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by Nina Mankin

Venezuelan Elections
by Fernando Calzadilla

Radical Cheerleading and Feminist Performance
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Welcome to the Nineteenth Century: Venezuelan Elections
by Fernando Calzadilla

[Abstract en Español]

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So that a person, is the same that an actor is,
both on the stage and in common conversation;
and to personate, is to act, or represent himself,
or another, and he that acteth another,
is said to bear his person, or act in his name;
- Thomas Hobbes (1)

Photo: Gregorio Marrero/APOn January 1, 1958 I saw warplanes dropping bombs over Caracas. Some fell in my neighborhood, not far from my own house. Luckily they didn’t explode, and the damage they caused was limited to the impact of a heavy object dropped from high up. I didn’t know that at the time. I was eight years old and didn’t even know what bombs were. 23 days of street battles ensued, and I saw bleeding people running down the street, I dodged machine gun fire, and slept on the floor under the bed because the mattress was a good protection for stray bullets. On January 23 at 2 a.m. we heard an airplane, and minutes later cars started to beep and people rushed to the street to celebrate the dictator’s departure with carnivalesque frenzy, including allusive floats. Marcos Perez Jimenez will be remembered as Venezuela’s last dictator. A transitional civic-military junta in charge of government promised elections by the end of the year. From now on, we were to live in Democracy.

If we were to distill democracy’s principle to its bare minimum we would be left with voting. Direct voting to decide a policy, to administer justice, or to reach a decision on common issues requires a sharing of space, that is, being there at the same time and place and having the authority to exercise the vote—authority being the right to do any action. Most historians agree that the Greek polis (a Western paradigm of democracy) functioned with five or six thousand voting members. This number permitted people to gather in one place and, most important, enabled them to recognize each other as members of the assembly. Anything beyond that number became an impractical way of doing politics. Participatory attendance had no representation; democracy then was a first instance of embodied practice.

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