Open Thread on Hugo Chavez

by John Quiggin on March 7, 2013

At the request of reader Tim Wilkinson, here’s an open thread, where readers better informed than me, or more willing to argue on the basis of limited knowledge, can offer their thoughts.

As a discussion starter, here’s a piece from The Nation

{ 185 comments }

1

Philip 03.07.13 at 9:50 am

For me, above all, Chavez was a living embodiment of the old adage “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you”.

2

Hidari 03.07.13 at 10:31 am

This obit. seems to get it right.

“”Every Hugo Chávez obituary in the Western press
by Sam Kriss

Darth Hugo Destruktor Chávez, the outspoken and inflammatory Venezuelan leader, died yesterday in Caracas when the Invisible Hand of the free market reached down his throat and shook loose his gall bladder. He is survived by his four children and his millions-strong army of terrifying cyborg drones.

To his supporters and those implanted with his mind-controlling Chavismo-chips, Chávez was Emmanuel, the reborn Christ. To his detractors, he was Double Hitler. As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle – while he was certainly born, he was not Christ; and while there was only one of him, he was most definitely Hitler.

Hugo Chávez exploded onto the world stage in September of 2005, when he took the stand at the United Nations General Assembly to complain at length about the air conditioning. However, he first came to prominence in the hitherto-unknown land of Venezuela in 1992. In that year, he and a band of avaricious raiders attempted to steal the Seer’s Eye, an enormous sapphire kept in the vaults of the Federal Legislative Palace. Thankfully, his plot was foiled, and the stone was destroyed before it could be used as a component in Chávez’s Ionising Doom Cannon, a laser weapon that would have been capable of extinguishing the Sun.

However, that which is dead cannot die, and Chávez escaped the dungeon dimension he was cast into to come to power in 1998. While not going so far as to actually do anything remotely dictatorial, Chávez was a dictator….”

https://samkriss.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/every-hugo-chavez-obiturary-in-the-western-press/

3

FRauncher 03.07.13 at 11:58 am

The Nation article finally redresses the balance of evaluations. Probably by most technocratic measures Chavez’z heritage is negative, but he seems to have set socio-democratic currents in motion that will bring permanent future payoffs.

4

JW Mason 03.07.13 at 12:33 pm

For a more substantive analysis of the broader project of “21st Century Socialism,” I recommend this paper. It stays away from the personality stuff — pro and con — and the frame of seeing everything through relations with the US, and focuses on the key questions of how much Chavez really represented a break with neoliberalism, and how much space opened up for a more transformative popular politics. Satisfying as it is to mock the press coverage in the US (which indeed can be extraordinarily stupid, I think it’s ultimately much more important to analyze the substantive content of the project in Venezuela, which – critical tho Chavez was in initiating it – has been about much more than one individual.

5

P O'Neill 03.07.13 at 12:54 pm

Lula’s quasi-tribute is worth a read.

The ledger will have pluses and minuses but the support for Bashar al-Assad seems hard to fit into whatever the positive vision was and instead just conforms to the caricature of him.

6

PlutoniumKun 03.07.13 at 1:51 pm

I remember being on a driving trip in Ireland during the 2002 coup with a Venezuelan friend – we were riveted to the radio trying to pick up any news about what was happening. My friend and her family are not natural Chavistas – they are middle class and fairly conservative in many ways, but they supported him on the basis that they alternatives were much worse. The documentary ‘The Revolution will not be Televised’ about that coup is fascinating, even if a little unbalanced.

The problem with Chavez is that it was so hard to see past his charisma and ego. His anti-Americanism was justified in many ways, but the manner in which this extended to supporting the likes of Ahmadinejad and Assad was less endearing, although I suppose its no worse than considering the house of al Saud to be a friend. He was good at the broad brush, but it seems that he wasn’t particularly good at building up the internal structures which Venezuela so badly needed to ensure his reforms had long term benefits. I fear that he has not left a lasting legacy of deep structural reform in governance in Venezuela, something which it desperately needs. Although arguably the problems are so deep rooted that they are unfixable. But it is absolutely unquestionable for anyone who has looked at the recent history of Venezuela that his policies greatly benefited the poor and dispossessed and that he gave great pride to many South Americans.

On a related point, it always baffled me as to why Obama never addressed the hostility of the US establishment to more reformist South American leaders. Most (including the early incarnation of Chavez) were and are not inherently anti-American, by extending pragmatic support and encouragement the US could have reversed the gradual loosening of the bonds between the US and Latin America. But its insistence on seeing things in black and white terms (or dark and blonde terms if you like) has damaged US influence as much as it has caused strife and harm to numerous Latin American countries.

7

rf 03.07.13 at 2:14 pm

At Adam David Morton’s blog he gives his grad students an opportunity to post about their theses. This was one done recently on social movements in Venezuela since Chávez came to power

http://adamdavidmorton.com/2013/02/and-then-there-were-many-the-bolivarian-revolution-without-chavez/

8

Rich Puchalsky 03.07.13 at 3:01 pm

“On a related point, it always baffled me as to why Obama never addressed the hostility of the US establishment to more reformist South American leaders. “

Every question from the left-of-center about Obama has this same form. Why is he assassinating people with drones, why is he always looking for a bargain to lower Social Security and talking up the deficit, etc. The simple answer is that he’s part of that U.S. establishment; he finds the hostility to left-leaning South American leaders just as useful as every past President has. He doesn’t address it because he doesn’t want to.

9

PlutoniumKun 03.07.13 at 3:13 pm

@ Rich Puchalsky – without wishing to go off topic, I think my question is less about Obama’s motivations and politics, but one based on simple geopolitical pragmatism. The hostility to Chavez and Venezuela seems to me to have been damaging to US interests – it encouraged Chavez and other reformists to do deals with Iran and China, and undermined the control of Opec by the Saudi’s. Cuba and other Central American countries are to an extent geopolitically irrelevant and so can be tossed around as ideological playthings. Venezuela is geopolitically relevant, so my bafflement is to why the US foreign policy establishment abandoned the pragmatism it is so fond of when it applies elsewhere (or allegedly applies elsewhere, a lot of ‘realism’ in foreign policy discourse seems little more than an excuse to cosy up dictators for thinly veiled ideological reasons).

10

roger gathman 03.07.13 at 3:15 pm

I think Chavez was right to move Venezuela in the direction of other socialist oil producing nations, like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who also share the wealth among the populace. Socialist Alaska is another good example – and in fact, in terms of domestic policy, Chavez was most like Sarah Palin in his politics – opposing the oil oligarchs, getting a better deal for his people. Like Palin, he made unfortunate foreign allies – she with Bush, Chavez with Ahmadinejad. He was, however, a much harder worker than Palin. He wasn’t a quitter. And he inspired a populist movement in Latin America that has provided an edge to allow the continent to get out from under the terrible Washington consensus.

11

Pninian 03.07.13 at 3:29 pm

FRauncher 03.07.13 at 11:58 am

‘Probably by most technocratic measures Chavez’z heritage is negative.’

By whose technocratic measures? As Nietzsche might say, ‘who is speaking here’? Western media groups? Neoliberal financial institutions? Powerful human rights groups funded by western corporations?

12

rf 03.07.13 at 3:32 pm

“so my bafflement is to why the US foreign policy establishment abandoned the pragmatism it is so fond of when it applies elsewhere ..”

I think you need to look deeply at the US FP establishment, particularly those who deal specifically with Latin America/Venezuela .. the think tankers, advisors, regional experts, lobbyists, journalists, those who do the deep thinking on policy .. therein you will find your idiots

13

Omega Centauri 03.07.13 at 3:36 pm

I think the answer to 6&9 why didn’t we try to work with the Latin American leftists versus antagonzing them, is preety simple. The optics of domestic politics trump pragmatism. Accomodationism leaves one open to attack from the right, optical hostility means you get to play the nationalist (and pro-capitalist) card.

14

rf 03.07.13 at 3:46 pm

But is US policy outside of this example really ‘pragmatic’? Look no further than Iran for a policy that is certainly not pragmatic, but historically contingent, ideological, the result of regional alliances, domestic lobbies, institutional actors/advisors etc..I’d imagine it’s not difficult to draw the same links to US policy towards Venezuela. The Cuban lobby, specific actions at specific times that undermined potential reconciliation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela

Ideological and policy hangovers from the past, ideological disagreements towards a caricatured Chavez all wrapped up in hyperbole, hubris, hysteria and selective moralizing, so on and so forth

15

Adrian Kelleher 03.07.13 at 3:51 pm

A US State Dept investigation subsequent to the 2002 coup attempt “found no evidence that U.S. policy during the operative period was anything but fully consistent with … democratic and constitutional principles”. This finding was made in spite of the intimate contacts between officials of the State Department and the US embassy under Otto Reich and Charles Shapiro respectively during the lead up to the coup and extensive funding of the groups involved by the National Endowment for Democracy.

The report reads like something out of Animal Farm. The principal investigator — Clark Ervin, Inspector General of the United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors — managed to keep any mention of his name out of his own investigation’s findings. Readers are asked to believe that the Caracas embassy “would have been derelict in its duty to provide Washington with accurate, timely, and highly relevant information if it had not availed itself of such opportunities to learn of plots and plans against the host government from the plotters and planners themselves”, a comical line alonside which the Chewbacca defense seems like a work of mastery.

Reich’s team wasn’t some random or fortuitous collection of individuals. The principal members — including Reich himself, Roger Noriega and Ambassador Charles Shapiro — all had extensive experience in the coups and dirty wars in Central and Southern America of the 1970s and ’80s. Reich’s involvement in activity criminal under both international and US domestic law is so extensive it would be enough to gain any other country the tag of “safe-haven for terrorists” all on its own. Highlights include smuggling lifelong terrorist Orlando Bosch into the US and the direction of an illegal government propaganda campaign in favour of the Nicaraguan Contras.

16

Anon. 03.07.13 at 3:51 pm

Sucks that he didn’t get to live long enough to get the Gaddafi treatment, he certainly deserved it.

The fact that he died believing the CIA induced his cancer is pretty good, but not enough.

17

CJColucci 03.07.13 at 3:53 pm

To me as an outsider, Chavez didn’t seem to be noticeably worse for his own people — or better, for that matter — than available alternatives, but that’s for Venezuelans to decide. He did not appear to be a material threat to the interests of the United States, and if he insulted us, well, why wouldn’t he, given his history and Venezuela’s (not to mention the rest of Latin America’s) and what’s it to us?

18

Anarcissie 03.07.13 at 3:57 pm

‘…I think my question is less about Obama’s motivations and politics, but one based on simple geopolitical pragmatism. The hostility to Chavez and Venezuela seems to me to have been damaging to US interests….’

The qualities which enable a person to come to serious power in the United States — ambition, greed, aggression, ruthlessness, luck — are not necessarily the qualities which enable one to concoct good long-term policies, either for one’s class, or the community which one’s class rules.

19

JW Mason 03.07.13 at 3:57 pm

To me as an outsider, Chavez didn’t seem to be noticeably worse for his own people — or better, for that matter

I’m curious: What is this judgement based on?

20

Adrian Kelleher 03.07.13 at 3:59 pm

Edit

Replace: …in spite of the intimate contacts between officials of the State Department and the US embassy under Otto Reich and Charles Shapiro respectively during the lead up to the coup…

With: …in spite of the intimate contacts between officials of the State Department and the US embassy (under Otto Reich and Charles Shapiro respectively) and the plotters during the lead up to the coup…

21

Mao Cheng Ji 03.07.13 at 4:01 pm

“The optics of domestic politics trump pragmatism.”

Nah, I think this is the optics of the empire, fully supported by the both parties. If a foreign leader wouldn’t kiss the ring, he/she is an enemy, and has to be put down. To make an example. Right or left, doesn’t matter; Ahmadinejad is not a leftist. That is THE pragmatic approach.

22

musa 03.07.13 at 4:11 pm

Reading the right-wing obits in The Atlantic and Slate, and the leftist one in The Nation leaves me with the following conclusions:
1-the country’s debt is higher, there are now food shortages, and inflation is high; these things are bad.

2-Poverty has fallen dramatically and Chavismo has unleashed a considerably more democratic society (ie. the poor have more of a voice). This is good, and is what really pisses of the oligarchy and its defenders in The Atlantic and Slate the most.

3-Chavez was enabled, and constrained, by the country’s oil rents. Such rents were able to fund social support programs (resulting in the “goods” in #2), but like most rentier states, he needed to use these rents to keep various class factions mollified while Venezuela continues on as an entrepreneurial petro-state with socialistic leanings. The macro-economic “bads” outlined in #1 mostly flow from this contradiction.

On balance: can anyone seriously argue that he wasn’t an improvement over the oligarchy controlled pseudo-democracy that existed before? I have yet to see someone try.

23

CJColucci 03.07.13 at 4:12 pm

To me as an outsider, Chavez didn’t seem to be noticeably worse for his own people — or better, for that matter

I’m curious: What is this judgement based on?”

What it’s mainly based on is the rest of the sentence, i.e.that this is really a question for the Venezuelans to address. I haven’t heard much from Venezuelans and until I do I have no great interest in the precise ranking of Chavez among a sorry lot of Latin American strongmen.

24

LFC 03.07.13 at 4:21 pm

Mao Cheng Ji
If a foreign leader wouldn’t kiss the ring, he/she is an enemy, and has to be put down.

The U.S. probably helped the ’02 coup plotters, as A. Kelleher indicates, but beyond that it didn’t do much to “put down” Chavez. The U.S. intelligence/security establishment’s main attention was focused elsewhere, obviously.

25

js. 03.07.13 at 4:21 pm

I haven’t heard much from Venezuelans

What would count as “hearing from Venezuelans” for you? Because evidently, and just for example, his winning election after election doesn’t seem to mean very much to you.

26

Sebastian H 03.07.13 at 4:42 pm

From the outside we can’t really judge until the transition of power. Did he set up a cult of personality with democratic trappings, or did he pair his authoritarian structures with deeper democratic change? If a year from now we have a stable and democratic government in Venezuela, probably the latter. If we have a repressive mess, probably the former. His affection for the dictator class makes me suspicious, but I live thousands of miles away and am not plugged in to the Venezuelan community.

27

Hector_St_Clare 03.07.13 at 4:46 pm

Re: 1-the country’s debt is higher, there are now food shortages, and inflation is high; these things are bad.

Sorry, but this is a typically ignorant canard of the kind that’s gotten thrown around a lot in the past few years. To the extent that there are food ‘shortages’, it’s because poor people have more money (and/or access through the state-owned stores) to buy food now. Production of most agricultural staples rose during the Chavez era, it’s just that consumption levels rose a lot too. I cite a few numbers here:

http://patriabolivariana2008.blogspot.com/2008/12/economic-triumphs-of-venezuelan.html

Re: What it’s mainly based on is the rest of the sentence, i.e.that this is really a question for the Venezuelans to address. I haven’t heard much from Venezuelans

All you really need to do is look at the mobs of people filling the streets and weeping as his coffin went on its procession yesterday. If that doesn’t count as ‘hearing from Venezuelans’, I don’t know what wood.

The last opinion survey before Chavez died turned up 68% of people approving of his job performance, for what it’s worth. Not that I have an especially high view of opinion surveys, but take it for what it’s worth.

28

Harold 03.07.13 at 5:07 pm

Hector, stop confusing the issue with facts.

29

Mao Cheng Ji 03.07.13 at 5:18 pm

“The U.S. probably helped the ’02 coup plotters, as A. Kelleher indicates, but beyond that it didn’t do much to “put down” Chavez.”

What I said was a reply to “why Obama never addressed the hostility of the US establishment to more reformist South American leaders”. It’s just that an independent third world leader can not be a legitimate leader. Those are dictators. They don’t follow the directions coming from the US embassy, and that can’t be good for the country, for the people. Thus the hostility is warranted. The CIA is the next step.

30

CJColucci 03.07.13 at 5:23 pm

What would count as “hearing from Venezuelans” for you? Because evidently, and just for example, his winning election after election doesn’t seem to mean very much to you.

No, it doesn’t. I don’t discount it completely, but it seems that the elections were as clean as can reasonably be expected under the circumstances, so it’s a point in Chavez’s favor, and part of the reason I lean, as I have said, to the “meh” position.

All you really need to do is look at the mobs of people filling the streets and weeping as his coffin went on its procession yesterday. If that doesn’t count as ‘hearing from Venezuelans’, I don’t know what wood.

Sure it counts, but it hadn’t happened until he died, obviously. And certainly the question of how to think about and deal with Chavez mattered more when he was alive and running things.

Speaking of which, it ought to have been clear enough that I thought he should be dealt with like just another foreign leader, ignoring the insults, doing business where we can, and otherwise leaving him alone unless he actually threatens something we have a right or obligation to prevent.

.

31

Brett 03.07.13 at 5:53 pm

I was indifferent towards Chavez in life, and now I’m indifferent towards him in death. For all his anti-American rhetoric, the US actually did pretty well in terms of trade with Chavez during his presidential terms. We continued to buy Venezuelan oil, and in turn the Venezuelan government sent a huge chunk of their export earnings back to the US in order to pay for imports, such as food. Only a few US corporations got screwed when their Venezuelan property was expropriated.

32

one relevant contrast class 03.07.13 at 6:13 pm

The number of innocent civilian adults and children a ruler is fundamentally responsible for killing is a very important metrics for evaluating his or her time in power. In that regard Chavez ranks as less bad than any US president that anyone reading this has lived under. That fact matters independently of any other complaint that may be lodged against Chavez.

33

Bogdanov 03.07.13 at 6:14 pm

“otherwise leaving him alone unless he actually threatens something we have a right or obligation to prevent.”

Always fascinating to catch glimpses into the lunacy of neoliberals.

34

rf 03.07.13 at 6:41 pm

Out of curiosity, how is that a ‘lunacy of neo-liberals’? It seem’s the opposite, and a reasonable enough aspiration..

35

rf 03.07.13 at 6:51 pm

Seem’s = seems .. My apostrophe use is terrible..I’m trying to sort it out though, so forgive me..I’m completely lost on the difference between that and which however

36

Cian 03.07.13 at 6:53 pm

I don’t discount it completely, but it seems that the elections were as clean as can reasonably be expected under the circumstances.

By most reasonable accounts the elections were very clean. Far better than US elections (not that this is the comparison one really wants to use) and comparable to the better Western Europe democracies.

37

PlutoniumKun 03.07.13 at 7:05 pm

He gets a lot of stick here sometimes, but Matt Yglesias makes two very good points here today:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/03/07/hugo_chavez_economic_policies_the_ap_makes_the_case_he_s_been_good_for_venezuela.html

In summary: Any foreign autocrat who doesn’t challenge American hegemony can expect a much more sympathetic hearing in the US, even in ‘progressive’ circles, and

Chavez may have wasted money, but at least he wasted it on people, not on glamorous Dubai style buildings.

38

Tim Wilkinson 03.07.13 at 7:14 pm

Thanks John! I’ve been offline and only just got back on; will now read comments and try to add something vaguely useful or interesting…

39

rf 03.07.13 at 7:31 pm

Matt Yglesias has it completely right. You will never hear the sort of rhetoric that was used against Chavez directed towards the emir of Qatar, for example. That’s understandable for policy makers, but even mainstream academics, journalists, think tankers..they might acknowledge the al-Thani’s corruption, incompetence, human rights abuses and incessant regional meddling but they rarely make a big deal out of it

40

Adrian Kelleher 03.07.13 at 7:35 pm

On the pragmatism of the US policies…

The main relevant issue at the time was the ongoing Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiation. Venezuela was already involved by the time Chavez took office and he was pretty open about his desire to wreck the process.

Prior to the coup, the US tried to do two things with a view to isolating Venezuela in the talks: A) mention Venezuela as often as possible (that being popular in the US) and B) associate it with Cuba (about which very dubious claims were made) as tightly as it could.

The botched putsch ruined this approach and a tone of uncharacteristic calmness entered into official Bush administration statements about Venezuela until after the 2004 election.

But immediately after the election, literally within days, the hard line against Venezuela was resumed — something Bush would surely have done earlier had it not been for the coup fiasco. Once again, the policy was to isolate Chavez to enable the FTAA deal to be concluded.

This time around, however, Brazil was getting disillusioned by the aggressive US approach to the talks. It started to resist US pressure more forcefully and to move closer to the Venezuelan position. It was at this point that the US strategy diverged from reality. Rather than engaging with Brazil on matters of substance, it decided to try to isolate both Brazil and Venezuela in the negotiations and even threatened to conclude a deal without either country.

This strategy had no basis in common sense — it was rooted in an understanding of the world a decade or more out of date. The days when the US could just brush off Brazil in an economic negotiation were long gone and the policy was a disaster: the FTAA negotiations failed, Brazil turned it’s attention without regret back to Mercosur, and Chavez celebrated.

This was a major policy disaster by any standards, and Otto Reich’s Machiavellians had contributed by shooting G.W. Bush right in the foot… all of which is of little interest to readers here, I’m sure.

But the point is this: Bush’s FTAA policy, like his Venezuela policy, was self-defeating in its own terms. Effective or even competent Democratic opposition would have scored a lot of points, yet having basically endorsed both Bush’s policies and his tactical approach, and having failed to hold him properly accountable over the 2002 coup, the party made no political capital from the episode whatsoever.

How could it have done so, when it never challenged Republican Party values in any way during the period? Of course Republican Party values were popular at the time. Although they practically guaranteed disaster in the longer run, the craven opposition was unwilling to endure even a modicum of short-run unpopularity to contest them.

If you accept for the sake of popularity that bipartisanship is the highest political virtue then you encourage vanguardism in your adversaries. My suggestion for the next Democratic Party candidate is to forget “hope and change” and instead to try something like “these other maniacs will bring ruin down on all our heads”.

[[
Two points about 2002 I forgot earlier:

* NED funding for the groups responsible for the coup was actually increased subsequently.

* Tellingly, the State Dept version of events during the crisis matched the coup plotters' plans but not the actuality of what had transpired. E.g. it repeatedly referred to Chavez' "resignation" when he had done no such thing. When the US Embassy requested to see the resignation letter it had been expecting, the coup plotters instead sent on an unsigned copy -- no signed one existed.

]]

41

shah8 03.07.13 at 8:02 pm

On a meta note, I’m actually interested in the astro-turfing process, and thinking about why people are bother to flood the internet with such a wide spectrum of comments ranging from virulent to specious “he was good, **but**, he pals around with Assad” or some variant of FUD tactics. That AP comment was honestly quite wierd. And the Juan Cole commentary usefully mendacious in trying to reach “thoughful” liberals. Is it just all incomprehensible vomit of half-digested emotions and ambitions?

Been seriously thinking about this in parallel with the reporting on the Syrian conflict. Anyone who bothers reading history and fully utilizing Wikipedia knows that these conflicts take a while, and there are long odds for rebel victory. However, in the media from ignorant journalists to polished professors, we keep hearing the mantra of Assad will be gone in one Friedman unit. We keep hearing laudatory things about rebels even as they invade Iraq and take UN hostages. That US aid to them would bring about a new Syria, when by any viable standard, this is going by the Nicaraguan Contra model, where the end point is to terrorize the Syrian public until they “vote” for a Western friendly government. Even then, I’m not even sure that’s what Washington collectively wants, that there are variations of outcomes that various factions want…

So, I am fascinated by the media reportage on Chavez as another datapoint in Washingtonology studies.

42

js. 03.07.13 at 8:33 pm

it seems that the elections were as clean as can reasonably be expected under the circumstances.

Under the circumstances indeed! Circumstances which did not include widespread efforts at voter suppression, highly interested parties in charge of wildly inconsistent voting procedures, or a chief executive serving at the pleasure of the high court. In addition to the Grandin article JQ links to, see here. Make Google your friend and you can find lots more!

43

C.L. Ball 03.07.13 at 9:26 pm

What’s remarkable about Venezuela is that it has been able to avoid much of the “resource curse.” Chavez was certainly authoritarian in his quest for more executive power but his repression was relatively light — no disappearances and political killings — and he has kept the economic house in some order. The international bankers and sovereign debt holders are quite pleased with Venezuela’s current account, even if inflation and some food shortages are problems domestically.

The question is whether Chavez effectively institutionalized his policies both administratively and within the JPSUV.

44

Brett 03.07.13 at 9:44 pm

How did he avoid the resource curse? Venezuela is more, not less dependent on oil now than when he took power. Oil production is down considerably since then, and it played a key role in spawning massive corruption in his regime. That Venezuela stayed current on its debt doesn’t change that.

45

Matt 03.07.13 at 10:06 pm

How did he avoid the resource curse? Venezuela is more, not less dependent on oil now than when he took power. Oil production is down considerably since then, and it played a key role in spawning massive corruption in his regime. That Venezuela stayed current on its debt doesn’t change that.

Venezuelan oil production and exports are down significantly since 1998-2000. But prices are way up from that period. Human development has improved significantly for the poor. Resource curse: so far avoided!

“Dependent” has negative connotations, but it’s hard to see how the oil price surge has been bad for Venezuela. If copper prices rose dramatically over a decade while the rest of the economy developed at historical rates, it would make the Chilean economy more dependent on copper exports, but hardly to the harm of Chileans. Or, considering the counterfactual, it’s hard to see how Venezuela would benefit from an oil price collapse, though this would certainly decrease its oil dependency.

46

roger gathman 03.07.13 at 10:10 pm

In the context of Venezuelan history, Chavez’s corruption is miniscule. Real corruption was what the oligarchs pre-Chavez were into. See, for example, the reign of Carlos Andreas Perez – if you want to catch a glimpse of peculation by the predatory ruling class. Of course, the ruling class, when it steals things, then regards those things as theirs by right, and the subsequent re-expropriation becomes, in this view, theft and satanism.

47

Hector_St_Clare 03.07.13 at 11:26 pm

Re: Circumstances which did not include widespread efforts at voter suppression, highly interested parties in charge of wildly inconsistent voting procedures, or a chief executive serving at the pleasure of the high court

Yawn. I’m pretty sure I don’t give two ****s about all that. Democracy is a means, not an end, at best. It’s pretty grotesque, to me, to treat it as an end in itself. In the long run, Chavez got ‘democracy’ to serve his purposes, which is all to the good.

48

Ernesto R. 03.07.13 at 11:33 pm

It seems to me that to be an accepted ‘progressive’ in the US you have to always apologize for defending popular governments in Latin America. As a progressive South American I see these times in the continent as nothing short of miraculous. Economic growth, reduction of poverty levels, reduction of inequality and, something I’ve never dreamed it would be true, a compact political partnership between south american countries. Hugo Chavez, Lula and Kirchner created UNASUR, a formidable block that, among other accomplishments, buried the only political program that the US seemed to have for the region in the last 20 years: the free-trade agreement, ALCA. Since that foundational moment, in 2005, South America has grown into a bigger and independent player in the world. Argentina, Brazil, the main players, don’t look at the US for leadership anymore. I think that single development will be one of Chavez’s biggest legacies.

49

Terence 03.07.13 at 11:59 pm

In the latest issue of Perspectives on Politics Scott Mainwaring has a very good review essay on Chavez. The article is currently free to download. It is, IMHO, pretty impartial, perhaps with a slight anti-Chavez ‘bias’ (or at least I think Mainwaring could have done more to point out that many of Chavez’s opponents were at least, if not more, ambivalent about democracy as Chavez himself was). Link:
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=6&fid=8783383&jid=PPS&volumeId=10&issueId=04&aid=8783382&fulltextType=RV&fileId=S1537592712002629

50

shah8 03.08.13 at 12:35 am

Hey there Terence, happy to see ya!

51

pjm 03.08.13 at 12:42 am

@Hector, 47. Granted there is tremendous hypocrisy and sloppieness etc involved in the application of democratic standards, but make no mistake, democracy is a goal in itself, one inseparable from a broader vision of just society, even if far off, and I would hope all of the CT bloggers are in agreement about that.

52

Salient 03.08.13 at 1:27 am

Chavez may have wasted money, but at least he wasted it on people

Wasting money on people is the principal legitimate purpose of government.

There are worse legacies.

53

shah8 03.08.13 at 2:03 am

Oh, man, that was interesting, and kinda horrifying, paper, Terrance!

The dude basically makes a big part of the thesis wrt changes in modes in governing styles that democracy does not necessarily equate to the meaningful participation of the masses in public politics. More than that, that democracy is more important than the idea that poorer people should participate in mass politics. My eyes got wide, and I did the Keanu. So…lemme get this right, a democracy where you get all fired up to vote for Perez because he promises an end to austerity. Then when he wins, he turns around and said, “Unfortunately, I have to be pro-austerity. Too bad.” When you rise up in anger and frustration, he has you gunned down in the barrios like the muskrats you are. That’s democracy alright! And it’s the most important thing ever! See? Look at Colombia, where the roads don’t get paved, unless it’s the local drug lord doing it. No schools get build because the town mayors pocket all the money and play clientelistic games. Peasants getting cleared off of land, and union leaders assassinated whenever. That’s an awesome democracy, right there, where you can vote for your leaders. As an exercise for the reader, see if you can spot the phrase “Caracazo” in this paper.

No, Chavez’ Venezuela is what’s called a “competitive authoritarian regime”. You know, like Fujimori’s Peru or Putin’s Russia. Nasty “competitive authoritarian regimes” in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, too! Well, then, let’s go back to Venezuela, if it’s an authoritarian regime, presumably, you have many jails full of prisoners of conscience, right? Political losers, right? The opposition are merely pet organizations like the Chinese Democratic Party over in China, right? With no ability to reach the masses with their message because no free press or right of association… Wait a minute…Isn’t this label far more appropriate in Ergogan’s Turkey than Chavez’ Venezuela? I mean, I can scarcely imagine an Alevi equivalent to Radonski, right guys? Just what was Chavez authoritarian against, specifically? What minority got their right trammeled? Other than the obvious?

Sheesh.

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LFC 03.08.13 at 3:20 am

shah8

in the media from ignorant journalists to polished professors, we keep hearing the mantra of Assad will be gone in one Friedman unit.
Oh really? I haven’t been hearing this.

We keep hearing laudatory things about rebels even as they invade Iraq and take UN hostages.
I heard that 24 Syrian soldiers, and I thought (perhaps incorrectly) they were regime soldiers not rebels, had been killed in Iraq after, in effect, deserting there. Even if they were rebels, that hardly constitutes an “invasion.”

That US aid to them would bring about a new Syria, when by any viable standard, this is going by the Nicaraguan Contra model, where the end point is to terrorize the Syrian public until they “vote” for a Western friendly government.
The Contra model would be to sponsor proxy groups which attack from outside the country. Is anyone proposing that?

Ok, thread derail over, back to Chavez.

55

lupita 03.08.13 at 3:31 am

Well… so much for the Western media controlling the narrative of what a great leader is or is not. The last count is 55 heads of state will attend Chavez’ funeral, including all of Latin America with the exception of Paraguay. 15 Latin American countries have declared states of national mourning.

I wonder what Fidel’s funeral will be like. John Paul’s? Say what you will, but Latin America knows how to do death like no other region on the planet.

My favorite Chavez moment was in Mar de la Plata 2005, when Bush went to sign the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement and Chavez organized a counter summit in a football stadium with thousands chanting “Bush facista, vos sos el terrorista”. Latin Americans also do revolutionary rhyming slogans like nobody else.

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lupita 03.08.13 at 3:55 am

“Some dead people never die”, tweeted Rosario Murillo, President Ortega’s spokesperson and wife. For those not in the know, Carlos Fonseca, founder of the FSLN, is also a member of that select group of dead.

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Brett 03.08.13 at 4:04 am

Spanish lends itself to that, with all the “-ista” suffixes.

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nick s 03.08.13 at 4:59 am

The last count is 55 heads of state will attend Chavez’ funeral, including all of Latin America with the exception of Paraguay.

Paraguay’s an interesting case, given the recent ousting/impeachment of Fernando Lugo, who will be in Caracas, which had a whiff of old-school regional politics at work.

It’s arguable that Chavez’s role as chief gadfly over the past decade has made it easier for centre-right pols in South America to disentangle themselves from the US, as much as it has made centre-left leaders sleep a little bit more soundly.

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Ahlir 03.08.13 at 5:27 am

My first memory of Chavez is from 1987. I was there during his coup attempt. It did not work out that well and he ended up in jail for several years. The impression he left was that of an earnest but somewhat unhinged junior officer madly pursuing some vision. The curfew and armored vehicles rolling up and down the main streets was what most of us experienced.

Of course the country was not in good shape: Most apartment blocks and shopping streets had men sitting in chairs, cradling sawed-off shotguns. Guarding against criminal gangs. Going out into the countryside was scary; people, desperately poor, would stare at you with undisguised hatred. The country was not in a good state.

More recently, under Chavez, the atmosphere had improved immensely. The shotgun guys were gone. More people were on the streets, more stores were opening. There was construction. Public spaces were getting money put into them (the local community centre was refurbished; the street in front was turned into a nice boulevard). Big social-realist billboards appeared, featuring Chavez and some local functionary, intently pointing into the distance to some glorious future. But so what, things were looking good.

Of course when you talked to people like yourself (middle class, educated) the topic was always the lack of opportunity and the intense desire to get out of the country (to Miami!) It was not a happy country.

It still isn’t, and I worry about how things will play out. But at least there’s the oil (and the large American engineers who show up at the seashore restaurants).

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Harold 03.08.13 at 5:28 am

But he was “controversial” and “polarizing”!

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Terence 03.08.13 at 7:01 am

Hi there shah8,

I’ll have to go back and re-read with your comments in mind, but I didn’t think it nearly that bad. Although, I do agree — he understates the anti-democratic tendencies of Venezuelan elites. That’s what I was getting at with my ‘slight bias’ comment.

Anyhow, looking forwards to the re-read bearing in mind your complaints.

Terence

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shah8 03.08.13 at 7:34 am

I found it very informative, actually. I just thought the whole effort to label Chavez as authoritarian to have had the effect of twisting everything pretzel-shaped. I’ve heard/read some intermittent commentary about how the social atmosphere in Venezuela is repressive, so I’m prepared to think of Chavez as authoritarian. Thing is, authoritarian regimes are pretty fucking touchy. They arrest people on the drop of the hat for innocuous behavior. They kill or disappear other people on a regular basis, relatively openly. I even have the easy comparison to the US South before the ’70s. Which was a set of rather authoritarian, but popular (among those allowed to vote) regimes. Does anything like what happened to Emmit Till happen to political or ethnic minorities in Venezuela? I’ve certainly found that to be the case, but mostly in areas dominated by societies opposed to the regime, such as the recent assassination of a Native American leader trying to drive out ranchers on his tribe’s land. The worst Chavez ever got was jailing a judge who allowed a person of interest to flee to the US. That I’ve ever found out about. This is nothing compared to Albert Fujimori’s internal wars, against the Shining Path or others dissidents. Or how Putin handled Pussy Riot or had Litvineko killed in London. There aren’t labor camps or resettled peoples (other than on expropriated idle land). Thus, I’ve found it difficult to believe that Chavez’ regime is particularly authoritarian, even compared to Lula’s Brazil, given what localities in various parts of Brazil are like. Outright less authoritarian than Chile which does carry out internal repression of native populations. Nationalizing corporate assets is simply not what I think to be authoritarian. Neither is changing election rules to your advantage. Pretty much all open political societies have done these things…as a normal course/flow of events. Soooo…

I did like how he incorporated a lot of comments by people who thought Chavez did well by them, and what they did and what they hoped to do.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.08.13 at 12:24 pm

Yes, I not only think Mainwaring could have done more to point out that many of Chavez’s opponents were ‘ambivalent’ about democracy; I think that he should have acknowledged that this ‘ambivalence’ is actually what prompted various events which are presented as repression on Chavez’s part. For example, sackings in response to attempts at sabotage, or strikes aimed at bringing down the elected government, are not obviously illegitimate – even though those sacked are obviously political opponents, and sacked as a result of their political opposition.

Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold are leading Venezuela experts, and Dragon in the Tropics is a cogent, quick-to-read, and well-informed account of Chávez’s regime. These authors view the regime as increasingly authoritarian. They usually refer to it as a hybrid, but they also call it an “electoral autocracy” (p. 2) and “illiberal” (p. 8). They document great centralization of power, attacks upon the opposition that go beyond the bounds of democratic politics, the banning and exiling of opposition politicians, an exceptional use of public-sector resources and jobs to favor political friends and punish opponents, widespread firing of public-sector employees who opposed Chávez, the emasculation of institutions of horizontal accountability, the curtailing of freedom of the press, and an increasingly uneven playing field. These characteristics all put contemporary Venezuela decisively outside the realm of democratic regimes. Other scholarly critics and human rights advocates have made similar arguments.

Unfortunately we don’t get much in the way of particulars here; the author at one point mentions Chávez’s takeover of the state oil company – which is a funny one – so far as I can tell, this means taking it back under government control from the corrupt interests that had previously run it for the benefit of themselves and foreign oil companies. For an idea of how this kind of criticism works, see http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4051 for a response to a HRW report; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/144833.pdf for US dispatches trawling with little success for credible accounts of

And then there’s badspeak like Ramirez’s comments to a group of executives in that same state oil company: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6114682.stm

But anyway, there’s something fishy about Venezuela – that a radical reforming government should actually make use of its mandate to get things done, and revolutionise corrupt institutions by democratic means must surely mean this is a leftist dictatorship, even if it manages to cunningly disguise this by the sneaky expedient of observing democratic norms.

Venezuela has become a paradigmatic competitive authoritarian regime as defined by Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way: “Competitive authoritarian regimes are civilian regimes in which formal democratic institutions exist and are widely viewed as the primary means of gaining power, but in which incumbents’ abuse of the state places them at a significant advantage vis-à-vis their opponents. Such regimes are competitive in that opposition parties use democratic institutions to contest seriously for power, but they are not democratic because the playing field is heavily skewed in favor of incumbents. Competition is thus real but unfair.”

Venezuela is a paradigmatic case of the incremental erosion of democracy, characterized not by a single dramatic event such as a military coup but, rather, by a sequence of steps that cumulatively represent an erosion or breakdown of democracy.
Which one would expect, in that case, to find enumerated.


This erosion or breakdown is remarkable given the country’s democratic trajectory from 1959 until the late 1980s.
Hmmm, late 80s…so are we going to hear about the decade between the end of the country’s ‘democratic trajectory’ and Chavez’s election? Well, only very cursorily, and in terms which present it as unfortunate primarily because it eventuated in the election of Chavez – and indeed as though it were a useful tool for him in achieving his fiendish ambitions.

The works under review agree that the economic and social failures and corruption scandals of the 1959–98 regime – well, presumably the lattermost part of it – made it far easier for Chávez to consolidate power. These failures delegitimated the old parties and created a widespread yearning for something different.

Corrales and Penfold argue persuasively that the decay of the 1959–98 party system was an almost necessary condition for the subsequent erosion of democracy and consolidation of competitive authoritarianism. The demise of the old parties created an institutional vacuum that made it far easier for Chávez to dismantle the old regime.

(cont.)

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Tim Wilkinson 03.08.13 at 12:46 pm

A progressive evisceration of other democratic institutions was key to the consolidation of Chávez’s regime. Intimidation through such mechanisms as firing public-sector employees who had signed a recall petition made it costly for undecided voters to defect to the opposition.

As far as I can make out, there are allegations that a database of signers was indeed circulated, and the presumption is that this was used to discriminate against those on the list. Some statistics have been The other allegation which may be well-founded is that of using public funds for electoral campaigning in relation, specifically to the recall vote in 2002(?).

The paper http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~emiguel/pdfs/miguel_maisanta.pdf appears on a number of US academic sites. It reports the existence of such a database; it then uses statistical methods to infer that the list was used for political retaliation. One obvious possibility is confounding – that signers, being political opponents, are more likely to have been in conflict with the policies of their government employeesm, thus more likely to have been sacked or to have resigned from such employment. They are also more likely to have undergone a worsening of their economic condition – the expectation of which being, presumably, a major reason for their opposition in the first place. This is one study and I haven’t found any others along similar lines. I also haven’t tried to analyse it in any detail.

Still, these seem to be the issues in relation to which the opposition’s similar behaviour (the ‘authoritarian’ Chavez faced a substantial number of opposition-controlled state and local governments, which are accused with equal credibility of political retaliation) doesn’t undermine the accusations against Chavez. There is still the question of to what extent fire should be fought with fire. Apart from the coup attempt and strikes and various other funny business the opposition is known to have engaged in, the issue of funding is a case in point. When the opposition consists of the very rich and has the support of the very rich US, what is one to do to redress the balance of financial clout?

Still, all this stuff is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, and doesn;t compare particularly disfavourably with the kind of political corruption we know of in the US, for an obvious example, as well as other Western Democracies (not to mention Third World countries).

Or as Mainwaring prefers to put it:

Chávez’s political genius has been his capacity to cultivate deep and fairly broad popular support while simultaneously eviscerating democratic checks and balances, but not in such egregious ways that it would invite international sanction.

It is quite a nifty trick to perform a non-egregious evisceration, isn’t it.

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Metatone 03.08.13 at 3:04 pm

To pile on with the qualms about the Mainwaring article, there seems to be little mention of who owns the “free press” that Chavez has had conflict with. I know that because of Burlusconi a lot of people like Mainwaring find it impolite to ask the question – but it does matter if the quality of democratic checks and balances is at issue.

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Lawrence Stuart 03.08.13 at 3:29 pm

I’d like to do Chavez as a Blakean tragic opera: Hugo as the dragon slaying Orc Fingal, Bush as Odin, an incarnation of the Ancient of Days.

But what would matter most is tying the two together as part of the same cycle: every Orc becomes Urizen. In fact, the two are the same animal in different phases of its progression from the hope and creative vitality of spring to the cold, sterile ferocity of winter.

Anyway, for the final scene, with mourners stretching for miles to see Chavez’s corpse, the chorus would sing some Wordsworth (I know, I really need a Blake text, but this works so well–and nobody would notice, would they?):

Not favoured spots alone, but the whole Earth,
The beauty wore of promise–that which sets
(As at some moments might not be unfelt
Among the bowers of Paradise itself)
The budding rose above the rose full blown.

The curtain falls as rose petals (mixed with snow flakes?) descend upon the scene.

Farewell, Hugo.

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pjm 03.08.13 at 3:33 pm

This is not a subject I feel any expertise about but the whole question of democratic “checks and balances” seems politically loaded and subject to cynical rhetorical ploys. I take the check of an independent judiciary (though not one with life-time tenure) as important for democracy (and rule of law) but the model of checks and balances touted in the US is actually largely counter-democratic (and as we read the Federalist Papers largely designed to protect that venerated minority, the wealthy). Also, the state of the art in advanced democracies is to get along with Constitutions that are easily amended (or none at all).
Most of Latin America adopted Constitutions based on the American one (which nowhere outside of LA spawned imitators) and the experience has been, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of developing countries, at best it seems to be useful for diffuse (necessarily corrupt) oligarchies (pre-Chavez Venezuela?) rather than democracy.

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Cian 03.08.13 at 4:19 pm

I take the check of an independent judiciary (though not one with life-time tenure) as important for democracy (and rule of law)

In theory I do. In practice it’s another political theory that depends upon ‘good’ honorable men doing the right thing. A bit like monarchy. Not sure what the solution is, but the US fetishization of the supreme court seems misplaced.

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Latro 03.08.13 at 5:00 pm

Let me just said that I am been spending the whole week extremely disappointing at all the convoluted ways people of intelligence and social conscience have devoted to explain to me how Chávez was “good”.

When you get to defenses like the one above

“Yawn. I’m pretty sure I don’t give two ****s about all that. Democracy is a means, not an end, at best. It’s pretty grotesque, to me, to treat it as an end in itself. In the long run, Chavez got ‘democracy’ to serve his purposes, which is all to the good.”

Its time to say I do not look forward for your solutions to the problems of the world.

The need to have Chávez as an hero is … pathetic. If one has to take a blind eye to all the negative aspects of his regime just because yes, he was in it for the poor, then count me out because I still want to believe that development and helping the poor can be achieved in a sustaniable way, without eroding democracy, without multiplying the crime rate to levels similar to a war zone and do nothing about it, without intense militarization, without letting the necessary infraestructure rot or blown itself away for lack of maintenance, without widespread shortages of foods in the markets, without giving support to tyrants and dictators like Al Assad, without inmense levels of corruption, and most important, without a legacy of hate and division.

So when I see the left around me, in this dire hour of need in Spain, where real alternatives need to be taken, and I want to give them my support, and find the worship of the same guy that finished the decades long process of destroying the country I was born in, I despair.

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Steve LaBonne 03.08.13 at 5:03 pm

Most of Latin America adopted Constitutions based on the American one (which nowhere outside of LA spawned imitators) and the experience has been, perhaps unsurprisingly given the context of developing countries, at best it seems to be useful for diffuse (necessarily corrupt) oligarchies (pre-Chavez Venezuela?) rather than democracy.

Which is SO unlike the way it functions in the US, amirite?

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shah8 03.08.13 at 5:26 pm

It doesn’t help your cause to sound like the people who think Obama’s destroying the country they knew, Latro.

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Latro 03.08.13 at 5:47 pm

It doesnt. But also, it does not prove that identity. What would prove it would be to look at the situation itself and decide.

On my defense, for example, Chávez and his cronies are on record saying that if the elections dont go their way the “revolution” will be defended by the army.

Or you can look at the Judge Afiuni case and check for yourself the idea of rule of law that Chávez and chavistas have.

Or for example you can actually check the murder rate in Venezuela. With statistics that are available and not taken out of the ass of some “rightwing” site.

I could go and say that all the defenses of Chávez looks very similar to the defenses of Stalin, for example. Only that would be true in the superficial only – the need of an hero – because he was no Stalin.

He was just your average latin american populist, only more so.

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Steve LaBonne 03.08.13 at 6:11 pm

Who began the “decades-long process of destroying your country” and who engaged in it before Chavez, Latro?

74

Hector_St_Clare 03.08.13 at 6:20 pm

Re: I still want to believe that development and helping the poor can be achieved in a sustaniable way, without eroding democracy, without multiplying the crime rate to levels similar to a war zone and do nothing about it, without intense militarization, without letting the necessary infraestructure rot or blown itself away for lack of maintenance, without widespread shortages of foods in the markets, without giving support to tyrants and dictators like Al Assad, without inmense levels of corruption, and most important, without a legacy of hate and division.

Nobody cares, Latro. People like you haven’t been voting for Chavez and the PSUV for a very long time, and the history of the last decade shows that they don’t need you, they can win elections without you. You can just go one hand-wringing about ‘militarization’ and ‘hate’ and ‘division’ for as long as you want, and voting for oligarch candidates. And the Socialist Party can just keep on ignoring people like you, as irrelevant little whiners.

As for Assad, we’re starting to get a glimpse of what Syria is going to look like without Assad, and it isn’t pretty at all.

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Latro 03.08.13 at 6:41 pm

#74 Thanks for your kind words. Spoken like a true democrat Chávez style, trully. You can call me squalid if it makes you feel better.

#73 Why, AD & COPEI of course. Chávez won by capitalizing the widespread hate toward the traditional parties that, due to corruption and incredible mismanagement, trashed the hopes born of the first oil-boom and delivered nothing but misery.

And then he went and did the same, only with better coverage for the poor – thats a plus, although it would be a real plus if the incredible oil boom he enjoyed served for the establishment of a non-oil-dependant economy and not just as charity for the needed) and worse respect for democracy and a worse record at actually keeping the country running smoothly.

If Venezuela is lucky, it will find a way to keep the only achievement of Chávez – the way the poor people have become a central part of politics – and ditch everything else he represents.

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Steve LaBonne 03.08.13 at 6:49 pm

That was of course a rhetorical question. Your answer makes one wonder why somebody who “did the same”, except spread a lot more money to poor people, gets so much more from you than the merely parenthetical ire directed at his predecessors. And I’m afraid that tends to bring one back to #71.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.08.13 at 7:01 pm

Re: Spoken like a true democrat Chávez style, trully. You can call me squalid if it makes you feel better

I’d be happy to call you squalid, but I’m not sure you’re worth the trouble. Again, I;’ve never been a big believer in bourgeois democracy (which boils down to, people like you trying to hang on to your own position in society), so I’m pretty impervious to those sorts of insults. I’m just glad it seems like your sort is going to be kept far away from the seats of power for at least the next few years.

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Cian 03.08.13 at 7:19 pm

I could go and say that all the defenses of Chávez looks very similar to the defenses of Stalin, for example. Only that would be true in the superficial only – the need of an hero – because he was no Stalin.

Because he didn’t kill millions of people and run a police state? Well its nice you tacitly acknowledge that after you’ve made the grotesque comparison.

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Cian 03.08.13 at 7:22 pm

If the price of bourgeoise democracy is 40% of a country’s children going without food each night, then I think the price is worth it.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.08.13 at 7:29 pm

If anyone can with a straight face make a comparison between Chavez and Stalin- at any level- then they’ve sufficiently proven (to my standard) that they’re either intellectually or morally unfit to participate in politics, and so I’m not exactly going to care much if they complain they’re being excluded from the political arena.

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Latro 03.08.13 at 7:41 pm

I have made no comparision between Chávez and Stalin – I’ve made a comparision between the international left willingness to not look at Stalin bad side and believe all the lies and the same case with Chávez.

And is incredibly nice to hear how you guys are so fond of deciding who has the right or not to participate in politics. Is all so priceless. “As long as it is MY vision and MY people, I dont care a fig leaf about democracy”. Hey, the right does it, so why not the left!

So, lets count the alternatives, we can have “burgeouise” democracy, whatever that is, with poverty and abuse and lack of democracy and corruption or we can get “revolutionary” democracy, only without really that much democracy, a rate of murders around 70 per 100000, continuous food shortages, infraestructure crumbling, electrical blackouts, abuse of power, and corruption

I must be stupid – I thought maybe we could have no need to choose Kang over Kodos. But seems like is not possible. Only 2 options and not choosing your option is being a enemy of the people.

Makes you feel young all over again. Like its the 50′s

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Terence 03.08.13 at 8:02 pm

Thanks Tim et al for the interesting responses to the Mainwaring piece

One common complaint about the Chavez era is that crime is very high, which appears clearly true. I was wondering though, what are the crime *trends* in Venezuela?

Crime might have increased under Chavez at such a rate that it is reasonable to label it a failing of his regime.
or
Crime could be very high but trending down from previous levels which were higher still.
or it could have increased but at a slower rate than it was increasing pre-Chavez.

I’d be very interested in any answers to that one.

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shah8 03.08.13 at 8:11 pm

There haven’t been conclusive studies on the crime rates in the era. As far as I can make out, police training and police facilities were not a focus of the Chavez admin until it was crazy. As with housing and power generation, Venezuela is climbing out of a massive hole in terms of empowered people. What works for a high Ginni Venezuela concentrated around oil areas doesn’t really work for a Venezuela with more material citizens and more attempts to govern at all levels of life and in more areas of the country.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.08.13 at 8:29 pm

Well credit where due, Latro has almost managed to give some actual detail here. The (single) case of that judge is hard to assess since there is observable and pronounced bias against Chavez in so many quarters, and this has the distinct feel of a cause celebre which may or may not be trumped up.

The judge in question is accused of being bribed to release a banker accused of massive fraud; a banker who did indeed immediately jump bail. I’m not sure how we can hope to adjudicate this issue. There are then various claims about mistreatment in prison which I’m inclined to put down to the usual middle-class exceptionalism that always comes up when a politician, judge etc finds themself on the wrong end of the penal system for a change and suddenly confronted with a dose of reality, comes over all indignant. But again, how are we to decide? Not on the basis of Latro’s mud-slinging. Then too, there are allegations that both the banker and the judge were held longer than the law permitted. Even this, which ought to be fairly clear-cut, isn’t something I’ve been able to check, none of those alleging it on the web having given sufficient detail. Still, the general principle that received opinion in the US etc is certainly not going to understate Chavez’s villainy, and indeed is likely to overstate it, suggests that such corruption is not widespread.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/15/chavez-venezuela-judge-cedeno is of interest. As it presents the facts, the judge’s conduct appears a trifle irregular, and the basis of her decision somewhat shaky. It does state that the supreme court head, Luisa Estela Morales, said Venezuela had moved from “a rigid separation of powers” toward a system characterised by “intense co-ordination” between government branches. That’s not something I approve of, cet. par. – at the same time, depending on what exactly was meant, it is hardly unique. As with many of these issues, the main difference between the Venezuelan and the ‘Western’ model may be that the former is more honest and open about its practices.

I’m also interested in the stuff about the crime rate. I’ve heard this a lot, and I’d be interested in what is thought to have caused it (if indeed it is not a consequence of improved reporting or otherwise unreal), and how that in turn is Chavez’s fault, rather than, for example, down to landlords massacring uppity peasants.

Likewise neglect of infrastructure, cronyism and graft, etc. – these allegations are bandied about and might be true but I’d like to see some attempt to be specific, and to provide some kind of substantiation.

These are issues I find genuinely hard to judge, and it seems to me the least Latro could do would be to give some detail, preferably with sources, rather than throwing around sketchy allegations that give the impression of being copied from a list of talking-points, and going on about about hero-worship, and the “Stalin (not Stalin)” stuff. In the meantime, I think there’s considerable merit in the principle that absence of evidence despite (presumable) thorough search is indeed evidence of absence.

To address the issue of criticisms coming from the opposite direction, there certainly may be a problem with Chavez’s personality-based leadership – it remains to be seen how things will go without him. This possible criticism does though assume that the same changes could have been wrought without his personal leadership being so prominent.

He does seem to have done quite a bit to cement change, for example in such institutions as the Supreme Court, but so far as I can tell, much of the economy remains in the hands of oligopolists, including the press. Much of the work done so far has been expended on reversing the neoliberal ‘reforms’ instituted in the decade Mainwaring so notably circumlocutes.

I’m also not sure that HC managed to rein in such corrupt groups as the Caracas Met Police, which openly joined the coup plotters in 2004. Whether they have anything to do with the reputedly increased crime rate, I don’t know.

The Economist – safe to say very hostile to Chavez – says Critics say the reasons are plain to see, but are not being tackled. They – i.e. the things these ‘critics’ say – include poorly-paid and often corrupt police (responsible, even by official admission, for one in five crimes); a corrupt, inefficient and politicised judiciary; possibly the most violent and overcrowded prison system in Latin America; and overworked prosecutors, who are often enlisted to persecute the political opposition instead of putting criminals behind bars. Add to that a burgeoning drugs trade, the presence of up to 15m illegal weapons and an official discourse that justifies violence in pursuit of class warfare, and there seems little doubt that Venezuela’s crime wave will not abate anytime soon.

( http://www.economist.com/node/21009630 )

Note that the police are blamed for much crime, as are corrupt judges (presumably taking bribes, that kind of thing). Again, I still fail to get a good sense of how these supposed (N.B.) phenomena relate to Chavez’s policies, apart from the idea that prosecutors are too busy with all those unidentified political cases to deal with ordinary crime, and the rather tenuous-sounding official discourse that justifies violence in pursuit of class warfare.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.08.13 at 8:30 pm

(I missed comments ##80 ff. while writing that one.)

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Hector_St_Clare 03.08.13 at 9:01 pm

Re: I have made no comparision between Chávez and Stalin – I’ve made a comparision between the international left willingness to not look at Stalin bad side and believe all the lies and the same case with Chávez.

Whatever, sounds pretty much like a comparison to me.

Re: And is incredibly nice to hear how you guys are so fond of deciding who has the right or not to participate in politics. Is all so priceless.

I have about zero interest in your feelings, or whatever you find ‘priceless’. Except for Matthew Yglesias on one of his stupider days, we generally agree that children shouldn’t be extended political rights, and you’ve given me no reason to think you’re any more intellectually or morally advanced than a third-grader.

I’m not particularly interested in your criticisms any more than I am about the disaffected Cuban exiles in Miami.

87

Jose IG 03.08.13 at 9:07 pm

The thing about Chavez that most left yanks don’t quite get is how similar he was to the same neocon assholes they hate.

He didn’t care about individual rights, was constantly rewriting the constitution and the history of Venezuela to fit with whatever he was doing at the time, and he didn’t care if he contradicted himself like that fauxnews anchor that was against maternity leave until she got pregnant.

The “social changes” he made was keeping Venezuelans poor but dependent: if you don’t vote me you don’t get any state help, and I know this will be very difficult to realize to people like most of you here but for some seeing their kids starve is a bigger motivation than respecting the democratic process, and really who can blame them?

The irony for me is seeing all these bleeding heart liberals supporting chavez’s brand of antidemocratic borderline totalitarian crap just to pissoff those asshole neocons who hurt their feelings when dubya was around.

And yet dubya was a lesser evil for yanks than chavez was for Venezuelans: did cowboy billy storm the NYT and close it down because it didn’t fit with his stories about Iraq? no he didn’t, but chavez did, SEVERAL TIMES, and now there isn’t a media company in Venezuela that isn’t a proxy of the government, and the few independent ones that remain are limited to cable and the internet, which in a country like that only a few can afford.

But if the neocons can defend fascist dictators that support the US of A, why can’t liberals defend mini-stalins like chavez that throw so many political prisoners in jail that they have to release common criminals to make some space?

The irony right now its off the charts…

88

js. 03.08.13 at 11:11 pm

Well, this devolved a bit! Tim Wilkinson @84 basically covers it, but I had one question for Latro, who says (69):

I still want to believe that development and helping the poor can be achieved in a sustaniable way, without eroding democracy….

Right, yes. Count me in! HSC has no patience for all the meetings (to pervert Wilde a bit) but I do. (At least in theory.) The question then is though, how exactly did Chavez erode democracy? Latro doesn’t really seem to address this question at all, beyond paraphrasing some bit of hyperbole. So: evidence forthcoming?

(Note: To answer this question, you’d have to (1) show that Venezuela was more democratic before Chavez, which is implied by “eroding”, and (2) use some vaguely plausible conception of democracy whereby it includes responsiveness to the needs, interests, and desires of large majorities of the population—not just this of course, but this would have to be a necessary condition, I think.)

89

Hector_St_Clare 03.08.13 at 11:19 pm

Re: The question then is though, how exactly did Chavez erode democracy?

I mean, it depends what you mean by democracy.

Certainly, Venezuela is more responsive to its people’s needs than it used to be, there are more ideological alternatives on offer, poor people and the previously excluded have a voice in politics, the president (well, before he got sick) would go around and take people’s suggestions at town meetings, poor people are more integrated and invested in society, there’s more participation at all levels of politics. So if that’s part of democracy, Venezuela is more democratic now than it ever has been.

It’s probably true that Chavez and his followers would have staged a coup *if necessary*, if they had felt an election was going against them. I mean, Chavez’ brother and the defence minister more or less said so last year. That was never put to the test, of course, so the argument that Chavez eroded democracy rests purely on a hypothetical theoretical situation.

So it depends, do you prefer a government that is democractic in practice but not in theory, or the reverse?

90

Latro 03.09.13 at 12:36 am

The Afiuni case is purely hypothetical?

The multiples instances in which Chávez, upon having one of his pawns losing some local election, proceeded to make the life of the new major hell by cutting funding to them is hypothetical? Like when Antonio Ledesma won the “alcadía” in Caracas, and Chávez proceeded to create a position above him, strip his office of all power and budget? That was an hypothetical?

Getting 270 opposition candidates “inhabilitated” to run for regional elections is hypothetical?

Using a combo of the armed groups of supporters plus the police to attack oposition rallies or manifestations is hypotethical?

The constant reference to the armed defense of the revolution just before elections is what, a gently reminder to voters to be democratically red or at least silent?

The “Lista Tascón” and “Lista Maisanta”, the use of the signed petitions of a revocation referendum (a measure INTRODUCED into the constitutión by Chávez) to harass the people that signed it, denying them jobs and documents, something PROUDLY announced by high rank members of the government, is hypothetical?

The whole Human Right Watch report over here http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/09/18/decade-under-ch-vez is an hypothetical?

How hypotheticaly blind are any of you willing to be?

91

Hector_St_Clare 03.09.13 at 1:12 am

Latro,

Yeah, I’m well aware about that. I’ve got to say, none of it bothers me one bit. Chavez was a good deal nicer and gentler to your sort than I would have been in his place.

Again, I have about zero sympathy for any of you oppositionists. You made your bed, now lie in it. or better yet, just stop whining.

92

rf 03.09.13 at 1:30 am

In fairness to Latro, isn’t it a good thing to remain sceptical of those in power. You could insert any number of political leaders into ‘__ was a good deal nicer and gentler to your sort than I would have been in his place’ ..yes it’s a fair position, but it can only be pushed so far until fanboyism kicks in

93

shah8 03.09.13 at 1:33 am

Why do rightwingers get to hog all the fairness?

94

rf 03.09.13 at 1:37 am

Because they’re idiots?

95

Terence 03.09.13 at 2:32 am

On critique: Rory Carroll at Mother Jones offers some negativity and some nuance
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/03/interview-hugo-chavez-venezuela-rory-carroll

On crime – I’ve just dug through some cross country time series data:
1. The upward trend pre-dates Chavez but
2. Crime did get a lot worse on his watch but,
3. Things have started to get a little better in recent years.

Charts and data source on my blog here (sorry for self link):
http://waylaiddialectic.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/what-are-we-to-make-of-hugo-chavez/

96

Peter Murphy 03.09.13 at 3:27 am

I’ve felt a little solemn about the passing away of Chávez. The world will be poorer and far less interesting for his departure.

The thing that has got me emotional: talk of embalming the man for eternal display; to which my reaction is “Oh, FFS: no!” Chávez wanted to be buried on the plains of los Llanos, and not have his corpse retained for show and tell. Why can’t they just put the man in the ground like he wished? It seems more respectful.

97

Hector_St_Clare 03.09.13 at 4:18 am

I agree that they should just bury him and move on. the whole putting on him display sounds too much like the Lenin thing in Russia.

I think they’re going to amp up the devotion to Chavez though, the same way Cuba did with Che Guevara after he was killed. Maduro needs legitimacy, and his legitimacy comes from Chavez, so he needs to wrap himself in the cult of his master as thoroughly as possible.

98

shah8 03.09.13 at 4:29 am

On the mother jones piece, I think Jeremy Lybarger asked some really good follow ups. I also got to feeling tired of reading about Venezuela through non Venezuelan filters. We need some translators, but then Latin American politics usually have been pretty inaccessible to English readers (separate from what organs of power wants us to know). One thing that really seems to seep through the interview was the aspects of how Latin american regimes cooperated with one another. For instance, Castro providing information, intelligence services, and critiques, and the general feedbacks that Chavez helped enable and profited from among the other major Latin American leaders.

Many of the other parts of the interview struck me very much like I should critique it like Angry Arab critiques clueless reporters in Lebanon. I did have to chuckle at the epitaph. Nobody rules as well as they campaign in the modern televised era. I could leave the “more in sorrow than anger” on the table, but Rory’s book sounds juicy! Does need to be noted that his wife is of good family from Venezuela and Richard Gott rubs him hard here: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2013/01/hugo-chavez-man-against-world

Going through all this, and doing some googling, I think the tale of Ruben Gonzalez through the Chavez years could be a useful illustration of the political state of play.

thx for extra links.

99

shah8 03.09.13 at 4:37 am

I do think that the central danger going forth is Brezhnevification.

A couple of extra things.

1) The best thing Chavez has EVER done, and what truly makes him remarkable, was that he stayed out of wars.

2) The next best thing, looking at some of these posts, but more importantly a guest post at BeyondBrics (who are slavishly pro-West pro-Capitalist, stays on message etc), was talking about the deradicalization of the right wing. A functional one that isn’t crazy in the Michelle Bachman style is a necessary element of what Venezuela needs, going forward. I do not think that the US can reinsert itself into the V government, so my assumption in the eventuality of a hostile footing by the US will be an attempt at creating irreconcilable factional conflict among the Chavistas. A non-hostile policy I think is also possible because Venezuela, along with Brazil and Argentina, has instituted policies that have created a whole new lower middle class, who represent valuable sources of demand and valuable opportunities for investment.

100

lupita 03.09.13 at 5:49 am

shah8 @ 97

We need some translators

A funeral attended by all Latin American presidents (minus Paraguay) and where the highest ranking Occidental, Prince Felipe, was booed, is worth a thousand translated words. I am sure the whole world is getting the message.

101

Hector_St_Clare 03.09.13 at 6:08 am

I agree that Chavez made a good decision staying out of wars and specifically, not getting involved in the Colombian civil war any more than he did. he clearly morally supported the FARC, but as far as I can see there’s no hard evidence he supported them materially. (Though many made the claim). which is good. It would have been to his discredit if he’d actually given them money or weapons. not that the Colombian government is particularly savory, but the FARC isn’t either .

102

Latro 03.09.13 at 9:59 am

Well, I bow out of this debate then. It is clear what kind of democracy is preferred by some of you.

I expected more of Crooked Timber, but it seems being accurate and critical of, say, the Tea Party governor of Wisconsin is one thing, but we in opposition to Chávez deserve all we can get and more because we are all inherently evil.

Thanks specially to Hector, for not running for president of Venezuela or any place I live and depriving me of enjoying his democratic attentions.

103

Tim Wilkinson 03.09.13 at 10:51 am

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/venezuela/100924/venezuela-hugo-chavez-legislative-election

Gives an idea of the kind of thing Latro is referring to with his 2nd example (all he needs now is some links and he’s getting closer to what we were entitled to from the start. (This attritional coyness is a pretty transparent stratagem – but still effective: just as omnia praesumuntur contra spoliator is no substitute for hard evidence, nor is the adverse inference that evasiveness must eventually license any for a head-on refutation – not that I exactly have a refutation up my sleeve in this case.)

This kind of manoeuvring is pretty strong stuff – reminescent of Thatcher’s centralisation drive and the demise of the GLC in particular. By a satisfying not-quite-coincidence, “Red” Ken Livingstone, its erstwhile chief, much later as Mayor to strike a deal between London Transport and 2nd-republic Venezuela, exchanging fuel for training IIRC – an example of the kind of intergovernmental barter mentioned in the paper linked above @ JWM’s #4.

But the thing is that these may be political manoeuvres but they are done by legal means, and that makes a difference (or at least if you don’t think it does, then you can try arguing against Hector S; whose case is unanswerable if you accept his terms.) I’m reminded too of the highly dubious finding by the Law Lords upholding the Thatcherite challenge to Ken’s Fare’s Fare public transport pricing initiative. Even when the judges appear to be reaching a conclusion pre-ordained by extra-legal considerations, that is tolerated. having to make it look good does impose non-trivial limits on the findings judges can reach, after all. I’m not sure that it’s even necessary to point this out, since I don’t know of a specific instance in which it’s alleged that the Venezuelan SC has done this. The only judgement of theirs I am at all familiar with is the one where they certify that enough of the signatures on that 3rd recall petition are real, triggering the secret ballot, which HC won comfortably in the event.

The account I’ve linked to contains some notably weak tea:

In addition to the decree powers, pro-Chavez lawmakers have passed an array of laws that will prohibit some non-governmental organizations from receiving foreign funding, regulate the internet, allow for the suspension of lawmakers who leave their political party, and pave the way for government intervention in banks.

I find it odd that these are juxtaposed. The bit about suspending legislators, assuming it is what it sounds like it very much wants to be heard as (sic.), is very dodgy of course, then there’s ‘regulating the internet’ which is certainly unwelcome but is the kind of thing contemplated by mainstream parties in the North – now if it’s a matter of political censorship, that’s different, but you’d think they’d have mentioned it if so. But ‘prohibit some non-governmental organizations from receiving foreign funding’ sounds unexceptionable enough, though perhaps if it were clearer just what is involved I might be less keen; but ‘pave the way for government intervention in banks’? Oh no!

Then also: Watchdog groups including New York-based Human Rights Watch have criticized changes made to a telecommunications law that make it easier for the government to revoke TV and radio licenses, or punish internet-based media that “incite or promote hatred.” HRW has form here, see a link above somewhere. But I think the government needed it to be easier to revoke licences; the Venezuelan media had highly concentrated ownership. From Wiki:

In 2009 the government reviewed the broadcast licences of hundreds of radio and television stations, and declared many to have been operating without a licence or without having paid the appropriate regulatory fees.[5] As a result over 60 radio stations were closed.[6] The government said the frequencies would be reallocated to community media,[5] and passed a law limiting ownership of radio and television licences to three per private owner. This was aimed at tackling what it called “media latifundios”, with 27 families controlling a third of radio and television.[5]

btw, it adds

In 2010 declassified US State Department documents showed over $4m of funding (in the previous 3 years) to Venezuelan journalists and private media opposed to the Bolivarian Revolution, part of a larger $40m funding for opposition groups.[7]

(this was left to age overnight; I see now Latro )L.: ‘I bark’) is bowing out with more passive-aggressive denunciations. I was going to try and get a bit further into the violence issue, but will just post this as is for now.)

104

Mao Cheng Ji 03.09.13 at 11:10 am

There is no point arguing. Latro is right and Hector is right (and, yes, you, my wife, are right too). Liberal democracy is a political system designed to represent interests of the middle class and the rich. Latro is right: if it doesn’t do it, it can’t be a democracy. Indeed, in this respect Chavismo is just like Stalinism. As opposed to, say, Pinochetismo: that was a form of democracy, just in a state of emergency. But Hector is right too: so what?

105

pjm 03.09.13 at 4:50 pm

@M, 103. Well, for anyone still interested in the majoritarian egalitarian project (socialism), it matters quite alot. The 20C has not left those of us interested in a position where we can ignore the (at times interrelated) problems of an inadequate (and under theorized) commitment to democracy and a romantic attachment to the idea of political revolution as the key transformative event. Of course, the intra-family ideological struggles are (unfortunately) not always germane to politics on the ground (though both sides often, and mistakenly, think they do – which maybe was your point in the first place).

106

engels 03.09.13 at 4:58 pm

107

novakant 03.09.13 at 8:21 pm

The cult of personality in politics makes me sick – will people ever grow up? Fat chance I guess, it seems to be a deeply rooted human need similar to religious belief.

108

Tim Wilkinson 03.09.13 at 10:45 pm

And the relevance of this bilious but studiedly non-specific little outburst is?

109

Hector_St_Clare 03.09.13 at 11:46 pm

Engels: that clip was awesome. one of the many things I’m going to miss.

Latro: no, you should stay here so I can jeer at you some more. laughing at your sort of people is always good fun.

110

Mao Cheng Ji 03.10.13 at 12:04 am

“interested in the majoritarian egalitarian project (socialism) … commitment to democracy”

I got the impression that the idea of democratic socialism has run its course, and was abandoned everywhere, back in the 1980s. The top segment of the demos will not agree to egalitarianism, and it has resources to prevent it.

111

shah8 03.10.13 at 12:06 am

But seriously, on novakant’s angle.

We only talk about Chavez because, well, we are propagandized about Chavez. You notice, for example, that we had no idea of what Chavez’ inner circle was like before his last illness as Maduro took over functions. Capriles Radonski was virtually a cipher in American press, and we had very little discussion about some of the newer opposition planks like the oil money redistribution plan (like Alaska) that was floated, or why it was shot down.

There is much more discussion of various figures in governments that we are friendly with. For instance, everyone knows Bandar, and there is discussion about all of the elder princes of Al Saud. We get tons of things reported about various figures in the Chinese government and so on.

We talk about Chavez because, well, that’s what Orwell tells our masters to encourage us to do. That darn Emmanuel Goldstein! Why do we keep talking about his stupid cult of personality!

112

Suzanne 03.10.13 at 11:26 am

“The last count is 55 heads of state will attend Chavez’ funeral, including all of Latin America with the exception of Paraguay. “

A few tactfully ducked the ceremony:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/09/us-venezuela-chavez-rousseff-idUSBRE9280G320130309

“Nonetheless, both Rousseff and Lula departed Venezuela prior to a funeral ceremony on Friday that was attended by dignitaries from more than 30 countries, including some polarizing figures such as Cuban President Raul Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

113

Tim Wilkinson 03.10.13 at 1:46 pm

shah8 – We only talk about Chavez because, well, we are propagandized about Chavez</i.

In a sense, yes – we are propagandised to talk about a cardboard-cut-out 'Chavez' rather than the wider regime, society and political reality, certainly.

But that is only part 1 of the propaganda tactic. In fact ‘we’ – especially where ‘we’ signifies the educated/chattering/academic constituency of a (very broadly) left wing bent – don’t talk about Chavez as a result, because this would be assimilated to hero-worship, or endorsing a vulgar ‘great man’ (cf. ‘conspiracy’) theory of history – indeed a ‘vulgar great man’ theory. And of course assessing developments in Venezuela since 2002 in a broadly positive light would then mean endorsing an autocratic clown who locks up his judges etc.

114

Patrick S. O'Donnell 03.10.13 at 2:48 pm

My post on Chávez, Chavismo, and the Bolivarian Revolution is here: http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/2013/03/hugo-chavez-and-chavismo-venezuelan.html

Notice in particular the link added at the bottom of the post.

115

AnyGuy 03.10.13 at 3:52 pm

Rice production is not up by 77%.

http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=ve&commodity=milled-rice&graph=production

It really looks bad. Oil production is down a third at a time when oil prices are sky high. Production should be soaring not contracting. Did it really have to be that way? I think oil profits from existing fields could go towards social programs and royalties from new fields could maintain existing oil infrastructure.

Inflation is high and commodity production looks to be a mixed bag. Corn production is way up rice is down. But it looks like the trend recently is mostly down and when I read stories like this

http://oryza.com/content/venezuela-rice-farmers-demand-over-70-hike-paddy-purchase-price

it really looks like inflation and price controls are starting to squeeze supply.

The whole thing looks set to crater.

116

Tim Wilkinson 03.10.13 at 4:15 pm

Just to address the outstanding yelps and growls of the running dog: Getting 270 opposition candidates “inhabilitated” to run for regional elections is hypothetical?

I think these were ‘potential candidates’ – I’ve heard of only a handful that were indeed prospective ones. Again the problem is in adjudicating the justice of the charges of corruption which underlay said disqualification. Do we, with Latro, just presume that these were unfounded? Once again I invoke the principle that accounts polished by the anti-Chavistas can be relied on to present the worst possible interpretation, that any relevant allegation not explicitly made should be assumed to have been found untenable, and that detail which ought to be available but is not supplied should be treated as in fact unavailable. These heuristics can of course easily be overridden by actual evidence, if it is ever presented.

Using a combo of the armed groups of supporters plus the police to attack oposition rallies or manifestations is hypotethical? 2 things missing here: 1. specifics; you’d expect a suitable cause celebre to have been selected, yet none is; 2. any notion of the context in which what would routinely be reported in the UK or US as ‘clashes between police and rioters’ occurred.

The constant reference to the armed defense of the revolution just before elections is what, a gently reminder to voters to be democratically red or at least silent? 1. More speak-crime, with the notion that anything would come of it indeed being hypothetical. 2. Translation ‘errors’ a la ‘wipe Israel off the face of the earth’ always go one way, 3. a lack of context: HC’s bombastic style or indeed such a style in general may not sound the same to the locals as it would when quotes (were any provided) are lifted out of context and and read by pampered Northerners 4. Secret ballots

The “Lista Tascón” and “Lista Maisanta”, the use of the signed petitions of a revocation referendum (a measure INTRODUCED into the constitutión by Chávez) to harass the people that signed it, denying them jobs and documents, something PROUDLY announced by high rank members of the government, is hypothetical?

I’ve mentioned the lists above, but these announcements, where are they? Note that signing a petition is not the action of a cowed populace; that that the software was ostensibly, and not implausibly, an electoral tool, for identifying fraud (not an unknown phenomenon) and for use in campaigning; that allegations that it was used as a blacklist has been substantiated AFAICT only by means of some statistical jiggery-pokery. A criotical reading of the most extensive hostile account I’ve found, here, may help to cast a little light on the matter.

Latro’s gotcha about the recall process being introduced by the Chavez regime is baffling. It does illustrate that the earlier Chavez was attempting to introduce greater democratic controls; in turn this at the very least undermines narratives about Chavez being motivated from the start by a thirst for power. One might justifiably wonder whether the possibility of the procedure being used against HC could really have been overlooked when it was introduced and if not, whether the prospect of using post-hoc (and apparently rather secretive, Latro’s claims notwithstanding) punishment would have been regarded as a more prudent course than simply not introducing it. This is of course nowhere near being dispositive.

Thanks btw to JWM way back at #4 for the Orhangazi paper; I and no doubt others would certainly be interested to hear J’s own opinions on the topic.

Less belated thanks to PSO for the link, and in particular the further link http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/8133 , which gives a sense of the tastiness of the omelette created from such eggs as may actually turn out to have been broken during this period.

117

Tim Wilkinson 03.10.13 at 4:17 pm

Sorry to bother mods – not sure why; perhaps the aside that mentions Is**el?

118

lupita 03.10.13 at 8:33 pm

Suzanne @ 111

I guess that if Reuters can see a gathering of all Latin American presidents (minus Paraguay) and conclude that Latin America is taking the occasion of Chavez’ death to distance itself from him, they can publish pretty much whatever they wish without any regard for reality. The truth is, the West was caught off guard. The West’s official line, initiated by Obama, was that the death of Chavez meant a new chapter for Venezuela. It was parroted minutes later by Canada’s Harper and then came to an abrupt end. By then, statements by both left and right governments of the region that the best way to honor Chavez’ legacy was by continuing to work on alleviating poverty and inequality and promoting regional unity and sovereignty, had made it clear that no such new chapter was about to begin.

Once again, the US and Canada remained isolated.

119

QS 03.11.13 at 5:27 am

It was inevitable that we got some “middle class” Venezuelan to come here and react against Chavismo. The search to find out what “Venezuelans” think of Chavez is difficult done from afar, since those nationals we’re likely to encounter here (the US, or internationally) are of the upper caste, the small minority of the country and certainly not where Chavez’s support lies.

120

shah8 03.11.13 at 5:53 am

I think this pair of articles:

http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/5423

on Chavez, from O’Donnell’s sourcing list

and

http://www.wumingfoundation.com/english/wumingblog/?p=1950

on Beppe Grillo

are quite illuminating when examined side to side as articles about the blood and guts of populism. They’re both long, but worth your time.

121

Latro 03.11.13 at 8:56 am

#119 And it seems that precludes us from having any defense at all or be treated like worthy parts of a dialogue, as per Hector we count ourselves lucky not to be treated worse. Meanwhile Mr Wilkinson points that the real tragedy is that he is not able to speak about the Venezuelan model (dont know who silenced him) without mentioning the dark side of the revolution.

Also, interestingly, the debate about why “we” discuss Chávez includes everything BUT the people that may have a wish and need to discuss Chávez because he affected him deirectly. For many of you it may be a “propaganda” of your right. For me is how my relatives and friends still there live. I dont know if Hector is a Venezuelan Chavista, but even in his insulting and demeaning way, if he is, he at least is talking about something that affects him. While the “oh, is just all propaganda” attitude is a comfortable one to say, basically “I dont care about one Third World country that doesnt affect me in the least”.

122

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 10:20 am

AnyGuy – luckily your concerns appear unfounded. The graph you link to shows a volatile series on an upward long-term trajectory, and currently on an upward short term trend from the bottom of a trough.

I don’t know why you are concerned about rice in particular – I’m not aware of anyone having claimed that rice production was up 70% – nor what the baseline year is supposed to be.

I do know what the baseline year is for your claim that oil production is down (nearly) 1/3: 1997, which happens to be the all-time high. In fact oil production has been fairly stable around the 2.3m barrels/day mark since 2003.

As for the story you seem to suggest is typical of the kind of stories you are encountering (as a dedicated observer of Venezuelan agricultural stats?), it seems to be a tale not of runaway inflation but rather of adjusting price controls to the recent devaluation of the Bolivar. It’s hard to see this as a case of price controls squeezing supply at this point – maybe if the request for a substantial increase were denied, supply might be curtailed next year, but I see no reason to suppose that will happen.

I see Latro’s back, and still no bite.

123

Latro 03.11.13 at 10:39 am

What “bite” do you want? I’m sorry I’m not an academician, economist, or any of those. I just want to get answers to questions like:

- Are all the violations of rule of law, democracy, and human rights detailed on the 2008 Human Rights Watch report somehow inherently necessary to the process of elimination of poverty?

- Is the widespread corruption of many chavistas, the so called “boliburgoise” also an indispensable prerequisite to the reduction of poverty, or shouldnt we hope for not having to pay that “tax”?

- What part of Hector discourse (which is typical of chavistas) and more to the point, the same discourse and actions applied by actual Chavistas in authority, is compatible with those wonderful definitions of democracy examined a few days ago here on the debate of “The Priority of Democracy”?

- Is also 100% necessary to the project of elimination of poverty that, under the biggest oil boom ever seen, the end result of 14 years of Chávez rule is a crime rate that puts the country on par with a war zone and public infraestructure in ruins because no competent managers, only sicophants, get to manage it? Is also all that compatible with a SUSTAINABLE reduction in poverty – that is, one that will not disappear if oil prices go down, or be curtailed precisely because the vital infrastructure (ej. the oil industry) is rotting away?

124

Patrick S. O'Donnell 03.11.13 at 12:35 pm

“The Latest Howlers From Human Rights Watch on Venezuela” (August 2012): http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/7149
and, “Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Chavez: the Motive-Hunting of a Malignant NGO:” http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/8084

To the extent (which, by most accounts, i.e., from those sans any dispositional opposition of anything to the left of neoliberalism, appears comparatively small) there are human rights violations, at least the Bolivarian Constitution (1999) is one source from which the people themselves may recognize same and have a domestic legal source for the articulation of their grievances, recalling that this “astounding document” contains provisions for “deeper democracy at one level, and another for the widest recognition of human rights” (Vijay Prashad). The regime has provided an unprecedented degree of “real sovereignty” to the masses, in spite of U.S. hostility, and its commitment to “food sovereignty” (a threat to the neo-imperialist behavior of agribusiness interests seeking complete control over the transnational food commodity chain) is inspiring emulation elsewhere; the idea, of course, did not begin in Venezuela, but it’s the government that took the initiative and made the commitment to make such sovereignty something considerably more than a slogan.

One need not claim Venezuela is a utopia (‘real’ or otherwise) to notice the remarkable accomplishments under Chávez, and to realize those accomplishments established many of the conditions that enable the people themselves to make progress on their own terms, to engage in initiatives “from below,” not wholly dependent on State patronage or tutelage (as Prashad notes, a new generation of leaders has emerged from the working class, the peasantry, and the slumlands), to imagine that it is possible to have a “good life” (el buenvivir), and possess the resources and political will to make that dream some day come true, if not tomorrow, than for tomorrow’s children, or their children…. As Prashad says, “dissatisfaction persists, and so does crime,” but at least “the slumlands are no longer simply the badlands.” Ask the poor themselves why they have such affection for Chávez and stay around to listen for (and learn from) the answers.

125

Latro 03.11.13 at 12:56 pm

You mean the same Constitution and laws routinely violated by Chávez and company when they are interested, the latest minor example being Maduro acting as president instead of Diosdado Cabello as per the Constitution?

Also is interesting that you point 2 links to how the HRW report is a hatchet, while Hector on the other side acknowledge the contents and says he would do worse to “us”. Which is which?

Is Amnesty International now also a “malignant NGO”, pick your choice of report from http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/venezuela

The only think I ask is why all the negative side of the revolution has to be lauded, ignored, dismissed, or whatever in that analysis of the “revolution” as an achievement for the poor. Just tell me why both things are absolutely necessary and should go together. For example the crime rate that is mainly falling on the poor – is that included in the process as an unavoidable and necessary step in “enfranchising the poor” or whatever?

126

Patrick S. O'Donnell 03.11.13 at 1:07 pm

The “negatives” you cite are almost entirely “pre-revolutionary” in origin and not attributable to the government’s tenure under Chávez, and it’s simply nonsense to speak of a “Constitution and laws routinely violated by Chávez and company.” Your questions, assumptions and statements betray ignorance about the history of Venezuela and suggest obdurate bad faith: good luck with that.

127

rf 03.11.13 at 1:09 pm

“It was inevitable that we got some “middle class” Venezuelan”

What’s inevitable is that we get a lot of people who don’t know/come from the country patronishing and attacking someone who does..that’s a much more common occurence than the class problems you find so compelling QS

128

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 1:43 pm

Latro – A bite would have been a substantiated claim about serious wrongdoing on the part of the Chavist government, rather than mere allusion to supposed facts dropped into your invective. (I certainly don’t consider you a credible witness – rf’s mileage may differ). You could also try to show how Chavez had made things worse than the status quo ante.

A 200 page report from HRW doesn’t count here – I’m fed up with having to construct your best case for you in order to assess its merits. From the bits I’ve looked at, it seems relatively mild stuff.

re: the more authoritative Amnesty, pick your choice of report from, say, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/canada

To give credit where it’s due (again), Latro’s claims are obviously not all just made up, only – it seems to me – highly selective, exaggerated and subject to a strong bias. The questions he’s (rather rhetorically) asking – are a hyped up version of the issues I’m interested in finding answers to.

Answering same depends heavily on assessing what political opponents are up to – we know about the coup in 2002, of course, which gives some idea – such an event in any country could be expected to give rise to a state of emergency and some pretty harsh measures against those involved, or who are in receipt of funding from the hostile foreign power that backed said coup. Latro et al. resolutely ignore such issues, as does this extract from a HRW report, about political discrimination: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2008/venezuela0908/2.htm . Firing strikers is of course standard neoliberal fare, but here is condemned as ‘political’ – because the strike was political in the narrow sense, indeed an attempt at sabotage, occurring in the same year as the coup! Are we to take this seriously?

129

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 1:49 pm

BTW another issue I was interested in getting to the bottom of was supposed corruption, favouritism etc in the public sector – Latro’s HRW report (p.14) seems to confirm PSO’s point about pre-existing problems, which gives the lie to Latro’s claims that things have become more corrupt under Chavism (rather than less comfortable for those previously privileged):

Political discrimination is not new to Venezuela. For at least 30 years before Chávez’s election, political allegiance was the passport to jobs in the public sector, as well as government contracts and services. Patronage—the provision of benefits, jobs, and services to those with party connections in exchange for political loyalty—was a
pervasive feature of the power-sharing agreement between political parties known
as the Punto Fijo pact.
[etc.]

130

Latro 03.11.13 at 2:19 pm

#126 – Funny, I was born in Caracas in 1972, spent there till 1999. And you are telling me I dont know the history of Venezuela. Wonderful. Want me to recite you the whole presidencies of Venezuela during my lifetime? Want me to tell you my POV on the Caracazo, right on the street walking home? Want my tale of what was I doing when Chávez made his coup, and then the second coup?

Mr. Wilkinson – lets assume that for a moment the levels of corruptions are the same as in pre-Chávez era (I dont buy it, but less make that assumption). I though the point of the whole revolution was to get rid of corruption – not to change the destinataries of the corruption. The “priviledged” class getting the benefits of corruption before Chávez where the client networks of the existing ruling parties – and now the priviledged class is the same – only in red colours.
In fact, one of the main sources of corruption was the exchange controls – the infamous RECADI. And now under Chávez one of the main points of corruption is… the exchange controls, CADAVI.

So again I ask you what part of the impressive achievements in enfranchising the poor REQUIRES this. And how it ends up looking so similar to what was before – but with a more authoritarian bent and much worse infrastructure and crime. Is a simple question I think – if the Chávez revolution is the medicine to solve the problem of poverty, are those sides efects inherently to it or can one dream of a BETTER revolution?

You keep saying you have to make the case for me but every time you end up … finding more or less what I’m telling you. And then dismissing it. The “oil strike” was “political” – of course it was political. The strike was an attempt to keep PDVSA independent – something that Chávez could not let be, as nothing could be independent of his power and PDVSA was too much of a juicy target. Now tell me about the firings of people by using the Lista Tascón and/or Programa Maisanta. Is signing a revocatory referendum petition (INCLUDED in the constitution by chavistas) a “political” act that deserve firings?

Again, all of you selling me this wonderful revolution I should not criticize because – can you acknowledge all that and just justify it with a “well, it was more or less the same before”? I was thinking we were talking about an incredible experiment in democracy and such, but somehow all the points I criticize get dismissed as being “the same” as before.

Thats the whole point! Is the same as before only more authoritarian!

131

Latro 03.11.13 at 2:32 pm

And before any of you jump to “but you say its worse, not the same” – thats exactly the big flaw of the revolution. The process of decadence that was well in motion during the 3 decades before Chávez not only was not stopped – it was accelerated, combined with the new element of violence and hate.

Before Chávez revolution political candidates made their campaings by going to the “cerros” (slums) and giving gifts of powder milk and zinc planks for the roof of the “ranchitos” (favelas). Chávez has done the same only to his credit not only during elections and at a bigger scale. In any other way, he has just mantained or accelerated the decomposition that was already at work since the seventies. And somehow he has to be sanctified for it.

132

Steve LaBonne 03.11.13 at 2:44 pm

Chavez didn’t do nearly as much good with the oil revenues as he could and should have done, but still one whole hell of a lot more than the oligarchs would have done. Is there really a lot more to be said beyond that?

133

Latro 03.11.13 at 2:49 pm

#132 That he added violence, sectarism, cult of personality, more abuses of power and les democracy (as in “respect for dissent and rule of law) to the mix?

134

rf 03.11.13 at 2:52 pm

But do you think that argument is justifiable in the context of the US Steve.. “Obama didn’t do nearly as much good .. as he could and should have done, but still one whole hell of a lot more than the Republicans would have done. Is there really a lot more to be said beyond that?”

135

Steve LaBonne 03.11.13 at 2:59 pm

That does happen to be pretty much how I feel about Obama, for whatever that’s worth.

136

rf 03.11.13 at 3:01 pm

As a reason for voting for him, I’ve never seen it stop you discussing his flaws though..

137

Latro 03.11.13 at 3:03 pm

Also another question. How sustainable is the Chávez revolution in care for the poor with the data shown here http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/09/world/americas/venezuelas-role-as-oil-power-diminished.html?_r=0

“Venezuela’s annual oil production has declined since Mr. Chávez took office in 1999 by roughly a quarter, and oil exports have dropped by nearly a half, a major economic threat to a country that depends on oil for 95 percent of its exports and 45 percent of its federal budget revenues.”

“Venezuela depends on the United States to buy 40 percent of its exports because Gulf of Mexico refineries were designed to process low-quality Venezuelan and Mexican crudes that most refineries around the world cannot easily handle. But in recent years, the United States has been replacing its imports of Latin American crudes with oil from Canadian oil sands fields, which is similarly heavy.”

Does that sounds like good management of a critical resource for development?

138

Steve LaBonne 03.11.13 at 3:25 pm

As a reason for voting for him, I’ve never seen it stop you discussing his flaws though..

Nor do I have any reluctance to discuss Chavez’s which were serious, but in both cases nothing under discussion is likely to come as a big surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention.

139

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 3:33 pm

Yeah, I should probably not have tried to engage with Latro, who remains unresponsive, and continues to provide ex cathedra statements – corruption is worse now, for example – including distortions such as his account of the taking back control of the state-owned PDVSA. FWIW trying to revoke Chavez’s presidency obviously was a political act and could justify dispreferment for political positions. The few high-profile cases in which it’s claimed those who didn’t have their contracts renewed and so on are just deeply unimpressive as symptoms of tyranny, and according to my linked HRW extract (Latro has provided only two links, both of them generic, voluminous and unglossed) Chavez did step in to prevent retaiation. Again, if this is the best he can do, I think those of us who are concerned about democracy and the rule of law need not have too much in the way of qualms about Chavism on that score – especially considering the reactionary forces in play during the first years of the new order, something Latro steadfastly refuses to acnowledge (to be fair, he wasn’t there at the time, so shouldn’t be expected to have the facts at his fingertips).

But I’ve now had enough of the Sisyphean task of trying to sustain such an assymetric form of dialogue, I think.

140

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 3:34 pm

(His or her fingertips, that is – ‘Latro’ sounds male to me, and so does Latro, but I shouldn’t presume.)

141

Latro 03.11.13 at 3:44 pm

I’m sorry you feel the need to not respond to me because I dont know what reasons. On the whole set of questions I’ve made you have decided that asymetric I dont know what and distorsion this.

On the issue of “Chávez intervened to prevent retaliation”, Chávez was a master of inciting his cronies to do something then appear and “roll back” because he was such a nice guy. The whole idea of the Lista Tascon (which has been used to FIRE people for jobs and DENY them services, not just vetting them for political positions) comes right from him, from his discourse: let me cite the disappointing according to you HRW document:

“hávez encouraged holding those who signed the petition for a recall referendum on his mandate “accountable” for their decision, although he stopped short of endorsing political discrimination. In October 2003, Chávez insinuated that there might be future uses of the petition: “Those who sign against Chávez, in truth are not signing against Chávez. They will be signing against the country…. They will be recorded in history, because [the CNE] will have to register their name, their surname, their signature, their ID, and their fingerprints.”15

In January 2004, Chávez wrote to then-CNE president Francisco Carrasquero to inform him that he had authorized his campaign manager, Congressman Luis Tascón, to obtain copies of the forms with over three million signatures in support of the recall referendum from the CNE.16 Chávez announced on television that he intended to use the list to expose what he claimed were bogus signatures.17 Having obtained the election forms, Tascón posted the list of names on his website so that any individual was able to consult the “Tascón list,” ostensibly to verify their signature.18 “

“Over a year after ordering the creation of the Tascón list, Chávez himself acknowledged the discriminatory purposes for which the list had been used. In April 2005, having won the referendum, Chávez called on employers to archive and “bury” the list on public television:

It was a moment that we’ve put behind us. If one of us who has to take a personal decision about someone goes to consult the list, what they are doing is dragging past situations into the present, and helping to recreate them … the famous list certainly fulfilled a useful role at a given moment, but that moment has passed.

We’re asking the whole country to build bridges. I say this because I’ve been receiving some letters—of all the papers I receive—that make me think that in some spaces they still have the Tascón list on the table to decide whether somebody is going to work or is not going to work. Bury the Tascón list!25″

His typical Modus Operandi. Incendiary discourse giving the plan and authorization to underlings – let things run its course – come back as if the whole thing was not his idea and “bury” it.

I also get tired of the asymmetrical nature of our discourse because I’ve been asking you several questions you do not answer, and the only think I keep getting is your sofisticated disdain (which given poster like Hector tone I have to at least thank you for politely telling me I’m not worthy of your time)

142

Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.11.13 at 4:35 pm

If you feel more comfortable this way – here you have my name instead of Latro. Is not going to sound you of anything because again, I’m not in academia or anything like that.

Maybe that is the whole source of the problem – I assume we are all talking about what is known, not that I had to make a detailed bibliography first to discuss this. My bad then – I just call things as I see them, as my relatives tell me, as I ask them how are things going, and when I get nostalgic and check the media.

143

Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.11.13 at 5:09 pm

Let me now try to address some of your comments on #116 (BTW, thanks for calling me dog, like 3 times. I think I’ve been polite with all of you so far, but what would I know).

Lets see, cases of attacks from the forces of the police against protestors. Lets see… this is the repression of a rally at my old university, protesting the “suspension of license” of RCTV

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_63klK4hL0

Here a minor one, recent, http://america.infobae.com/notas/64705-Estudiantes-heridos-en-manifestacin-antichavista in Spanish. 11 students attacked by the Guardia Nacional Bolivariana for making a manifestation against the violation of the Constitution by having Maduro assume the presidency. Note that in the case of the famous UC Davis pepper-spray incident (which I assume all of us were disgusted by it), in this case they were not pepper-sprayed , but shot with pellets. As usual the response of the authorities is that a – nothing happened but b – it was the same students who are infiltrated by paramilitary and orquestated the whole thing.

Here, in Spanish, a report about Colectivo La Piedrita, one of the many armed groups in support of Chávez. In particular this one has fallen a bit out of favor for being too aggresive, so Chávez did what he always did: said there were infiltrators from the CIA. Its always the CIA.

144

Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.11.13 at 5:17 pm

Sorry, that link would be
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/noticias/2012/01/120130_venezuela_colectivos_urbanos_23_enero_jp.shtml

I know that you are going to protest that I have not done something right with this, but just in case, here another report about the human rights situation in Venezuela by the Interamerican Comission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States http://www.cidh.oas.org/pdf%20files/VENEZUELA%202009%20ENG.pdf

145

Hector_St_Clare 03.11.13 at 5:38 pm

Re: Political discrimination is not new to Venezuela. For at least 30 years before Chávez’s election, political allegiance was the passport to jobs in the public sector, as well as government contracts and services. Patronage—the provision of benefits, jobs, and services to those with party connections in exchange for political loyalty—was a
pervasive feature of the power-sharing agreement between political parties known
as the Punto Fijo pact

The Marxist historian John Womack referred to the 1958-1998 set-up as ‘two party totalitarianism’. I.e. it wasn’t really too different from the sort of situation in the Eastern Bloc, except that instead of one party controlling the institutions of ‘civil society’, you had two nearly ideologically indistinguishable parties.

Re: I don’t know why you are concerned about rice in particular – I’m not aware of anyone having claimed that rice production was up 70% – nor what the baseline year is supposed to be.

He might have been responding to my post where I quoted a bunch of staple food production statistics. My numbers were from 2008, so may be a few years out of date now- food production varies from year to year. I think the general point holds though: there’s no general *decline* in agricultural production under Chavez, in spite of the large-scale redistribution (which might have been expected to temporarily cause a decline because of the transitional difficulties).

Latro,

The Tascon List is well known, none of this is news. Again, I’m not particularly concerned about the victims of it, but as you acknowledge yourself Chavez rolled it back, so you should be grateful to him for that.

146

Hector_St_Clare 03.11.13 at 5:43 pm

Re: it really looks like inflation and price controls are starting to squeeze supply

That happened a few times in the Chavez presidency, and when it did, the prices were raised. I’m sure Maduro will do the same if necessary.

Re: Oil production is down a third at a time when oil prices are sky high. Production should be soaring not contracting. Did it really have to be that way? I think oil profits from existing fields could go towards social programs and royalties from new fields could maintain existing oil infrastructure.

Well, for environmental reasons, I’m not sure I want Venezuela (or any country) to be ramping up oil production. And yes, I’ll gladly admit that in spite of his immense gifts, Chavez had some flaws as an administrator. He didn’t invest enough in oil infrastructure, and while he did spend a lot of money on encouraging non-oil industry, I think that could have been done better. Still, you don’t need to be perfect to be a pretty good leader.

147

Tim Wilkinson 03.11.13 at 9:47 pm

hello, just dropping in to add a couple of remarks I’ve just remembered about –

remark 1: Before Chávez revolution political candidates made their campaigns by going to the “cerros” (slums) and giving gifts of powder milk and zinc planks for the roof of the “ranchitos” (favelas). Chávez has done the same only to his credit not only during elections and at a bigger scale is a good candidate for Greenspanisation – with notably rare exceptions (etc), Chavez was no different from etc.

remark 2: the NYT (and Latro) are very concerned that <i.Venezuela’s annual oil production has declined since Mr. Chávez took office in 1999 by roughly a quarter – but recall that one of Chavez first moves was to reinvigorate OPEC solidarity, when he hosted its first conference in 25 years and gave his memorable speech about the price of a barrel of Coca Cola, “What would they do without us” and all that, and the oil price subsequently increased by something quite a bit more than a third (Source: iHugo!, a bio by someone or other; general knowledge.)

And of course the idea of a cartel is that production is restricted so as to increase the price. (And just to spell things out even further, if production is restricted then reserves last longer). So from a national interest POV, not such bad management. I’m with Hector on not being too keen on oil usage for environmental reasons, but to expect HC to sort out that stuff really would require seeing him as superhuman.

148

Latro 03.11.13 at 10:54 pm

I did a series of post with my real name but seems moderation ate them.

Hector: yes you have left patently clear that you classify people into expendables or not according to your whim. I dont know what pride do you derive from openly acknowledging the fact that you would do much worse, or how idiotic do you think I have to be to thanks Chávez for “rolling back” (not) the program he started to discriminate people. I for one would think a selling point of a revolution in democracy would be to be BETTER at not discriminating people than the previous system, and not worse – the previous system worked mainly in the form of client networks, the current one in client networks + blacklisting of those not considered “pure” enough. But again, is a waste of time as you have basically said that you would look forward with glee to whatever punishment they get…

Mr Wilkinson: The point is that “the move of Chávez to reinvigorate OPEC solidarity” is basically a failure and that the idea is not that Venezuela produce less oil to keep the price up – it produces less oil because the infraestructure of production is rotting away after years of mismanagement. The OPEC doesnt even believe the Venezuelan figures of production saying they are inflated.

And the “greenspanisation” point is just the root of the Venezuelan situation – again, something I’ll venture I know a bit more than many of the people here. The mantras that where given to the Venezuelan population by the previous 2 party system were “Oil is a resource of the nation, so we are rich, so everybody deserves their slice of it”. When they could deliver, the system worked – it never was equalitarian, but enough crumbles got down of the table to satisfy people with low expectations – a job here, subside there . When the system started to fail the reaction was also simple. Oil is a resource of the nation, so we are rich, so somebody else got my piece of it. (Mostly accurate – not only corruption but horrible mismanagements of all the projects to “saw the oil” and use the money to kickstart a modern economy). Thats the Chávez platform – he would share the treasure of oil and punish the ones that mismanaged it before, fullfilling the plan betrayed by AD & COPEI. End result – the same, not any different, system that the one envisioned before. And again in charge of people incapable of keeping it working – they had the incredible luck of an oil boom to keep giving them money to plugs the holes in their plans (and get rich out of it, many of them).

To end for the night – this blog entry summarizes more or less the situation

http://prodavinci.com/blogs/sobre-la-imagen-internacional-de-hugo-chavez-por-francisco-toro/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Prodavinci+%28Prodavinci%29

His assesment of the revolution is quite similar to mine, including the bizarre situation of being schooled by people that know nothing at all about Venezuela about the great achievements of Hugo Chávez. If nobody reads Spanish, I will translate the interesting bit:

“The abysmal, schizofrenic distance between a revolutionary discourse and a practice of government that satisfied itself with renovating petropopulism and reconcile it with the XXI century exceeds the comprehension capabilities of an international intelligensia used to a mínimum of coherence between what is said and what is done”

149

Latro 03.11.13 at 10:55 pm

(sow the oil) – sorry for the typo

150

Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 6:35 am

Latro,

Again, I don’t care one bit about the victims of the Tascon discrimination. They probably deserved it.

It’s nice to know, though, that if present indications are any guide, Maduro’s going to be in charge for the next six years or so, and there’s not a damn thing you and your opposition buddies can do about it.

151

Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.12.13 at 9:21 am

Wonderful Hector, wonderful. Mr Wilkinson complains about having to make my case but you keep making mine easy. Authoritarism, willinginess to punish dissent en masse, no room for discourse or negotiation. When the same treatment you enjoy is applied to, say, Egyptian people, we all rightfully condemn it. But when it comes to opposition to Chávez, take out the gloves.

If the left cant articulate, in Venezuela and now in Europe, a much needed and compelling alternative to the awful neoliberal dogma that does not include this disdain for human rights and democratic dissent, we are very much screw. It is clear that the right doesnt work – the left has to offer something better, not just your cheerleading to whatever punishment the opposition (of course, 100% “oligarchs”, wonder how they got the votes they got last time) “deserves”.

152

Tim Wilkinson 03.12.13 at 2:06 pm

The thing is, it’s a matter of proportion, and of context. Imagine so-called McCarthyism in the US if a Communist coup backed by the USSR had just been driven out of the White House, and if the backers and participants were known still to be in position and willing to try various other strategies such as industrial sabotage on a massive scale. Add that these interests were in control of various state and regional governments, and were themselves engaged in political discrimination.

Now try to imagine its lasting only for a year or so, impacting only on – what? – a hundred people or so?, and without all the forced confessions and denunciations that gave it its insidious totalitarian character.

That’s why I’m not impressed with this remaining talking point that JCF is clinging to, and why Hector’s attitude might in context be entirely justifiable, even though it was expressed impatiently enough that JCF/Latro could paint it as approving of all possible measures, rather than only those which were actually taken.

We in the North are used to false or astronomically exaggerated threats being used as a pretext for ‘emergency’ oppressive measures; in Venezuela in the early 2000s there was a real and demonstrable threat to the democratically elected regime, and plenty of precedents in the region for similar democratic regimes being crushed by the same forces and replaced with death squads. In such circumstances one might expect a pretty bloody and chaotic situation (though not necessarily one on a par with US efforts to ‘bring democracy to the Middle East’).

Instead the best Latro, clearly implacably hostile and supposedly knowledgeable, could come up with is this.

153

rf 03.12.13 at 2:20 pm

But the argument isn’t (akaics) that there was a better realistic alternative to Chavez, or that there weren’t historically more brutal/incompetent rulers (either regionally or in Venezuela) but that he was still a corrupt political leader who (in the space of, what, 14 years?) has left Venezuela with a number of problems (outlined by Latro) and siphoned of billions (? maybe millions) for himself and his coterie.
A coup attempt in 2002 doesn’t excuse incompetence/corruption in 2006, and pointing out that Western states overreact to security threats doesn’t excuse when a leader in the South does the same. And within the decade and a bit that Chavez held power, there were regional politicans who also managed to do quite a bit for the poor (akaik) without resorting to the sort of extravagences that Chavez did

154

Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 3:04 pm

RF,

Venezuela has the lowest inequality in Latin America, the highest rate of ‘happiness’, whatever that means, and IIRC the biggest decline in poverty. and a lower unemployment rate than us, a couple years ago. maybe those other leaders weren’t quite as effective.

Sure there was corruption, but I’ve never seen any evidence of the Chavez family living a particularly extravagant lifestyle by the standards of a leaders family. literally every developing country has corruption.

155

rf 03.12.13 at 3:08 pm

Fair enough Hector, I stand corrected then if that’s the case

156

Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 3:10 pm

Jesus Couto Fandino,

While I despise Mubarak, are you seriously pointing at the current Government of Egypt as a success of democracy and the freedom agenda?

157

Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.12.13 at 5:11 pm

Hector, no, I’m saying that when Mubarak beated the Egyptian opposition, and when the current Muslim Brotherhood led government beats the Egyptian opposition, we are not splitting hairs to see if the oppositors were guilty of some nebulous concept and really deserved it – we say “this is a violation of human rights and an antidemocratic tactic to scare opposition”.

You on the other hand feel entitled to judge the enterity of the people that the Venezuelan government has harrassed deserved it and that you would do much worse. Those include, apart from “oligarchs” (whatever the hell that is, the definition is very elastic for chavista), people that voted for him and got disappointed, people that just got old enough to vote, etc. But hey, you know they are guilty, right? They deserve it, and Chávez and company should not be in any case held responsible for intimidation and suppression of opposition, because they were guitly. Oligarch, kulak, who cares.

rf, while Hugo Chávez itself doesnt seem to have enriched himself much, there is a whole caste of “bolibourgoise” people that has. You can recognize them because they are the ones with very expensive clothing and very expensive vehicles and in general very expensive anything – all due to connections to the government. As there are myriad ways to get rich with the right approach – CADAVI/SITME and all the other exchange controls being virtually an investment that returns ~ 278% if you manage to have a contact to approve your requirement of dollars at the official rate to import whatever, then you import less/cheaper/nothing and sell the dollars in the illegal black market…

Thats just one example. But again, the whole situation before Chávez has repeated itself, only now the destiny of the money is the Chavista client network. Some revolution.

158

Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 5:17 pm

Re: Oligarch, kulak, who cares.

Do you actually have the temerity to compare a bunch of your buddies losing out on a job or a housing voucher for supporting the wrong party, with ten million Ukrainian peasants *willfully starved to death* on Stalin’s orders?

Because if you do, you’re just making the very point that Chavez made, that you folks are a bunch of crazy wingnuts that cannot be trusted with power.

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Jesús Couto Fandiño 03.12.13 at 5:44 pm

No, I making the point that YOU dont care. YOU are the one constantly saying things would be “worse” under your hypothetical administration because YOU are 100% sure (under which kind of judicial telepathy power I dont know) that they are all “guilty”.

You are the one swallowing hole the abuses of power of Chávez (not at the scale of Stalin, but existing) and doing the same thing that the left did in the past – hey, defend the revolution, everybody not on board is guilty, I dont care, the hero does justice.

How hard would you howl if – I dont know where you are, but say, USA – if you were denied your passport and fired from your job from being Democrat? Hey, you are guilty, Obama is the devil, America uber alles, bla bla bla.

Either discrimination is wrong, and harrasment is wrong, and abuse of power and breaking the law and constitution willy-nilly is wrong WHOEVER does it, or we get to depend on who is the guy calling the shots, and you have been very clear on the point you would like to call the shots and make them worse. Bet not also to Stalin levels, but what kind of moral high ground do you have to decide by yourself that EVERYBODY that did not agree with Chávez should be punished? What kind of “democracy” is one where assumption of guilt is done by default and the measure of the punishment is left to the discretion of the punisher?

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rf 03.12.13 at 6:38 pm

” while Hugo Chávez itself doesnt seem to have enriched himself much”

That’s interesting..I was under the impression he had enriched himself, I guess that would make me more favourably disposed towards him

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Latro 03.12.13 at 7:15 pm

rf, not much difference between that and letting your underlings fill their pockets at their leisure, but as little as it is, it is. His family I think got some kind of dramatic expansion of land owned in his home state of Barinas, but I dont recall exactly.

Hector, to make a comparision more attuned in scale and on a different ideological axis. What did you think of the witch hunts during McCarthyism, the Hollywood black list, etc? Awful, right? Something clearly in violation of the principles of the Constitution and on the human rights to freedom of conscience, expression and association. A black mark for the US democracy and a clear indication that elements inside it were anything but democratic.

Now lets get back to you. You have said that you consider anybody on the Lista Tascón to be guilty, and they can count their blessings of having benevolent Chávez and not you handling the affair.

The only thing you know with absolute certainty of the roughly 2 and a half million people in the Lista Tascón is that they made use of their constitutional right (given by the Chavista constitution) to make a call for a revocatory referendum. Thats it. Thats the only think those 2 million and a half people have in common and that is of your knowledge. Under that knowledge alone, you have decided they deserve to be blacklisted, fired, and otherwise harassed. On that alone.

Now tell me why would I have to consider your opinion about what is democratic or not better than McCarthy’s

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rf 03.12.13 at 7:24 pm

There’s a huge difference I think b/c he has to deal with the political realities as they are. He has to build and maintain a support base and political alliance, and that will generally involve paying people off in that support base/alliance, whether financially, with political positions or whatever.. particularly in a political culture (as has been mentioned above) where that has been the norm for the past number of decades and there aren’t the institutions to protect against it.. It’s easier to oppose him enriching himself, but those around him? It’s inevitable I would have thought

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 7:38 pm

Re: His family I think got some kind of dramatic expansion of land owned in his home state of Barinas, but I dont recall exactly.

You don’t seem to recall much about Venezuela, so perhaps you should stop talking and learn something about history from the people you’re arguing with.

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Latro 03.12.13 at 7:41 pm

I bet you I recall more than you. So far you has not answered me why you support the blacklisting or worse of 2.5 millon people so maybe you should stop talking and learn something about being democratic.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 7:45 pm

Latro,

Because I don’t regard them, or you, as fit to participate in politics, or to have a voice in the public square.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 7:46 pm

Re: maybe you should stop talking and learn something about being democratic.

Maybe you should stop talking and learn something about being obedient to your moral superiors.

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Latro 03.12.13 at 7:48 pm

#162 rf, you are grasping to find something to defend the “revolution”. A revolution that was started and had the main aim of punishing those that with corruption enriched themselves and made the country poor, and achieve fairness. So, “to do so I need to let my underlings do the same things that made me try a coup d’etat and then campaign and get elected”… well, that sounds like the revolution is getting smaller and smaller the more one looks at it.

That has also, and I’m not accusing you of this, but your comment makes me remember several others in other places that basically amount to “Well, is Latin America, what do you expect”. Well, I expect the countries of Latin America to achieve what they deserve – full democracy, end of poverty, full justice and all that. Venezuela in particular has all the resources needed – including very capable people. There is absolutely no reason to let things “pass”.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 7:54 pm

Re: Well, I expect the countries of Latin America to achieve what they deserve – full democracy, end of poverty, full justice and all that.

If you think a place like Venezuela (or Russia, for that matter, or Egypt) will ever achieve ‘full [liberal] democracy’, I have a bridge in the Everglades I’d like to sell you.

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rf 03.12.13 at 7:58 pm

I agree that there is a trend here with people saying/implying ‘well that’s Latin America, what do you expect’..and that’s a narrative that both left and right do use about non Western countries/regions generally.. buuut..You do have to take into consideration what the alternative is. There has been a (recent) history of (relative) corruption/cronyism in my country (Ireland) regardless of what party has been in power..some Govts have been better than others, some specific politicians have been better than others..you can also (more or less) guess which interest group/individual is going to get access to govt depending on who is in power..the only thing that controls this is that our political/legal institutions go some way towards keeping it under control..them’s the options..you don’t have to excuse it, but you do have to acknowledge the reality and life with it, to an extent

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rf 03.12.13 at 7:59 pm

Live with it..not life

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Latro 03.12.13 at 8:00 pm

Hector, I dont expect anything of you. I’m not going to keep talking to you. I’m your moral inferior and unfit to have a voice in the public debate, dont you remember?

I have no interest at all in keeping trading barbs with you- discussing with you has served my purpose in my point of view now that you clearly stated what your core democratic belief is, so I will keep talking with the people that have not decided are morally superior to me and 2.5 million people that you dont know.

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Latro 03.12.13 at 8:04 pm

rf: you have to live AGAINST it. Thats our moral duty. Not live with it, against it. It takes a lot of courage, and I’m not going to lie and say I’m up to the task all the time or dont get into the cost/reward analysis, but our countries are in the situation that they are because of “living with it”. And Irish, Spaniards, Venezuelans and anybody else is as capable as anybody else – democracy and justice are not genetically North European/American.

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rf 03.12.13 at 8:08 pm

Sure, but you can’t do so by brandishing some imaginary alternative..or by playing down the same tendencies that exist in the actual realistic aternative..I don’t really know anything about Venezuela, so do you think that there was a better alternative to Chavez..and was he better/worse than what went before?

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 8:10 pm

Re: discussing with you has served my purpose in my point of view now that you clearly stated what your core democratic belief is

You may have missed it, but I never claimed to be particularly enthused with democracy. Democracy is a means, not an end. Sometimes it works to achieve good ends, sometimes it doesn’t. In Venezuela, it clearly didn’t.

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rf 03.12.13 at 8:12 pm

Out of curiosity Hector, what are your ‘ends’..

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Latro 03.12.13 at 8:20 pm

rf: he has been worse than what was before in many aspects. In others he has been just a continuation of the same trends as before. And yes, in some, it has been an improvement, albeit one that I dont think is sustainable.

And, quite simple, Chávez could have achieved all those improvements and more without any of his sins. Those are 100% his fault, completly unnecessary, and his more lasting legacy. Nobody forced him to preach hate. Nobody forced him to treat any dissent as treason. Nobody forced him to violate his own constitution and laws at any point he found it more convenient. Nobody forced him to put in power only sycophants who could not manage the country at any level, from electrical infrastructure to economy. Etc…

What he was, in my opinion was 14 years wasted and poisoned, and an opportunity lost. I hope against reason that in the future we will somehow see the only real good achievements of Chávez – the focus on poverty – remain, while all the hate, abuse, authoritarism, cult of personality and corruption get washed away, and all Venezuelans can recognize they may have different views of what is good – and that only unity and not hate will give them a chance to achieve it.

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rf 03.12.13 at 8:36 pm

Okay, then that’s the disagreement I guess..I’m largely with most people here in that, (and coming from a position of ignorance), from what I’ve heard/read he was significantly better than what came before/could have been..I’m sure there are any number of reasonable criticisms that could be directed against him, but I think what’s winding people up (perhaps) is that you seem to be shilling for the other side..which isn’t the same as saying ‘you have to live AGAINST it’ but is taking an explicit political position..which I’m not against of course, it just undermines the moralising

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Latro 03.12.13 at 8:45 pm

rf.: when I left Venezuela I was working at an University as a system administrator. There where TONS of bright young people that where just coming into a political conscience. They where intelligent, passionate, and capable.

I’m not “for” what was before Chávez – it was “better” but it wasnt good. The level of hate was lower, the crime rate too, but the economy was shit, corruption was awful, and people were reduced to making “spaghetti soup” and keeping the spaghettis for next meal. Or “gold panning” the industrial and human waste of the Guaire river to get metal to sell.

I left the country, and I keep my contacts with my relatives and friends. I hope those bright, young and capable people I knew get to define the future of Venezuela. I dont know if Capriles represents them – I think maybe, but in the end, while I feel very much qualified to criticize Chavéz and his time in power, in the end, I walked away, I dont vote there any more, is the decision of Venezuelans to see. As it has been to elect Chávez all this time – as much as I critizice him, he was elected. That doesnt give him a free rein to do whatever he pleased as he thought, but again, now the future is in the hands of the one that vote there. And tomorrow, and as many elections it takes to find something that works.

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Latro 03.12.13 at 10:01 pm

(Of course “better” and what I describe next to it may not be the best combination ever – the woman making spaghetti soup to her kids very much was not “better”; but at least at some points it looked that it was possible to address the problems without getting into the hatred and division we saw later)

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rf 03.12.13 at 10:21 pm

I genuinely do sympathise with what you’re saying here, I just think that you’re missing something..which is that the hatred you’re talking about was always there, just not necessarily directed at you or people you were close to..perhaps that’s not true, but I would have my suspicions that it is
I’m also not really buying the argument that Venezuela, before Chavez, was on the cusp of a clear break from the past because of the ‘bright, young and capable people’ you knew. I don’t doubt they exist, just that they were going to get the opportunity to make that change

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Latro 03.12.13 at 10:24 pm

The hatred was building up, of course. Its kind of difficult not to feel hatred when a – your country is supposedly rich b – you are in the worst kind of misery and c – your goverment is as corrupt as it gets.

It was going to blow – and it started blowing the day of the Caracazo, in an amorphous, unorganized way. After that it was just a question of what to do with it.

And Chávez made a strategically sound decision – run with it, it will give you the election.

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novakant 03.12.13 at 10:59 pm

Hector certainly does a great Beria impression.

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Hector_St_Clare 03.12.13 at 11:13 pm

Re: the woman making spaghetti soup to her kids very much was not “better”;

Great, you’re learning.

Maybe in a few years you’ll be mature enough to deserve to be listened to, and you won’t sound like a particularly ill behaved third grader anymore.

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Latro 03.12.13 at 11:20 pm

I think I owe Mr Wilkinson some details from post 84 – sorry if I’ve been more occupied getting some other details out of the way.

Let see. The Judge Afiuni case has several murky edges, of course, but it has some clear ones in the aspects of the kind of evidence you were requesting:

First, that the law clearly establish a maximum of 2 years of “preventive imprisonment” and not only was Cedeño already 3 years in jail – Afiuni later spent more that those 2 years waiting for her day in court. Again, rule of law is a flexible concept in the Venezuelan revolution – with the best written laws but capable of being interpreted or simply ignored at will.

Now, cases of corruption, cronism, incompetence in management, etc. Well. Out of the top of my head we have:

- the PDVAL case, known by the opposition as Pudreval. In which PDVAL, a company made to get PDVSA to pay for the import of food to be distributed into the “popular” markets chains of the goverment at reduced prices, somehow manages to let rot 130-170 thousands tons of said food. The best summary is in the wikipedia, which I know, is not a reliable source, but is handy http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caso_PDVAL . Sorry, is in Spanish. Explanations go from absolute ineptitude by buying much more food that what the ports and markets could actually move in time before letting it rot, to corruption by buying the food at inflated prices and not realizing that part of the plan – it stinks when the food gets rotten. Reactions for the goverment is 3 arrest, absolutely no word from the Assembly commision supposed to investigate the case, and “shut up, its just some hundred thousand tons of food rotting, we have given more to the poor”. One wonders why it was not possible to give the same to the poor without having those tons decompossing in ports.

- This in English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maletinazo – or a Venezuelan-US entreperneur flying in a jointly Argentina-Venezuela fleeted charter flight with $800000, undeclared. Which is not only kind of suspicious in itself – its much more suspicious because as the wiki says:

“Venezuela has had strict foreign currency controls since 2003. CADIVI is the commission established by the government to regulate currency; it prohibits taking more than US$10,000 in cash out of the country without declaring the money.[4] Venezuelans can only take US$500 or €400 cash out of the country in a single trip and there is a yearly quota of US$2,500 on credit card expenditures; a special government permit is needed to take additional US dollars out of the country.”

The government proceeded to deny any involvement of said individual with Venezuela. The fact that he was traveling in the same charter flight as several important PDVSA managers makes it kind of interesting to know how he managed to board, then.

Evidently anybody with 2 brain cells knows this was a “help” for the friendly campaign of Cristina Kirchner. Why is the business of PDVSA to help some guy carry undeclared (in both sides!) money to Argentina and what relationship does that have with combating poverty…

- Finally for now we have the case of Francisco Illarramendi, in some detail here http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=554894&CategoryId=10717 – who somehow got to invest money of the PDVSA retirement fund in his own Madoff-like thing. Illarramendi used to work for PDVSA and the Ministry of Finances as “consultant”. Somehow this ended up with the PDVSA retirement fund losing some 450 million or so, absolutely no one in Venezuela has been charged… but in the US one of the investors sued Juan Montes, PDVSA retirement fund official, for taking $35 million in bribes to facilitate Illarramendi shuffle.

And we can still be here till the morning come over Spain listing similar stuff.

Is this more to your liking or is there anything else I’ve left in making my case?

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Hector_St_Clare 03.13.13 at 2:34 am

Re: doesnt give him a free rein to do whatever he pleased as he thought, but again, now the future is in the hands of the one that vote there.

The future is, in part, in the hands of the army. They’re going to do what it takes to ensure Maduro wins, and people like you are left high-and-dry the way you were under Chavez.

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