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Venezuelan Bloggers’ Views on Chavismo

The Venezuelan blogosphere portrays a fairly complex political spectrum rather than the bipolar one presented by mainstream media. The conversation is becoming more inclusive, allowing escualidos1, moderate opposition, neither-nor2, chavistas light3, and extreme Bolivarians to exchange arguments and build understanding about the country’s political situation.

Recently, Kira Kariakin depicted the current Venezuelan political climate in a thoughtful post. Kariakin concludes “there is a clear sense of lack of substantial changes regarding political maneuvers and corruption between the Fourth and the Fifth Republic4. However, given Chávez’s divine nature, he is not held accountable by his loyal followers …” Alex Lanz—who regards himself as one of those Chávez’s loyal followers—agrees with Kariakin on the subject of lack of real political changes in Venezuela, but he alleges that “Chávez generates an affective image (son, father, brother) that nobody else has generated in this country (…) He’s got faltering legs such as corruption that may wear his political effectiveness away, but he is committed to fight corruption, he just lacks tools to do so. Another faltering leg is his milieu (military and civil) in which there are all sorts of people. His administration lacks in planning. His biggest fault is being credulous regarding his squad. He appoints individuals for government positions who do not know what to do, and, lastly, he is a prisoner of the corrupting State bureaucracy”.

Threats to freedom of speech and right to the access of information is another prevalent issue in the Venezuelan blogosphere’s political debate. Recently, Luis Carlos Díaz—a young journalism student who leads a project called Periodismo para la Paz (Jounalism for Peace)—chronicled three cases of limitations to those important rights:

  1. internal censorship of a scheduled interview in the government youth radio station
  2. alteration of an article in a private newspaper
  3. suppression of an article about the gay movement in an alternative grassroots publication

These incidents are not new in Venezuela but they have become more noticeable and more controversial in recent years.

The case of internal censorship in the government youth radio station is even worse in the blogosphere. A host of the censored radio show happens to be a blogger. He wrote about the incident in his blog, and as a consequence the show was cancelled for good. It is fair to mention that the interviewee was the U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Officer; but it is also fair to say that the topic was a festival of US independent films organized by the Embassy and featuring Michael Moore documentaries.

The Venezuelan drama movie Secuestro Express (Kidnapping Express) also crosses borders from entertainment to politics. The lawyer of four persons that were prosecuted (and acquitted) for the killings in the April 11, 2003 opposition demonstration—the one that yielded Chávez’s alleged resignation and the subsequent coup of State—demanded the suspension of the film exhibition because it includes documentary images of his clients firing to invisible targets from Puente Llaguno. In the blogosphere the debate on the petition for taking the scenes out of the movie or stopping its exhibition re-opened the wounds of April 11, making bloggers to take sides in the confrontation. Luigino Bracci Roa commented, “It hurts a lot that the only successful Venezuelan movies are those talking bad about our country, showing it as a place of degradation and chaos. It speaks badly of ourselves, and it damages all of us; not only Chávez”.

There is also another bleeding political wound that reappeared in the Venezuelan blogosphere. A more recent entry in the blog of the host of the censored radio show tells of his search for a new job. He was applying for a job in a State government. The job interviewer asked for his national ID. He was shocked, not because such request is unusual but because he knew the reason for it. His ID number was going to be checked with the Tascón List, the database that contains the IDs of those who signed the petition for President Chávez’s recalling. During the last two years, the Tascón List has been used for denying jobs in the government, admission to public schools, housing, social welfare benefits, new ID cards, and passports to those who signed for the presidential recalling. As unbelievable as it may sound, the President Chávez himself declared publicly a few months ago that it was enough punishment for those who signed for his recalling, and asked public servants to stop using the list. Apparently, some of his government officers think it is not enough.

The Tascón List is the background information of many discussions in the Venezuelan blogosphere. Without such background may be difficult to understand the negative reaction of Venezuelan fiction authors regarding a government census for establishing the Red Nacional de Escritores (National Network of Writers).

Even more difficult to understand may be a statement like this one: “the State is the biggest procurer in this country, few, very few, can afford the luxury of turning their back to the State as a client. To this end, having arepas 5 on the dinning table every day is what counts”. There have been a couple of Venezuelan bloggers confessing that they or some of their relatives have given up opposition to Chávez because they cannot afford to continue losing business opportunities. Such confessions raise both criticisms and support. Very few can afford to throw the first stone.

Last week an emergent issue hit Venezuelan political debate: government threats of expropriation of private manufacturing plants. Revealingly, such big news items have only small repercussions in the Venezuela blogosphere. Very few feel touched by the issue, since most Venezuelan bloggers do not own nor aspire to own anything else but the car they drive to work, the apartment in which they rest at nights, and the computer from which they blog. The Venezuelan blogosphere is made of the professional middle class and the working middle class. No wealth to worry about.

What concerns most Venezuelan bloggers is growing poverty, and the social illnesses that may come from it. Current political debate in the Venezuelan blogosphere is moving towards what to expect from political leadership in the 2006 presidential elections. Are they going to present a program for progressive reformism that helps the country to overcome poverty? Are they going to allow greater private entrepreneurship and grassroots involvement in policymaking? Is this the time for a truly 21st century Socialism that warrants both social justice and democratic freedoms?

1Standard meaning of this word is “haggard”. However, Chávez coined the term in reference to opposition activists, implying that they are not as brave as chavistas are.
2These are the ones who are critical of both Chavismo and opposition leadership. They are arguably the largest group in Venezuelan blogosphere.
3Venezuelans actually use the English word “light” to call moderate chavistas, suggesting that those chavistas would be like low carb/low fat food not as harmful as the regular thing is.
4Chávez refers to his government as the Fifth Republic, and to the previous four decades as the Fourth Republic.
5A serving of food made of corn-flour that is typical of Venezuela.

8 comments

  • Iria i cant translate ma opinion to english because its very poor ill wrote in spanish.

    Eso de la censura a un programa de radio de un bloguero creo que es discutible es mas te apostaria que no existe prueba mas alla que el programa no era bueno.

    El termino ecualido ya poca gente lo usa, creo que en el chavismo serian contados con los dedos.

    Te recomiendo que veas Secuestro Express, las tomas del 11A puestas a drede en la pelicula, estan fuera de lugar, solo muestra la mania del director por sobre saturar a una caracas “llena” de violencia.

    Bueno tu post y gracias a una pana llegue a el.

    Bye

    Editor’s Translation:

    What you say of the censorship of the blogger’s radio program I think is arguable. I would even bet you that there is no real proof that the radio program wasn’t good.

    Few people now use the term ecualido, I think that amongst Chavistas, they could be counted on one’s hand.

    I recommend to you that you see “Secuestro Express” – taking the dreadful events of April 11th [Editor’s note: see here for a good summary from an anti-Chavista] out of context only shows the mania of the director by saturating Caracas “full” of violence.

    Your post was good and thanks to a friend, I was able to find it.

  • Of course, Alex, the radio program turned bad after the guy made the comments on his blog. Of course you can always say it was coincidence!

  • I got here through a search, and it was a very good surprise. I think is quite accurate your article specially because you didn’t include the blogs which are dedicated exclusively to the political news. The personal blogs you are mentioning just include testimonies based on the experiences of the authors. I have been zapping from blog to blog this days and in many of them there are stories that just show the level of dissapointment and lack of hope in our current political system, stories where corruption, criminality and abuse are present. It is an amazing phenomenon that may be worth to study sociologically the way some chavistas exonerate the president Chavez of any responsibility whatsoever at the incontrovertible malfunctioning of the state and the government. It is related to this view of a dear family figure or as I suggested in my post, the presence of Chavez on the pop culture imagenery as a mythical figure. A person with powers above a common human being, protected by spirits, God, etc., that cannot be touched by ordinary measurements of judgment and justice.

  • Good one Iria, thanks for the link. I’ve been also writing a little bit about the current attacks to private property, but yes, as you mention, except few cases here and there noone is worried in the Venezuelan blogospere.

  • Alex,

    Usually, there are not proofs of media censorship, since censorship is formally illegal in Venezuela. In this case, there is some evidence confirming that the interview was censored. However, there is not—at least to my knowledge—undeniable evidence that the show cancellation was due to censorship. The sides (show producers / radio station executives) argue about it. As Larry said, we only know for sure that the show was cancelled immediately after Rodolfo wrote about the interview incident in his blog.

    I certainly would like to watch Secuestro Express, given all the controversy. I will comment on the movie, if I got a chance to watch it. Unfortunately, violence in Caracas is a real problem not a fiction. Although I agree that there are other interesting topics beyond crime. Anyway, maybe the April 11 images, as well as the opposition demonstrations images that were also in the movie—according to several people that watch it—, were not the best choice for depicting violence in Caracas.

  • RomRod,

    Your post brought to me the breaking news on the Heinz case. Yours and Nieves’ posts were the only blog entries on the issue that I had read by the time I wrote this article. After the article was published, I found another post on the expropriations by Ana Julia Jatar

    http://www.anajuliajatar.com/index.php?p=63&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1.

    That is all I have seen in the issue.

  • Thank you… A friend from El Nacional told me about this site. Yes, is a project… that’s the perfect word: a project.
    Without censorship

  • abdisamad

    my name is abdisamad and iam british and i like so much venezuelan girl and i want go there in my future time

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