Express summary of Venezuela’s situation for curious people and/or the poorly informed

Express summary of Venezuela’s situation for curious people and/or the poorly informed

A translation of a Spanish article from El Libertario summarising the development of the protests in Venezuela during February 2014, and addressing the relationship of those protests to conditions in Venezuela and the Venezuelan right.

On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Tachira (Experimental University of Táchira), located on an inland state of the country, protested due to the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate in lieu of the current insecurity situation of the city. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained.

The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, being at the same time repressed and some of them incarcerated. The wave of indignation had the context of the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basics public services, as well as the beginning of the enforcement of an economic plan on behalf of the President Nicolas Maduro.

Two opposing politicians, Leopoldo Lopez, and Maria Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and try to pressure for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities, inland, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Ultimas Noticias (Latest News), who receives the biggest advertising budget from the government, reveals through photographs, that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolas Maduro stated on National television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing”.

Repression against protesters not only uses police and military enforcement agencies, it incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened to death by one of then on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he calls “colectivos” (collectives).

The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions, radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information has been the social media networks, specially twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed the record keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repression forces.

Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released), the number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered tortures, including reports of sexual assault, cruel treatment, inhumane and degrading. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolas Maduro, stimulates the protesters that are against him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any criminalistic investigation, he automatically stated that each deceased person has been murdered by the same protesters, whom he disqualifies permanently with all of the possible adjectives.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the Chavista movement, because a lot of it’s bases are waiting for what happens next, without any expressions of support. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has done. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolas Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, being the most recent, the increase of the tax unit.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are done in many parts around the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. In the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about opposing political parties, by which it is possible to find so many expressions of support and rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas they are starred specially by middle class sectors and college students. On the other hand, in other states, other popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the petitions are political, freedom for the detainees y the resignations of the president, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, such as inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have used fire guns against police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, specially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (anarchists, sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) don’t have any incidence in this situation and we are simple spectators. Some of us are simply actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil driven country, it possesses low levels of political culture amongst its population, explaining why the opposing protesters have the same “content” problem as the bases of support for the government. But while the international left wing continues to give its back, and support without any criticism the government’s version of “the coup”, it leave thousands of protesters to the mercy of the most conservative of opposition’s political parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, the detention of Leopoldo Lopez, conservative opposition leader, tries to make his own figure the center of a dynamic movement, that up until this moment, that this is been written, had surpassed the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolas Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute after minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:
http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.com (in Spanish)
http://www.derechos.org.ve (in Spanish)
http://laclase.info (in Spanish)
http://www.nodo50.org/ellibertario (in Spanish, English & other languages)

Comments

ocelot
Feb 25 2014 14:22

Just one question:

Quote:
The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the TV stations,[...]

Is this correct? I know back in 2002 it was not the case, as most of the TV stations then were private channels, mostly owned by the anti-Chavista right. I've certainly seen local pro-Chavist leftists recently assert that the media is still mostly in the hands of the opposition, as an argument against assertions of regime control of the media.

It would be good to get clarification on that.

Mark.
Feb 27 2014 13:46

Update from El Libertario, February 25

Rafael Uzcátegui wrote:

The February 21th, we wrote a summary of events for those who are on the outside, oversaturated with information about Venezuela, we needed a chronology of events. It has just 4 days of this story, but there are many new elements that an update is necessary to suggest, that any picture of the Venezuelan reality will change in the next few hours.

The first element that stands out is that the manifestations of government critics have continued to the time of this writing, and doesn't seems to stop in the coming days. Venezuelan culture was characterized by the effort to promote short-term results, no permanence in time, so that the sum of each new day of protest politics, contradict itself this immediacy of "doing" in the country. That is why President Maduro uses as one of its strategies encourage its rapid wear, increasing two more days to holiday carnival that will starts on 27th of February, the day when happens the 25th anniversary of the popular uprising of "El Caracazo" when even tens were killed  with total impunity.

A second novelty, as suggested in our previous paper, is that Caracas has ceased to be the epicenter of the national mobilization. On Saturday February 22 both those pro-government and the opposition, made called to march in the city of Caracas, both with large attendance . However, in at least 12 cities of province, some dissident demonstrations were proportionally, as massive as those that were performed in the capital. In the case of the city of San Cristobal, capital of Tachira (border with Colombia); the intensity of the protests and conflicts where were including students, middle class people, and others from popular and rural areas; has led to the militarization of the city  being controlled remotely from Caracas. The state governor Jose Vielma Mora, of the ruling party PSUV, publicly criticized the crackdown and called for the release of detainees, and so far, this one has been the first public criticism from a member of the government, of  one decision of Nicolas Maduro.

As of this writing, there had been the death of: 15 people in demonstrations or protests related events , 8 of them whose responsibility points to police, military and paramilitary officers, 2 of them victims of " traps " the opposition mounted protests called "guarimba", and the rest by dark events around the demonstrations that should be investigated and clarified (for example, a winding of a 17 years old boy). The reports of the newspaper Ultimas Noticias, supported by pictures and videos circulated on social networks, have forced the Attorney detain officials of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB ) and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service ( SEBIN ) to investigate the perpetrating of facts. However, high spokesmen of the National Executive, as the Minister of Communication Delcy Rodriguez and President Maduro continue blaming of all deaths to the opposition. Deserves separate chapter president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, who through his daily program "Pounding with the Hammer", broadcast on state television, makes delusional statements about the causes of the murders.

The "Guarimba" is a strategy that opposition sectors initiated by the end of year 2002. It consists of making a protest, in a place considered "safe", (usually in the vicinity of the homes of the protesters); closing the route with barricades and burned trash or rubbers. The "Guarimba" has several features that differentiate it from other events. One is its symbiotic relationship with the coup and the "oil strike" of 2002, so it is loaded from an insurrectional content, prone to physical confrontation with the security agencies. Second, as a result of the above, repeatedly has been criminalized by the government, thereby being an exclusionary strategy: While pro-government people could join a peaceful demonstration by common requirements, hardly they ever do a " guarimba " . Third, generate a broad rejection within opposition groups themselves, as demonstrated by the mobilization in Caracas February 22, where there were many banners of rejection to "guarimbas" as to the actions of paramilitary groups. As President Nicolas Maduro has stimulated repression to publicly congratulate the performance of GNB, not recognizing state responsibility with fatalities, and institutionally legitimized the actions of paramilitary groups by encouraging the "Popular Commands against coup" has generated a hotbed of indignation that has allowed the emergence of the “guarimbas" with some foci in Caracas and cities throughout the country. However, a look at all types of mobilization, that remain on the street in all cities of the country; corroborates that this remains a largely peaceful demonstration.

The delivery of the conservative opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, on February 18th, was a real "performance" to catapult your image as "new leader" of the Venezuelan opposition and be the center of the national protest movement. Their delivery was performed with a mass concentration at the border between the municipality of Libertador and Chacao, in Caracas. However, until today the dynamics of crowds in the street remains decentralized networks, with multiple centers. There are number of calls through the social networks like "pancartazos", "Do national prayers at the same time" and even "bailoterapias". Some, become viral and are assumed by much of the movement. Many opponents accustomed to vertical Leninist organization of the analog era, permanently demands that protests "have addresses" and "common requirements".

The government insists that it is facing a "coup", some say "repeats the script in April 2002" and others argue that it would be a "rolling coup". Nicolas Maduro called to confront the protesters on the street activating "Popular Commands antigolpe". However, the two demonstrations called in recent days by the government in the streets of Caracas, doesn't have the support and levels of call made by Hugo Chavez. While the middle and upper levels of government publicly expressed its support for the decisions of Maduro, the basis of Chavismo begins to resent the open crackdown on protesters, which has generated hundreds of images that flow through cell phones. Moreover, the president himself issued conflicting messages about the nature of the hypothetical threat that faces: Calling insistently celebrate carnivals, dancing in front of the cameras, (asking publicly in several opportunities); improve diplomatic relations with the United States, designating its representative to the International Monetary Fund, removing working credentials  in Venezuela to CNN (which meant in fact the expulsion from the country), and within the 24 next hours, invite them to transmit again from the country.

Although International level, remains the informative media polarization  about Venezuela, internally the country continue to suffer a major informative blackout. Nationwide television stations don't report about the demonstrations, nor broadcast live messages of political opposition leaders, while their screens are taken over by statements from publics officials. The government thought the conflict in analog terms, thinking that television concealment plus repression would be enough to silence the protests. Belatedly has initiated a crackdown on social networks, while Internet service, state-controlled, suffer irregular slowdowns and blockages in some of the most popular applications used by users such as Twitter and What'sApp.

The radicalization of the two main sides to the conflict, still doesn't make dialogue a majority requirement to resolve the crisis. President Maduro called the realization of a "National Peace Conference", but however, in parallel, his government (and himself), continue disqualifying as "right-wing fascist" the opponents, and its increasing the number of detainees throughout the country, which alleges torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their detention. The number of killed people has increasing, injured by gunfire, tear gas and birdshot, increases the spiral of violence and resentment on both sides, doesn't leaving political channels the conflict resolution; payable the way for the military to assume ensure "governance" through a coup, either of trend of the Chavismo, or those who support to the opposition. The bizarre image of a retired general of the Venezuelan Army, Angel Vivas Perdomo, on the roof of his house showing a weapon of war (in the attempt to arrest him after being accused of masterminding the traps located in a "Guarimba" that caused one death in Caracas); have caused a storm of rumors about the alleged "malaise" within the Armed Forces. Plus this, there is series of looting of shops in several places in the country with such a coordination that sum too much suspicion.

The events are in full development: The photo of this moment can be completely different in the next 48 hours. We hope to continue to have internet to telling.

Mark.
Feb 27 2014 14:38
ocelot wrote:
Just one question:
Quote:
The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the TV stations,[...]

Is this correct? I know back in 2002 it was not the case, as most of the TV stations then were private channels, mostly owned by the anti-Chavista right. I've certainly seen local pro-Chavist leftists recently assert that the media is still mostly in the hands of the opposition, as an argument against assertions of regime control of the media.

It would be good to get clarification on that.

Rafael Uzcátegui wrote:
Nationwide television stations don't report about the demonstrations, nor broadcast live messages of political opposition leaders, while their screens are taken over by statements from publics officials...

Edit: From the PSL article posted by Entdinglichung below:

Simón Rodríguez Porras wrote:

Most of the information regarding the protests is circulated through the internet and social media, while the main television channels—both those of the state and the private media—follow a line in which live reports nor images that the National Commission for Telecommunications (CONATEL) considers to incite violence are broadcast. Due to the difficulties in obtaining paper imports, most independent newspapers have significantly reduced their number of pages, and some regional newspapers have been brought out of circulation. In addition to this, the owners of much of the private media in Venezuela have aligned themselves with the government, which has led to press workers such as those of the Cadena Capriles to organise assemblies to oppose to the editorial line imposed by the newspaper’s owners and restrictions on the right to information. The government has even removed from cable and satellite services international a Colombian channel that informed on the Venezuelan situation.

Entdinglichung
Feb 27 2014 14:11

taken from http://bataillesocialiste.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/what-is-going-on-in-venezuela/

Quote:
What is going on in Venezuela ?

Article de Simón Rodríguez Porras, du Parti Socialisme et Liberté (organisation vénézuelienne d’origine moreniste, un des rares groupes de l’extrême gauche à ne pas soutenir le chavisme) paru en espagnol le 23 février sur le site http://laclase.info.

The images of thousands of protesters on the streets of the main cities in Venezuela, the military deployment, the armed actions of civil groups, the government’s denouncements of a coup from one end and the accusations from the patronal opposition leadership of what they consider new evidence of the fact that the political regime is dictatorial on the other have been globally disseminated over the past two weeks. Whoever tries to comprehend the situation we are going through notes that the presentation of the events are so thoroughly intertwined with the propaganda of each disputing faction that it is hard to assume a critical position. It could be said that this same situation itself is not new, 12 years after the coup attempt that inaugurated an acute political polarisation. Nevertheless the distance that separates the current situation from that of 2002 is such that in many aspects it is its antithesis.

The current crisis is preceded by a chavismo electoral victory. Relying on a campaign against the speculation on consumer goods in which several companies took part in, the government won the December mayoral elections with 71,64% of the seats contested, obtaining approximately 49% of the total votes, some nine percentage points above the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), the patronal opposition coalition. The MUD had campaigned under the connotation that the elections were a plebiscite on Maduro’s government, and failed. Nevertheless, it was a chavista victory relativized by the worsening of the economic crisis. The year 2013 closed with the highest index of inflation and shortages since the current government took power in 1999. The government’s false promise that the so-called ‘fair prices’ would be consolidated through the intervention on private commerce quickly clashed with reality. With the policies of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) which had increased the monetary mass by 70% throughout the year 2013, the inflation index reached 56,2%, and only on the months of November and December, in the midst of electoral campaigning, the inflation was of 7%. As for the shortage index, according to the BCV the average for the years 2003-2013 was 13,3%, but by January 2014 shortages were registered at 28% (26,2% of these being food shortages). Between 2012 and 2013, the overcharging on imports exceeded 20 billion dollars, and Maduro was forced to admit publicly that the government had failed to make the necessary checks on the granting of foreign currency to import corporations. International reserves fell by 8.017 million dollars, throughout 2013, with 2014 opening at 21.736 million dollars.

Facing this situation, the government made use of the political capital gained in its victory to start negotiations with the leadership of the MUD, with the objective of obtaining support for the economic adjustment measures the government planned to implement. In a typical instance of chavismo’s zigzagging, ten days after the elections and the government’s victory against ‘fascism’, Maduro cordially met in Miraflores with the majority of the elected mayors and governors from the MUD, and set about discussing the economic measures to take. Among these, there was a call to implement a raise on the highly subsidised fuel prices. Following this, the MUD announces its support for the raise, and states that it ‘puts at the Executive’s disposition its technical and political resources to reach the highest degree of consensus on a matter of crucial importance for the lives of Venezuelans’. (http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/MUD-dispuesta-participar-aumento-gasolina_0_321568006.html). In subsequent meetings with Maduro and the interior ministry in which the main leader of the MUD, Henrique Capriles, takes part the regional and local authorities exchange joint security plans. This closes the impasse opened in the elections of April 2013, the results of which had yet to be recognised by the MUD.

On January 22, the government announced a devaluation of 79% for import goods not considered essential, as well as for the currency made available for travellers and electronic purchases. In this manner, the economic adjustment began. Despite the support received from the MUD for the increase in fuel prices, the government delayed the implementation of this measure in fears of the social reaction it could cause. Before, Chávez’s leadership enabled the government to implement unpopular measures with much less resistance, due to his charisma and personal prestige before large segments of the population. Maduro suffers from great deficiencies in this sense, and the negotiations with the MUD as well as the devaluation received great criticism from leftist activists in the chavista base. In the conflicts between sectors of the PSUV there began to emerge public accusations of a turn towards the right in the government.

As for the MUD, as a result of its election loss the confrontations between factions increased. While the majority wing, headed by Capriles and the traditional parties, entered negotiations with the government, the wing headed by Leopoldo López of the Voluntad Popular (VP) party and the national assembly deputy María Corina Machado began, on February 2, a campaign under the slogan ‘the exit is in the streets’ with a gathering in Caracas’ Plaza Brión. It is interesting to note that the majority of mentions of López in the yankee diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks refer to the conflicts he has with other leaders of the established opposition, known for its links with the US government. Also taking part in the February 2 gathering were the ex-Maoist Bandera Roja, the metropolitan mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma and the president of the Federation of University Centres from the Central University of Venezuela, Juan Requesens. There they announce plans for a march on February 12 in Caracas. Simultaneously, in the Nueva Esparta state, xenophobic protests were carried out against the Cuban baseball team that took part in the Caribbean Series tournament held there. As part of the campaign initiated by VP, starting from February 4, the first student protests began in San Cristóbal and Mérida, cities located in the Venezuelan Andes region. Presenting itself as a more intransigent and radical sector, VP and its allies within the MUD attempted to gain the direction of the coalition, capitalising on the disastrous economic and social situation of the country to gain followers for a right-wing exit to the crisis.

The first protests were carried out by a few dozen activists, and were clearly provocative in actions such as that carried out against the residence of the Táchira state governor or a few armed actions in Mérida. There were also police excesses; for example, in Mérida, the police inflicted serious injuries on a student that was not taking part in the protests. Some of those detained in San Cristóbal were moved to the Coro prison, 500 kilometres away from the state in which they were arrested. The main demands of these protests were against insecurity, but nearing the February 12 some started demanding that Maduro resign. On its end, the governing Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) begins to make use of armed paramilitary shock groups to dissolve protests, independently of whether these were peaceful or violent, and to attack residential areas. An instance of these were the aggressions against the Monseñor Chacón residencies in Mérida, a site in which a cacerolazo was taking place, in which two persons were wounded. The protests on February 12, carried out in 18 of the country’s cities, changed the content of the original demands. The protests became about the liberation of the detained students and the rejection of the repressive practices of the state and their affiliated armed groups. In the country’s interior, where the shortages and crises in public services are much more severe than in the capital, the protesters made demands relating to these issues.

The two factions of the MUD were clearly surpassed by the size of the mobilisations, to which there was an underlying current of discontent from the majority of the population over the economic crisis and the adjustment measures taken by the government. The PSUV held a few marches and gatherings the same day of lesser magnitude. In Caracas events happened which were conductive towards an important change in the development of the protests. In the surroundings of the Attorney General offices, once the main march that had begun in Plaza Venezuela was dispersed, there remained students and activists who confronted the police with stones and caused damages to the façade of the government building. Through the National Police, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and the Guardia Nacional Bolivariana (GNB)—with the support of pro-government armed groups—the students were repressed with live ammunition, with a death toll of two: a youth who died from a shot to the back, Bassil Da Costa, and Juan Montoya, a policeman from the Libertador municipality that formed part of one of the pro-government armed groups that intervened in the protests. According to the family and friends of Montoya, a state policeman had shot him. Afterwards, in another area of the city, one of the protesters that had aided Da Costa, Roberto Redman, was murdered. From a motorbike, civilians fired upon a group of people, killing Redman and wounding five others. That same night, the coordinator of PROVEA, an organisation in defence of human rights, was kidnapped by armed men without uniform that had identified themselves as SEBIN agents, who took his mobile phone and after hitting and threatening him with death for several hours, freed him.

The newspaper Últimas Noticias, whose editorial line is favorable to chavismo, published an investigation that documented the acts carried out by the SEBIN in the surroundings of the Attorney General offices, and the use of live ammunition against a group of protesters that were running away from them in the moment that Da Costa was shot. (http://laclase.info/nacionales/tiro-limpio-repelieron-manifestacion-del-12f). Initially, Maduro blamed the protesters for the deaths, and made sure that on the country a ‘script’ was being applied similar to the 2002 coup, but afterwards retracted and asserted that SEBIN had acted on its own and removed the force’s chief. Without a doubt, the actions of the government and the pro-government armed groups on February 12 marked a point of inflection, generating protests on a new scale despite the fact that Maduro, on that same night, announced that the government would no longer allow any marches without its authorisation.

At the moment of writing these lines, in the protests following February 12, six more persons have died, almost 200 are estimated to have been wounded by firearms and lead shots with the majority of these as a result of the actions of pro-government armed groups and the GNB, while a further 40 people remain detained. Multiple cases of torture and humiliating treatment against detainees by the state police and military bodies have been reported. Despite the militarisation of San Cristóbal and Mérida in response to the protests, these continue and many areas of those cities have been blocked off with barricades.

Most of the information regarding the protests is circulated through the internet and social media, while the main television channels—both those of the state and the private media—follow a line in which live reports nor images that the National Commission for Telecommunications (CONATEL) considers to incite violence are broadcast. Due to the difficulties in obtaining paper imports, most independent newspapers have significantly reduced their number of pages, and some regional newspapers have been brought out of circulation. In addition to this, the owners of much of the private media in Venezuela have aligned themselves with the government, which has led to press workers such as those of the Cadena Capriles to organise assemblies to oppose to the editorial line imposed by the newspaper’s owners and restrictions on the right to information. The government has even removed from cable and satellite services international a Colombian channel that informed on the Venezuelan situation.

The government appeals to presenting itself as a victim to an ongoing coup and compares the current situation with that of April 2002. Nevertheless, this comparison cannot be maintained rationally. There are no pronouncements against the government nor desertions in the armed forces, of which its medium and upper command is strongly associated with the government and the bourgeois sector that directs the state, popularly known as the ‘boliburguesia’—the bolivarian bourgeois, a good part of which is composed by military men themselves. The majority of the MUD leadership does not follow ‘the exit’ campaign promoted by Voluntad Popular and has publicly polemicized with López. The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras)—a key organisation in the 2002 coup and representative of capitalist interests—is not calling for a strike, and nor is the union bureaucracy adhered to the MUD. In plain crisis, the country’s major capitalist, Gustavo Cisneros, announced his support for the government while the transnational Repsol signed a financing agreement with the state oil company PDVSA for 1200 million dollars. The leadership of the Catholic Church has not had a belligerent role. Maduro has tried to establish friendlier relations with the U.S. government, and less than a year ago the Minister of Foreign Affairs Elías Jaua met with the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to announce intentions to re-establish diplomatic ties between both countries. Maduro called on Obama last week to appoint a new ambassador in Caracas. The handing over of López to the authorities, who had ordered his capture over his responsibility for the February 12 murders, is difficult to ascribe to a logic in which there is an imminent military assault—led by his party—on the government. Besides the fact that the entire leadership of the MUD, Capriles’ faction as well as López’s, were involved in the 2002 coup and that the opposition bourgeoisie has made use of the coup as part of its past actions, there objectively exist no indications that such process is underway at these moments. Instead, it is verifiable that the government has curtailed the democratic freedoms guaranteed by the constitution, under the alibi of its anti-coup propaganda. From there starts the main task of the left and the social organisations which is of opposing to this attack on our democratic freedoms without ceasing to warn that the MUD does not represent a political alternative that is conductive to overcoming the problems that plague the majority of the population.

The use of armed collectives by the government to dissolve protests is an extremely reactionary resource that must be opposed. The mechanisms of censorship, by the way of deals or co-action imply to an equal extent an attack to the people’s right to information that foregrounds the incompatibility of this right with the private property of the means of communication and with the bureaucratic management of the state media. The SEBIN, a repressive body with a long history of violating human rights since its creation under the initials of DISIP in 1969, must be dissolved and its archives on repression opened to the public. All those detained in protests must be freed, and an investigation must be carried out on the repression and the murders carried out by police, military and paramilitary bodies in reaction to the protests. Beyond the protests, the open trials against over three hundred workers, peasants and indigenous people over protesting must be closed. These are the democratic demands that all those who claim themselves revolutionaries must raise, and place them against the doctrine of national security promoted by Maduro, which puts the interests of the capitalist state above social justice and rights.

As the days pass the expressions of protest spread, through the cacerolazos, to the poorer sectors of Caracas and other cities of the country, in barrios that were for a long time bastions of chavismo. This is evidence of the disapproval that the liberal economic adjustment measures proposed by the government are met with by the impoverished majorities. Once again, these demands overcome the MUD’s leadership, who say nothing on this regard. Evidently, the MUD cannot propose anything in this sense, due to its compromises with the establishment, with the transnational capital and the imperialist governments of Europe and the U.S.

Raising an agenda of social and economic justice, alongside those of democratic freedoms, is a task that can only be fulfilled by leftist organisations not aligned with the government or the MUD. In an article called ‘Venezuela’, the Panamanian songwriter Rubén Blades called for the Venezuelan students to organise ‘beyond the sterile division caused by the government and the opposition’ and to ‘clarify that they won’t accept as the only alternatives those proposed by the two sides in dispute’. Sadly, today the student movement has been co-opted by an opposition that takes part in the government’s same bourgeois political establishment. Despite this, political organisations among them the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSL) which attempt to elucidate an autonomous view of the crisis from the perspective of the student movement as well as the popular and worker’s movement, do exist.

The economic and social disaster has dissipated the mirage of the chavista project. Its pretentions of overcoming the structural problems of our country within a capitalist framework, placing its weight on the protagonistic role of the nationalist, military and corporate bourgeoisie has failed and now finds itself in an advance stage of decomposition. The social assistance programs implemented following the defeat of the 2002 coup are past their peak, and since 2007 have entered a recessive dynamic. The corporatization of social organisations continues unabated, strengthening itself with each legal barrier on the right to protest and to strike. We can now see an increased deployment of the repressive and administrative state apparatus to diminish social conflicts, a policy of which the imprisonment of the Yukpa cacique Sabino Romero and the syndicalist Rubén González between 2009 and 2011, alongside the recent detention of ten oil workers who participated in a worker’s assembly at the Puerto La Cruz oil refinery, among them the general secretary of the Unitary Federation of Oil Workers, José Bodas, are clear examples of. In addition to this is the economic debacle, in spite of which the transnational sectors ingrained within the oil industry, the private banks and the import corporations have all come off well. The corollary to all this is that the reactionary utopia of a ‘socialism with capitalists’ has fallen apart. It is now up to the revolutionary left to rescue the banners of socialism that chavismo utilised for its own purposes.

According to official statistics, over nine million people, a third of the population, live under conditions of poverty. Almost three quarters of the public sector workers earn salaries below the cost of the canasta básica—the government’s measure of the minimum required monthly food staples and basic living costs for a household, of which now more than two minimum wages are required to cover. Only in the military sector are there salary increases above the inflation. Undoubtedly, the working class can play a decisive role in facing the government’s political economy, defeat the regression of our democratic rights and raise demands such as a general raise of wages and salaries—a minimum wage equal to the canasta básica, the elimination of the IVA tax, the full nationalisation of the oil industry without joint ventures with transnationals; agrarian reform that guarantees the increase of agricultural production and the access to land for those who labour in it, the rescuing of the basic industries in Guayana and those in poor state and now unproductive that were acquired by the State, support for the territorial demands of the indigenous peoples, the suspension of foreign debt payments and the cancellation of treaties on double taxation signed with the US and other countries, instruments that allow transnationals to evade over 17 billion dollars in taxes annually. The PSL is pushing for an encounter between trade unions and popular organisations to discuss in Caracas, over the first days of March, a unitary agenda of demands as well as a plan of mobilisation. The workers, the students and the popular sectors have a possibility of raising their own voice and resist being cannon fodder to the government or the MUD.

Mark.
Mar 6 2014 12:14

More from El Libertario:

Rafael Uzcátegui wrote:

As the Venezuelan situation changes every day, I should clarify that I wrote this on 01/03/14 at 06:00 pm.

Who are the people who took to the streets? They are only upper middle class people of some housing developments, militants of far-right parties and Colombian paramilitary activists, ("Aguilas Negras")?

This question can only be answered correctly, referring to the beginning of this cycle of protests in Venezuela. On February 4 students at the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Tachira (UNET), in San Cristobal, staged a peaceful protest against insecurity, caused by the sexual abuse against a student. The protest was brutally suppressed by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), the agency of the Venezuelan Armed Forces in charge of "maintaining public order", and 6 students were arrested. On this episode we should clarify two things: 1) Historically the student movement in Latin America and Venezuela, has always rejected detained students in protests and 2) San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state, is a city located in a border area with Colombia that has been particularly hard hit for several years by interruptions of utilities (water and electricity mainly), price inflation as well as shortages of various consumer products. The arrest of these students led protests in other cities of the country, which in turn were suppressed by increasing the number of students arrested. This created an "snowball-effect", from the inner cities of the country to Caracas. It is in this climate of protests and unrest, which two opposition politicians (Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado), make a call to hold demonstrations to demand the resignation of President under the slogan "the exit".

It is important to say that the rest of the opposition parties, including the coalition "Bureau of Democratic Unity" (MUD), and the governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles; rejected the first few days the protests, which have overwhelmed the political parties opponents. When I write these answers (01/03/14) the protest against the government was decentralized, with some violent foci but largely, peacefully. It also has two different dynamics : One in Caracas , starring with middle class students from public and private universities territorially in the east of the city, and basically with political demands (release of the students, the resignation of President and rejection of repression); and in the rest of the country, qualitatively more important than that one in  Caracas because it incorporates popular sectors; and in some cities, (such as San Cristobal), rural areas (thus this city was militarized), and including social demands and lack of products, the high cost of living and lack of basic services.

What is the government's response, (the level of repression) ? It is said that it finally has been very soft, forgiving and respectful of human rights. Truth or propaganda?

Propaganda. The reality is that when I answer this (there are new events every day), there are 17 people murdered in the context of demonstrations, 8 of they - including the first three - that it have been shown were killed by state security agencies. During protests at the national level , have been arrested  over 500 people, and there is plenty of evidence of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detained protesters, plus the number of people injured by firearms, shots and shots to the body of tear gas. The amount of pictures and videos taken by the protesters themselves has forced the government to recognize their responsibility in the killing of manifestants, and there are several members of the GNB arrested for authorship of the shooting. A novelty is the use of paramilitary groups to suppress the protests, that have been armed by the government, and act with tolerance and coordination of military and police forces. I personally know, right now, some people who are out of its house after being beaten and threatened with death by these paramilitary groups....

What is the popularity of Maduro now?

Maduro, unlike Chavez, is a very weak president internally in the Bolivarian movement. Already been receiving heavy criticism for making a economic adjustment program earlier this year, devalued the currency, increased some taxes and has allowed to the end of 2013, a 50 % inflation. For a political observer in Venezuela, right now, occurs a very interesting phenomenon: While the opposition is mobilized in protests, the basis of Chavismo doesn´t perform public acts supporting the government as happened during the years of President Hugo Chavez. The strong repression of the protests is rejected by large sections of Chavismo basis, who also knows that there is a malaise due to the economic crisis. The few marches by Nicolás Maduro, - exclusively in Caracas - only been able to mobilize public officials and beneficiaries of social policies.

The Western media connect the opposition to current scarcity and insecurity. This is reality?

First, the polarization of the international media about the Bolivarian government remains the same as in recent years , but inwardly in Venezuela the bourgeoisie of Chavismo has been purchasing media since 2002 , so there is now a lot of censorship in TV channels nationwide , and many pressures on radios and newspapers. There is a deep economic crisis and economic adjustment program is doing pay the costs of the crisis to the country's workers. Regardless of how you end this wave of protests, the government of Nicolas Maduro will continue to implement a package of economic measures that affect all people, especially those with limited resources.

Why a country with a big oil wealth is facing daily shortage of the food?

The government of Hugo Chavez, and now Nicolas Maduro, has deepened the role assigned to Venezuela by globalized capitalism: Sell oil, gas and other minerals to the global economic market, with the help of transnational companies. The real U.S. embassy in Venezuela is called "Chevron", whose chief business manager for Latin America Ali Moshiri, said dozens of times that "he has not had any trouble doing business with the Bolivarian government". Venezuela sells power to other countries and is importing 80 % of products consumed in the country. As never before the economy depends on the dollar, so having the right contacts in government for receive dollars to the official price, makes possible duplicate that money by 8 times, in few minutes, taking those dollars to black currency market. The dollar has created a "parasitic Bolivarian bourgeoisie" of state, whose main business is to receive money for imports.

Is it true that there is a conspiracy of businessmen and traders to hide food in warehouse?

I'm not going to defend a businessman, and surely there are many criminal entrepreneurs, like thieves in other sectors of an economy that depends on the state. But this isn't the main reason for food shortages in the country, what the government called "economic warfare". Two facts: 1 ) The two state food distribution chains (PDVAL and MERCAL), suffer the same level of food shortages that private companies, 2) The largest and most important private entrepreneur of country food sector, Lorenzo Mendoza, has met several times with President Maduro to increase production , which is a public and notorious news.

Beyond the partisan blinders, are we not also watching the decline of oil revenue system? What is the responsibility of the Chavista state to this corruption?

President Chavez himself called his project "oil socialism", regardless of the social and environmental consequences of the production of oil, gas and mineral resources for rural and indigenous communities. In fact the so-called "Patria Plan", in the plan of government of President Maduro, states to double by 2019 energy production in the country. Oil money, managed by the state, has corrupted social movements, who have given up independence and autonomy for receive a little bit of oil revenues. In a tight and short review, during the past 15 years power conflicts between the government and the opposition, can be characterized like as a clash between two bourgeoisies equally capitalists , in order to control oil revenues.

Where are the social reforms and the fight against poverty? They are deepened sufficiently?

Due to the increase in oil prices in the international market, the government of President Chavez, counted, during 2004 and 2009 with higher state's revenues in Venezuelan history the last 30 years. Despite having so high income and political control of the country, structural reforms were not made to causes of poverty in the country. From 2005 compensatory social policies were promoted, called "missions" that had a positive impact on the living standards of the poorest sectors of the population, in that way, they had a greater purchasing power of products, with the paradox of not leaving poverty. However, these "missions", were sustainable only with a high foreign exchange earnings, as a result of high oil prices on the world market. Since two years, these policies have been phased out or have been stagnated. An example today is the disastrous situation of the network of public hospitals in the country that do not have the equipment, infrastructure or medicines to cure different diseases of the population. This has led to a paradox within the government that calls itself "socialist": In the absence of an effective public health system, all state employees are insured for hospitalization, surgery and maternity in private sector's clinics.

What is the real level of threat to the ultra-liberal right? Can you say that there is an attempt to destabilize the power?

To that question, several comments as a response:  1) The opposition is divided and internally facing, and today doesn't have a unanimous position on street protests : One sector supports it and the other one simply criticizes it 2) Venezuela is in the process to  transition towards "something else", because of the physical absence of Hugo Chavez, that some political analysts call "postchavismo". Regardless of how that transition could be completed and how these protests finalize, there is no way that the Bolivarian movement, broadly defined, is be completely displaced from power. Chavez has a wide base of support making it a major player in the short and medium term policy in Venezuela. So the result , now or later, will be the negotiation between a sector  "Chavista" and another part of the "opposition " when necessary to ensure the country's governance;  3) In 2002 began a purge of middle and senior cadres of the army in Venezuela , so today the Armed Forces are committed to the Bolivarian government project, not only for ideological reasons, but also for economic. Never before have the military, who now exert numerous positions in the public service, have had controlled so many legal and illegal businesses in the country (for example, control of the ports for imports and exports of good ). For this reason there are so many possibilities that a "right-wing coup" - linked to opposition sectors - as a coup "left-wing" - a sector of Chavismo against Maduro -. In conclusion I must say that we the anarchists, along with other sectors of Venezuelan revolutionary left, equally reject the government and the opposition political parties, trying to build a social alternative, which in this case is called "libertarian". At this time we have denounced the government crackdown on protesters and the implementation of a package of economic measures has been downloaded on the shoulders of the people, the crisis created by government corruption and the old and new bourgeoisie in the country.

Caiman del Barrio
Mar 7 2014 13:39
Mark. wrote:
ocelot wrote:
Just one question:
Quote:
The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the TV stations,[...]

Is this correct? I know back in 2002 it was not the case, as most of the TV stations then were private channels, mostly owned by the anti-Chavista right. I've certainly seen local pro-Chavist leftists recently assert that the media is still mostly in the hands of the opposition, as an argument against assertions of regime control of the media.

It would be good to get clarification on that.

Rafael Uzcátegui wrote:
Nationwide television stations don't report about the demonstrations, nor broadcast live messages of political opposition leaders, while their screens are taken over by statements from publics officials...

Edit: From the PSL article posted by Entdinglichung below:

Simón Rodríguez Porras wrote:

Most of the information regarding the protests is circulated through the internet and social media, while the main television channels—both those of the state and the private media—follow a line in which live reports nor images that the National Commission for Telecommunications (CONATEL) considers to incite violence are broadcast. Due to the difficulties in obtaining paper imports, most independent newspapers have significantly reduced their number of pages, and some regional newspapers have been brought out of circulation. In addition to this, the owners of much of the private media in Venezuela have aligned themselves with the government, which has led to press workers such as those of the Cadena Capriles to organise assemblies to oppose to the editorial line imposed by the newspaper’s owners and restrictions on the right to information. The government has even removed from cable and satellite services international a Colombian channel that informed on the Venezuelan situation.

Yes the PSUV's strategy has been to force private channels off air as much as politically possible. They're now off terrestial TV IIRC, but that's mostly a moot point since satellite ownership is astronomically high through Venezuela (even in the ranchos/favelas and rural areas). They have had some success in forcing a couple of channels off of satellite too, but there is still Fox & CNN en espanol, Globovisión, etc...

The print media is split between pro-regime (eg Ultimas Noticias) & anti-regime (eg El Universal).

Caiman del Barrio
Mar 10 2014 14:12

Interesting article reposted by El Libertario on the ongoing phenomenon of barrio protests, especially by the 'chavista' base: http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/opinion-protesta-en-los-barrios-claro.html

Well worth translating IMO, if only to end once and for all the lazy, ubiquitous assertion that the only folk who protest in Venezuela are from the middle/upper classes, perpetuated by the likes of David Ferreira and the international prochavista left.