In the 19th year of the Venezuelan revolution, the people are losing faith. Understanding president Maduro’s government means that we have to understand his predecessor, the populist president Hugo Chavez. From 1999 till his death in 2013, Hugo Chavez lead a socialist regime in Venezuela. Chavez was famously charismatic, a once in a generation kind of political charmer, with an extraordinary ability to persuade people from all backgrounds to join his cause. Chavez, a legendary figure in Venezuela transformed the country’s political and economic landscape, funneling an enormous amount of money into social projects and into nationalizing industries.

From the beginning, Chavez government and now Maduro’s administration brainwashed the population. They inject fear into the minds of the people to maintain their power among the citizens. The majority of people in Venezuela are poor and uneducated, so it is easy for the government to impart nonsense information and for the public to believe it. The Venezuelan government has their own television and radio station where they can say anything to the public. Lately President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has been repeatedly saying that the United States and the Colombian government are going to invade Venezuela, take over the government and take any wealth that the country may have. This accusation is completely fake; however, by bombarding the citizens with this story a hundred times a day, the people of Venezuela feel threatened and uneasy. Accusations against the United States and other countries have always been part of the Venezuelan government’s policy. Chavez, started this trend of fear by calling the then president George W. Bush “the devil” in 2009 during a speech in the United Nations.

This political behavior has a very simple behavioral explanation, the Venezuela government knows that the population is very gullible, so a way to make people believe in a falsehood is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from the truth. If the Venezuelan government wants the people to believe that the occupation is going to happen, they are going to say that the United States and the Colombian Government are going to go into Venezuelan’s territory with blood and gunfire, and that they are going to take away any wealth that the country may have. These tactics are useful to the government because it scares the people. The Venezuelan government portraits the United States and the Colombian government as bad and cruel, telling the Venezuelan population about the wars in the Colombian territory and the fights that the United States have fought to brainwash the population into believing that that is something that could happen to Venezuela as well. Our minds often choose the familiar over the actual truth. The people that are repeatedly expose the phrase “the United States and the Colombian government are going to invade Venezuela” are likely to accept as the truth this statement.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman described the term “Cognitive Ease.” It is the feeling that a situation is okay and there is nothing to worry about. The government uses frequent repetition to put the Venezuelan population in a state cognitive ease. This is enough to convince people to believe things that are not true because familiarity creates enough cognitive ease for their stories to be believed.

Debrah Lovera is a student in Joe McGarrity’s Senior Seminar class at the University of Central Arkansas. Joe McGarrity, a professor of economics at UCA and a regular columnist, has vetted the article. You can reach Professor McGarrity at joem@uca.edu.