Venezuela's Revolution? Pretty, it ain't.
07.02.05 | During a speech on 23 January 2005, President Chávez addressed some
remarks to Condoleezza Rice, who had referred to him as "a negative
influence" for the region during her Senate confirmation hearings for
the post of U.S. Secretary of State. Repeating earlier statements, he
called her "illiterate"; on this occasion, he elaborated further by
speculating that her statements about him were motivated by sexual
frustration. He suggested that some of his minions could provide Dr.
Rice with some relief, as he himself was too busy and was in any case
unwilling to "make the sacrifice" for his country.
Here are some excerpts from Chávez's speech in translation (source: transcription on the homepage of the Venezuelan Ministry for Propaganda, Minci).
Note the rambling nature of the diatribe (which was edited in this
case); Chávez's speeches typically go on for hours without going
"First she [Rice] said that she was very
irritated, a few days ago, by Chávez, by the tyrant Chávez, the
caudillo, that he was a threat to the people of the world and of
America. Afterwards, the next day, they asked her again, seems like
she's dreaming about me.
Well, even if she's the
foreign minister of that imperialist government and it's doctor Alí
Rodríguez's [the Venezuelan chancellor, or foreign minister] turn to
meet her, I'm capable of inviting her to a meeting to find out, well,
what's this thing that you've got with me? We're going to arrange this,
let's see. Do you [the audience] want me to invite her? I'll do what
you tell me to. A short while ago, someone suggested to me: 'Look, why
don't you ask her to marry you to see if this will sort itself out?'
Should I propose marriage to her? [Audience: Nooo.] What bad luck this
lady has! You said no. Well, but really she first said she was very
irritated, the next day she changed, it would be good for a good
psychiatrist to analyze this, because the next day they asked her again
and what she said was that she was not irritated, no, but that now she
was sad. Oh daddy! She was very sad and depressed because of Chávez,
because of this tyrant. Afterwards she went on to say that Chávez is a
bad influence on the continent.
Mister Bush, now
accompanied by a new Secretary of State, the Mr. Condolencia Rice
[sic], Condolencia Rice. I am sorry not to have sent her Fidel, send
me, please, the method "Yo si puedo" [a basic reading course] to send
it in English to Condolencia Rice, I forgot to send it to her again,
one has so much to do, because she is showing a complete illiteracy
with regards to what's happening in Venezuela and to what's happening
in the world and to what's happening in Latin America.
can't marry Condolencia because I have a lot of work to do, she'll have
to look for some other options, she should forget about me for a while.
Alí Rodríguez could do it, Cristóbal Jiménez is there, available; well,
Juan Barreto is single; somebody else should make this sacrifice for
the fatherland, you can ask me to do anything, but don't ask me to do
this. Nicolás Maduro, Pedro Carreño."
The following text by sociologist Tulio Hernández sums up pretty well what Chávez's statements reveal about his sexist and chauvinist mindset.
Rural Machismo as a Political Problem
by Tulio Hernández
ask the reader to imagine for a moment what would have happened if
President Chávez, instead of targeting his rage -- disguised as a taunt
-- against the person of Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the
United States government, had aimed it at President Bush. Let's picture
for a moment what would have been the outcome if the Venezuelan
president, with his [guachamaronería] as always, had developed a
sequence with the following tone in front of the hypnotised multitudes
that venerate him, like they once venerated Perón, as they still do
with Fidel in Cuba, as they did with Hitler: "Ooooh baby, Dubya, you've
really got it in for me, you don't like anything I do, perhaps it's
because you want me to give you what's coming to you? But I won't
sacrifice myself, let Juan Barreto do it; he's single".
imagine it, but we know that this would never have happened and is
never going to happen. Because President Chávez, as he has shown during
his six long years in government, does not consider the qualities or
defects inherent in the male condition to interfere with the work or
behaviour of rulers. Those of the female condition, on the other hand,
When the Venezuelan president -- with this unmistakable
culture of a rural adolescent who has not managed to understand the
progress the democratic world has made in this area with regard to
differences, be they of gender, politics, nationalities, ethnicity or
sexual preferences -- plays with irony based on the hypothesis that
Condoleezza Rice is in love with him and begins with her verbal
harassment when her love is not returned, he is sending a very concrete
message. He is saying, with the ancestry, the authority and the
persuasiveness that his condition of being president and exalted
communicator confer on him, that Doctor Rice is acting not because she
is a high-level government official, because she has a high capacity
for discernment, or because she is employing her personal analytical
ability based on her beliefs. No, Condoleezza Rice is acting like a
woman, and therefore, her motivation is neither political nor
intellectual: it is rather derived from an eager and unsatisfied vagina
that is waiting for a tropical "bull" and third-world man like himself
to give her the satisfaction she needs. You don't have to be Roland
Barthes to understand that this is the message being transmitted.
this is not the first time that the president has acted out his
mysoginist sexual exhibitionism in front of the spellbound faces of his
numerous followers. A long time ago, when he was just beginning his
period of government, he surprised the country by announcing, live and
on national TV, to his wife, the then Mrs. Marisabel de Chávez, that
that same night, upon returning to La Casona, he would "give her what
she had coming to her" ("darle lo suyo"). In popular Venezuelan speech, darle lo suyo, just in case we have any foreign readers, is a typically macho phrase
that refers to the sexual act, understood as an offer of satisfaction
that the man makes to the woman to calm her yearnings. Therefore, if
one wants to denigrate the behaviour of a woman who, for instance, is
very demanding at work, one would say: "What she needs it someone to
give her what she's got coming to her!" (“¡A esa lo que le hace falta es que le den lo suyo!”), or, a bit more crudely, "to give it to her where she needs it" (“que le den por donde es”). There is, conversely, no equivalent disqualification that could be used to attribute the same motivation to a male behaviour.
the president has not realised -- on the whole, his life has been very
much centered on political conspiracy and military discipline -- is
that there are countries where a person could be sued or even jailed
for offending someone publically on the basis of their personal traits
deriving from gender, race or sexual preference, and that rude remarks
like the ones he has been aiming successively at Doctor Rice -- calling
her an illiterate, firstly, disqualifying her actions based on the
supposed condition of being a besotted woman, secondly, and thirdly,
adding an ambiguous and contemptuous suspicion ("let someone else
sacrifice himself"), thereby referring -- one can't be too sure -- to
her supposed ugliness, her condition of being Afro-American, or simply
to her being an agent of imperialism -- could come at a high price in
legal terms in the United States or Europe, where the offense of sexual
harassment includes verbal harassment.
All this is without
even mentioning that in any decent country gestures such as this would
not provoke knowing little laughs and applause, as we saw on the part
of his ministers and mayors on Sunday, including some female ministers;
instead it would produce embarassment in all social and political
sectors in response to such a testimony to backwardness, vulgarity, and
immaturity on the part of the authority that offered them publically.
why I believe we should not take the incident as a joke. Nor should we
belittle it, as was tried by certain common ignorants, who used the
argument that the offended party is a very powerful woman, a figure of
imperialism and savage neoliberalism, and that therefore it is
acceptable to insult her, because in the end, she can defend herself.
The militant machismo, the public display of bad manners and the
emotional outbursts of the president, which are comparable only with
those of Governor Acosta Carlez (king of the burp)*, should be treated
as a political problem that muddies the relationship between the
president and those opposing him as well as with the governments and
authorities of befriended countries.
In his private and personal
life, Hugo Chávez as an individual has the right to express himself as
he pleases regarding women and those opposing him. But as President of
the Republic, he has a duty to maintain a minimum of decorum and
respect for others, because when he took on these functions he stopped
being free; he cannot act according to his personal judgment because he
holds an office that obliges him to place the national interest and
collective respect above what he does and says in public. At the end of
the day, he is the spokesperson for all Venezuelans on the
international stage, and that is how he should behave.
ask yourself what's the use of such a display of the virtues of the Ley
Resorte (media gag law) for protecting children from the pernicious
effects of television, when it is the President of the Republic himself
who, on national TV and during children's hour, takes it upon himself
to communicate three types of values that more advanced society
nowadays are trying to banish forever: hate between human beings,
contempt for and underestimating the female condition, and machismo as
the foremost principle governing the relationship between men and women.
is definitely a ghost haunting Venezuela: the ghost of backsliding and
regression to the myths, the ethics and aesthetics characteristic of
the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th, to the times of
rural caudillos who based their power on the enormous size of their
* During the 2002 national strike, then
General Acosta Carlez led an army unit to secure the strategically
important Coca Cola deposits at that company's plant. Live on camera,
the General took a swig from a bottle of Coca Cola, looked into the
camera and offered a long and resounding burp. Since that day, he has
been associated by all parties with burping; even Chávez himself calls
him the general of the burp. Acosta Carlez was rewarded with the governorship of Carabobo state for carrying out this brave and dangerous mission.
A Cuban journalist, Carlos Alberto Montaner, described the scene as follows:
thought that Venezuelans were hungry, but it wasn't true: they were
thirsty. And so it came that colonel Chávez sent his best men to occupy
the Coca-Cola and beer depots by military force in order to mitigate
this terrible scourge. Rum will probably be the next objective. What
could be more patriotic for a Bolivarian government than handing out
Cubalibres to the thirsty and starving masses?
At the head of
the hardened anti-Coca-Cola troops there marched a young general,
Acosta Carlez, tall and haughty, notably portly, who opened a bottle,
bravely swallowed its contents without even bothering to measure its
content of carbohydrates -- the chavista soldiers don't know the
meaning of fear -- turned his gaze to the television cameras and
launched a prolonged and devastating burp that sent tremors through the
precinct. "A terrible spectacle", said analyst Joaquín Pérez later. "It
could have been worse", responded the brilliant writer Carlo Raúl
Hernández laconically. "Imagine what would happen if he raided a
avocado or black bean warehouse..."
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