Venezuela and the continuation of underdevelopment

By Javier del Rey Morató (for Safe Democracy)

Javier del Rey Morató examines the power bases of Hugo Chávez –the magic of Communication, petroleum and a missing opposition–, and along with that, he predicts a problematic future for Venezuela, given that, in his opinion, the factor of petroleum and messianic dictatorship only generate underdevelopment.

PLUS: Radio Caracas Television Becomes History, by Iraxis Bello

Javier Del Ray Morató is professor of Political Communication and General Information Theory at the Complutense University of Madrid. He has a degree in Information Sciences from the University of Navarra and a PhD in Information Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid. He has taught courses and seminars on Latin America and is the author of numerous scientific articles and books on communication and politics.

A DECENT SOCIETY COULD ELIMINATE THE ROLE OF THE LEADER, Noam Chomsky said, and his words make us think of Venezuela. The Uruguayan journalist José Luis Martinez asked himself on Safe Democracy (spanish version) where Hugo Chavez is going. We already have the answer: toward dictatorship, and toward failure.

Now a television channel has been shut down. And tomorrow, what will be next? After having won the elections on December 3rd, Chavez is in a hurry, and he’s taking-off running.

Hugo Chavez is no phony, and anyone who watches his program Aló Presidente will understand his speech, his way of arguing, his fired-up diatribes pro socialism of the 21st century (?) and against George W. Bush. A military up-bringing, mestizo, vehement, insatiable in his ambition for power, Chavez never saw Caracas from the white neighborhoods, he doesn’t descend from the political dynasties of the country, he doesn’t look like president Caldera, and even less like Arturo Uslar Pietri. He perpetrated a coup detat on a corrupt and formally democratic regime, and built his own legend. Chavez is the typical Latin-American populist leader, and he gives the impression of having inspired a model that he wanted to imitate, emulate or surpass. He is the great Venezuelan legend. How did he do it? The explanation is simple: in the streets of Venezuelas’ like those of Peru’s” people know their town better than any other place.

And Chavez discovered the magic of communication, in a childish exercise that we would be foolish to underestimate: he knows how to communicate with the people. He creates a sense of proximity. He reminds the people that he is one of them, and that in the palace of Miraflores there is someone looking after the well-being of the Venezuelans.

He who collaborated in the construction of chief-Chavez was Norberto Ceresole. Who was Ceresole? The character can be described in these words: sociologist, argentine, peronist, guerilla, assessor of Peruvian general Velasco Alvarado’s We see Chavez and it is like watching an Argentine movie from the forties, with a Venezuelan actor dubbed in Venezuelan. And if a television broadcaster puts a stutter in the hegemony of his language games, Chavez will close it, and then peace and later glory.

The language games of Chavez’s keys to his powers’ are three: the game of declaring the enemy (Bush), the game of the victim’s redemption (the people), and the game of the savior (Chavez). There is an internal relationship between these games, which are reinforced and mutually legitimated.

The secret to his success is in his execution. Bush buys petroleum from him, finances his socialist revolution, and does him another invaluable service: he assumes the role of the bad guy in the movie. Facing the bad guy’s aggression, the victim looks to the savior, generous, accessible, defender of the causes of the poor. Niente nuovo sul sole! Getulio Vargas, Peron That’s why he will be invulnerable in future elections.

What is the opposition up to? That is what some people are asking themselves. The opposition isn’t around nor is it expected. It has gone missing in Bethlehem, with the pastors–, an it has no leader, language, symbol or platform from which to communicate itself to a people that it has lost sight of.

Chavez will be around for a while, because:

Petroleum + lost expectations + corruption + language games + TV = Chavez

But in addition to electoral power, there is military power. Some old students tell me that not all those in the military agree with Chavez. They assure me that they don’t make up a critical sector, but that they do form a group of discontent. My informers are realists, and they know that those soldiers are not heroes nor patriots: some are honests or they have yet to be corrupt by dollars and petroleum–, and others wanted even more corruption, and the power to administrates like Chavez does the corruption of others. To say it bluntly: they wanted to substitute him.

Some people joke: Chavez could be making moves toward buying the house where Peron lived in exile, in the Madrid suburb of Puerta de Hierro

The question of José Luis Martinez is of the stream of many relevant questions. Where is Hugo Chavez going? His messianic authoritarianism, will it induce development? Or is the trick that it Hill perpetuate underdevelopment? Does Chavez form part of the problem or the solution? The future presents a problem. And that is that nowhere, ever, have petroleum and messianic dictator been a binomial capable of pulling a country out of underdevelopment to reach first-world status: it only produces underdevelopment.

We already know the answers. Maybe the problem is something else, something called Venezuela.