Wednesday, 6 March 2013

After Chavez

Jessica Duchen's post about the implications of the death of the Venezuelan president-elect for the future of music's El Sistema may be symbolic of the immediate future of the Venezuelan state.

First, JD makes clear that El Sistema was devised before Chavez came to power. He was swift to associate his socialist regime with the internationally-recognised work of Abreu and Dudamel, but, says JD, "nobody is suggesting that that should mean the end of El Sistema. At least, I hope they're not. Art and politics become terribly intertwined, as you know, at all the wrong moments. Those opposed to 'socialist' policies and to state support for culture in general tend to turn guns on El Sistema for their own ends. We'd like to think that the worth of music goes beyond that. Besides, the fact is that El Sistema works. It's been proven to work."

Similarly, Chavez's "missions" or social programmes, including education and health services for all, showed what could be done. Not as efficient as El Sistema, and by most external accounts implemented rather haphazardly, nevertheless the citizens of Venezuela are not going to give these benefits up if they can help it. Chavez resisted one attempted coup and one would expect his successors to be able to do the same, while his socialist party would seem to be safe for at least the next round of polls. (Chavez may have been a dictator, but he was an elected one.)

What Venezuela needs to do now is to mend her fences with the USA, taking advantage of the Obama presidency which has already relaxed relations with Cuba. If that means recanting some of Chavez's more  extreme statements, so be it. The prize of increasing her oil revenues, and attracting back some of her middle classes which had been frightened abroad by Chavez's brand of Marxism, would be worth it.

I would expect Venezuela to move from socialism to social democracy over the decade. At least, I hope so. The trend in South America generally has been towards democracy, so the portents are good.

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