Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Psychology of Fear in Chavez's Venezuela


Venezuelan Psychologist Dr. Luis José Uzcátegui

On numerous occasions over the past few years I have either written into my original blog entries or, perhaps more frequently, included within comments I enter on other blogging sites, my observations on the personal psychological implications of Hugo Chavez's behavior or the larger social psychological context within which he has operated.  Practicing armchair psychoanalysis is a sometimes risky endeavor in which most of us engage at one time or another and I have done it so many times when addressing Chavez's aberrant conduct that I actually worry about my own objectivity.  The man is a true head case if ever there was one but; well, there I go again, leaning on my armchair.

Today I am going to address my lack of psychological training and do what the situation obviously requires; bring a qualified professional to do the job for me.  And I am very pleased to say that I have definitely found the man for the task at hand.

Dr. Luis Jose Uzcategui is a Venezuelan Psychiatrist and Anthropologist with a distinguished personal biography.  He has studied at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Washington here in the United States, did his early work in Clinical Psychiatry, and went on to specialize in Emotional Models in Venezuela.  He has published numerous professional articles, as well as two books, one of which is a psychological study of Hugo Chavez entitled, by way of translation, Chavez.  Wizard of Emotions.  Psychosocial Analysis of a Political Phenomenon.  Among many other professional credits on his résumé, Dr. Uzcategui is a member of the World Psychiatric Association and Director of Venezuela's Francisco Herrera Luque Foundation.

What follows this brief introduction is a translation of an article published originally in Venezuela's Revista Zeta magazine, but which you can now find on the web in its original Spanish on the site of  It contains an interview conducted by Venezuelan journalist Aida Gutierrez with Dr. Uzcategui on the occasion of a recent discourse he gave on the subject of fear in Venezuela.

By way of abstracting Dr. Uzcategui's presentation, he offers a comprehensive model that encompasses the social, historical, political, and even physical aspects of emotional fear as it used in Venezuela today, with special reference to Hugo Chavez's individual manipulation of Venezuelan society both through his own understanding of how to use fear to his political advantage as well as those aspects of his personal psychological profile which define the reasons for his behavior.  Dr. Uzcategui uses a term of professional art to qualify Venezuela today as a "Fearocracy," (my translation of the Spanish Miedocracia) which defines the all encompassing nature of the use and abuse of fear in Venezuela today.  It is exactly the type of systematic thinking presented by someone with the professional training and experience we need.

"A Country Overwhelmed by Mental Instability"
By Aida Gutierrez
Interview with Luis José Uzcategui
Revista Zeta (Venezuela)
February 12, 2010, No. 1743
February 15, 2010
Published by Citizen News Agency
Aida Gutierrez
02/15/2010 – Venezuela

Psychiatrist Jose Luis Uzcategui, a specialist in emotional psychology, concludes that in today's circumstances no one in Venezuela may be mentally stable. He actually defines the current government as a form of "Fearocracy."

"This is a country where no one can be mentally stable. This is a country that is totally overwhelmed by catastrophic dimensions of fear. This is a society that is experiencing the worst epidemic of fear that it has known in its contemporary history," thus assured Luis Jose Uzcategui, a psychiatrist specializing in emotional and anthropological psychology.

Uzcategui is a member of the World Psychiatric Association and Director of the Francisco Herrera Luque Foundation, where he spoke to a conference on the subject of "Fearocracy." At this opportunity Zeta exclusively interviews the scholar and expert on fear in Venezuela.

"This country is the most significant form of Fearocracy there is in the world today. Venezuela is a 100% Fearocracy."

According to Dr. Uzcategui, in a Fearocracy one individual uses fear to assault society.

"Fear,” he explains, "is the first emotion of developed man; it is an instinctive expression, necessary for his survival. Well-utilized fear is wonderfully useful because it allows us to be more careful and more cautious."

"When fear evolved it became mental constructs such as respect, consideration, esteem, appreciation, justice, the application of laws, which is what we do not have here, that is the positive side of fear."

"The Venezuelan reality is very chaotic; they have implemented a system here in which, inclusive of our institutions, we are conditioned to fear generated by a single power: the executive. Do what he says or he will use fear ruthlessly to dismiss you quickly."

"Institutions are overcome through fear, it takes over society, the economy, organizations; it overtakes absolutely everything that is molded as a social organization, even religions are overtaken."

The psychological specialist recognizes other reasons why a Fearocracy has settled in place in Venezuela. "This is a society that had created many forms of dependency from the cultural point of view, thanks to oil. We became thinking beings totally linked to a unitarian model of production and, in turn, to a unitarian model of ideas."

"We find that type of behavior of the individual we consider 'So Awesome!' who is basically dependent, foolish, dull, who does not know why he is that way; he is also that dependent type of ‘shameless’ rogue, who only takes advantage of circumstances; he is the dependent type who questions everything, irritable, it is among those showing these characteristics that we find the majority of the ni-nis."

"Also,” he goes on, "there is another dependent type, very dangerous, who is almost mentally retarded, who does not know why he exists and how he exists and who lives adrift of opportunity."

According to the psychiatrist, the consequences of Fearocracy are obvious. "I told you that this was a country where there is anxiety, depression, sadness, never before has mental health been beaten to the ground like this. What we have here is an emotional survival; we must see that this is a country that has lived 11 years under media torture, that is living a shipwreck.

"Doctor, Venezuelans also fear crime and it looks as though the government is not bothered by it as it does nothing to prevent it."

“Remember that in a Fearocracy like the Venezuelan model, the existence of a complete social disequilibrium is in the regime's interest.”

“If you are defining this as a totalitarian system, I understand that in such regimes there is no crime, as in Cuba for example.”

“Cuba is on the model of the 50s. Ramiro Valdes, who just arrived, is called the ‘Pool of Blood.’ We in Venezuela have another type of totalitarianism, which is the ‘Pool of Lies.’ There in Cuba it was a valid name, because there was such barbarism, physical death. Here we are given to another cruel barbarism, which is the destruction of Venezuelan mental health. Over there they liquidate people physically, here they liquidate them emotionally.”

Doctor Uzcategui made reference to other models of Fearocracy such as the Pinochet dictatorship and that of Perez Jimenez.

“These are models of Fearocracy,” he explains, “in which the agent of fear is well circumscribed by a single condition: so long as you do not go beyond a certain limit, you can live in a country with some dimensions of stability, for example: the economy and public safety that were known under these right-wing governments, as we call them.”

“But in the form we have, it is so much chaos that it is prudent for this model to have agents existing as fomenters of Fearocracy everywhere. And what is more pertinent than knowing we can die, when death is the most symbolic means of gene expression that humanity has had in its history, we fear nothing more than death.”

Do we have a government that is afraid?

"In order to be a generator of fear, whether it be as a group, a collective, a community, there is an indispensable precondition, it is necessary for the individual to feel very afraid."

"I cannot produce fear in others if I am not afraid, if I am even tempered, if I am courageous and safe. Only those who fear most can produce fear," he maintains.

“Hitler played a shamanist game, he believed in many imaginative and illusory dimensions, and there came a moment when it fell apart, but it had the potential to support many of his atrocities. In our reality, the government's great horror is that it will be thrown out of the show, out of sight.”

“He needs the show because he has a psychological structure that is histrionic, which needs to call attention to itself, to be in the spectacle, to be the central attraction. At the moment when he is not occupying that position he feels very bad, he suffers, he has great pains, he is depressed.”

“And the way to be in the show is taking control of the communications media, so that no one imposes limits upon you, so that institutions do not control you and the public is submissive. And therefore, the only way to impose the spectacle that is the show is through fear.”

Is the arrival of Ramiro Valdes to instill more fear?

“Here there are two things evident in the presence of this individual, to give support for the great fear which the president has because he feels that he needs a very "powerful" agent to generate great fear. And the other dimension is that he is looking to create a cruel situation that does not permit the coming elections in September to proceed.”

The students use creative fear

“But how nice it is,” Uzcategui says, “to see what is happening today in Venezuela, the students who have not fallen into the trap carrying the banner. And they have been abused, they have been killed but nevertheless--what are these boys doing?--they are questioning and responding--thinking.”

“Spurred on by creative fear, generating strategies, fomenting resolute anger, while on the government's side there is an anarchy of thought.”

“The students are capable, in that most difficult dimension which man has in adversity, of producing intelligent responses. That is the great lesson for all the country, for all the leaders, for all society, this is the horizon, this is the way.”

"What arises in the heart of every Venezuelan when he sees these boys?," Doctor Uzcategui asks. "’God wants nothing to happen to them’ this is a productive fear.“ Doctor Uzcategui warns that with Ramiro Valdes here what is coming is worse, catastrophic fear is on the rise but, intelligent fear is also rising.

“Students have always been the emerging part of society. And what we are seeing here is the tip of the iceberg, which tells us ‘all is not lost.’"

“This is a president who thinks upside down and anyone who is under this influence cannot produce anything that stimulates the logical faculties, all he can do is buy people. Reason is a very elaborate sequence of thought, when it is turned upside down it produces phenomena such as we have in Venezuela.”

In what manner can fear sicken an individual?

“The damage is tremendous, from the psychological point of view, all the disorders of anxiety and panic. Free floating anxiety which is walking about irritably nervous, apprehensive, not knowing what is going to happen. We have thousands of people committed with this disorder. Also fears which foment sadness, depression, the sensation of failure, pessimism; that is the depressive dimension.”

“Afterwards,” he continues, “there are those fears that stimulate psychosomatic illness in all its expressions; cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.”

“Fear is also an agent of conflict in social relations, in relations between couples, within families. The terror of economic chaos. Fear has become the principal pathogenic agent that Venezuela could possibly have at this moment, worse than Aids.”

“In contrast with other epidemics in which the number of cases can be known, with fear it is impossible to have control when monitoring them, there is no epidemiological instrument that can say much about morbidity or mortality.”

“Fear kills!,” the psychiatrist warns, “How many people have died because their immunological systems were altered, of cancer, of degenerative diseases as a consequence of undergoing the kind of media torture such as we have!”

“The most unassuming man feels ashamed when facing mockery. This is a totally shamed and congested society. Many sexual dysfunctions are also consequences of fear. Who can have sex comfortably when knowing they are in a precarious circumstance from the social point of view, under the circumstances we are living?”

What can one do to catalyze this fear?

“We can say resolutely or therapeutically that we know that dimensions of creative fear and resolute anger exist. These emotions are not wasted. To put it best, if I am afraid, how can I form a more intelligent response? Starting to utilize the tools of intelligence to give creative value to fear, introspection, reflection, beginning within ourselves and afterwards locating the fear of outsiders, locating the fear and the agents who generate fear.”

“There is also the need to stimulate anger, there are people who do not feel anger and if they must do it, they do feel it. Anger can be the best instrument for producing intelligent thinking. Just watch the students and copy them.”

“In a healthy society fear is intelligently transformed into social norms, into institutions, into social organizations, and into respect. We must create a society with the ability to maintain its balance on the basis of which fear becomes a productive fact,” Uzcategui recommends.

The pillars of Venezuelan Fearocracy

“The first pillar,” Dr. Uzcategui points out, “is a person who utilizes the most negative type of fear and in our country that is the ruler. He becomes an individual who claims to have rights over society, its past, its present and its future.”

“When there is someone in society who controls my temporal space it is atrocious. Qualifying or disqualifying my past as being good or bad; but not only that, also without giving me freedom in my present, putting me in scenes that are not mine to play, this is catastrophic.”

“Another pillar of creating fear of the current ruler is under a very morbid form of show, I say morbid,” he clarifies, “because it is very sick, using the communications media to send a very distorted message. For example; he makes fun of murder, he makes fun of crime, he jokes that there is no water, he jokes that there is no electricity, he jokes about social instability, he jokes that people are afraid. Under this style of mockery, cynicism, joking, rough demeanment, humiliation, he stamps on those who are thinking at all levels.”

“The third pillar of creating fear is through the purchase of the conscience, through the crumb, the blackmail of the human condition.”

“So,” he specifies, “these three aspects of fear have terrified the country, they specifically form a presentation of a messianic ruler, who can do what he pleases with the fates of men, a form of communicating terror and totally morbid fear.”

The psychiatrist relates that the other way of communicating fear is very obvious; it is rudeness, aggression, insult, demeanment, threatening with weapons, and also the clothing that is worn.

“It should be clarified,” Uzcategui said, “that in Venezuela the ruler does the most to feed fear. He approaches in sick and morbid illusion, which is a total distortion of the opportunities that all society deserves. You are going to have such and such if you follow me, you can achieve this if you follow me. It is a most dangerous strategy, because he has not done anything in particular.”


I would also like to extend a message of personal thanks to Aida Gutierrez, who also conducted the interview with Victor Poleo I translated for an earlier blog entry on Venezuela's electrical crisis.  Aida was kind enough to contact me following that post and she introduced me to this article as well, for which I am grateful.




firepigette said...

St Jacques,Thanks for this article. Dr. Luis José Uzcátegui correctly makes a distinction between real fears that can be creative and false fears that are destructive.

I like, and agree with the fact that Nini's are basically profiteering and are bogged down in dependent,and ultimately fearful behaviors.Some people have been harping all along that Nini's were basically more intelligent because they see the 2 sides of the coin.Some people think that truth always means equality of ideas.What these same people do not see is that often times the truth is on the extreme-It is not always exactly in the middle.We have to make a decision for the TRUTH, not for some idealized middle that does not exist in the case of Chavez and the Venezuelan dilemma.

Emotions that have run amok are the rogue elephants of the human brain.Unfortunately most people pay little attention to psychological well being( calling the advice given by mental health workers." psychobabble") and accordingly are subject to manipulation by those whose purposes are not quite above board

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