Saturday, April 21, 2007

Venezuelan Dictatorship Growing

"Asi, asi, asi es que se gobierna" (this is how one should rule) the crowds shout at the gigantic stadium monitor. Hugo Chavez grasps the podium and denounces former supporters and past allies while the audience of thousands cheer their undisputed leader.

United Socialist Party of Venezuela Moves Forward: "A tree that is born crooked never straightens its branches," he said to the party promoters yesterday, urging the promoters not to deviate from revolutionary principles. "Let's make sure, then, that our tree, the PSUV, is born straight, without deviations." he said. In that light, Chávez criticized the position of certain party leaders who have rejected the idea of a unified party.

At some point loyalty to individuals and the principles of the cause cross a line when a single leader demands obedience without deviation. The stadium rally reminds one long term observer of the Chavista revolution of similar scenes from 70 years ago.

Nuremberg at El Poliedro: These past few days have given us a lot of material for future discussion. One piece to discuss without fault was the show yesterday at El Poliedro, the big sports/concert arena of Caracas. Chavez does not like to use it that much as on occasion he has not been able to fill it up all the way. But Thursday night was a no miss affair as he was swearing in new members of the PSUV party; and as it is the case in such mass movement of a proto-totalitarian nature, people walk over each other to be the first ones to sign in and access to the high positions as fast as possible.

So, Chavez got a good crowd and interesting pictures to promote his new party (for those who are into this sort of things, even if the picture I chose here as a chilling big-brotherish feel). But Chavez being Chavez he could not resist holding the podium for hours, blocking exits for people: in chavista events once you are in you cannot leave for "security reasons"; I know that from many people that have had to attend such events. Obviously a camera that would catch people leaving a Chavez speech would be very bad for his image.

When I saw the pictures of yesterday rally at El Poliedro the historian in me immediately thought about Nuremberg. Not the Havana sea front of Castro events, at least on this respect Castro has managed to be more of an original. No, chavismo is slipping fast into the uniformity that characterizes totalitarian regimes. Look at the sea of red. Look at the idea of organization that the arrangement of El Poliedro seats manage to instill into the rather rowdy and messy Venezuelan crowds. I cannot remember in recent Venezuelan history such an organized or coordinated meeting in such a scale. Chavismo has been working hard at training his people to look more and more like a fearless organized militia, a new storm trooper of the XXI century, all ghoulishly red. A little bit also like the terror bearing Cultural Revolution militias of Mao's China.

Uniformity of message, intolerance of dissent, complete conviction in the superiority of the self, the truth of the world and the justice of the cause. This is not an unprecedented collection of traits, and past experience does not lend hope that all will end well for the people.