With long food lines winding across the country, plummeting oil prices, worsening shortages and the highest inflation rate in the world, some Venezuelans are looking to the heavens for signs that the end is nigh — at least for Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution.
And this week they got one, according to anti-government website Dollar Today. “God sends a signal,” screams Wednesday's headline. “A miracle in the procession of the Divina Pastora [Virgin]”
The "heavenly sign" they're referring to is a giant tear down the middle of a government banner separating the image of the Virgin Mary from the images of Simon Bolivar, Hugo Chávez and President Nicolas Maduro. The banner, an example of the Venezuelan government’s tendency to use religious symbols in support of its cause, was hung by soldiers in Barquisimeto to welcome people to an annual religious procession.
Dollar Today believes the mysterious tear was an act of divine intervention. The website reports the banner “was divided, with the Virgin Mary by herself on one side, and Chavez, Maduro and [historical figure] Simon Bolivar on the other side.”
"The soldiers were in shock, but that wasn’t all, after 40 minutes the banner collapsed,” the website says.
It's not the first time that Dollar Today has announced the end of the Bolivarian revolution. When a privately owned TV station recently broadcast a press conference by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, the website interpreted it as a sign that the TV channel realizes "the end is near." Venevision regularly refrains from giving air time to opposition leaders out of fear of government reprisal, so the unexpected broadcast of Capriles was interpreted as a sign that change is imminent.
The opposition isn't alone in using religious symbolism and interpretation in politics.
Former President Chávez, who died of cancer in 2013, is often revered as a deity in Venezuela. The ruling party even came up with a prayer to Chávez similar to the Lord’s Prayer. President Maduro declared that Chavez’s face had miraculously appeared on a subway tunnel in 2013, and there’s a chapel in a poor Caracas neighborhood where people regularly pray to their fallen leader.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.