Cable sobre la personalidad de Chávez

Un psiquiatra antichavista explica a diplomáticos estadounidenses el carácter agresivo del presidente venezolano

ID: 57629
Date: 2006-03-22 14:22:00
Origin: 06CARACAS751
Source: Embassy Caracas
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 000751

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2021
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, ELAB, KDEM, VE
SUBJECT: CHAVEZ' ANGER-BASED LEADERSHIP


Classified By: Robert Downes, Political Counselor,
for Reason 1.4(b).

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) President Hugo Chavez currently faces the conundrum of
whether he can maintain a leadership style of exploiting
resentment among Venezuela's poor while extolling the
benefits of a seven-year revolution, according to anti-Chavez
psychiatrist Roberto de Vries. De Vries describes
Venezuelans' emotional states as two minority extremes --
revenge for Chavistas and desperation for the opposition --
that ride herd on a disappointed and depressed majority.
Chavez easily drives the Venezuelan political and social
scene with his messianic tendencies and mastery of emotional
manipulation. Despite this, de Vries believes Chavez'
charisma is starting to wane, both for lack of a genuine
opponent and growing expectations among his traditional
constituency. We present this as one person's analysis of
developments in Venezuela, though de Vries is clearly
tailoring his psycho-political theories for desperate
opposition audiences. Post has noticed, however, that Chavez
has seemed off his game of late, appearing more irritable and
explosive. End summary.

------------------------------------
The Psycho-Social State of Venezuela
------------------------------------

2. (C) Dr. Roberto de Vries is a psychiatrist and public
commentator who has written extensively on the psychological
aspects of Venezuelan life, including politics. He told
Poloff March 3 that, prior to the rise of Bolivarianism,
Venezuelans were, in psychological terms, "happy" to the
point that they ignored the decaying social environment
around them. Candidate Hugo Chavez was able, however, to
whip up latent resentment and frustration among the poor to
achieve a remarkable electoral victory. After seven years of
political turmoil, he said, society is fragmented with
radical minorities (about 10 percent each) occupying the
extremes of the political spectrum dominating the debate.
The pro-Chavez extremists he describes as having "happiness
in anger," or revenge, those who enjoy watching Chavez stick
it to the former ruling class. On the opposition side, de
Vries said, are those who experience "sadness with fear,"
which translates to desperation and often leads to
politically imprudent actions. This is why Chavez routinely
takes actions that heighten their fears, such as threatening
to prosecute various members of the opposition.

3. (C) The majority of Venezuelans, de Vries said, experience
"sadness with anger." These people feel disappointment,
whether in the failed promise of Chavez to deliver or for
opposition leaders to find a way to rid Venezuela of Chavez.
This explains, he argued, why most Venezuelans seem to have
no reaction to often outrageous statements and actions by
both sides in the political fight. This behavior leads to
depression and, in the case of individuals, could suggest
suicidal tendencies. In the case of a large population, de
Vries said, it could cause instability and unexpected
outbreaks of violence.

-------------------------------
Chavez: All Things For All Men
-------------------------------

4. (C) De Vries described "image of power" that he emits to
the public. (Note: Obviously, de Vries has never examined
Chavez directly, which limits his analysis to secondhand
accounts.) Chavez' physical appearance, the "first
impression," allows him to relate simultaneously to white,
indigenous, and African Venezuelans. His style of speech is

CARACAS 00000751 002.2 OF 003


hard and fast, which de Vries said comes from Chavez' desire
to be perceived as an ardent revolutionary. Chavez likes
being seen as a "victimario," loosely translated as the one
who exacts revenge on behalf of others, like an executioner.

5. (C) De Vries emphasized Chavez' "emotional intelligence"
as his greatest strength -- and weakness. Chavez can
instinctively read and manipulate the emotions of individuals
and groups. Chavez, de Vries said, can also make people feel
like they are in the majority or the minority, as
appropriate, which affects their self-perception. (De Vries
noted the irony that Chavez is actually speaking from the
elite minority of a new ruling class when he pitches his
message to the poor masses.) The catch is that Chavez lacks
maturity and often cannot control his own emotions, which
explains his tendency to spout off the moment he feels his
authority challenged. De Vries said Chavez will even become
depressed himself if his emotions get the best of him, like
when his own constituency rejects his more outlandish
statements.

6. (C) Ideologically, Chavez wants to project an image of a
"utopian socialist," which de Vries described as someone who
is revolutionary, collectivist, and dogmatic. In reality, de
Vries argues, Chavez is an absolute pragmatist when it comes
to maintaining power, which makes him a conservative.
Coupled with Chavez' self-love (narcissism), sense of
destiny, and obsession with Venezuelan symbolism, this
pragmatism makes Chavez look more like fascist, however,
rather than a socialist. Morally, Chavez combines a sense of
tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to
project a messianic image. De Vries, however, said Chavez is
a realist who uses morals and ethics to fit the situation.

7. (C) De Vries said that Chavez has two principal fears:
rejection and anonymity. His fear of rejection comes, said
de Vries, from Chavez' early childhood in which he was
reportedly rejected by his father (and with whom he is
reportedly not close today). Chavez also suffered
humiliation and rejection as a child from degrading jobs like
having to sell candy on the street. His related fear of
anonymity is a fear that he will prove to be irrelevant to
history. De Vries said this explains why Chavez has
established a leadership structure in which he is the final
decisionmaker, and even micro-manager.

-----------------
Falling Charisma?
-----------------

8. (C) De Vries argued that Chavez' domination of the
Venezuelan state is making it more difficult to use
resentment and revenge to motivate core supporters. Poor
Venezuelans, de Vries claimed, are not seeing the results of
Chavez' promised revolution and are starting to slip into the
"disappointed" majority, where loyalty is gained with
deliverables. But Chavez cannot satisfy their needs, de
Vries contended, because it would require him to act as a
conciliator and governor, taking him away from the
revolutionary image from which he draws strength. De Vries
said this contradiction, made manifest by the meager voter
turnout in last December's legislative elections, is taking
its toll on Chavez. He opined that Chavez has limited his
public appearances since December and has lashed out publicly
against criticism from his own supporters.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (C) De Vries caters his analysis to the opposition crowd,
a fact which should be taken into account in assessing his
observations. But we have noticed of late some new
irritability in Chavez, including publicly lashing out at

CARACAS 00000751 003 OF 003


supporters who are not showing him the respect he thinks he
deserves. Chavez has also given some of the shortest
speeches of his life in recent months. We are in no
position, however, to assess his state of mental health.
Generally speaking, however, de Vries' analysis is compelling
because Chavez is seeking, with some success, to re-found
Venezuelan society into one that increasingly revolves around
him. His personality quirks, therefore, will no doubt play
an increasing role in how the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela is governed.

BROWNFIELD

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