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From Bolívar to Super Mustache, passing through Chávez: the cult of the leaders of Venezuela

From Bolívar to Super Mustache, passing through Chávez: the cult of the leaders of Venezuela

“Indestructible!”: to the rhythm of a salsa classic, the episodes of “Super Mustache and his hand of steel”a cartoon that pays tribute to the Venezuelan president Nicolas Madurowho, like Clark Kent, transforms into a superhero to face the enemies of Venezuela.

Nothing is left to chance. A “sb” on the chest by Super Mustache… or by the hero Simón Bolívar. Red suit, cape and blue briefs à la Superman, with a construction helmet with the national flag and a hand and forearm of steel.

Ten years after the death of the charismatic populist ex-president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), Maduro, anointed by his predecessor, follows the strategy of propaganda and the cult of personality to inflate his popularity.

Super Mustache was in fact commissioned by the Venezuelan presidency itself in 2021, according to a source close to the creative process. The idea was to turn the president into a hero who fights “in the war against imperialism” and the problems of the country.

The villain in the story is a masked blonde in the White House. Super Mustache fights against a mechanical mole that deprives the country of electricity, or against a monster that prevents the arrival of vaccines against covid-19. He is a Frankenstein created by the CIA or infiltrated aliens, all with the complicity of familiar faces of the opposition caricatured with mockery.

The character is very present in caps, t-shirts, on murals in squares in Caracas, Valencia or other cities, it is sold as a doll for 15 dollars, almost three times the minimum wage. And during the carnival, children and adults used it as a reason for costume.

“This is not a cult of personality, this is love for the Homeland”, says Balbina Perez, 65 years old with her Super Mustache shirt. “He is a leader, warring with us and we support him.”

“It is not improvised”

Maduro himself refers to himself as Super Mustache and to his wife, Cilia Flores, as Super Cilita, supposedly humorously, but historian Elías Pino Iturrieta, a university professor and specialist in the cult of personality, considers that “It’s not improvised.”

“It must be very well thought out and very well supported”, explains to AFP.

Author of “El Divino Bolívar”, Pino maintains that the character already has the endorsement of the government party and the military, Maduro’s main support. An inflatable replica was present at the parade of the armed forces for Independence Day, which by the way, Maduro did not attend.

“Chávez would never have appeared with a cape in the Super Mustache to save as if he were the Chapulín Colorado, those elements are not linked to Chávez,” explains to AFP the renowned political analyst Luis Vicente León.

Pino considers that it is about “Look for a magnet, something that attracts attention, that distracts, that says that you are not living in hell.” “It’s a circus trick, great as marketing, but unfortunate as contempt for the people.”

Although the country showed signs of recovery in 2022, Venezuela entered a severe economic crisis nine years earlier that caused a contraction of 80% of GDP and hyperinflation that diluted purchasing power and took some 7 of the 30 million inhabitants of the country to migrate for better living conditions.

The government normally blames the United States for the situation.

“The center place”

Venezuelan politics is “totally personal” estimates Daniel Varnagy, PhD in Political Science. “The Venezuelan needs to make a name that has become a symbol”.

And the main symbol, almost religious, is Bolívar.

The cult of personality in Venezuela in fact dates back to the birth of the Republic with an excessive apology for the Liberator.

Presidents such as José Antonio Páez (1830-35, 1860-63), Antonio Guzmán Blanco (1870-77, 1870-84), Eleazar López Contreras (1935-1941) and Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1952-58) used the figure of the hero for political purposes.

Chávez even added the term “Bolivarian” to the name of the country, adding to everything that already bears the name of the hero: the central squares, the airport, schools and more recently, a new stadium for 40,000 spectators… as if Bolívar played baseball, ironically Pino.

After his death, on March 5, 2013, Chávez became a reference “practically magical religious”, Varnagy points out. But over time it “It is beginning to displace its magnitude and importance.”

It is not that Chávez is going to disappear, “can not”says Pino.

“But the central place is occupied by Maduro. Less and less Chávez and more Maduro… more Super Mustache”.

Source: AFP

Source: Gestion

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