El estado parapléjico / Colette Capriles

The Paraplegic State

In the first days, the key word was renewal. With a few historical flashes in the head, mixed in with peplum films evoking classic antiquity and republican glories, with the fitted pants and long coats of the Latin American patriots, the new elite placed all its hope in the idea that the writing and proclamation of a new constitution could disarm the past and open the doors to a new world, of unknown physiognomy, but with fertile ground for the invention of another political order. It was a matter of a deductive scheme: if the profound premises change, everything else will crumble by implication.

But the kidnapping of the constituent assembly debate was not enough: in actuality, the displayed results of the 1999 Constitution show that the new leaders did not know how to give shape to a new project, a different sociopolitical model: they settled with adding to the magna carta a few mechanisms for consolidating the base of their power, because they neither had a mature alternative project nor did Venezuelan society have any other aspirations than clearly conservative reformist ones. The Bolivarian project, a blanket of ideological remnants, would then develop with regulations adjusted to the political game of representative democracy, a limitation that forced them to provoke the crisis of 2002. That breaking point brought many lessons to the apprentices of power: they had to make for themselves, on the spot, some sort of ideological construction that would mark the inside and outside of the project. They began, in the middle of 2003, to make references to socialism and to exhibit their ties to the Cuban revolution (a Latin American form of beatification), as their complete control of the petroleum industry eliminated all restrictions on the Government budget and its expansive will.

Meanwhile, a focus in opposition to the first one develops: the consolidation of power will come by inductive means, to put it in those terms. The multi-billion dollar construction of the Parallel State begins. Since public institutions showed an inertial resistance to the disarticulated presidential will, which tried switching ministers as a treatment against popular discontent, the creation of a parallel reality is activated, one which concentrates the resources and the discourses around the most vulnerable and electorally profitable groups. Within a couple of years, the structures of the public powers were duplicated and each dusty institution now has its informal shadow, its twin mission connected without interposition to the neuralgic center of power, by means of the reggaeton of the billions.

Having crossed the docile electoral Rubicon, it is manifest that the parallel state has become paraplegic. Its achievements, the little numbers of public policies, are so disproportionate as to the number of zeros in its budget that it’s impossible to ignore the sibylline discontent, inarticulate but as fearsome as the terrifying tremors of a herd on the loose, rising from those who should be its beneficiaries.

In this way we reach the third act of the performance: now it is a matter of penetrating the remaining institutional carapaces. What could have been a logical unfolding of the previous stage, that is, the institutionalization of the missions strategy, turns out to be an inversion: the object is de-institutionalization. The slogan is “Invasion and Penetration,” believing that everything outside presidential control constitutes a threat and must disappear. We won’t find the formal educational system coexisting with the fast-education programs (as toxic as fast-food), but instead the goal is to reduce the formal system to an express one, colonizing the university system. We won’t find any political games within the Chavista field. All sources of variability and uncertainty are being shamelessly strangled right now.

So, what is happening is not so much an ideological coming out of the closet: it’s that the autocratic conception of power can be felt everywhere in the Stalinist discourse, because the previous strategies are no longer useful. The commissar formula is adopted as a link between society and the Government, trusting that the communal councils project will be able to effectively destroy the intermediary institutions.

It’s like the inscription found on many Renaissance maps that represented the known world as a type of large, central island surrounded by an ominous Ocean: “Beyond lie monsters,” wrote the cartographers in the middle of the oceanic emptiness. That’s how the Venezuelan Government conceives its world: like a citadel that sees any different thing, any pluralism, any form of diversity as monsters.

{ Colette Capriles, El Nacional, 19 April 2007 }

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