Saturday, 20 February 2010

The time bomb and the minefields in Venezuela

Venezuela can get to the level of low-flame civil war or enter into a period of very open repression in six months to one year at most.

I don't think I say this lightly. Here you can listen Chávez stating that they will rule for 900 years. The government does not understand such a thing as "pluralism" or "open debate". As you can read from governmental sources, they do not even consider there could be something like a power change. They may say "it is because the opposition is no opposition, it does not live up to the challenge". Everybody knows it is not just that. Chávez and his high-ranking supporters would simply never accept losing power. They are either

  • too involved in crimes of all types AND/OR
  • too imbued in an absolutist ideology that does not accept anything but total contro, power alternation is not an option for them, who claim to be "the People"
As the economy deteriorates and the disatisfaction grows, the government can only threaten, increase control of the electoral system, of resources, move more potential enemies to leave the country as in Belarus or Cuba.

The government has distributed many thousands of Kalashnikovs and other weapons among its militias for some years now. In January of this year the National Assembly approved the new law about "Bolivarian" militias. The military has been training those militias with more or less rigour for some years already. Now they don't just have a new name, they are going to be scale d up.

If you click on the picture you will go to VTV, the governmental national TV site. There you can read about the "Bolivarian" militia, you can watch the president and a young woman in El Pao, in Northern Cojedes.

This woman is one out of 2000 persons (180 of them women), mostly from rural, poor areas who were spending three days in paramilitary training. This lady is an average Venezuelan. Most Venezuelans don't live in "the countryside", but they do live in cities that are anything but urban when it comes to available services and opportunities.

She is poor and her education is minimal. She has probably never left the country and has no ways of comparing things but what she gets through some filter. She has hardly any memories of life before 1998 and if she has, I am sure the pieces relating to previous governments are not good. Venezuelan governments had grown more and more ineffective with the years and rural areas had become more and more forgotten.

The national government is telling these people they are preparing themselves for any US invasion or attack by any US-supported movement. It is brainwashing them in a way that can only be compared to that of evangelical fundamentalists.

It does not help us at all that the most vocal opposition in Venezuela are people like this:

That is Ms Machado. She did a good job for Súmate. Still: it is not just a fatal picture with the wrong person. You just have to listen to her while trying to imagine how much time she has spent listening to people in El Pao, in El Tigre, in Maturín, in Pedernales, in big Miguel Pena or Libertador. She is running just to become a deputy for the most prosperous electoral district in Venezuela. Well, somebody has to do it and yet: a lot of people are putting most of their hopes, efforts and attention on stuff like that.

It does not help another of the most vocal leaders the opposition has right now is a guy like Ravell, with his FOX-News kind of journalism, who often goes to the US on vacation and to see his family there. Let me be clear: 1) FOX News journalism sucks and it isn't much better than VTV journalism and 2) although there is nothing wrong with going to the US or Europe on vacation, the vast majority of the people in Venezuela want to see leaders who are more grounded in Venezuela. They want to see people who have spent more of their free time talking to the average Venezuelans, not to the average inhabitant of a posh area of the capital.

It does not help that the few opposition leaders who are not from the capital's Eastern side are hardly heard anywhere.

The government has a couple of advantages:

1) the general level of education is very low and brainwashing is particularly easy, easier than in many other countries in South America (check out my posts on education)
2) most opposition leaders are indeed out of focus, they don't work outside their main 2-3 urban centres and beyond the TV cameras, they have no project or they don't know how to dissemiante their projects
3) the petrodollars will keep flowing
4) governments such as the Spanish government will keep supporting the Venezuelan regime as long as it gets juicy business deals (sure, and "promoting a climate of dialogue and understanding")
5) the far-right will find its way to promote extreme, undemocratic solutions, just like the far-left, to the detriment of most people, they will also be the ones helping the current leaders of the opposition

Social inequality was very high in Venezuela and things aren't getting any better. Now, though, the government in power knows how to do very effective brainwashing. Tensions will increase. The opposition is lead by people out of touch with the Venezuelans outside the Eastern Caracas cocoon. Groups challenging for an open, fair debate will be either rejected or ignored. Stupid people will try to promote violence and fear.

There are lots of weapons out there. There is some form of ideology - contradictory, rather superficial and all, but much more consistent than what the opposition groups offer -. There is resentment. There is ignorance.

We have a ticking bomb. We have minefields. We need courageous deminers.


  1. Well, it's telling and worrisome that everyone is talking about the same thing. Check out Duque and his call for arms:
    He just forgot to add "Kill whitey" at the end of his diatribe...
    What can I say. I think we are in a civil war. Everyone is packing, dude. I went back for less than 2 months and had to deal with a distant relative being shot and bleeding to death because he tried 3 hospitals and they couldn't help him (he wound up going from Valle de la Pascua to Valencia with no luck) and friends of a friend being attacked and butchered by 4 dudes in a Hummer with hunting knives and matchetes because they politely asked to have the music turned down.
    So it's here. Yep. When people look at you after you tell them stories like this and say, "really? Damn, dude, that sucks. My cousin got offed too", and talk matter-of-factly about these ghastly things, you can tell the whole society is morally corrupt.

  2. It is amazing and worrying how people can get used to about anything.
    The particular problem in Venezuela is how a (supposedly or not supposedly) leftist system got hold of a country living off petrodollars. How things work are so hard to explain to most in and outside.

    It is also worrying how the regime is playing the race-history card. The funny thing is that Duque dude is as African or European as me but for him I am the descendant of the slave owners that enslaved his family.

    I thought there were more than 35 pupils at my history class, but 30 of them may have been sleeping.

    All of the societal diseases we have in Venezuela are in other countries, but the combination is very particular and explosive.

    Sometimes I have heard people saying the crime issue is directed from above to control the population and let dissidents go. I doubted it but now I am wondering if there is something to it. What do you think?

  3. 2 things, Kep:
    1) I'm a firm believer this government is far from being left-wing and acts mostly like a right-wing, religious fundamentalist, anti-nationalist, proto-fascist government. So "the left conquering the government of a petrostate" doesn't seem right.
    2) As far as violence goes, I was talking about this in Panfleto Negro about a year or so ago. I think, in a bizarre twist of things, we can apply leftists Naomi Klein's "Shock doctrine" theory to the way things happen in Venezuela. If Klein is right and governments need "Shocks" -natural or coup d'états, wars, etc-, to circumvent the law, then the answer might be having the society in a perpetual state of shock to inhibit response.
    This might be the key to understanding the instrumentalization of violence through the State in Venezuela and the systematic use of non-intervention to be able to destroy all legal tissue in my country.

  4. OK, I accept. I meant "extreme lefties" all the time. We probably agree they are extremists.
    I also wrote I consider them above all conservatives. As caballero wrote in his Por qué no soy un bolivariano, they hate change.

    The point of contention may be whether they are "left" or not.
    Perhaps that is inconsequential here. I have written in other places that their imagology is an attempt to compensate for their ideological emptiness and contradictions. Still, the whole concept of "left" seems like the most elusive in history, but that is another matter. I usually have allergy to any dogmatism of any side, I am surely considered a leftie in the US, while in Northern Europe I definitely would not...and I appreciate the systems in place in Northern Europe. I suppose they are not your take, but then I don't know exactly how you envision an ideal state (I have just seen the "A" label on your blog :-).

    "This might be the key to understanding the instrumentalization of violence through the State in Venezuela and the systematic use of non-intervention to be able to destroy all legal tissue in my country."

    Yeah, that is a very plausible explanation. I am not sure how it is really implemented if it is a conscious effort. Most likely there is a half-planned thing.
    Remember Hugo's exaltation of Boves.

    That is also how now Venezuelans, who are so mixed, are told they are mostly "African-Indian".
    I have African slaves and native Americans among my ancestors (who are mostly European, as is the case for most Venezuelans), but I become the descendant of slave owners to chavistas...and you, I don't even want to tell you what you have become to that Duque guy, you really are a musiúo.

  5. Well, for the first part, yes it is inconsequential what label we use but still, it's conceptually interesting and theorically necessary to know where we are and up against. I found this today, not bad:

    The problem is, as with any extreme, the use of unmovable categories that guide political actions: "this" is Venezuela and being "venezuelan", the other stuff must be anihilated. Venezuelans are mestizo. Anyone not mestizo is a second-rate citizen. That kind of thing. Venezuelan music is llanera, so Desorden Público is not a venezuelan band. All that rubbish.

    These lines of thinking exist in the right and the left. They are obviously conducive to violence.

    Duque embraces violence and doesn't stop proning a "Final solution" for the burgeois. That's why he's right in line with the "milicia campesina".

    It's a racist, vindictive, reductionist and all-in-all, stupid worldview.

    But to get back on point: yes, you're right, we seem to be headed there.


  6. Agree.

    One thing I felt very happy about was that I, criollo, mezclado, was as Venezuelan as the native American and the guy whose parents came from Germany, Spain, Trinidad, Syria or China, not more and not less.
    But really: these chavistas are a caricature of Boves.
    There is, of course, the racism from the extreme right as well.

    I liked the post of that Peruvian. The only thing I disliked was the use of the term "americano" for US American, but then I don't make compromises there :-)



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