Learned Helplessness: Venezuela continues to follow Cuba’s path to serfdom


Many decades ago, Fidel Castro convinced the vast majority of the Cuban people they were helpless to oppose him and his apartheid dictatorship. The Cuban regime used the same tactic in Venezuela through their puppet dictators Chavez and Maduro. Today, not only is Venezuela suffering from the same misery and oppression that befell Cuba, their learned helplessness keeps them on the same road to serfdom.

Francisco Toro in Caracas Chronicles:

The Only Thing We’ve Learned is Helplessness

The thing that’s keeping chavismo in power isn’t CNE, or the Supreme Tribunal, or even the army. It’s the opposition’s deep conviction that we’re powerless against them.

The political moment is full of contradictions. The Maduro government has, in a non-trivial sense, already fallen. Nobody really believes PSUV is electorally competitive anymore and nobody truly believes it can just keep putting off all elections forever. PSUV right now is like Wile E. Coyote before he notices he’s already run off the cliff. As Naky and Elecé like to say, we’re really having a long, involved discussion about the when, not the if.

But somehow, the opposition’s supporters simply refuse to believe it. Seventeen years of heartache have taken their toll. Like the grown up elephant in that video [HERE] still tied down by a rope he could easily snap, we’ve internalized our helplessness as an existential condition. Our trainer knows it, which is why he’s existentially devoted to maintaining the illusion. The minute it breaks, his power is gone.

It’s amazing to think that just ten years ago Hugo Chávez came within a few hundred thousand votes of extending his sphere of influence from the Rio Grande to the Patagonia. To our younger readers, the idea anyone anywhere once saw bolivarian socialism as a model worth copying must read like some grim kind of satire. In Venezuela today, PSUV is a toxic brand. With likely voters breaking 8-to-1 (eight to one!) in favor of recalling Maduro, Venezuela isn’t really even “polarized” anymore. That’s old think.

The new reality is an overwhelming national consensus on the absolute priority of show this government the door in a peaceful and orderly fashion. That  consensus bringing together Caracas and the regions, public employees and private entrepreneurs, the working class and the middle class, even people who think of themselves as chavistas with people who oppose them. We’re so used to thinking of the country in terms of rough-halves we find it hard to conceive of the new reality: the conflict today isn’t against half the country, it’s against a tiny parasitic elite that’s entirely isolated, reviled by virtually everyone, living on borrowed time and banking on inertia.

Even within the left and even within the ruling party itself calls for a change at the top have grown from a murmur to a hard to miss roar. PSUV, as an institution, looks more and more like the Acción Democrática of 1998: formidable on paper but riven by rivalries and old grudges and utterly unable to put forward a vision for the future, to mobilize its ostensible supporters, to inspire or lead, much less govern.

The standard retort is that none of that matters because “they” have the guns and “they” are entirely ruthless and don’t mind using as much violence as they need to to cling on to power. The “they” in this formulation is always left conveniently vague, as though it was some one else’s problem to get to the specifics.

In reality, the “they” who have the guns is the state security forces, and “they” turnout to be living the same crisis everyone else is. “They” can’t find food at the shops or at their barracks, either. “They” can’t get medicines if they get sick. “They” have families and friends and lovers and children whose future has been decimated by this crisis every bit as decisively as everyone else’s. The “they” in “they have the guns” turns out to be an empty category. We’d recognize it as a paper tiger if our helplessness wasn’t so thoroughly learned.

Continue reading HERE.