replies so far.
    I am the kind of person that thinks that the only way of changing the pattern is having a strong and active, non-politicized community center. The people of these towns have to find a voice, leadership, among themselves, and not a stranger newcomer from a big city.
    And the only way to achieve this is to teach it through the schools. Make community work part of the curricula. Get the parents involved as well, offering some discounts on books or matricula or something.
    The change has to start from within.

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  10. Great post. The comparison with Mexico is maybe a good one. The PSUV resembles a great deal the worst aspects of the PRI, another group of petro-“revolutionaries” ruling in a quote-unquote democracy. You go to the rural areas in Mexico, and the PRI still has a stranglehold (literally and figuratively)- the old habits die hard. The drug violence maybe isn’t on the scale as Mexico, as your subject indicated, but not because there isn’t a problem. I figure its just that, like the PRI of old, the venezuelan authorities reached an (to put it mildly) accommodation with those folks. Can you imagine the murder stats if anyone actually decided to fight crime?

    From the sounds of the people in your article, it might be 70 years of PSUV as well. And stagnation. I hope not.

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