Sunday, November 16, 2008
Al carajo! Yanqui de mierda!
Last night I went to a concert in the east of the city which culminated a series of nation-wide events sponsored by the youth wing of the PSUV (J-PSUV) meant to mobilize the vote. The PSUV campaign to this point seems to be taking on Obama-esque proportions, with a strong youth mobilization, interactive web presence, and the use of robo-text messaging to not only get people out to the polls, but to defend them from opposition sabotage. With the recent Nicaraguan elections fresh in the memory, where charges of vote fraud and US interference resulted in days of social unrest, the Chavista bloc is preparing itself for the worst while hoping for the best.
Anecdotally, this plays out like last night. At a friend’s house before the show, we sat and talked about the vote, about Manuel Rosales’ campaign for mayor of Maracaibo (the slogan isn’t ‘vote for me for mayor’ but rather ‘Manuel Rosales: the leader of Zulia’). Then we watched live news coverage of a police raid on an arms cache in Baruta, an upscale and rather anti-Chavista zone of Caracas. The rifles, side arms and ammunition were discovered in a house under dual ownership, and one of the owners was supposed to be in the United States at the time of the raid. As I wrote on Friday, an opposition candidate was arrested for alleged drug trafficking (and that story deepens as well: Makled, the man detained, owns the Makled Group, a pharmaceutical and chemical company that has long been accused of basing its income on making materials necessary to process coke). In other words, things are heating up.
But then there was the concert, which was a return to the festive side of the Bolivarian Revolution. Three bands played: The Whalers (of the Marley family line fame), Molotov (from Mexico), and Ska-P (from Spain). The weather behaved, the beer was sold at inflated prices, and the crowd was wonderful and full of life even as my crew and I snuck out around 2:30 in the morning.
A common theme throughout the evening was something on the order of ‘fuck imperialism,’ and my Venezuelan friends had ample opportunity to point at me and laugh, token gringo that I was and am. Ska-P, whose arrival in Caracas was widely anticipated and who as a band have been outspoken supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution, had one particular performance in which a band member dressed as Uncle Sam on stilts, wielding a giant scythe and threatening the crowd.
All of this awareness, this intense anti-imperialism, and the condemnation of Yankees, and I have never been maltreated in Venezuela (with the exception of a bureaucrat where I worked last year, and that had more to do with her petty tyrannical nature than with my place of origin). That is to say, there has always been, in my experience, a line dividing the US foreign policy machine and individual citizens. I’m not always sure this is a good thing. On the one hand, making links among people without the abstractions of states and ruling classes is a good thing, to be encouraged and fostered. On the other, it aids and perhaps even deepens the ‘not my president’ logic of detached and sarcastic inaction that has festered in the US until this most recent election cycle.
In a parallel between the United States and Venezuela, youth and traditionally underrepresented demographics played key roles in the rejection of a broken system. In the US, youth and people of color mobilized as never seen before to elect Barack Obama (…he only he were the socialist-terrorist-black power radical the Republicans made him out to be!!!). In Venezuela, it has been radical youth and the country’s historically marginalized poor majority that has pressed the Bolivarian Revolution forward. In both cases as well, it is precisely these mobilized blocs that hold the future. When Barack Obama inevitably makes the rightward shift that is de rigueur in US politics, the question will be whether or not the millions who mobilized for ‘change’ will be able maintain their momentum in spite of the dear leader. In Venezuela’s case, it is precisely these blocs who have the power to reverse the gains made by the endogenous right in the past year, and to deepen the revolution.