Katy says: It's hard to fathom, but today marks the 9th anniversary of the Chávez Era. Nine years ago today Rafael Caldera (still alive!) bestowed the Presidential sash on a young, energetic, skinny president-elect who swore on the "moribund" Constitution to refound the republic and put us all on a path to progress.
It's easy to forget how hopeful we all were back then, how we secretly hoped his government would be a change for the better. Mind you, I never believed in Chávez, nor did I vote for him, but since things couldn't get much worse, for a milliseconds or two I harbored the secret hope that things would actually get better. Watching Chávez entrance crowds with his rhetoric, we could see the stirring of something different. We didn't know what it was going to be, but we sure could sense it wasn't going to be business-as-usual.
A lot has changed since then. The youthful Chávez you see in the pictures has been replaced by a Fat Man in a Palace. The man is older, crankiner, nuttier, fatter, and almost never seen in the kind of conservative suits that he once used to wear. Marisabel Rodríguez divorced from him, both in the legal and the political sense, and it's been a while since the shoulder pads she is seen wearing were in fashion.
Nine years ago...
- The coast of Vargas looked a lot different.
- The words "squalid", "oligarch", "Zamora", "Cadivi", "Carmona", "11 de Abril", "espionar", "misiones", "supra-constitutional" and "endógena" were not part of our everyday lexicon.
- Chávez was a media darling, with all the private channels competing to have him in their interview programs.
- The horse on the Presidential stash was moving someplace else.
- The highway heading East from Caracas was named after Rómulo Betancourt, the ships sending our oil to the US were named after hot girls.
- Y2K was an upcoming catastrophe we weren't going to be ready for.
- US policy toward Venezuela was "watch what he does, not what he says."
- Cecilia Sosa ran something called the Supreme Court.
- Carlos Andrés Pérez had recently been elected a Senator for Táchira.
- Hermann Escarrá was considered a heavyweight chavista intellectual and the hot gossip in Caracas was about which ministerial post Alfredo Peña would get.
- José Vicente Rangel made a living convincing people to buy his wife's statues.
- Francisco Arias Cárdenas was a chavista (oh, wait...never mind).
- The press kept talking about how the Viaducto to Vargas could collapse in the near future.
- Inflation and crime were some of our top concerns.
- George W. Bush was the Governor of Texas, Barack Obama a state senator in Illinois.
- Ingrid Betancourt was free.
- RCTV was the most popular Venezuelan TV channel.