November 23, 2008

Why Today Matters

Quico says: The funny thing is that today's elections matter almost entirely on a symbolic level. What we're seeing today is the latest installment in the decade-long psychodrama that has been the Chávez era.

With small and shrinking responsibilities and budgets, no tax-raising powers and levels of autonomy that ressemble that of US counties more than US states, Venezuelan governors and mayors can't really alter the political life of the country in any material sense. Least of all now, when the crash in oil prices (and, consequently in situado transfers) will make, to paraphrase an old cliché, "the winners envy the losers."

What's at stake here is something different: the political content of venezolanidad. For a decade, Chávez has been trying to sell us this story where the only Real Venezuelan (sound familiar to anyone?) is a chavista, that voting for the opposition is somehow un-venezuelan, even treasonous. Today, with any luck, the good burghers of Petare, Barinas, Trujillo, etc. will start to put the lie to this brand of emotional-blackmail-cum-political-discourse.