His enemies say he was a king without a crown, and that he confused unity with unanimity.
And in that, his enemies are right.
It has been several months since the death of Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, predestined leader of Latin American anti-imperialist resistance to US hegemony, hero of the people, reincarnation of Simon Bolivar and shining beacon of 21st Century Socialism. Already, as it is with all revolutionary leaders, all great men of the people, deification – both in his homeland and in the glowing eulogies of liberal Anglophone leftists – is now practically complete.
Indeed, even in death the chief caudillo1 continues to haunt Venezuelan politics; Chávez’s party, PSUV (The United Socialist Party of Venezuela – an ingenious merger between various broadly left and social democratic factions) will doubtless continue to build a grotesque personality cult around him. Elsewhere in Latin America the so-called ‘pink tide’ – the Bolivarian pseudo-revolution – continues to wash up against the shores of the popular imagination: Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) – these are the lesser lights of Bolivarianism.
His enemies say if Napoleon had had a newspaper like “Granma,” no Frenchman would have ever learned of the disaster at Waterloo.
And in that, his enemies are right.
What are we to make of the myth of Chávez and his regime? Was Venezuela under the PSUV an example of socialism from below – of the decentralization of power and the spread of democracy? Through this man, who grew up in a mud hut and who was as seemingly comfortable discussing Gramsci and Lenin as he was quoting Chomsky or Kropotkin, did Venezuela succeed in warding off encroaching Western interests, uplifting the poor, revolutionizing healthcare and education and sustainably developing its almost entirely oil-centric economy? Or was Chávez a tyrannical dictator who massively centralized power in the hands of the ‘boligarchy’ and violently oppressed resistance? There is, it seems, a dangerous polarisation of opinion in this regard, an ideological clash between the liberal left, who remain almost entirely uncritical of Chávismo and all that it signifies for them (that same feverish dream of a benign state socialism previously signified by Castro and before him by the Soviet Union) and neoliberal sentiment, with its dishonest red scare style caricatures of the supposedly totalitarian regimes of the Bolivarian bloc.
Is a more nuanced discussion possible? More importantly, why is the debate so polarised? Why do even near-anarchist thinkers like Chomsky as well as social democrats with communist tendencies – Michael Albert and Amy Goodman, for example – promote such a rosy (and ethically dubious2) view of what are essentially state capitalist projects? Most important of all, why do so many within the South African left invest so uncritically into this view?
His enemies say he exercised power speaking a lot and listening little, because he was more accustomed to echoes than to voices.
And in that, his enemies are right.
At first glance it’s clear that there’s a simplistic ‘enemy of my enemy’ mindset at work: to the extent that Venezuela is anti-imperialist (and so, for instance, will offer refuge to Edward Snowden, a pro-Ron Paul free market fundamentalist), then any criticism of Venezuelan politics must automatically render one an agent of neoliberalism. If you’re not for 21st century socialism then, according to this Cold War-style logic, you must be an apologist for unrestrained capitalism. Echoing this, what you’ll find in almost any leftist discussion of Chávez is a little unexplained lip service to ‘some residual problems in contemporary Venezuela’ or ‘a couple of small mistakes along the way’ (this may all begin to sound familiar). More often, what is offered is a tedious unpacking of gini coefficients and similar economic measures to bolster arguments around how inequalities have fallen since the turn of the millenium or how literacy has more than doubled. Apart from the irony inherent in employing this kind of hamfisted quantitative approach to measuring the complexities and vicissitudes of life in contemporary Venezuela – a market-logic reductionism leftists are usually the first to balk at – it’s also the case that much of the underlying data and analyses come directly from the Venezuelan state, or from non-governmental organisations that retain only a dubious independence from the state.
Running alongside these econometrics one can also find the occasional glowing comparisons between Chávez and Guerrillero Heroico3, readings that seem to mistake a few radical-sounding reforms and poorly grasped political forms for the stirrings of the revolution; these, in a few exceptionally sad cases, are even bought into by supposed anarchists like the FAU (Federación Anarquista Uruguay), who can be found proudly singing the Venezuelan anthem at gatherings, Chávez posters adorning the walls of their ateneos (a close South American equivalent to an autonomous space / infoshop). All that is still needed is the obligatory endorsement by Chomsky, who somehow, through some bizarre cult of identity has become the primary arbiter of left-legitimacy, and the argument becomes unassailable: the Bolivarian Revolution is proceeding apace, Western imperialism and petit bourgeois intellectualism be damned!
But Chomsky often gets even the most basic facts about Venezuela wrong4. He has only visited the country briefly for some government-run revolutionary tourism ala Cuba and, like Michael Albert, his experience has consisted primarily of five star hotels, along with some tokenistic sampling of the local working class cuisine (a Chávez favourite, which must make him a noble worker and soldier, right?) and an equally tokenistic sampling of local coops.5 And why does the Chomsky-Klein-Goodman Left Liberal Industrial Complex have so little to say on Chávez’s cozy relations with autocrats and dictators, including Putin (with whom he collaborated on an arms deal worth around R150 billion), Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar Assad?
If we want a more detailed view, perhaps we should stop paying so much attention to a clique of tenured Western intellectuals (remembering, of course, to grant event less credence to the rabidly neoliberal US mainstream press) and start listening to the peoples’ movements, the grassroots organisations sold out by Chávez, the independent labour organisers, the indigenous and the radicals that have suffered from the double-edged sword of oppression and incorporation.
But his enemies do not say that he was posing for history when he exposed his chest to the bullets when the invasion came; that he confronted hurricanes on equal terms, from hurricane to hurricane; that he survived six hundred thirty-seven assassination attempts; that his contagious energy was decisive in transforming a colony into a homeland, or that it was not due to a Mandinga spell or a miracle from God that the new homeland could survive ten presidents of the United States, who had each tucked in their napkins to serve it up as lunch, with knives and forks.
For far left and anarchist movements in Venezuela, 21st century socialism looks very much like what came before: a wide range of inequalities both exacerbated by and supporting a drive for hypermodernisation based on the extraction and exploitation of energy resources, this in turn supported by a political system based on populist domination and underpinned by military strength. In stark contrast to all the rhetoric, what is experienced by millions of Venezuelans is rampant inflation, currency devaluation (the bolivar was revalued just before Chávez’s death, rendering many in vogue economic arguments moot), rising unemployment, labour precarity and the casualisation of the workforce, service provision crises, education and health systems again in decline, a housing shortage, failing public works, on-going privatization and enclosure of public space and a demagogic approach which pays attention to only the most extreme scarcities experienced by the most desperate people.
Although there has been a massive economic boom due to growth in the oil economy (with concomitant growth in GDP, that most useless of measures), the structural causes of poverty remain unaddressed; what are instead promoted are a variety of short-term and largely symbolic palliatives (and yes, successful literacy programmes, the creation of primary medical care units in poor neighbourhoods, some subsidies for basic foodstuffs and, something we in South African can especially relate to, programs for substituting slum huts for houses). If this were not the case then one would be hard-pressed to explain the serious increase in violence during the same period and the continued exclusion of large sectors of society.
The speculative Bolivarian bubble, it seems, has either burst already or is rapidly approaching critical size. The more one engages with the anarchists and the independent unions in Venezuela the more it seems as though President Chávez was in fact primarily focused on creating attractive conditions for further foreign corporate investment and economic globalization. Major players in the nominally nationalized Venezuelan oil economy (in reality a collection of mixed business ventures with multinationals, with the government retaining a slightly larger cut), for example, include Petrobras, ChevronTexaco, BP, ExxonMobil, Shell and a variety of other corporate behemoths with known anti-environmental histories and human rights abuses. To these flagships of Empire have been granted concessions to, among other things, heavy crude and natural gas from the Orinoco Belt and the large off-shore reserves of the Plataforma Deltana. If Venezuela’s relationship with the forces of capitalist globalization begins to seem somewhat more servile in light of this, one can at least find some small solace in the fact that there are also a host of regional energy-sector mergers in various stages of development – joint ventures between state oil and mining companies and private Latin American firms that include Petrocaribe, Petrosuramérica and Carbosuramérica. Either way it amounts to puntofijismo6 as usual, especially for the bolibourgeoisie7.
“National and international capital headed by oil companies have donned the red beret and sash and advancing with triumphant strides impose their privatization program under the guise of socialism for the 21st century.”
– Pablo Hernandez Parra8
There are serious ecological implications to all this. The fossil fuel economy of the region is framed in terms of sustainable development and the rights of nature and indigenous people, but what emerges when we scratch beneath the surface is rampant over-industrialisation and displacement and a slew of environmentally devastating projects including the grandiose (albeit currently shelved due to the economic crisis) Harvesting Oil for Integration and Life9 plan that aims to convert Venezuela into the biggest energy supplier of the world10 and entails the construction of continent-wide gas-ducts, pipelines11, ports and refineries; the expanded exploitation of coal in indigenous territories of the Sierra de Perijá; gold and diamond mining in the Imataca Forest Reserve and the ill-termed Return to the Land/Vuelta al Conuco program that promotes agro-ecology and prohibits the use of GMOs but at the same time “stimulates the planting of large mono-culture plantations like pines trees and African palm, promotes the importation of trans-genetic soy, allows the use of toxic agro-chemicals and advances the construction of petrochemical plants for the fabrication of synthetic fertilizers.”12
This mad rush to industrialise, much of it forming part of the FTAA-style ‘South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative’ (IIRSA)13, a huge regional development bank project requiring continued investments and commitments from every country on the continent, has an almost plantation economy logic to it: IIRSA seeks to tie together all the major industrial infrastructure across South America, including transportation routes, water, dams, ports, hydrocarbon pipelines and energy grids, in order to facilitate the massive exploitation and exportation of the continent’s vast natural resources, with scant regard for the livelihoods of the workers, the indigenous and the rural poor (does this sound familiar?)
As Cesáreo Panapaera, a Yucpa community leader from the mountain region of Tokuko puts it, “They are destroying our farming practices, they are going to destroy our water, and they will end up destroying our lives.”
Panapaera argues that coal exploitation has already destroyed many rivers, contaminated the air and displaced many farmers and indigenous people from their lands. Not that this should surprise anyone. After all, while the nationalization of resources may appear to be an attractive alternative to the ravages of free market privatization, States, of whatever stripe, have seldom respected the lives of indigenous peoples even when, like Bolivia’s Evo Morales, the heads of state are themselves indigenous, dress in traditional garb, eat peasant food and gather with the rural poor to celebrate cultural rites (is any of this sounding familiar?)
And they don’t say that this revolution, having grown up under punishing conditions, is what it could be and not what it wanted to be. Nor do they say that, to a great degree, the wall between desire and reality was being made higher and wider thanks to the imperial blockade that drowned the development of a Cuban style democracy, that forced the militarization of society and turned it over to the bureaucracy, which has a problem for each solution – the alibis it needs to justify and perpetuate itself.
There are also the continuous oil leaks over thousands of kilometres, the open air petroleum waste beds, the mercury contamination in the headwaters of the Caroni river as a result of the exploitation of gold, the contamination of aquifers and underground waters in the Orinoco Oil Belt, the contamination of agriculture lands and the destruction of marine, terrestrial and bird life from off-shore gas exploitation; all these are easily ignored, as are the lives of the Wayuu, Barí, Yukpa and other peoples.
“They were so easy to fool, one might call their triumphalism willful ignorance. When all the delegates came to the Climate Change conference in Tiquipaya, the government simply had to cover up all the sawmills lining the main road from Cochabamba, and nobody asked what was behind the curtain.” – Evo’s Highway14
How often is this discussed in the papers and gatherings of the international left, save for some token gestures towards the ameliorative potential and dubious anti-authoritarian prospects of a Kovelian eco-socialism15? This is clearly insufficient in the face of the on-going ecocide and displacement taking place – in Venezuela, Bolivia and everywhere, in the service of the global industrial economy.
One possible reason for the silence is the widespread assumption that under Chávez such injustices, even when they are so glaringly obvious as to be near impossible to ignore, must nonetheless be impossible given the strong support for direct democracy in the Venezuelan constitution, which enshrines high levels of state support for cooperatives and establishes a framework for community platforms where the poor can voice their grievances and practice people’s power. According to political analysts like Rafael Uzcátegui, a long-time Venezuelan anarchist and social justice activist, however, it is more the case that the social movements have been heavily co-opted and have even, in more than a few cases, turned into the government’s first line of defence.
And they don’t say that despite all the grief, despite the aggressions from abroad and the inconsistencies from within, that this suffering but insistently persevering island has generated the least unjust society in Latin American.
On paper, the vision of decentralised communal councils and a quarter of a million new coops cannot fail to warm the heart of even the most cynical radical. In practice, however, the top-down implementation of these so-called ‘organs of peoples power’ has served primarily as an apparatus of capture: geniune grassroots movements are incorporated into the logic of the state bureaucracy, encouraging a relationship of dependency and submission. The communal councils, all of which remain legally, functionally and financially answerable to the State, are essentially a new coat of paint on local government and the whole structure resembles nothing more than a top-down charade of participation – not the autonomy of participatory democracy but a much shallower participation in what amounts to little more than the implementation of state policies.16
Trade unions are similarly compromised through this logic of incorporation and the workers council project seems almost purposefully designed to eradicate the threat of small oppositional unions; Chávez went so far as to explicitly threaten striking workers with nullification through inclusion when he told striking transport workers that he would turn them into a cooperative if they didn’t call off the strike. And when this doesn’t work, unionists can always be killed.17
“In revolution, trade unions must disappear … trade unions were born with the same poison of the autonomy. The trade unions can not be independent, we should finish with that.” – Hugo Chávez speech at the launch of the PSUV, Caracas, 24 March 2007
Which brings us to the criminally ignored levels of state repression in Venezuela.
From the 2010 broadcasting law amendments, the so-called “reform bill for social responsibility on radio and television,” which aimed to clamp down on anti-government criticisms in the media (sound familiar?) to the violent crushing of demonstrations – the El Callao miner protests for example – with rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition (sound familiar?) to the framing of anarchist and libertarian socialist groups in Venezuela as CIA collaborators to the eviction of a hundred poor peasant families squatting land in a neighbourhood ironically named ‘Bolivarian Paradise’ (sounding familiar yet?) to the criminalisation of street blockades in the reformed penal code, it is obvious that, as with every post-revolutionary state project, brutal and endemic oppression forms part of a subterranean disciplinary mechanism that allows for the smooth functioning of the spectacle of daily life (…)
And his enemies don’t say this feat was the work of the sacrifice of his people, but it was also the work of the stubborn will and the old-fashion sense of the honour of this gentleman, who always went to bat for the losers, like that famous colleague of his from the fields of Castilla. 
In short, and no matter where we look, there’s a massive disparity between rhetoric and reality. For anarchists, this does not come as a surprise. We’ve always argued that a genuine people’s democracy has to come from below, not from elected representatives with their own economic and power-centric interests. Not only does real people’s power come from below, it stays below too, refusing to incorporate itself into any form of bureaucratic abstraction – state, market or otherwise. Until this is acknowledged there will never be a true break from the legacy of capitalist imperialism and the logic of conquest and domination, hierarchy and control. For all his faux communism-lite, his friendliness with autonomous Marxist Antonio Negri and, irony of ironies, his ex-Situationist Minister of Information and Propaganda, Chávez was, in the end, just another macho ex-military populist leader, a political opportunist who was happy to collude with international capital and the local bourgeoisie even as he sang the praises of Castro and argued for the nationalisation of key industries. Whatever loyalty he may have had towards the people, whatever sincerity and compassion was in his heart, however true his ideals remained, have we not seen enough of these cults of ‘revolutionary’ leadership? Hasn’t this all played out enough times already? Does this not all sound strikingly familiar? Perhaps there’s more continuity between colonialism and these fetishized post-colonial, anti-imperialist regimes than we are willing to acknowledge.
So why do we continue to uncritically promote the Bolivarian pseudo-revolution in South Africa? Why does the Morales-Chávez-Kirchner-Castro bloc form the horizon of our own utopian political yearnings? Is it perhaps because of the failure of our own post-struggle government, with all its revolutionary communist rhetoric (as muddied and incoherent as the simultaneous state capitalist and pro-privatization rhetoric might render it), to live up to its promises? Have we simply, in a stunning act of disavowal, displaced our misguided hopes onto the Bolivarian revolution as a way of ignoring our own plight, fetishizing a noble socialist other so that we’re not forced to confront the fact that the form itself, as the Soviet Union, Cuba, Zimbabwe and so on have so amply demonstrated, in all their different ways, is inherently flawed?
The challenge is threefold: a diagnosis, a critique and a renewed (anti-)political project. First, if we are serious about direct democracy, people’s power, egalitarianism and all those other old staples of radical discourse – if we really want full communism—anarchy—and not just tepid social democracy or crypto-Leninist vanguardist ‘democratic’ socialism – we need to do some serious soul searching in order to locate the exact origins of, and drivers for, the left’s fawning adulation of 21st century market socialism, even if that means challenging the ideologically dominant views of Chomsky and friends. Second, we need to engage in a full critique of the operations of these regimes in order to disentangle the rhetoric from the reality; this includes listening to dissenting voices on the ground regardless of any a priori inculcated aversions many might have to listening to anarchists, autonomists and others suffering from the ‘infantile disorder’ (which is still better, it must be noted, than an infantalising order). Finally, and most crucially, we need to loosen the long stranglehold authoritarian Marxist orthodoxy has had on South African leftist and radical politics, with the result that our forms of political engagement have become increasingly wooden and anachronistic19, even when they are given a new lick of Zizek-coloured paint.
In undertaking this challenge we would do well to spend some time familiarising ourselves with the genuinely ecological, genuinely pro-indigenous anti-authoritarian left and anarchist movements in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America and their desire not for a socialism ‘from below’ (and flowing ever upwards) but a radical horizontalism that has no above or below, simply a together. The changes we need will never be won through elections, regardless how radical the party, nor will they be achieved through military coups, reforms, nationalisation or single issue anti-imperialism, all disavowals and mechanisms of capture and incorporation that serve to neutralise struggle. Instead, what is required if we are to reach a free and equal society is the fomenting and expansion of the autonomous initiative of the broad masses of society that make up the working class and poor, manifesting in a thousand different ways in a thousand different places.
As Venezuelan anarchist group El Libertario says: “we are not, nor do we want to be, contenders for the control of institutionalized power: we are anarchists and we aspire to the disappearance of state power and any other oppressive hierarchical structure. This is not just a profession of faith; our actions here and now mean assuming the commitment to promote and empower the autonomy of any social movement consistent with our ideals….We bet on social movements that build the dynamics for independent action and organization, based on the widest participation on all levels that will allow the formation of different modes of direct action and self-management away from the state’s control or any other instance of oppression; it is the only way to consolidate spaces of freedom, equality and solidarity that will be the seed and support of the future we struggle for…We call for the organisation of manifestations of the genuine desire to be free and equal in every possible space, in solidarity with base-level, independent organisations of workers, women, peasants, indigenous, the young, the cultural sector and all who find themselves socially excluded, in order to begin the search for the emancipation of our society.”20
In short, to borrow a phrase popularized in Argentina in recent years, ¡que se vayan todos! – get rid of all of them!
Escualidos21, unite! Somos equalés!
- A caudillo is an authoritarian political military leader.
- In 2007, when pro- Chávez paramilitaries shot student and anarchist protestors during demonstrations against a public referendum that would have extended welfare and made Chávez president for life, Democracy Now! refused to run the story.
- A nickname for Che Guevara.
- For example, Chomsky states that only under Chávez did healthcare become free in Venezuela, whereas according to local anarchists, healthcare has always been free in Venezuela since 1958 or has been, at least, an obligation of the state. Chomsky also falsely claims that Chávez nationalized Venezuela’s oil; oil was nationalized in 1975 and Chávez actually took steps backward with respect to such nationalization. “How can Chomsky commit the same error as some famous intellectuals of the past century, some praising Stalin and some, years later, revering Mao and his “Little Red Book”? They did so because they believed that in Russia and in China they were building the “true communism” and he does so now because he believes that in Venezuela “a new world, a different world” is being created. How can he forget that later all those intellectuals were forced to confess a “mea culpa” for their ideological blindness that prevented them from seeing what was behind the Stalinist and Maoist revolutionary discourse? That totalitarianism, responsible for the death of millions of people, inspired Castro to impose for fifty years a dictatorship in Cuba that Chávez devoutly imitates.” – Octavio Alberola, Chomsky as Chávez’s Clown
- As Rafael Uzcátegui states, “the régime chooses a certain number of sights for sympathisers to go and tour round. But this is quite the caricature: they organise international conferences on occupied factories without the participants visiting a single occupied workplace…Celebrities like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Campell come, are led around some barrio under construction for the benefit of the poor, to some co-operatives or to some state farm. Their visits are filmed in order to make propaganda…We know that most people who come here want to see what they expect to see. Like those who visit Cuba. So it all depends on their ideological training. Visitors from more libertarian and critical backgrounds can accept seeing the good and the bad, while those from more traditional Marxist Leninist groups, Guevarists and Maoists, tend to confirm in their heads what propaganda has told them.”
- According to Wikipedia, puntofijismo “is aimed at preserving Venezuelan democracy by respecting elections, by having the winners of said elections consider including members of the signing parties and others to positions of power in bids for national unity governments, and by having a basic shared program of government. According to others, the pact bound the parties to limit Venezuela’s political system to an exclusive competition between two parties.”
- In Venezuela such networks have always been integral to the functioning of society. Initially the Chávistas tried to break with this set-up but in reality there were only minor changes in the structures of bureaucracy and corruption and patronage continued.
- Parra is an oil expert; this quote is from an article of his on www.soberania.org.
- From The Bolivarian Developmente Model in Venezuela: Its Enviromental and Social Impacts by the Society of Friends in Defense of the Gran Sabana.
- Rafael Uzcátegui states that “the open veins of Venezuela are more visible today than ever in The New Petroleum, Gas, and Mining policy (la Nueva Apertura Petrolera,Gasifera y Minera) and made concrete by the issuing of licenses for 35 years with the option of renewing for 30 more to trans-national companies for the exploration and exploitation of these resources. During a ceremony which granted ChevronTexaco one of these licenses, Chávez cheerfully stated: “Welcome to Paraguaná, misters. Somos buenos amigos, buenos socios y buenos aliados de muchas empresas estadounidenses que trabajan con nosotros y cada dia estamos mas alineados en el trabajo.” (“We are good friends, good partners, and good allies of many U.S. companies who work with us and every day we are more aligned in our work.”)”
- The Chávez-Lula-Kirchner Project: a mega natural-gas pipeline that will span 12.000 kilometers, extending its destruction all the way from Venezuela to Argentina,passing through Brazil and Uruguay, irreversibly harming the fragile ecosystems of the Venezuelan Guayana and the Amazonian headwaters.
- From The Bolivarian Developmente Model in Venezuela: Its Enviromental and Social Impacts by the Society of Friends in Defense of the Gran Sabana.
- South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA). This continental-wide project financed by the Andean Corporation Fund(CAF) —one of the largest recipients of financial support from the International Monetary Fund.
- From the online article Evo’s Highway, by John Severino.
- Joel Kovel is a Marxist and psychoanalyst who focuses on combining Marxism with something similar to social ecology.
- The Communal Councils funds are handed out from government institutions whose directors are handpicked by Chávez. Consequently, these Councils, which are meant to be part of civil society, become dependent on and conditioned by a paternal state. Chávez often uses the ideas of the iconic Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci to explain his policies. Conversely though, Gramsci’s ideas about civil society absorbing the state seem to have been inverted by Chávez to be about civil society being absorbed by the state!
- In many industries the law obliges the state to give priority of tenders to co-operatives above private enterprises with the result that many people have started creating co-operatives in order to win contracts with government bodies. That as the case with the public roads. Private enterprise is transformed inter a co-operative to win tenders and. at a stroke, workers lose their rights and bonuses. They now have three-month renewable contracts and co-operatives (in reality, the new name for the boss!) has no duties towards them. Thanks to this lie, after a few months it was said that there were 200,000 co-operatives in Venezuela.All this in order to make propaganda showing that society has changed. But it is all artificial, created by decree. the casualisation of work. Also, the 2007 Report of PROVEA states that after Colombia, Venezuela is the country where trade union activity is riskiest.
- Excerpts from ‘Fidel’, first published in Eduardo Galeano’s ‘Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone’.
- See, for instance, the new WASP party: http://workerssocialistparty.co.za
- The crisis in Venezuela by the Editorial Collective of El Libertario
- ‘Squalids,’ a nickname used by Chávists to describe their opponents.