[News] Venezuela - Demonising the "Colectivos": Demonising the Grassroots

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 3 16:45:12 EDT 2014

  Demonising the "Colectivos": Demonising the Grassroots


By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com, April 2nd 2014

As it is prone to do, the private media has invented a new thing. In 
both English and Spanish they are calling it /colectivos/, and these 
collectives are meant to be irrational, cruel, grotesque armed motorbike 
riders who "enforce" the revolution and are responsible for most of the 
current violence. The opposition barricaders are the innocent victims of 
these collectives, who apparently work with the National Guard and have 
the support of the government.

The private media is using the concept to demonise the real collectives 
in Venezuela; the social organisations -- feminist collectives, 
community organisations, environment and education collectives, cultural 
groups, mural painters and so on; which with Chavismo have grown, 
multiplied, and united around general support for the Bolivarian revolution.

Here is a sample of headlines and content coming out in the English 
language media, Venezuelan and Spanish language media, and on social 

Medium: "Pro-government motorcycle militias terrorize Venezuela; widely 
feared 'colectivos' are the regime's plausibly deniable strike force 

USA today:  "Aveledo said the government must rein in its armed 
paramilitaries, or colectivos, and end violence against protestors." 

Latin Post: "Venezuelan 'colectivos' continue violent riot across the 
In the past the colectivos were responsible for organizing community and 
cultural events in the poorer neighborhoods of Venezuela during the late 
President Hugo Chávez's 14-year reign. Despite their acts of service to 
the community, they rode motorcycles while armed with guns and 
threatened peaceful protestors who opposed the government."

Huffington Post: "Pro-Maduro motorcycle gangs terrorise Venezuelans 
..."Colectivos" re-emerged under late President Hugo Chavez as 
ideological henchmen... well-armed colectivos ...enforc[e] the will of 
the ... Bolivarian government...have harassed opposition demonstrators 
and corralled votes for the Socialist Party at elections".

Reuters: "[M]ilitant grassroots groups called "colectivos 
which view themselves as the defenders of revolutionary socialism but 
are denounced by opponents as thugs".

The Guardian: The "pro-government Chavista militias known as colectivos 
the colectivos ...enforce the lefist ruler's [Chavez's] government 
programs". The article then quotes coup participator Leopoldo Lopez as 
an authority, "Maduro, you are well aware that what happened today was 
part of your plan. The wounded and the dead are your responsibility," 
López tweeted. "The truth is in photos and videos that people took. The 
colectivos and the police were the ones who shot."

El Universal: "Collectives denounced for being present in Colinas de 
Bello Monte 
...motorbike riders belonging to collectives and PDVSA jeeps circulated 
in the area in order to intimidate protestors".

El Nacional: "50 vehicles destroyed by ...collectives 
and "Collectives could be involved in 12 homicides 

Venezuela Al Dia, "Collectives in Palaima use women as shields in order 
to escape" 

Marti Noticias, "The balance [of deaths] by the collectives 

La Verdad "Collectives beat up father and son and later hand them over 
to the GNB 

Reportero24 "Violence: the collectives, order, and Chavista terror in 

Reporte Ya "Collectives kidnap Belinda Alvarado in La Trinidad, threaten 
to rape her <https://twitter.com/ReporteYa/status/449395573956050944>"

Leopoldo Lopez, "How to have dialogue if the collectives and some 
soldiers... attack housing with elderly women and children [inside]" 

There's even a new wiki article 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colectivo_%28Venezuela%29> on the 
/colectivos/  which defines them as "militant groups" that support the 
government and the revolution, and attack the Venezuelan opposition. 
  All of the articles sources come from this year, yet the writers claim 
the term has been used since the 1960s.

The aim behind inventing this idea and demonising Venezuela's social 
organisations is to dehumanise activists, delegitimise the revolution 
(faults and all), and justify any current or future violence or 
repression towards us. Further, demonising the victims humanises or 
legitimises the aggressors: the far right, violent sectors of the 
opposition. Demonising creates an enemy, simplifies it, eliminating any 
need for complexity, context, analysis, or comprehension.

The /colectivos/ term has infiltrated opposition discourse to the point 
where most committed supporters blame anything bad or violent on "the 
collectives", even using "the collectives" to justify the violence 
perpetrated from the opposition barricades as "self defence".

Where previously everything, even the drought or the actions of big 
business, were Chavez's fault, now it must be "the collectives". Now 
that Chavez is gone and the opposition still hasn't got its electoral 
victory, they have realised its not enough to call the current president 
a "dictator" and belittle him because of his lack of formal university 
education, they need to demonise the active and organising people too. 
Because they aren't going away.

The demonisation of Cuba and the racism directed at Cubans by opposition 
leaders and supporters is part of this, though it goes back further in 
time than the last two months of aggression.

Meanwhile, the violent opposition groups attack and destroy the symbols 
of the Bolivarian revolution: community televisions, the housing mission 
(yesterday), the environment ministry, ambulances (today in Merida), 
public transport, PDVSA trucks (today), blocking roads from farming 
areas to urban to prevent goods from being transported (in Bailadores), 
burning food trucks, and much more. Their aim is not just to intimidate, 
but to stop government institutions and social organisations on a 
practical level from getting on with other things. The violent 
opposition sectors are not farmers, bus drivers, teachers, producers of 
anything, builders, etc, so they can't strike in order to bring things 
to a halt, they can only use violent barricades to stop others from 

*Interview: Fabricio Martorelli, Tatuy TV collective*

*VA: What does /colectivos /**actually mean in Venezuela, and how have 
collectives evolved over the last decade?*

Martorelli: The word 'collective' has different uses, but basically it's 
any gathering of people that wants to resolve certain conditions that 
they have in common. There are big and small collectives, there are left 
wing ones and right wing ones, they can fight for a single issue or for 
a political project, and there are currently many which aim to challenge 
the capitalist model. A /colectivo/ is also a bus- a collective form of 
public transport.

While collectives have always existed- here, and in other countries -- 
ever since people started to meet in order to struggle together, they 
have often been invisible and their proposals ignored. Over the last 
fourteen years in Venezuela social organisations have been recognised, 
and their power to solve things in a collective rather than individual 
way has taken off.

The historical enemy has realised that beyond the government and the 
PSUV and the public institutions, the legacy of Chavez is active 
struggle and the logic of popular (people's) organisation. With Chavez, 
social collectives started to have a common identity, to form links with 
each other, and their struggles too -- the rights of indigenous peoples, 
of communities -- became more visible. Once they achieved some demands, 
they would go on to fight for other aims. They have become stronger, and 
that's why the right wants to criminalise them. The violent groups have 
a message of hate, terror, fear, and they are violent against anyone who 
threatens their dreams of a comfortable life.

*VA: What does your collective do, and what has been the impact of the 
current situation on its work and organising?*

Martorelli: Tatuy is a community television station in Merida. It is a 
collective of /compañeros/ who have chosen the media war as their area. 
The private media has made us stupid, dominated us, and we think that 
through communication we can educate ourselves and free ourselves. Tatuy 
contributes to this together with other collectives, and we are linked 
to many of those through ALBA TV, a network of community and alternative 
media. We show what the private media won't, what CNN doesn't.

For years our work has been devalued, even by the public or official 
media. But in the current situation we have managed to inform the 
country, and even the world, about what is happening in Merida. We've 
received a lot of support, we've been called by a radio in Mexico, 
movements in Uruguay, and there's been recognition of our work. But even 
if  in the future the current situation goes away, we still want to be 
taken into account, taken as seriously as we are now.

One /compañera /of ours can't get here [to the Tatuy offices] because of 
the barricades, still. She's been threatened and her violent neighbours 
know who she is, so she is working at home and under a lot of tension. 
Another time, one of our camera people was attacked by opposition 
protestors while filming. However, we can't stop working, our 
responsibility to society is to communicate what is happening.

At the start of this year we thought it would be an important year 
because without any upcoming elections, we would be able to have an 
internal struggle against the reformist tendencies and to deepen many of 
the revolution's achievements. But the reality has changed, we've united 
to reject the fascism, and it's become a year of struggling against fascism.

If the fascists were in power we wouldn't be talking about the dozens of 
deaths we've had so far, we'd be talking thousands. And that's not 
paranoia, that's a historic reality -- we've seen examples in Chile, in 
Argentina under that dictatorship. The aim then, of this demonisation is 
to justify our elimination  if these violent groups came into power.

*VA: Nevertheless, some armed groups who claim to support Chavismo do 
exist; who are they, what do they do, and how big are they*?

Martorelli: There are a very small number of people organised into 
collectives who are trying to confront this situation [of barricades, 
violence, destruction etc], sometimes using force. People are tired of 
having road blocks. Right here in this building there are primary school 
classes because the children can't get to their school. But the force 
used by this small number of people, the actions they take to remove 
barricades, could never be compared to the violation of human rights 
committed by the violent opposition groups. Those groups have taken a 
few photos of this [the force used against the barricades] and they 
publish those photos and try to create the impression that all 
collectives who support Chavismo are violent. But in reality, our ideas 
and our organisation are our weapons.

There's been an open debate and a historical debate among the left here, 
and sometimes there's been a fetishising of armed struggle. There have 
been many experiences, many legitimate struggles against dictatorships 
in Latin America, at times when social struggle wasn't allowed [making 
armed struggle necessary].  But there are a few people here who don't 
represent the workers, farmers, more the lumpen sectors, as Marx would 
say, who try to take justice into their own hands, on their own. These 
people are isolated, and we reject such behaviour, in our context where 
the state isn't repressive. But the media tries to make out that we are 
all like them.

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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