Retos y paradojas / Oswaldo Barreto

Challenges and Paradoxes

As a political phenomenon, Hugo Chávez is unquestionably original: he owes his arrival to power and his conflictive consolidation within it to a set of paradoxes.

In the baptismal fountain of the regime he has created one can already discern the most scandalous of these: an active soldier who, before, during and after a frustrated attempt at a coup d'etat has shown the most radical antagonism toward democratic procedures and a nostalgic sympathy for the abominable Pérez Jiménez, is taken to the presidency of the Republic through a perfectly democratic electoral process. This was an historical aberration that allowed the sudden transformation of an imitator of Pinochet into a new Allende, evidently threatened by North American imperialism.

Encouraged by the success of this trick of political juggling, Chávez immediately coined another paradox, one so extreme that it has been regarded as a true oxymoron: the democratic revolution. And just as that metamorphosis found a wide reception, within and beyond our borders, as much among partisans of barbarity as of civilization, Chávez's regime has found support and sympathy, within and beyond our borders, among people who genuinely believe in one or the other—since there are few sincere or ignorant people left who believe in one and the other. In any case, Chávez is supported by those who take him to be a revolutionary, even if he might be a bit outdated, and by those who take him to be a democrat, even one with advanced postulations. New weapons have been added to this panoply little by little, among which the most successful is the missions: a call to the mass of the masses of the dispossesed to participate intensely in their own enslaving, their submission to Chávez himself—who will be the savior destined to redeem them.

We say paradoxes and not contradictions, since it's not a matter of phenomena that exist in reality.

It's not that Chávez is actually soldier and civilian, democrat and revolutionary, liberator and tyrant. These are merely the images of himself that Chávez loves to transmit to others in his long speeches. Just as he presents himself as the man who wants to save the masses by taking them into poverty because it's evil to be rich. And yet people, such as Ignacio Ramonet in France or Luis Alberto Crespo among us, claim to believe devotedly and fiercely in that protean nature of the President of Venezuela.

Is it not a challenge for Venezuelan intellectuals to demonstrate on a daily basis what is the true nature of Chávez and what is the true nature of the support he has found within and beyond our borders? Or do we have to wait for these false contradictions, for these astute paradoxes to tragically resolve themselves in reality, once we have all been screwed: soldiers and civilians, revolutionaries and democrats, Chavistas and anti-Chavistas?

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 4 May 2005 }

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