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CARACAS

"There is a purpose behind the city chaos"

Experts suspect that the Venezuelan government props the mess up

Motorbikes on sidewalks; cornered pedestrians; squatting; street vendors. All of them might be part of one single plan (Photos: Gustavo Bandres / Venancio Alcázares)
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JAVIER BRASSESCO |  EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday February 09, 2013  12:00 AM
A secret plot might bind the constituent elements of chaos in Caracas. Mushrooming squatting; lack of authority with motorbike riders and bus drivers; street vendors taking the streets one more time; homeless staying in hotels; violation of urban rules;  sidewalks used like deposits of building materials as part of Mission Housing, or criminals as the owners of the night.

All of that might be not only intertwined but also fostered by the Venezuelan national government, according to experts. They are positive that the government bolsters anarchy for its sake.

This has been the assumption of architect Leopoldo Provenzali. The fact of the matter is that the first Planning Secretary at Caracas Metropolitan Mayoralty coined this way of living "the strategic neglect."

He explains that lack of rules fits the current regime, because in this case, everyone takes refuge in his/her own individual projects, the notion of a group vanishes, and a submissive citizen is born.

Sociologist Trino Márquez reasons that, while a paradox, authoritarian regimes do foster permissiveness in the daily routine to fuel chaos and thrive. And he lists, for instance, the early years of the Bolshevik revolution; mobilizations in Hitler's Germany; Mao Tse Tung's Cultural Revolution, and the Cuban revolution in the 1960's.

Carlos Raúl Hernández, also a sociologist, coincides with it. "The law is used to chase dissenters, but not for citizen's cohabitation. Motorbike riders are regarded as allies, as it were, and their excesses are overlooked."

In this way, Hernández thinks, insecurity is prompted by the government as well. "Insecurity is mostly a matter of concern for the middle class, and the government is interested in keeping it terrified, preventing it from mobilizing."

The seeds of disturbance

Hernández feels that the chaos strategy was used by the current regime from the outset. Evidence of it, he believes, is some of the remarks made by President Hugo Chávez early in his first term in office.  For instance, he conceded that he would rather steal should he have nothing to feed his children.

Shortly after, in October 2003, the president scolded then Caracas mayor Freddy Bernal for evicting the squatters of Menca de Leoni forest at La Rinconada, located to the east of the capital city. The mayor stopped the evictions. Nowadays that forest has become a shanty town. In February 2012, the president ordered the militants of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to seize any abandoned storehouses across Venezuela. The goal is to stir actions oriented to social disorganization.

Márquez calls this strategy "the joker's model," in reference to a fictional character that appears in Batman comics. That is, governing in the midst of a total mess.  And he deems it naïve at this stage thinking that all the chaotic events happen by chance.

He tells that in other historical cases, after taking root in the government, a repressive, instead of permissive, model has been chosen for the people. However, in the Venezuelan case, a variable changes the whole outlook: the oil income. The ideological momentum is replaced by the monetary strength.

"I do not anticipate the disappearance of such a model in the next future, for that matter. Rather, upon Chávez's pullout of the pubic scene, the trend seems to be insisting on underpinning anarchy."

Translated by Conchita Delgado
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