I have a theory as to why Maria Corina Machado gets under chavistas’ skin so much.
No, it doesn’t have to do with her gender. I’ve thrown that around before, but it doesn’t leave me entirely satisfied. The opposition has other female leaders, but none is quite as controversial as Maria Corina.
Neither is it about what she says. People love to throw around the canard that Maria Corina is “hard line” or “radical,” but to be honest, I’ve yet to see how anything she says is controversial enough to warrant multiple death wishes. Sure, she opposes Maduro with a passion, but … don’t we all?
It certainly has nothing to do with her power. She has been kicked out of Parliament on shaky grounds, and has been barred from leaving the country. The media shuns her. She has high negatives, and she is not the most popular leader in the opposition. Why is she such a threat?
To me, it has to do with something she shares with Leopoldo López, chavismo’s other nemesis: they both come from old money, and yet they are both still relevant.
Chavismo is a revolution, one that is probably based on deep-seated ethnic and cultural resentments, as the late Prof. Briceño Guerrero taught us. The visceral root of chavismo is “us” versus “them,” and “us” are supposed to be winning.
But who is “them” exactly?
An initial theory is that “them” means the old regime, the corrupt power-hungry adecos and copeyanos that ruled the coop until Chávez came along. But do you really see chavistas getting riled up about Ramos Allup? Carlos Andrés Pérez is a distant memory to them. Besides, adecos and copeyanos are no longer relevant. They have long either been defeated, or absorbed by the Revolution.
Deep down, the old adecos were like chavistas – one generation separated from poverty, mobile middle class folks who used the patronage of the state to advance in society. Chavistas can’t hate adecos when they are so alike.
As for Capriles … sure, chavistas detest him, but he comes from immigrants, so the hatred doesn’t seem to run as deep.
But with Machado, it’s different. Machado and López both come from old money, from the original aristocrats that ruled Venezuela. They are members of our nation’s oldest families. They descend from people who probably enslaved the ancestors of today’s chavistas. They have rarely mixed with the lower classes. They are, to coin Herrera Luque, the “amos del valle,” the masters of the valley, the “oligarchs.”
The hatred toward Maria Corina – is there any other word for it? – is born out of the fact that, in spite of this being a Revolution to avenge all who were opressed by “those people,” Maria Corina and Leopoldo refuse to be cowed. They refuse to shut up, sit down, and drown in oblivion. They have taken a stand and said “enough.”
This isn’t how a Revolution is supposed to play out. It’s as if, in 1929 Russia, a Romanov was still yapping about, calling out the Soviets for their opression.
Maria Corina is a target because people like her and Leopoldo aren’t supposed to be going to poor neighborhoods and talking to regular folks. They shouldn’t be on TV, and they shouldn’t be in Parliament. They should be in Mustique or Gstaad, Vail or Chamonix, enjoying their trust funds, and lamenting the state of their former country. They certainly shouldn’t be in Sabaneta de Barinas or Guasdalito, rousing up the rabble.
The fact that they are still standing, still out there fighting for their ideals, not compromising, refusing to be the caricatures that revolutionary folklore has them out to be … is an insult to chavistas.
Their very survival is a reminder of the failure of their revolution. That’s why they hate them.