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An Affective Picture of Chavismo (IV): Depoliticized, Fools

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Reinaldo Iturriza argues that, contrary to international media representations, Venezuelan people are neither fools nor depoliticized.

Chavista mobilization on May 1st (Katrina Kozarek/Venezuelanalysis)
Chavista mobilization on May 1st (Katrina Kozarek/Venezuelanalysis)
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And this land shall be free and this country shall be great, worthy of us and those who come after us. It won't be a foolish country.

- Hugo Cha'vez, June 12, 2004

We are no longer a foolish country, we are a caribe country. Not the foolish country which they ran as they pleased. A caribe people is what we are.

- Hugo Cha'vez, November 19, 2010

Because they believe these people are idiots. No, these people are not the idiots they used to be, this is not the foolish country of yesteryear. This country has awoken, and that's one of the biggest changes that has taken place here in these 13 years, a cultural change.

- Hugo Cha'vez, September 14, 2012

It never ceases to surprise me how people talk so incredibly casually about the supposed depoliticization of Venezuelan society, a phenomenon which, according to some, is on the rise. With a suspicious frequency, these kinds of opinions are usually associated with the idea that, in order to get close to the "real" Venezuela, we must dispense with the versions of events offered by Chavismo and anti-Chavismo.

The idea is problematic for at least two reasons: on the one hand, it presupposes a deep ignorance of the cultural change that the country saw since the emergence of Chavismo, in the '90s, and its unleashing during the first decade of the century; on the other, it implies an equally deep ignorance about the variety of shades we find in the wide Venezuelan political spectrum.

As a result, what is meant to be a look from a new angle, which "reveals" to the audience something nobody else can see, is no more than an extremely simplistic view of reality, almost always with a given agenda.

This imposture is old. For example, since the first years of the Bolivarian Revolution, the discourse against "polarization" has been trendy, especially coming from academics of the more classical liberal tradition, for whom conflict, rather than the engine of politics, is what politics should divert, neutralize, postpone. Then, as now, Chavismo was seen as a monstrous being, not the result of a historical conflict, rather as an almost pre-political, pernicious subject, which more than fueling conflict took advantage of it, hindering the "normal" functioning of the democratic system.

With its roots in parts of anti-Chavismo, this discourse was later appropriated, invariably, by those who, for one reason or another, decided to break from Chavismo or were kept on the margins.

Oficialismo, a concept which captures the practices of the most conservative currents of Chavismo, has never been too skillful in handling the differences within the movement. While Venezuela was shaken, as it still is, by the historical conflict between to gigantic opposing poles, oficialismo looked to avoid the rigors of the internal conflict at any cost, demanding discipline here and there, ignoring popular critique. On the flipside, it felt comfortable polemicizing with the most outrageous elements of the anti-Chavista political class.

Ultimately, amidst said conflict, oficialismo always presented a sham polarization, since it limits itself to fighting, exclusively, the battles it can win: foolish politics. And if it reaches the conclusion that the battle against capitalists is too uphill, then it is simple enough: it looks to reach agreements.

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