August 13, 2007

We've been reduced to borrowing our scandals...

Quico says: I'm not going to write in detail about the $800,000 suitcase scandal, basically, because I haven't really followed it. Follow the link if you want the details.

I can't help but feel a bit of nostalgia, though, seeing the way the story's been reported. Time was when this sort of thing filled Venezuelan newspapers. Powerful people who fucked up paid a price: if not a jail sentence, at least social disgrace. It doesn't work that way anymore.

Back in January, I argued that Scandal is not possible in Venezuela these days, because the chavista state elite is, in the literal sense of the word, shame-less. And that's still true.

What really strikes me about this suitcase-full-of-cash story is that it's not really a Venezuelan scandal at all. It's one we're borrowing, from Argentina, from a society that still maintains the pre-requisites for Scandal. Our officials plainly don't care: there are any number of outrages much worse than Antonini's flight around. The only reason this one is getting so much attention is because Argentina's institutions are still sturdy enough to shame the powerful into changing their behaviors - to force resignations, for instance. Our institutions, whether formal or informal, no longer perform that role.

Think of it this way: if Antonini had been busted carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash on a PDVSA flight from Maracaibo to Caracas, would anyone have cared? Would it have stayed in the papers for more than a day?