The Collective Responsibility Of Venezuelans

August 3, 2014

I was amazed by how timeless this article is.  I do not necessarily agree with all it says, but most of it. The answer of when it was published is at the end, but there are hints in the text.

By Aníbal Romero

Some former parliamentary members of the official sector have announced that the upcoming Constituent Assembly shall initiate “popular trials” against the alleged perpetrators of our national misfortunes. Is is worth noting, once again, the lack of understanding that our novel rulers have about what it means to have the rule of law. It should also be noted that those who ask for such trials, are self-proclaimed ‘human rights defenders’. Undoubtedly, Venezuela today lives under the sign of Orwell: here the truth is a lie and the lies are he truth; white is black and black is white; demagoguery is government and government is demagoguery.

Now, who will judge who? I would not be balanced to deny the failures of the misnamed ‘elites’ of the puntofijismo as they have a fundamental responsibility for what happened, good and bad, over these past decades. But: what about the people, does the community generally lack any responsibility, any blame? Ask yourself, for example, if it is perhaps  that someone forced them to vote for Pérez in 1988, or Caldera in 1993? If I remember correctly, on both occasions many voices were raised to warn Venezuelans about what would surely mean the renewed choice of these characters as presidents. Many warnings were made, not that we lacked alternatives. However, the majority of people supported them. Does not this imply a degree of responsibility of the people in general of the national destiny? Do they not remember what we did? Or is it perhaps that we do not want to remember?

The idea that there is a collective responsibility for the fate of a community or country is not original. In our century, the reality of shared responsibility has been tested in specific cases, and the reason is simple, most especially if we are talking about a democracy: Citizens do not have the right to wash their hands of the sociopolitical processes that move history. At a minimum, life forces us to provide a balance of the outcome due to government we choose.

It is  especially absurd to not attribute part of the responsibility to a community like ours, which for more than forty years has lived with a massively overvalued currency, subsidized all over the place, undergoing massive investments in health and education (and which we were not able to take care of in both quality and efficiency). A community that, when the time to face the harsh reality of the end of the populist-rentist model arrived, chose to take to the streets (27-F 1989), behead a President who had been democratically elected, support two violent coups and bring to power in 1993 the person who sent them the pathetic ‘Letter of Intent for the people’. And to round it off, the same people ended up exalting to the leadership of our destiny, the main character in one of those military coups, the crucial negation of all democratic value. What can we expect, then?

Not understanding that collective responsibility is equivalent to conceive the ‘people’ as an entity composed of mentally, legally and morally disabled individuals. Because that is not my idea of ​​the Venezuelan people, I think that is composed of normal human beings, which is why I believe that we can not skirt the part that corresponds to us in the drama of the country. The sweet and complacent attitude towards the ‘people’ adopting an attitude which imagines them as pristine and the source of all virtue and wisdom, is nothing but a mask behind which they hide a deep contempt towards the people, which is seen as manipulable and even stupid, as people who you have to distribute cheat sheets to vote, which they aimed to deliver to electoral ballots decorated with berets, hats, caps and other playful symbols, so that they could  ‘get it right’, because they are too stupid, and may not vote for the currents saviours.

I insist: Who forced those who voted for Pérez and Caldera to do it? Who forced those who voted for Hugo Chavez to do it? Also in 98 many  warning voices rose, and nevertheless they again came back to take the easy road, that of the scapegoats, the messianic solutions, constituent illusions and other tricks of our incorrigible and systematic collective delusion. Now we claim to want to change everything, but really do not want to change anything. What we want is to go back, to that populism works, to that of a ‘strong man’ that makes decisions and leads us by the nose. Productivity? Competitiveness?? Long-term vision?? These are not the issues that beset us. Here are Danton and Robespierre emulating, retreating to the eighteenth century, minding if the Constituent Assembly will be ‘original’ or ‘derived’, happy to discharge our responsibility over any mirage that comes to mind. But it can not hide the truth forever: the Venezuelan people have given themselves the governments who they believed deserved. Nothing is left but to bear the consequences. Popular Trials? And who will judge the people?

This was Romero’s farewell article in El Universal on June 6th. 1999.


28 Responses to “The Collective Responsibility Of Venezuelans”

  1. Alejo Says:

    I think it is interesting to note that the popular trials never materialized. Corruption-related indictments delivered to politicians and managers in charge before 1999 never arrived. Coming to power, and keeping it, has been the sole objective of the ruling elite since 1999.
    I also think that the “people” (i.e Chávez voters) has been condemned and is being punished with scarcity, poverty, violence and the rule of criminals; yet, there never was a trial. No reflection about how and why Venezuela has thrown away trillions of dollars without even developing a postal service worthy of the name.
    In that sense, because there was no trial, punishment has no term. It can go on forever, as long as Venezuelans elect new prison wardens.

  2. Ira Says:

    How Chavez was pardoned will always baffle me. How Venezolanos later voted for him will always anger me.

    Executive power (president) is the most dangerous aspect of a democracy/republic, considering that this power is often wielded with good intentions. But was Chavez’s pardon granted to “pacify” the people? Of course not–it was a political stab.

    And on the flip side, was Nixon’s pardon granted to pacify and unite, or was there a quid pro quo to further Ford’s ambitions? We all now know it’s the latter.

    • Roy Says:

      I hardly see how you can conflate the two incidents. Nixon was guilty of accessory after the fact of breaking and entering and obstruction of justice. Chavez was guilty of treason and murder.

      • Ira Says:

        Nixon instructed the IRS to go after his enemies–or tried to use it that way:

        It’s executive power using neutral powers of government to do their bidding.

        So I can certainly equate the two–not to mention that Nixon kept us in Vietnam longer, killing thousands, to win reelection.

    • Boludo Tejano Says:

      was there a quid pro quo to further Ford’s ambitions? We all now know it’s the latter.

      Apparently you “know” something that I don’t know. Ford got a lot of flack for the pardon, so I don’t see how the pardon helped Ford’s political career.

      The pardon of Chavez enabled him to continue in political life. The pardon of Nixon made no difference in Nixon’s political future. He was persona non grata in politics before the pardon. After the pardon Nixon continued to be persona non grata in politics.
      The difference is perhaps to be found in the differences between political cultures in the two countries. Venezuela elected a failed coupster. Up to now, that has never occurred in the US.

      • Ira Says:

        Ford promised Nixon the pardon before he resigned, guaranteeing Ford the presidency. In fact, that’s the only reason Nixon DID resign:

        Otherwise, he was subject to some very serious legal shit here, the kind that puts you in prison.

        In fact, Ford’s press secretary resigned in disgust over the pardon, because he KNEW it was a prid quo pro, as did the American people, who later voted Ford out.

        Ford’s “explanation” of granting the pardon for national healing might be a valid one, but it sure as hell wasn’t the reason he did it.

  3. m_astera Says:

    I know enough who did.

    • m_astera Says:

      And that Chinese POS (piezo de mierda) washing machine was paid for by loans from China.

    • m_astera Says:

      Loans of US dollars from China. Explain that, and its consequences, to the Venezuelan people with their Chavez education? Can one even explain it to the readers here?

  4. Roy Says:

    The comparison between that letter and the discourse of today’s politicians, both Chavista and Opposition is stark. Just before reading this, I read Juan Nagel’s article in Caracas Chronicles in which he is giving advice to the Oppo pols on how to “spin” the impending gasoline price increase. Juan sees the Venezuelan public as irresponsible children and wants to talk to them as such. Romero was speaking to and for responsible adults.

    Well, maybe Juan is right, and it is Romero who was wrong. Maybe the Venezuelan public can’t be trusted with doing the right thing. If that is the case, then let us end this charade of “Democracy” and “Poder Popular”. But, if democracy is what is desired, then the public cannot wash their hands of their poor decisions. Right now, Venezuelans are paying the price for years of poor decision making at the ballot box. As hard as it is, they are reaping the bitter harvest of the irresponsible choices they made many years ago.

    No matter how unpopular it may be, someone needs to be the responsible adult and explain the truth to Venezuelans. It sounds to me like Romero tried and finally gave it up as a lost cause and moved on to greener pastures. In the end, maybe Romero got it right after all.

  5. Vitor Says:

    People need to read this book—God-That-Failed-Economics/dp/0765808684/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407178163&sr=1-1&keywords=democracy+the+god+that+failed

    Hoppe explains how democracy is actually quite shitty and provides all kind of bad incentives.

    • m_astera Says:

      Plato explained the failure of democracy 2300 years ago. I haven’t yet read the book above, so I’m not knocking it, just saying. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner tonight. The people will always vote themselves the treasury for nothing. The USA, and Venezuela, were supposedly republics, not democracies. Both suck, but democracy sucks a whole lot more.

    • moctavio Says:

      So, Dictatorships are better?

    • Roy Says:

      As poorly as democracy functions, nothing in history has worked better to date. What are you proposing as the alternative?

      • Vitor Says:

        Small monarchies and republics seem to be the less harmful form of state. See Liechenstein, Monaco, Switzerland. Democracy is fine at municipal level, where people have more grounded notion of economics, but really screw things up in a national level where a big central state sell the illusion that there will always be resources to make everyone depende on everyone else.

  6. Rick Flowers Says:

    Marxism/socialism/communism, whatever you want to call it, always exploits hatred of some sort to get to power. In Venezuela’s case it was the inherent pardo vs. mestizo that got translated into the poor vs. the middle class argument of Marx (hate anyone who has more than you). With the destruction of the private economic sector, the only ones getting richer are the Chavista ringleaders/cocaine smugglers, as one stupid Chavez scheme after another fails miserably and the hatred and blame for the “others” continue to grow. One wonders if people who are standing in line for 3 hours to buy a loaf of bread at supermarkets that used to be full of cheap food are really too stupid to see what is happening and who is really causing it. Maybe it is like Germany’s 1943 Stalingrad moment when people began to realize they were going to lose the war, but dared not say it out loud for fear of arrest and persecution. Chavez was an ideologically driven destroyer who has left Venezuela a disaster like Hitler left to Germany.

  7. Charles Says:

    With a few exceptions, this is a society of people who want easy short-term solutions to their problems and don’t want to take responsibility or work hard to improve their long term situation. It is this stereotypical latin american mentality that is probably embodied in Venezuela more than anywhere else because of our large wealth of natural resources, perfect weather, and having the most powerful economy as a nearby trading partner which has made everything easier. And this is not only the average Venezuelan. Our elites never cared to impart a different mentality, set up a good public education or health system and basically only cared about how to get rich from government contracts and connection, play golf in el country and travel in expensive vacations. This society is rotten to the core.

  8. m_astera Says:

    Yes, people’s trials, fixing the blame elsewhere. They did a lot of those in Mao’s China. I don’t know enough Cuban history. Did that happen there?

    • Boludo Tejano Says:

      There were some trials at the beginning of the Castro era. If the jury found the accused not guilty, the accused were retried until the desired guilty verdict came.

      Trials were mainly used to decapitate the old armed forces. Having lived through the coup against Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, Che was adamant about getting the old military out of the way, and convinced Fidel to go that route. Thus trials for wartime atrocities- in a war that had maybe 1000 fatalities.
      It has been estimated that there were more executions after Fidel’s victory than there were fatalities in the war that led Fidel to power.

  9. Morpheous Says:

    “Nothing is left but to bear the consequences. Popular Trials? And who will judge the people?”

    Lots of people are already suffering the consequences of their stupidity and ignorance. The implacable reality is already the judge and the sentence is almost immediate: inflation, shortages, poverty, crime, and (the wort of all) lost of liberty.

  10. Mitchell Says:

    A big part of the problem is that constant looking for the Messiah in politics. There are none. Only sound policy which sometimes goes awry or does not function to well from one administration to the other. When that happens people must wait out the term (hence term limits) and move on to a hopefully better President or leader. It shouldn’t be about the “man/woman” in the chair, it should be about the political party and what it stands for. If a mediocre person gets the job, you wait out his term, not scrap the party, the country, the political system or model. If this were to happen there would be constant upheaval and never any stability or laws that could govern a country because of constant reversals or changes of models and systems, nothing would take hold. All too often the problem is that when someone stinks, the public turns on itself and the whole governrmental system, not the guy who should be simply voted out. History is filled with lousy leaders, but radical and revolutionary change is not the answer, most of the time. We are supposed to believe in the system and institutions, not the man. But in VZLA it often seems the opposite.

  11. Rafael Vicente Says:

    Dude, Miguel excellent article and share your opinion, nobody forced anyone to vote for: Caldra, Perez and Cahvez, our problem is that we look for a messiah to solve our problems, especially the Middle Class, which seems remember recent history, and we always end up paying the consequences of all the bad public policies limiting their development and consolidation, all managers who chose these bad governments, as well as those who did the work to avoid it.

  12. Noel Says:

    Outstanding article.

  13. Prof Romero is one of the most lucid analysts of Venezuelan politics. Too bad that these days he is writing mostly about world affairs.

  14. Sam Says:

    The truth is timeless

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