Venezuelan Democracy Is a Failure of Inclusion

19 06 2012


In contemporary Venezuelan politics, vitriol spills more than petroleum. Yesterday, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez dismissed calls for holding a pre-election debate with his presidential opponent, former state governor Henrique Capriles, exclaiming that he would be “ashamed to measure himself against such a non-entity.” Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez’s detractors hope for the cancer-striken president “to die soon” and/or “rot in hell forever.”

The polarization is so emotionally charged that Venezuelan media rarely report the facts—only pronouncements. That is why a policy debate is so vital for the country to re-embrace the democratic covenant and honor the judgement of the people. Are conditions for the majority of Venezuelans better or worse under the current regime? Certainly the poor and political loyalists have benefited with free medical care, free housing, and even government gifts of household appliances. One is reminded of the free toaster once promoted by U.S. banks to new customers who opened a checking account.

But as for the economy overall, it’s hard to tell—due to discontinuance of government statistics and a lack of objectivity by the analysts. Whether he wins or loses on October 7th, one observer predicts, “it will take a long time to dismantle the social political structure that Chávez has put in place during his time in government and this will create a lot of social tensions.”

The same kind of polarization over President Chávez exists outside Venezuela. It’s a shame that many people can’t seem to have a rational conversation about post-Punto Fijo developments in Venezuela’s democracy. The Pact of Punto Fijo in 1958 conceived the longest lasting multiparty democracy in Latin America, but it established a system of representation that excluded women, indigenous peoples and the poor.

I always had a sense of reservation whether—in defying puntofijoism—President Chávez could create a more inclusive and consolidated democracy in Venezuela. Opinions may differ on whether he has succeeded on that score. But the same old cronyism persists that has plagued Venezuela going back to the days of dictatorship pre-1958. I know “red shirts” who have become millionaires flaunting couture clothing under Chávez. Overt corruption brought down President Carlos Andrés Pérez (who was also a gifted orator). Curious that it has not brought down Mr. Chávez.

As always, I welcome all comments!

Jason Berman




8 responses

21 06 2012
-Neal Browne

It’s Hugo Chavez. Can anyone expect anything different? Sadly, it’s all too much the South American way of life. And the bulk of the population gets the worst end of the deal.

21 06 2012
Tom Kadala

Only another Venezuelan can truly understand Hugo Chavez. He’s ‘maracucho’. For any Venezuelan, that says it all. ‘Maracuchos’ (people from the Maracaibo Lake area) are funny, entertaining, and super ‘vivo’ (opportunist). They don’t miss a trick!

That is why the US constantly comes up short when it deals with him and other Latin American leaders. Instead of hiring a professional Hispanic who understands Latin cultures (which by the way there are many extremely qualified individuals to choose from), the State Department picks one of their own. Although I truly respect them for trying to speak Spanish, I can only cringe when I imagine what a meeting must be like between one of them and someone like Hugo Chavez.

21 06 2012
North-South Communications

Great input, Tom. Interestingly, the PBS news program Frontline described Chávez’s character as more llanero than maracucho. Indeed, his hometown in Barinas State is in the llanos region known for its cowboy frontier culture.

21 06 2012
Tom Kadala

Don’t believe everything you read in the US press about Venezuela, which re-enforces my point about the State Department. Frankly, I can tell where he is exactly from by the color of his skin, his facial structure, and mannerisms. No need to go into it here. As they say in Venezuela, “you can tell the type of bird by what it leaves behind”. I will spare you the literal translation, but if you are Latin, you may know the lines.

21 06 2012
North-South Communications

To quote Winston Churchill, “Americans are a wonderful people: They will always do the right thing—after exhausting every other possible alternative.”

22 06 2012
Tom Kadala

So true!

3 07 2012
Maracucho via matrimonio

Interesting comment about Chavez being Maracucho, based on his facial features and other stereotypes perpetuated by native Venezuelans, not US expats. When I lived and worked in Venezuela, I was told that in each business transactions involving people from Caracas, there are two types of parties, vivos y victimas, porque asi son los caraquenos. the question is who are you?As a side note, I have a very good friend, Native Latin American that has on several occasions represented the USA in conversations with the Chavez government in order to improve USA Venezuelan relationships.

30 07 2012
Tom Kadala

Your comment about two types of parties of Caraqueños, vivos or victimas triggered a thought. Venezuelans are all vivos. Their degree of viveza differs by region the same way that music and typical dishes might, by small degrees… What expats don’t often get is that the game of vivo or victima is ongoing. It never ends. It’s not definitive the way a baseball game’s final score. Venezuelans always win because they never stop playing the ‘game’ from sun up to sun down, from the time they take their first breath and even after they leave this life. It’s what makes Venezuelan life what it is. Really, you have to be Venezuelan to appreciate ‘la finura’ of their ‘game’. It’s quite impressive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: