Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why blaming saboteurs is not a good idea for the government right now

As I argued in a previous post, conspiracy theories are often used in political discourse as secular forms of theodicies: they are useful for explaining evil and clearly allocating blame. But that usefulness has its limits. As I wrote yesterday, the Venezuelan government seems to be facing those limits in the form of a conspiracy theories fatigue.

Yesterday’s blackout that affected almost half the country could turn out to be good example of this. Almost immediately after the first reports of the power cut at 13:00 local time, President Maduro and other government officials blamed the opposition. Maduro spoke of a rehearsal for an “electric coup” by the “extreme right,” and expressed his suspicions because the blackout had been “abrupt.”

President Maduro ordered in April this year the “militarization” of the entire electric system. At the time, Vice-President Jorge Arreaza declared: “we are going to militarize, that is the word, all these electrical installations, which will now become security areas so that we can safeguard them and thus prevent all types of sabotage actions.” Arreaza also announced the detention of 50 workers of the electric industry, but nothing more has been said about them since then.

The problem is this: Even those voters who believe with revolutionary fervor in the perfection of socialism, and that therefore everything that goes wrong is to be blamed on “wreckers and saboteurs,” at a certain point may ask themselves if a leader that constantly denounces sabotage but is unable to stop it, even after “militarizing” the affected areas, is really competent to govern.

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