An analysis of the declarations of the opposition and a good portion of Venezuelan intellectuals, before and after the referendum, form the privileged limits for exploring the presence of colonial and racist thought within the elite in our continent. Undoubtedly, we can talk about the limits of consciousness that comes from an epistemological pattern of knowledge that makes sense of reality from certain presuppositions.
For the liberal/colonial (and racist) thinking of part of the Venezuelan opposition, including many of its intellectuals, Venezuela finds itself in the presence of a project that is political, military, dictatorial, authoritarian, demagogic, Nineteenth Century, anti-historic, static, etc., etc. In these conditions, it is obvious that it’s absolutely impossible that the Chavez’s government can count on the support of the majority of the population. It is simply a matter of an epistemological impossibility; something that cannot be conceived and, therefore, something that cannot occur in reality. Given the deep separations, disconnection, and social, political, and even cognitive breaches of contemporary Venezuelan society, which also have a clearly corresponding territoriality, the vision of reality is radically fragmented. Only what is near, only that with which one has contact is seen, and since the majority of the middle-class and upper-middle-class sectors are Anti-Chavez, since the private media is radically anti-Chavez, it follows that the whole country is anti-Chavez. This is the source of the interpretations and the analysis of the opposition’s most brilliant political scientists.
So deep is the conviction surrounding the absolute reality of this epistemological impossibility, that no empirical fact can place this unquestionable truth in doubt.
When the pre-referendum surveys (which were almost unanimous) and the very results of the referendum contradict this objective reality, an explanation was needed. Colonial/liberal/racist thought thus gives two types of answers.
The first is formed from a racist perspective that disqualifies the Venezuelan people. If the majority sectors of the population vote for the government, it is not because they agree with the proposals or the programs of the government, on the contrary, it’s because, with the enormous resources of petroleum, the government is buying their vote. A characteristic, and by no means exceptional or extreme reading of this Venezuelan reality, is Rayma’s caricature published in the daily El Universal de Caracas of August 7, 2004 in which Chavez, dressed as a sport fisherman in his yacht says, “During electoral times, the best way to fish for ‘imbeciles’ is to let loose the budgetary bait.” That is, in view of the fact that almost all the polls give the advantage to ratifying the presidency of Chavez, the people who support him are characterized as an “imbecile” people who allow themselves to be bought by public demagogic and clientist policies. They aren’t real human beings; they don’t adapt themselves to the liberal model of autonomous subjects with their own moral judgment. They are things, “imbeciles” who, lacking moral judgment and their own political opinion, allow themselves to be purchased by the highest bidder. Since the Chavez government has the petroleum resources with which to do this, it is, therefore, possible to explain the unexplainable, that the majority can vote for Chavez.
This explanation concerning the buying of these sub-humans has repeatedly appeared in political discourse and opinion articles of the opposition during the past years. If there is a large pro-Chavez demonstration, necessarily it is because the government used public funds to pay the attendees or to give them liquor to intoxicate and make them look happy at the demonstration. If the popular majority votes to ratify the presidency of Chavez, this, necessarily, resulted from the fact that the government paid these foolish voters with this end in mind. Even the Venezuelan Cardinal, Rosalio Castillo Lara, publicly pronounced this accusation, affirming that whoever voted for the “No” did it because the government paid each one of them 50 or 60 dollars.
The other discussion path used by mouthpieces of the opposition to resolve the apparent inconsistency between the epistemological impossibility that the majority of the Venezuelan people could support Chavez and the apparent result of the referendum is denying reality. If what occurred is, a priory, impossible, if it was a radical impossibility, then, obviously, it simply did not happen. Since it was not possible that the opposition would lose the referendum, then, necessarily, the opposition had to win by an ample majority, evidentially and independently autonomous of the electoral results; the opposition, necessarily won with a wide majority of votes. What the opinion survey said did not matter, the official results given by the National Electoral Council, nor the similar results of the so called, “quick count” (exit polls) carried on simultaneously by the Carter Center of the OAS, do not matter, including the similar results produced by the evidence given by the organization of the opposition SUMATE itself does not matter.
Since it was not possible that Chavez had the support of the majority of the population, since it was evident that the majority of the population necessarily has to reject a messianic and authoritarian dictator, then the only possible explanation of the results of the referendum is an enormous fraud. It is not an empirical question; it isn’t an affirmation that requires practical proof. Given what has happened was not possible, thus it simply and obviously did not happen. The only explanation for the discrepancy between the unanswerable previsions that the opposition assumed and reality is that reality is not true. The results were a lie.
From their profound conviction that they are the owners of not only the country but of the truth, that the others simply do not exist as human beings worthy of being taken into account, any possible assumption that their suppositions do not correspond to reality of the country must necessarily be denied. Above all if they are beyond the limits of possibility.
Edgardo Lander is Professor of Sociology at the Central University of Venezuela.
Translated by Lori Zett