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Authoritarianism in Venezuela? A Reply to Gabriel Hetland

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | May 19, 2017

Venezuela is once again dominating international headlines as violent opposition protests bent on toppling the elected Maduro government enter their seventh week. The demonstrations have claimed to date at least 54 lives since April 4, surpassing the previous wave of violent anti-government protests in 2014, known as “the Exit”. However, this time around, the unrest coincides with a severe economic downturn and a transformed geopolitical landscape defined by the return of the right in Brazil and Argentina as well as an even more bellicose regime in Washington.

Meanwhile, the international outcry at this latest violent effort to oust the Chavista government has been far more muffled than the last time.

With the notable exception of an open letter by LASA members, a UNAC/BAP joint statement,  and other smaller protest actions, the US left has been largely passive vis-a-vis both the Trump administration’s escalating intervention against Venezuela as well as the systematic media blackout, preferring silence to active solidarity with Chavismo.

In this environment, some leftist academics have publicly broken with the Maduro administration over its response to the country’s current political and economic crisis.

In a recent piece for NACLA*, University of Albany Assistant Professor Gabriel Hetland parts ways with the Bolivarian government, citing concerns over Maduro’s “authoritarian” slide.

“Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case,” he writes.

While we deeply respect Professor Hetland’s critical contributions to the debate on Venezuela, we at Venezuelanalysis ** – a collective of journalists and activists who at one point or another have lived, studied, and/or worked in Venezuela – firmly reject this charge of authoritarianism on both analytical and political grounds.

Setting the record straight

Hetland cites a number of recent actions of the Venezuelan government to bolster his claim, including the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s (TSJ) alleged “dissolving” of the opposition-held National Assembly (AN), the “cancel[ation]” of the recall referendum, the postponing of “municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016”, and the TSJ’s blocking of the AN’s legislative activity in 2016.

There are of course a number of serious problems with this account.

To begin, several elements of this narrative are misleadingly presented, if not all-together factually inaccurate.

First of all, as Venezuelanalysis reported at the time, the TSJ’s March 29 decisions did not “dissolve” the Venezuelan National Assembly as was almost uniformly reported in the mainstream press. Rather, the rulings sought to temporarily authorize the judiciary to take on pertinent legislative functions, which in this particular case meant approving a pressing joint venture agreement between Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and its Russian counterpart, Rosneft, which was critical for the former’s solvency. The ruling – which was based on article 336.7 of the Venezuelan constitution – provoked a rift within Chavismo, with the current and former attorney generals lining up on opposite sides of the constitutional divide. One can certainly criticize the since-reversed decision on constitutional and political grounds, but to present it as a “dissolution” of the parliament is just disingenuous.

This brings us to the question of the Supreme Court’s blocking of the opposition-majority legislature in 2016. It is undeniable that the TSJ did in fact strike down three of the four laws the AN managed to approve last year. However, it takes two to tango and Hetland severely understates the opposition’s own role in this protracted institutional standoff. It’s important to note that the AN did not “act beyond its authority” only “in some cases”, as Hetland describes.

From quite literally the moment that the new AN was sworn-in in January 2016, the body explicitly declared war on the Bolivarian institutional order crafted by Chavismo, with AN head Henry Ramos Allup promising to oust Maduro “within six months” – a blatantly unconstitutional threat against a sitting president. A sampling of the legislation pursued by the National Assembly in 2016 includes a law to privatize Venezuela’s public housing program, a law to return expropriated lands and enterprises to their former owners, a law forcing the executive to accept humanitarian aid into the country, the infamous Amnesty Law, as well as a constitutional amendment retroactively shortening the presidential term by two years. We can add to this list the opposition’s attempted parliamentary coup, in which it declared that Maduro had “abandoned his post” first in October and again this past January – which Hetland likewise neglects to acknowledge. Nor does he mention the reason for the legislature’s current “null” status, namely the opposition’s refusal to unseat three of its lawmakers from Amazonas state currently under investigation for alleged vote-buying in flagrant violation of the high court. Again, one may still criticize the TSJ’s blockage of the AN, but to understate the parliament’s systematic efforts to overthrow the Bolivarian government by any means necessary is quite misleading.

Hetland similarly omits the opposition’s own role in the suspension of the recall referendum (RR) process. As we noted, the opposition-held parliament came into office with the objective of overthrowing Maduro “within six months” – a goal evidently incompatible with the RR, which takes a minimum of eight months. Indeed, the RR was just one of the strategies in the opposition’s four-pronged plan to oust Maduro unveiled in March 2016, which also included the aforementioned constitutional amendment, a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution (which the opposition now opposes), and heating up the streets to force Maduro’s resignation. As a result of the opposition’s own internecine divisions, it delayed in beginning the RR and made serious procedural errors, such as collecting 53,658 fraudulent signatures, which gave the government a pretext to indefinitely stall the process in the courts. There is no doubt that the Maduro administration dragged its feet on the RR process knowing full well it would likely lose, but this was hardly the one-sided drama presented by Hetland.

Lastly, the National Electoral Council (CNE) did in fact postpone the regional elections scheduled for last year, citing logistical conflicts with the RR process, a move which is indefensible on constitutional and political grounds. However, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for such a delay: the local elections slated for December 2004 were similarly postponed until August 2005 on account of the recall referendum against then President Chávez the year before. Hetland passes over this important detail in his rush to indict Venezuela’s democratic credentials.

Moreover, while it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Bolivarian government for delaying the governors’ races, municipal elections are a different story. Local elections are scheduled for 2017, meaning that they can be held any time before the close of the year. In suggesting that the government has postponed local elections, Hetland commits yet another factual error that serves to inflate his largely ideological case for the Maduro administration’s “creeping authoritarianism”, as we shall see below.

Fetishizing liberal democracy

Beyond these factual errors and misrepresentations, the main problem with Hetland’s piece is his implicit notion of “authoritarianism”, which he at no point takes the time to actually define.

Without going extensively into the genealogy of this term, it’s key to remember that authoritarianism is hardly a politically neutral concept.

As Hetland correctly observes, the charge of authoritarianism was dubiously leveled against the Chávez administration and other “pink tide” governments who were excoriated by Western commentators and political scientists for daring to challenge the hegemony of (neo)liberal capitalist representative democracy.

Indeed throughout the last decade, political scientists led by former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Casteñeda have distinguished between a “good” reformist, liberal left epitomized by Brazil’s Lula Da Silva that is willing to play ball with the Washington and transnational capital and a “bad” radical, populist left embodied by Hugo Chávez, which has opened up the liberal representative floodgates to direct mass participation in democratic governance.

As Sara Motta underlines, this binary is deeply colonial in nature: the “mature” and Westernized “good-left” has learned from the alleged failures of revolutionary Marxism and embraced incremental reform, while the “bad-left” remains mired in the clientelism and tribal authoritarianism of the “pre-modern” past, rendering it hostile to liberal democracy.

This “good-left”/“bad-left” dichotomy is of course nothing new, amounting to a minor aesthetic rehashing of the “revolutionary”/“democratic” distinction applied to the Latin American left in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, which in turn is founded on the classic “civilization” versus “barbarism” divide.

Hetland, in lieu of questioning the liberal ideological criterion behind this colonial binary, preserves the distinction, announcing that the Maduro government has passed over into the dark realm of authoritarianism:

By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism.

In other words, “authoritarianism” for Hetland seems to amount to the quashing of proceduralist liberal democratic norms, including most notably separation of powers, threatening the political rights of the country’s right-wing opposition.

What we get from this formalist approach is a sort of Freedom House-style checklist in which the pluses and minuses of global South regimes (freedom of speech, press, etc.) are statically weighed and definitive moral judgement concerning “democratic quality” are handed down. Venezuela is still not yet a “full-scale authoritarian regime,” Hetland tells us, “given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest.” In this point, Hetland’s conclusion is virtually indistinguishable from that of mainstream Latin American studies, which has long invented convoluted monikers such as “participatory competitive authoritarianism” to characterize the Bolivarian government.

The trouble with this perspective is that it ends up reifying these so-called authoritarian practices, casting them as the cause – together with the opposition’s regime change efforts – of Venezuela’s current crisis rather than a symptom of the underlying correlation of forces.

The Maduro administration’s alleged steamrolling of certain liberal democratic norms – particularly the postponement of regional elections – is undoubtedly quite concerning, precisely because it evidences the catastrophic impasse in the Bolivarian revolutionary process.

We at Venezuelanalysis have long been critical of the Bolivarian government’s top-down institutional power plays to contain the opposition’s efforts to oust Maduro, which we view as a conservative attempt to maintain the status quo in lieu of actually mobilizing the masses of people from below to break the current deadlock and resolve the crisis on revolutionary terms.

In this vein, we have critiqued those tendencies within the Venezuelan state which we see as consolidating the power of corrupt reformist “Boli-bourgeois” class fractions in the bureaucracy and armed forces, including direct military control over imports, the de-facto liberalization of prices, reduced social spending coupled with draconian debt servicing, the Orinoco Mining Arc, a dubious but since-modified party registration process, and a conservative turn in anti-crime policy.

Yet Hetland is strangely silent regarding these reformist retreats and regressions over the past four years, which for all intents and purposes are far more serious than many of the above “authoritarian” abuses he describes.

It is precisely here that the charge of “authoritarianism” betrays its liberal ideological bias: by prioritizing the procedural violations affecting the bourgeois right-wing opposition, Hetland renders invisible the underlying dynamics of class warfare brutally impacting the popular classes.

Therefore, contra Hetland, the problem is not that liberal democratic norms have been undercut per se, but rather that the revolutionary construction of alternative institutions of radical grassroots democracy – the “communal state” in Chávez’s terms – has come up against decisive structural roadblocks.

Here we must be unequivocal: liberal democracy is not absolute nor universal, and its relation to revolutionary processes is always mediated by context. To impose these norms on the Cuban Revolution, for instance, in its context of genocidal imperial siege is the height of absurdity and political irresponsibility. Given these circumstances, Cuba’s model of revolutionary democracy – despite all its faults and limitations – is no less legitimate than other democratic socialist projects that have made strategic use of elements of liberal democracy, such as Chile and Nicaragua in the 70s and 80s or Venezuela and Bolivia today.

The Bolivarian process is, however, fundamentally different, as it is premised on an electoral road to socialism in which the existing bourgeois democratic order is approached as a strategic space of counter-hegemonic struggle. In this context, the suspension of certain liberal rights such as elections or specific opposition freedoms would only be acceptable under exceptional circumstances in which the Bolivarian government were actually taking revolutionary measures to resolve the current crisis and commanded unquestioned legitimacy among its social bases.

Despite the undeniable spiral of political and economic violence driven by the opposition, Venezuela is unfortunately not going through an equivalent of a “special period” insofar as the leadership of the party and state has thus far failed to go on the offensive against endemic corruption and take the fight to the local and transnational capitalist enemy as was the case during crucial revolutionary turning points in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Given this reality, the message coming from some sectors of Chavismo that there can be no elections under conditions of warfare – a legitimate argument in other contexts including Nazi-besieged Britain – is questionable at best. Nonetheless, this counterfactual is useful insofar as it demonstrates that liberal democracy is a wholly inadequate yardstick for evaluating revolutionary processes, confounding far more than it clarifies, as in the case of Hetland’s critique of “authoritarianism” in Venezuela.

Throw them all out?

In this diagnosis of causes of the current crisis, our position coincides with that of the vast majority of Venezuelan left-wing movements whose chief grievance is hardly the litany of “authoritarian” practices against the right-wing opposition enumerated by Hetland, but, on the contrary, the reformist and at times outright counter-revolutionary policies being pursued by the Maduro government.

The same is true for Venezuela’s popular classes – the social base of Chavismo – who don’t particularly care that the Supreme Court has blocked the National Assembly and the president has been ruling by emergency economic decree since February 2016. According to independent pollster Hinterlaces, around 70 percent of Venezuelans negatively evaluate the opposition-controlled parliament, while 61 percent have little faith that a future opposition government will address the country’s deep economic problems. Rather, the majority of Venezuelans want the Maduro administration to remain in power and resolve the current economic crisis. Their discontent flows not from Maduro’s use of emergency powers – contrary to the international media narrative – but rather from his failure to use them to take decisive actions to deepen the revolution in lieu of granting further concessions to capital.

Despite the setbacks, retreats, and betrayals that have characterized the past four years since the death of Chávez, the mood among the Venezuelan masses is not a uniform rejection of Venezuela’s entire political establishment as Hetland suggests in a sweeping generalization:

If any slogan captures the current mood of the popular classes living in Venezuela’s barrios and villages it is likely this: Que se vayan todos. Throw them all out.

While Chavismo has undoubtedly bled significant support over the past five years and the ranks of independents, or ni-nis, has swollen to over 40 percent of the population , the PSUV remarkably remains the country’s most popular party, actually increasing its support from 27 to 35 percent since January. Similarly, Maduro still has the approval of approximately 24 percent of Venezuelans, making him more popular than the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Chile – a fact consistently suppressed by international corporate media. These poll numbers are nothing short of incredible in view of the severity of the current economic crisis ravaging the country, speaking to the partial efficacy of some of the government’s measures such as the CLAPs as well as the opposition’s utter failure to present any alternative program.

Likewise, despite growing disillusionment with the government and hints at a possible rupture, the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s social movements and left-wing political parties continue to back Maduro.

What’s more is that this left unity in support of the Bolivarian government has only hardened in the face of the ongoing opposition onslaught and in anticipation of the National Constituent Assembly to be held in the coming months.

However baffling on the surface, this staunch defense of the Maduro administration actually makes perfect sense for at least two reasons.

First, as any Chavista who has lived through the last six weeks of right-wing terror can attest to, the choice between the continuity of Chavismo in power and an opposition regime is not a matter of mere ideological preference – it’s a question of survival, as there is no predicting the extent of the political and structural violence the opposition would unleash if they manage to take Miraflores. This is in no way to deny or downplay the fallout of the current economic crisis, for which the government bears a great deal of responsibility, but there is no doubt that an opposition government would take this economic war on the poor to new levels of neoliberal savagery.

Second, the existence of the Bolivarian government embodies the lingering possibility of transforming the inherited bourgeois petro-state as part of the transition to 21st Century socialism. While there is cause for skepticism about the real possibilities of pushing forward the democratization and decolonization of the Venezuelan state in this conjuncture, there has been an outpouring of grassroots support for the National Constituent Assembly which could serve as a vehicle to retake the revolutionary offensive and institutionalize radical demands from below.

This broad-based consensus of critical support for the government on the part of Venezuela’s left stands sharply at odds with Hetland’s “plague on both your houses approach”, which, in Steve Ellner’s terms, ends up “placing opposition and Chavista leaders in the same sack” as equally undesirable alternatives.

While there is indeed tremendous anger and frustration with the government – which may in fact translate to a crushing electoral defeat for Chavismo in the next elections – the prevailing sentiment among much of Venezuela’s popular classes in the face of the opposition’s present reign of terror remains “no volverán” (they shall not return).

The role of solidarity

All of this brings us to the position of international solidarity activists with respect to Venezuela.

We wholeheartedly agree with Hetland that it is the duty of each and every self-respecting leftist and progressive to “reject any and all calls for imperialist interventions aimed at ‘saving’ Venezuela”.

Nevertheless, while anti-interventionism is urgently necessary, this begs the question, with whom are we supposed to be in solidarity?

Hetland calls on us to stand with “the majority of Venezuelans who are suffering at the hands of a vengeful, reckless opposition, and an incompetent, unaccountable government.”

The end result of such a “plague on both your houses” approach is a refusal to take a side in this struggle – in a word, neutrality. This posture flows naturally from Hetland’s liberal framework of authoritarianism, which necessarily posits the Western intellectual as a disembodied arbiter – occupying the Cartesian standpoint of the “eye of God” in Enrique Dussel’s terms – uniquely capable of objectively weighing the democratic virtues and deficits of Third World regimes.

In contrast, we at Venezuelanalysis stand unconditionally with Venezuela’s Bolivarian-socialist movement, which at this conjuncture continues to critically support the Maduro administration.

We take this stance not out of a willful blindness to the Bolivarian government’s many faults and betrayals, but because we (and particularly our writers on the ground) know that for a great many Chavistas the choice between radicalizing the revolution and right-wing restoration is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

A version of this article was submitted to NACLA, but no initial response was received. The editor elected to go ahead and publish at venezuelanalysis.com in the interest of a timely response. UPDATE: NACLA did ultimately respond to our submission on the afternoon of May 19, but by that time, the article was already published. 

** Written by Lucas Koerner on behalf of Venezuelanalysis’ writing and multimedia staff as well as VA founder Greg Wilpert.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US Accused of Promoting Venezuela Intervention at UN

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | May 18, 2017

The United States took to the United Nations Wednesday to compare Venezuela’s current political crisis to Syria.

For the first time, the US brought Venezuela’s current crisis before the UN Security Council (UNSC), though Washington claimed it wasn’t looking for international intervention in the South American country.

“The intent of this briefing was to make sure everyone is aware of the situation … we’re not looking for Security Council action,” US ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters after the meeting.

Haley continued by stating the international community needs to take action on Venezuela, including to “say ‘respect the human rights of your people’ or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go”.

“We have been down this road with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma,” she said.

She also sought to distance the US from allegations made by Caracas that Washington is seeking regime change.

“We’re not for the opposition, we’re not for President Maduro, we’re for the Venezuelan people,” she said.

The US Department of State has requested at least US$5.5 million in funding this year to “help civil society” groups in Venezuela. Critics allege these groups are almost entirely opposition organisations. Venezuelan state media outlet teleSUR has alleged this funding is just the tip of the iceberg and that the State Department has so far funneled at least US$49 million to Venezuela’s opposition since 2009.

Venezuela responds

Venezuela responded to the UNSC meeting by accusing the US of seeking to destabilize the Maduro administration.

“US meddling is what is stimulating the actions of violent groups in Venezuela,” Venezuelan UN Ambassador Rafael Ramirez stated.

Venezuelan allies likewise condemned the meeting, accusing the US of seeking to use the UNSC as a vehicle to promote regime change.

“We are concerned when international security issues are confused with an interventionist agenda,” warned Bolivia’s ambassador, Sacha Llorenti.

Meanwhile, Uruguayan ambassador Elbio Rosselli expressed concern over Venezuela’s political crisis, but called for an internal solution through dialogue.

“The only possible solution is a political understanding between the disputing sides in Venezuela,” Rosselli said.

“They themselves are the ones who must put the situation in their own hands and carry negotiations to a satisfactory outcome,” he added.

Then on Thursday, Russia offered to provide assistance in resolving Venezuela’s political stand-off, while calling for respect for the rule of law.

“Any action of the parties, both the government and the opposition forces, should be … solely within the legal sphere, in strict accordance with the constitution, and without any destructive external interference,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zajarova said.

Venezuela is currently in the grip of its worst economic downturn in two decades, as violent protests by the country’s right-wing opposition are poised to enter their eighth week.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

The Guardian Takes Aim at Venezuela’s Democracy

By Joe Emersberger | teleSUR | April 26, 2017

From 2006 to 2012, The Guardian’s output on Venezuela was dominated by its Caracas-based reporter, Rory Carroll, who tirelessly demonized, ridiculed and lied about the government of former president Hugo Chavez as it made rapid progress on reducing poverty.

The Guardian recently published an editorial saying that President Nicolas Maduro’s government must be threatened with “pariah status” by the “international community“ if it does not hold presidential elections by the end of 2018. This comes from a newspaper that continually attempts to rehabilitate former British prime minister Tony Blair, a man who played a key role in launching a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. But no pariah status for him.

The imperial hypocrisy on display is stunning.

The Guardian editors cited the New York Times editorial board to back up their stance on Venezuela. In 2002, the New York Times editorial applauded a U.S.-backed military coup that ousted Chavez for two days.

“With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona,” wrote the morally challenged “paper of record.”

In fact, two of the opposition leaders The Guardian mentioned in its editorial, Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, not only supported but participated in that coup. They led the kidnapping of government officials on behalf of Pedro Carmona. The Guardian, however, made no mention of the 2002 coup at all.

That coup continues to hover over Venezuela because so many of the opposition’s most prominent leaders either supported or participated in it. Julio Borges, head of the opposition-led Nation Assembly, supported the 2002 coup and routinely makes very thinly veiled appeals for the military to oust Maduro. Borges just did so in the pages of El Universal, one of the country’s largest newspapers, where he regularly publishes op-eds.

The other day, a news report on Venezuela’s largest TV network, Venevision, featured opposition politician Marialbert Barrios making a very similar appeal to the military.

The Guardian editors regurgitate a talking point that has been common in the western media: that Venezuela was “once South America’s richest country.” That’s true if the measure one uses is gross domestic product, GDP, per capita adjusted by purchasing power parity, PPP. But that measure says nothing about distribution.

Venezuela had a poverty rate of 50 percent in 1998 when Chavez was first elected even though it was second in South America at the time by GDP per capita. By the United Nation’s Human Development Index, HDI, a composite measure that takes into account life expectancy, education and national income, Venezuela ranked below several Latin American countries in 1998. Its HDI ranking then improved drastically until 2013, the year Chavez died. Using the U.N.’s most recent data and taking full account of the recent devastating recession it has experienced, Venezuela continues to rank above most countries in South America by HDI despite ongoing economic hardships.

There certainly are avoidable child deaths in Venezuela as The Guardian editors said. There always have been, but such deaths are more prevalent throughout the rest of the region, including Peru, whose right-wing government has loudly demanded that Venezuela deal with its “humanitarian crisis.”

Then there is Colombia, a country that has millions of internally displaced people, rivaling Syria. Colombia is also a country with a military that is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for murdering thousands of innocent people. In The Guardian’s universe, this arms client state of the U.S. and U.K. is just another “respectable” member of the “international community” that must straighten out Venezuela.

The Guardian is inexcusably sloppy in other claims.

It says inflation is at 800 percent. Torino Capital, a source that is very critical of the Maduro government, said inflation averaged 299 percent last year and projects it will average 434 percent next year. Unemployment was at 7.3 percent last year. Torino also projects a very small contraction of real GDP (-0.5 percent) next year and a return to growth by 2018. It has also commissioned polls from Datanalisis, an opposition-aligned pollster. Incidentally, the president of Datanalisis, Luis Vicente Leon, also criticizes the government in the pages of El Universal on a regular basis. As of March, according to Datanalisis, Maduro’s approval rating was 24.1 percent and has been steadily increasing in 2017. At the same time, the approval ratings of the most popular opposition leaders have fallen to 40 percent. These facts have been blacked out by the international press.

The Maduro government has not dealt with the root cause of the economic crisis, but, through direct deliveries of supplies to the poor (where its political support is concentrated) it has clearly alleviated the suffering of the poorest to a significant extent. Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas, and independent journalist based in Caracas for many years, noted that “there is a government store just below where I live and I haven’t seen queues there for months! Last year they were awful.”

Boothroyd-Rojas reports that there are still queues outside stores in Caracas but that they are nothing like they were months ago, and that government direct deliveries to the poor “have made a big difference to those who receive them.”

It should be noted that in December 2015, Datanalisis said Maduro’s approval rating was 32 percent just before his allies won 41 percent of the vote in National Assembly elections. It is not hard to see why opposition leaders have decided to “up their game” in terms of economic and political sabotage. Opposition leaders have openly boasted of working to block the government’s access to external financing.

Boothroyd-Rojas, who lives in a poor Caracas neighborhood, has noted the contradictions the international press has embraced to put the best face it can on the opposition’s violence. Vandalism of public property, including hospitals in poor neighborhoods, is dishonestly pointed to as evidence that the poor are starting to turn on the government: a claim The Guardian editors make. But when the middle and upper-class nature of the protests is too obvious to deny, it is alleged that the poor are simply “too hungry” to join in.

The opposition has resorted to widespread vandalism, including the torching of a Supreme Court office, and marching into areas where they have not been issued authorization — precisely to prevent a repeat of the 2002 coup — to provoke confrontation which it then points to as “repression.”

Honest, informed reporting would quickly expose those cynical tactics which are the same ones used in 2002 and again in 2014, but that’s clearly beyond what The Guardian editors are willing or able to do. We can only hope they won’t run an op-ed about Venezuela written by Blair any time soon.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

As Protests Rage in Venezuela, US Media Silent on Pro-Government Movements

Sputnik – April 26, 2017

As clashes between the Maduro government in Venezuela and the opposition are getting more and more fierce, the US media is openly calling for an economic war against the Bolivarian Revolution government, blaming it for casualties on both sides of the conflict.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker, author, journalist and lecturer Arnold August noted that the US media has a very clear stance: that Maduro and his Bolivarian Revolution government are responsible for everything bad that is happening in the country. Those who do not blame Maduro directly nonetheless report on the issue in such a way as to create the impression that Maduro is responsible, August said.

​For example, an April 24 opinion piece by the Washington Times is entitled “Venezuela’s coming civil war: Maduro is arming his thugs to crush the democratic hopes of his desperate people.”

Reuters took a more subtle approach, reporting casualties among civilians without naming who fired the shots, on April 25.

“A 42-year-old man who worked for local government in the Andean state of Merida died from a gunshot in the neck at a rally in favor of president Nicolas Maduro’s government, the state ombudsman and prosecutor’s office said,” the report reads.

“Another 54-year-old man was shot dead in the chest during a protest in the western agricultural state of Barinas, the state prosecutor’s office added without specifying the circumstances,” it continues.

Major media, such as the Miami Herald and CNN, reported in the last few days that the US will have to consider imposing “serious sanctions” on Venezuela, should Maduro fail to host “free and fair” elections, allowing opposition leaders to campaign, August recalled. The US media also purposefully omits reports of demonstrations by the Chavistas — the supporters of the acting government.

The Green Left news website, on the other hand, reported “tens of thousands” of pro-government activists. Deutsche Welle carefully refrained from separating the sides, giving an overall estimate of 6 million people protesting on April 19.  August claimed there were 3 million pro-government protesters across the whole country. All agree that these demonstrations have been the largest in the history of the nation.

August mentioned an opinion piece written for CNN by Jose Miguel Vivanco and Tamara Taraciuk Broner, “high-ranking members” of Human Rights Watch, August explained. Human Rights Watch is heavily financed by George Soros, who is known to be a big proponent of regime change around the world.

Vivanco and Taraciuk’s piece promotes the narrative that all of the deaths and violence in the country are “rightfully” blamed on Maduro, and that international pressure is needed to restore “human rights and democracy in Venezuela.”

“This is one big lie, if I may be quite frank,” August commented.

The US may be up to more than just harsh words in the media, August noted. On April 24, the Maduro government seized a General Motors factory in Venezuela, forcing the company to flee the country, leaving 2,700 people without jobs.

Officially, GM did not pay its taxes and refused to conform to “basic economic and financial rules,” August explains.

But he speculates that GM could have been involved in a darker scheme, similar to what happened in Chile in the 1973 coup d’état against Salvador Allende government.

“Main enterprises in Venezuela — General Motors, but there are others as well — were specifically organizing to hoard goods, to keep it away from the people, in order to create problems, to create a situation where people are starving, etc.,” August told Becker, adding that US companies also cut flights to Venezuela in an attempt to harm its income from tourism.

“It is undeniable that there are internal problems and weaknesses in the economy under the Bolivarian Revolution, but the main feature of the problem at this time is what has been induced and still being induced by the US and its allies,” he said.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Chavista Trade Unionist Kidnapped and Murdered in Venezuela

By TeleSUR | April 25, 2017

Venezuelan trade union leader Esmin Ramirez was killed Sunday in the southeastern state of Bolivar after being kidnapped in an act that people close to him claim was politically motivated.

Ramirez, who was a member of the Movement 21 labor syndicate in the state-run iron ore producer Ferrominera and part of the PSUV political party in Cachamay, was killed in El Rinconcito sector in Guayana City, a city along the bank of the Orinoco River in Bolivar state.

The leader was killed by several gunshots to the head. He had been previously kidnapped on Saturday night in San Felix. His body was retrieved by officials Sunday.

Ferrominera expressed condolences in a statement on social media, saying the company hoped that authorities would investigate and clarify the details surrounding the Ramirez’ death.

Ramirez had denounced previous attacks against other members of his organization in the past and was an active participant in marches in support of President Nicolas Maduro, who has in recent weeks faced a wave of violent anti-government protests demanding his ouster.

The union leader was preparing for a massive march for International Worker’s Day on May 1.

Meanwhile, another grassroots leader, Jacqueline Ortega, was murdered in the greater Caracas area in Santa Lucia del Tuy on Saturday. Ortega was also a member of the PSUV as well as a leader in her community’s Local Production and Supply Committee, known as CLAP, a government-created alternative food distribution program.

Ortega was reportedly shot dead in her home by four masked assailants.

Edited by Venezuelanalysis.com.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Make No Mistake: There is a media blockade against Venezuela

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | April 23, 2017

Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it is.

Since April 4th, opposition militants have been carrying out targeted acts of violence, vandalism and arson, as well as deliberately clashing with security forces in an attempt to plunge the country into total chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government. It is the continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy” in the country.

A catalogue of the violence over the last 18 days is shocking – schools have been ransacked, a Supreme Court building has been torched, an air force base attacked, while public transport, health and veterinary facilities have been destroyed. At least 23 people have been left dead, with many more injured. In one of the most shocking cases of right-wing violence, at around 10pm on April 20th, women, children and over 50 newborn babies had to be evacuated by the government from a public maternity hospital which came under attack from opposition gangs.

Anywhere else in the western world, this would have given way to horrified international and national calls for an end to the violence, and for the swift prosecution of those responsible – making it all the more scandalous that these incidents have at best been ignored, and at worst totally misrepresented by the international press. Instead, those tasked with providing the public with unbiased reporting on international affairs have opted to uncritically parrot the Venezuelan opposition’s claims that the elected government is violently repressing peaceful protests, and holding it responsible for all deaths in connection with the demonstrations so far.

This narrative cannot be described as even a remotely accurate interpretation of the facts, and so it is important to set the record straight.

  • To date, three people (two protesters and one bystander) have been killed by state security personnel, who were promptly arrested and in two cases indicted.
  • A further five people have been directly killed by opposition protesters, while one person has died as an indirect result of the opposition roadblocks in Caracas (Ricarda Gonzalez, 89, who suffered from a CVA and was prevented from getting to a hospital).
  • Five people have been shot in separate incidents near protests but under unclear circumstances. One of these victims was shot by an alleged opposition supporter from a high rise building, although the perpetrator’s political affiliation is yet to be confirmed.
  • Nine protesters appear to have died as a result of their own actions (at least nine were electrocuted in the recent looting of a bakery).

A cursory look at the reality reveals that the government is clearly not responsible for the majority of these deaths. However, to paraphrase a remark recently made by Venezuelan author Jose Roberto Duque, the “truth has suddenly become useless”.

The media has failed to go into too much detail surrounding the exact circumstances of these deaths; precisely because the truth presents a serious obstacle to their narrative that all these people were killed during pro-democracy peaceful protests at the repressive hands of the authoritarian regime. This narrative isn’t just overly simplistic; it distorts the reality on the ground and misinforms international audiences.

Take this deliberately misleading paragraph from an article written by Nicholas Casey, the New York Time’s latest propaganda writer for the opposition.

“Protesters demanding elections and a return to democratic rule jammed the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities on Wednesday. National Guard troops and government-aligned militias beat crowds back with tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons, and at least three people were killed, according to human rights groups and news reports.”

Casey opted to omit the fact that none of those three deaths has so far been attributed to security forces, and one of the victims was an army sergeant killed by protesters themselves. Moreover, those on the receiving end of the “tear gas and rubber bullets” are not quite the “peaceful protesters” he so disingenuously implies. Anyone in the east of the city on April 19th, when both opposition and pro-government forces marched, could see how opposition supporters gathered in total freedom in Plaza Francia in Altamira, even buying anti-government t-shirts, caps, and purchasing ice-creams, and were able to march along the main highway linking the east of the city to the west.

Police “repression” has occurred in two specific scenarios. Firstly, when opposition gangs have set-up burning barricades and carried out violent acts of vandalism on the streets, including the targeting of public institutions – actions deliberately aimed at provoking photo-op worthy clashes with security forces. In the second instance, it has occurred when opposition marchers have attempted to cross a police line blocking them from getting to the working class municipality of El Libertador in the west of the city – where government support is traditionally concentrated. Again, this action is a deliberate attempt to provoke clashes with security forces and their supporters by the opposition, who are well aware that they have not been granted permission to march into El Libertador since a short-lived opposition-led coup in 2002, triggered by an anti-government march diverted towards Miraflores Presidential Palace in the west that left 19 dead by opposition sniper-fire.

It is hard to see how the police would not respond to these violent actions in a similar way, or even more violently, in the rest of the world. I can only imagine what would happen if armed and violent protesters consistently tried to march on the White House in Washington, or on No. 10 Downing Street in London. What if they assaulted police lines outside the White House, or attacked hospitals and looted businesses in London? Not only would they not be granted permission to continue, but protesters would most likely be shot, or end up in jail under anti-terrorism legislation for a very long time. But in Venezuela, the opposition can rely on its carte blanche from the mainstream press as its get out of jail card.

Needless to say, details of the undemocratic actions of opposition leaders and their supporters – ranging from these latest attacks to support for a violent coup in 2002 – are glaringly absent from virtually all news reports. This is despite the fact that the opposition’s current protest leaders – Julio Borges, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Henry Ramos Allup and Leopoldo Lopez – were active players in the 2002 coup.

The above article by Casey is a patent attempt to mislead the public over the dynamic on the ground in Venezuela. But unfortunately this is not just a case of one isolated news agency. The UK’s Guardian, for instance, provided its readers with an image gallery of the opposition’s April 19th march and “ensuing violence”, but failed to acknowledge that a pro-government march of similar size, if not greater, was also held the same day. They simply erased the actions of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Whichever news agency you check, be it the BBC, the Washington Post, CNN, or any other corporate outlet, you will find the same, uniform consensus in their Venezuela coverage. There are no words to describe this state of affairs other than a total media blockade.

The last time the country witnessed unrest on this scale was in 2014, when opposition militants again unsuccessfully tried to force the “exit” of President Nicolas Maduro using similar tactics, leading to the deaths of 43 people. The majority of those victims were innocent passersby caught in the violence or state security personnel, who were given the somewhat impossible task (just like today) of somehow refraining from responding with violence to people who are deliberately trying to provoke, maim and kill them.

While protests in 2014 were a response to violent unrest headed by the country’s right-wing student movement, this year’s commenced at the beginning of April after the Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the court temporary powers to assume the legislative functions of the National Assembly. It came in response to the Venezuelan parliament having been declared “in contempt of court” for more than six months, after the opposition refused to remove three of its lawmakers under investigation for electoral fraud in violation of a Supreme Court order. This is much like the current legal case hanging over the thirty Conservative MPs in the UK. The only difference in Venezuela is that the legislators were suspended from being sworn into parliament pending the results of the investigations. The opposition immediately hit out at the ruling, declaring it an attempted “coup” by the government that had come out of nowhere. The media swallowed this version of events hook, line and sinker. Although the ruling was overturned almost straightaway, the opposition took to the streets denouncing a “rupture of the constitutional order”.

This soon morphed into a hodgepodge of ultimatums which have dominated the opposition’s agenda since it won control of the country’s National Assembly (one of the five branches of the Venezuelan government) in December 2015, promising to have deposed the national government “within six months” – something beyond the power of Venezuela’s legislative branch. These demands include the release of what they call “political prisoners”, the opening-up of a “humanitarian channel” for receiving international aid and, most importantly, immediate regional and general elections. The street protests were an unmissable opportunity for the opposition, which was suffering from steadily decreasing popularity following an entire year of having squandered its legislative majority in parliament.

Evidently, long term strategy is not the opposition’s strong point. History testifies to the fact that they tend to go for maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time, no matter the cost. This brings us to why this kind of violence, which has been employed several times throughout the last 18 years by Venezuela’s well-seasoned opposition, is once again happening at this moment. If the government is so unpopular, as the opposition claims it is, why not just wait for the presidential elections in 2018 for their time to shine?

At this point it should be clear that the opposition’s only goal, far from promoting a “return” to democracy, is to step right over it. They want to remove the elected government more than a year ahead of scheduled elections. But they don’t want to stop there. As one opposition marcher told me on Wednesday: “Get your stuff together Maduro, because you’re going to jail”. The opposition’s goal is the total annihilation of Chavismo.

Whatever the government’s many errors and faults over the past four years under the leadership of Nicolas Maduro, progressives across the globe have an obligation to defend it against the opposition’s onslaught and the international media’s blockade. The alternative is the same savage neoliberalism – currently being mercilessly unleashed by Brazil’s unelected government – which previously squeezed blood from the entire continent throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The slogan “No Volveran” (they shall not return) has never been more urgent.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

What Everybody Needs to Know About Venezuela Protest Deaths

teleSUR | April 13, 2017

By now, you’ve probably heard about what’s going on in Venezuela.

Right-wing opposition demonstrators are leading daily protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro and supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution. As of Thursday, five people have tragically been reported dead: Jairo Ortiz, Ricarda Lourdes, Daniel Queliz, Miguel Colmenares and Brayan Principal.

In line with mainstream media, Venezuelan opposition leaders allege that Maduro’s administration is responsible for all of these deaths. Hasler Iglesias, for example, a youth organizer for the right-wing Popular Will party, claims police killed all five people.

“These are assassinations of the dictatorship,” Iglesias posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina echoed these allegations, adding that “police are terrorizing our communities.”

There’s no denying that people have died as a result of ongoing protests. What the opposition fails to mention, however, is why and how these people died and who is responsible for their deaths.

Venezuelan police are responsible for two of the five deaths attributed to Maduro’s government by the opposition, Question Digital reports. Two others died from direct and indirect actions by opposition supporters, with the last person dying in the crossfire of conflict between both sides.

Here’s a quick rundown.

Ortiz was murdered on April 7 in Miranda by transit police officer Rohenluis Leonel Mata. The police officer believed Ortiz was one of many opposition protesters inciting violence against the socialist government.

After carefully investigating the case, however, the Venezuelan government discovered that Ortiz was not involved in any public demonstration or act of violence. Upon proving Ortiz’s innocence, the government immediately detained Mata, who is set to face criminal charges.

Lourdes, an 83-year-old woman, died at her home in Caracas on April 10 from hydrocephalus. When her symptoms began flaring earlier that day, she was unable to be transported to a nearby hospital because opposition protesters blocked all of the neighborhood’s roads, preventing ambulances from picking her up.

Queliz, a 20-year-old opposition protester, also died on April 10 in the Venezuelan state of Carabobo after police reportedly shot him in self-defense. He was among a group of protesters attacking police with rocks and sticks. The police officer connected with his killing was arrested on Wednesday, Question Digital also reports.

Colmenares was killed on April 11 in the department of Lara state while caught in the crossfire of conflict between opposition protesters and police.

Principal, a 13-year-old resident of the Ali Primera Socialist City, was shot and killed by opposition protesters after they toppled the main gate of the commune. The city was established by the Bolivarian Revolution in 2014 for low-income citizens.

A closer look into these deaths reveal that the nature of these killings are not as clear cut as the right-wing opposition portrays them to be.

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | 1 Comment

New Book Offers Timely Rejoinder to Hugo Chavez Bashing in Media

By Joe Emersberger – teleSUR – April 6, 2017

Right from the opening pages of Eirik Vold’s “Hugo Chavez: The Bolivarian Revolution from Up Close” there was no doubt that the book was going to be very lively and readable, but I had a concern. Would the author make himself the hero of his own book? Was this going to be really heavy on what it felt like (to him) to be in Venezuela while Chavez was in office, but very light on analysis? Fortunately not. He provides a fair and very insightful assessment of the Chavez years.

Vold is from Norway. His book was translated from Norwegian by Paul Russell Garrett. Vold lived mainly in Venezuela during Chavez’s time in office which was from 1999 until his death in 2013. Vold arrived in Venezuela for the first time fours months after Chavez had been briefly overthrown in a U.S.-backed military coup in 2002. Out of journalistic curiosity, and practical necessity, Vold established enduring friendships with people who loathed Chavez and others who adored him.

Vold’s friend Omaira, a middle-aged working mom from the Caracas slum known as the 23 de Enero, illustrates better than graphs of economic data ever could the immense gamble the poor took on Chavez. The early years of the Chavez presidency made life harder, not easier for Omaira. Vold’s book allows readers to appreciate how excruciatingly long those years must have felt, but Omaira blamed the opposition and trusted Chavez to eventually deliver. She was right on both counts. The combination of the 2002 coup and management-led sabotage did immense damage to the economy. But after those efforts to force him from office were defeated, Chavez rewarded millions of people like Omaira who had stuck by him through those battles. By 2004, Omaira and her daughter were able to continue their long interrupted education thanks to government support (through a program named Mission Ribas).“Omaira was almost offended,” Vold writes “when I admitted that I had not heard of all the social reforms and all the things that had happened in her barrio over the past few months. ‘Maybe you are watching too much opposition TV’ she commented.”

Wildly dishonest Venezuelan (and international) media, NGOs and pollsters are prominent in Vold’s book. Constantly lying in front of millions of Venezuelans like Omaira – whom the elite had long grown accustomed to ignoring – was not a wise opposition strategy considering the poverty rate was 50 percent when Chavez first took office and rose to 60 percent by the end of the infamous “oil strike” in 2003. One reason Chavez expanded state media was to inform the poor of what was now available to them: “How do poor, pregnant women make use of the new birth centers if they do not know where they are or that their services are free? And what if they believed in the media’s claims that the Cuban doctors were killers?” asked Vold.

He describes various changes in Omaira’s barrio that had taken place by 2006 that a journalist from a rich country, if willing to venture out of wealthy neighborhoods, would miss even if political bias were not a problem. Vold did the work and built the long-term relationships that enabled him to grasp why Chavez was beloved by millions who were effectively marginalized before he transformed Venezuelan politics.

Vold’s friend Antonio, a businessman from East Caracas, had a completely different perspective. Much of Antonio’s hatred was fueled by consuming opposition media and talking to friends and neighbors who did the same. Vold’s first friendships and experiences in Venezuela were in East Caracas. His opinion, in the midst of the chaos and violence during the “oil strike” taking place when he had very recently arrived, was that Chavez should resign to prevent some kind of civil war from breaking out.

Vold quickly broke out of the East Caracas bubble. However, Vold believes that one of Antonio’s accounts of corruption within Chavista ranks rang true, about being offered overpriced contracts in exchange for money under the table. Vold argues that Chavista opponents, particularly the private media, were caught lying and exaggerating so often that it actually helped corrupt officials evade accountability.

Vold is blunt in addressing what he sees as the failures of the Chavez years: violent crime increased mainly because the judiciary was never effectively reformed and poor planning and execution of infrastructure projects was a factor, but he ridicules the western establishment’s assessment of the Chavez years: “Presumably Venezuela is the only country in the world where turning a falling GDP into growth, and reducing inflation and unemployment by half, is considered an economic catastrophe by media and experts.”

He discussed an incident that shows how much more broad the Western imperial establishment is than is often understood. WikiLeaks exposed the activity of Statoil, “a legitimate child of Norway’s own oil nationalization,” in Venezuela where it conspired with U.S. diplomats and others to try to organize an illegal secret boycott of Venezuelan oil. Vold remarked that “many millions spent on marketing the ‘kinder’ Statoil brand went up in smoke on the day the WikiLeaks documents were released.”

In discussing U.S. support for efforts to topple Chavez by any means, it is much to Vold’s credit that he explains the numerous similarities with U.S. attacks against Aristide’s government in Haiti during the early 2000s. Aristide was eventually kidnapped by U.S. troops in February 2004, but the groundwork was laid through economic sanctions and through the funding of the opposition through USAID and NED (the National Endowment for Democracy).

Of course, the economic depression Venezuela is going through today is eagerly blamed on Chavez by the same outfits that lied about and distorted his years in office relentlessly. Vold’s book would have been even better with a chapter devoted to assessing that claim: that the Chavez years made the present crisis inevitable and that the only answer is to discard Chavismo. The root causes of the present crisis, as most effectively explained by UNASUR’s special economic team, are technical though there is certainly a political component – including a component of domestic and international sabotage. Would Chavez have had the political capital to make the required adjustments? I wish Vold had addressed that question.

I can only hope that Vold is correct in concluding that as long as “the echo of ‘Hurricane Hugo’ continues to resound through the hillsides of Caracas and the villages and the barrios in the rest of Venezuela, never again will the majority quietly accept being forced into degradation.”

April 10, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Spent $4.2M in 2015 to Destabilize Venezuelan Government

teleSUR | April 8, 2017

In 2015, the United States government earmarked at least US$4.26 million for Venezuela through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, with much of this going to organizations undertaking anti-government work.

Almost US$2 million of these funds were funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization created in 1982 purportedly “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.” Of these funds, US$849,223 were allocated for “civic” or electoral purposes including the creation of an “interactive online platform connecting citizens to National Assembly candidates,” along with US$160,813 for the promotion of “free market” reforms.

Some US$505,796 were disbursed for media purposes including funds to “radio programs”, “alternative channels to generate and disseminate news and information”,”local independent journalists and alternative media outlets in defending freedom of expression and democracy” as well as for training “journalists on investigative journalism and the use of social media in disseminating news.”

With more than US$170 million in annual funding from the U.S. State Department through USAID, the NED provides 1,000 more grants to support organizations that promote U.S. foreign policy objectives in more than 90 countries. In addition to the NED, USAID also partners with Freedom House, The International Republican Institute, The National Democratic Institute and The Pan-American Development Foundation of the Organization of American States.

The U.S. Congress also provides some US$777.8 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs the Voice of America, as well as the anti-Cuban government outlets Radio Marti and TV Marti, while also providing millions in funds to media organizations and journalists who opposed governments that are at odds with U.S. interests.

The NED also boasted about the impacts of its funding on the outcomes of elections in Argentina

“In Argentina and Venezuela, NED grantees played key roles to promote free and fair elections,” the NED’s 2015 report states.

“Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election, an outcome that symbolized the end of the Kirchner imposed, populist and authoritarian political model. In Venezuela, legislative elections in December 2015 gave the political opposition a supermajority in the National Assembly for the first time in 18 years of Chavista rule. A strong opposition presence in the legislative branch may help reverse Venezuela’s devastatingly anti-democratic government.”

While the government-funded NED does specify grant recipients in certain countries, neither the report nor the organization’s website names the organizations that received funding in the case of Venezuela.

In 2015, the NED also spent some US$1,047,818 in Ecuador and US$883,620 in Bolivia to support organizations working against those left-wing governments.

Since winning a majority of the National Assembly in 2015, Venezuela’s MUD opposition has been accused of attempting to create an institutional crisis between branches of government through repeatedly attempting to pass laws in direct contravention to the country’s constitution, such as a law that attempted to retroactively reduce the presidential term.

Opposition leaders, who have been increasingly calling for street demonstrations to oust the Maduro government, have cited the impasse as grounds for foreign intervention.

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Arrests Opposition Lawyer, Partner of Source in Iraq Passport Controversy: Reports

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | April 7, 2017

A lawyer for one of Venezuela’s most prominent right-wing politicians was detained Tuesday in Caracas, after allegedly being found with materials used in counterfeiting, according to unconfirmed reports.

The lawyer, Ana Teresa Argotti, was allegedly taken into police custody after a routine traffic stop. From her vehicle, police reportedly uncovered 17 identity cards, six passports, more than 30 official government stamps and raw materials used in the counterfeiting. The story was originally published by online news blog La Tabla. Along with the statement of an anonymous source, the blog also published photos that appeared to show Argotti in police custody. In one of the photos, Argotti appeared to be shown with her seized property, including the six passports, ID cards and both US and Venezuelan currency.

Argotti is reportedly the lawyer of Lilian Tintori. Tintori is the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader sentenced to over 13 years imprisonment for his role in leading violent anti-government protests in 2014.

The blog also claimed Argotti is the partner of former Venezuelan diplomatic staffer Misael Lopez. Lopez has accused Venezuelan diplomatic officials in Iraq of fraudulently selling hundreds of passports. The Venezuelan government has denied the claims and accused Lopez of acting as an agent of the US.

Venezuelanalysis cannot confirm the authenticity of the La Tabla report, though similar stories have been picked up by state media outlet teleSUR and Russia’s RT – both seemingly based on La Tabla’s piece.

Right-wing newspaper El Nacional has also reported on the story, including allegations police falsified evidence against Argotti.

“A source close to El Nacional Online confirmed that Argotti, adviser to Lilian Tintori, is under arrest,” the newspaper reported.

“However, they clarified that the items seized from the lawyer were ‘planted’,” El Nacional reported.

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Fake News: Venezuela Right-Wing Say Gov’t Uses Chemical Weapons

teleSUR | April 8, 2017

By now, you’ve heard the news.

Since Tuesday, right-wing opposition protesters in Venezuela have led violent demonstrations against the socialist government, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at police.

Despite one reported casualty, Venezuelan police have largely been on the defensive, using shields and water cannons to protect themselves from protesters.

On Saturday, however, when protesters intensified their attacks on police, opposition leaders claimed President Nicolas Maduro’s administration used “toxic weapons” to shut down anti-government demonstrations.

El Hatillo Mayor David Smolansky, a leading figure of the opposition Popular Will party, alleged on Twitter that “Nicolas Maduro is beginning to use chemical weapons as they are using in Syria.”

“I denounce that the Guard (police) used a ‘red chemical gas’ that is prohibited,” Smolansky added.

But Smolansky wasn’t the only opposition leader spreading this unsubstantiated allegation.

Venezuelan National Assembly member Armando Armas also claimed Maduro “attacked the population with red toxic gas,” calling him a “dictator” on Twitter. And Popular Will coordinator Marcela Maspero said “police are using a red gas to repress us,” adding that “it can be neutralized with soda and lemon.”

If you haven’t yet figured out why these allegations are fake news, here are three hints.

First, and perhaps most obviously, because hundreds of people would have instantly died if the alleged “red toxic gas” was a chemical weapon as used in Syria.

Second, because the Venezuelan government does not currently possess chemical weapons, nor has it ever possessed them, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Finally, because the right-wing opposition has presented no proof whatsoever of alleged chemical weapons used by Maduro’s administration.

Although Maduro has not commented on the faux allegations of police allegedly using a “red chemical gas,” he has remarked on how violent opposition forces will stop at nothing to provoke war.

“U.S. imperialism is based on lies in order to undertake its interventions against nations,” Maduro said on Friday while commenting on Syria, citing Libya and Iraq as other examples.

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News | , | Leave a comment

Marco Rubio Threatens El Salvador, Haiti, and DR to Vote for Venezuela OAS Suspension

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | March 28, 2017

Caracas – Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio publicly warned the governments of El Salvador, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic Monday that the US would cut off aid if they failed to vote to suspend Venezuela from the Organization of American States.

“This is not a threat, but it is the reality,” said Rubio, speaking ahead of an extraordinary OAS session scheduled for Tuesday, in which the body’s 35 member-states may be called to vote on whether to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela.

“We have a very difficult situation in Washington, where massive cuts in foreign aid are under consideration and it will be very difficult for us to justify assistance to those countries if they, at the end of the day, are countries that do not cooperate in the defense of democracy in the region,” the senator added.

El Salvador’s left-wing FMLN government, for its part, slammed Rubio’s instrumentalizing of US aid as a means of “political pressure”.

“Marco Rubio’s disregard for international treaties that mediate and lay down the rules for cooperation astonishes us,” expressed Eugenio Chicas, spokesman for President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

Chicas added that Washington is welcome to cut off future aid, noting however that slashing current assistance would be a violation of previous agreements.

The Dominican Republic likewise responded to Rubio by reaffirming its commitment to non-intervention and support for dialogue in Venezuela.

“The Dominican Republic supports dialogue as the solution to the situation in Venezuela,” declared Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado.

Santo Domingo has been a key player in Vatican-sponsored talks between the Maduro government and right-wing opposition over the past year, with former Dominican President Leonel Fernandez serving on the UNASUR mediation team alongside the former presidents of Spain and Panama, Jose Rodriguez Zapatero and Martin Torrijos.

“We appeal to the international principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of [other] countries, respecting their sovereignty,” Vargas Maldonado continued.

Haiti, for its part, has yet to issue public statement concerning Rubio’s remarks.

Under the Chavez and Maduro governments, Caracas has forged strong political and economic ties with the three neighboring countries, which are all members of Venezuela’s regional energy integration initiative known as PetroCaribe.

Rubio’s comments come as OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro scrambles to amass a two-thirds majority of member-states to support Venezuela’s suspension, which has faced opposition from not only leftist governments, but also close US allies.

Most recently, the right-wing Kuczynski government in Peru, one of Venezuela’s most vocal critics in the region, has cast doubt on the success of the bid, calling it “extreme” and admitting that “there is not a majority”.

Likewise, Costa Rica has announced that it would not endorse the application of the Democratic Charter, insisting that the only solution to the country’s current crisis is “electoral”.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment