Forgetting Chavismo?

 Caracas Chronicles had this headline, “Madurismo Buried Classic Chavista Nationalism”. We’ve talked before about the Chavista’s re-branding of Venezuela,changing the flags of both the nation and Caracas, changing the names of national parks, etc. They even changed how Simon Bolivar, The Great Liberator, should have looked despite all the portraits of the time showing how he really looked. The original “Chavismo” played heavily on Hugo Chavez, his spiritual connection to Simon Bolivar and to the people as well as nationalism.

 But “Madurismo” is something altogether different. It takes all aspects of “Chavismo” and magnifies them exponentially into what Florian Bieber describes as “virulent nationalism”. While conventional nationalism tends to try to unify people behind national pride, “virulent nationalism” is exclusionary, “You’re either with us or against us.”

 The brief and relatively fragile economic recovery after 8 years of Chavismo- induced recession has enabled Nicolas Maduro to claim they’re on the side of growth and recovery (even though it’s due to Maduro turning to more capitalism and less Marxism) and opponents will be (are) portrayed as traitors who support sanctions “against the motherland”. They now claim that their ideals were those of Simon Bolivar and try to equate themselves to Venezuela itself.

 This is meant to work primarily on young people with little memory of Venezuela before Chavismo. it’s all part of an “everything’s fine” vibe Nicolas Maduro and his main man for communication, Felix Plasencia, (Ambassador and Minister of… everything these days) are putting out there to a domestic population fed up with the hardships ever since Maduro took office and the international community, quite simply, tired of the Venezuelan problem.

 As older voters die (from natural causes or starvation and lack of healthcare due to Maduro’s governance) and people continue to flee the country (6.4 million and counting) young voters may become a core constituency for Maduro, if the recovery lasts.

 For now, at least to me, this could be a temporary, from bad to less bad scenario. If Maduro allows his embrace of capitalism to continue then the recovery can continue and the young voters will stick with him since they have no memory of Venezuela before Chavismo and one of the first things socialists do when taking power, and the Chavistas did it early on, is change the history books. If that happens and no opposition figure can captivate the public (and we haven’t seen one yet) it’s pretty much assured that Maduro remains in power. (At least until he has to pay for his crimes…?)

 And in a related piece we have BNN Bloomberg telling us that the image of “Chavez’s eyes”, murals of just a pair of eyes peering down at you, Orwellian-style, used to be everywhere in Venezuela along with images of Fidel Castro and Simon Bolivar accompanied by slogans of “socialism or death”.

 Now those are fading or disappearing, replaced by ads for makeup or jeans. Maduro has also launched a beautification plan taking down all those old signs from previous elections. Jose Carvajal, Director of Ciudad Laboratorio, an urban think tank, says “Political ideology has been replaced by a drive for consumption.” The landscape is more like Dubai or Miami and reminiscent of the pre-Chavez era. Carvajal observed, “Now Venezuela, like never before, belongs to a few who can succeed.”

 In downtown Caracas, a section of Plaza Bolivar named “Esquina Caliente” (Hot Corner) used to be a place  where fierce debates raged over socialist policies and ‘colectivos’ (government-backed motorcycle gangs) assembled. Now it’s mostly empty. Maybe they’re all at home watching “Super Bigote” (Super Mustache), a 1970s Hanna-Barbera style cartoon depicting Maduro as a superhero battling hyperinflation and fending off coup d’etats. Hmmm…a sign of the times?

 Luis Meza, a die-hard Chavista with a memorial to Hugo Chavez in his garage, thinks it feels like the undoing of Chavez’s legacy. “It’s like the government wants to eliminated Chavez from the memory of the people.” Forgetting Chavismo?

 Then we have Law 360 reporting that Venezuela is urging the US Supreme Court not to review a DC Circuit ruling refusing to enforce a $42 million arbitration award against them in favor of Saint Gobain Performance Plastics. (note: they didn’t say the award was overturned) We have no details as to why the DC Circuit refused to enforce the award but we’ll keep you posted as we add this to the long list of Chavismo court cases.

 Also from Law 360 we have Venezuela’s interim government, led by opposition leader and interim President Juan Guaido, claiming that they were wrongly barred from arbitration proceedings in a recent $500 million award against Venezuela which was upheld by a US Magistrate. We’ll add this to the list too.

 And we have Translating Cuba with a little insight into the recent major fire in Cuba. Although the Matanzas industrial enclave dates back to the 1980s, built with money from the Soviet Union (Cuba’s benefactor before Chavismo), the site of the massive five day-long fires was oil storage tanks built by Venezuela in 2012 (Chavismo). In 2020 specialists warned of the dangers of storing oil for more than two months in PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) storage tanks in Venezuela. (Like the ones in Cuba)

 Then we have Refugees International telling us that Argentina is one of the shrinking number of countries still open to Venezuelan migrants fleeing 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. Remember the trend…migrants first went primarily to Spain and the US. Then they primarily went to Colombia but it filled up fast. Then they went on to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and on to Chile. Most of those countries have instituted policies to slow the pace of Venezuelan migrants.

 The number of Venezuelans in Argentina is growing and currently stands at about 170,000. The primary barriers faced by Venezuelans wishing to migrate to Argentina are faced, not in Argentina but in Venezuela, where getting an appointment for a Venezuela passport can take months and cost up to $2600. Under conditions like those it’s not surprising that a lot of the Venezuelan migrants these days are, more or less, undocumented and many opt for making the trek north to the US southern border with Mexico.

 More tomorrow….


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