July 24, 2004

Hoover Digest: Hugo's Last Stand?

The Hoover Digest's Primer on the Venezuelan Crisis for chronically clueless gringos:

by Michael Walker

CARACAS-A national recall referendum scheduled for August 15 will decide the fate of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez - and that of his country. Assuming the referendum actually takes place - and with Venezuelan politics, one should never assume anything - the opposition will finally have its chance to unseat the mercurial leftist leader.


It appeared for a time that the referendum would not take place. The opposition needed 2.4 million signatures to trigger the recall. More than 3 million signatures were gathered and submitted in December; however, amid much controversy, Venezuela's national electoral council disqualified nearly a million of the signatures on technical grounds. During the months of contentious legal battles that ensued, the opposition took to the streets in large marches that occasionally turned violent. In February, at least 14 people were killed in confrontations with the national guard.

Lots more...

[Who are these guys? The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy - both domestic and foreign?as well as international affairs. With its world-renowned group of scholars and ongoing programs of policy-oriented research, the Hoover Institution puts its accumulated knowledge to work as a prominent contributor to the world marketplace of ideas defining a free society.]

July 22, 2004


It should be too obvious to state, but it bears raining on this particular bit of wetness. The government's referendum campaign is centered on demonizing all who disagree with Chavez. I don't mean that figuratively, I mean it literally.

Just to clarify for foreign readers, the Chavez government has chosen Florentino y el Diablo as its campaign theme. Florentino y el Diablo is a poem by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba about a poetry slam between a golden-tongued plainsman (Florentino) and Beelzebub - it's kind of like The Devil Went Down to Georgia only with poetry rather than fiddles as the artistic weapon of choice.

Chavez, needless to say, is Florentino here, while the opposition is, well, the Lord of the Hades. This is not implied or hinted at. It's not an occasional play on words. It's quite explicit. In fact, it's the center of the 'No' camp's rhetoric and campaign propaganda.

The broader political message here is spookily authoritarian. Accept our leader or you're Satan, is basically what they're saying. Only our point of view is acceptable. Disagreement is diabolical. Dissent fiendish. Is this how you build an open society?

The question, for me, is how millions of human beings can be led to support such a fantastic, cheerful surrender of common sense. I know, it shouldn't, but it still baffles me. How can millions continue to believe in a leader that embraces such extremes of scare-mongering and sectarianism? And how can anyone abroad fail to see the catastrophic social rifts that follow when you treat politics likea morality play with yourself as the embodiment of pure good and all who disagree with you in the role of pure evil?

Radical comeflor at heart, I just don't see how anyone can fail to see the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of such a mannichean vision.

July 21, 2004

Lying as State Policy: Lies that make us go SI!

I know Quico's list of lies is more methodical, and better documented, but I just thought I'd keep it short and sweet. So here it goes:

  • Hugo Chávez: If there are any abandoned children left on the streets, I'll change my name.(Just call him Claus, Santa Claus).

  • Hugo Chávez: I'll turn Miraflores into Latin America's biggest university. (They call it Corruption U., the Alma Mater of graft and blackmail)

  • Hugo Chávez: Venezuela will become in less than two years a world power in the production of african oil palms.(JA!)

  • Hugo Chávez: Under my government there will be no currency devaluations.(From 700 to 3000 is not a devaluation, it's a sin)

  • Hugo Chávez: In my first year in office there will be no more homeless children left. (Again, his name should be Ali Baba)

  • Pedro Carreño: Montesinos was murdered in a Peruvian military base and I have proof. (Yeah, he also knows where Jimmy Hoffa is buried)

  • Hugo Chávez: I've already authorized the conversion of La Carlota into a fantastic theme park, with artificial waves. (Sweet water surfing anyone?)

  • Nicolas Maduro: This video proves that a CIA plane was in Venezuela. (The plane belonged in fact to a diaper company, Nick puso la cagada!).

  • Hugo Chávez: In my government no soldier will raise his weapons against the people. (Bolivar musbe rolling in his grave)

  • Hugo Chávez: My government does not need political policemen and the DISIP will disappear as a repressive body. (Jesus H. Christ!)

  • Hugo Chávez: I will plant with fruit trees and vegetables every green area of the cities: squares, parks, medians, anywhere. (Peaches, apricots, raspberries and all sorts of local varieties too)

  • Hugo Chávez: the river Guaire will be cleaned in my government and caraqueños will be able to sail it (?! Was he on drugs? Schooner Brownwater up ahead, sir!).

  • Lucas Rincón: A formal resignation was requested, which he accepted. (Se le solicitó la renuncia, la cual acectó).

  • José Vicente Rangel: Neither Ballestas, nor Montesinos are in Venezuela, it's all a media lie. (They were planted by the oligarchic fascist media)

  • Hugo Chávez: I will place a vertical henhouse in every home. (He will also give every child his own donkey for transportation and cows for milk, we will not be the mos modern country in the world, BUT we will be the one who loves animals the most - at least everybody will have to learn tonadas to milk cows in the morning)

  • Hugo Chávez: I do not need luxury planes. (He's got not only the Airbus, but the Camastrón and a small fleet of Falcons and choppers. His plane was used in the Promotional video that sheiks see when they want to buy one like that from the dealership)

  • Hugo Chávez: The young men in Fuerte Mara only have light burns, that scandal is a media lie. (No respect for those guys. Some of them are still, let's say, missing)

  • Hugo Chávez: A space ship launching base will be built in Venezuela. (Again I ask, is he on crack?)

  • Hugo Chávez: Joao de Gouveia is an innocent gentleman, incriminated by the media. (This is downright crazy!)

  • Hugo Chávez: There is no doubt the opposition did not gather enough signatures. (Goebbels preached it, Chavez is the master: repeat, rinse, repeat)

  • Hugo Chávez: In my government there will be no more kidnappings in the border. (He meant the border with Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire)

  • Hugo Chávez: In my first year of government i will get rid of unemployment, that's why I created the Bolivar Plan.(Two words: Cruz Weffer)

  • Hugo Chávez: After my first trip to Europe I can assure you there are lines of foreign investors.(This is a factual statement: they are making lines to WITHDRAW their money from Venezuela)

  • Hugo Chávez: I have no doubt Alvarenga will be revoked by a crushing majority. (JA!)

  • Hugo Chávez: I will create a network of dining halls for the homeless. (See the news on the homeless killers to see how much this government cars for those in need)

  • Hugo Chávez: In my government the harassment and persecution of the media will be over. (This one sets the standard of what a lie is. If you look liar in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Chávez illustrating it and a quote of this one in bold red lettering)

  • Hugo Chávez: I will jail any corrupt individual. In my government there will be no impunity. (El chino de Recadi se revuelve en su tumba)

  • Hugo Chávez: The Bolivarian Circles are pacific organizations and no one will be able to prove otherwise. (This one is kinda of true, for a few notable exceptions. Carapaicas, Tupamaros on the other hand...)

  • Pedro Carreño: DIRECTV spies its users through their decodifiers, it is a CIA device, I've got proof. (Crystal Meth, Pot, ecstasy???)

  • Hugo Chávez: CADIVI will enter history as the best run monetary control institution. (Ask Adina)

  • Hugo Chávez: In the new PDVSA corruption will be a thing of the past. (I think he meant a thing of the PPT)

  • Hugo Chávez: The "Land Law" will make us self-sufficient in less than a year. (I ran out of witty commentary)
  • Good enough to post here

    from the Comments...

    I think in the dynamics of these discussions, there is a factor that needs to be considered. When people that support Chavez intervene, they somehow assume that we are supporters of a particular group of the opposition. My guess is that most of the readers of this blog, have been in the opposition for over twenty years and that even if they supported, however briefly, any of the Governments of the IVth., if this blog had existed then, most of us would have been highly critical of any of those previous Governments.

    In my case, I was never happy with the Governments of the IVth. Republic. I thought two of them briefly tried to solve the main problems of the country, but then politics got in the way. But to me Chavez could not be the solution either, although I hoped I was wrong. How can a former military, surrounded by the mediocre people of all sectors perform well? What I never imagined was that he would actually emphasize the vices of the IVth. to such a degree.
    Miguel Octavio


    The main difference with the past, is that a new player has emerged: civil society. In the past politics was only for politicians. The government that will succeed Chavez will have to deal with a more politically active country. People are involved, and they want to have a say.

    For example: I am sure there are many politicians in la CD right now that would rather name a candidate the traditional way: by cogollo. They are going to go through primary elections, a regañadientes, because this is what civil society wants.

    July 20, 2004

    "The Opposition will apply Diabolical Plan to Interrupt the Referendum"

    From Venpres, La Agencia de Noticia de Todos los Venezolanos

    Caracas, 19 Jul. Venpres (Xavier de la Rosa).- MVR Assemblymember Willian Lara assured on Monday that the opposition has a diabolical plan to interrupt the recall referendum on August 15th to sabotage the process.

    He said that parts of the opposition, conscious that they don't have the popular support to mobilize more than 2.6 million voters, will boicott the referendum in the afternoon.

    "We have information that they are training voters and witnesses to walk up to the machines, after 10:00 a.m., and spill water, coffee or soft drinks on them, or bump into them so they'll fall to the ground and break," he warned...

    More (if you can stomach it)...

    Folks, the hardcore paranoia phase of chavismo is now in full-swing. These guys see trotskyite plots everywhere, and the standard of common sense has long ago ceased to be applied to the accusations they make. Sick, man, they're sick.

    July 19, 2004

    Frittata Chronicles

    Perugia is a cosmopolitan place. Thanks to the charmingly named University for Foreigners - where I first learned Italian in 2001 - the medieval city center is crawling with students from every part of the globe. Small and innately sociable, the city lends itself to amazing interchanges.

    A few nights ago, I got invited to dinner at a friend's house. The dinner party was made up of eight people including three Italians, a Moroccan carpet salesman, an Ethiopian-Italian college student, a Cuban exile, a Lebanese poet and myself.

    Our host was Farouk, the Moroccan guy, who is 36 but has lived in Italy for 16 years. He's pretty much Italianized by now; it shows in the way he cooks. I sat between him and Alicia, the Cuban exile, who is 30, and managed to leave the island just two years ago, after eight years of trying.

    After the fetuccini with cherry tomatoes, ricotta and basil, Farouk brings out the piece de resistance: a frittata (a dry omelette) covered in truffle paste. Truffles are the quintessential Umbrian specialty - the black variety grows in the hills beyond Perugia more plentifully than in any other part of Italy. Everyone around the tables looked at the bits of mushroom in wonderment - but Alicia, well, she just saw the eggs. "A tortilla! Great!"

    Farouk looked at her slightly quizzically. The eggs, of course, are just there to carry the flavor of the mushroom as unobtrusively as possible. She caught his glance and blushed, sensing the faux pas. A few glasses of wine later, she explained.

    "I'm sorry if I dissed your truffles, Farouk, they really were delicious. But see, well...here in Italy a frittata is just something you take for granted. What could be simpler? It's just eggs! But for me, well, you know, I've only been in Europe for a little over a year...and eggs, man, part of me still sees them as a luxury."

    Now it's Farouk's turn to look puzzled.

    "See, in Cuba everyone has this, how do you say it? It's like a rationing booklet. You get the food that the government gives you to eat, no more. If you want more, you have to have connections or dollars. And, well, you know how many eggs there are in the ration? Guess."

    "No idea."


    "Per family per day?" Farouk asks.

    "What are you talking about? Four per person, per month."

    Farouk looks shocked. "Four eggs a month?"

    Alicia smiles, and flashes four fingers up in the air.

    "If you want a fifth?"

    "Erm, well, unless you're friends with a party big wig, you basically have to sleep with a tourist to get the dollars to buy it."

    "You're joking?"

    "That's how it is, man. In fact, a good chunk of the reason I wanted to get out so badly is that I love omelettes and I refused to sleep with random French truck drivers just to eat them more than once every two weeks."

    "And meat?"

    "Meat? Man, Farouk, you can make a Cuban cry talking about this. Listen, when I came here it had been three years since I'd seen a chicken in a plate in front of me. Chicken is no longer in the ration books, at all. Hospital patients get some, a chicken thigh once every two weeks. They marvel at it before eating it. If you're healthy, no chicken."

    "No meat at all?"

    "We do have picadillo, which is this kind of, God, how to describe it? It's about 60% ground up meat, but you know, really the worst parts of the cow, all the crap, the innards and such. The other 40% is industrial soy protein. Comes in little tin cans, tastes like barf. That's the only meat Cubans can eat, unless they get sick or spread their legs."

    Long silence.

    Farouk turns to Alicia, looking sheepish. "Are you sure you wouldn't like some more frittata?"


    Since Alicia's been abroad for over a year, her passport has expired and, because she overstayed her exit visa, she's considered a deserter and cannot renew it. In effect, she is stateless.

    It took her 8 years of applying for various study-abroad programs to finally get a chance to leave. When she finally managed to get out in 2002, she left her whole family behind. Her father is a low level communist party official, a fidelista. Alicia can't apply for Political Asylum in Italy because if she did he would be fired and blacklisted, and her entire family would sink even deeper into poverty. At least, through her dad's job, they can get a few extras that they couldn't get otherwise - shoes and such.

    "The incredible thing is that my dad still believes in Fidel, he really does. He hasn't seen a chicken breast since the 1980s but he still thinks the revolution is the way forward."

    "Capitalism spreads wealth unevenly," I tell her, "whereas communism spreads misery evenly. Winston Churchill."

    She laughs. "That's pretty much it. You know, it's funny, whenever I meet people here and they hear where I'm from, the first thing they say, almost all of them is - oh, 'Cuba e bella!' And I don't know what's running through their heads as they say it, if it's Buena Vista Social Club or some idea about Che Guevara, or if they're just trying to be polite, or what. But when I hear that, I just want to shake my head and ask - 'so, do you like frittata?' "


    Talking to Alicia about Venezuela is an education of its own. She can't quite wrap her head around the politics in Caracas, in ways I find telling. She doesn't know whether to be horrified or amused when I tell her the number one criticism of Chavez in the opposition is that he's trying to "cubanize" Venezuela - even though 90% of the media spend 90% of their newscasts criticizing the government.

    "So, wait, journalists write whatever they want against the government whenever they want, and nothing happens to them?"

    "Well, not nothing. There's a bit of harassment. Sometimes hothead government supporters beat us up on the streets, steal cameras and such. TV journalists, especially, really have to be careful. Oh and threats, a lot of threats."

    "But that's not what I mean. I mean do they go to jail? How about execution? Re-education?"

    "No, no, none of that. There are a couple of journalists facing jail terms, but they're really the most extremist of antichavistas, and in fairness, I wouldn't doubt the libel charges against them. But yeah, there are dozens of papers and five TV stations, mostly with anti-government coverage morning noon and night."

    She's visibly confused.

    "But, but, but this is light years from Cuba!"

    "I know!"


    "It's not a dictatorship at all!"

    "Well, that's the strange thing about Venezuela, Alicia: it's obviously not a dictatorship in any traditional sense of the word. But it's also not a democracy in any traditional sense of the word. It's...well, it's weird. It's in a strange liminal space between the two."

    "How so?"

    "Well, if you actually listen to the official rhetoric coming out of Miraflores, well, that's rhetoric you would recognize. According to the official story, there is no problem in Venezuela that is not the US's fault. The opposition is, as far as Chavez is concerned, merely a mouthpiece for the US. There's no such thing as legitimate dissent, because all dissenters become, ipso facto, suspect of collusion with the Americans. Notionally, at least, Chavez recognizes no such thing as legitimate dissent. Calls us escualidos, y'know."

    "Yeah, well, we're gusanos."

    "Right. Same thing. Exact same rhetoric. This is not coincidental, you know Alicia, every time Chavez needs any kind of advice he calls Fidel. There are multiple reports going around that Chavez only turned himself over on the night of the 2002 coup after a chat with Tio Fidel. We subsidize oil shipments to the island, Chavez praises Fidel to high heaven every chance he gets, never misses a chance for a nice photo-op with him, obviously sees him as a role model. This scares the hell out of people in Caracas - and scaring the hell out of us seems to be the point."

    "Creepy. It's hard to quite figure how the two sides fit together. Perro que ladra no muerde, I guess."

    "Por ahora no muerde, is the thing. I mean, it's very obvious, you only need to click through the channels on Venezuelan TV for five minutes in the morning to realize the country is, in some ways, riotously, impossibly free, even libertine. I mean, the TV especially really does go way too far in criticizing the guy. But the words that come out of Chavez whenever he speaks are so sectarian, so extreme, so meant to divide and scare and intimidate, that we have to wonder how long before we start parading off to jail. Already my mayor and about 18 other politicians are sitting behind bars on very silly trumped up charges. Will it stop there? Will it grow? We have no way to know."

    "You have a long ways to fall before you get to where Cuba is, though," she says.

    "No doubt about it. I'm pretty sure most Venezuelans eat more than four eggs a month. But then you barely have any violent crime, we can't go out without fearing for our lives."

    "Incredible! Fidel would never put up with that kind of stuff."

    "See, we don't even get the benefits of authoritarianism with Chavez. A revolutionary government with the world's second highest murder rate! It's unbelievable!"

    "Por dios...but I have to say, from what you're telling me, doesn't sound like there's very much cubanization going on at all in Venezuela."

    "It's hard to put your finger on it. In some ways you're obviously right. But the thing is that when you have a leader that doesn't recognize that it is normal and proper for others to disagree with him, who seeks social conflict as an end in itself, who believes the problems of the country are intimately bound up with the fact that the elite participates in politics and sees the elite's expulsion from the political process as the solution, when you live under a leadership that doesn't allow dissenters to participate in intramural softball tournaments at their ministries, when sectarianism is state policy...well, yes Alicia, obviously we're way far away from where Cuba is now. But what direction are we moving in? Where does the logic of their ideas point to?"


    July 18, 2004

    Bread and butter issues will decide the referendum

    or, Why I still think Chavez will lose

    Nobody who spends any time in Venezuela could confuse it with a well-functioning country. Venezuela is increasingly poor, increasingly anarchic, and increasingly violent. According to almost all polls, economic and physical insecurity have long been the central concerns of Venezuelan voters. On both these central issues, the Chavez government has failed calamitously.

    Take violent crime. Since 1998, it has reached stratospheric heights. Venezuela and Iraq have roughly the same population. In 2003, there were 13,000 violent deaths in Venezuela, and just under 11,000 civilian deaths in Iraq (according to the anti-war website IraqBodyCount.org.) Venezuela is now the second most murderous country on earth, after Colombia, having left even Serbia, Jamaica and South Africa behind. Statistically, a Venezuelan is far more likely to die violently than an Israeli. The murder rate tripled between 1998 and 2003.

    Meanwhile, per capita income has fallen by around 50% over the last 25 years, down to levels not seen since the mid 1950s. Latin American experts speak about the lost decade of the 1980s, but for Venezuela it's been more like the lost half-century.

    The twin scourges of steady impoverishment and rising violence and anarchy had been at play in Venezuelan for two decades by the time Hugo Chavez reached power. Popular anger at the inability of the old regime to deal with them largely explains the electorate's decision to give Chavez a shot in 1998. After two decades of broken promises, people were understandably hopping mad. Not surprisingly, they voted en masse for the guy with the angriest anti-establishment discourse.

    That was six years ago. A cursory glance at the statistics shows that Chavez has failed to even start to make a dent on these two, central, over-riding concerns of the Venezuelan electorate, the kitchen-table issues persistently ranked most important by people in surveys.

    In both cases, the problems have grown because the chavista state has failed catastrophically to deal with them. The newly overhauled penal procedure system has systemically failed to come to grips with violent crime - investigations are rare, convictions rarer, prosecutors' backlogs often involve thousands of cases. The police are undertrained, underequiped, underpaid and easily corruptible, forensic labs barely exist, the state can't find enough lawyers who meet even basic qualifications to be judges.

    Violence hurts Chavez's core constituency the hardest. The overwhelming majority of the murders happen in barrios (shantytowns), precisely the areas of greatest social exclusion that are supposed to form the backbone of Chavez's support. Today, the reality is that if you live in a barrio and you kill someone, you can be almost entirely sure you won't go to jail for it. Shooting is an unremarkable thing, an almost nightly occurrence in many barrios. As a result, law abiding barrio-dwellers simply don't go outside at night. They live under an effective curfew.

    On the economy, the story of a quarter-century decline accelerating in 1998-2004 is quite similar. The economy had been alternating between stagnation and contraction for 20 years leading up to 1998, (except for a brief period of expansion during the government Chavez tried to overthrow.) Aside from the disastrous financial meltdown of 1994, however, Venezuelans had never seen mass impoverishment on the scale they've seen under Chavez. At least the 1994 crash was followed by a period of stability and then some moderate growth. Certainly, the sustained rate of impoverishment over the last 6 years is unprecedented. It's hit every part of the economy, and even the expected dead-cat bounce this year will do little to make up the lost ground.

    For most Venezuelans, their personal experience of the economy is of having to work harder and harder for less and less money and less and less security. More Venezuelans now work illegally than legally. (The technocratic euphemism is "informally", but it means outside the legal framework.) Illegal workers in Venezuela simply have no welfare protections at all, no severance pay, no vacation leave, nothing.

    According to a UCAB study, 90% of illegal workers earn less than the legal minimum wage. To work illegally is to be at the mercy of the unrestrained forces of the market, with no institutions to protect you at all. During the revolutionary people's bolivarian government, for the first time illegal workers have come to outnumber legal ones.

    Worse still, out and out unemployment has risen as well. This is particularly alarming in a society where the unemployed typically receive no state aid. Instead, they have to rely on already hard-pressed families to eat, impoverishing their entire households. Given that over half of the nation's manufacturing industries have gone under in the last 6 years, it's hardly surprising unemployment has risen sharply.

    So on the Big Two issues, on the issues non-ideological voters care most about, Chavez is faring very badly indeed. Chavistas will argue that the opposition is to blame for this decay. But pragmatic voters are uninterested in the blame game: everywhere and always, the party in power pays the price for underperformance. Venezuela will not be an exception.

    Governments that make people less secure, whether in their bodies or their pocketbooks, fare badly at the ballot box. No amount of rhetoric can trump the lived experience of deepening poverty and growing fear of violence. You don't need a statistician to tell you you're poorer than you were 6 years ago, or that your neighborhood is more violent than it's ever been. These are things you live, not things you read about.

    The dirty little secret here is that many or most of Chavez's supporters voted for him in 1998 and 2000 because they thought he was going to make their day-to-day lives better. He promised he would, with an energy, a passion and a (seeming) sincerity they'd never seen before in a politician. Today, there are three times as many murders as in 1998. Three times! And less than half as many manufacturing companies! Chavez can call a cadena and talk until the end of time, but those realities are not going away.

    The fact - and this is ideologically impossible for the chavistas to understand and accept - is that most 1998 chavistas wanted what most normal people everywhere want. They didn't want the end of American Imperialism, they didn't want to re-engineer capitalism. They didn't want to reorder society from the ground up, or turn PDVSA into a glorious people's cooperative. They certainly didn't want to hear long rants against the catholic church, or the president of the US, or the people who owned the stations that make the telenovelas they watch. These things are just boring to them. You can't eat rhetoric.

    Like people everywhere, they just wanted to earn enough money to eat three times a day and send their kids to school. They wanted to be able to walk the streets of their neighborhoods at night without fearing imminent death or maiming. Chavez promised both. He's delivered neither. That's why he'll lose.

    Y una por los clásicos criollos, pa que no digan...

    "Y vio que el hombre de la llanura era, ante la vida, indómito y sufridor, indolente e infatigable; en la lucha, impulsivo y astuto; ante el superior, indisciplinado y leal; con el amigo, receloso y abnegado; con la mujer, voluptuoso y áspero; consigo mismo, sensual y sobrio. En sus conversaciones, malicioso e ingenuo, incrédulo y supersticioso; en todo caso, alegre y melancólico, positivista y fantaseador. Humilde a pie y soberbio a caballo. Todo a la vez y sin estorbarse, como están los defectos y las virtudes en las almas nuevas".
    Coming back from a party, slightly drunk, as you see, crying my Venezuelan heart (I have no other) out! We Venezuelans aren´t perfect. We are, besides, in Global marketing terms, of no account. We used to produce oil. Then we started to produce GAS (unleaded, for First World use, yeah, and very beautiful women). Now, we are producing less and less gas. The women are still here, but it´s not a "production". Osmel grew old, as so many other things.
    But then, Gallegos´ description of what Llaneros are fits all of us (for, girls and guys, that was Gallegos´ Doña Bárbara). What is most amazing about this WRITER (´cause he was one, no matter what high school did and specialized "critics" did) is how precisely he chose his epithets. Read it again, and contrast your own personalities to the list of contradictions. Not one of them is an obvious contradiction. There is a slight break, a twist, something only WE have. Subtlety. And that was written about 70 years ago by a man despised by later "enlightened" critics . Shame on us who believed in them!

    Uno de Montejo (he his hype, girls and guys!)

    Esta tierra
    Esta tierra jamás ha sido nuestra,
    tampoco fue de quienes yacen en sus campos
    ni será de quien venga.
    Hace mucho palpamos su paisaje
    con un llanto de expósitos
    abandonados por antiguas carabelas.
    Esta tierra de tórridas llanuras
    llevamos siglos habitándola y no nos pertenece,
    Quienes antes la amaron ya sabían
    que no bastaba pagarla con la vida
    o fundar casas en sus montes
    para un día merecerla.
    Y sin embargo hasta el final permanecieron,
    nunca desearon otra visión para sus ojos
    ni otro solar para su muerte.
    En ella están dormidos y hablan a solas,
    a veces se oyen,
    alzan sus voces en medio del follaje
    y el viento las dispersa.
    No serán nuestros sus vastos horizontes,
    ninguna gota de sus ríos,
    ni de quienes la pueblen después,
    fue ajena siempre en cada piedra,
    en cada árbol.
    Demasido verde son los bosques
    de sus espacios sin nieve.
    Sus colores desnudan las palabras:
    en nuestras charlas siempre se delatan
    sonidos forasteros.
    Esta tierra feraz, sentimental, amarga,
    que no se deja poseer,
    no será de nosotros ni de nadie
    pero hasta en la sombra le pertenecemos.
    Ya nuestros cuerpos son palmas en sus costas,
    aferrados a indómitas raíces,
    que no verá nunca partir
    aunque retornen del mar las carabelas.

    Caviar Left

    Is there any Caviar Left, guys?

    For the ones with access to Venezuelan TV:
    How shameful Samuel Moncada of the Comando Maisanta using the premises of the CNE to make propaganda for the NO. How much dispespect for the democratic process of Venezuela.
    What's up with the fairness of the CNE?? Que descaro. I am hoping that the observers are taking good notes of all this BS.
    feathers mcgraw | Email | 07.16.04 - 6:32 pm | #

    I think Samuel Moncada rocks! He's one of the few English-speaking intellectuals in Venezuela who has exposed the opposition's disinformation campaign for what it is on U.S. radio.
    anónimo | 07.16.04 - 7:04 pm | #

    I am appalled....Chico Buarque has signed the document many Brazilians stars and important personalities..are submiting to chavez' hands...
    the document's name: If I were Brazilian , I would vote for chavez'!!!!

    Jose Roman Duque | Email | Homepage | 07.16.04 - 7:04 pm | #

    "I think Samuel Moncada rocks!"

    Hey Justin, I remember when Samuel Moncada returned to Caracas from Oxford. There is something about an ultra-leftist suddenly transported to a different milieu (one of class privilege and refinement). He could talk of nothing but his admission into an oenologists club, and his trips to their wine cellar, and dressing in tuxedos.

    But yes, he is a fine intellectual, perfectly suited to this "revolution".
    Henry Georget | Email | 07.17.04 - 8:48 pm | #


    Thank you for that tidbit of info. It kind of puts their leftism in perspective.

    "This is a superb Cabernet Sauvignon, but nothing like the 1982 Chateau Laffite I tasted in my hunting trip in the woods of Hungary."

    Such commitment to the poor.
    jose r. mora | Email | 07.17.04 - 10:49 pm | #