domingo, 26 de febrero de 2012

Hugo Chavez's discourse is degrading our society

From the start of his term Hugo Chavez has exhibited quite a different discourse from that of past Venezuelan presidents. Since the early 1940’s Venezuelan presidents have used a generally dignified tone and choice of words. Some presidents, like Eleazar Lopez Contreras, Isaias Medina, Raul Leoni, Rafael Caldera (I) Ramon Velasquez (selected to complete Carlos Andres Perez’s second term), always spoke in predominantly conciliatory and inspirational terms, like statesmen. Others, such as Romulo Betancourt, Carlos Andres Perez I and II, alternated noble speeches with somewhat more pugnacious nuances, although they never departed from propriety. Still others, such as Luis Herrera and Jaime Lusinchi utilized a bland and colorless language but were always mindful of their presidential identity.

In contrast Hugo Chavez’s rhetoric, delivery and body language have been frankly aggressive, often crossing the boundary into the abusive and insulting. He has adopted a vulgar language, one that delights those sectors of the population that see him as their alter ego in power but which does not go well with the middle and upper classes or, even, a portion of the poor.

Chavez’s discourse walks a thin line between the simply vulgar to the frankly excremental. It incorporates sexual innuendo, racial epithets, machista expressions or terms that deny the human condition of Venezuelan dissidents and, even, insult leaders of other countries or international organizations who have been critical of his performance as president.

Some examples:

To his wife (since divorced), he said over national TV: “Maria Isabel, tonight I will give you what you are asking for… remember that night in the Volkswagen?”

To Condoleezza Rice: “I know you have the hots for me but I pass. I might ask some of my collaborators to call you”

To George Bush: “You are a donkey, a drunkard, a genocide. God will rid the world of you”.

To Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS: “You are an ass-hole”.

To Barrack Obama: “He is a black Bush”.

To presidential 1998 adversary Henrique Salas Romer: “Frijolito” (the name of a horse)

To presidential 2012 adversary Henrique Capriles Radonsky: “You are a pig”

The names he uses for the opposition are disdainful: “squalid… “Apatridas” (without a country)… “Majunches” (low rate, no good people)… “Pitiyankees”(Yankee lovers)…

To the Venezuelan Jewish community: “The descendants of those who assassinated Jesus”.

To Israel, talking in Tehran, next to Ahmadinejad: “Inshallah, we will destroy Israel”.

To Vicente Fox, when president of Mexico: “He is a pet of the empire”.

Disqualifying adversaries: “An eagle does not hunt flies”.

To the students who oppose him: “They are the effete sons of the rich”. (“Hijitos de papá”, a pejorative expression).

Honduras post-Zelaya temporary President Roberto Micheletti became, in Chavez’s words: “Goriletti”.

He decided to baptize a Chinese-made, cheap cell phone distributed in Venezuela as “El Vergatario”, expression with clear phallic meaning, used in bars and brothels.

In a televised program he related how he had suffered stomach cramps and was on the verge of “having an accident” (he used more graphic expressions), during a visit to a project under construction.

His body language is as aggressive as his words. The left fist pumps the air, like Panamanian narcopresident Manuel Noriega used to do. He raises his voice, he has several facial tics, including a very typical twist of the lips when he is telling a lie, the red color of his garments, the military fatigue and gala uniforms which characterize his emphasis on the military, all contribute to give his speeches and TV presence a threatening quality. He speaks of being in a war, having a battle, of destroying them, crushing them, those traitors without a country,

He believes that this discourse has given him a stronger link with the Venezuelan people and, sadly, he might have something there. However, this discourse is ultimately impoverishing the human-humanistic quality of the Venezuelan people. Vulgarity and twisted messages are not the most appropriate way for a president to inspire the people to be do better things. In winning a battle of popularity he has been losing the war to bring the Venezuelan people out of mediocrity and into greatness.

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