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3 Malandreo Negro Gangsta Rap and the Politics of Exclusion in Venezuela Sujatha Fernandes Guerrilla Seca represents Misery, hunger, poverty, shit. This is the reality that can happen to you, What I live is malandrismo, real history. Guerrilla Seca,“Malandreo Negro” “Malandreo Negro” (Black Malandrismo) is the title of a song by the Venezuelan rap group Guerrilla Seca. The title alludes to rappers’conceptions of blackness as constructed by class and place,and the resort to crime,or malandrismo, as an unfortunate consequence of the triage of misery, hunger, and poverty. Images of blackness in hip-hop represent both an everyday understanding of race as integrally connected to poverty and a developing consciousness related to the sharpening inequalities that occurred during the neoliberal decade of the 1990s. This stands in contrast to long-standing dominant invocations of Venezuela as a mixed-race or café con leche society. This understanding of race is also distinct from the more academic constructions of race in Venezuela that privilege terms such as Afro-Venezuelan and from rural over urban experiences. At the same time,the popularity of rap inVenezuela,particularly gangsta rap, has been tied to the rise of a neoliberal consumer culture, where the good life is viewed in terms of access to material goods. Gangsta rappers have shown a proclivity for individual advancement and gain that has inhibited the development of a progressive racial politics, as was the case with hip-hop in countries such as Brazil and Cuba. Although some more black nationalist–oriented groups have emerged in recent years, they are still a relatively new phenomenon that is beyond the scope of this chapter. In this chapter I explore the development of hip-hop as a musical form in  Malandreo Negro: Gangsta Rap and the Politics of Exclusion in Venezuela  73 Venezuela, but I also address the distinct ways that rap music has taken shape in this context.The sharp divisions of race and class in neoliberalVenezuela gave way to realities of crime and violence that devolved the functions of maintaining justice and order to street gangs and urban mafias. Venezuelan rappers draw inspiration from American gangsta rappers, but at the same time they draw on a plurality of strategies and images as they construct new ways of belonging in the contemporary period. Blackness and Racial Politics in Venezuela Venezuelan rap emerged from a distinct set of conditions brought about by a growing process of urban segregation, a deterioration in the conditions of the urban infrastructure, and a crisis in state governance. The introduction of neoliberal economic measures in Venezuela led to spontaneous protests, rioting, and looting around the country on February 27, 1989, followed by a massive crackdown by police and the military. The gradual insertion of Venezuela into a neoliberal global order required new forms of efficiency and competition that put pressure on the state-based development model that previous governments had pursued.The shift of resources away from infrastructure,health care,education ,and other social services led to a sustained increase in social inequality during this period (Predrazzini and Sanchez 2001). These changes were also racialized ,with those at the bottom of the social scale—mostly black,indigenous,and mixed-race Venezuelans, who form the majority of the population—hit hardest by the changes. The social disjunctures, atomization, and crisis in governance that began in 1989 led to a spiraling in violence, crime, and urban tension. Ana María Sanjuán (2002, 87) comments that in 1999, the homicide rate in Venezuela increased 20 percent from the previous year. This number was greater in Caracas, where sometimes as many as 100 people were victims of homicides on weekends. In this context of general disorder and crisis of authority, alternative systems of justice such as street gangs and urban mafias grow in importance, contributing to a growing cycle of violence. The period of the early 1990s also saw the growth of local popular movements in the barrios, or shantytowns, that ring the hillsides of Caracas. These nonpartisan movements reached a peak in 1998 when the Polo Patriótico, an alliance led by Hugo Chávez Frías, won the general election and came into power on the basis of promises to fight corruption, break away from the U.S.-supported neoliberal agenda, and rewrite the constitution. The political mobilization Chávez fostered has led to a deepening societal divide, as the lower classes increasingly identify along race and class lines. Highlighting his own mestizo features and dark complexion...


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