Venezuela's new (old) flag
Yesterday Hugo Chavez raised a Venezuelan flag which boasts an eighth star, and also a remodelled coat of arms. Here's how the Chicago Sun-Times puts it:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has a penchant for changing symbols -- he's renamed Congress, the Supreme Court and the country itself since taking power. Now his congressional allies are adding an eighth star to the flag of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. They're also remaking its coat of arms so that a horse will appear galloping left, not right -- a not-so-subtle metaphor for Chavez's politics.
Pro-Chavez lawmaker Luis Tascon defended the changes, saying Chavez's ''revolutionary'' process should be accompanied by a new set of national icons...Bolivar himself proposed a flag with eight stars in 1817 that was used for several years. ''It's the Bolivarian star,'' Chavez said. Chavez also said he thought the white horse on the coat of arms -- which appears in the upper left corner of the official flag -- looked odd running to the right while craning its neck in the opposite direction. He claimed historical drawings show the national image was intended to have a horse that ''trotted freely to the left.''
The new coat of arms also features a machete, representing organised labour, and a bow and arrow, representing Venezuela's indigenous people, but the Sun-Times seems a bit hung up on that horse. At the risk of sounding philosophical, I wanted to ask: does Venezuela now have a new flag, or just an old flag with some new features? How much change has to occur before a qualitative difference exists between the old and new? That's the question a lot of observers are asking about Venezuela itself in the era of the Bolivarian revolution.