TAG | Venezuela
Comments off · Posted by Andrew Stuttaford in Uncategorized
Cross-posted on the Corner:
Critics of Pope Francis who describe him as a ‘socialist’ are fairly wide off the mark. Perhaps that was inevitable: Describing the ideology of a pope in conventionally political terms is, by definition, going to be a struggle. That said, in trying to understand Francis’ politics, it’s better to look to his Argentine past and, more specifically, Peronism and the way that Peronism (something, it should be said, of a shape-shifting concept) came to be understood.
For a deep dive into this issue, “Pope Francis, Perón, and God’s People: The Political Religion of Jorge Mario Bergoglio” by Claudio I. Remeseira is very well worth reading. Less subtly, Francis betrays clear signs of Peronist style, whether it’s authoritarianism, demagoguery and a certain weakness for conspiracy theory. So far as actual politics are concerned, his rejection of globalism fits fairly comfortably into Peronist notions of economic autarchy, and his ‘leftism’ as an extension of left-Peronism, the Peronism of the descamisados, a leftism that, combined with a certain anti-Americanism (Perón again) and that liking for strongman rule, made him so willing to help out the Castro brothers.
And not just that duo: Here’s Andres Oppenheimer, writing in the Miami Herald:
The Vatican’s mediation effort in Venezuela has been — to use a word much in vogue in Washington these days — a disaster. It has legitimized that country’s authoritarian ruler Nicolás Maduro, throwing him a lifeline when millions of protesters were demanding his resignation on the streets in October 2016. And it has helped him get back on his feet by further cracking down on the opposition.
Several interviews with Venezuelan opposition leaders and Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro this week convinced me that the Vatican’s mediation, and the opposition coalition’s failure to officially suspend it, have become the biggest obstacles for a solution to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis.
The Vatican’s mediation alongside that of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) — a group that has done virtually nothing but defend populist demagogues in the hemisphere — failed to result in any action. Maduro didn’t release Leopoldo Lopez and other prominent political prisoners, and as he has increased the overall number of political prisoners from 83 last year to 108 today, according to the Foro Penal research group’s figures…
It’s becoming increasingly clear that, to restore democracy in Venezuela, the United States and Latin American countries should implement the OAS Democratic Charter, which calls for gradual collective diplomatic sanctions against countries that break the rule of law.
But in an interview this week, Almagro told me that his hands are tied for as long as the Vatican-UNASUR mediation remains officially alive.
“While the Vatican remains there, we will definitely not take any action to move forward with the Democratic Charter,” Almagro told me. “If they tell us that that dialogue is over, and there is a formal communication by both the opposition and the Vatican to that effect, we will restart whatever work is needed.”
He added that, as of today, the paralysis in Venezuela is a result “of the Vatican’s presence and of a wait-and-see attitude by the Venezuelan opposition.” The Pope, argues Oppenheimer, should end the Vatican’s mediation efforts “and stop being an obstacle in the restoration of democratic rule in Venezuela”….
Maybe Francis will, but given the support that he has given to the Castro regime, I’m not optimistic.
The Financial Times reports:
[Venezuelan president Maduras] campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
He is not alone in making that pilgrimage. Mariana Alcalá recently travelled from the western city of Barquisimeto to Caracas to lay flowers at a shrine set up by devotees near the military barracks where the former president’s remains are kept in a sarcophagus surrounded by the presidential guard of honour.
“Our giant has left us in person, but he will always be with us in spirit. I think that the majority [of chavistas] believe, have faith, that one way or another he is helping us, not only socially but also spiritually,” says Ms Alcalá. “We ask him for help, and he helps us, he illuminates us.”
The “Saint Hugo Chávez” shrine in the 23 de Enero slum in central Caracas is one of many that have sprung up around the country since the socialist leader, who described himself as a Christian, died in March. In poor areas like the 23 de Enero, one of Chávez’s strongholds where he was revered in life, his image hangs next to those of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Pope Francis I.
“This is a product of the empathy he developed with the majority of the unassisted, unprotected, forgotten population of Venezuela. When he took power they felt that some sort of father had arrived, a saviour, a protector, an Almighty,” says Lizbety González, a Venezuelan expert on cults. “His death generated a deep pain and that vacuum was filled by a cult, a cult that is evident all over Venezuela now.”
Some even believe the former president could be more powerful dead than alive. “Chávez is a god, a messiah, a warrior of light,” says Humberto López, who likes to dress as the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
CARACAS—Nicolás Maduro, the one-time bus driver widely expected to become Venezuela’s next president in Sunday’s elections, has resorted to an unusual campaign gimmick in the past week: At nearly every stop, he has suddenly broken out into birdsong.
The whistling started some 10 days ago, after the candidate says his mentor, the late President Hugo Chávez, visited him in a chapel in the form of a bird to bless the official launch of his presidential bid.
“I felt the spirit of my commander Chavez,” Mr. Maduro explained to a crowd after telling them how the bird circled over his head three times.
The birdsong, typically responded to by ecstatic crowds with whistling of their own, underscores the candidate’s reliance on the memory of Mr. Chavez…
Via the BBC:
The acting president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has put a curse on citizens who do not vote for him in next week’s election.
He likened his main rival candidate, Henrique Capriles, to Spanish conquerors fighting indigenous people in the 16th Century. A centuries-old curse, he said, would fall on those who did not vote for him.
Mr Capriles responded by saying the only curse for Venezuelans would be if Mr Maduro won the election… Wearing a local indigenous hat at a rally in Amazonas state, a largely jungle territory on the borders of Brazil and Colombia, Mr Maduro said: “If anyone among the people votes against Nicolas Maduro, he is voting against himself, and the curse of Maracapana is falling on him.”
He was referring to a 16th Century battle when Spanish colonial fighters defeated indigenous fighters decisively.
“If the bourgeoisie win, they are going to privatise health and education, they are going to take land from the Indians, the curse of Maracapana would come on you,” the candidate continued.
Analysts say that Venezuela’s mix of Catholic and animist beliefs, especially in the south-central plains and jungles, is fertile ground for talk of spirits and curses which may otherwise seem out of place in an election campaign….
Needless to say, those who can should vote for Capriles to bring an end to this sort of nonsense.
From the Guardian, a reminder (as if one were needed) that religion will always be with us:
In a country that wakes up every Monday morning to a dismal tally of weekend murders, it is no surprise that people have turned to the saints for help. But the holy men invoked in Venezuela are anything but virtuous. In a nation with one of the highest murder rates in the world – a staggering 14,000 a year on average – where locals often joke that they would be safer if they lived in Baghdad, even the beatified carry guns.
Welcome to the cult of Ismael and the Holy Thugs, a curious blend of spiritualism and hero worship that comes with its own quirky iconography: chiefly garish figurines with baseball caps on back to front, cigarettes dangling from their mouths and guns stuffed into their belts. Ismael and his posse are the latest addition to the María Lionza cult, a religion that believes the dead coexist with the living and can be channelled through medium-like people.
Read the whole thing.