The immense support that Chávez still has after 13 years in power is rarely captured accurately by outside accounts of the country.
I myself was reminded of this fact just before the elections, when I had the good fortune of sharing a few drinks with a Venezuelan film colleague in a Caracas night spot affectionately referred to by locals, somewhat disconcertingly, as Stab Alley. The district is Chavista turf, miles away from the upper class clubs that attract the city’s well-to-do. It was no surprise to see the comandante on the bar’s battered television.
Our conversation predictably turned to politics. Between sips of Cacique rum, my friend and I went back and forth on a range of topics, I was playing devil’s advocate in criticising the government for its paternalism and failure to truly change the country’s oil rent economy; he was defending the administration on nearly all fronts.
I continued to pigheadedly press my colleague until he starkly turned to me and stated in a rather grave and unsettling tone: “I would not hesitate to sacrifice my life to defend this president. He’s the only one who has done anything for the Venezuelan people.”