A Telling Schism

hector-navarro-jorge-giordani-fidel-ernesto-vasquezIs it just me, or do you also have the sense that Maduro is looking at the brewing Rebelión de los Utópicos and grinning widely to himself?

On the heels of Jorge Giordani’s purge-hissy-fit, fellow purged leftie academic/extremist Héctor Navarro takes to the pixels of Aporrea.org to get Giordani’s back. Navarro’s shocked – shocked – that no action is being taken on Giordani’s allegations of corruption. The guy can’t believe it!

For the Endogenous-PSF faction, the fact that foreign financial institutions are giddy at Giordani’s departure is all the proof they ever needed that Maduro is selling out. It’s sort of fun to read the collective hissy-fit about it, and proof that F. Rod’s writings have caused a minor shit-storm in Pyongyang-upon-Guaire-ville. Such fun!

Once we get over the Schadenfreude, though, maybe we should think strategically about this.

Back when Maduro took over from Chávez, we could all see he was taking over a movement made up of many parts that didn’t fit comfortably with one another. Everyone could see the various bits could fly apart in Chávez’s absence. In that context, which wings of the coalition do you think Maduro was more worried about? Which bits of chavismo do you think could mount a serious challenge to his authority?

Do you think Maduro worries about alienating the professors, or the guys with the guns? The Utopian Socialists, or the guys with the testaferro empires? Whose discontent could really be a problem for him, the narcos’, or the hay-talking cafetín lefties’? The guys handling the oil money, or the altermundialista hippies?

My sense is that within the power realities of post-Chávez Venezuela, there’s no contest. Maduro doesn’t have the rhetorical gifts or the personal prestige (or, for that matter, the cash) to afford the luxury Chávez had of melding the actual power-players with the ideological-music-makers.

Guys like Giordani were, in a way, vehicles for Chávez to engage in conspicuous consumption of political capital: he had so much of it he could afford to squander some of it on luxuries like Giordani and Navarro.

With Maduro, we’re getting down to brass tacks. The guy’s one real commitment is to maintaining power, and to do so he needs to secure the loyalties of the people who handle the real levers of power in Venezuelan society: the guns, the drug routes, the oil money, and the CNE.

The rest is gravy. Y hay escasez de gravy. 

51 thoughts on “A Telling Schism

    • I read somewhere that Giordani sent the letter to Isaias Rodriguez before publishing it to get feedback and he said “go for it”.


      • Yup. I’m still looking for a source though.

        Cuenta alguien cercano a Giordani que el fue a pedirle a Maduro la posibilidad de que le permitiera hacer una Cadena Nacional para explicar todo lo logrado con su gestión y evitar los comentarios que indicaban que había sido “Botado” por su poca receptividad a realizar cambios o rectificar sobre sus posturas económicas.
        Como no fue aceptada su petición, el (Giordani) le pidió a Ali Rodríguez Araque que intercediera para que Maduro le diera la oportunidad solicitada. Araque le dijo que el no podía hacer eso porque tampoco estaba siendo escuchado por Maduro y el ya estaba de paso en materia de gobierno.
        Giordani creyó tener en Araque un aliado contra Maduro y antes de hacer pública la carta de su renuncia se la dio a Rodríguez Araque para que la leyera y este le dió el visto bueno para que la publicara.
        Hay un grupo de la vieja guardia comunista que asesoraba a Chávez que esta disgustado con la poca disposición de Maduro a sancionar los militares corruptos y la Boliburguesia emergente apoyados por Diosdado después de la muerte de Chávez.


        • That last paragraph is MENTAL though! As self-justification on the part of people sour for losing The Ear of Power it might work, but Puh-LEEZ!! Maduro CAN’T be more tolerant of military corruption than Chávez was, nobody could be…


          • The huge difference is Chavez could do something about it but Maduro is effectively powerless, and that’s because he doesn’t really belong to the inner circle, that circle being composed of Chavez’ closest buddies in the military. Maduro was handed power as a “respectable” figurehead treading the middle ground between chavista extremes. And those buddies are the ones Maduro has to answer to, not the asesores that as you rightly point out Chavez decorated his administration with.


            • you really think chabe was any less helpless than Maduro regarding the shot-calling narcomilitary? do you really think he could have taken action without being taken out?


              • “you really think chabe was any less helpless than Maduro regarding the shot-calling narcomilitary?”

                Absolutely man. Obviously he didn’t really care unless it threatened his own power, but he is the only one who was capable of disciplining one rich pot bellied general if he wanted to.

                Maduro doesn’t have the power structure, the loyalty, the prestige, or the charisma to do anything of the sort.


              • I’m with Rory on this one. Chavez had way more pull with the military than Maduro. He was one of their own, whereas Maduro was always a bus driving quasi-religious Cubano-wannabe. How many generals knew Chavez at one point or another? How many owed their maintaining of position to him once he was president? I think he had the connections to play one group against a single general whenever he wanted.

                Interesting side note from when we were in Venezuela last month:

                We went to dinner with a high school friend of my wife. He’s regular army, a captain, and we asked him about his career. He reflected for a moment, then laughed and told us it was over. He had originally joined the military out of patriotism and ambition. He knew there were problems within, but they’ve magnified tenfold in the past two years. He was home, because he’d been more or less relieved of duty while under investigation for “political malfeasance”, (which is oddly ironic given the recent TSJ ruling). He is neither oppo nor chavista, but in the past three months, the regional command in Merida/Ejido has come under “new management” with those in the high command there restructuring things and there has been a purge of all officers who were not considered sufficiently “reliable”. This dovetailed with the new Cuban logistic advisors that have taken control/oversight of the armories and supplies.

                He told us that his unforgivable sin was trying to remain apolitical and professional, although he had to turn a blind eye to some of what his superiors did, or something unfortunate would happen.

                Monday, they told him to resign, or he’d be placed on training maneuvers which, he says, is a euphemism for suffering an accident in the field.


  1. As morally bankrupt as this could be: isn’t something like this already happened in Nicaragua (over a longer time frame)? There, the guys with guns, $$$ and drug connections are now firmly in power and thus the economic leninism-darkness has been minimized given that its their own $ that would be hurt.


    • Great article in the New Yorker a few months ago on Nicaragua. Many former Marxist rebel commanders now openly say there is nothing revolutionary or marxist about their government, that was a mistake, they are all about business now.

      Meanwhile, the poor are still poor.


  2. As long as the goverment keeps slowly pushing towards neoliberal reform those who still dont believe their xxi’s century socialism is garbage will timidly start to speak out against the goverment.

    The only intelligent way I see in wich the opposition can get advantage of this is by claiming that since liberalizing the economy is the only path to get out of the crisis, the people must put in power those who actually know how to apply those measures, but I’m afraid that nobody has the guts to do that and we’ll just sit and wait attrition do it’s job.


    • Well, the oppo can’t exactly absorb the main architects of the current economical crisis, and while there’s the angle of “only the thieves are staying on charge”, well, that implies the assumption of a sense of morality….from amoral communist zealots like Giordani.

      That said, not being the “obey blindly or get expelled” coalition is always worth it. The best that the MUD can do at this is remind everybody of that fact.


  3. On the topic of *levers of power* as you so succinctly put it, I noticed in El Universal tonight that Ramon Rodriguez Chacin is in charge of PSUV “discipline”. He’s the guy who calls you when you make a plea in Aporrea for transparency. Like the man said, patria o muerte…


  4. Good post.
    It is kind of perverse that Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, old rancher and planner of the Amparo Massacre during the IV Republic, is the one in charge of preserving the purity of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.


  5. Giordanis crime is not having the ideas he has , nor being the author or inspirer of many blatangly wrong decisions and policies, his ideas are fine, his failures totally acceptable , His true crime is breaking the 1st rule of a totalitarian regime , the boss is always right , he never makes mistakes , he deserves our total loyalty and most of all he is never to be called publicly into account for his past or current mistakes , for his connivance with corruption among the faithful, his image must always be kept blindlngly burnished bright and shining .

    Totalitarian regimes are not concerned with the good management of an economy or with failures in that management , not even with the corruption of some its emblematic leaders . they are concerned with the need of maintaining an absolute hold on power which requires above all preserving face, holding up a mask of perfection before the world . Giordanis crime has nothing to do with his dogmatism or his mistakes and the terrible consequences for the country , its all to do with his loyalty , with the betrayal of that loyalty to the supreme bosses of the cause . Mistakes and Corruption and Mismanagement can be forgiven , Political disloyalty never.

    There is a feeling among some of the regimes bosses that some more pragmatic measures need to be taken before the economic crisis weakens their popular power base , it was all right to take very harmful economic measures in the past to preserve the revolutions electoral dominance , because the politics justified it . Giordanis letter seems to say that he could go with that , that for reasons of loyalty he could go along with allowing acts of corruption but that other govt decisions from the past and now in the present are not compatible with revolutionary principle and are to be condemned , even if condemning them is political inconvenient .Making the latter public is what brings the regimes ire against Giordani not any thing else.

    Maduros attack on Giordani concentrates solely on his disloyalty and the personality flaws it reveals about the men who would incurr in such sin . All other flaws and errors are forgiven or better yet forgotten , they dont mean a thing . This tells a lot about the totalitarian nature of the regime , of how it sees the world . The conflict is not one between purity of principle vs pragmatism , Its one between the demand for absolute loyalty and the claim that there are limits to that loyalty which once broken free the devoted partisan from keeping quiet about the top bosses ideologically impure and inmoral behaviour.


    • Making the latter public is what brings the regimes ire against Giordani not any thing else.
      Or, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”


    • Aporrea @aporrea · 2h
      En estos momentos estamos desconectados por actualización del software que brindará mayor estabilización de la página En breve regresaremos.


      • It is up now, but I wonder if they are/were downloading the software update from outside Venezuela. Seemed like more than two hours, and given internet speeds in Venezuela, it could take days if its 100 MB.


  6. Am I the only one who would answer ‘no’ to the opening question? Of course, it’s possible Maduro is grinning to himself, or to his closest confidantes. If so, I think he needs to think again. Even if the utópicos are the least of his worries, the amputation of one limb of the chavista movement ought not to give rise to hilarity. Not only did Giordani and company represent part of the hard-core, do-or-die, guaranteed voter base of el process, they also represented the regime’s claim to have an intellectual content (a barmy, swivel-eyed one to be sure, but content nonetheless). Without them, it is indeed reduced to guns-and-money. The core mythology is at risk. Even Chavez – if you accept the madurista argument – looks bad in retrospect, for having relentlessly promoted a misguided egotist. And if you don’t accept it, then Maduro is the traitor.

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the professors. Think how Balaguer outwitted the generals after Trujillo’s death. Talleyrand may have meant something else when he supposedly told Napoleon that you can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it… but relying on the soldiery as a political base is unwise at best. If the argument is that Giordani needed to go in order to carry out the necessary economic adjustment… well, that’s also far from proven. Even if true, I think there is a political price to pay.


    • Juan, give this man a guest post, willya? “barmy, swivel-eyed…” plus Talleyrand reference!
      I want more, porfa!


      • Second Lucia on her suggestion , philgunson is not only congent and keen in his comment but the writing style is superb. !!


  7. This could play out in different ways. The vast majority of voters in any political system are low-information, and follow signals generated by higher-information voters and by the figures and bodies they have come to respect.

    Venezuela is not a totalitarian state like Cuba or North Korea; the chavernment holds title to power through largely free elections. They cheat by using state resources and (apparently) stealing a few votes, but they can’t steal the whole election without being seriously discredited.

    That means holding the support of a lot of voters through those signaling methods. A very important part of that signaling is the support of those who are respected (a broad group, not just the well-known). For chavismo, this is primarily the ideological chavista writers and talkers. They were devoted to Chávez himself, and accepted all his policies. For many years now, they have provided chavismo with protection – by ignoring the corruption and failures of the regime, they implicitly signaled that these problems didn’t matter, weren’t significant.

    I would guess that many are utópicos that may follow Giordani into rebellion against Maduro. They will probably denounce Maduro for “neoliberalism”. This may alienate some left-wing voters, but probably not a lot, unless there is a visible policy which bites the masses hard. It could be useful to him, as it will make him more acceptable to centrist voters. (“See, we’re not crazy.”) That’s one play-out.

    What may be more significant is if utópicos begin to denounce the chavernment’s corruption, incompetence, and crimes against democratic fairness: the abuse of state resources, the electoral cheating, the media hegemonism. This could discredit the chavernment with a wide swath of voters. If it is strong enough, it could drive many moderates and even some utópico voters to unite in support of a moderate oppo candidate against the nascent dictatorship.

    That is, if the utópico left stops covering for the chavernment and instead denounces them, this may lead to a broad consensus that the chavernment is so massively corrupt, so destructively incompetent, and so flagrantly (there’s no good short phrase for it, but “political cheating” is close) that it must go, regardless of ideology. Such moments have happened here and there in history.

    The problem is that many of the chavernment’s stupidest policies and greatest opportunities for graft were created by the utópicos – any oppo program which would end these policies would alienate the utópicos.


    • It will be interesting to see how much media coverage Giordani/Navarro/Utópicos types will get in the months to come. Especially since a lot of Giordani/Navarro/Utópicos types ended up in media positions.

      IMHO, as Chavismo has always been a mixture of ideology- however incoherent it may be- and money grabbing, it will be difficult to erase the Giordani/Navarro/Utópicos types off the screen.


    • It must be tough for the utopians to see their program to “immanentize the eschaton” derailed. Perhaps they can be given a lot of land where they can learn to live in peaceful coexistence like the amish.

      Anyway, as a spectator of this political meltdown it is hard not to cheer for the utopians as you really don’t want the remaining spineless scumbags to hold on to power either, and the purge of the utopians will certainly simplify their lives.


  8. I think here they forget a key factor: chavismo´s base. This is the moment in which we see how really strong is sincere chavismo, the authentic Venezuelan Marxist movement, not those chavistas thanks to patronage.

    It’s time to see in action one of the two wings of the chavismo-movement. The other wing, the Venezuelan militarism, is dying due to repression.

    And we can forget these people win for the opposition. For them, we are all about bourgeois sifrinitos.


  9. A tempest in a teapot. I doubt (would like to be wrong) that any serious major schism will result at this time in Chavismo. Many, many of the so-called “Utopicos” have enriched (not intellectually) themselves by being Chavistas, and I assume they will prefer continuing to do so. Meanwhile, the 80% or so D-E socio-economic classes, part of which form the Chavista base, could care less about schisms at the top, as long as they have a Govt. stipend and a Mercal arepa with something to put on it….


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