Chavismo under the orientalist lens

32491763(This is a guest post by Venezuelan anthropologist Pedro Manrique. We haven’t done one of these in a long time, and I kind of dug it. I hope you do too)

Chavismo under the Orientalist Lens, by Pedro Manrique

Exactly twenty-two years after Chávez said por ahora, a student in San Cristóbal became the victim of an attempted rape in a state-run university campus. This ultimately led, on February 12tt, to one of the biggest mobilizations in the history of the opposition. An important part of the population is mired in a generalized funk. Venezuela is facing harsh times por donde lo mires. Still, why hasn’t this turned into a situation that realistically compromises the chavista system? I think the answer has something to do with an important cultural disconnect between the opposition and chavismo.

Orientalism is a term popularized by Edward Said, and it is used to describe how the West portrays and perceives the Orient in a patronizing manner. Commonly, this includes a conception of the former as less civilized, less educated, oppressed, and in need of guidance or assistance from a more advanced agent. When analyzing the opposition’s discourse, it becomes evident that the opposition constructs its idea of chavistas in a similar fashion.

This portrayal falls within two broad rubrics, which are perfectly illustrated in the words of the poet Rudyard Kipling, in his poem The White Man’s Burden: half-devil and half-child.

The first one refers to a chavista that is wrongfully intentioned. This applies to the enchufado class; that top officer at the regional Seniat branch that sent his kids to study abroad and travels often to Madrid and Miami. This rubric also encompasses those who are perceived as consciously taking advantage of social programs like the misiones, at the expense of the state. Those in this category are seen by the opposition as being aware that what they are doing is wrong, and still deliberately acting against their own moral values to achieve a material, immediate benefit.

The second rubric, the half-child, refers to a chavista that is not conscious enough to be able to discern between good and evil, thus supporting chavismo as a result of mere ignorance.

This infantile version of government supporters is described through two main currents in opposition’s discourse. The first one considers that some chavistas have been fooled by the promises of a better future. It believes that their judgment has been blinded by their taking part in social programs that benefit them and, consequently, is unable to acknowledge the overall conditions of the country. The second current explains that chavistas justify their sympathy with the government by associating it with socialism, and are incapable of separating the philosophical ideas which they adhere to from the physical reality the country faces.

Excluding the cases of the enchufados, which are by no measure representative of the majority of chavistas, the opposition fails to entertain the possibility that a chavista identity can be constructed and reaffirmed based on a true and educated conviction: that the system works.

The opposition conceives chavismo, especially those seen as half-child, as handicapped in a very general sense. This perception is heavily shaped by the experience of the upper-middle class, catholic, conservative opposition members who find themselves in power positions that allow them to act as agenda setters (I’m looking at you, Nitu).

In the past, this used to be done mostly through television. Now, since the government has a virtual control over it, the opposition does it through social media, creating channels in which its members communicate almost exclusively with each other in a sort of artificial vacuum, in which they have no contact with their chavista counterparts, thus not engaging with views that confront theirs.

The Western perception of the Orient was the product of colonialist thinking, which was constructed through the experiences of white European settlers that imposed a misrepresentation of the region in their own countries. The legacy of this representation brought upon today’s Orientalist thinking in a postcolonial context, which is constructed mostly through portrayals of the Orient in Western media.

There is, however, a fundamental difference in this definition of “the other” by the two groups (Westerners in the Orient, escuálidos in chavista Venezuela), and this refers to the power positions held by both the definer and the subject.

In the case of the West-Orient relation, the former finds itself in a position in which it can play an overall dominant role within the frame of its power relations. In the case of Venezuela, however, the opposition assumes this same instance from the weaker side of the power gradient. Since Chávez took over the presidency in 1999, their agency has never compared to that of the regime, and they have been rendered, in different degrees at different times, as disabled when trying to influence the daily lives of the country.

I believe the explanation for this lack of self-awareness can be found in another key element of Orientalist thought, which consists of the reflection of one’s fears and weaknesses in the conception of the other.

The opposition has seen chavistas as in need of guidance, and they view this as the only way to achieve emancipation from the ideological indoctrination of the government. The idea of the handicapped chavista that needs to be taken by the hand can be thought of as a projection of the lack of a paternalistic figure in the opposition, that serves as its face in contrast to that of the government, and that guides the way in its political struggle. Among all the leaders that, at one point or the other, have taken a central role in the leadership of the opposition (Pedro Carmona, Manuel Rosales, Henrique Capriles), none have had the reach and popularity enjoyed by the Supreme Commander, as he is commonly referred in the post-Chávez government discourse. The inability to produce a leader has been thought, within the opposition, as one of the major drawbacks in the constituency of an attractive political alternative.

Abre los ojos is a very common request made by the opposition. The phrase can be seen in banners at marchas, heard during speeches, and read in Twitter very often. I believe this metaphor of the closed eyes can be seen as a rejection to consider that the world exists far beyond the domain of the experience of the opposition. When demanding the other open his eyes, the opposition is actually asking them to put on their lenses, and experience the world through them. They fail to take seriously the idea of a chavismo rooted in legitimate ideological claims, that are understood by its followers, and that include, but go beyond, purely material motivations.

In the last broadcast of El Show de Renny, back in the 70s, the legendary talk show host talked about the meaning of being Venezuelan. “I am filled with my country”, he said. And I am sure he means right. The people who share his words as if these were only spoken for them mean right as well. For them, being Venezuelan is belonging to the opposition, the same way chavismo thinks accordingly.

Renny goes on, and adds “Our problem is not mental in nature; our problem is emotional and moral.”

It is true that, alluding to the words of the civil rights activist Assata Shakur, “nobody in history has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” It is also true, nonetheless, that the only way for the opposition to find itself with the capacity to gather the political support it needs to create a real legitimacy crisis in the government, one that allows it to take hold of political power in the country, is through a reshaping in the perception of its chavista counterpart, to be able to assign them an equal ontological value, and to act and react accordingly, based on these preconditions.

Paraphrasing Renny Ottolina: “I am convinced that the only way for us, as a country, to return to our self is through developing our conscience.” I certainly agree.

72 thoughts on “Chavismo under the orientalist lens

  1. Great post. As a fellow reader of Said I am greatly gratified by it — I swear I have thought of myself as an orientalist in my own country often times before…

    The only question that remains unasked is — what is this “idea of a chavismo rooted in legitimate ideological claims, that are understood by its followers, and that include, but go beyond, purely material motivations”? I do not doubt there is any, I just wonder what is you opinion of what that might be.


  2. Any one who believes that the current regime is a success , that the current state of the country represents the fulfillment of an Ideal Model of Society needs to have his head examined !! Chavismo as practiced by the people currently leading it is an unmitigated failure full of excesses , blunders , mismanagement , lies , repression . Only people ofuscated by a very deep delusional mind set can believe otherwise . the general oppo view of body of Chavista beliefs and attitudes is not a misrepresentation , but a realistic assesment of a group of peoples mental confusion . The ideology is not the thing to look for but the morbid feelings and pathetic ignorance that inspires and motivates the passionate attachment and spousal of the ideology they purport to profess and the destructive way in which it is interpreted and practically put into effect .

    Now if your break up all the strands that make up the Chavista body of beliefs there are without doubt many salvageable ideas or attitudes , we all feel that the less well off need more attention from society than they have gotten in the past , that a better effort must be made to improve their standard of living , of giving them an opportunity to improve their lives , that a safety net must be erected to save those afflicted with poverty from the worse consequences of that condition , Also worthy of support is the idea that they be given a chance of seeing themselves as endowed with respect , with something which enhances their sense of dignity despite their poverty and lack of educational attainments . There is a general feeling that the govt and economic machinery of the 4th Republic despite some successes was also a failure , riddled with corruption and mismanagement , that its treatment of the worse off was sometimes corrupting and at the same time very hypochritical ( the political patronage clientelar system) .

    But there is also a large number of strands which are sick and foolish in the extreme and which no sane person with a bit of understanding of how an economy works or some respect for fundamental human values can see with anything other than abhorrence The wholesale demonization of middle class values and liberal ideals is simply aberrant !!.

    We cannot out of romantic and enlightened attachment to politically correct values make believe that Chavismo as a systme of beliefs and virulent passions represents anything worthy of applause or even tolerance . Chavismos core system of belief is indigestible to a rational ordered mind although there are quite a few aspects of it which we can all sympathize with . If we could segregate the two separate strands maybe there would be a way to reach a more ‘understanding; attitude towards the Chavista following . !!

    Im not sure Rennys bland corny generalizations are any guidance to what has to be done to create human bridges with people afflicted with Chavismo!!


    • BB,

      When I read the post I also thought : politically correct

      I see some logical fallacies in his arguments that might prove tiring to elaborate on( and what for ?) – I suffice it simply to encompass my arguments with the above description of PC, and the reminder that Kipling’s depictions of pompous Empire are no longer the greatest representation of present circumstances.

      adding: Renny is vastly overrated in my opinion.

      I do not like it when in order to weave a convincing argument people name popular/ public figures as worthy to be followed because arguments should be able to stand on their own.In this case , placing Renny’s statement on developing a conscience is manipulative as it would imply in this particular context to some people,

      that we hadn’t.


    • My post does not intent to condemn or celebrate any of chavismo’s beliefs or policies. I do not want to justify or provide an alibi for policymakers or the like.

      I just want to try to break with the notion of the general chavista as “bruto, ignorante, animal, y por eso es que eres taxista”

      “But there is also a large number of strands which are sick and foolish in the extreme and which no sane person with (…) some respect for fundamental human values can see with anything other than abhorrence”

      I don’t think half the country lacks any respect for fundamental human values.

      Concerning Renny: looking back, you are right. It was not the best way to finish.


      • Pedro: Sorry to have given a false impression about your piece , I liked it and believe it poses a valid and important question , whether we should scorn Chavistas as stupid for holding on to what oppos identify as typical Chavista beliefs ??, Even if we think that they are seriously wrong about the core of their beliefs are they still entitled to our respect as thinking human beings.?? Do they have the oppo typical sensitivity about civic or human rights or are they perhaps a bit less sensitive to them ??

        An Australian philosopher by the name of Covey (now deceased) made an interesting distinction between a persons natural intellect and their intellectual performance , he suggested that some people are born bright but that their intellectual performance ( in terms of que quality of thoughts produced) can be poor because of a number of reasons: the person might have had little chance of learning to use their intellectual gifts to maximum effect for lack of a proper education or simply because he/she failed to cultivate his/her intellect being pressed by life to dedicate itself to other things , There are succesful professionals or businessmen or political leaders who one can consider intellectual illiterates , because they dont read or reflect much on the world that surrounds them with anymeasure of depth , they learn the words and can use language to express emotion about those words but they are mediochre or limited in being able to understand their ultimate import or in developing those ideas much further than the point at which they were when first exposed to them .

        Then there is another factor which can make bright people think stupid ideas and thats many peoples love of professing wild or histrionically vitriolic or romantic beliefs because it offers them the chance of feeling important and special and righteously angry and morally superior , intoxicating their vanity with some glamorized hatred of other human beings which they enjoys scorning and demonizing because of how important it makes them feel in comparison . There are many virulent sectarian political or religious ideologies that owe their historical careers to their capacity to gratify this human penchant for cultivating megalomaniacal and vengeful passion, Communism , Fascism and other totalitarian ism belong to this ideological category .

        Illustrating this is a phrase from Borges “Las dictaduras fomentan la opresión, las dictaduras fomentan el servilismo, las dictaduras fomentan la crueldad; más abominable es el hecho de que fomenten la idiotez. Botones que balbucean imperativos, efigies de caudillos, vivas y mueras prefijados, ceremonias unánimes, la mera disciplina usurpando el lugar de la lucidez.”.

        In short there are people who without being stupid adopt stupid thoughts because it forms part of a Discourse that makes them love a dictatorship as a way of worshiping themselves , because by allowing themselves to identify with that dictator or what he represents they feel instilled by grandiose vitriolic passions that are highly gratifying to their self esteem .

        So the answer to the first question is that even if we think some people are besotted with stupid ideas that doesnt mean that we scorn their natural intelligence only the fatuity of their character , nothing more !!

        Should we withold the respect we owe those persons as human beings because of their character flaws or their ignorance and lack of intellectual literacy , of course not, the mayority of human beings are by nature fallible and mediochre , doesnt make them lose their human dignity one bit .

        Should we believe that they dont have the same respect of human dignity and human values as embodied in the liberal canon of western thought, I strongly suspect that most of them are more interested in bread and butter issues having to do with what the regime gives them ( o doenst give them) or with keeping their inflamed ideological vanities intact than with the fundamental rights of other people or with issues of justice that affect people who dont belong to their own ideological tribe. Of course I may be wrong but I see no Chavista indignation at the regimes repression of human freedoms in these recent months or in the past .

        I contrast I remember my own impatient response in 2002 when I watched on TV how deposed chavista ministers were hounded by a skreeching opposition mob : i was very bothered by what I saw !!

        Please forgive this too exhuberant response to the questions you pose , they are perhaps more honest than wise . Perhaps I too am a bit tainted by the passions I criticize .


        • Pedro,

          I quote you:

          “I don’t think half the country lacks any respect for fundamental human values.”

          My answer to that is:

          1. I don’t think half the country agrees with the Regime.I think it is quite a bit less that half.

          2.Nobody that I know of in the opposition pretends that all people who support
          the regime are lacking respect for fundamental values.However many of us ( including myself) observe that there are are quite a few who do so.People who time and time again disrespect basic human rights.

          3.I also postulate that some of the opposition is lacking in respect for human values by playing the very system they profess to be against.

          4. respect for the basic humanity of others does not always have to mean respect for their ideas

          5.Those who consistently commit evil acts, are worthy of disrespect on the level of the world ( not necessarily the spiritual level) even if their are some who will deem to respect them.In real life there are consequences to be paid for errors in judgement.

          6.By arguing that the opposition should respect Chavismo more than we do implies a lack of human qualities in us, which in turn could be interpreted as a lack of respect coming from you regarding the opposition opinion.You think we are lacking in respect.

          It’s a bit like calling the kettle black and I don’t care per se, it is just that I find your arguments lacking in reality even if they are( perhaps) well intentioned


        • BB, I don’t believe you should apologize for or downplay the quality of what you wrote. I found that your points were supplemental to this thought provoking article and theme. Take “human rights lawyers” (such as Dan Kovalic) leaping onto the propagandist bandwagon in the wake of months of heightened and systematic human rights abuses. It boggles the rational mind and has one seeing red. DK is an Ivy League grad. As Columbia is known to graduate the corps d’elite, it stands to reason he is staring into the dark reality of Venezuela in utter incredulity, and not without the advantage of intellect. Your points went a long way toward helping me tackle what might be at the root of one such human’s incoherent and duplicitous attitude. There are myriad (perhaps not human rights lawyers) the like. Your theories help elucidate one possible reason why intelligent people act against reason and, worse still, goodness.


        • I agree 100% with your distinction between stupid people and stupid ideologies. But no such distinction (and defense) is available for “westernizers”. The reason is multiculturalism says there is no truth, there is only creeds with or without power. All creeds are equal because all cultures are equally authentic. No creed can be criticized except for the creed of western ideology associated with the powerful european ethnicity, because the state’s promotion of that creed at the expense of others has always been and continues to be unfair.

          The recognition of this asymmetry is called “critical race theory.”

          Very few intellectuals on the left dare criticize multiculturalism, which denies the existence of universal law and the universal validity of reason:

          Kenan Malik, certainly a liberal and of Muslim culture, traces multiculturalism to German Johann Gottfried Herder, the philosopher who perhaps best articulated the Romantic notion of culture: “What made each people or nation – or volk – unique was its Kultur: its particular language, literature, history and modes of living. The unique nature of each volk was expressed through its volksgeist – the unchanging spirit of a people refined through history. Every culture was authentic in its own terms, each adapted to its local environment.” Herder’s philosophy gave birth to both Nazi racism and modern multiculturalism.

          All actors are equal but because of the asymmetry discussed above an action is racist or not depending on the actor’s power base within the state. If a person of european ancestry (the race holding power in the state) insults a non-european (powerless), then (s)he commits an act of racism; however, if a non-european person insults a european person, that constitutes just an offence. Similarly if an european person criticizes a “stupid” ideology associated with non-europeans (powerlesss), (s)he is not criticizing an ideology, (s)he is insulting the associated ethnic group and committing a racist act. However, if a non-european person criticizes a “stupid” ideology associated with europeans (powerful), then (s)he is rightfully pulling apart an unworthy ideology.

          That is why people of european ancestry have to suck it up and shut up. It’s called “checking your privilege.” Go figure.


    • The author argues that the opposition misunderstands Chavismo, that they conceive Chavistas as somehow “handicapped”, or stupid, because of their views.

      Bill Bass responds by saying that Chavistas “have a deep delusional mindset”.

      The author realizes that he just completely wasted his time by writing this article, and goes away to talk to people with greater capacity for self-reflection.

      The End.


  3. I was also going to ask the same question AMR asked.
    And it’s not that the opposition had much of an idea but I have tried to ask some Chavistas.

    For the sake of an easy discussion, let’s divide officialdom supporters very roughly as:

    1) Boligarchs (less than 0.5% of the population)
    2) high-middle-rank Chavistas (1% of the population)
    3) middle-to-lower rank Chavezactivists (5% of the population, but most active)
    4) the masses of voters for Maduro now (28% of the population??)

    I don’t count the ninis here.

    The ones I have talked to are only under 3 and 4 but quite sincerely, most under 4) wouldn’t tell you anything about ideology than “antes no había educación gratuita, ahora sí”, “Chávez eliminó el analfabetismo”, “queremos servicios sociales”, “antes nos jodieron, ahora nos toca a nosotros”, “hay que acabar con la desigualdad”. Is that an ideology? Perhaps…but there is not much of a proposal there beyond “we should keep trying” (admittedly, the opposition hasn’t brought forward more than that either).

    Some – some – under 3) are people who have read some ideological stuff (perhaps a little bit of Marx, a lot of Aporrea) and repeat ad nauseam stuff like
    “lo importante es seguir en la dialéctica” and they think Lenin was good, Stalin bad and they haven’t got any clue about details on Lenin’s responsibility and writings about the Red Terror and they tell us Gorbachev sold the Soviet Union and that’s how it failed. If you try to interrogate them into their economic model, the most they can say is a couple of slogans like “production to the people” (no idea how) and “we will do things differently than before” (but they don’t tell you how). If you try to get deeper into how the State should proceed with planning, they are clueless.

    Unfortunately, the opposition leaders and the journalists we had when we still had some access to 1 and 2
    and invite them to Globo, do not seem to have much of a background in history, political ideas or economics, so they never challenge the others to polish their ideology. I still remember Carla Angola who asked Iris Valera whether she believed in Marx and then Varela said she believed in Bolívar and then Angola asked whether Varela believed in what Marx had said about “love”.

    The vast majority of Venezuelans have an issue with their identity. This has to do with the fact ours is a bit complicated but also with the fact our knowledge of real history is often rather weak, to put it mildly.

    When you ask your average university graduate in what century – more or less- he thinks
    we got our independence, there is a 50% chance he says “8th century? 20th century? 18th?”
    You will get similar answers if you ask him what language Spanish derives from or when Spaniards first arrive to what is now Venezuela.

    You will hear a blue-eyed, pink-faced Rafael Ramíez or Chaderton tell Andrés Velázquez or D. Solórzano that all Chavistas are the true descendants of Guaicaipuro and that they won’t allow Andrés Velázquez or any other descendant of the Conquistadores to rule over them again.

    That is Venezuela.


    • Of course, it doesn’t help that somehow we, the opposition, have managed to elect as leaders now mostly people who come from the social class A, something that we hadn’t done probably since the XIX century.
      Even if Capriles and Machado probably don’t have the money Cabello or Rafael Ramirez have…we are in an image war where resentment plays a big role.

      And yet, let’s remember: Madurismo or Chavismo or whatever you want to call it represents just a third of the population and the proportion is dwindling. An analysis is due about the different types of ninis, though.


    • My own answer to the question would be to refer again to Manuel Brigue’s Defense of the Savage Discourse. By definition, it is not ideological but rather sociological and related to our troubled history. Chavez being simply the greatest representative of this discourse, and people referring to him out of a most sentimental link through such discourse. It is quite curious that in his last mayor political rally (under the tempestuous rains) he often described the people there gathered as the sons of Guaicaipuro. Pure populism, of course, rather than true philosophy, but thats also a feature of the discourse.



    • I sent a few of my wife’s Chavista cousins Marx’s hyperbolic take down of Bolivar. They, with their muddled and incoherent understanding of what Chavismo/Socialism/Marxism is, really didn’t have much to say about it other than to initially question it’s veracity (which is indisputable). Typical. I think deep down they know Chavismo isn’t an ideology and means whatever they want it to mean.

      It was pretty remarkable when Chavez claimed, on more than one occasion, that Bolivar was actually of poor origins.


      • I know this paints me as an ignoramus, but… I didnt knew about this. And I’ve read it. And I feel… weird. Like one of those scifi shows when you meet a parallel universe where the good guys are bad and viceversa, but only on reality and without being able to know what picture is real.

        Well, I guess “something in the middle” but that is a lot of space, between Bolivar Almost Christ and this portrait by Marx of a coward and vain idiot.


    • Very good comments. The UCV School of Social Sciences is filled with Chavista believers who spend all day in the hallways smoking marijuana and talking BS about Marx, social inequality, and the down-trodden poor. Most live with/are supported by their mamas, and when the Govt. recently gave four of their leaders a chance to earn some money and show their stuff working in a Barrio improvement program, they only lasted a week and were fired for being incompetent–real “hombres nuevos”, mimicking what in effect was Chavez himself.


    • Oh, dear! I didn’t know who she was.
      Perhaps for ease:

      It had to be an anthropoligist.

      Let’s face it: everywhere the great majority of people want to be left alone and only react to some major change when they see the immediate value, here and now. If you read the diaries of visitors during the Independence War you could see how they described the majority of the people: they just wanted to be left in peace and didn’t care for any independence and they didn’t care for the king. The same happened everywhere.

      And then came both groups of powerful people who wanted to make people “see” the light…but it came from both sides. That’s how the minister of Education tells us now Chavismo is not here to take people out of poverty if they will become escuálidos.

      I don’t think it’s paternalism, though, when one can talk about the need to inform people about how it was not about Chávez being better than previous governments but that the oil prices was up to 800% higher.


  4. Caciquismo works.

    Need X. Go to Big Boss. Big Boss delivers. Send gifts to Big Boss and remember to be grateful next time he ask for something. What can be more natural?

    Corruption works too. I need X. He wants money. Transaction done, results in hand. There are whole stretches of the world where this is not only considered “to work”, but absolutely the normal and proper way to go.

    Getting to see beyond that and realize this only helped to be in a situation where you will always depend on Big Boss to give you things that should be yours, that takes a bit of imagination, a bit of knowledge, and a lot of work to get the idea into the minds of people that are, logically, too worried about the next meal to want to risk it.

    People are not fundamentally stupid and in particular no more in Venezuela that anywhere else. People have a lot of trouble moving from their frame of reference to a whole system view of the processes they live in; that happens everywhere. But it happens the most in places where people measure of success is “survival”. Between having food today and a proper analysis of why are we hungry…


  5. There are two points to this argument:

    (1) “that the system works” – for some, somehow. Perhaps it has brought improvements in quality of life, for others it represents an improvement because it has provided
    (2) a moral compass

    But neither point really seems quite correct. The first certainly cannot be right – I won’t even start listing the reasons, just go back to JCs post a few days ago listing the daily deluge of disasters in the news. While the second argument doesn’t really mesh with the statistics of increasing criminality and the repression on the streets, for starters.

    Sure, perceptions are important, simple example: inequality has been shown to correlate with greater social friction. Somewhere in here “the grass is greener” can be thrown into the argument. Life is a game of tit-for-tat. You give up some things in exchange for others. People in different societies don’t share identical motivations and goals. But just a couple of things we can agree on, the great majority abhor violence (at least at their doorstep), insecurity and scarcity. People: we’re headed for the stone age here, no matter what goggles you are wearing.


    • Excellent comment. We can add that Chavismo was good (and Madurismo less so) at manipulating perception…but perception because of information flow and some images, little to do with ideology.

      Here you can see a chart I produce showing how many kilos of chicken you could buy with the
      minimum wage. Right now = less chicken than in 1998. 2010 was the climax of a local maximum.


    • Yep, we are headed for the stone age. Yet millions of people believe this is because of the economic war, iguanas, and empires.


  6. Come on guys, the legitimacy of the Bolivarian Revolution’s ideological claims rests on the government’s commitment to participatory democracy. Chávez has legislated a lot of progressive laws and misiónes. Whether they actually materialized or not or whether their implementation was effective or not is up for debate. But the model of providing marginalized sectors an opportunity to manage their own affairs (e.g. consejos comunales) is what gives chavismo legitimacy. Add to the material gains they’ve had achieved since 1999 (increased consumption), then you pretty much have broad public support for this political project.

    In my opinion, part of the reason why the barrios are nowhere near this protest movement is because the opposition consistently attack the legitimacy of Maduro’s government. And I think this feeds into the orientalist argument advanced by the author. A government supporter is looking at these people on the street and thinking, ” they don’t believe my vote really counts and yet they’re out here claiming to ‘help me’.”

    We all acknowledge that the popular sectors experience the brunt of hardships that result from economic and political mismanagement. But I can almost guarantee that if this wave of protests didn’t have an anti-government message (la salida, Venezuela una dictadura), then the popular sectors would be on the streets in large numbers.


    • And do the maths: most Venezuelans, by far, are poor. And yet: already in April 2013 Maduro and the CNE could get only half the votes.


    • You are acknowledging that Venezuela is experiencing the “hardships that result from economic and political mismanagement”, but then you claim that the protests shouldn’t be anti-government. So I ask, who is then responsible for this mismanagement?


      • The government should be responsible for mismanagement, but there’s a fundamental difference between protesting before the government (holding them accountable for an unsatisfactory performance) and protesting because you’re anti-government (not viewing Maduro as a legitimate). This is a very crucial difference here. Because if the political orientation of your protest is to get the president to resign, it sends the message to others that their vote was meaningless. Do you see the difference?


        • I see your point. However, I also find just “protesting before the government” a little bit ludicrous under the current circumstances, in the sense that it’s not like we can demand and expect the government to improve its performance. The government won’t get any better than it is right now. So then what? Are we forced to wait another five long years of ruin? Are you completely sure that of all those people who voted for Maduro last year, no one regrets having done so by now?

          In my opinion, the only solution is this: An early recall referendum. I know the constitution only allows for this after half the presidential term, but Maduro could agree to hold such referendum and resign if he loses. That would at least bring some calm to the country, and it would be fair.

          Of course, I know that won’t happen. But again, as I said, it’s the ONLY solution.


          • “The government won’t get any better than it is right now. So then what?”

            Then you do what people do in any democracy. You vote against them in the next elections. That’s how democracy works. You don’t get to overthrow a government just because you don’t like it. It is incredible how hard it is for you all to grasp this basic concept.


            • Democracies involve Free and Fair elections. They are the basic building block of democracy, the core of it’s very legitimacy. Without those, democracy only exists as a farce and perversion. We don’t have free and fair elections, thus talk of how ‘democracy works’ is as insulting as it is obtuse. It is incredible how hard it is for you to grasp this basic concept


              • You’ve had 19 free and fair elections in 12 years, and in many cases opposition politicians have won. But, yeah, “we don’t have free and fair elections” because Belisario says so….


              • If you really think elections in Venezuela are anywhere near fair, then further discussion on this topic is pointless.


            • If you read the whole post I wrote, you’ll realize I wasn’t advocating overthrowing the government (like in a coup or something). I said that the only solution I see is an early recall referendum, and that would be a democratic way to solve the problem, provided a minimum of conditions for the transparency of the process are met. I know the constitution only allows for this after half the presidential term, but if Maduro wanted to bring some calm to the country, he could hold such a referendum and resign if he happens to lose. Would that be antidemocratic?

              I know this won’t happen, and there are issues like a possible 2nd Tascon list, but one of the things I don’t like about the 1999 constitution is that the presidential term is too long. Imagine having cancer and having to stick to a very, very bad doctor for six years, just because for some reason you don’t have the right to switch doctors before that. Would that be reasonable?

              And by the way, if you are chavista, isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that “you don’t get to overthrow a government just because you don’t like it”, when you are a big fan and supporter of a guy who gave a coup?


              • You weren’t advocating overthrowing the government, but you were showing that you were confused about what the opposition should do since there aren’t elections for several more years. That’s the funny part. This is a reality that EVERY OPPOSITION in EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD has to live with. It is the reality of democracy. When you lose an election, you have to wait until the next election! Wow, surprise! Amazing how that works!

                And nice try with the “if you are a chavista” nonsense. Chavez went to jail for his coup, as should all of your opposition leaders for advocating and supporting a coup.


              • So if a government is completely destroying the country, and it’s completely clear that’s gonna keep doing so, and that it is completely deaf, and it’s gonna keep doing it for five more years at least, all we have to do is sit back, relax and watch how it all happens while we drink a beer. Is that what you propose?


    • Instinctivepath :

      Dont know that the idea of setting up comunity self help groups ( whatever grand name is given them for propaganda purposes) or the idea of helping people in need through targeted govt social programs (fancifully baptized as misiones) is something which is at the core of opposition condemnation of Chavismo , most would like to see these programs become better phocused and organized to make them more efficient and to avoid local enchufados using it as sources of personal or small scale political corruption but dont think that there is in the opposition any problem with these ideas.

      Hitler understood that the more you atomize power into minuscule isolated pieces the more dependent they are to the Centralized Hegemonic Power that gives them their life support and funds , he used the tactic creating multilayered nazi party groups all over germany which could never amount to nothing because they were so badly disconnected and unorganized . Participatory democracy at the local level is fine although not always easy to implement , at the national level is just a way of masking the heavy hand of a centralized authority calling all the shots .!! An argentine writer mentioned that when you have a dictatorship with a one track totalitarian agenda but which wants to claim popular support it really develops into a kind of Democracia Delegataria , where all followers have no real say in how things are done, but are told to delegate to the charismatic central authority all the power in that society !! Participatory democracy except at a very local level is impractical to implement except as a way of disguising a totalitarian form of tyranny .

      I do think that Chavez was able to give masses of people who before him felt forlorn of the govts paternalistic care a sense of hope , of being cared for , of having someone noble strong and mighty represent them in a fantasy charade where they appeared as heroically fighting an evil enemy : the empire !! the wicked sinister burgoisie .

      To that end he used a discourse which lacks any conceptual coherence or depht , more bloated rethoric than anything else , a caricature of an ideology borrowing from marxist catch phrases and ‘super hero’ comic book slogans . I see these tactics as mimicking mutatis mutandi the Wizard of Oz tricks for convincing not very sophisticated or knowleadgable but much suffered and good hearted people about being the beneficiarys of some magnificent gift , we all remember the ticking clock heart making the tin man feel he had gained a heart or the straw man feeling that by recieving a diploma he became a brilliant mind or the cowardly lion believing himself heroic because he got a medal for valour . He used rethorical trinckets to persuade them that they were become a princely race of vengeful warriors …..what a farce !!


      • this is beautiful, BB. I now have a better frame of reference for the rather meaningless term ‘participatory democracy’. Can you imagine my surprise when an acquaintance of mine, who is a member of (North American) First Nations, living well beyond chavezian borders, brought up the term participatory democracy? I asked her that if she found a non-politicized explanation for this term, to please let me know. No answer has been forthcoming.


      • Bill Bass:

        I agree with most of your critiques on participatory democracy, but I still think you’re missing the overall point because PERCEPTION plays a very important here.

        1) Opposition protests are about liberty, scarcity, insecurity, inflation. But there’s nothing about social justice or inequality, issues that are important for the lower-classes.
        2) The opposition wants to improve los misiónes and make it more efficient. So why haven’t they achieved electoral success? There’s one logical answer: the opposition has a branding problem. Are they really these progressives who care about the efficiency of social programs or are they just trying to co-opt it for the sake of electoral gain? I’m willing to bet, more often than not, that people will think the latter. And some of the rhetoric that comes from opposition supporters doesn’t help either. “Maduro is a bus driver, he has no business being president.” Very distasteful, classist rhetoric. All of this stimulates distrust.

        Again, I agree with the crux of your argument here. Participatory democracy, in the grand scheme of things, may be a scam. But in comparison to where they were twenty-years ago, they have achieved substantial gains in consumption. So they go with what they perceive is working for them.


        • I agree with your item on “perception” and with what you said about the failures of a great part of the oppos to convey they are for social equality.

          At the same time I content this:
          “But in comparison to where they were twenty-years ago, they have achieved substantial gains in consumption. ”
          Consumption indeed rose up to 2008-2011. Now people might be still getting fatter but not better fed.
          Now poor people are more far away from having their own house than in 1998, in spite of the propaganda with the “lottery” winners. Now (not in 2011) they can buy less chicken and less tomatoes than in 1998.
          Of course, now the myth has been established and the standard of living can drop much further until the poorest – and with that I include a meaningful part of my extended family- realise they are worse off than in 1998.


        • John Adams made a point that modern psychologists have confirmed , there is in people a Passion for Distinction , , for scaping the mediochre banality and pettiness of their every day lives and consequently a desire to create an often imaginary life for themselves, to participate in purportedly grandiose heroic deeds or events or struggles that makes them feel special and important , If you want to put it poetically there is in everyone a Hunger for Dignity , for salience the want of which causes them to feel something John Adams called the ‘Injury of Oblivion’ .

          People feel humiliated when they have nothing to show by way of achievements that make them feel proud of themselves . That allow them a moment in the limelight of others attention. People who are afflicted by poverty , by marginalization know failures and frustrations which are largely the result of haphhazard historical or social conditions which hamper their personal growth , their capacity for achieving things of note.and are thus specially exposed to these injuries ,

          To scape or cope with that injury, with that feeling of personal insignificance people go for a number of Placebos , one of them is the moral self glorification or histrionizationn of their own victimhood , they adopt a discourse where an emblematic fiend is blamed for everything wrong in their lives , for all the things that limit their achievement of Salience and Status , thus they feed their hearts with self induced feelings of righteous vengeful anger and indignation against an imaginary enemy . This fiend of course can be personified a number of colourful ways , Its capitalist society , the bourgoisie ( the middle classes) , The Evil Empire , the Corrupt Politicians of Yore etc. . They cant stand the idea that there are people who thru dint of talent or good fortune or blind circumstances are doing better than they are , Venomed but highly thrilling resentments sets in ( a very natural universal human emotion), which allow them to feed recreational hatreds . Some might even think that the concepts of social justice and absolute equality can be coopted to stand as symbolic representations for these deeply gratifying resentments . The better to morally toot ones own horn. !!

          Chavez was a master at tapping at these resentments , at creating fables which made people with poverty scarred egoes feel that they were involved in a heroic struggle against a grotesquely fiendish enemy in which they played magnificent roles . He did the trick of making them feel important and glorious because of their hatreds and inflamed feeling of victimhood.. Thats a hard act to follow., It might make for great branding but that isnt a brand people with conscience would want to use.

          The Eloquence of Resentment is intoxicating , its also addictive , it makes people who know lifes failures up close and the injury of oblivion feel possesed of a feeling of vengeful and bloated self importance.!!

          The other thing he did was to use the old 4th republic trick of the corrupt political patronage system, The Big Pinata, magnified to gargantuan proppportions by the huge inflow of money increased oil prices produced and prodigally shower people with freebies and goodies and subsidies of all kinds to capture their rapt fanatical loyalty. and gratitude . This of course had the effect of raising median consumption levels but fatally without a correspondent increase in the countrys economic productive capacity , moreover while taking theatrical measures to destroy and ruin that capacity and substituting that lost local capacity with chaotically funded imports.. The result is the current crisis which consequences all Venezuelans currenty suffer.

          I cant speak for what the growing number of opposition followers feel about helping the poor , but I do feel that in any well organized orderly well run country , Society has a duty in respect of its worse off citizens to : first create a safety net system to protect them from the worst ravages of poverty and secondly to create conditions to give them a real opportunity to develop a capacity to improve their lives by learning to be productive and self sufficient in how they manage their lives . . I would rather de sentimentalize and de theatrlize these tasks . both tasks are among those which Rawls mentions as essential for the building of a just society. I see the pursuitn of these tasks not simply as justified for reasons of political convenience but as a duty of any rationally organized society . Would like all of the opposition to see it the same way.!! .



          • BB, your explanation of what lies behind the Eloquence of Resentment should be enshrined, better yet, published for larger readership, in more than one language. I would also add that this Eloquence of Resentment also touches other fringes of society, not just the abject poor. Those who carry any number of slights, who haven’t been able to rise above them, or resolve them psychologically, are also easy prey to scam artists selling placebos.
            You have tapped into fertile territory that, if well explained — as you have — can help Venezuelans, especially its politicians, avoid dipping into this miasma in future.


          • Bill Bass,

            I am not sure that I understand all of your ideas correctly.Maybe you could kindly clarify if I am responding incorrectly to your points.

            Of course it is true that most people ( especially when they have their basic needs met) will have a strong desire for self esteem or at the very least a modicum of true dignity, but self esteem needs will never be met when people start comparing themselves with others.Self esteem needs can only truly be met when we feel we are growing and meeting our own internal standards.If we depend on the opinion of others for our self esteem and sense of self dignity, we will always fall short because there will always be people who can accomplish more.On the other hand only we know the truth about ourselves, and can judge correctly if we are meeting out own standards.

            While I agree that there should be some safety nets ( it shocks me how little of this there really is in Venezuela) …however first, and foremost, I believe it to be basic that people begin to feel that their lives are in their own hands and that they alone have the power to create a life well lived.

            Has the opposition not imparted a message that would appeal to marginalized people? In part yes, because many people experiencing poverty in Venezuela are pro opposition.

            Could it be improved? Always.

            However it’s a bit like raising the gas prices – some things have to be done that are not as popular as others but might be better for everyone in the long run.

            But long term plans are never popular , especially with the poor.It’s hard to win with truth.

            The archetype of the Hero can change with experience.I think many people including quite a few in poverty have overdosed on Robin Hood.We need new heroes and archetypes.We need a hero who doesn’t rob the rich to feed the helpless and useless poor.We need a hero can truly empower people and allow them to see that they need no one to be okay.That hero would provide a safe and just environment for people to plant the seed of their own futures.

            But basking in some limelight of other’s attentions is an ultimately unsatisfying pleasure that will never lead to true self esteem.


            • Firepiggette:

              Your views about self esteem are those of a mature balanced person , there is however a large body of work flowing in part from the pioneering work of Daniel Kahneman ( The noble prize winner) which has a somewhat less generous view of how human mind and emotions actually operate. It would be too long and difficult for me to attempt to summarize the picture which these many studies paint of the human mind and behaviour but to put it in a nut shell there is a strong inclination of people to measure their success on comparative terms to others and to generally overrate their own presumably superior capacities and achievements . One example , if you tell an employee that he got a 20% raise he will be happy , if later he discovers that his colleague next door got a 25% raise he will feel very hurt and angry .!! If you ask a group of 100 students whether they think they are in the top most intelligent 10% , at least 50% will include themselves in this latter category.!! (an statistical impossibility).

              People find it embarrasing (because of prevailing moral ideals) to reveal too much of the role that their conceit plays in how they see and respond to things, but psychologists now understand more about the high influence this emotion has in our mental and emotional life. Much more than is conventionally assummed.
              We tend to think of conceit as having to with money or venal achievements , with frivolous attire and the like , But there is also a type of conceit which is linked to the prestige of the ideas you embrace and proudly profess , I call that Moral Snobishness (Political Correctness is a form of Moral Snobishness) , think that passionately declaring your self a defender of social justice for the ego is the equivalent of a frivolous women wearing a gaudy fashionable hat . Think that Pretense has many forms and that as Montaigne once wrote ‘even virtue has its excesses’.

              Im not very sanguine about the capacity of ordinary people to acccurately judge or asses the performance of those they feel closely connected to them by some kind of emotional bond , We all know cronyism and nepotism are rife in the world , so are the rewards to partisan or tribal loyalties. There are some 30 odd percent of Venezuelans who feel so identified with the regime that nothing you tell them is going to make them budge an inch from their favourable assesment of what it does . There are some 20 odd percent of the regimes followers whose identification with it isnt so unconditional and who may be swerved to a different point of view if given the right narrative. This is evidently the target audience of any oppo discourse to broaden its popular base .!!

              The thing I repeat is to make this an honest narrative , one which the oppo can believe in , it cant be purely demagogic like gaining the sympathy of a group of children by telling them as a teacher that in its classes everyone will get an automatic A and never had to do an hour of homework , thats were the challenge lies because to improve and remedy the countries ill people will have to understand a few harsh things about how an economy works and about the usefulness of discipline and sacrifice. Knowing how to compose and deliver this narrative is big challenge !! I hope oppo leaders are up to it.!!


              • BB, Wow for thanks for taking so much time to elaborate.I am sure what you say is true: people are very much influenced by what others think of them, even though I also believe that this tendency should be improved on, it can take time…maybe even generations, depending on the person of course.Just a few minutes ago I received the below video from my daughter.A friends of hers is documenting the lives of the Piaroa in Venezuela.What strikes me( besides the obvious fascinating cultural aspects ) is the fact that the idea behind the filming itself is in part to learn from these people and to honor their knowledge.I think people in general feel freer to learn from others when those from whom they learn are also learning from them.Maybe a true and powerful leader knows that and can channel this into a positive movement. When this kind of learning takes place….there is less need for conceit based on a defensive posture on either side.

                Have nice day and if you get a moment, enjoy the video.


  7. “That The System Works”=the reason for the Chavista identity, and, presumably, Chavism’s “success”. The only thing that has “worked” is a Venezuelan Petrostate patronage system blessed with a ten-fold increase in the price of oil. Everything else about the “System” is a megaton disaster which has been amply chronicled on this Blog. True that the Barrios have their stomachs relatively satisfied, but also true that most other daily basic needs (sufficient real minimum wage, job opportunities, adequate medical care, personal security, quality education, sufficient water/electricity, etc., etc.) are sadly wanting. That the Barrios haven’t yet risen up is more a testament to fear of losing Government patronage and to physical threats by Government-armed Colectvos/Milicia/police/other assorted Govt.-paid thugs, than it is to “that the system works.”


    • They haven’t rise yet because the death squads (aka colectivos) are pointing guns and rifles to their faces.


  8. Orientalism is about how a dominant ideology, in a colonial or post colonial context, leads to a discourse that has these distortions of power built into it. The ironies here are many. No regime in recent times has done more to reinforce actual neocolonial conditions in an economy: dependence on a single resource, centralization of power, adoption of a narrow nationalist ideology for the purpose of uniting a diverse population, actual conditions of dependence on ‘foreign expertise’. At the heart of chavismo are narratives which a student of said will recognize, most prominently: the myth of the happy poor person, or what I think of as barrio kitsch: old men sitting around in their guayaberas playing dominoes against a colorful barrio backdrop. And somewhere there, the wise leader eterno, with his own ( militaristic) foundational myth. I could go on and on. The thing about Said is he is talking about the discourse of power in terms of actual economic relations, not mere perceptions or misunderstandings. We all need to try harder to understand the other. As a separate issue, there is this small problem of fascism taking root in a South American country…


  9. Having read (and been bored by) part of Edward Said book, I find the comparison wanting. There is a common culture between the Chavista and the escualido, something lacking between the Oriental and the European.

    The author has hit the nail right on the head rather by accident I suspect than by design when he says: “The inability to produce a leader has been thought, within the opposition, as one of the major drawbacks in the constituency of an attractive political alternative.” Too many people are looking for a messiah, a savior, a proxy father figure when really what is needed is a boring but solid accountant.


  10. As in the iron curtain countries, truth will only be known and then only for a short while before shame takes over and people begin to “forget”, once the house of cards comes crumbling down.

    The construction of the official discourse (and reactively that of the oppositions) has been such that we are most lost in the multilayer smoke screens and distractions, and many fail to understand the realities of the current regime.

    The regime has been relentless in establishing a clear cut leadership (*), not constructive through, whereas loyalty is rewarded and conscious independent thought punished.

    i do not completely disagree with the author claims of some paternalism and erroneous views from the opposition towards the chavismo, but just by stating the previous in the two terms framed by the regime, I am falling into the mind trap intended.

    I believe the failure is rather one of not seeing, or avoiding to see the evil force running the state, the government and ultimately the nation that is intent on crushing dissent, pillaging resources, and crashing productivity forcing the population to beg for crumbs, and or, run the oppression (*).

    I believe that ” no vale, yo no creo,…, Venezuela no es cuba,…” disclaimers and salvetes of 20-15 years ago, allowed for naive avoidance mechanisms, that allowed the castrista and other foreign invasion to continue unchecked for so long.

    Their plan was clear, gain submission in military by widespread corruption prone operations (Plan Bolivar 2000), gain the treasury of PDVSA, attack merito and independent private enterprise, let crime unchecked as a social mechanism system, bankrupt the economy and make everyone not enchufado a beggar, and initiate re-education of youngsters and the most vulnerable socio-economic groups. Let anyone that can leave to leave, further dismembering the social thread and the gentilicio.

    They used the country’s resources to undermine the own country’s institutions (and stealing a cut obviously) and have burned through 2 trillion USD with only a destroyed nation to show for. A master plan if you ask me.

    I am seriously worried the damage is too grave to solve.

    Only seeing isolated courageous behaviours by students, and citizens, hearing MCM and LL speeches (and others), seeing the work of ONG’s and interest groups in defending HHRR and detainees lately, give me some consolation. However, isolated efforts are not enough against the ruthless occupation.

    The most powerful idea, reconciliation!
    (How to drive Justice and not revenge!, Justice and not impunity, how to bring in the ” chavista” masses to our side against the occupation, and not seeing each other as separate.!!!)


  11. One other factor that in my mind may explain the cohesion of Chavismo in spite of the dire circumstances is the sense of “collaborationism”. If you have profited from Chavismo being that you have a job, a stipend or even maybe a house, you know that if and when Chavismo goes your gains are in danger by “pase de factura” (spiteful redressing).

    There was a caricature from Zapata a few years ago that essentially had the tag line that “cuarta republica eran malos, pero estos son peores” (fourth republic was bad, but these -chavistas- are worse), hence the ‘cargos publico’ purges between copeyanos y adecos are going to be child plays compared to what happens in post chavismo.

    So even if things are really bad right now: crime wave, scarcity, inflation, to name a few. Unemployment, loss of your stipend, risk of having your house taken away are worse alternatives. So you doggedly fight to keep Chavismo going to insure your gains, while you can.

    Of course this is like fighting for your first class cabin in the titanic.


  12. “The idea of a chavismo rooted in legitimate ideological claims, that are understood by its followers, and that include, but go beyond, purely material motivations”?
    That idea goes beyond material motivations.
    Pure, undiluted Hatred and zealous Pride are two immaterial motivations that make the core of chavismo, there’s no other reason that chavistas can shut their eyes so easily on reality and say thigs as stupid and infuriating as “¡Dejen de llorar por los muertos, que en todos los países matan gente!” (“Stop crying about the killed, because in every other coutry people is killed!”)


  13. “Orientalism is a term popularized by Edward Said, and it is used to describe how the West portrays and perceives the Orient in a patronizing manner. Commonly, this includes a conception of the former as less civilized, less educated, oppressed, and in need of guidance or assistance from a more advanced agent. When analyzing the opposition’s discourse, it becomes evident that the opposition constructs its idea of chavistas in a similar fashion.”

    Who says this is so about the Opposition’s discourse? Wouldn’t this allegation normally have to be demonstrated with evidence? What have Capriles, Lopez, or Machado or any of them said that reflects a patronizing attitude towards those who support Maduro or supported Chavez?

    And, does Chavismo think that IT is the “more advanced agent” whose guidance is needed by Venezuelans who are “oppressed” or “less educated”?

    Bottom line: “Orientalism” is a kind of name calling, but not much of a useful political conception otherwise.


  14. Any talk of ‘the system works’ without mentioning the massive and prolonged oil boom is intellectually dishonest. The “system” relies on distributing massive oil rents to core supporters while filling them with intoxicating narratives.

    Would this ‘system’ have any chance of success without the 800% increase in the price of oil? Certainly not.

    Good luck talking with the average barrio dweller about world oil prices and it’s enabling of massive government handout programs….you won’t get very far. They don’t want to listen. In a real sense, many poor believed in Chavez and they got something out of it….that’s all they care to know. The boom in oil revenue, which Chavez did nothing to create or sustain, is just a meaningless detail as far as they are concerned.


  15. “civil rights activist Assata Shakur”???

    You mean escaped murderer Assata Shakur, honored guest of Fidel Castro, the longest serving tyrant in the world.

    If anyone has a paternalistic, orientalist view of the Venezuelan people, it is the chavernment, which censors what they can read or hear, floods the country with propaganda and organizers to tell them what to think, steals and coerces their votes, and tries to micromanage the entire national economy.

    Unlike Kipling’s “white men”, however, the chavistacrats are mostly corrupt or incompetent (often both).


    • “If anyone has a paternalistic, orientalist view of the Venezuelan people, it is the chavernment, which censors what they can read or hear, floods the country with propaganda and organizers to tell them what to think, steals and coerces their votes, and tries to micromanage the entire national economy.”

      Absolutely. Even in their own propaganda (the recent illustrated Constitution) they show the state holding the citizens in its arms as evil-doers eye them from the hills.


  16. While I suppose that introspection and deep analysis is a good thing, to me this seems a little like asking me to appreciate the point of view of my mugger.


    • Roy,

      Generally it’s a ploy to shame people from criticizing what is clearly wrong .You know the kind of people who judge you for judging others and think they get away with it?

      In reverse:

      It’s as though they were to say : ” Don’t judge someone else’s sin just because it is different from your sin ” …which implies that we don’t judge our own sins…How do they know we don’t judge our own sins? Of course they don’t.

      The logical fallacies behind this man’s arguments are so numerous that it is almost too tiring to expose them all.

      Maybe that’s their tactic.


        • Brand Loyalty once installed in peoples mind is very difficult to uproot . It becomes unconscious and defies rational challenge .

          Remember the blind trials were people were given to drink pepsi and coke in unmarked glasses and most preferred the taste of pepsi above that of coke but in a second trial , where they could see which glass contained which drink the years of coke propaganda set in and they all switched their preferences to coke .
          The coke image was so strong that when people said that coke tasted better brain scan of pleasure centres showed that indeed they were enjoying the coke taste better than the pepsi taste.

          Also remember the ruckus that broke out when Coke tried replacing the original coke for a new tasting coke and people wouldnt have it .

          The sentimental attachment to the old Chavez image and speech is still strong , but the crisis and the hardships its imposing on people have begun making Chavez followers feel that Maduro no longer represents the old Chavez brand , The statement Maduro is not Chavez is becoming more accepted each day . The dissapointment with Maduro however is not enough for many Chavistas to change brands because the oppo has for years been stigmatized as ‘alien’ and ‘not us’ so former regime loyalists have trouble identifying with what the opposition image represents. This is not to say that HCR re branding efforts have been unsuccesful , oppo numbers are growing feeding on the dissapointments of the less fanatized Chavez sympathizers but more has to be done to achieve the kind of mayority that can bring about a regime change.

          I feel that maybe a modified oppo discourse could help speed upt the process , that we need a narrative , an HONEST narrative that can appeal to Chavistas core emotions and expectations and yet attract the sympathy of the traditional oppo sympathizer . I have an idea of what form that narrative might take but Im no expert and have to beleive that if Capriles is as well organized as he appears to be he will develop the message that the oppo needs to attract those Chavista followers to his camp.

          What I dont feel is honest is to try to engage with Chavista at a conceptual or doctrinal level because there is nothing there except smoke and mirrors and a lot of hate mongering mendacious and pretentious babble. The challenge is psychological not intellectual .!!


          • The challenge is also legal.

            Impunity for building golden bridges to the nomenclature, so that they allow giving up power just perpetuates the problem. Next time around the new incumbent chavistas, having been given amnistia, will continue to play politically without having been responsible for their crimes.

            How will the society deter new challengers groups from coups to gain power, and new governments from pillaging the state, when no precedent is available.

            This is one of my greatest reservations to the Diego Arrias of the world. They stuck gold in their government post, retire to a life of luxuries, …wait enough time, and then come back to political life as if nothing ever happened…. pontificando!


  17. I really liked the use of Said to phrase the problem. And I certainly see also something like a mirror ‘Occidentalism’ in the way chavismo portrays the opposition. (Actually, Pedro, you may like what Fernando Coronil has to say about Occidentalism, which is beside the point now).

    That said, I am less comfortable with the use of Renny Otolina’s nationalist/conservative morale as a solution. One thing chavismo was successful at is changing the bases of the national imaginary and the idea of going back to a pre-Chávez morality is part of the problem that part of the opposition seems unwilling to let go. I see that a great challenge would be to help construct a less condescending/quasi-religious national discourse.


  18. Its kind of sad that many of the comments miss the big point of the article, and in fact go full mode into what it criticises.

    Not that I think it is perfect, but the central nugget of truth of it is clear. Forget about all the crap that demonices chavismo for a moment. It is all true, of course, at some levels, the higher the worse it is, but go to the root of its popular support.

    People support it because they think it works. It works, or seems to work, for them. You can call them all what you want, and achieve nothing, or worse than nothing, rejection.

    Or you can try to see how to make them understand that it really doesnt work. I mean, faster than reality is doing it, cause it will, but it would be better if the country can be given a new direction before the ruin is so total that even the hardcore believers realize they were wrong.

    Telling them they are just idiots that cant ever be trusted to handle their destiny gets you nothing but rejection. And at those numbers, that means everything from “never going to beat the goverment” to “potential civil war”


  19. If Chavismo is a manifestation of the Savage Discourse ( as many in this blog would have it ) you cant engage it in a discussion from a Rational Liberal Discourse vantage point because the Savage Discourse does not work at the same conceptual level but at more primitive emotive imagery level, Its the equivalent of discussing horticulture with a gorilla .!! totally absurd !!

    . Because Chavismo uses words and rethorical phrases taken from marxism to dress up its naked savage inspiration doesnt mean that they are in any way orthodox marxists at an intellectual level , In fact there is no intellectual level , look at the very few feather weight ‘intellectuals’ that support it . They have no role in actually influencing or modelling govt actions only in adding some fanciful verbal garnish to its rethoric.

    Look at the people that are the emblematic representatives of Chavismo , can you imagine Maduro, or Diosdado really reading a serious book, reflecting on its contents . To treat Chavismo as capable of a reasonable intellectual level discussion is the height of naivete , they ve never done any of that , any exchange with them (which they studiously avoid) instantly becomes rethorical theatre , the opportunity for displaying oratorical histrionics , nothing more.!!

    Look at how they have instituted a system that represses press freedom but concentrating on controlling the mass visual and the audio media leaving print media for last , because THEIR FOLLOWERS DONT READ PAPERS OR MAGAZINES . They targeted the destruction of RCTV and Globovision and revoked the licenses of dozens or radio stations long before taking any steps to go for control of the Cadena Capriles and Ultimas Noticias , traditionally the penny press of Venezuela .

    You can be intellectually condescending for two reasons , out of a stuck up delusional feeling of superiority
    or because your command of an area of thought or knowledge is really superior to that of others , maybe the modern physician might feel that the curative practices of a amazonian witchdoctor dont generally deserve that attention that a Dr Convic does and he would be right !! Pretending its not so that at some basic cultural level every system of beliefs or thought is equal, doesnt seem quite convincing .

    Chavismo poses a problem , not at the level of a meeting of the minds at a theoretical or conceptual level , but at the level of political branding and messaging . In this sense Pedro has it right .!!. . . . . .


  20. Interesting discussions. From them, and those from the following post “Roberta kills dialogue”, it is evident that like troubled waters, Chavismo and the PSUV are elements that will long be among us. To survive as a viable party, the Oppo will always have to navigate through the magnified bluster, the impasse-filled rhetoric, and the reasoning handicap from these elements, no easy task.

    Based on these premises, I can better understand why the SLOW approach for consensus building is the correct path for the Oppo to take for the future of Venezuela.

    On a gut level, I prefer the FAST approach. For like most people, when faced with chaos, I’d prefer an emergency exit and a newly-minted paradigm. But given the pervasiveness of chavismo’s magical realism, entrenched in the psyche of a strong proportion of the electorate, the choice of a fast approach (especially that espoused by firebrand LL) would only produce more chaos.

    At least, that’s what I think .. por ahora.


Comments are closed.