in his tenure as Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro responded to growing
criticism of government mismanagement, skyrocketing crime, inflation and chaos
by reminding his countrymen that, at the very
least, tenemos patria ("we have a
that homeland," Maduro explained, "because we do not bow before any empire." And
prescient words they were, because just this past weekend Venezuelans experienced
a rather different take on the "homeland" theme... and it sure wasn't pretty.
alert: Fans of the hit U.S. TV series Homeland
might want to avoid reading the rest of this article, since many have yet to
see the episode under discussion.)
an update: Homeland currently finds
its main character, ex-Marine turned suspected terrorist Nick Brody, on the lam
from the United States authorities. (Brody's character is played by Damian Lewis, shown second from left in the image above.) Saddled with a ten-million-dollar bounty
and gut-shot by Colombians, Brody is whisked off by ostensibly friendly militants
to convalesce in the emblematic unfinished Caracas skyscraper known as the
"Tower of David." The building is a kind of vertical slum that's been featured
in stories in The
New Yorker, The
New York Times,
early 1990s, as fleetingly noted in the episode's dialogue, the Tower of David
was a pet project of the successful Venezuelan financier David Brillembourg.
Brillembourg had envisioned it as the headquarters of his far-flung financial
empire. Soon after Brillembourg's death in 1993, the Venezuelan economy came
crashing down in a series of financial crises. The cranes stopped, the workmen
were sent home, and the project was abandoned. The national authorities seized
the tower soon after but failed to put it to good use. So the building lay
empty and unfinished for years, a visible reminder of the Caracas that might
2007, a reformed gang leader urged a group of poor Venezuelans to occupy the
building and make it their own. The squatters jerry-rigged electricity and
improvised their way around its missing walls, doors, and windows, eventually transforming
the tower into the slum that it remains to this day.
In Homeland's telling, the building has now
become a den of drugs and delinquency, a place where gang members receive
sexual favors from prostitutes in full view of small children, the elderly, and
colorful murals of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. At one point, in
an act of dramatic extralegal justice, militants throw a resident thief from the
heights of the tower with seeming impunity. It's a poignant illustration of the
depths to which Brody has fallen in his quest to survive. But it's also a
harrowing reminder to Venezuelans of how their country, which boasts one of the
world's highest murder rates, is sometimes viewed overseas.
fans have criticized Homeland's
recent installments for failing to live up to the show's past high standards.
But let's forget about that for a moment and focus instead on the highly
entertaining reaction to Homeland's
latest sally by the Venezuelan authorities, who were surprisingly quick to
respond given the fact that the Tower of David episode is not scheduled to air
on Venezuelan cable for another two weeks (assuming, of course, that it isn't
blocked by government censors first).
currently being circulated by SIBCI, the media arm of the Venezuelan Ministry
of Information and Communications, decries
the "distortion of Venezuela" by a series that just happens to be, as
they put it, "President Barack Obama's favorite show." Noting Homeland's roots as a remake of an Israeli series (the Venezuelan government is
not exactly a fan of the Jewish state), the SIBCI's riposte was also eager to
point out that actors on the show have been given private tours of CIA facilities at Langley, Virginia -- opening
the door, no doubt, to all manner of shadowy plots and cabals. Here's a choice selection from the statement:
reasons might there be for Venezuela to appear in a show so openly supported by
President Obama, and backed by the CIA? Are they preparing the American people
to feel justified in some aggression against our country, or for more open
support of Venezuela's own rightwing radicals? Only time will tell.
all Latin Americans agree. Ivan Gallo, a
Colombian blogger, takes a more opportunistic view. Calling the series "marvelous,"
the nineties, there was a relentless attack against Colombia by Hollywood. They
would go to the most miserable towns in northern Mexico, where they filmed all the
takes needed to recreate a convenient Bogota. People riding on chicken trucks,
mercenaries at every corner.... Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, or Michael Douglas
would begin as victims of the narco-guerillas, and then proceed to single-handedly
defeat great armies. One gringo was worth more than a battalion of Colombians
armed to the teeth.
on to note, gratefully, that
has now stopped being a scenario for such action movies thanks to Chávez and
his farcical government. If it weren't for the Supreme Commander we'd probably still
be seeing regular images of "Medellín" with a strange resemblance to
may have a point. The Homeland episode,
which was filmed in Puerto Rico with images of the Venezuelan
capital spliced in, seemed to feature primarily Colombian and Cuban actors
(judging by their accents). Of late Venezuela does seem to have become a go-to setting
for dangerous misadventures that can be better filmed elsewhere.
example, the first-person shooter video game Mercenaries 2 puts its protagonist through a Grand Theft Auto-style violent adventure
in Caracas. And even the 2009 James Cameron blockbuster Avatar, the highest-grossing film in history, featured the
following exchange, in which a commanding officer
prepares his subordinate for the dangers of a distant planet:
I read your file, Corporal. Venezuela, that was some mean bush. Nothin' like
that here, though. You got some heart, kid, showin' up here.
Figured it was just another hellhole.
another hellhole, indeed.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Showtime