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Then there are the government chavistas - Chávez's cronies. These soi-disant representatives and enforcers of popular power are making millions, even as they rail against the wealthy oligarchy against whom they say they must protect the Venezuelans. Chávez's former Vice-President, José Vicente Rangel, denounces those who live in the prosperous area of Altamira - but he lives in Altamira himself, surrounded by 20 bodyguards. Not for them the state schools, in which they profess so much faith. Their children attend the most prestigious private academies in Caracas, including the German, American and British schools.

A lot of money is also flowing to the opportunistic chavistas. Although not directly in government, these are the contractors, bankers and distributors who profit from the regime. They overcharge the government, or the end client, or both, pocket the difference and give a kickback to the minister in charge. Everyone is happy as the public coffers are emptied into their personal bank accounts and the sale of cars and luxury goods breaks all records. No better than British chavs, they'll buy anything as long as the logo is big enough.

But it is behind the crumbling walls of the Country Club mansions that the most pathetic chavistas are bred - the secret ones. They can no longer afford to keep up appearances since Chávez is nationalising estates of 100,000 acres or more. The Country Club used to name and shame those members remiss in their subscriptions on a wall. Now, the list is so embarrassingly long that the club has stopped. In order to restore their fortunes, some covert chavistas have grovelled to the government. At the same time they masquerade as principled members of the upper class and mock the heathen and gauche chavistas while playing golf or sipping a whiskicito at a drinks party. Yet they fret that the secret source of their restored glory will be discovered and they will be reviled by their old-money friends in the opposition.

After all, conspicuous consumption is no longer an option for non-chavistas, for among them Orwellian paranoia has set in. That
includes the Country Club set, which has retreated into a fortress mentality. The built-up walls surrounding their mansions now have electric wires above the spikes and are surveyed by video cameras and armed guards in fortified cubicles with bulletproof glass. But the guards themselves are often suspected as part of the problem, as probable chavistas. So arming your security guards, as my brother has done at his dairy farm, is no guarantee. He has stayed away in recent months for fear that he may land at the airstrip one day and find his weapons used against him. This fear and class hatred is part of Chávez's design. At the end of his TV speeches, there is a graphic incitement to violence - footage of the poor setting cars on fire, looting and throwing Molotov cocktails. It's no wonder the prices of apartments have skyrocketed while those of houses have remained flat.

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MARIZ
June 9th, 2012
8:06 AM
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Anonymous
July 22nd, 2009
8:07 PM
Not a limousine libral, but a citizen of Brasil, I can imagine that what Lula is doing here, his comrade has done there, which is not democracy, in the sence that even if both win elections, by buying their respective votes with "Bolsa Familia" etc., that is subversion.

Anonymous
January 14th, 2009
1:01 AM
Ms. Neumann seems so much like the wellborn folks who are mystified by uprisings of have-nots and the political machinations that occur where the rich flout their affluence oblivious to the realities the majority must deal with on a daily basis. Witness the Russian Revolution against the Tsars and the rich who ignored their plight and exploited the poor. Recall the aftermath of the French revolution before that country found its way to equality. I was in El Salvador just before the war. The wealthy who jetted to Miami for weekly shopping sprees appeared to have no clue that the country was about to explode, though it was obvious to the foreign eye. To comprehend the origins of what you lament, look back with clearer eyes, Vanessa, and see what life was like for those who lived in your shadow.

Liberty-and-Justice-for-All
January 13th, 2009
1:01 AM
thank you, David, for your "[w]ho is going to do the less harm?" Venezuelans are now voting the way Americans have been voting for decades: for the least worst candidate! We in the USA have the best Congress money can buy. I also thank you for your observation that "80% of the [Venezuelan] population had no minimal conditions of living while others were playing golf in the center of the city." Your observation supports my rhetorical question born of instinct, to wit, whether Venezuela has, or ever has had, a meaningful middle class? A poverty rate of 80 percent as you port suggests that Venezuela has had, historically, two classes: very rich and very poor, albeit with a relatively small "middle class". Moreover, the death of the middle class in the USA will be the end of our Great Experiment in Democracy begun in the late 18th century when brilliant leaders put aside concerns over acquiring great personal wealth and designed a sensible, pragmatic system that protects individual liberties (free speech, the right to worship, the right to habeas corpus, etc. etc.) from unwarranted intrusions by the government [i.e., in the form of dictators, fascists, imperialists] -- a system while not perfect [slavery was sanctioned by the government, for example] that has stood the test of time -- that is, until radical appellate judges have decided to create out of thin air their personal and "liberal" and ever expanding interpretations of the meaning of important provisions of the U.S. Constitution...

David
January 12th, 2009
3:01 PM
JHM and FJP: Your comments although far from being as naive and insulting as vanessas´, still are a bit sided in my opinion. Chavez is a complex figure full of contradictions as any true human persona. His personality is a mixture of impulsive attitudes backed by historical resentment (ratial, economic, social) and empowered by oil revenues and an extremely sharp mind which sways from historical facted arguments and utopical romantic visions of the Venezuelan should-be fair society. History, more than anything, keeps him in power. His skin color and his unshaped tight hair, highly contrast with his master control of Venezuelan history and his informal eloquency. The emotional attributes of this charismatical leader are unique for the Venezuelan people. Still, the whole "revolución" is just a embryonic project based on some german sociological theories that, honestly is failing more than succeding. The reason: the people. The venezuelan itself as an element of society, is a person who DOES NOT CARE beyond his personal affairs. This has a very intrincated historical reason as well. Anyways, Chavez (good or bad) is an interesting catalyst for a society that never cared for their own future as a colective nor dedicated to organize and develop itself towards stability and equality. The hatred was there. Just repressed. The division was there and it was obvious when 80% of the population had no minimal conditions of living while others where playing golf in the center of the city. The decay was there (devaluation, corruption, crime, ignorance, impoverishment)...so Chavez is the piece who channeled all these chronic factors into his idea of country. 10 years later things are worse and things are better. There are horrible deficits of every kind (like rampant crime and inflation), but there are also very important developments (base developments like education and health programs). Venezuelans when they go to vote don´t think about who is the best option. They think: Who is going to do the less harm.

Jorge Lopez
January 11th, 2009
10:01 PM
As a middle class venezuelan, living in Venezuela I am deeply offended by this article. Ms Neumann wrote lots of half truths and several outright lies: She dismisses poor class Venezuelans, calling them ignoramuses and alcoholics. I happen to know lots of venezuelan working class people, heck, that is my own background, and most of them are hard-working, honest people, as most people in every single country. People vote according to their preferences, if the power class does not like their choice, tough luck, that is what democracy is about. She conveniently forgot to mention that in last Nov 08 elections total votes for pro-Chavez candidates easily outnumbered the pro-opposition votes (56% vs 44%) so Chavistas are still a solid majority in this country. Venezuela is not a paradise of course, but that Pollyanna history of people living happy before Chavez, the "blue eyed rich" and the brown workers, the lions and the sheep, Superman and Lex Luthor is simply ridiculous , if that was the case why the unlawful Chavez coup against the Perez government received so much popular support, and why Chavez has won 9 of the 10 heavily observed elections? To my fellow commenters , I just want to ask you one thing. If you want to know the reality about Venezuela please visit the country and meet ordinary people, not just the middle/upper class English speaking folks but everyone. If you cant travel at least run away from the established media coverage and read common people blogs, pro and against Chavez so you can have a more approximate idea of what is happening in mi querida Venezuela.

JHM
January 11th, 2009
5:01 PM
FJP and Catire, thank you both for your comments. And thanks for the blog, Catire. I always like to learn more about what people are thinking about my country. As you said FJP, this has been a most interesting discussion and I am wonderfully gratified at how interested, and in some cases, well informed, people of other nations are of Venezuela.

Anonymous
January 10th, 2009
2:01 AM
Liberty and Justice for all Vanessa's Red-grave piece would have been far more effective if she had written it not as a "limousine liberal" but as a member of the middle class -- that is, if one ever existed in Venezuela. There are plenty of Venezuelans of non-elite backgrounds against Chavez. Check the blogs I cited, if you haven't already done so. Regarding the existence of non-existence of a middle class in Venezuela: in 1996, the gross enrollment rate at the university level was 28%,compared to 18% for Latin America and 60% for the OECD, which indicates that more than the top 5% were being educated.(World Bank Development Statistics.)

Mark
January 9th, 2009
7:01 PM
"My blue-eyed Prague-born father would drive his Mercedes coupé home through the poor Puente de Chapellín neighbourhood. He and the locals would wave at each other, for there was no class hatred then." Is this piece a joke, or a genuine appeal for feudalism?

Liberty-and-Justice-for-All
January 9th, 2009
4:01 PM
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." George Orwell. interesting? (not really, there's nothing new under the sun!): the wealthy want to keep their privileged status while riding the backs of the poor, and the poor and the vast majority of peoples everywhere just want their freedoms and the ability to earn a fair standard of living to support their families without being exploited. Chavez is a fascist-communista megalomaniac who would exploit all people -- rich and poor -- to attain absolute power. He has quickly morphed into yet another corrupt, power-mad tinpot -- "Chairman Chavez" -- the world's latest left-right-your-military-left-right dictator -- following the lead of comrades Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Chairman Mao, Castro, Pinochet, etc. etc. History's Rogue's gallery goes on and on... Vanessa's Red-grave piece would have been far more effective if she had written it not as a "limousine liberal" but as a member of the middle class -- that is, if one ever existed in Venezuela.

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