In line at the newly-inaugurated “arepera socialista”—a Caracas cafeteria offering cornmeal arepas, staple of the Venezuelan diet, at one-third the non-socialist price—a retired telecommunications employee named Ramón took advantage of the hour and a half wait to get through the door to list the issues on which he and his wife differed. A partisan of the opposition to President Hugo Chávez, the wife was reported to harbor the notion that milk not purchased at government-subsidized food shops was inherently more effective; Ramón maintained that there were more flexible members of the opposition, who complained continuously about Chávez but nonetheless indulged in socialist arepas and filled their gas tanks for less than a dollar.
A nurse at a Cuban-run Barrio Adentro clinic on Margarita Island had confirmed last year that, despite continuous complaining about the number of Cubans in Venezuela, opposition members also availed themselves of free health care services. Ramón lamented his wife’s refusal to attend any medical clinic where insurance was not required and diagnosed her condition as psychopathic detachment caused by media contamination, although he claimed to respect her right to watch Globovisión on the house television set.
As for opposition diagnoses of the Venezuelan president, milder labels include “arbitrario”—a term recently invoked by an employee of Joyeria Arte Guyana, a now-empty jewelry shop in Caracas’ Plaza Bolívar. Chávez had abruptly issued an order of expropriation for the building in which the shop was located during the February 7 episode of his weekly television show Aló Presidente, citing an effort to reclaim the city’s historical center for the Venezuelan people. The establishment of the arepera socialista had meanwhile previously been celebrated as the reclaiming of the arepa for the Venezuelan people, although the popular recuperation of cornmeal patties has presumably done less to fuel the myth that Chávez is intent on recuperating the houses of the opposition, as well.