Is Hugo Chavez’ Behavior What One Would Expect Up To Now?

August 1, 2011

(Nice overlap between Chavez’ “New” bold look and the red beret on the guard behind him)

Having just finished reading the book “Leaders and their Followers in a dangerous world-The Psychology of Political Behavior” by Jerrold M. Post, I can’t help but attempt to analyze and extrapolate what I read to the recent behavior of Hugo Chavez after his recent illness.

First, the way in which the illness has been handled conforms to expectations:

“There is a premium on concealing illness, or, if this is not possible, on minimizing the perception of the severity of the impairment…this need to preserve the image of health may cause leaders to avoid comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and treatment altogether or to undergo inadequate treatment secretly”

Well, Chavez was and clearly is a textbook example of this. From the time of his “knee” ailment, to taking him to Cuba later, he avoided a comprehensive evaluation and tried to have treatment in secret, however, things got complicated. There was and there continue to be attempts to conceal the illness and its severely. Curiously, it is Chavez that seems to reveal the most about what he has, nobody else says or reveals much and when they do, like Izarra, Rangel or that famous PSUV press conference, they are usually lying. It is Chavez verbal incontinence that has told us some, but not all of the details of the illness. In fact, today, amazingly, we still don’t have a formal announcement of what the President has, other than he has cancer and we don’t even know where.

Second, how narcissistic leaders (and the book clearly defines him as one) react to a terminal illness may vary, but based on the book, it would seem from that he should be intensifying his acts, seeking the immortality through what he does, personality traits become more intense now that his life may end sooner than he thought:

“The specter of the end of his life may ignite a terminal explosion in a frantic last ditch attempt to ensure immortality”

I really don’t think we have seen this (yet?) in Chavez. He has actually been perhaps even more subdued, even removing some of the symbols of his Presidency, like changing “Patria, Socialsimo o Muerte”, saying it is not normal to wear red shirts all the time and that he does not want to have the word socialist attached to everything. Perhaps we have to wait for this to surface. But he may be misjudging what he is doing. Many of these symbols are entrenched in the population and changing signals on them is simply confusing for people accustomed to a unified discourse and signalling from Chavez and his Government. Acting hasrhly is one signature of the behavior an this may or not be a consequence of this.

What is clear from the book is that these type of leaders and narcissistic personalities tend to go into denial, refusing to accept that they will relinquish power, which may explain the surprise trips that Chavez has made every time that he has been under treatment in Cuba. Historically, when an autocrat has a  severe illness, those that surround him want greater participation, but the autocrat refuses to yield. He wants control and power, he does not want to lose that. They tend to make decisions, particularly tough ones, too late or in a rush. They lose the control and premeditation that they usually exhibit in their plotting and acts.They act rashly and make mistakes, they tend to engage in a new relationship with subordinates, where they listen even less to advise.

Thus, from what I learned in the book, it is hard to reach a conclusion, but we don’t know all that is happening.

Going forward, I was struck by this sentence in the book:

“Dreams of glory are responsible for some of civilizations greatest achivements, but the intemperate reactions of aging and ailing leaders to the ebbing of their power and the frustrated dreams of their youth have been responsible for some of history’s most tragic excesses”

Let’s hope this does not apply in our case.

Next: in the reading list:”When illness Strike the Leader: The Dilemma of the Captive King” by Robins and Post.

37 Responses to “Is Hugo Chavez’ Behavior What One Would Expect Up To Now?”

  1. George Best Says:

    7) Nice gold non-socialist Patek Phillipe watch, model 5119J, retails for close to $20,000 but you can get it for about 15K if you are a careful shopper. I wonder who coughed up the money for this present. And where did the Panerai go?

    There are also FAKE one´s in the market at around 600 bucks – the would meet HIS STYLE – ALL FAKE – fake to fake….

  2. Alejandro Says:

    The US housing bubble wasn’t a black swan. Ask Paulson, Burry, etc. they all made billions betting against the housing market.

    Nassim Taleb has come up with this: “Never mind the swans, listen closely to the canaries”.

    Run for coverage!


    • m_astera Says:

      Many people saw the US housing bubble for what it was. In 2005-06 I told anyone who would listen to sell at the top while the market was still strong and put their money in gold. One fellow listened to me, sold his house and moved into a rental, and put the profit he made on the house into gold at $500/oz.

  3. Bill near Slidell Says:

    The US housing bubble was a classic black swan event. Since house prices in the US had never declined, virtually no one in the investment community thought it could happen. Could it ever.
    Here is one for you. A massive coronal mass ejections hits the Earth and shuts down the power grid near the poles for months by burning up giant transformer windings. Nuclear power plants need diesel fuel to run the generators to cool the cores if the grid goes down. They don’t have nearly enough diesel at the plants to run the diesel generators for the time necessary to prevent core meltdowns. Refineries don’t work if the grid goes down, so guess what WILL eventually happen-a multiple core meltdown black swan event.

  4. dianuevo Says:

    The fact is that he and his henchmen are doing everything what is possible to stay in power. In the end they will probably resort to violence. Just like the Junta did in her days.
    I just hope that things will change. The sooner the better

  5. Alfredo Says:

    I think the whole illness is a sham. Now he is so mellow, saying no more red shirts, no more patria, socialismo o muerto. But before the election he will declare himself cured, the middle and upper classes will be fooled by his mellowness (again) and after he wins (again) it will be Patria, Socialismo o Muerte (again), but mostly Muerte (again).

  6. dianuevo Says:

    I am just a bit scared about how things will work out at the end with a president like this. I wrote a post about it:

  7. Alejandro Says:

    Kepler wrote: “My sister would be one of those European oligarcs…never mind she looks like a native American (like my grandma did) and has a tiny fraction of the money any Boliburgués has, even if she is a highly educated professional.”

    Superiority complex truly believes they are superior to others!

    That’s the problem with Venezuelans, excesive lecturing and patronizing each other, all subsidized by the devil’s excrement. We are poor in judgment and conduct ourselves without any kind of social responsibility.

    All leaders have flaws. Churchill and Lincoln suffered depression.

  8. island canuck Says:

    Wasn’t it a goat that he cut the head off? LOL!

    I’ve heard this story for quite some time.
    Is there any actual evidence that this happened or is it just urban legend?

    If it’s true you have to wonder about the mental capacity of this guy even in his youth.

  9. Kepler Says:

    I don’t have the psychological background, but one thing is for sure: Chávez is a severely frustrated individual with a huge inferiority complexe.

    As I commented previously, he has an issue with his ethnicity. He feels very insecure about that. You can notice that when you see the video where he answer to Rory Carroll from the Guardian: sí, porque Ustedes, Europa, sí, la vieja Europa, etc etc.

    He was badly treated by his grandmother and my guess is his mother was an absolute – I will use a word females use more than we do – bitch. She was hard to him. He was a failure at school, an utter failure, so he took the military path.
    He was rejected by a girl in Barinas, upon which he cut off the head of a dead horse and put it in front of her house. Tell me if a bloke that like doesn’t have a problem.

    He did bad in mathematics, from which he now always tries to impressed his illiterate compatriots by pretending to do “complex calculations” in front of the camera:

    “5 por 8 cuarenta por 3 como ciento y pico…and it’s that mathematics is essential! I LOVE mathematics! Mathematics is all..”
    (and then 30% of Aló Presidente viewers think Chávez is a maths wizard)

    • Bloody Mary Says:

      Sadly, those kinds of experiences, frustrations, and complexes are in the blood of poor people in Venezuela. What makes him a monster (and a political success) is how he uses those feelings in his own benefit. So, my vote goes to “sociopath”. “He was badly treated by his grandmother (….) his mother was an absolute (…) bich”…. absolutly…. have you tried to train a hyena? Good luck trying to do so.

      • Kepler Says:

        I don’t think it”s just Venezuelans. It is everywhere where there has been some nasty story and still perceivable differences. The funny thing in Venezuela is that you can have someone like Chaderton talking about how he, as descendant of Guaicaipuro, defends Venezuela against foreign attacks while oligarcs try to destroy it. My sister would be one of those European oligarcs…never mind she looks like a native American (like my grandma did) and has a tiny fraction of the money any Boliburgués has, even if she is a highly educated professional.

        I have seen this sense more strongly in other places, like in the States with black people in some areas or Catholics in Glasgow (where both groups are as white).

        But let’s not fool ourselves: even in Venezuela ethnicity IS an issue. Of course, different people deal with it differently and Chávez…he has a trauma or two.

    • m_astera Says:

      Interesting about the inferiority for not being white. One of the things I noticed on the painting of Chavez behind Bolivar on the horse that you posted at your site was that Chavez’ skin in the painting was whiter than Bolivars. Anyone who has not seen that painting needs to take a look; it is truly the nadir of kitsch.

      NB, I agree with Mary. Let go of this childhood trauma baloney; it is not applicable to sociopaths except in extremely rare circumstances where a normal person has been abused to the extent of developing a split personality. Most of us had our share of childhood trauma and didn’t turn out sociopathic. A sociopath can have a beautiful childhood and that won’t change them a bit. A hyena does not change its spots.

      • firepigette Says:

        M Astera you sound like you have watched ” Dexter ” on TV 😉

        There is some evidence that sociopathy runs in families.

  10. firepigette Says:


    I am glad you mentioned the black swan.Many people think they can predict the future by looking at the past.Very dangerous.!!!!!!!!

    “a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

    • Jeffry House Says:

      Arendt discusses the non-predictability of events using the concept of “natality”, ie that utterly new things can occur in human affairs, things never predicted by anyone. On the other hand, the only possible basis for guessing about or otherwise predicting the future is the past.

  11. alejandro Says:

    As all politicians nowadays they are great actors, it’s essential. I do believe that Chavez has in his mind history and legacy, and there’s something of the social activist, the shrewd survivor, but not enough for redemption, there’s nothing of statesmanship. Only incompetence, caudillism, autocrat, polarizer, and destroyer of wealth.

    Lenin was embalmed and permanently exhibited in the Lenin Mausoleum… then came STALIN, Great depression, WW2, blockades.–126555343.html

    If you want to know how bad things are you must check his daughter’s grimace. She’s taking care of someone ill. That’s not acting!

    this is great stuff:

    This is not a black swan any longer, it’s a matter of dimishing the harm.

  12. Glenn Says:

    Off topic but interesting. Libya is asking Chavez to help it sell crude oil to get around the sanctions. Will he or won’t he?

  13. loroferoz Says:

    “There is a premium on concealing illness, or, if this is not possible, on minimizing the perception of the severity of the impairment…this need to preserve the image of health may cause leaders to avoid comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and treatment altogether or to undergo inadequate treatment secretly”

    Among all the curses of having such a “leader” bolted in place, a true blessing! That they might end their lives and tenures sooner because of their own blind spots, and because of the image (which is all for them) they foster.

    That they become rash and act without premeditation is an added bonus of sorts conducive to ending their “tenure”, if they do not cause too much harm in doing so. Already having them in power is harmful enough and bound to cause a world of pain, I guess.

  14. GWEH Says:

    George, this doc is from 2007 and contains some errors… I know there’s an interest in updating and the translator was working on the original but that got put on hold I think

  15. GeorgeS Says:

    GWEH: You posted where? Do you have a blog? First I hear about this, certainly not here, so what are you talking about?

  16. Carlos Says:

    Mr Bruni
    I take out my hat.
    This morning I was just remembering the 2006 elections and the 2007 first months. The candidate asking support POR AMOR and the immediate socialism coup as soon as he won the presidential election..
    The link is perfect… I just want to add another couple of announcements in the first months on 2007: CANTV , EDC and the wave of enforced nationalizations.

  17. CharlesC Says:

    I heard some people have a side-effect (from meds with Chemo) of speaking English with a British accent.
    Even the Chavistas would have to laugh at that…jolly roger that!
    Also, I believe Chavez is “coming out”-
    next will be a blonde wig w/pony tail
    and leather pants and sunglasses- Karl Laagerfeld look.
    I want to urge Chavez – Yes, you can !!!

  18. GWEH Says:

    he has cancer of the ass

  19. bruni Says:

    It is an interesting book, Miguel. Now, in the case of Chávez, I think his change is more due to the coming elections than his illness.

    Here’s a post (with 2006 “vintage” pictures).

  20. GWEH Says:

    Miguel, suprised you read this book… I posted Dr. Post’s USAF analysis of Chavez a few weeks ago. You know a friend in common has been working with Dr Post on Chavez for many years

  21. m_astera Says:

    I think one could safely substitute the word “sociopath” for leader in the title of both books. Or at least attach it as a modifying adjective.

    The very fact that it’s not attached as a descriptive, but we still know what the author is saying, tells a lot about what sort of “leaders” this world is used to.

    • Roy Says:


      The description “sociopath” has been misused in recent years to describe nearly any form of anti-social behavior. Clinically, a sociopath is a person without a conscience and incapable of empathy. Chavez is a “malignant narcissist”. Most politicians and powerful public figures are narcissistic to some degree. In Chavez, the “malignant” part is that his narcissism overwhelms his ability to make rational decisions.

      Excerpt from Wikipedia:

      “People who are overly narcissistic commonly feel rejected, humiliated and threatened when criticized. To protect themselves from these dangers, they often react with disdain, rage, and/or defiance to any slight criticism, real or imagined.[10] To avoid such situations, some narcissistic people withdraw socially and may feign modesty or humility. In cases where the narcissistic personality-disordered individual feels a lack of admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation, he/she may also manifest wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).”

      The article also suggests that narcissism can be a defense mechanism against shame, which cannot exist in a true sociopath.

      I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that narcissism and sociopathy are mutually exclusive. A true sociopath could never rise to political power since their inherent lack of empathy could never allow them to connect to people on a social level in the way that politicians require to achieve power.

      • firepigette Says:


        A sociopath can turn on the charm and make people think they are empathetic even when they are not.

        A Narcissist has a very poorly developed conscience.How developed do you think true empathy is with that? Roy, in Chavez’s case it is smoke and mirrors.Actually this is true with many people because Narcissism is common and getting more so by the minute.

        Knowing what people like and how to manipulate them, has nothing to do with true empathy.

      • Groucho Marxist Says:


        One of the biggest problems with understanding sociopaths is the fact that the concept of “Empathy” is badly misunderstood, and the idea that most people have of what it is and how it works is completely wrong.

        Let me explain what empathy is in terms of evolutionary biology: Most of the learning done by advanced brains (mammals and birds to a much lesser extent), is based on positive/negative reinforcement of behaviors. Pleasure is positive, pain is negative. The brain learns by associating actions with their positive/negative effects, and then tries to repeat the actions with positive results and avoid the negative ones.

        Pack animals added a twist to that: they express the pleasure/pain in ways that other members of the pack can identify, making it possible to learn from someone else’s pleasure/pain. Any member of the pack who hears/sees another member expressing pain, would feel pain of its own.

        This is what most people associate with the word “empathy”, but that’s only half the story.

        The problem here was that the way of expressing their emotions was similar for the predator as it was for their prey, which initially made the predator feel empathy for the prey, which would be disastrous. So predators added another twist: the emotion they read from someone else (aka Empathy) is multiplied by the “pack modifier”. By pack modifier I mean a value that pack animals have that indicates if someone is considered a member of the pack or an enemy. And by “multiply”, I mean in a mathematical sense so that the emotions produced by the empathy are reversed if the pack modifier is negative. That is, the pain of someone with a negative pack modifier (i.e., an enemy) would cause pleasure, and their pleasure would cause pain.

        To say that sociopaths are “incapable of empathy” is highly inaccurate. In fact, sociopaths are extremely good at empathy (i.e., reading other people’s emotions), but their anti-social nature means that their pack modifier is always negative so they feel great pleasure when causing the pain of others, and great displeasure when they see someone else being happy.

        The latter is the telltale of a true sociopath: he’ll go through a lot of effort to prevent the happiness of people that apparently have absolutely nothing to do with him.

    • m_astera Says:


      I’m sorry to say that you need to do some homework. This statement “A true sociopath could never rise to political power since their inherent lack of empathy could never allow them to connect to people on a social level in the way that politicians require to achieve power” is why.

      What a sociopath excels at is connecting with people in order to manipulate them. You might start with a web search for Dr Robert Hare, or Martha Stout. Or the term “ponerology”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: