[Marxism] advance of the bobolongos

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Tue Jan 10 17:27:44 MST 2006

>Venezuela Steers a New Course
>Smithsonian Magazine
>January, 2006
>[ Note:  The Abstract is printed below—to download the full text in pdf, click
>Lunch was on the patio, overlooking a green valley an hour's drive west of
>Caracas. The hostess, wearing a small fortune in 
>St. John knits, snapped at one
>of the uniformed waiters for failing to top off my glass of guava juice. Over
>dessert, the conversation turned to the 
>squatters who with the encouragement of
>President Hugo Chávez's leftist government were taking over private lands.
>Campaigning had begun for next December's 
>presidential election, and the guests
>worried that pro-Chávez rallies would, as in years past, end in tear gas and
>gunfire. "There will certainly be more violence," murmured one of them, a
>sleekly coiffed television broadcaster.
>Later, as the family chauffeur ran to get the car to take me back to my hotel,
>the hostess's brother-in-law winked at me. "He 
>claims we work him too hard," he
>said. "We call him el bobolongo"-the moron.
>The driver's name is Nelson Delgado. He is an 
>agronomist by training. He used to
>teach, but he took the chauffeur job because he could not find one that paid
>more. On the way back to Caracas, he confided that his prospects were
>improving. He had joined one of the land "invasions" that so concern his
>present employers; he and a few hundred fellow 
>squatters were planning to build
>homes and start farming on their plot. He had also applied for a government
>job—one of many now available under Chávez's 
>"Bolívarian revolution"—evaluating
>farmers who applied for loans. He figured he wouldn't be a chauffeur much
>longer. When I asked how my hostess and her family might fare in the
>revolutionary future, Delgado paused a moment before answering: "As long as
>they cooperate, they'll be OK."
>Venezuela's meek are beginning to inherit the earth—or at least a share of the
>oil wealth underground—and it is making them much bolder. No political leader
>before Chávez has so powerfully embodied their dreams—or given them so much
>money. In the United States, Pat Robertson might like to see Chávez
>assassinated—as the Christian broadcaster suggested in August—but Chávez's
>countrymen are, on the whole, supportive of the president. National polls last
>May showed that more than 70 percent of 
>Venezuelans approved of his leadership.
>"Comedians used to make fun of our government 
>officials," says Felix Caraballo,
>28, a shantytown dweller and father of two who studies at a new
>government-subsidized university. "They'd say, 'We're going to build a school,
>a road, clinics.'...And then they'd say, 'We've 
>thought about it, but we're not
>going to do it.' Today, thanks to Chávismo"—as Chávez's political program is
>known—"another world is possible."

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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