Máscaras y contradicciones / Oswaldo Barreto

Masks and Contradictions

When we try to understand Hugo Chávez’s performance as president of the Republic we feel irreverently impelled to parody a glorious verse by Baudelaire. It occurs to us that, just as nature presented itself to the poet as “a forest of symbols,” Hugo Chávez’s speeches, ideas and works present themselves to us as a forest of masks and contradictions. It’s been that way since the very moment he “solemnly” assumed the presidency “swearing” before a “moribund Constitution.” And this profusion of masks and contradictions has increased, exactly in proportion to how Hugo Chávez has increased and extended his powers, and it’s no longer just myself and my fellow citizens who observe and comment on this fact, it’s now done in all instances that have any type of interest in Venezuela.

And yet, the problem isn’t that Chavismo displays itself to us masked and, quite often, with two opposing faces. If it were only this, we’d be facing a perfectly regular regime since, as great philosophers like Machiavelli or Hegel have demonstrated, political life enjoys presenting itself under figures removed from everyday man. And what’s more important, if we take into account that we’re facing an enthusiastic apprentice of Marxism and of historical materialism, there are and have been, throughout all civilizations, leaders who think political action is only able to advance if it moves between contradictions and very occult intentions. Thus, from the classic Roman phrase: “Achieve peace by preparing for war” to Clemenceau’s well-known recommendation: “War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military,” many behaviors of heads of State, in peace as in war, have found justification in that “dialectical” and “contradictory” vision of the march of history.

However, we repeat, that’s not the problem Chávez’s political performance presents us, rather it’s another one of a clearly opposite sign. Do actual masks and actual contradictions exist in what president Chávez’s does and says? We will try to answer this question in successive editions of this column, Pórtico, in relation to the masks and contradictions of his recent speech from February 24, now famous all over the world.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, Tal Cual, 26 June 2007 }

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