Latin America Bureau by Dr. Julia Buxton
As the March 5th anniversary of Hugo Chávez’s death approaches, there is turmoil in Venezuela. Students have been protesting against the government in nation-wide demonstrations characterised by disorder and violence that have led to the death of three people. Initially organised to protest against economic shortages and insecurity, these demonstrations have been calling for ‘la salida’ – the exit of President Nicolás Maduro. They have been supported by sections of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), led by Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado.
For many commentators – and for the government itself – these events mark a rerun of earlier events, when the opposition pushed for the removal of Chávez through a failed coup in 2002, a private sector lock-out in 2002-3 and a recall referendum against Chávez in 2004. Maria Corina Machado, a signatory to the 2002 ‘Carmona Decree’ that temporarily dissolved the Chávez government, was a key protagonist of the recall referendum. Her ‘civil society’ organisation, Súmate, received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, where she was feted by President George Bush in May 2005.
Letter published in ‘The Independent’ on Wednesday 19 February.
The violence witnessed in Venezuela in recent days follows the launching of a campaign by extremist elements of Venezuela’s opposition for the “ousting” of the democratically elected government. It is notable that other sections of the opposition, including its recent Presidential candidate, have distanced themselves from this (“A Venezuelan Spring?”, 14 February).
The tragic killing of three Venezuelans, including supporters and opponents of the government, has worrying echoes of what has occurred before in Venezuela, notably the coup d’etat of 2002. Then hidden snipers fired on crowds of people in order to create social conflict and the conditions to justify a military coup. President Maduro’s announcement that the same pistol was used in the first two of the recent killings is thus deeply worrying.
www.counterpunch.org By Andre Vltchek
They are already sewing your funeral gown, Venezuela. They are now ready to welcome you back to that world of the lobotomized, destroyed nations that are fully submissive to Western political and economic interests – Indonesia, Philippines, Paraguay, Uganda, Kenya, Qatar, Bahrain, and almost the entire Eastern Europe. There are so many places like that – it is impossible to list them all.
They want you back in their deadly embrace; they want you to be corrupt and hopeless, as you were before the “Bolivarian Revolution”.
They want you to be the top oil exporter, but with all those horrific slums hanging, like relentless nightmares, over your cities. They want your elites and your military top brass to speak English, to play golf, to drive luxury cars and to commit treason after treason, as they used to commit treason for decades, before your brave predecessor, President Hugo Chavez, began serving and literally saving the poor, in Venezuela and all over Latin America.
Those who are planning to destroy you, those who belong to the so called ‘opposition’, in their heads, are already portioning you; they are dividing your beautiful body – fighting over which parts should be taken where and by whom. They are arguing which pieces of you should stay at home, and what should be taken abroad – a leg, an arm, and your deep melancholic eyes, the color of the profound pools under the mighty waterfalls of Canaima. They want to sell your jet-black hair, as black as those evenings in the mountains, or like that endless night sky above Ciudad Bolivar.
They want everything, all that is under your skin as well as what is deep inside your body. They want your skin, too, as well as your heart.
They want your dreams, which are almost everybody’s dreams – the dreams of all those people from all over the world, people that have been oppressed, and humiliated, for centuries, up to today. They want to take your dreams and to step on them, dirty them, spit on them and to crush them.
But it is not over; it is all far from being over. You are loved and admired, and therefore you will be defended. By all means – we who love you will not be ungenerous; we will not be negotiating the price!
For many men and women, for millions all over the world, you used to be a girl; a brave, rebellious, wonderful young woman… then suddenly you became a mother and then you turned to a motherland – for all those who lacked one until this very moment. For me, too, you became a motherland… for me too!
19 February 2014 Venezuelanalysis.com
Anti-government demonstrations turned deadly again today, following yesterday's arrest of far right leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Lopez heads the right-wing Voluntad Popular (VP) party, and was arrested yesterday on charges including inciting crime and homicide. Earlier today the attorney general Luisa Ortega stated that whether or not Lopez will remain in custody is yet to be determined. However Ortega stated that the government “guarantees and respects the human rights” of Lopez.
Around one hundred supporters rallied today outside a court in Caracas, where his hearing was expected to take place. However, the hearing was moved to a military jail at the last moment due to government concerns for Lopez's safety. Lopez's lawyer has claimed the move is illegal.
Violence continued today in the wake of the arrest, with at least two more reports of deaths.
The polarized politics of Venezuela are again in the news as demonstrations by pro- (see above) and anti-government forces are taking place, with, at this point, four deaths: a government supporter; an opposition demonstrator; a police officer; and one of uncertain provenance. But the foreign press is portraying these as evidence of bloody government repression.
Not to go over old ground, at least too much, but this manufactured crisis is a re-run. Anyone remember the massive demo/counter-demo at the Miraflores palace in 2002, the lead-up to a short-lived coup against Hugo Chávez?
[T]here were 19 fatalities that day. Seven of the dead had participated in the pro-Chávez demonstration, seven in the anti-Chávez demonstration, and five were non-partisan bystanders. Also, there were a total of 69 wounded that day. 38 in the pro-Chávez demonstration, 17 in the opposition demonstration, and 14 were reporters or unaffiliated passers-by.
That was all blamed on Chávez at the time, by the opposition and by much of the international press. Supposedly he ordered the military, and unidentified pro-Chávez thugs, to fire into the crowds of opposition demonstrators. As with the current unrest, it seems that the government side had remarkably poor aim.
There is no flabby pretense of “objectivity” on the part of the international media when it comes to Venezuela. That country poses a stark threat to the hegemonic order, characterized these days by tame Latin American states, emerging from US-backed military dictatorships, now gamely accepting neoliberal economic policies like good little boys and girls. Having enough oil wealth to say No to all that, Venezuela created its own counter-hegemonic partnership, ALBA-TCP. And domestically, while all we hear about is toilet-paper shortages and inflation, there has been substantial progress on a number of fronts for years now—a sharp reduction of dire poverty, major advances in education, reduced child mortality, and rapid steps taken towards gender equality, maternal health, and environmental protection.
You won’t read much about that in the mainstream foreign media.
Instead, we’ll hear about opposition grievances of all kinds, and we’ll get photographs, too, circulated on Twitter and sometimes picked up by big news outlets like CNN. Here are some brutal cops, with nice woolly caps and fur collars to guard against the 24°C Caracas weather, I assume.
In response to the 17 February Guardian article How a first-time film-maker alerted the world to Venezuela's student protests:
Anyone confused about who is perpetrating violence currently in Venezuela should watch the freely available video 'April:Between Peace and Rage.' In April 2013 Venezuela's opposition narrowly lost the Presidential elections which democratically elected currently President Nicolas Maduro. They subsequently cried fraud and took to the streets for two days of violence which left 13 dead.
In a vicious attack on democratic freedom, snarling mobs surrounded buildings of the National Electoral Council (CNE), whose president, Tibisay Lucena, had her house attacked whilst Eva Golinger, editor of the chavista Correo del Orinoco newspaper, was assaulted while out with her year-old baby. Opposition supporters armed with pistols and smoke bombs burned down PSUV buildings, trashed subsidised food stores and public schools, smashed up no fewer than 20 Cuban-run free health clinics and attacked housing projects and the public transport system.
The opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud were exposed as empty posturing when the results of a two-month audit of 100% of the votes found a 99.98% correspondence between paper and electronic votes.
What we are seeing now in Venezuela is a repeat of the same tactics, with violent masked groups claiming to be students, barricading streets, setting fire to rubbish and cars, pelting civilians with rocks and molotov cocktails and then crying innocence when the Bolivarian National Guard confront them.
Sam McGill editor of www.vivavenezuela.co.uk
On 12 February, fascists attacked the presidential Miraflores Palace in Caracas and the Attorney General's office. Exploiting the 12 February Day of Youth celebrations, when annual processions commemorate the role of youth in the independence battle in La Victoria in 1814, violent groups of masked thugs took to the streets in several cities across Venezuela. During clashes with revolutionary forces in Caracas and Merida, student Basil de Costa and community activist Juan Montoya were killed, and 23 were injured.
The violence came two days after the implementation of the ‘Law for the Control of Fair Costs, Prices and Profits’ which is designed toprevent the price speculation and product hoarding which has rocked the economy in recent months. The law establishes a maximum profit margin of 30% and has been established across the economy to prevent companies from over-charging. Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, has pledged to take action against the law. With more protests planned over coming days, it is urgent that we support the socialist movement in Venezuela as it fights any renewed coup d'etat attempts.
Violent opposition groups attacked government buildings and civilians, and clashed with police and government supporters following peaceful marches commemorating the Day of Youth.
The violence has claimed two deaths and left 23 injured across the country. Thirty arrests have been made according to government sources.
Venezuela commemorates the day of the youth on 12 February each year in memory of the role of young people in the decisive independence battle in La Victoria in 1814. Today marked the bicentenary of the historic battle.