Leaving Venezuela is a strange feeling, again.
I’ve done what I came to do, seen more than I ever hoped to see, and have my work cut out for me when I return to the lab after the holidays. The last days are, like they were last year, a mix of ‘what should I be sure to see,’ entropy and exhaustion, and the frantic search for gifts and random bullshit trophies for the folks back home…(never my favorite part of travel, the obligatory flag keychain search)…
My trip out west was incredible. Maracaibo is the coldest city in Venezuela (only because everyone and everywhere is ridiculously air conditioned). One of my projects for back in the states is an essay on the regional autonomy movement in the state of Zulia, of which Maracaibo is the capital city.
I got to visit a massive commune being built outside the city by PDVSA, the state oil company and talked with Nelson Sanchez -- an old school guerrilla and early influence on Chávez's socialism in the 1980s. Today he is in charge of the 'ideological development' of PDVSA employees (not as spooky as it sounds. He oversees things like the distribution of funds to the building of the commune, producing pamphlets on Feminism and the like).
Mérida, a university town in the Andes, reminded me a bit of Santa Cruz – hippies, spoiled college brats and the climate and all.
Barinas, the birthplace of Chávez located in the upper Llanos, was an eye-opener. Chávez’s family runs the place, and no one is happy with them – especially not the reds. I heard more than once the expression “Aqui hay Chavismo, pero no hay la revolución” (We have Chavismo here, but we don’t have the Revolution). part of this has to do with the fact that Chávez’s dad, who was governor for 8 years, is old, and has been rather ill for the past 4 years. But part of it also has to do with the corruption of his brother, Adán, or so many tell me.
But at the same time, Barinas is something of a boom town, and has only really entered the map in the past 10 years. The problems of the city – infrastructure, especially – are thus perhaps inevitable. For example, the power was continuously going out while we were there – the city is building new malls but not updating its electric girds accordingly. These two conflicting social and political pressures will certainly have an impact on the future of the revolution both in that state and in the country more generally.
I was drunk all weekend, what’d I miss?
---Importantly, in the regional elections of 23-N, two prominent figures of the ‘internal right’ – Diosdado Cabello and Jesse Chacón – lost election bids for a second term as governor of Miranda state and mayor of Sucre Municipality, respectively. Many of us hoped that this sort of popular rejection would FINALLY wake up Chávez and we could be done with these shits. Unfortunately no. Cabello was named minister of infrastructure (a particularly disconcerting appointment, given his poor performance as governor) and Chacón retaind his previous seat as minister of communications.
---Since the elections, there has been a spate of violence in Aragua state. Bosses have assassinated four radical labor organizers. So far, one person has been detained in relation with the hired homicides, but the killings continue.
---Chávez is on the campaign trail again, pushing for a constitutional amendment that will allow him to run for president again in 2012. I’m reasonably confident he’ll win this, and barring catastrophe, will win the presidency again (most like running against Henrique Capriles Radonski, of the US-funded party Primero Justicia, the ultra right ‘homeland, family and property’ movement, infamous leader of an attack on the Cuban embassy during the 2002 coup and newly elected governor of Miranda)…
Off to Roti-landia
To Trinidad tomorrow morning. I’ll try to post again when I’m back in the states. cheers.