[News] Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 20 13:27:08 EST 2014

  Towards Another Coup in Venezuela?


February 20th 2014

Five days after violent anti-government incitement 
in Venezuela led to the deaths of three people, the US State Department 
issued a press statement 
<http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/02/221720.htm> declaring: "The 
allegations [by President Nicolas Maduro] that the United States is 
helping to organise protestors... is baseless and false. We support 
human rights and fundamental freedoms - including freedom of expression 
and of peaceful assembly - in Venezuela as we do in countries around the 

Of course, US commitment to such freedoms is called into question by its 
own operating procedures, which have included police beatings 
of peaceful protesters and the incarceration and torture 
of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

Maduro might  - meanwhile -  be forgiven for associating the US with 
efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government given said country's 
intimate involvement 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/21/usa.venezuela> in the 2002 
coup d'etat against Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez - not to 
mention its general history 
fomenting opposition to less-than-obsequious Latin American regimes.

George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University and the 
author of "We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan 
remarked to me yesterday that, although "there's no reason to think that 
the US is directly involved in organising or calling these protests... 
we need to bear in mind that [it] continues to fund 
the very same opposition groups that have participated in violent, 
anti-democratic actions before and that continue to do so".

*The great cake famine*

The opposition cites insecurity, food shortages, and inflation as 
factors driving the protests.

However, pinning the blame for all of Venezuela's ills on /chavismo/ - 
the left-wing political ideology developed by Chavez and continued by 
Maduro - is transparently disingenuous. Or rather, it would be 
transparently disingenuous if the dominant international media were not 
intent on parroting opposition propaganda.

In 2010, for example, the New York Times horrified the world with the 
that Venezuela under Chavez was deadlier than Iraq. As noted in Richard 
Gott's /Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution/ 
"much of the violence stemmed from the police itself (the highest crime 
rates were registered in the states of Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, where 
opposition governors ruled and controlled the local police forces)".

Since such details complicate the vilification of Chavez and company, 
they're often deemed unworthy of reporting. So is the fact that Honduras 
- neoliberal lap dog of the US - happens to be far deadlier 
than Venezuela, Iraq, and every other nation on earth.

As for the issue of food shortages, it's instructive to take a look at a 
recent episode 
of Al Jazeera's /The Stream/ featuring an appearance by elite right-wing 
Caracas blogger Emiliana Duarte. Asked to elaborate on the circumstances 
of daily existence in Venezuela, Duarte launches into a sob story about 
having to visit 10 different supermarkets the previous year during a 
quest to bake a cake.

In addition to highlighting the sort of absurd hysterics that typify the 
Venezuelan opposition, the cake-baking anecdote constitutes less than 
persuasive evidence of the supposedly brutal tyranny under which Duarte 
and her socioeconomic cohorts are forced to reside.

Perpetual opposition ruckus about the government's alleged control of 
the media - which is said to be thwarting proper transmission of the 
protests  - meanwhile - fails to account for the fact that the vast 
majority of Venezuelan media is privately owned. In 2012, the BBC noted 
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19368807> that a mere 
4.58 percent of television and radio channels belonged to the state.

Regarding Maduro's decision 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/world/americas/venezuelas-leader-pulls-foreign-channel-over-protest-coverage.html> to 
indefinitely block the far-right Colombian news channel NTN24 from 
transmitting in Venezuela, Ciccariello-Maher commented that, "while we 
should be very concerned any time a media outlet is blocked, however 
briefly, we should also remember that the private media is far from 
neutral" and that "this is a government that has seen a coup d'etat led 
by the private media".

Indeed, the narrative spun by anti-Chavez outlets during the 2002 coup 
was instrumental <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id--ZFtjR5c> to its 
initial success.

*Polarisation by whom?*

On the occasion of Chavez's last landslide victory in 2012, Keane Bhatt 
listed some aspects of the man's legacy thus far in a blog post 
for the North American Congress on Latin America: "[In the pre-Chavez 
years of] 1980 to 1998, Venezuela's per capita GDP declined 
<http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/venezuela-2012-09.pdf>by 14 
percent, whereas since 2004, after the Chavez administration gained 
control over the nation's oil revenues, the country's GDP growth per 
person has averaged 2.5 percent each year.

At the same time, income inequality was reduced to the lowest in Latin 
America, and a combination of widely shared growth and government 
programmes cut poverty in half 
<http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/venezuela-2009-02.pdf> and 
reduced absolute poverty by 70 percent - and that's before accounting 
for vastly expanded access to health 
education, and housing."

Such improvements might be of more interest to the majority of 
Venezuelans than, say, Duarte's cake saga. Although Chavez is 
relentlessly cast in the mainstream media as a "polarising 
figure, the fact is that the late president laboured to reduce the 
already existing polarisation of Venezuelan society by reducing the 
income gap and offering the poor masses some acknowledgement as human 

The doom-and-gloom squawking of the elite in response to the effective 
anti-polarisation campaign of the /chavistas/ has merely been a natural 
reaction to a perceived threat against formerly entrenched positions of 
arbitrary privilege.

As for the current opposition efforts against Maduro, it's not difficult 
to see that US support for regime change in Venezuela 
is itself quite polarising - both domestically and continentally.

While the Mercosur member states - Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, 
and Venezuela - have condemned 
the violent "attempts to destabilise [Venezuela's] democratic order", US 
Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned 
<http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/02/221693.htm> "this 
senseless violence" and exhorted the Maduro government "to provide the 
political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan 

To be sure, it's more convenient to blame Maduro for the phenomenon of 
"senseless violence" than to ponder, say, the practice of assassinating 
civilians <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24618701> with US 
drones. That the anti-chavista crowd is cast in the role of "the 
Venezuelan people" also raises the question of what the millions of 
people who support the government qualify as.

Initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition, this bout of 
violence was far from "senseless"; it did, after all, have a point. And 
that point, as usual, was to agitate on behalf of an eventual systemic 
overhaul and the deliverance of Venezuela into the imperial embrace.

/*Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas 
Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at 
Jacobin Magazine. */

*/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy./*

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20140220/9e191a42/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list