X-Ray of Venezuela July 1, 2020 Categories: Latin American Societies Venezuela’s authoritarian President Teniente Coronel Hugo Chávez died ve years ago. Since his death, his handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, lacking the charismatic bravado and political instincts of Chavez, has presided over a colorless, numbing authoritarian government. Maduro’ insistence on emulating the dogmatic ideology of Chavez’ 21st century socialism has created a nation of empty food shelves, empty pharmacies, barren fields, empty wallets, and empty ideas. For Maduro to stay in power and govern, he routinely short circuits the rule of law. If the U.S. were Maduro’s Venezuela, Bernie Sanders would be in exile in Brazil; Hillary Clinton would be in prison on tax fraud; Keith Ellis and Eric Holder would be barred from running for political office; the Democratic Party would be stripped of its legitimacy as a political entity; the DOJ would have prosecuted cases of deceptive business practices against billionaire hedge funder Tom Steyer and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman; the FCC would have taken away the broadcast licenses of the majority of the country’s radio and TV stations; Congress would be supplanted by an overarching Constitutional Assembly composed exclusively of elected ofcials from the Republican Party; and the Supreme Court would have a 9-0 Conservative majority. Each of these contrary to fact statements regarding an imagined United States’ scenario are a credible description of the state of affairs in the political realm of Maduro’s Venezuela.
However, if there still remains a modicum of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement in Venezuela’s democradura body politic, in the social sphere, Venezuela has descended into a state of anomie. That is to say, it is a society of normlessness; of a day to day citizen existence no longer cemented together by collectively prescribed notions of what are principled and corrupt actions; of what is success or failure; of what is lawfulness or lawlessness; of what is honest or unethical behavior; of what are patriotic or treasonous actions; of what is legitimate behavior or criminal code. This unmoored Venezuelan societal behavior had been gestating during the Chavez years. Following his death, the Maduro government inherited a still born institutional and structural universe, the result of the ad hoc opera buffa Chavez style of governance. Instead of the Maduro government reaching accommodation with the Opposition MUD, instead of the Maduro government finding common ground with the Opposition, the Maduro government’s policies have been characterized by the posturing and institutional bullying of his PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido) guapos, matones de barrio and pranes calaboceros.
If Venezuela is a nation in a state of anomic deterioration, it is not as the result of a war with an external enemy, no matter how often the Maduro government blusters about una guerra económica or a una invasión colombiana on its southern borders. However like a country invaded or a nation split asunder by civil strife, Venezuelans are fleeing this community of broken social bonds, of rulelessnes , of crushing ination; and of the second highest per capita murder rate in the world(according to the latest United Nations Ofce on Drugs and Crime, Global Homicide Report) . This a la deriva( adrift )Venezuelan society has led to a massive uprooting of its population—a brain drain and an exodus of anyone able to leave in order to rediscover social equilibrium and existential balance. The latest gures of the Venezuelan diaspora from the United Nations Ofce of Worldwide Migration 2017 Report on Venezuela (UNOMI) document 1,622,109 legal refugees in a country of 23.8 million or almost 15% of the country. To put that ight gure into perspective, the two Iraq wars, excluding deaths, resulted in 17.89 percent of its population eeing the country to survive.
Finally, one summer not so long ago, in the middle of Caracas, the white noise of mating frogs drowned out the sound track of the movie I was watching. Leaving the theater heading for my friends Mireya and Jesús’ apartment, I strolled north along the Paseo Anauco, under its 18th century bridge and along the pedestrian walkway connecting the Candelaria and San Bernadino neighborhoods. There was still no respite from the amphibians. Along every meter of this passageway, an invisible invertebrate army kept chanting its never-ending chorus. That nocturnal leitmotif was a reminder of how urgently the forces of nature in Caracas actively tried to reclaim their space.
However, in Maduro’s Caracas, the Paseo Anauco is a promenade no more. It’s rectilinear below-the-street level path is overflowing with garbage, open sewers, squatters living in make shift tents, prostitutes, petty criminals, and drug dealers. I recently contacted Mireya and Jesús by email. They no longer live in Caracas where they were born, but in Madrid, the
birthplace of Mireya’s parents. They are now members of the 288,333(UNOMI) Venezuelan refugee community resident there. When I asked Jesús and Mireya what it would take for them to return to Caracas and restart their lives in their
homeland, they answered cuando las ranas nuevamente tengan techo en el Anauco (When the frogs have a home again in
the Paseo Anauco)