A major leak

Don't you forget about me

Don’t you forget about me

Ever since he turned himself in, Venezuelans had not seen or heard from Leopoldo López. The nation’s most visible political prisoner was made … invisible, thanks to the government’s iron discipline.

Today, that discipline cracked just a little bit. A clandestine interview, accompanied by pictures of a bearded López in the dungeon, made their way to several of the continent’s most prominent newspapers. What he had to say was almost as important as what he looks like.

From his prison cell, López sent a strong message to his captor, particularly “temporary” (i.e., one wrong move and you’re toast, missy) Judge Adriana Lóopez. Interestingly, he claims that a call she received during the hearing, in the middle of the night, forced her to change her ruling, and to decide against letting him stand trial from a position of freedom.

He also says that he holds no grudges against the opposition coalition, the MUD, saying that he “understands” the reasons they searched for dialogue, but that they should now realize that dialogue with the government is impossible. In doing so, he shows himself more magnanimous than many of his followers are willing to be.

Finally, he lays out the road plan: we need to work on some sort of election to get us out of this pickle. Whether it’s a referendum, or activating a Constitutional Assembly (something even Henrique Capriles hinted at a few months ago), López presses the MUD to understand the urgency of the moment, and to act upon it using the constitutional weapons at our disposal. The López interview fueled the fire of Maria Corina Machado, among others, who today asked for new elections. López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, was at her side.

Leopoldo’s exhortation comes not a moment too soon. Most of the opposition leadership has seemed aloof and adrift, confirming what Leopoldo himself told me a few months ago, that many in the MUD think the only way out of this is to wait for the next Presidential election. Henrique Capriles, for one, continues to dodge the drama that is unfolding, refusing to set out a clear path forward. But López, from the loneliness of his isolation, sends a clear message: the time is now, hay un camino. How ironic.

These kinds of interviews were commonplace in the pre-Chávez era. Hugo Chávez himself held court for many of the nation’s top journalists from his cell in Yare prison. But Maduro and his gendarmes had somewhow managed to avoid letting Leopoldo be seen or heard from … until today.

Heads at Ramo Verde prison will probably roll after this. Kudos to El Nacional’s Alex Vásquez, who got the scoop, as well as to his paper.

82 thoughts on “A major leak

  1. Gonna take a look at the links.
    This regime has its days numbered.
    And before somebody says “yeah, that’s been told since 15 years ago”, in fact, dictatorships don’t fall in one day, many people claim that Pinochet fell after a single referendum, not mentionning that chileans went like 10 years straight protesting before that, as an example.


    • @Ralph: Days numbered? True, that has been said for 15 years. 15 years of “numbered” days: (5479). What needs to be known is: What IS the number? another five thousand? Are you “Gonna” tell us?


  2. I downloaded it before the GOV/Cuban overlords will attempt to erase it from the El Nacional site.


  3. What in hell is Capriles doing right now?
    And yes, I feel sorry for the guy on duty on the floor of Leopoldo. ;-)
    He should know that his case made it in all majore press in the world and it is up to the people to remind the world – means Venezuelans abroad and theire families, friends SOS VZLA!!!


  4. que Dios lo bendiga y proteja. (Y espero que no haya sido abusado.)

    Por otra parte .. I must point out the irony of a political prisoner who does not believe in dialogue with the regime, while he believes in popular elections, which are controlled by that very regime. (“Hay que derrocar a la dictadura por la vía popular.”)


    • The popular way isn’t only elections, is elections AND protests. The Assembly is a way to galvanize the efforts to defeat the regime in a specific point.


      • OpUno,

        Elections are damaging because they reinforce the world view that Democracy is a part of what the regime is about,and it isn’t. Elections are a lie in Venezuela .The truth about Venezuela is very simple and needs to be repeated so that people don’t get ” confused” : Venezuela is a dictatorship.

        About protests – why protest in a country who offers you the possibility of winning through elections?


        • A bunch of elections don’t prove anything, even the white-washers at the Carter Institute know that by now. And protest is neccesary to enforce the actual results of said elections, which is why San Cristóbal doesn’t have a chavista mayor despite the regime’s efforts.


  5. A constituyente would be the nail on the coffin.

    These goons could easily modify this constitution to suit, adding things such larger presidential terms, fewer overall elections, further gerrymandering tools and outright bans on all disent.

    Their comodin is always “Instigacion a delinquir, terrorismo y traicion a la patria”.

    Constituyente is a trap.


    • I wondered about the same thing. Seems to me, she has toned down her earlier shrillness, and has become more focused on elements of the bigger picture,


  6. Though Leopoldo’s statements are in accordance with his current situation, I find the mysterious call to judge Adriana López very hard to believe. He said that I’d wager to up the drama level. If you think she had actually made a different decision than the one she issued, then you must’ve forgotten who Maria Afiuni is and what she has been used for.


  7. say hello to Venezuelas next president…. on the other hand leopoldo is making a mistake by taking about a constituyente or seguir la constitucion, lets remember that la CONSTITUCION is not of venezuela is for el chavismo so they will be able to change or modify la constitucion in their favor, I think the real leaders of todays oposition ( students,Leopoldo and Maria corina) need to step their game up a little bit and get away from the lines of la MUD and their dialogue BS…. and capriles well i thought he was the MAN, but right now he can just sit down and wait hasta que el tiempo de dios sea perfecto…………………….


  8. This message goes in English for the benefit of readers that may not understand Spanish.

    The only thing, the single objective the Venezuelan oposition nneeds to accomplish is this: Become a majority. And I am not talking a 51% majority. I am referring to an overwhelming, landslide majority. We cannot be talking about calling for new elections, constitutional assemblies or anything of that sort unless we are certain of winning. Otherwise, we’d be, as some have said, simply digging ourselves deeper in the hole.

    Regarding Leopoldo, Where are, pray tell, those who commented that it was a good idea for him to turn himself in to “prove the justice system was broken”? I have not heard from them lately. I always opposed that he deliver himself meekly to the tender mercies of the GNB. He should have called upon the people of Caracas to support and protect him, barricaded himself in some strategic location with full video audio and Internet communications and let the government know: Here I am: come and get me.

    But NO, he had to play the Nelson Mandela card. Let’s not forget that Mandela was ultimately successful, but again, he was in jail for 30 years.


    • I see no change until the people in the Ranchos come down from the hills in protest. With out them the government has no support?


    • Pablo,

      If the opposition wins with anything less than a landslide it will not have the mandate to weather the blow back of the traumatic economic measures required to stabilize the economy. Think of Fuji-shock, as the economic measures implemented by Fujimori were known in Peru in the early 90s.

      Things getting worse now are only better in the long run. The Chavista brand has to be poisoned by their performance into obsolescence. The electorate in Venezuela has to really forsake Chavismo and cut away with any possibility of romanticizing this period. Do remember that Venezuelans have a tendency of doing just that, in cuarta republica times it was common to hear “…un militar arrecho como Perez Jimenez” or “..con los Adecos se vive mejor”.

      As for our very own “Mandela in alpargatas”, Leopoldo Lopez; he too is the bane of the regimen. We can only hope he can gain the stature and fame of famous dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo in China or Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. Granted, sitting in Ramo Verde is a very high price to pay, put that notoriety and moral gravitas only comes with such sacrifice.

      Finally, Venezuelan opposition should not despair and make moral choices to combat these thugs. Indeed, firmly and unrelenting but “en el tiempo de Dios”, not with guarimbas.


      • …Venezuelan opposition should not despair and make moral choices to combat these thugs. Indeed, firmly and unrelenting but “en el tiempo de Dios”, …

        firmly and unrelenting but with pragmatism and not beato-speak.


    • When did “overwhelming majority” or “majority by a landslide” become such an acclaimed pursuit?

      Capriles really painted us into a corner with that theory. It even trumps the concepts of majorities and minorities.


  9. Geez, unfortunately everyone commenting here is right. The Oppo needs a firm 60/+ majority to even hope to win any electoral process, which will be heavily tilted pro-Regime by an electorate dependent on Petro-state patronage and coerced by Petro-state paid goons. The military decision-makers who could make a difference in the short-term are too busy filling their pockets with countless Govt. political positions, Govt.-owned business corruption (cement/cabillas/Guayana/etc.),Cadivi scams,military purchase commissions,contraband, and the drug trade. The Guarimba protests, which I believe were positive, particularly to focus international attention/condemnation on Govt. abuses in Venezuela, were not followed up by broad popular discontent. The 30% minimum wage sal y agua hike brought momentary contentment to the Chavista base, which, with its low aspirational level, has not protested loudly or widely to having to wait for hours in line to access scarce heavily Govt .price-subsidized essential foodstuffs. There’s something in the psyche of the Venezuelan D-E classes which conditions them to this servility, and I don’t think it’s their “dignification” a lo Chavismo, but rather an almost genetic peon mentality from the long hard pre-petroleum colonial servitude times…At this point,, it looks like LL is in for the long haul, and I’m not sure his personal/social background will be sufficiently preparatory to endure this hardship.


    • That’s one of the most racialist thngs I have read in a while in this blog. If you analysed a little bit the statistics of voting in Venezuela you would realise it’s rubbish what you are saying.


        • “There’s something in the psyche of the Venezuelan D-E classes which conditions them to this servility, and I don’t think it’s their “dignification” a lo Chavismo, but rather an almost genetic peon mentality”


          • “…an ALMOST genetic peon mentality.” The Modern Petrostate is the new Hacienda, its dependents the new peons (whatever their race). Thank goodness I’m only a 1/4 descendant (Schneringer) Teuton (now, THAT’S racism, Kepler).


        • Of course it is. Genes define races. Linking cultural problems to a genetic cesspool is an outre version of racism. To give you a household example, Perez Jimenez’s New National Ideal racial policy was to promote immigration in order to “cure” Venezuelans of laziness and backwards mentality.


          • It’s also racism to imply that people who were not born in Venezuela are less Venezuelan …if Venezuela is an identification rather than a specific DNA


            • So what was once accurately described as xenophobia is now racism?

              It looks like the race card keeps expanding its parameters as a defense mechanism, in this case, a reverse finger-pointing exercise for the foreign born/raised, dealing with the discomfort of a “tribe” not used to vast differences.

              In other words, what was once a natural process of acclimatization by both parties, which only time and effort could ease, becomes, in a polarized environment, an “accept me or I’ll pull the race card on you”.


      • And then comes the surprise: “Hey, I called all those people genetically inferior (a.k.a Untermenshen) and, on an unrelated note, I’m having a hard time convincing them to side with me politically”


      • Kep, do you have recent voting stats by Vzlan D-E economic classes?
        p.s. I agree with Net; his comment is not based on race.


  10. Sir John Glubb once wrote a History of the Arab People in which he described in detail the differing ethos of Egyptian , Middle Crescent , Iraqui and Saudi Arabs . Even though it was easy to classify them all as members of one same race , history and other factors had carved them into four different ethos , each distinctly identifiable . In another book David Hackett Fisher wrote lucidly about the ‘Seeds of Albion’ , about how the US rises from the establishment in American soil of four exemplar British peoples , again each with its own ethos and character .

    In Venezuela most people are of mixed race , even when outwardly they look more caucasian or more negro genetically they really carry a wide spectrum of genes from different races , mostly european but with a strong admixture of aborigine blood and some african genes. Mestisaje wasnt uniform but it did encompass almost all of Venezuelas population .

    While on the social spectrum the lighter skinned are more frequent among the better off classes and the darker skinned more represented among the worse off classes ( D-E Classes) there is no absolute racial divide between one group and the other . What is different is the social culture that characterizes the better off ( civil society) and the culture which deep chronic poverty breeds among its victims ( marginal society) , it is the warping effect of marginal culture as it has developed in Venezuela that may be said to have made an imprint on people who because of their upbringing are more open to certain values of western civilization and those who are more heavily inclined towards more primitive values ( caudillismo, the picaro mentality , the scorn of the dedicated hard working pendejo , the irresponsible machismo which makes so many men and women neglectful of their marital and parenting duties) .

    The cultural divide is not absolute , people raised in one society can pass to the other , given certain opportunities and idiosincracies of character . Venezuela is an example of how certain incentives can go a long way in allowing for a very high rate of social mobility .

    Net is on to something in calling attention to the distinction beween the two Venezuelas , the distinction is not really racial its cultural , the way it manifests itself has nothing to do with servility but to other character traits which are largely due to the way crhonic poverty warps peoples development and to historical factors , some of them haphazard that have influenced the mentality of people born and raised in deep poverty .


    • Sure, in Venezuela there are people whose values are close almost WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic) and people whose values are closer to Caudillo-Vivo-Padrote-Rentista.

      Calling the attention to the distinction between those “two Venezuelas” is Chavismo’s game not ours. Lots of people had been bombarded with messages like “your hair/nose/mouth is ugly”, “you talk wrongly”, “your opinion isn’t important, what the hell do you know?”, “your art/customs/music are crude”. And then came Chavez to tell them that they’re beautiful just the way they are, that he cares about what they have to say, praises their music/art/customs and talks like them. And -oh surprise- they bonded with him.

      Not content with calling attention to that, some people like to pontificate from their Ivory Towers about how the current crisis is the result of a bunch of non-white/ignorant/poor/irresponsibly parented/overbreeding/thugish/motorcycle riding people selling their votes for trinkets and charity because they didn’t know any better. These pontificators are the strongest allies (besides the Boliburgueses) that Chavismo may find in the “WEIRD” camp, because they fit perfectly into Chavismo’s narrative of the Venezuelan elite despising and looking down on regular folks.

      These values aren’t a black/white situation, it’s more like a continuum:
      – There’s plenty of irresponsible fathers in the middle class who don’t pitch in for their children’s expenses, and even in the upper echelons of society where children born out of affairs are not properly looked after.
      – While some poor people miss Chavez, there’s a fair share of rich and well educated Perez Jimenistas.
      – It’s easy to point the finger at the “vivos” who cut in the line to buy some chicken from Mercal, or those who buy foodstuff in bulk for resale on the streets, but there are plenty of amos del valle making a killing with CADIVI, government contracts and other forms of corruption.

      We don’t need to brainstorm different ways in which people in D and E classes, aren’t just poorer but rather much inferior (which I don’t even think is true). If we are to brainstorm, it should be for ways to get the point across that Chavismo is ruining the country and that a change is in their best interest. As a rule of thumb, educating people yields better results than criticizing them.


      • OT but not so OT: Navarro, I am looking for more data on corruption in Venezuela for the Wikipedia article Corrupción en Venezuela. I believe you mentioned once something about a fund under Pérez Jiménez, a fund he mismanaged. Do you remember what name it has? A book about that? Thanks.


        • It was called the Treasury Reserve Fund, the Venezuelan equivalent of Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Funds. Not only did Pérez Jiménez mismanage it, he depleted it completely by 1957.


          • Thanks. I think very few people knew about that fund. I didn’t know, just knew concretely about the millions in the airplane and some other millions he took away when he ran away. I rechecked my books from secondary school, pre-Chávez (less bad than those of today even if they were pretty bad): nothing concretely there.

            I did know it was a corrupt regime and it used terror and it was a dictatorship.

            Lots of Venezuelans were longing for Pére Jiménez when they went to vote for Chávez…the fools.
            Even today there are people among both Chavistas and oppos who think Pérez Jiménez was good.
            They didn’t think much about the futility of comparing a regime that had to deal with a country of 5 million people from 1952 to January 1958 and all the rest.


            • The general belief that the Pérez Jiménez government modernized Venezuela with yearly oil production revenue only is not true. It just wasn’t enough income to achieve his goals on public works —it reminds me of certain someone we all know of. So, he carelessly used up the entire Venezuelan Treasury Reserve Fund, which was estimated in US$10 billion (more than US$80 billion in today’s dollars) by the time he took office.

              It is true what Betancourt claimed during his first weeks in office: the treasury was really in dire straits. His government could move the Venezuelan finances into the black; however, the law stated the Treasury Reserve Fund had to be fully reimbursed and the best time to make it happen was during the Arab Oil Embargo. Sadly, CAP was the president.

              P.S. This newsreel by the British Pathé (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KbXWlce5BE) tells of how much money Pérez Jiménez embezzled.


              • Thanks very much, much appreciated.
                If you feel like contributing to that Wikipedia article (and you know how the rules there go, go ahead: Corrupción en Venezuela). Else you can send me your text and I will adapt it or check so that no Chavista or the like deletes it.


          • I had long heard (and my early formation was during the PJ years) that he took off with 1/2 the national treasury. Don’t know if that comment was (a) inexact or (b) related to the Treasury Reserve Fund, supposedly 100% depleted.


            • P. J. took off in a 10-year old (acquired by Gallegos) 4-motor DC plane (“La Vaca Sagrada”) from La Carlota in the night (I heard it leave) with his family, personal belongings, and a large amount of Treasury gold, which was probably limited by the available cargo capacity. P.J. did wonders for Venezuela with then $1-2 oil ($15 or so in today’s terms), and allowed large-scale corruption only by his ruling elite. Subsequent democratic governments’ public works projects, for the most part, pale by comparison, but the democratic governments’ corruption has tended to rise exponentially.


        • Kepler there is an even more juicy case of General Guzman Blanco getting rich when representing the govt in getting some european loans !! he is said to have laid the grounds for a very substantial fortune by squeesing a nice hefty commission from friendly bankers .


        • Well, it ring a bell for me, but I’m glad you brought it up as I found the thread about the Treasury Reserve Fund very interesting.


      • I dont know that the ‘pontificators’ ideas ( as described in your blog) help chavismo achieve its end , thats a practical political matter , but I do think that however pleasant or unpleasant the characterization of Classes E & D (as belonging to a different culture) may be to some it is both accurate and established . Not that the other classes dont bear part of the burden because as you say there is continuum and a lot of overlap between the two cultures , but the difference is there and it creates a divide which Chavez knew how to exploit for his political benefit .

        Right now if you look at how the regimes popularity stands it is hardly questionable that the 30 odd percent support the regime still retains is basically on the D-E Classes , not on the other ones, despite the utter failure of the regime in providing the essentials of acceptable governance , the persistence of support doenst suggest a high level capacity for judgment in most people belonging to those classes , rather the opposite and that has an explanation which we must face regardless of how politically ‘incorrect’ it is .

        Calling a spade a spade is not popular among the politically minded , its so inconvenient .but looking the other way isnt going to help either !! history has taught us that .!!

        Chronic poverty doesnt make you into a better socially more competent and lucid person , thats Cantiflas sentimental take on the issue , a middle class upbringing and education doesnt guarantee that either , but it sure helps many people have a better bearing of how to judge the frightful government we now have .

        Middle class values and culture are susceptible to many criticisms , and certainly the ‘crooked timber of humanity’ , doesnt allow for even those born into that culture to partake of its best virtues but it allows a percentage of them a better vantage point from which to understand the tragedy which is now Venezuela .!!

        Education helps but it is not a cure all , you have to get at character , at patterns of thought , judgment and behaviour , at customs for which formal education is only a partial remedy . You have to get inside the family and the mores that guide its life .

        This is too big a topic to treat in this narrow blog format . I do heartily agree with you that cheap stereotyping of people in D-E classes or in the other classes isnt very useful and that some way must be found to persuade the former that their interests are best served if they learn the regime more critically and to join forces with the other classes in trying to salvage the country from its current tormentors.


        • BB, I believe that this and your previous long comment starting with Sir John Glubb are both quite lucid and correct. Congratulations.


        • some way must be found to persuade the former [D-E classes] that their interests are best served if they learn the regime more critically and to join forces with the other classes in trying to salvage the country from its current tormentors.

          For all his faults, I must say that Capriles made a real stab at this education process, prior to 14-A, 2013, when his energies, his efforts and the momentum that accompanied his candidature went into overdrive.


          • …as opposed to the regime and its acolytes that prefer D-E classes to be servile, barely literate, and growing in numbers, in order to provide the pool of voters that a false democracy needs.


        • I partially agree with your comment. There’s a culture difference, and it correlates somewhat with social class membership.

          I charge the pontificators of taking that difference and changing its dynamic into one of superiority/inferiority, that even translates into moral solvency. As if being poor makes anyone genetically impaired, less of a person, less of a citizen, less responsible, less caring or even inmoral.

          Trashing viveza criolla (as Chiguire did) is necessary. Trashing irresponsible parenting is necessary. Promoting the use contraceptives, responsible sexuality and family planning would be very positive. Reducing the substance addiction and substance abuse (not neccesarily through a war on drugs approach) would also be beneficial. Promoting a solid work ethic, dispelling the shame associated with some honest jobs (maintenance, unskilled clerks) and shifting it towards criminal activities; or encouraging students to study hard instead of cheat, are also neccessary. Cleaning up Venezuelan politics is a must.

          What is unnecessary is associating viveza, irresponsible parenting, overbreeding, promiscuity, alcoholism/drug addiction, laziness, dishonesty/criminal behaviour and student performance as vices of the poor; instead of vices of the people in general. The same goes for political saviness, I mean before HCR (a decent candidate), our presidential candidates were Manuel Rosales and Arias Cardenas.

          That superiority/inferiority dynamic has the obvious effect of alienating poor people, as does equating being poor (or Chavista) with being a bad person. And that serves Chavismo perfectly, since its easier to keep followers if the other side makes it a point of alienating them.


        • I mean it’s easy to look down on people from D-E segments for going through Mercal queues and not demonstrating, but I never saw people from A-B-C segments demonstrating about CADIVI paperwork.

          It’s easy to point the finger at D-E people hoarding regulated foodstuff or selling it on the street, but people from A-B-C have been saving and reselling regulated dollars since 2003.

          It’s easy accuse people from D-E of selling out because they attend government sponsored events without conviction (students from UNEFA/UBV, public employees, beneficiaries from social programs), but there’s also Empreven, Cisneros, Winston Vallenilla and plenty other people from A-B-C who have their bozal de arepa.

          It’s easy to attribute the large following of authoritarian Chavismo to people from D-E having a psyche which conditions them to servility, in an almost genetic peon mentality (paraphrasing). And then you meet people from A-B-C who miss the good old days of authoritarian Perez Jimenez.

          My point is not that is all OK. My point is that the problem isn’t with poor people, but with people in general.


          • Yes it is, but, until the poor people complain generally in Venezuela, there will be no Regime change….


            • You mean until the opposition delivers a message that is more appealing to poor people than the government’s

              Poor people have protested plenty, there were -in average- 12 daily protests in 2013, and that was 20% less than 2012. Those protests were about 1) Labor rights 1.791 (40,61%) 2) Crime, prison conditions, political participation, right to justice 1.044 (23,67%) 3) Proper housing 996 (22,58%) 4) education 579 (13,12%).(http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140114/76-de-las-protestas-de-2013-estuvieron-relacionadas-con-derechos-socia).

              It’s just that their goals were mostly not changing who is in charge of the government, but getting the current government to tend to their needs.


              • Relatively limited small-numbers protests, no matter how numerous, have not gotten/nor will get the Regime to budge A large-scale 4/11 or Caracazo-type protest would cause change, at least eventually. So far the Petro-State patronage/coercion/sanctions/repression have virtually eliminated large-scale lower-class protests, as the Country sinks further into a Cuban-managed lower and lower real economic incomes/conditions funk. The Oppo, without effective mass media, cannot deliver a productive counter-Govt. message capable of substantially changing lower-class political affiliations, at mleast in the short-term. An unlikely, for now, military uprising or oil-price decline are the best hopes for Regime change, …” until the poor people complain generally in Venezuela.”


              • Net, the “Oppo” *can* deliver a productive counter, even without effective media; it just needs to promise something that goes viral amongst the poor…


              • @Net: Instead of blaming the poor, you should blame the Oppo leadership. If the poor do not complain generally, or demand that Maduro resign it’s mostly because of Oppo incompetence.

                The government has played their cards well, they have kept the support of lots of poor people because their message and programs are appealing to that demographic. The opposition surely has received weaker hands -on average- but we are where we are mostly because those hands were played horribly (running with Arias Cardenas, running with Rosales, not having enough election witnesses, UNT Prove and Morel treating their home states as fiefs and losing them to Chavismo because people got tired of them, alienating voters we should have been wooing, the military in Plaza Altamira, the 2003 strike, etc).

                We HAD the media back in the days of Napoleon Bravo and Marta Colomina (before April 2002): RCTV, Venevision, Televen, CMT and Globovision; a whole bunch of radio circuits and all major newspapers. That media power was used nonconstructively, with biased reporting, radical mongering, and a utter lack of substantive proposals besides “Chavez vete ya”. This alienated large segments of the electorate, and damaged the Oppo brand. Now that we lost the media then there are all sorts of plans to use it effectively, well boo-fucking-hoo, somebody took our cheese.

                HCR, opened the door at a new style of Opposition, that is less bent on putting people against the governmet and more focused on getting more people to support the Oppo platform. That was a step in right direction, away from revenge politics. Now we need actual proposals to win people over that are more concrete and believable than “more education”, “more Misiones”, “no devaluation”, “no increase in gas prices”, “more cops”, “no privatization”.

                I’m with extorres on an effective message being able to bypass the information blockade we’re facing with Venezuelan media. For instance, Diego Arria ran a hopeless campaign in the primaries, but he became a household name as soon as he uttered “a la Haya”, THAT was a viral message, although one directed mostly at the higher income radical oppo voters. If the oppo leadership managed to get across a message geared at the D-E classes as catchy as that one, good things might happen.


              • J. Navarro: “If the oppo leadership managed to get across a message geared at the D-E classes as catchy as that one, …”

                I’ve been rooting for “Dame mi plata!”, but putting it together with “A la Haya”, maybe: “Primero, mi plata, La Haya, después!”


              • While JN and XT are certainly right about the direction the Oppo must take, the devil is in the details (e.g., XT’s “going viral” amongst the poor) .I don’t blame the Oppo for not reaching the poorer classes during the relatively good non-maxi-devaluation times up to the last year or so–one must not underestimate the tremendous economic power of the Venezuelan Petro-State, and the natural submission of its dependent peons. Capriles did a very good job (probably really winning) in the last Presidentials; but, then, Maduro was not well-known nor too well-liked by the masses. Now, the Govt. effort to make the masses more cognizant that their arepa, even viuda, depends on Maduro may make for tougher Oppo sledding in the next elections. In any event, the Congressionals will be further gerrymandered, if necessary, to assure a continuing Govt. win., and, even a Constitutional Assembly attempt at Maduro removal will be an uphill battle. As long as the “Pueblo” continues to get minimum wage hikes, which they still tend to think of as “millones”, even though they barely keep food on their table, along with an electoral unfair playing field, coupled with millions of non-existent registered voters possible of being stuffed into thousands of non-witnessed rural/other inaccessible voting centers, with no effective subsequent voter audits, it will be very, very difficult to unseat this Regime. In the short-term, only widespread D-E disatisfaction with continual deterioration of real economic conditions and increasing personal day-to-day hardships (lack of adequate water/electricity/personal security/health care/etc.) will do the trick.But, so far, the lower-classes’ threshold to endure pain has been much higher than most would have imagined–only when the “peo” in the Petro-State peon becomes unbearable to contain will there be real change….


              • sigh…

                Read my critique of “pontificators” in this thread, it was largely inspired in the “blame the poor” attitude you show. Let’s take a look at some of your phrases:

                – “[…] the natural submission of its dependent peons”. I strongly reject the notion that poor Venezuelans have either an “almost genetic” or a “natural” handicap, that renders them unable to be proper citizens AT BIRTH (which is the consequence of your argument). As bill bass said, they have been dealt a shittier hand in life than people born in middle class or above households, and thus have enjoyed less opportunities. But that doesn’t mean they are socially stagnant, since large segments of the Venezuelan middle class are descended from “peons” and sharecroppers who left rural areas to work for the foreign oil companies, industrial factories and big city banks and then made sure to enroll their kids in high school or even college, nowadays their grandchildren are college graduates and even business owners.

                – “As long as the ‘Pueblo’ continues to get minimum wage hikes, which they still tend to think of as ‘millones’, even though they barely keep food on their table”. Funnily enough, the middle class is shrinking because market wage hikes for professionals underperform government minimum wage hikes. Professionals would be thrilled if the government decreed a general wage’s hike instead of limiting the hike to the minimum wage. In unskilled worker’s eyes they are catching up with the TSU’s and the college graduates, which is technically true. Nobody has explained it to them that they’re not rising faster than the middle class, their income is merely plummetting at a slower pace.

                – “into thousands of non-witnessed rural/other inaccessible voting centers” Innaccesible to whom? the voters live there, so their voting center is very accesible to them. Do you mean that their voting centers are innaccesible to college kids from Caracas or old ladies from el Cafetal? That’s the wrong mindset to woo people from El Junko, Sierra de Perija and remote locations to join us. The oppo should be focusing on recruiting local witnesses not shipping some big city ousiders. But before they focus on that, they should stop ignoring the people in midsized cities (like Calabozo) where we took a beating in the December elections, even though there’s plenty of working class and middle class voters there.

                Chavismo wants A-B-C people to think D-E people are too stupid to be know what’s best for them, and D-E people to know that’s what the A-B-C are thinking. That makes it easier to keep D-E loyal, because thay’re unlikely to defect to a camp that looks down on them.

                It speaks volumes of the Oppo comunication strategy that there’s people who still believe in magnicide plots, media coups, economic warfare, etc.


              • Net, you can’t have it both ways.

                If you claim that there would be poor supporting the government because of wage hikes, you’d have to agree that the likelihood increases of poor supporting a challenger promising 4USD (in free market bolivares) per day to every single citizen, unconditionally. Even at 50:1 rates, for a family of 5, that’s 30,000VEB per month!

                If you claim that Capriles possibly won, then you’d have to agree that the increased likelihood mentioned above should make the possibility clearer.

                There is little question that “Dame mi plata” would work. The real question is, would the *non* poor be willing to support something that the poor want? All I keep hearing from the non poor is about wishing to teach the poor to want what the non poor want. That’s not just unrealistic, it has strategically failed, repeatedly, and becomes less likely to succeed as the media blockade strengthens.


              • As JN continues to argue, it is all the upper-class Oppo’s fault why the lower D-E classes are as they are, and think like they do.The poorer Venezuelans do not have a natural handicap at birth, other than their economic/social/educational difficulty to become upwardly mobile; they do, however, have a much greater chance to become dependent peons of the Petro-State. I have worked in the Barrios, have family that live in the Barrios, and know the Barrio psychology. I wonder what JN and his pontifications qualifications are?? And, yes, XT, the promise of pie-in-the-sky large monthly cash payments to the poor may work, but it won’t be easy to convince the skeptical Barrio mentality that this will actually be delivered (even if the cash in cash-strapped Venezuela would even be available).


              • I never argued that poor people’s situation/problems/culture are the fault of the upper class Oppo. My position is that the Oppo leadership hasn’t wooed poor people effectively, and that’s not poor people’s fault.

                An economic/social/educational disadvantage isn’t a “natural” nor “almost genetic”. It’s economic/social/educational. Things that are natural include eye/hair/skin color, tallness, body type, shape of the nose, blood type, etc.

                Poor people have a higher likelihood to be financially dependent on the State, that’s true. But you demand more integrity of them than you demand of the A-B-C classes. That was the point of my comparisons between the A-B-C and D-E attitudes towards state queues, bureaucracy, resale of regulated goods, bozal de arepa, authoritarism, etc.

                My qualifications include that I’m one such grandkid. My grandparents come from rural Venezuela and left with some elementary education to work in the oil fields. They made sure all their children finished high school, and sent them to college, and mine is the second generation born in a middle class household and college education. There was nothing natural or genetic in my grandparents, my parents, my uncles, my cousins or me that made us servile, nor made us chavistas, nor made us unable to be proper citizens, or proper parents.

                And my family is not the exception. There’s plenty of professionals, middle managers and small business owners (solid middle class) whose parents worked themselves tirelessly in cleaning jobs, or selling empanadas to put them through through high school, T.S.U and college.


            • La Isabelica is not precisely a place where most people speak English or have ever been abroad.
              A lot of the most serious protests in Valencia were there. And more oppos died there than in El Hatillo or El Cafetal, so they took a higher risk and they knew it.


          • But the main feature that distinguishes A-B-C is that they have a positions and assets to lose. Why is the opposition based in these classes? It is because they were fired from PDVSA, or their investment properties are being expropriated, etc. Particularly in the last year, the impoverishment of the B-C classes has been traumatic (Adios CADIVI).

            Because of poverty, D-E classes have a culture that does not plan beyond the present. It comes down to feeding their families today. Tomorrow they will have to be figured out anew, maybe it will be a mission-stipend, or reselling some Mercal staples, or just going hungry for that day. So as long as you give them something once in a while things have not changed much for them since time immemorial.

            The higher social stratum is always more mobile. They have education and capital to pick up and move. Having an option, however risky, beats being cannon fodder for an anti-chavista march. So the unstoppable wave to wash Chavismo away will materialize when C-D join in. But they remember clearly from their experience and Chavista speak that A-B-C people are not to be trusted. Chavismo means well but isn’t doing well but oligarcas/derecha/burgueses are surely bad.

            At this point Maburro & co hold all the levers of power. The opposition holds an impotent intellectual and moral high ground. We can only trust Plaga Roja’s proven incompetence will implode the system alienating C-D classes. Then we can think of digging Venezuela out of the hole.

            Sorry Sid, but that will happen ‘en el tiempo de Dios’. It all depends in Chavismo and Oil prices. All we can do is seeth.


            • From polls it appears that concern for loss of liberties is most live in A-B-C classes and very feeble in D-E classes whose concern is concentrated on bread and butter issues such as security , inflation , shortages and the like .

              One could say that quality of life losses have touched the A-B-C classes most ( as their jobs and property are lost to govt action ) but at the same time that for whatever reason they are also concerned at issues that dont matter to classes D-E that much (human rights – the desinstitutionalization of democracy) .

              Nowadays of course every one is being struck hard by the effects of the economic crisis which are clearly attributable to the regimes corruption and mismanagement, if the govt hold on power is to be challenged that will require both groups of classes joining in a common action , the motivation for that action however will differ depending on which class people belong to .


              • Supplementing the above: Its simplistic to think that only a fall in oil prices can affect the regimes finances , what really matters is the revenue income from oil which the govt actually recieves and thats influenced not only by oil prices but by many other factors such as level of production , increase cost of production , maintaining the refineries capacity to produce oil products as before , depletion of light medium crude fields , replacing them with much more difficult to handle and sell extra heavy crudes , heavy cost of producing selling the latter , easy terms markeging of volumes to petrocaribe and cono sur , degree to which income from sales to china is absorved by need to pay accummulated chinese debt , cost of producing gasoline to supply domestic market needs , increased need to import high priced light crudes and refined products to mix with increased percentages of exports of heavy crudes in order to allow for their sale and transportation, speed and cost at which natural gas can be produced and transported inside the country etc etc.
                Pdvsa is facing a crisis on many fronts which affect directly the health of govt finances and which have nothing to do with international oil prices but with other factor nobody knows anything about. The only one that gets any attention is the exchange rate issue , but Pdvsa is now bleeding red on all sides and he hemorraghing bears watching if anybody would take an interest.


              • THIS.

                Different backgrounds translate into different priorities.

                We can all talk here about how Venezuela needs working democratic institutions with checks and balances, respect of economic/social/political freedoms, a reduction of the public spending deficit, doing away with foreign exchange distortions, eliminating useless subsidies (like gasoline), attracting foreign investment, aggressive promotion of non-oil exports, privatization of non-strategic public companies (ice cream factory, coffee mills, etc). But that platform would get the support of 5% of the people in Petare at most.

                If instead you talk to them about promoting more well-paying jobs in factories, creating Municipal daycare facilities to look after their kids (and their parents or grandparents) while they work, a program formalize popular business by training them (in food manipulation, book keeping, marketing, customer handling, tax law, etc) and formalizing the deeds to their home; you would get the backing of a sizable portion of the electorate.


          • Thank you J for your courtesy in taking the time to explain your position so much more precisely : I think I know now were your coming from ( which I didnt from your initial comment) . I share your view that there are core cultural problems that are common to most Venezuelans whatever their place in the social scale and which have contributed to our current sorry situation : I do feel however that deep chronic poverty has generally scarred the pysche and behaviour of D-E classes more harshly than it has done people belonging to more fortunate classes . Of course its not a question of fault or guilt on their part and as human beings they are as deserving of as much respect as anyone belonging to a more favoured social segment . I feel that very strongly. but Ive always hated that conceited sanctimonous sirupy glorification of the ‘innocent poor and suffering’ , that cult of victimhood which so permeates western culture , the notion that because one is a victim of circumstances that automatically converts you into a kind of saint and protects you from falling into the common foibles and miseries that afflict ordinary human beings .

            Being the victim of poverty doesnt necessarily make you into a better person , in a way it makes it more probable that the development of some of the best of human qualities are stunted in you because conditions have made it more difficult for you to grow to your full human stature or potential .It will make it very difficult for you to be as well read , well informed and intellectually formed to acurately understand and judge the complex economic issues that affect the life of your country or the full implications of the decisions and policies of a corrupt government .

            I dont think that poverty in Venezuela breeds servility ( it does in places like Ecuador) , poor people in Venezuela have never been servile , on the contrary it makes it very important for them to act as gallitos , to aggresively overeact when they feel slighted in any way . They enjoy their rages because they are thrilling and allow them to feel big and strong and ferocious , to make an spectacle of themselves , thus Chavez success in making them feel good about themselves by teaching them the self glorifying pleasures of class hatred and social resentments , the good struggle aganinst the foreing empire . I suspect that it is this that binds many among the Chavista stalawarts to the Chavista cause even if dissapointed with the govts increasing failure to protect them from the ravages of crime , run away inflation and shortages .

            Theyve also developed a bond with Chavez because they could identify with him , the strong vociferous man on a high horse , full of bravado and manly energy and macho defiant aggresiveness come to avenge all their past humiliations and failures and frustrations by blaming them on someone they could easily demonize . The point is that such form of ‘dignification’ is morally corrupt and false however efficient in drawing the passions of the common poor. Weaning them away from these recreational resentments and hatreds is a tall task and one which will require quite a bit of deft handling by very smart pols ( I dont presume to count myself among their number) .

            Going back to the main point of your concern , the need for us to give poverty scarred people their due respect and consideration ( and not scorn them because of their contingently induced human flaws ) perhaps the following example will serve as illustration . When Mother Teresa of Calcutta did her work for the poor of India , some brit pundits criticized her because she was arrogant in holding her Catholic faith as the true faith rather than holding it to be the equal of the hindi faith of the suffering poor she was helping . I rather thought that her service to the suffering poor of India revealed her deep compassion for them , beyond the differences that existed between her beliefs and theirs . What made them precious to her was not their religious faith ( which she did not pretend to share) but their human condition. Thats an attitude I can admire.

            On a more vulgar level , I am disgusted by smoking , always have been , I am discomfited by having to breathe the exhaled smoke of others , moreover I think smoking is a filthy unhealthy habit and yet that has not prevented me from respecting and even befriendling lots of good people who have a developed taste for tobacco : I am disgusted by many of the vices or faults you mention as common in Venezuela and specially prevalent among the poorest of Chavez supporters and yet they do not prevent me from feeling respect or even sympathy for them , as human beings or persons . I cannot not scorn them as persons although I do scorn their vices or flaws and some of their most delusional beliefs and passions .

            One more example to this endless platitude , several years ago as I was going past a group of people marching to a Chavez parade a young girl very shily said to me ‘viva Chavez señor’ , I was touched by the innocence of her feelings and felt that however much I despised the source of her illusion I could never despise the person who professed them .


            • I was touched by the innocence of her feelings and felt that however much I despised the source of her illusion I could never despise the person who professed them .

              As my late Mom used to say, “Don’t hate the people. Hate the system.”


              • Bill Bass, It is less about the cliche of poverty than it is about specific cultures and how we view them. review them and the specific prejudices we have that create a bias.


              • Syd, for someone who doesn’t “blame the System”, please see on the IN the video under the title, “La gringa Chavista en pobreza extrema que vive en Petare”–it’s a real eye-opener!!


              • NET: I think la gringa chavista has a severe victim disorder — within the machinations of the Sea of Happiness. Not a good combo. If she did not have a mental problem, she would have called her parents, before now, for help. Note how no one in the chavista government, nor any U.S.-based PSF has come to her aid — as far as I know. But these merchants of propaganda sure get all dyspeptic over an NED loan, ages ago.

                btw, the daughter seems to be well-fed and nonchalant, lying on the mattress, playing with some little (electronic?) gizmo. Seems to quite a number of toys surrounding this family. Meaning, at one point, things weren’t that desperate. Other than that, it’s hard to know the real facts behind the sensationalism news.


  11. Some culturally induced traits of behaviour and character run deeper than skin , specially when they are perpetuated by customs or attitudes that have become ingrained through centuries of social experience, US social students are surprised at how some gheto inhabitants given certain external opportunities become more self sustaining and prosperous and educated but many others remain stuck in their original backwardness , no matter how much money is spent on programs which attempt to improve their level of education and opportunity . The fact is that generally you can, using external inducements improve the lot of these gheto dweller up to a point but always a plateau is struck and they get bogged down leaving whole segments stranded. They ve learned that unless you try to get to the manner of their upbringing, to what forms their character they are not able to advance as far as they want to.

    The problem is not simply one of winning elections, of flattering people with words or inducements that make them like you , however much you want their vote and support . its a deeper question of what you can do to get them to rise above all those cultural factors and forms of behaviour that weight them down.

    On a bare human level they are no worse nor better than people who achieve more , they can even be smarter its just that pretending that people who for generations have been scarred by adverse enviromental conditions are equal on all levels to other historically better advantaged people , doesnt cut it .!! however great the political rewards of such imposture .!!

    That doesnt mean that anyone is justified in scorning them as human beings but it does mean that to the extent they have nor overgrown those historical and social handicaps they cannot be considered the total equals of those who have either overcome those handicaps or have never been subjected to them. !!

    The problem is made worse by the fact that many of the cultural factors that scarr these people are also present in people in other more favoured segments although perhaps not to the same degree and level of depth . no one is perfect but some through no personal fault of their own are less perfect than others . ,


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