It was very interesting to me on a personal level to read Draitser's recent experiences while visiting Venezuela and his assessment of the dramatic losses of the Chavista party known as Socialist Party (PSUV) in the recent elections.
In late 2005 I toured many of the places he mentioned, was exposed to the many kinds of people who he encountered, and listened to a talk by one PSUV leader who was a member of the government. I was singularly unimpressed with the latter. Subsequently I followed events in Venezuela quite closely in alternative websites and finally concluded that a traditional cultural practice of South America known as clientelism had carried over into the new ruling Chavista party and government and would limit how far the revolution would go. Although there were writings and speeches about a bottom-up political process, the reality was that too many educated people gravitated to the party to enhance their careers, and not for reasons of social justice. Thus political patronage and careerism infected the party and contaminated its political ideology with the result that the party led a government that in reality practiced social democratic principles instead of the truly radical principles that was espoused by Hugo Chávez and his ideologists.
Draitser concludes his assessment of the current political conditions in Venezuela with this observation that rings true for me:
Above all else, there is one common theme that I have heard repeated ad nauseam these last few days: the vote was a vote against the PSUV, not for the MUD. In other words many, if not most, of those ballots cast for the opposition were simply a rebuke of the government, rather than an endorsement of the neoliberal capitalism that MUD represents. While this is undeniably frustrating, it is also heartening in a sense, because it demonstrates clearly that the general principles of the vast majority of the country remain unchanged: they want socialism and the Bolivarian Revolution, they simply want it to be improved. I heard this nearly everywhere I went, from the 23 January to El Valle, from San Agustín to the Simón Bolivar commune.
In other words, Chavismo is alive and well in Venezuela, it is the Party itself that has lost the support of many of the people.