[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
[Mbeki’s] broadsides against white racism and his penchant for incarcerating black men are, I think, symptoms of the same dispiritedness. They are the thoughts and actions of an odd and unheralded figure — the black Afro-pessimist.
When one looks at institutions such as our police force and our health system, when one witnesses their degree of paralysis, one wonders whether one of the maladies from which they are suffering is not the president’s disenchantment and his pessimism. Come 2009, I hope we are blessed with a president who still believes in the art of the possible. For I suspect that the one we have now no longer does.