The current uprising in Venezuela is quite confusing, as they are enduring a slew of anti-government protests. But amid a storm of manipulations, lie dangerous traps that could really hurt movements fighting for social justice around the world. Some of the current dialogue surrounding these protests could trap social movements into defending police brutality, which later on could be used as leverage by governments against left wing activists. The situation in Venezuela was quite possibly provoked by fanatical right-wing opposition members terrorizing neighborhoods, but wouldn’t capitalists just love to see anti-capitalist social movements praise the state’s police forces and even worse? Wouldn’t the CATO institute and CANVAS, the vanguard of capitalist “McRevolution” in Venezuela, just be in heaven to see that happen?
Praising police, even when it serves some leftist government, serves to de-legitimize radical anti-capitalist social movements.
There’s a political battle for control over state power in Venezuela. It’s going on in the background of what the government claims to be an economic war to undermine it, and it is led on the backs of people who suffer from hardship and shortages (which, interestingly enough, increased after the opposition, who were backed by large businesses, and lost municipal elections). The government claims this economic war has been going on for some time, and it offers the government the best excuse to repress and stigmatize workers going on strike for their rights, too. Maduro claims he is a “workers’ president,” but has proven he can behave just like any capitalist boss when it comes to their demands.
However, the country’s president announced Venezuela is expelling three US consular officials, accusing them of meeting students involved in anti-government protests.
Students are in the frontline of hardline opposition groups’ protests, marching under the banner “The Exit,” meaning Maduro’s departure. Some student protesters in the state of Merida have thrown rocks and blocked roads. “You need therapy to live in Venezuela!” read one banner, held up by members of a university psychology department. You don’t need therapy to see how the opposition is using fake brutality police pics – not from Venezuela – to fabricate a devilish image of their rivals.
The current leftist government says that last protests have been an attempted coup d’etat, however the opposition parties make no secret they want a regime change.
It’s certainly not crystal clear what is going on in Venezuela right now, but certain factors play large roles. For a year now there has been a change of strategy on part of the opposition which is turning more and more violent – people in neighborhoods reported that, before past days riots, radical opposition youngsters (possibly students) constantly attacked Chavistas – they threw stones at them, some even said they tried to throw Molotovs in their houses. Anti-government protestors have attacked the headquarters of state television VTV for the past few nights, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails toward the building.
They also blocked roads and set tires on fire. They have been marching for some weeks against the government blaming it for corruption, crime, and “insecurity.”
Then there was a shooting where a student was killed – it is not known by whom – and riots erupted. Then a Chavista community leader was shot. The government says both the student and the Chavista were shot by the same person.
Thousands took it to the streets, and different political factions have clashed among themselves and with the police. There was no reported violence at the pro-government rallies. Pro- and anti-government demonstrations continue for days, and riots at night.
Some students defend the far-right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whom the government announced would be arrested “for inciting violence.” Speaking to anti-government demonstrators on Sunday, student organizer Gaby Arellano placed the blame on pro-government armed groups known as colectivos: “They’re the ones responsible for the chaos and anarchy not only in Caracas but all of the national territory,” she said. It’s become a habit for businesses and anti-socialists to cry “anarchy” in the exact opposite meaning of the word, as states and corporate media have always done. This happens in In a country where autonomous leftists, anarchist-syndicalists and anarchists have endured harsh repression by the government as a result of it defending its state socialism (which is really set up as a social-democracy), or as a result of the government promoting business interests benefiting political parties.
However, this is not what people in communities have experienced in the past weeks – quite the contrary, as this report explains: “Observers told Venezuelanalysis.com that they witnessed opposition protestors firing live ammunition indiscriminately into buildings, throwing rocks, and attempting to storm a communal house in the city centre. Venezuelanalysis.com observed protestors in balaclavas forcibly stopping vehicles at a main intersection in Merida city’s north. The masked protestors forced passengers off buses at gunpoint, and threw shrapnel at other motorists passing through the intersection. While covering this story, the Venezuelanalysis.com journalist was held at gunpoint by three protestors, who threatened to “kill” her. The group then attempted to rob the journalist. “Give us your camera or we’ll kill you,” the protestors repeatedly stated. Source
The political opposition has already been exposed for working to cause economic crisis, mainly in electricity, which would help the opposition make a better case against the government. The population is caught in the middle.
The last wave of protests have had student anti-government groups at the front lines. Some of these students have ties with conservative-founded organisations in the United States, or with their “capitalist revolutionaries” from CANVAS, known for its strategies to use anti-government discontent in other countries for the benefit of US interests. The fact that the Libertarian Koch-brothers funded CATO Institute is backing the Venezuelan student movement and other US trained “economic experts” is no secret, and a recently leaked document shows that CANVAS, known for overthrowing regimes in the interest of the United States, are deeply involved in Venezuela too.
Conservative CATO has rewarded a student opposition leader for leading protests back in 2007 against the non-renewal of the public broadcast license of Radio Caracas Televisions (RCTV), and against the constitutional reform in 2007. Yon Goicoechea, the students leader back in 2007, has received a $500,000 award from the U.S. libertarian NGO. They called it the “Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.” “Goicoechea was chosen because he is “a passionate opponent of the erosion of human and civil rights under the government of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez,” according to the Cato Institute website. Quite relevant, the awarded student was not among those anti-authoritarian anarchist students attacked by Chavistas back then.
The Cato Institute, which was founded in 1977, espouses a libertarian free market philosophy, supports the privatization of social security, and is opposed to environmental regulations to halt global warming, but has clashed with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush over the Iraq War. Goicoechea organized “massive, peaceful student marches” which “successfully prevented President Hugo Chávez`s regime from seizing broad dictatorial powers in December 2007,” when the constitutional reform lost the popular vote by a slim margin in a nation-wide referendum,” Cato says. CATO makes no secret it that it supports its “students for liberty” group, as it can be seen here, as well as their ideology, using “free market” propagandists like this one.
A photo published in 2011 shows that the current leader of the student movement, Lorent Saleh, may have some obvious ties to CANVAS. It is not clear if he or other students know what Canvas is or who they are working for.
CANVAS’ ties with Strafor, a private intelligence company in the US, have been already exposed by Wikileaks. Strafor and CANVAS have been working on their McRevolution in Venezuela for many years: “I talked to Meredith about the upcoming visit by Canvas to the U.S. The leader — Srdja Popovic — is interested in following up on George’s invitation from 2008 to come and talk to Stratfor about their work.”
“They are currently very active in Venezuela and would like to share details of what they are doing there with us. They also want to give us a run down of their “McRevolution” strategy, which is a fascinating topic in and of itself. Meredith has instructed me to ask you how we can best arrange for visit. We would have to cover their air-fare and hotel stay… I am guessing about $1,300 in total (two tickets for $600 each and $100 for hotel room),” as this it can be read here. Of course, this McRevolution can actually help the government get stronger and escape real criticism and discontent from the working people for the slow pace of the Bolivarian revolution.
Venezuelans are already aware of CANVAS’s presence in their country. An article released in 2010 discusses the connection between CANVAS, Stratfor and the CIA and their involvement in opposition movements in the 2010 election.
Last week, thousands flooded the streets and riots erupted when a student was killed – in very unclear circumstances. His blood is used by US-backed and sponsored students to paint the government as dictatorial and social policies as criminal. This death, blamed on the government militias, is used to stir up emotions, on the background of real social discontent against economic hardships.
The opposition rioting in the streets decries police repression, and they claim they fight for “freedom and democracy” for capitalists, but never for “social justice.”
“Maduro (Venezuela’s president), you know full well that what happened today was your plan. The dead and the injured are your responsibility,” far-right opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, tweeted.
Armed right-wing groups are reported to have hunted down Juan Montoya, a community leader and Chavista defector in the Chavista stronghold Barrio 23 de Enero, and shot him dead. National Assembly’s Diosdado Cabello condemned the murder: “They (the armed right-wing groups) are fascists, murderers, and then they talk about dialogue.” Lopez claims the government orchestrated the bloodshed to blame the opposition.
A third person was killed in the Chacao neighborhood in the East of the Venezuelan capital during the Friday violence, and there is some confusion regarding another possible death.
Maduro, who was elected after Chavez’s death in a fragile victory last year, says the unrest is caused by fascist groups who are using civil liberties and democracy as a tool to overthrow the government: “We are facing a coup d’état against democracy and the government that I preside over,” said Maduro.
The opposition’s attacks against his government helps him keep Chavistas scared of the threat of a US-backed maneuvers for regime change, which are real, and avoid responsibility for real problems which have worsened. Maduro said an arrest warrant was issued against the leader of the opposition movement ‘Popular Will’ Leopoldo Lopez – who also participated in the 2002 coup d’état against former President Hugo Chavez- shortly after the street fights that went on in the past few days. Maduro has accused Lopez of inciting violence as part of a coup plot against his left-wing government.
But even anti-government voices, such the anti-government blog Caracas Chronicles, complained that the plenty reasons which would justify protests “do no seem to be on the agenda for the current wave.” “#LaSalida (The Exit) is not a strategy. It’s a hashtag!” However there seems to be an agenda of the current protests, started by students, which mark a new phase of the “radical” Venezuelan opposition activity.
The difference between these actions and those employed by anti-capitalist social movements around the world is that the participants throw stones at passers-by not just at the police.
The extremist right-wing opposition seems to hope that if Chavistas are pressured enough they will get them on their side, using their discontent towards the worsening economic conditions to get into power sooner. The country has the highest inflation rate in South America with 56% in January 2014. Shortages of basic necessities such as food and fuel alone are enough to cause a general feeling of anxiety and instability in the general public. Violent crimes are also very high – The Venezuelan Violence Observatory estimating in December 2013 that 24,763 killings occurred over the last year, a figure that has quadrupled since 1998. Though in the past such statistics have been disputed.
These hardships have worsened, especially after the opposition lost the municipal elections – the opposition uses high inflation, crime and shortages as political weapons against the government, blaming them on “socialism” to be able to justify full-fledged capitalist attacks on the working people if they get to power: “Over the past six weeks, since the opposition lost the municipal elections, and then after the Christmas and New Year period that followed, things have gotten worse here. Prices have skyrocketed, with shops charging the black market exchange rate rather than the official one, despite most of them buying products at the official rate. The usual products are scarce (hard to find, if not impossible: milk, oil, sugar, margarine, cornmeal)…. The government has blamed the shortages on “saboteurs” and “profit-hungry corrupt businessmen.”
“Most people also have most of the scarce products like sugar and margarine stocked up at home. In some barrios gas, for cooking, has been harder to get. The economic reality is a little bit tough, but what is tougher is the psychological effect all of this has on people. That feeling of insecurity, of not being sure you will be able to get the product you need, or be able to afford it. This causes people to form huge queues when a product does arrive, which in turn deepens the psychological impact. At the same time, the black market rate – not at all based on the real value of the Bolivar – continues to climb, and there’s a ‘what if’ if one’s head… what if they manage hyperinflation? The economic war represents the struggle for control over income from petroleum between a government that maintains growing social investment (presently the major part of the budget) and an opposition led by economic groups that have lived off imports with dollars earned from the sale of petroleum. The dispute is over the dollars directed towards social investment which, during the Fourth Republic, was a perk for economic groups dedicated to imports, which they aspire that it return and for which they have, as an instrument, the parallel (black) market of foreign currencies and shortages. It can be clearly seen how the parallel market (the black market) is an instrument of the economic war that does not even respond to the tradition of equally traditional markets that are nervous about economic policy announcements. Our (parallel market) – and we must be clear about it – is a destabilising instrument. The other instrument is scarcity through a war of nerves. This allows any product – on which the media impose a matrix of scarcity – with a considerable volume of supply to disappear from the shelves, given that the people stock up double or triple the products.” Source.
“On top of this, we have the media constantly lying about what is going on here and about what the government does, as well as the verbal abuse towards Chavistas on social networks. Then, over the last few weeks, in some parts of Venezuela, the most violent sectors of the opposition have been active. Here in Merida it started off with a few “students” blocking the main road; burning tires and garbage on it, and throwing rocks at anyone who tried to get close. They had no placards. Those protests escalated, both in terms of violence, people involved, and roads closed. It has been hard to get to school, work, and the hospital, and the frustration, inconvenience, and fear that comes with these sorts of actions combines with the aforementioned economic insecurity. The cacerolas (pot banging protests) that started last night in my barrio and in a few others here and in other cities also cause anxiety.” Source.
These explanations, however real, seem to be defensive not necessarily against the opposition’s attacks on the government, but against the real problems which anti-authoritarian groups have raised in the past and endured state repression for addressing. There seems to be the same pattern at play, while socialist reforms are demonized by corporate and business interests. This demonization is used to cover up the staggering economic and social hardships and repression endured by workers, indigenous, anti-authoritarian groups and autonomous left opponents of the government.