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Great moments in Venezuela's populism

By Daniel Duquenal | Venezuela News and Views

01.09.05 | Long time readers of this blog have become quite aware that Venezuela has been continuously ruled by populist governments since at least the early 70ies. In this respect Chavez administration is only the rightful, and worst, heir of that tradition that keeps bringing Venezuela further down in the scales of prosperity. Or how else could one explain that Venezuela from being at the top of the pack in the 50ies has now slid below most LatAm countries except a few such as Bolivia or Paraguay? Even with an oil barrel at 70 USD?

For those who still do not get what populism is, and how damaging to the structure of a country it is, yesterday little incident at a Chavez rally should help see the light.

There was a meeting of the "Comite de Tierras Urbanas", some administrative monstrosity who is trying to treat urban lands as if they were Agricultural AND Urban lands, in the spirit of the most demagogical of all Chavez programs, the artificially recreated version of "Los Sin Tierras", the landless. This is the organization who is trying to promote agriculture in some miserable urban parcels, just at the same time as the official state policy is to favor a return to the country side to plant manioc by the inhabitants of the shanty towns. But of course populism thrives in contradictions and one can even suspect that chavista officials would be dumbfounded if one would point out this amusing fact to them.


Where have I seen such type of scenes?

The meeting was yet another large propaganda show where people massively dressed in red are ferried and locked up in a sports arena and where the president gives interminable speeches while the crowd is duly chanting on cue. It is interesting to notice that after 7 years of glorious bolibananarian revolution Chavez still cannot pull out the gigantic Castro open air happenings in Havana.

There has been lately some changes in these staged events. Whether people become restless from being locked up for hours, they have started to chant more and more, interrupting more and more the beloved leader speeches. For "security" reasons nobody can leave once Chavez has arrived; but the real reason is that Chavez only arrives when TV shots are good enough with the crowds and people cannot leave to make sure that the TV pan remains convincing through the show. This I have from relatives and friends who attended, almost forcibly, such events. The revolution is losing its spontaneity every day.

Well, yesterday, Damarys, a woman living in the streets with 4 children, braved the security ring of Chavez to climb to the podium to ask help from the beloved leader. The beloved leader was not amused, even if he is the only one to blame from such actions. Indeed early in his term when he benefited from real affection and not only of bought love, he encouraged people to come and hand him their petitions directly. This populist measure quickly backfired as gigantic lines formed at the Miraflores Palace doors with people holding all sorts of letters and folders to be given "personally" to Chavez. This "cour des miracles" followed Chavez everywhere, giving rise to many embarrassing moments duly filmed on TV, such as people crying disconsolately because some soldier refused to take their lovely written plea for help.

So Damarys was chastised and passed to someone else and Chavez stated a warning to the audience who showed us more than what we would have liked to see about his true nature and true goals. Here, some of his words with the translation in red as to the real meaning. Of course he was careful enough to coat all in his paternalismopopulism that has become his trade mark.

If anyone is going to climb up screaming and giving notes, I am suspending this event and we will do it another time. If you do not play by my rules then I am not playing anymore. I will give stuff to you when I decide to give stuff to you. You better wait and behave if you want to receive stuff.

Any individual must be received but I must take care of the event. Hey, this event id to promote me and my plans. Bug off!

The stage of Chavez as a governor or mayor, that he must take care of all, is for the history books now. I have bigger fish to fry now. You gave me all your votes, I control everything, bug off!

There must be discipline in this events. It is all about me, deal with your problems elsewhere. Bug off!

[Damarys attitude was dangerous] because I am under death threat, the security that surrounds me is on the alert. Look how important I am! And it is there to also protect me from you, little pests. Bug off!, bug OFF!

Or some other forms of interpretation but the reader will get the point.

It is fascinating to see that the monster of neediness that Chavez has created is now coming back to bite his ass just as he thinks so highly of himself, that his only mission is now to buy good will with the oil that belongs to Damarys and not to him. But such is populism when it reaches extremes: paternalism becomes arrogance and we finally all know what the rulers really think of the people.



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