What would it be like to spend a day in a collapsing socialist hellhole with a government minder whose job is to assure you the revolution is going great? Buzzfeed’s Karla Zabludovsky answers that question today with a story based on her day being led through Caracas by a man named William Contreras. Contreras job, she explains, is “making Venezuela look good.” That’s not so easy to do given the lack of food, medicine, sky-high inflation and crime rate. But socialist minders don’t concern themselves with little problems like reality.
The first stop on the tour of revolutionary success is a garden set up on the site of a closed Coca Cola bottling plant. Government minder Contreras was so enthusiastic about the government’s CLAP program, which delivers bags of food to needy people, that he momentarily told the truth:
The long-term goal of Venezuela’s food distribution program is to reach food sovereignty, Contreras said. In recent months, the program has expanded to include the distribution of maternity-related items such as baby formula and diapers. Medicines are next, officials have said.
There’s just one catch: “It’s only and exclusively for and from the revolutionaries,” said Contreras.
A few seconds later, he caught himself: The subsidized bags are distributed to everyone, regardless of political loyalty, he said. (That may be true officially, but a random sampling of people I spoke to after leaving Contreras said that they risk losing access to this subsidy if they don’t attend pro-government marches.)
Later in the day, the tour stopped in a town where there had recently been street protests against the government. Contreras was eager to show his charge how the local people had pitched in to clean up after the “terrorists.” Zabludovsky reports, “We walked for several blocks along a narrow street that smelled of shit and gasoline. There were no cleanup activities in sight.”
The highlight of the day’s tour was a small clinic staffed by a Cuban doctor, part of an exchange program set up by the late President Hugo Chavez. As Zabludovsky describes it, the clinic appeared to be doing okay and Contreras, her government minder, seemed to relax a bit for the first time. And then one of the clinic volunteers approached Contreras and began complaining about everything from lack of food and soap for patients to blown out light bulbs and ambulances that aren’t running. The volunteer asked Contreras to contact higher authorities on the clinic’s behalf and Contreras got back in his car promising he would do so.
He was visibly irritated as the driver started the car and admitted to me that sending Bernal a letter would be a waste of time. Bureaucracy, he said, “is one of the problems that remain in the revolution.”
Such a great line and one that sums up a nation where maintaining the fiction that “the revolution” is going strong is more important than getting food and medicine for people who are going without it.