Tropical Stalinism in Venezuela

Must be the day for editorials. After this morning readings, at lunch I read the latest one from Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual which deserves prompt translation below (here for the original in Spanish). The topic that bothers Petkoff, and this blogger, is the latest illustration on how Chavez and chavismo are constantly rewriting history, retaining only what is of use in the justification of Chavez abuses.

We see this rewriting everywhere, from the chavista supporters, in Venezuela or overseas. There is the very simplistic: "but they did the same thing before", even when this is not true, if anything by the scale at which these abuses are perpetrated today (think judicial system partiality and the new level which corruption is practiced). In this case history is used as an excuse, trying to magnify past errors to allow for present abuses.

The next level is Chavez himself inventing pages of history, such as his meditations on the Spanish invasion of the Americas where the indigenous world he thinks of only happened in his imaginary or those of ecologists cum New Age fantasist. I hope that the translation of books such as 1491 will soon hit the bookshelves of Caracas to bring some common sense to these prejudices.

And then there is the most sophisticated history rewriting. Currently we watch the satanization of Baduel, the man that contributed MORE than anyone else to ensure the return of Chavez in office on April 13 2002. Since the fallout between Baduel and Chavez last year, chavismo has been diligent in accusing Baduel of all sorts of crimes, such as him receiving millions for the CIA or the NED (uttered by figures lacking credibility like Iris Varela; the more credible chavista characters are more careful and use such folks as Varela for the dirty work, a long established character assassination protocol). That nothing so far has stuck to Baduel is irrelevant: the chavista dwindling masses are only too eager to pretend that they believe the exact contrary position to what they had been asked to proclaim for the past three years.

Next, the translated editorial.
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The official chavista celebration of the April 2002 events this year had a precise objective: to destroy the figure of General Raul Baduel. The tons of B.S. discharged during those days, the ever redundant and empty cadenas of Yo-El-Supremo, the liturgy Puente Llaguno and the participation of General Garcia Carneiro, all had a common thread: to show that Baduel had nothing to do with the return of president to Miraflores and that the "Hero of the Revolution" in fact is nothing more than a traitor.

The procedure recalls the manipulations of history that took place in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era and which ended after a time, not only by death but also with the disappearance of the historical narrative of the people who were condemned by Stalin. The thing began with a campaign of insults against "enemies", which covered them in mud, and then, sufficiently destroyed politically and morally in the eyes of the population, not only shot them but also erase, with impunity, from history.

Stalin launched a special dedication thus destroying the entire elite who led the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. So were erased from history, including thousands of old revolutionary fighters, the big bosses of the assault of Bolsheviks to power: Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin and finally Leon Trotsky himself. The slaughter had one aspect that might seem comical had it not been so tragic: every time Stalin liquidated a member of the communist leadership in 1917, he was removed from the photographs where he appeared with the leader. Each year, therefore, officials had to retouch photographs. Fidelismo also has been given to this kind of exercises, but not the extent that was achieved in the USSR. There is a famous photograph of Fidel Castro with Carlos Franqui, director of Radio Rebelde in the Sierra Maestra and then one of the first dissidents, placed to his right. After Franqui left Cuba, he was also taken out of the picture.

This is one of the profound differences between a democratic conception of life and totalitarian one. A democratic vision of the story assumes its contradictions. No one would think to erase from our history general Piar. A totalitarian regime, however, tries hard to project a monolithic image. The part of history which he claims to be the heir, as well as its own, must not contain cracks or contradictions and even less arguments with the leader.

It makes us perplex to see the insistence in copying practices not only aberrant but frankly stupid, such as writing the story to please the boss. But on the other hand, if something is demonstrated through this Stalinist campaign against him, is the importance to be named Raul Baduel.

-The end-