Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The caudillo fixation in Venezuela

Many historians, curiously, claim that the personality cult of Bolívar was initiated by president Guzmán Blanco. In reality the personality cult around the caudillo from Caracas was started by Bolívar himself, as Ducodray and other more impartial witnesses of the time tells us. Bolívar managed to create a whole myth around himself from the very start, before he had even done anything - declaring himself Libertador and all while he was on the run, declaring himself a fighter when he betrayed other people to save his own skin, and managed to get for himself the merits of thousands of other people - the European mercenarias, Piar, etc. But it was Páez who got things really rolling in 1842, 12 years after Bolívar's death, when he brought Bolívar's skeleton back from Colombia to Caracas. Páez declared a long period of morning, managed to get through congress a set of laws for the cult of Bolívar, fought back those deputies who still wanted to prevent such a cult - there were still many people who remembered the real Bolívar -. Páez went as far as proposing to change the name of Caracas to Bolívar. He didn't succeed there but Angostura was later named after our first caudillo...and then a thousand other places. Of course, with Guzmán Blanco came another level of personality cult, but the base was already established at the end of Páez's time.

Páez actually used that cult in order to distract Venezuelans from more pressing issues of his time: worldwide prices for coffee, our monoculture of that time, were low and there were tough economic times.

Venezuela will see in the following days another round of personality cult, this time around a caudillo who managed to re-invent history and economics by claiming it was not the oil boom but his working that brought so many petrodollars to the country and who managed to portray himself as Bolívar Reincarnated. Every Venezuelan military who aspires to something thinks he will be the next Bolívar.

Very unfortunately, few people will know about those "details". Venezuelans as a whole, whether Chavistas or not, will be repeating the vices of our past once more, making some of those habits stronger, forgetting a couple.

Very little has changed in Venezuela. The military are still a caste apart, a group that has excelled in the farce of pretending to be Venezuela's Liberators.

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