From Christiansborg to the National Assembly

VA columnist Jessica Dos Santos goes from Danish TV show "Borgen" to the National Assembly in her latest column.

It took me months, but a few days ago I finally finished the last season of the Danish TV series “Borgen.” In the beginning I felt my slow pace was due to the fact that I can’t binge watch series like everyone else: I don’t have time (even under quarantine!).

However, in this case, I think I delayed it on purpose, as it was generating a weird mix of feelings. Now, almost any show that brings together journalism, politics and interpersonal affairs is bound to be interesting for me. No surprise there: some of us like to see our dilemmas depicted on screen to find out if we’ll relate to the twists and turns the script writers have set for their characters.

On this occasion, that is precisely what happened: I related to a character and identified with her actions, but she turned out to be the leader of a party called “The Moderates” and later created another one called “The New Democrats.” In other words, after assuming leftist positions all my life, I found myself relating to something as boring as “moderation.”

I found myself thinking stuff like “right, that’s something we can compromise on,” “that’s true, extremist positions aren’t useful,” “no, that will never fly with young people.” I didn’t know if this was bad per se, or if it was bad because I live in Venezuela, a place where every aspect of life is super intense, and politics of course is no exception.

Furthermore, I found myself wondering things like “how come over here we don’t have respectful political debates between opponents?”, “where’s accountability?”, “isn’t it possible to have at least one media outlet do some serious investigative work, even if everyone ends up covered in mud?”.

The show, which is very political from start to finish, depicts a parliamentary system. This is a bit of a novelty for people in these parts of the world, where most countries have presidential systems. I found it interesting how every potential government decision needs to be carefully agreed upon with the other minority coalition parties, even if they only hold five percent of the seats. Failing to do so could lead to the government breaking apart and resigning, with new elections to follow.

At the same time we should not have any illusions or fall for the colonialist trap that we should emulate whatever is done in Europe. Spain had four elections in four years because it was impossible to form a government. And just last week Italy was plunged into a new political crisis, in the middle of a pandemic, precisely because of the ambitions of the five percent party.

That’s why, when I look back on it, I see that Borgen also shows the ugly side of politics, journalism and personal relations, and I realize I should not fall for the sloppy comparisons (like all comparisons) between countries as different as Denmark and Venezuela. Surely in those northern latitudes people crave a bit more passion in their politics as well.

It could be that my biased reaction is due to the national context around the time I finished watching. Venezuela had just chosen a new National Assembly in an election that had no minimum participation threshold, but turnout was way short of expectations for those of us who still believe in the electoral route. And this outcome could not be freely debated: there was no effort at self-criticism, just random comments like “in this or that country turnout was just X percent and yet the international community accepted the results.” While it is true that when we are under siege the debates get significantly narrower (what we can and cannot say), there is also a tendency to progressively reduce any and all critical spaces.

I finally watched the last episode just as the new parliament was sworn in, and it looks destined to assume the role that the National Constituent Assembly played: to tame monsters without defeating them. That’s fine, let’s assume they are impossible to beat. But then we should at least create “cages” so they don’t come out and wreak havoc all the time, and try to shield the majority as much as possible.

The new National Assembly will likely put an end to the soap opera that saw the opposition, with US support, lay their hands on billions worth of public assets while calling for more sanctions or a foreign invasion. Guaidó and his friends run free, loaded and smiling, while US courts may be months, weeks or even days away from finally giving [US-based oil subsidiary] Citgo away to creditors.

In the meantime, and with the country strangled by sanctions, the government wanders between inefficiency covered by excuses or inaction disguised by the insatiable desire to make promises.

It seems like everything is solved by assigning blame, even knowing that no one is going to take responsibility. It’s not about revenge, it’s about justice. It makes no sense that those wounded in this war (which is almost 30 million Venezuelans, excluding the privileged cream) are only worth fighting for when it is convenient. In other words, when Guaidó is calling for a violent insurrection or when Maduro looks to defend his policies during his state of the union address. The rest of the time we’re expected to silently acquiesce to being spectators, as our present and future become blurrier and blurrier.

Jessica Dos Santos is a Venezuelan university professor, journalist and writer whose work has appeared in outlets such as RT, Épale CCS magazine and Investig’Action. She is the author of the book “Caracas en Alpargatas” (2018). She’s won the Aníbal Nazoa Journalism Prize in 2014 and received honorable mentions in the Simón Bolívar National Journalism prize in 2016 and 2018.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff.

Translated by Venezuelanalysis.