Hausmann vs. F-Rod through Aporrea’s Eyes


Chavismo has always had two big weapons: a gigantic wad of cash and an incredible compelling narrative. The importance of the latter is easy to overlook. So powerful is it that after 2 years of recession and the highest inflation in the world, chavismo still holds a relatively strong 30% popularity.

The narrative is quite simple. Those who governed in the past were evil and cut the poor out of the loop when the time came to distribute the petrocake. We are socialist, which is a hipster way of saying we are philanthropist philosophers and we will make sure that you get your rightful cut of the infinite wealth that the State has. The narrative is based on a heady mix of tendentious history and economic ignorance, served on a bed of pent-up social resentments.

So, how has this narrative been holding up in these last two years?

Think of it in terms of what Quico calls The Great Macro Debate of 2013-2014. We have been hypnotized by a discussion between Harvard big wigs and BofA’s hotshot in house Venezuelan economist.

That debate for some is quite interesting but it has almost no relevance to people’s day to day lives. At its worst, it’s boiled down to semantics. Most people don’t know who these economists are, don’t read them and can’t make heads or tails of the abstractions they’re discussing.

But there’s a tiny shard of the (don’t laugh) chavista inteligentsia that does read them, and in that crowd, F-Rod has, perhaps unintentionally, started to erode the very foundations of the chavista narrative. Remember that Chavistas are children of the Caracazo which was, in their view of history, a consequence of a set of economic measurements and adjustments that were, in their view, to benefit a few at the expense of many.

These chavista intellectuals – the folks that during the last 15 years have been holding together that narrative can’t – seem to keep it together these days.

It all began with the Monk’s removal and F-Rod’s take on the events. F-Rod, remember, plays the part of spokesman of Transnational Capital’s interest in this little psychodrama: itself a bit of a puzzle, since he’s a former kinda-chavista, and certainly far to the left of the conservative economists like Hausmann and Santos who’ve been advocating (more or less) default. (That, in itself, shows you how scrambled the categories have gotten: only in Venezuela does the socialist left need smelling salts when the conservative right loudly demands we stop paying off Wall Street!)

But I digress…

F-Rod saw Giordani’s removal as a basically positive thing. A step in the right direction. Chavista radicals saw it as a defeat. A clear sign that the bolibourgeois were taking hold and that foreign capital was influencing the higher spheres of power. The BofA report after these events were salt on a wound for these guys.

More recently, Ricardo Hausmann and Miguel Angel Santos caused all kinds of noise in the markets by uttering the words “default” and “Venezuela” in the same breath. The Maduro admisnistration went nuts on the damage control front, to the point of taking a BofA guy into the friggin BCV vaults to show him Venezuelan gold reserves.

On this even I am ashamed that I didn’t ask what Gonzales Liendo asked. Why do we as a nation have to show our gold to this guy? Why is he entitled? Nicmer Evans (Chavismo’s intellectual poster boy, though recently out of favor) seconds those questions. You and I know that the government was looking to boost confidence, credibility. It is a great question to ask. I love it when these Aporrea folks ask questions because they have to think and when they do there is only one possible answer.

The cherry on the top is this Evans article. It’s like listening to him thinking outloud. He painstakingly describes what exactly has been happening. It is like a child piecing together, very slowly, the evidence that Santa doesn’t exist. It’s all a hoax. That the people he trusted the most (its parents) are in it. Everything, the gifts, the economic war, Uribe, the evil empire…all a hoax.

The list-form epiphany:

Una política de contracción intencionada de importaciones pondría en tela de juicio:

  1. …la magnitud de la anunciada y recalcada guerra económica.
  2. …el privilegio del pago de la deuda externa desde los bolsillos, el bienestar y la calidad de vida del pueblo.
  3. …la escasez y las colas, ya que terminarían siendo parte de una política de ajuste macroeconómico encubierto.
  4. …la liquidez y buen uso de las divisas del Estado.
  5. …el anunciado privilegio de la políticas del gobierno del presidente Maduro hacia los pobres y los que viven de su salario, ya que al final quienes estarían pagando la crisis serían estos sectores.
  6. …la transparencia y correcta utilización de los recursos públicos.

So that’s where we are.

What can the MUD do to finish the destruction of the Chavista narrative? What will it do to give that last little push?

Maduro has no resources to keep up with a plainly unsustainable chavecomics approach, nor even the minimal political capital to launch any reform. It’s a dead-end.

50 thoughts on “Hausmann vs. F-Rod through Aporrea’s Eyes

  1. “What can the MUD do to finish the destruction of the Chavista narrative? What will it do to give that last little push?

    Maduro has no resources to keep up with a plainly unsustainable chavecomics approach, nor even the minimal political capital to launch any reform. It’s a dead-end.”

    Perhaps it’s a dead end, but as you pointed out, chavista rhetoric is so strong that it still holds up today. Why? Because Chávez made sure to delay the collapse of his system as much as possible by implementing his cult of personality. Unless the oppo goes after the near-religious following of Chávez (and frankly, it seems they don’t care about doing that for now), this nightmare will last longer than it should.


    • “Unless the oppo goes after the near-religious following of Chávez”

      But they must. As you point out, it is the only way.

      Doing what Capriles is doing is a mistake. Saying that Maduro has betrayed Chavez’s legacy only keeps them alive.

      One must confront them.


      • If one is a liberal democrat one must say why. Or social democrat or social christian or what ever. You must talk, in simple terms why those system lead to a higher level of justice. Use the last 15 years as empirical evidence. If the oppo leaders can’t do that, then we are screwed.


  2. “Maduro has no resources to keep up with a plainly unsustainable chavecomics approach, nor even the minimal political capital to launch any reform. It’s a dead-end.”

    There have been news reports this weekend that 100s of inspectors will be hitting the streets starting Nov. 1 to enforce “precios justos”.

    I suspect that there will be another Dakaso this November which will mean another year of empty shelves after the orgasm of buying that will occur with the lowered prices.


  3. “Contraloría Social, participación directa en los procesos de decisión que afecten a todo el país y transparencia en las políticas económicas, son principios fundamentales de una nueva izquierda, heredera del legado de Chávez, por ello…”

    This part is something I will never, never understand. Parts of the Chavista narrative, when coupled with a fortuitously timed oil boom, one can understand being bought into by a portion of the populace for at time. But transparency? Direct Participation? When has any of this been an actual reality under Chavismo? Any decision of even medium importance never involved direct participation or transparency.

    Even now, they can’t even pick their own candidates. They are chosen from up on high.


    • But they insist on repeating this is the best government forever and ever.
      Truly they’re nuts or they’re sticking their heads too much up their butts.


  4. It’s the price of oil. Russia’s having the same problem. Spain never got over its discovering precious metals in the new world. Even Saudi Arabia can do little to reverse the price of oil.

    Nations that depend on natural resources have generally had a hard time putting their economies on a sound footing.


  5. Rodrigo Linares: this is a balanced, well-written post, enjoyable read. As for F-Rod’s earlier political orientation, now I get Q-Tor’s bromance: they’re both cut from the same cloth, and now form part of the gauche oppo..


  6. Now, this is an interesting article. As far as I’m concerned, the red narrative has always been the epicenter of this whole mess, and it frustrates me to see so many of the best venezuelan minds giving so little thought to it. “What can the MUD do to finish the destruction of the Chavista narrative?” is, to me, the only question worth asking at this point. That the chaveconomics approach is doomed is really besides the point.

    Now, you say Capriles is making a mistake by trying to wrestle Hugo’s figure from the reds. And I mostly agree. It’s pulled by the hairs and a bit insulting to us in the opposition. However, at least the guy is trying to come with a narrative that will appeal to the (pseudo) disenfranchised masses. What other honest attempts are being done at this? Do you think MCM’s approach appeals to those who used to believe in El Comandante and now are beginning to see the hoax? I have seen no evidence of that. But then again, I haven’t been to Venezuela for a while.


    • So, after Gomez the narrative that explained the the outcome of our life was defunct. Betancourt et al came up with a new one that entered a crisis mode on the 90’s. Chavez then took that disfranchised population and created a new narrative to explain why are we where we are and how to achieve a more just society.

      Today the chavismo narrative is in crisis. There is no other out there. The problem with Capriles is that he is trying to use a narrative that is in crisis (Chavez’s narrative). To talk of narrative one most start thinking on how to achieve a more just society. Talk about the changes needed. The structural ones. It is not about bashing, it is about something new.


      • The Capriles strategy could be deconstructed as consisting of two parts: first, point out the failure of Maduro and co to deliver on the promise of the big Chavo, leading (second) to division within the chavomaduristas, and ultimate success thanks to this divide-and-conquer strategy.

        But, Capriles is probably not that Machiavellian. I think Capriles recognizes that Chavez, despite his noxious personality and incompetent rule, basically meant well – as the masses that followed him believed. And recognizing what the masses want and believe (the “narrative” that they “swallowed”) is important, and Capriles attempts not to insult the masses by pissing on their memory of Chavez and the dreams he lay at their feet. Narrative is important because it defines the “ends”. The narrative is the core of chavista populism. What this post shows is that the “means” to this end – the policies now being implemented – are being recognized by chavistas as incongruous with the desired end. What Capriles attempts (or should) is to appropriate the chavista “end” and apply the correct “means”. Of course the correct “means” has been the subject of interminable discussion on this blog. The problem is that capitalism and free markets seem inconsistent with social equality and general welfare, as well they might be at their extreme. Thus Capriles comes across as a leftie, because his concern is social welfare, equality, etc, just like it (nominally) was for Chavez. Perhaps Capriles is a frenchman to the cuban chavistas.


        • “…that Chavez, despite his noxious personality and incompetent rule, basically meant well – as the masses that followed him believed.”
          Same with Hitler, castro, Pol Pot, Lenin / Stalin, Mao, Perón, Videla, Allende, Pinochet and countless other crackpots who turned their countries into gutters full of shit, they were full of good intentions and presented their followers with earthly paradises.
          People have to recognize earlier or later, that the wax doll used the “good intentions” facade to hide his true purpose: Steal as much as he could, and that all the “social equality and general welfare,” were just a farce to manipulate and exploit them.

          “The problem is that capitalism and free markets seem inconsistent with social equality and general welfare”
          That’s the one of the biggest lies that chavistas and communists infiltrators fed on venezuelans since the 60s, along with blaming the middle class for every bad thing in the country.

          The problem is that people actually have to be told the truth for once and stop sugar-coating everything to be politically correct (Damn, I even remember MCM having to use the “social” coating on “capitalism” so the suppossedly zealously lefties in Petare wouldn’t stone her to death right there, opposition’s so called leaders have to stop treating the “poor, paupered masses” like imbecile children who can’t grasp basic concepts or ideas like “having a steady job is good for you” or “disarming EVERY malandro won’t be easy, and won’t be optional for them, and it’s good for you too”, while discarding and, yeah, pissing on every stupid lie fed to them in these decades, starting with the moronic mantra that “the wax doll is sacred above all” and concluding with the “viveza venezolana” is something good.


      • Rodrigo, my man, with all due respect, with around 25 to 30 percent of the population mired in poverty -chance that, BTW-, trying to construct a serious, dispassionate “structural change” narrative as you suggest seems a bit Quixotic, to say the least. First you have to give people – ordinary, mom-and-pop Quincallería and quiosquito, non-college educated people- something graspable to hang on to while you work behind the curtain on the abstract stuff. It is very difficult to dismantle a populist narrative without violence erupting. The current administration in Tierra de Gracia is a testimony to that, it basically originated on 1989’s economically sound but tragically misscommunicated attempt to discard decades of unjustified and unsustainable populist policies.

        Now let’s think of Chavez. Whatever we might think of him, the guy was an unmitigated genius in delivering a mostly empty, but appealing inclusion discourse in a country infamous at the time for having basically forgotten about its lower social strata. With -again- 25 to 30 percent under the poverty line, a poverty that in Venezuela still carries a social resentment that was only quelled by Chávez’s promise of “it will get better, mi pueblo, and THEY have theirs coming”, and that even now is still held -barely- at bay with a stripped down version that focus on the revanchismo, it is at least risky to diverge drastically from thar rethoric without alienating a big portion of the electorate. And the fact here is that the opposition NEEDS to win an election that is never going to be won in La Boyera and El Pedregal or Prebo, not to be catering to the angry-no compromise señoras del Hatillo like Leopoldo. That said, Capriles must know by now he can’t claim the high priesthood of Chavista unfulfilled promises. He’s just too white and too caraqueño and too patiquín to pull it off. He, however, can’t stop talking about social justice.


    • There’s not. According to the average oppo leader if there was less corruption, less smuggling through the border and less “regaladera” to ALBA countries the state should have no problem financing CADIVI, subsidising gas and pay bond maturities


  7. Excellent article Rodrigo. However I do pose the question, is there such a thing as a “Chavista Intelligentsia” a group of intellectuals that define and spread the message, that define policy in the laboratories of tropical socialism and implement such policies in the realm of the economy or public arena? i think if those intellectuals exist within Chavismo (and oppostition BTW) they do not have any influence beyond aporrea, blogs, universities, etc. The real game changers here are the military, those generals around Diosdado, controlling Ministerios, public enterprises, Cadivi, social programs, and of course cuarteles. These are the guys who are breathing on The President’s neck and keep him in power. If Venezuela stopped being a true democracy, then what these group of 100-200 military power brokers think or dont think, if they think, it is what it is relevant here. Unfortunately, we have no understanding of how these guys “Politburo” perceived the country’s reality and future.


    • ” . . . laboratories of tropical socialism . . . ”

      Brilliant. I’m going to remember it. Socialism is a dead end — look at Europe, where the welfare state is bust for good. Japan and then the USA will follow suit. Politicians think nation states can ignore market forces, which is why sovereign default is the only cure.


      • Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Denmark seem to be just fine.

        A little social democracy is good, but the inability to make tough decisions and avoid populist pressures will bankrupt any government in the long run. Any government, or people, that forgets the markets are the main generator of growth and prosperity will end in trouble.

        Of course, “Bolivarian Socalism”, is nothing more than short term megapopulism blended with corruption, vote buying, and lunacy.


      • I think it is a mistake to attribute the ills of Venezuela to an ideology. I could probably count on one hand the number of truly ideological Venezuelans I have ever met, inside or outside the regime. Socialism is a name which Hugo Chavez placed on his personal method of rule, it gives the regime “a narrative” of sorts, but if you look at Venezuela even today, it is really more of a chaotic mess of interconnected personal fiefdoms and interests than a socialist state. To the extent that the regime takes on an ideological form, it actually looks to me more like fascism: militaristic, nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-democratic, and centered on a strong-man principle, etc. The internal debates are interesting, and Rodrigo is right to indicate they are important to follow, but I think they are interesting not for the actual thought processes, but for the divisions and interests that they expose.


        • A huge part of the damage done by the chavernment is its constant interventions in the economy and its many seizures of private businesses. These actions are in general accordance with chavismo’s socialist ideology.

          There is a peculiar reluctance to acknowledge that ideologues mean what they say. I have seen many people argue that the Soviet government was merely the same old Russia, run by cynical power-seekers mouthing Marxist platitudes. But actual research shows that Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev justified every decision in Marxist terms both in public and private; and many of those decisions made no sense except in Marxist terms.

          Chavismo is far less coherent than Communism; but it is far from devoid of policy content.


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  9. The compelling narrative is just that. It reminds me of a story about a guy who thinks he has a wonderful idea for a novel he wants to write. He asks a celebrated author what he thinks thinks about his idea, and after he finishes describing his idea, the author says, “That’s a great idea, all you need is fifty thousand words!”

    There may not actually be a problem with the Chaves narrative There was just a bit of an obstacle getting it to work!


  10. The greatest tragedy would be for people to blame Maduro for this mess, instead of Chavismo overall as a failed system. Maduro is just its incompetent, yet totally predictable, consequence.


    • Cesar,

      It will be hard to stomach, when in the future some big ass public works gets named “Hugo Chavez”. There are clear precedents of such things such as Avenida Romula Gallegos, Hidrolectrica Raul Leoni to name a few. It will certainly be a public reminder to me of “I plundered your country and you liked it”.

      Additionally you remind me of this retro looking desire of reviving old times by voting for old presidents.

      Venezuela voted for Carlos Andres Perez in 1989 with the hope of somehow reviving the good times of his 1974-1979 oil boom. Then again they voted for Caldera before Chavez aspiring to bring back some lost gentility by beckoning his 1969-1974 government.

      Leoni and Betancourt were dead, but in many ways Chavez was the reincarnation of Perez Jimenez, the last military dictator, in the minds of many misguided Venezuelans.


      • Leoni and Betancourt were dead, but in many ways Chavez was the reincarnation of Perez Jimenez, the last military dictator, in the minds of many misguided Venezuelans.
        A perception which Chavez did not try to dissuade when he invited Perez Jimenez to his 1999 inauguration.
        One thing for sure, a lot of Venezuelans had no hesitation in 1998 in voting for someone who attempted a coup de etat.


        • “One thing for sure, a lot of Venezuelans had no hesitation in 1998 in voting for someone who attempted a coup de etat.”

          In the 90s, there was the most brutal anti-government brainwashing campaign ever fired from all the media at the same time, blaming the government, and by extension, AD, Copei and democracy in general, from every single bad thing that happened since 1830 in Venezuela, campaign planned mostly by the cuban agents of castro since the 60s amid their war against Venezuela.

          That’s why so many people went madly to vote for the wax doll, who just arrived promising one thing to the aggraviated venezuelans: Revenge against the system that had screwed up the country.

          People were voting with their guts in that time, not with their heads, that knee-jerk reactions to inmediately call every single economy and politics topic as “too complex for the masses, that doesn’t put food in my plate so I don’t fucking care about that” was part of that campaign, which could be best known by its other name: Antipolitics.


      • I have the sick feeling that if Chávez were alive, people would have already taken the streets, demanding his reelection, because “con Chávez se vivía mejor”.


  11. The narrative draws much of its appeal from the personal style and image of the narrator and how much its audience can identify with him at a visceral level , once the narrative imprints itself on peoples mind then the narrators live repetition of the narrative becomes less important . Chavez message speech originally became mezmerizing for his followers because it came from him not because of its intrinsic content although the latter also contained something that they liked listening and believing .!! That narrative is important because of the fatuous delectable passions it inspires not because of its plausability and coherence . As people take proud pleasure in identifying with the ‘self image’ a narrative allows them to assumme , they are no longer open to any rational discussion about their beliefs , The narrative has become personalized , an integral part of their own identity and cannot be challenged by anyone who doesnt want a punch in the face. Hitlers speeches spouted utter nonsense and yet there was something about its delivery and tone and emotional resonance which made the ordinary germans of his day become viscerally bedazzled and electrified on hearing his speech , Speers biography attests to this. Same with Chavez !! If Hitlers speeches had been given byDr Goebbles they would have received little attention . If Chavez spoken narrative had been given by Diosdado or Jose Vicente no one would have listened to them. .


    • Right you are. But you need both. The narrative and the messenger.

      Chavez alone would get you little.

      You need a great script and great actors for a great movie. Fail in either and the production fails.

      You do pose an interesting question. To me is obvious that there is no one in the MUD trying deliver all the arguments of why a liberal democracy (as an example) leads to a more just society. But is there someone that could?


    • Bill,

      It is important to remember that the speech delivered by populist egomaniacs is always very seductive. They make you feel superior and righteous, with the promise of more and better to come.

      Certainly Hitler’s “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” (“Germany, Germany above all”), “die Herrenrasse” (master race) and Thousand year reich was something that got the German people behind Hitler to the utter smoking destruction of Germany.

      Likewise in Venezuela, “el paraiso socialista”, “la burguesia apatrida”, “la guerra economica”, “el pueblo…” is rhetoric sugar that some part of the 30% of pata-en-el-suelo want to keep on believing. Chavismo worked so well for them, for a while…


    • I agree with you Bill Bass.There are many articles out there written about these very facts.In general, all over the world, people have to identify emotionally with something before they will support it, and objective facts hold little sway.There are some people who can overcome their emotional identification enough to vote more objectively but they are very much in the minority.The kind of fear people have in Venezuela will only augment this tendency.The bind Venezuela is in now will never be broken with calm reasoning and objective facts.


      • Firepigette: “The bind Venezuela is in now will never be broken with calm reasoning and objective facts.”

        You think that empty shelves and 60% inflation are not objective facts?


    • Absolutely. People become so identified and attached to the narrative, and their own role in it, they are unable to change even as reality continues to confront them with unpleasant facts. It’s intrinsically difficult to change because the reexamination of basic assumptions temporarily destabilizes our cognitive and inner world, releasing large quantities of anxiety.


  12. All winning candidates (and most losing ones) to the Venezuelan presidency have used basically the same “narrative”:

    -The last president (and/or the USA) was corrupt and inefficient: all your troubles are his (their) fault.
    -I will straighten things out and “avenge” you.
    -This is a rich country, but “they” took the money that belongs to you. I’ll take it from them and give it to you. “¿Dónde están los reales?”

    Chavez used the same old-same old, but a) with unprecedented charisma; and b) had the genius to continue using it after he got elected: campaña permanente.


    • He added many new flavors.

      1.- Not the previous president but the previous system that he named ‘puntofijismo’
      2.- Added the socialism utopia ideal, although never really elaborating on its implementation but just using the critic elements on capitalism.


  13. The needed narrative, that one on self discipline, effort and hard work as a mean to personal and societal improvement has been stripped of value and polluted with anti socialist stigma. As if our socialism has done better for the nation.

    In reality official discourse is strategic to the purpose of a controlled society and a strong nomenclature, it is not intellectually valid and just aims to promote the status quo and quash the individual and free enterprise.

    its is not a sincere debate.


  14. Patience may be in order if default is as certain as some here suggest. Why should the opposition wish to take the wheel of the rudderless Venezuelan economy now when disaster looms and share in the resulting blame. Russia proved there was nothing inevitable about socialism despite all of its appeals to social justice and equality. There was no compelling opposition political party or leader when communism ended there to the surprise of most of the world. Chavismo may well end the same way, with a whimper and not with a ban, when Venezuelans like the Russians grow weary of all the unfulfilled promises. But unlike Russia, Venezuela has experience with at least the forms of capitalism and democracy so the recovery period should be much less painful. In the meantime, pray that the Saudis keep pumping oil…..


  15. The opposition faces a difficulty that is loosely analogous to a problem faced by the anti-Hitler Schwarze Kapelle in Germany.

    The SK, and many sympathetic Army leaders, felt that Hitler’s reckless war policy would lead to catastrophe for Germany. But they also felt he was politically untouchable. Hitler was a charismatic figure who had spoken for the German people, who felt humiliated by the Versailles settlement. He overturned that settlement and restored Germany’s national stature, becoming immensely popular with his triumphs in Austria and at Munich. In late 1939, Halder, chief of the Army General Staff, wrote that Hitler was untouchable until there was a setback. Instead came the biggest triumph of all (the defeat of France), and Hitler was entrenched until the catastrophe was already happening.

    Chavez was a charismatic figure who spoke for the disempowered masses of Venezuela. His rise to power was an enormous emotional boost for them, ratified by the social-welfare programs he launched. He survived early opposition attacks, including the botched coup of 2002, and went on to seeming triumphs, fueled by the 2000s boom in oil prices. That combination of emotional gratification and real-world success (economic rather than military) entrenched chavismo in the minds of a lot of Venezuelans.

    He died, but he left his movement in power. Many ex-chavista Venezuelans are justifiably disappointed in his heirs. But they don’t want to repudiate Chavez. That would mean repudiating the only leader who ever made them feel they mattered, and the benefits he seemed to deliver (or did deliver, to whatever extent). That emotional price they will not pay if they can avoid it by any possible rationalization. And they won’t pay it in response to arguments from a faction which they think of as being as corrupt and incompetent as the chavernment, and which they think disregards them.

    It would be interesting to see polls which show the approval rating of Chavez since his death.

    One caveat to all this: 44% of Venezuelans voted against Chavez himself last December. It seems possible that since his death, another 6% have changed their minds. There could be an anti-Chavez majority.


  16. The “narrative” for the opposition should center on blaming the current woes on the “economic war”. Yes the economic war, but not the one the government espouses but the one the government wages against the private sector: expropriations, currency control, price controls, distribution controls, inventory controls. The message should be: the government is inherently incapable, only the private sector is capable of supplying the goods as long as the government lets it.

    Also the hate sowing, demonization of opponents, political crispation, government excuses and lies are to blame for the deterioration of the country in every aspect: violence, scarcity, inflation, unemployment.


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