Wikileaks US Embassy Cable: Let Them Eat Arepas

December 10, 2010 by  

        Wikileaks continues to release classified US embassy cables on a daily basis, and I am continuing to read them on a daily basis. At the current rate a release, it will take about 8 months for all the cables to be released, and that is a rate that is just fine with me. This staggered release makes it very easy to pay attention to each daily release and gives the reader ample time to look at each cable, draw some conclusions and write up some well thought out blog posts and articles about them. This really does help to quantify an old adage that answers the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.

        Speaking of eating, the batch of Wikileaks US embassy cables released today contained one little gem that (mercifully) has nothing to do with the United States of America doing something scandalous or illegal. It has to do with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez doing something for the people of his country in an effort to sell them on and demonstrate the benefits of socialism.

        According to the leaked Wikileaks cable sent from the American embassy in Caracas to the US State Department on January 19, 2010, Hugo Chavez opened the first in what will be a chain of government subsidized restaurants called, “Arepera Socialista.” They serve only “arepas” which are a native sort of bread made of ground corn, water, and salt which is fried into a pancake-like bread. It’s either topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, shrimp, or fish. This restaurant sells their arepas for about one quarter of their regular price, thanks to hefty the subsidies. They idea is to put these restaurants in working class neighborhoods so working class people can have a good, cheap breakfast (the restaurants are only open in the morning) while demonstrating with a tangible, tasty and affordable item what their socialist government is able to do for them. I suppose the logic from there would be, “Stick with this Bolivarian revolution and one day you will be able to eat an affordable government subsidized lunch and dinner too.” Whatever the logic is, the cable contained a note that I just found to be funny:


        This parody of the famous line, “Let them eat cake” seems to me to be very telling, and I’ll explain why. For the purpose of this post, it doesn’t matter who said this line first or when, it’s about the context that it has come to be associated with; a leader that is out of touch with reality. As the story goes, in 1769 a princess was told there was a famine and that her people were starving because they had no bread, to which the princess replied, “Then let them eat cake.” With Venezuela facing high inflation, electricity and water rationing, failing public services and a lack of international partnerships to extract their oil, “Arepera Socialista” is what Hugo Chavez’s government came up with in order to make socialism easier to swallow.

        I think the diplomat that slipped the note, “Let them eat arepas” into the cable was really saying (or wanted to say) something like this:

“Hugo Chavez and his top advisors have launched a new “Socialism Wow!” campaign they hope will win the hearts and minds of their countrymen and help to remove the dogmatic stigma that seems to surround socialism. They opened a restaurant that is only open on weekdays, only serves one item and is only open during one meal. The item: Arepas. The meal: Breakfast. That is the beginning, middle and end of the “Socialism Wow!” campaign. The boys and I checked it out this morning on our way to the embassy, and it looks like a crappy McDonalds that only has Egg McMuffins without any eggs and usually without muffins. In other words, Venezuela is no longer a threat on the international scene because the president just got into the food service industry. LOL! :-)”

        This is my third article discussing a Wikileaks leak, the first being a piece about Bradley Manning and the second one being about Hillary Clinton clearing the way for a US airstrike on Iran. They are interesting reads in which I draw my own conclusions from information made available by Wikileaks. Right or wrong, these leaked documents are at least getting people reading, digging and blogging about foreign policy, and that’s something no high school teacher has ever been able to do. An interesting and funny footnote to this story is that last month, 6 “Arepera Socialista” employees, including the company coordinator were arrested for stealing money from the till.


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