Sunday, July 03, 2005


Some thoughts on Chavez’s “Magnicidios”

[Originally published in The Devil's excrement]

When I was young, I was fascinated by the story of “Pedro y el Lobo” (Peter's Crying Wolf). I found it was a terrible story, and yet, with the passing of time, I have been able to learn from it and to wisely put in practice the lesson portrayed in the story. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan President does not seem to have learned that lesson at all. Since he got into power, Chavez has systematically stated that he is about to be killed, that there are people outside and inside Venezuela plotting to take his life. He has even introduced a very elegant term to indicate the event of his assassination. He has called it a “Magnicidio”.

My first thought is on the term itself and why it is used.

I must admit with a bit of shame that I did not quite know the meaning of the word “Magnicidio” until Chavez started using it. It was only then that I took the time to check the dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy to get the precise meaning of the term. Here is what I found:


(Del lat. magnus, grande, y -cidio).

1. m. Muerte violenta dada a persona muy importante por su cargo o poder.

According to this definition “magnicidio” means the “violent death given to a very important person due to his/her position or power”.

The term is vague, to say the least. How does one define “a very important person due to his position or power”? Secondly, I was puzzled that the term had not been widely used before in the Venezuelan Press to designate the assassination of someone important. I do not recall having read or heard that term for the original news of the assassinations of John (1963) and Robert (1968) Kennedy, Martin Luther King (1968) , Anwar El Sadat (1981), Indira Ghandi (1984), Olof Palme (1986), Rajiv Ghandi (1991), Yitzhak Rabin (1995) or Anna Lindh (2003), to mention just a few. I searched the archives of Venezuelan newspapers to know for sure if the killings of those political figures were just tagged as “assassinations” by the Venezuelan Press or if the word “magnicidio” was employed at the time.

Unfortunately, the on-line archives do not go that further back. I was only able to get the original on-line news of the Anna Lindh assassination. As you can see, there is no mentioning of the word “Magnicidio” referring to her assassination. Of course, Chavistas may argue that Anna Lindh was just the Swedish Foreign minister and had been only President of the European Union and candidate to succeed the Swedish Prime Minister…maybe she was not important enough, not compared to Chavez, of course…

So, if you have access to the original Venezuelan newspapers on the assassinations of any of the above mentioned leaders, please let me know. I would really like to know the exact term that was used when the news of those assassinations were printed.

My guess is that it was the Chavistas themselves that dusted and tagged the old term and that the Venezuelan Press followed, falling into their trap. According to the Chavistas, Chavez should not be considered like your everyday leader. They have carefully been crafting an image of Chavez that is closer to that of a Religious figure than a modern politician (see “The Eternal Chavez”, that refers to this article of William Izarra, who is one of the leading ideologists of the Chavista movement). Thus, it is not surprising that an assassination of Chavez should be more than a normal political assassination. Then, the tagged terminology of “Magnicidio”, carefully repeated over and over in Alo Presidente and the other official media outlets, has become a current term, specifically used to designate the assassination of a supreme leader: Chavez.

My second thought refers to the number of times an eventual Magnicidio have been in the news.

I was about to initiate a research on that point when I found this article by Elizabeth Fuentes. Luckily she had already carried out the facts digging work. According to her article, the chronology and accounting of the magnicidio story can be summarized as follows:

1998. - The magnicidio was denounced eight times

1999. - There were six instances of magnicidio callings

2000. - The possibility of a magnicidio was announced eight times again.

2001. - Five times was a magnicidio plot denounced.

2002. - Only one case is reported.

2003. - At least two cases were announced.

2004. - This year too, at least two cases of magnicidio were reported.

Ms. Fuentes stops her research in 2004, but there have been already several reports of Magnicidio in 2005. I did a quick search on El Universal archives a few days ago and, starting on January 1st 2005, there had been 145 articles about a Chavez magnicidio! The latest, are the suspension of the June 24 Independence parade due to a supposed complot to kill the president (see also here) and the amazing declarations of Fiscal Isaias Rodriguez indicating that Danilo Anderson’s murder was nothing more than a “trial” for the magnicidio (see here and my comments here).

The question is why? Why does Chavez need to constantly get out the news about yet another plot for his assassination?

My feeling is, as usual, that this is a strategy to divert the attention of the Venezuelan people. The government uses the Magnicidio the same way it was believed that previous governments used some urban legends like the UFO arrivals and the extra-terrestrials announcing of the opening of the Avila Mountain. At that time, some people thought that those fantastic news were circulated on purpose to divert public opinion from political scandals or harsh economic conditions. In previous governments those urban legends were heard once in a while, whereas in the current government, the Chavez magnicidio stories are constantly brought up like breaking news by government officials.

Of course, regardless of the magic realism that Venezuelans are used to live, there has never been, in the history of Venezuela, such a circus-like political climate. Simply put it, Chavez is a terrible ruler, and he runs an extremely inefficient government, but he is a great entertainer and he has a lot of money. He has the two ingredients used by the Roman Emperors to remain popular:

“Panem et circenses”.

My last thought is on Chavez handling of the news.

Regardless of whether the Magnicidio attempts are real or not, Chavez handling of the news on that issue has been extremely irresponsible. A real leader, a true statesman puts the security of the state and of the people he is governing before anything else. A leader is someone that would prevent a panic situation, or a situation that can lead to bloodshed or civil war. Well, Chavez has done exactly the opposite. He has systematically warned people in a very public way that he might be killed soon. Moreover, he has incited the Venezuelan people to get out in the streets in the event of his death.

His behavior has been so irresponsible that a few weeks ago Chavez was not seen in public for a whole weekend, which is very unusual. The rumors started and there was already a group of angry Venezuelans outside the Presidential Palace asking to see the President (see here).

This, of course, is the same good old Chavez’s shameful and irresponsible strategy of putting Venezuelans against Venezuelans (see here). It seems that he is even determined that his legacy of hatred and division persists after he is gone.

I pray that nothing happens to him; I do not even want to imagine the terrible situation if it were otherwise.

Jorge Arena.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?