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Civilians Support Venezuelan National Guard amid Media False Claims

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | March 17, 2014

Merida – On the weekend civilians marched with National Bolivarian Guard (GNB) soldiers, and today the government declared part of Caracas “free” from violent protests. The march came as private media heightened its false statements about GNB actions.

GNB march

On Saturday in Caracas there was a large civic-military march in support of “peace and life” and the GNB soldiers.

In his speech to those present President Nicolas Maduro accused the “government of the United States” of trying to “implement a plan to assassinate [him]”. He said in such a case, “the people should stay in the streets, making the revolution, united with the armed forces”.

Since 12 February, he said, over 20,000 GNB soldiers have been in the street, carrying out “some 16,000 operations to re-establish order and avoid confrontations, on average almost 500 operations per day. However, of the 29 deaths [since 12 February], there is only one under investigation attributed to a GNB soldier, [but] the opposition has carried out a campaign… writing them [the GNB] off as killers”.

The majority of deaths have been caused by violent barricades, two of them were allegedly caused by SEBIN (the national intelligence service) agents, and one by the Chacao police. Chacao police take orders from the opposition Chacao mayor.

Maduro himself is Commander in Chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. He stressed that there had never been any orders to repress. “If the national guard or the national police had gone out in a repressive blind rage or with a an order to repress, in the face of [almost 500] violent actions per day [by the opposition], the death statistics would be different,” he said.

According to a recent survey by private firm, Hinterlaces, of 1200 Venezuelans, 87% reject the violent barricades “as an instrument of protest”, and 11% support their continuation. 79% express “doubt” that the violence could improve the situation in the country.

GNB death, Chacao operation

Sunday night, Aragua governor Tareck El Aissami reported that a GNB captain was injured in Maracay by “criminal groups”. El Aissami said the captain was shot in the head. He explained that when a “violent group” tried to close Avenue Jose Casanova Godoy and the GNB arrived, the GNB were shot at.

Yesterday Maracay also held a Peace Conference, as part of a national government initiative being held in various states around the country.

This morning El Aissami reported that Captain Jose Guillen Araque had died from the injury. This is the second GNB captain killed in less than a week. Captain Ramzor Bracho, was killed last Wednesday in Valencia, allegedly by opposition groups.

Meanwhile, the government announced today that the upper class area of Chacao had been made a “peace zone”. Over the last five weeks the area has been one of many zones around the country subject to constant road blockades, rubbish burning, destruction of public property, harassment, aggression, and vandalism, by violent groups calling for Maduro’s resignation.

Last Monday GNB soldiers dismantled a clandestine storage area in Chacao used by the violent groups. They confiscated guns, knives, C4 explosives, drugs, and fuel.

In his speech on Saturday, Maduro said the government was willing to use “force” to “restore peace” to Chacao. “We’ll capture all the violent people, the terrorists, the murderers, we’ll do it…respecting all human rights. The first human right we’ll respect is the right to free transit, the right of the children to go to school,” he said.

That night, VTV reported that the violent groups “voluntarily withdrew” from Altamira plaza in Chacao.

Early this morning the minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez Torres announced the “liberation and pacifying” of the area, a few hours after 661 GNB soldiers were deployed there. He said the guards will patrol 24 hours a day “in order to guarantee citizen safety”.

Rodriguez Torres said that authorities were waiting on the mayor of the area, Ramon Muchacho, in order to “hand over control and that he take charge of maintaining the area”.

Resident of Chacao, Susana Saavedra told Correo del Orinoco that she congratulated the GNB, “for taking this initiative, because it was lawless here”. She accused local opposition authorities of “collaborating with the barricaders… we couldn’t leave our houses or send our children to school”.

While the number of violent barricades around the country has been reduced, both voluntarily and because of the GNB, in Merida this morning the science museum was attacked for a second time, high school Fray Juan Ramos de Lora was attacked, and a main city intersection was blocked by a burning truck.

Manipulation by Venezuelan private media

Venezuelan private media however, have blamed much of the violence on the GNB. El Nacional headlined on 15 March, “GNB and collectives attack universities around the country”.  Though colectivos is a term used in Venezuela for a range of social and productive organisations, the private media in February began using it to denote supposedly armed, pro-government groups. The El Nacional article accused the GNB and “collectives” of “repressing student protests”.

In Carora, Lara state on Friday, the media reported “repression by GNB and collectives”. Opposition state governor, Henri Falcon said “anarchic groups supported by the GNB caused damage, panic, and commotion” in the National Poli-technical Experimental University (Unexpo).

Video footage of the event however shows the violence by the opposition groups, the GNB cleaning up the area, verbal abuse by groups towards the GNB, and the GNB responding politely. The GNB then sat the groups down and gave them a workshop on human rights, then let them all go, the footage shows.

Further, today El Nacional quoted opposition leader Maria Corina Machado accusing the GNB of “creating the chaos in Altamira to justify militarisation”.

Machado also called for a march against so called “Cuban interference” on Sunday. According to AFP, only “hundreds” turned up to the march. The AFP article stated that “protests… against the government of Nicolas Maduro… have seen a total of 28 deaths”, implying that the deaths were all opposition “protestors”.

La Patilla and social networks have also circulated a photo, which they claim was GNB soldiers “repressing, beating, and arresting a special youth”. However, on Saturday, Alejandro Cegarra, an AP photographer who has been critical of the government claimed to have taken the photo and stated the “GN official was helping the protestor to breathe… the guy started to faint and was choking”.

Further, the AP caption for the photo described the National Guard helping the man to breathe, but according to Cegarra, those who reposted the photo “decided to ignore the caption”. A video by photographer, Cristian Dubo also makes it clear the GNB were trying to help the man. While he was not beaten, it does appear he was taken to hospital, and also detained and is awaiting trial, after being involved in confrontations in Altamira.

Other press went further, using a different photo to claim the man had Down syndrome, and he was “brutally beaten by the GNB”. However the man in this second photo, according to RT, was beaten by Miami police last year. The man photographed by Dubo did not have Down syndrome.

The GNB forms part of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. It is responsible for public order. President Hugo Chavez, over his three terms, aimed to transform the GNB from what was previously a repressive institution into one geared towards promoting development. He increased the role of the GNB in civil affairs, including involving soldiers in implementing social programs such as the Mercal food program. The majority of GNB soldiers come from the poorer sectors of Venezuela, and Chavez often referred to the Armed Forces as “the people in arms”.

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: Who You Gonna Believe, the New York Times or Your Lying Eyes?

By Mark Weisbrot | CEPR Americas Blog | March 15, 2014

Today’s report from the New York Times trashes the government for “combative tactics” and “cracking down” on protesters, but if you watch the accompanying video, all you see are protesters attacking police, and the police – without venturing forward, defending themselves with water cannon and tear gas.

One can criticize the decision of the government to block the march from going to hostile territory, but given the continuous presence of violent elements among the protestors, and that Venezuela is a country with a very high homicide rate and many armed civilians, it could have been the prudent thing to do. The government also believes, with some justification, that these protests seek to provoke violence in order to de-legitimize the government. Their stated goal is to overthrow the democratically elected government, and given that the vast majority of the country is against the protests, this really is their only chance of getting anywhere. And the government also knows that the media (both national private and international) will generally blame them for any violence.

In the United States, and especially here in Washington DC, you have to get a permit for marches like this, and they are often denied or re-routed; and if you try to defy this the police will generally beat you and throw you in jail. And these are actually peaceful protests here.

As for the violence so far associated with the protests since they started on February 12, the statistics show that more people have died at the hands of protesters than security forces:

Of the 29 people killed (full details here),

— 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by security forces; 1 other was killed by security forces but it’s not clear if he was a protester.

— 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by civilians (the opposition always alleges that these civilians are somehow taking orders from the government, but there has not been any evidence linking the government to any killings by armed civilians; and in a country where there are on average more than 65 homicides per day, it is most likely that these armed civilians are acting on their own).

— 11 civilians appear to have died at the hands of protestors: three of them shot, and the rest killed by various barricades or other obstructions (e.g. motorcyclist beheaded by wire allegedly strung by protesters).

— 3 national guard appear to have been killed by protesters

— 1 pro-government activist appears to have been killed by security forces

— 6 have died in circumstances that are too unclear to determine if they were really related to protests, but they are often included in press reports.

At least 14 security officers have been arrested and remain in jail for alleged violence against protesters, including the incidents described above.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: Who Are They and How Did They Die?

By Jake Johnston | CEPR Americas Blog | March 12, 2014

Since February 23, CEPR has been keeping track of those who have died during the last month of protests in Venezuela. Below is the most recent available information on the location, causes and status of investigations into the deaths. This list will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. As of March 13, the list contains 29 individuals; however in some cases press reports indicate that the death was not directly associated with the protests. Never the less, as they have often been reported as such, they are included below.

There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum. In some cases, members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement. At least 10 individuals have reportedly been killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades. Three members of the National Guard have been killed.

–         Bassil Alejandro Da Costa, an opposition demonstrator was shot, reportedly in the head, and killed in Caracas during the opposition protest that took place on February 12.

–         Juan Montoya, a pro-government community activist, was reportedly shot in both the head and chest and died. Montoya’s body was found a short distance from the body of Da Costa. On February 26, the Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, announced that 8 officers from SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency, had been arrested for their role in the killing of Da Costa and Montoya. As of March 11, 6 SEBIN officers remain in jail. President Maduro has also removed the head of SEBIN.

–         On February 12, Roberto Redman, another opposition demonstrator was also shot, reportedly in the head, and killed. The killing took place in a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Witnesses attributed his death to armed civilians. There has been no update on the status of any investigation.

–         On February 18 José Ernesto Méndez, a 17-year-old student who was participating in a demonstration in the Sucre department, was hit by a truck and later died. The Attorney General stated that the driver of the truck has been apprehended and charged with homicide.

–         On the same day Genesis Carmona, a student and beauty queen was shot and killed in the state of Carabobo. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the she was shot from behind, potentially from within the group she was protesting with, though others contest that version of events. The government has pledged a full investigation. There have been no further updates on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 19, Julio Gonzalez, a member of the public ministry in Carabobo reportedly died after crashing his vehicle while attempting to avoid a roadblock put up by protesters.
–         On February 20, Arturo Alexis Martínez, the brother of a ruling party legislator, was reportedly shot in the chest as he attempted to clear a path for his car amidst the debris left by a barricade following an opposition protest in Lara state. Witnesses allege that the shot that killed him was fired from a nearby building. On March 6, the AG announced that an individual has been charged for their involvement in the death.

–         On February 20, Asdrúbal Rodríguez was reportedly arrested for attempting to steal a motorcycle and then was found dead the next day. The arrest and killing occurred in Chacao. Two members of the Chacao police have been arrested and remain in jail.

–         On the night of February 21, Elvis Rafael Durán De La Rosa was beheaded by a wire strung across the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue in Caracas while driving a moto. The wire had allegedly been put there by protesters who had set up a road block in the same location earlier that evening.

–         On February 21 that a 37-year-old woman named Delia Elena Lobo had died the previous evening in the city of Mérida in similar circumstances to De La Rosa. The woman was heading home on a motorbike and ran into barbed wire stretched across a street. Nobody has been arrested for the deaths of Lobo or De La Rosa. Authorities have accused retired general Angél Omar Vivas Perdomo of having encouraged protesters to put wires across streets and have ordered his detention.

–         On the evening of February 21, Jose Alejandro Márquez died due to injuries to the head suffered in clashes with the National Guard. Seven members of the National Guard are being investigated for the death.

–         On February 22nd, Geraldine Moreno, a 23-year-old protester who had been injured by bird shot during a protest in Carabobo state a few days earlier reportedly died from head injuries. There has been no update on the status of the investigation.

–         On February 23 in San Cristobal Danny Melgarejo, a local student, was stabbed to death. The mayor said that the killing was related to a robbery, and not the student’s participation in protests.

–         On February 24 Antonio José Valbuena Morales was shot and killed, reportedly while trying to remove barricades that had been set up by protesters.

–         On February 24 Wilmer Carballo was killed by a shot to the head in Sucre state. Reports suggest he was shot by individuals on motos. On February 25, the AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On February 24, Jimmy Vargas died after falling from a second story building. Press reports continue to state that he was killed “after being hit by a tear gas canister and falling from a balcony,” despite video evidence to the contrary.

–         On February 25, Eduardo Ramón Anzona Carmona died after crashing his moto into a barricade. The accident occurred in Valencia in the state of Carabobo

–         Also on February 25, in El Límon, Jhoan Gabriel Quintero Carrasco was shot and killed near a supermarket where looting was taking place.

–         Giovanny José Hernández Pantoja, a member of the GNB, was shot and killed in Valencia on February 28. News reports indicate he was removing a barricade when he was shot. At least three individuals have been detained for their alleged involvement.

–         On March 3 in Chacao, Deivis José Useche died after crashing his moto. Press reports indicate that a manhole cover had been removed during earlier protests, which caused the crash.

–         On Tuesday, March 4 Luis Gutiérrez Camargo crashed into a barricade and died in the state of Tachira.

–         On March 6, a National Guardsman, Acner López Lyon, was shot and killed during an altercation in Los Ruices, a neighborhood in Caracas. News reports indicate that the National Guard was removing a barricade that was blocking a main avenue.

–         In the same altercation that took the life of Lyon, a mototaxista, José Gregorio Amaris Castillo, was shot and killed. The AG announced an investigation into the deaths.

–         On March 7, Johan Alfonso Pineda Morales died after he lost control of his moto on an oil slick, allegedly intentionally created by protesters.

–         On the night of March 9, Giselle Rubilar Figueroa, a Chilean citizen, was reportedly shot and killed by protesters in Merida. The AG has announced an investigation.

–         On the night of March 10, a student protester, Daniel Tinoco was shot and killed in San Cristobal. It is unclear who was responsible, though press reports indicate that the killing occurred after a day of clashes between the National Guard which was trying to remove barricades in San Cristobal. The mayor indicated that it was armed civilians that shot Tinoco. The AG announced an investigation into the killing.

–         On March 12, university student Jesús Enrique Acosta was shot and killed in La Isabelica in the department of Carabobo. Family members told the press that Acosta was outside his house when armed civilians began firing. Reuters reports that “the state governor said the shot came from snipers among the protesters.”

–         On March 12, the Governor of Carabobo, Francisco Ameliach reported that a captain of the National Guard, Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo was shot and killed during an altercation in the municipality of Naguanagua.

–         Also on March 12 in La Isabelica, Guillermo Alfonso Sánchez was shot and killed. The circumstances remain unclear. The AG has announced an investigation into the three killings of March 12.

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

America’s Unceasing Contempt for Venezuela

By Jason Hirthler | CounterPunch | March 11, 2014

Some things never change. The petulant and undemocratic Venezuelan opposition is at it again, with the full backing and check-writing support of the U.S. government. Recent protests have inflamed the streets of Caracas, as opposition groups, as they have in the Ukraine, called for the ouster of the sitting president. I suppose it’s needless to note that Nicolás Maduro is Venezuela’s democratically elected president, and that he won by a higher victory margin in a cleaner election than did Barack Obama in 2012. Nor is it worth asking, one supposes, that if the entire country is engulfed by dissent, as The New York Times insidiously suggested by claiming the “The protests are expressing the widespread discontent with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, a socialist…”, then why did Maduro’s party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), claim wide majorities in municipal elections in December? Or why are these “widespread” protests largely confined to middle-class or student areas of Caracas and not rife within much larger poor neighborhoods? Or if a government has the right to arrest opposition leaders (in this case Leopoldo Lopez, the latest rabid ideologue) for inciting violence?

Public Virtue, Private Vice

Secretary of State John Kerry has ratcheted up the drivel stateside, claiming to be “alarmed” by reports that Maduro has “detained scores of anti-government protesters” and that the crackdown would have a “chilling effect” on free expression. A bit rich coming from a man whose own government has been icing free speech since the Snowden revelations. Kerry failed to mention whether the millions of American taxpayer dollars being funneled to the opposition were behind the violence. The Los Angeles Times described Maduro’s administration as an “autocratic government.” Opposition leader Henrique Caprilles, demolished by Maduro in last year’s landslide election, rejected Maduro’s invitation to talks and claimed one of the Latin America’s most popular political parties was a “dying government.”

For its part, Mercosur, the alliance of South America’s southern cone countries, denounced the violence as an attempt to “destabilize” a democratic government. Of course, the behavior of Maduro’s government in response to these street provocations ought to closely watched, as this is the new president’s first real test coping on an international stage with the intrigues of a small but virulent neoliberal opposition.

There’s plenty to suggest that this is, like Ukraine, another external attempt to uproot a democratically elected government through a volatile cocktail of in-country agitation and violence paired with global media defamation of the existing administration. It wouldn’t come as a surprise. Like a frustrated and petulant infant, the United States has repeatedly attempted to derail the Bolivarian Revolution launched by former President Hugo Chavez in the late nineties, as CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot has noted. It backed an anti-democratic coup by business elites in 2002 that actually succeeded for a couple of days and happily dissolved parliament before Chavez regained power. It supported an oil strike in an attempt to destabilize the economy and perhaps bring down the government. It encouraged opposition members of parliament to push for recalls (failed) and boycott National Assembly elections (useless) and clamor incessantly that last year’s national presidential election was rigged (false). Of course, despite being widely held to be a superior electoral process than that of the United States, Kerry was only shamed into recognizing the legitimacy of the election long after the rest of the world had.

The U.S. has poured millions into opposition activities on an annual basis since the failed coup in 2002. (NGOs are convenient destinations for this money since foreign contributions to political parties are illegal in both countries.) Just look at 2013 alone. Washington would hardly stand for interference of this kind from, say, China. Or, better, from Venezuela itself. Imagine if it was discovered that Chavez had been seeding major American metropolises with anti-capitalist pamphleteers. Obama wouldn’t be able to hit the “signature strike” button fast enough. Nevertheless, Kerry, in his role as Secretary of State, has turned out to be a masterful mimic capable of registering a fusty outrage on short notice, especially over claimed violations of civil liberties. Curious, since the ceaseless trampling of civil liberties by his own Democratic party have elicited nothing from this flag-bearer for democratic values.

Dollars & Bolivars

This is not to say that Venezuela does not have protest-worthy problems. Inflation has been chronic since the pre-Chavez days. Now food shortages are trying the patience of the population. And in one sense, these shortages are self-inflicted. According to Gregory Wilpert of VenezuelAnalysis, the government’s currency controls have been undermined by an all-too-predictable black market. While the government has placed strict criteria on the ability of citizens to purchase dollars with bolivars, the black market allows citizens to buy dollars without any criteria whatsoever. The government’s exchange rate is likewise controlled, and has over time begun to distort the real value of the bolivar. The black market exchange rate, by contrast, reflects the external value of the currency. The gap between these exchange rates has grown rapidly, such that there now exist huge incentives for citizens to play currency arbitrage. If they satisfy the federal criteria—such as needing dollars to travel or import goods—Venezuelans can buy dollars cheaply using the government exchange rate. They can then pay those dollars to import goods, then export those goods in exchange for the dollars they just spent on the imports. From there it is a simple step to the black market, where they can sell those dollars for many times what they paid at the government’s official rate, making a tidy profit for themselves. If they happen to be rabid anti-socialists, they can enjoy the companion thrill of generating food shortages that can be blamed on the government. Ah, the timeless magic of import/export.

These are legitimate grievances, however, as are crime figures, which top the regional table. Yet the question is, do they merit the overthrow of a legitimate government backed by a wide majority of the population at the behest of a small but fierce oppositional faction openly funded by an imperial power committed to its overthrow? To do so would risk the absurdity of gratifying the strident demands of a few at the expense of the many. … The fact is, despite the inflation and shortages, the population continues to support the Bolivarian Revolution because of its accomplishments—massive reductions in poverty, extreme poverty, and illiteracy. Significant growth in per capita GDP and other important metrics.

A Doctrine in Decline

We’re seeing in clear images the viciousness with which neoliberal factions resent the loss of power and seek to restore it by any means necessary. Democracy is the least of their concerns. But this has been the Latin American back-story for a couple of centuries. Much of the U.S. activity in Latin America feels like a frantic and desperate last-ditch effort to preserve the Monroe Doctrine, by which we essentially declared Latin America to be our own backyard, off-limits to European empires. What was ostensibly a call to respect independent development in the Southern hemisphere rather predictably evolved into an excuse for self-interested intervention. But now, for the first time in centuries, Latin America has struck out on its own, slipping from beneath the clutch of the eagle’s claw to form organizations like Mercosur and CELEAC, PetroCaribe and Petrosur, the Bank of the South as well as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Aside from Columbia, an implacable outpost of American influence, the region has shunned greater U.S. involvement, and begun to view its proffered trade agreements with far more suspicion, particularly in the long wake of NAFTA, the poster child for lopsided and economically destructive trade treaties.

Whether the U.S. will eventually succeed in a cynical ploy to unseat Maduro remains to be seen. If recent events in the Ukraine are any indication, that may have been a test run for Venezuela, as Peter Lee suggests. It hasn’t helped that, as in practically every country that comes to mind, an elite class of neoliberal ideologues own the mainstream media. The tools of propaganda have rarely been more fiercely deployed than since Chavez launched his socialist revolution. And yet, since then, practically the entire continent has experimented with left-leaning leadership: Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay, Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay, to some degree Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, and Maduro in Venezuela. Nor should exiled Honduran president Manuel Zalaya be forgotten. These figures have collectively stepped back from the brink of dubious integration with North America and sought stronger regional ties and continental autonomy.

The U.S. has replied with a predictable confection of threats, lies, and sacks of cash for ferociously anti-democratic elements. Perhaps it most fears the bad karma it generated for itself with Operation Condor, which on September 11, 1973 overthrew and murdered Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende and replaced him with a gutless sadist, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet—a repressive militarist—happily instituted the untested prescriptions of the Chicago School of Economics’ sermonizing armchair guru Milton Freidman, with predictable results. Now, Maduro, carrying the mantle of Chavez and his Bolivarian manifesto, is arguably the spiritual vanguard of the socialist left in South America. Venezuela’s efforts to continue to forge its own independence in the coming decade will surely influence the mood and courage of other leftists in the region. The stakes are obviously high. Hence the relentless American effort to destabilize and publicly discredit the PSUV. The fate of the global left is in a very real sense being tested in the crucible of Caracas.

Jason Hirthler can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Chavez: Inside the Coup

2002 documentary about the April 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt which briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. A television crew from Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ happened to be recording a documentary about Chávez during the events of April 11, 2002. Shifting focus, they followed the events as they occurred. During their filming, the crew recorded images of the events that they say contradict explanations given by Chávez’s opposition, the private media, the US State Department, and then White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The documentary says that the coup was the result of a conspiracy between various old guard and anti-Chávez factions within Venezuela and the United States. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Revo…

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | 2 Comments

Death Toll Rises in Venezuela; Opposition Demonstrators Say They’re Fighting a War of “Attrition”

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | February 19, 2014

Merida – Anti-government demonstrations turned deadly again today, following yesterday’s arrest of far right leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Lopez heads the right-wing Voluntad Popular (VP) party, and was arrested yesterday on charges including inciting crime and homicide. Earlier today the attorney general Luisa Ortega stated that whether or not Lopez will remain in custody is yet to be determined. However Ortega stated that the government “guarantees and respects the human rights” of Lopez.

Around one hundred supporters rallied today outside a court in Caracas, where his hearing was expected to take place. However, the hearing was moved to a military jail at the last moment due to government concerns for Lopez’s safety. Lopez’s lawyer has claimed the move is illegal.

Violence continued today in the wake of the arrest, with at least two more reports of deaths.

One person was reportedly killed by gunfire and four others injured in Ciudad Guayana, Bolivar state during street clashes. Two of the injured also sustained gunshot wounds, according to local media. Thousands of industrial workers had marched in support of the government through the city earlier today. According to a report from Ultimas Noticias, the deadly clashes occurred after “motorbike riders” tried to break an opposition barricade.

Student and model Genesis Carmona  has also died in a medical centre after being shot during clashes in the Carabobo state capital, Valencia.

An armed group also attacked Carabobo’s headquarters of the government owned energy company Corpoelec earlier today. A captain of the National Guard (GNB) was hit by a bullet during the incident.

Another person was injured by gunfire yesterday when opposition groups attacked the Carabobo offices of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), according to Governor Francisco Ameliach.

“I call upon our membership to not fall into confrontation,” Ameliach stated yesterday.

Three others were injured yesterday when groups armed with Molotov cocktails attacked a government building in Tachira state. Security forces reportedly battled with opposition groups for around two hours.  The state’s socialist governor Vielma Mora described opposition attacks in the state as a “low intensity war”. Mora stated that security forces in the state capital San Cristobal have been targeted by hit and run attacks from assailants firing from vehicles. Journalists are also being targeted by armed groups, according to Mora.

The governor also said there have been reports of armed groups charging toll fees at roadblocks around the state.

In Caracas one person was injured when opposition groups threw rocks at public transport last night. Transport minister Haiman El Troudi announced via Twitter that the incident prompted the cancellation of another bus route. Previously, on Monday seven bus routes were cancelled due to vandalism and opposition attacks.

In a meeting with transport workers today, the minister stated that sixty buses in Caracas have been attacked, and five in other parts of the country. El Troudi condemned the attacks, stating that the perpetrators are “looking to generate an … escalation of unrest”.

Today the Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez announced that the government is developing a plan to rehabilitate public spaces damaged by recent opposition demonstrations.

State media have also reported that a sick elderly woman died in the early hours of the morning after her ambulance was impeded from accessing a nearby medical centre by an opposition roadblock. Luzmila Petit de Colina was 70 years old, and suffered from a chronic illness, according to Correo del Orinoco. Her daughter hosts a program on the state-owned channel VTV. Today communication minister Delcy Rodriguez expressed “solidarity” with Colina’s family.

Five trucks were also torched last night in Lara state, according to government sources.

In Merida, opposition groups continued to erect barricades around the city. Eight demonstrators were arrested in the Andean city last night, according to El Universal. The right-wing newspaper reported that the demonstrators had been involved in “non violent protests” yesterday. Photographs circulating in local media show opposition groups manning roadblocks of burning garbage yesterday afternoon.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, hard-line opposition demonstrators at one barricade told Venezuelanalysis’s Ewan Robertson today that they are fighting a war of “attrition” against the government.

“We’re sunk in misery, corruption, so we want Maduro’s resignation now, that’s why we’re here,” one demonstrator stated.

“Either we get tired first, or they get tired first,” said another. According to the demonstrator, the group’s strategy is to block as many roads as possible “day and night”.

“There are two points of view. As the constitution orders, the government logically has to guarantee the free flow of transit. But the constitution also establishes that we have the right to protest,” he continued.

The demonstrators denied they have firearms, and blamed security forces and pro-government groups such as the Tupamaros of causing violence. Venezuelanalysis has previously observed opposition groups using small arms in Merida. The group spoken to by Venezuelanalysis today were visibly armed with  rocks and what appeared to be Molotov coacktails.

One of the demonstrators also explained that they have adopted a strategy of retreating when security forces arrive, only to return once the police or GNB leave the area.

“We retreat, if they pass firing, we throw stones. When they’ve gone we come out and block everything again. That’s how we’re going,” he stated.

An opposition group in the same area clashed with riot police later in the afternoon. When two personnel carriers arrived on the scene, demonstrators threw rocks at officers, before retreating up the road. They continued to hurl rocks as police cleared the road.

While the clashes took place, Chavistas gathered in Merida’s central square, Plaza Bolivar with music, comedy and speeches from student groups condemning the violence.

An opposition roadblock in central Merida today. (Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/Venezuelanalysis)

Demonstrators armed with rocks and blocking traffic. (Ryan Mallett-Outtrim/Venezuelanalysis)

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Peaceful Marches and Opposition Violence, Two Deaths Mark Day of Youth in Venezuela

By Tamara Pearson and Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | February 12, 2014

Merida – Violent opposition groups attacked government buildings and civilians, and clashed with police and government supporters following peaceful marches commemorating the Day of Youth.

The violence has claimed two deaths and left 23 injured across the country. Thirty arrests have been made according to government sources.

Venezuela commemorates the day of the youth on 12 February each year in memory of the role of young people in the decisive independence battle in La Victoria in 1814. Today marked the bicentenary of the historic battle.

Caracas

In mid afternoon President Nicolas Maduro delivered a speech in Caracas, praising the morning’s marches as peaceful. However, shortly later one Chavista was reported to have been killed amid clashes involving opposition activists. Juan Montoya, also known as Juancho was shot. He was a community leader in the Chavista stronghold, Barrio 23 de Enero. This afternoon National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello condemned the shooting, and accused armed right-wing groups of “hunting down” Montoya.

“They are fascists, murderers, and then they talk about dialogue,” Cabello stated, referring to armed right-wing activists. The AN head called for calm, and urged against reprisals.

Violent opposition groups also attacked the attorney general’s office in Carabobo Park, Caracas. Photographs of the scene indicate the building’s exterior was damaged.

A building belonging to the government owned Fundacaracas organisation was also attacked by opposition groups. A few hours later the mayor of Caracas’s Libertador municipality, the PSUV’s Jorge Rodriguez also reported that the judicial offices in Chacao, Miranda, were also attacked. Later in the night the National Guard were deployed to the state owned VTV offices in Los Ruices. Disturbances had been reported in the area, though no further details were available at the time of writing.

In the evening, President Nicolas Maduro stated that violent opposition groups had also set fire to five police patrol vehicles. He also stated that a group of around two hundred violent activists had attempted to attack Miraflores Palace after the attorney general’s office.

Merida

After weeks of small, violent protests in Merida, there was a large march by government supporters in one part of the Andean city, and a larger march by opposition supporters elsewhere. Both were observed to be peaceful by Venezuelanalysis. However, violence began shortly after the opposition march finished. Clashes took place in Merida’s streets after individuals began burning garbage in intersections and erecting barricades.

A larger confrontation took place at a major intersection in the city’s north. Witnesses told Venezuelanalys that they saw men in balaclavas occupy a number of apartments, and fire live ammunition into the streets below. Riot police blocked the intersection. Hundreds of government supporters gathered a few hundred metres behind the police lines.

“We’re defending the city centre,” one supporter told Venezuelanalysis.

The Pro-Government March

At the pro-government march in the morning, Roger Zurita told Venezuelanalysis, “I’m worried about confrontations but I’m marching because today is the day of the youth, to celebrate the battle of La Victoria, not because of the opposition march. We have to organise ourselves around our values. We’re celebrating with happiness and peace the youth who struggle, our independence, the struggle for political power. Today we have an anti-imperialist youth and people are waking up, we’re not going to fall for the right wing’s games.”

“I’m marching for various reasons, mainly because I still believe in the project of our country, which still hasn’t been fully realised, but if we work just a bit harder we can do it, we have a lot to do. Also because it’s important to show that we are many, there are a lot of people who believe in this. What’s been happening in Merida is sad, regrettable. It’s a shame that they [violent sectors of the opposition] can’t propose anything without violence. We shouldn’t respond with violence. But the only proposal they seem to have is to get people into power who have never cared about the people, they just want to sell our country to the [US] empire,” Raquel Barrios told Venezuelanalysis, referring to the last four days of violence in Merida.

“I’m marching to commemorate the battle of La Victoria, but they [the opposition leadership] are manipulating the youth of Merida and parts of the opposition, they want to put an end to everything we’ve achieved, but they won’t be able to, because we’re peaceful people but ready for any necessary battle,” said Douglas Vasquez told Venezuelanalysis.

“Basically I’m marching to rescue Merida. We can’t let Merida be in the hands of violent people. I’m a teacher at the University of Los Andes (ULA), and I feel very ashamed that the recent violent incidents are mostly promoted by people from the ULA, who hope to create discomfort in the people in order to overthrow a consolidated and democratically elected government,” Katania Felisola said to Venezuelanalysis.

The Opposition March

The opposition march started at the ULA and went down the Americas Avenue after a last minute redirection.

Fernando Peña, a chemical engineering student at the ULA told Venezuelanalysis’s Ewan Robertson, “The students have felt the need to show themselves against [the goverment], because they have taken students prisoner in Mérida and Táchira just for expressing their right to protest. Right now feelings are very tense, because the people are tired of the government, [and] the students are the centre of the mobilisation throughout the country. The people now deeply disagree with the decisions that the government makes… living in Venezuela has become ever more difficult”.

Jan Carlos Lopez, worker in the Medical Faculty of the ULA told VA, “Some of the main reasons [for the march] are the shortages that are being experienced in the country, criminality, and insecurity. There isn’t an organisation that can protect us at night time so that we can go out. That’s what we’re asking for, security so that all Venezuelans can live in peace.”

Other opposition marchers told Robertson that they blamed the government for the violence, for “sending out motorbikes to attack students”.

In the violence after the marches, two people have been reported as injured, both shot in the legs. One of those was Jilfredo Barradas, a state government photographer.

“It’s a show, everyone knew it would turn out like this, it was planned,” one Merida activist told Venezuelanalysis, referring to the violence both in the Americas intersection as well as on Avenue 3.

Further, Gustavo Bazan told Venezuelanalysis, “On Friday they [violent opposition sectors] wanted to store Molotov cocktails [in the apartment where Bazan lives] and break up bricks in order to have rocks. I stepped out of line a bit and I told them that here they weren’t protesting against the government but rather against their own neighbours. I challenged them to take off their balaclavas and said to them they weren’t capable of coming over and having a conversation. They jumped over the fence and three of them started to beat me up. A friend and a building security guard saved me. I filmed them while they prepared the Molotov cocktails”. 

Other cities

Electricity minister Jesse Chacon informed through his Twitter account that “violent groups” surrounded an electric substation in San Cristobal and threw Molotov cocktails at it.

According to AVN there was also violence in Aragua and Carabobo states “which left material damage”.

The governor of Carabobo state, Francisco Ameliach said that “violent groups burnt a truck with liquid asphalt”. Ameliach alleged that the head of the MUD in the state, Vicencio Scarano had financed the crimes.

The minister for internal affairs, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, said that violent groups had tried to set the Aragua state government building on fire.

Official response

Tonight Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz informed the public that so far there have been a total of two deaths, 23 injured, and thirty arrests. Along with Montoya, student Basil Da Costa died after suffering a gunshot.  She added though that public lawyers were investigating and visiting hospitals to determine the exact number. According to Maduro the two men were both shot in the head, “like the sharp shooters who murdered [people] on 11 April [2002]”.

Ortega also said that four CICPC (Scientific Crime Investigation Body) vehicles were set on fire, as well as other private vehicles.

Regarding the march in Caracas, she said “they were guaranteed security from Plaza Venezuela to the Attorney General’s Office, there was nothing to impede them”.

Maduro also warned tonight that “whoever protests or marches without permission will be detained”.

“These are trained groups who… are prepared to overthrow the government in a violent way, and I’m not going to allow this, so I call on Venezuela to be peaceful,” Maduro said.

Foreign minister Elias Jaua alleged that Leopoldo Lopez was the “intellectual author of the deaths and injuries in Caracas”.

The Ecuadorian government emitted a statement today condemning the “acts of violence and vandalism by irresponsible members of the opposition”.

“We hope for the prompt reestablishment of social peace in our brother country and because respect for the government and its legitimately constituted institutions has precedence”.

Opposition statements and response

“This a call put out by the students and supported by the Democratic Unity [MUD opposition coalition], this march on the day of the youth is taking place when the government is repressing, with jail, with torture,” Leopoldo Lopez told CNN yesterday, in anticipation of today’s events.

“The government has an agenda of violence and as they control the monopoly [sic] over communication in Venezuela they hide it… the call that has been made is to be in the street,” he said, blaming the violence over the last week in Merida and Tachira on the government.

Speaking tonight on Noticias 24, Lopez blamed the national government for today’s violence and deaths. “Who is generating the violence? The government… repression by the national guard, the police,” he said.

Some of the top tweets by the opposition at the moment also blamed the Tupamaros groups. The Tupamaros are now quite small, but are often blamed for any violence that takes place. They support the national government.

“They (Tupamaros) are animals and they should all die,” wrote Daniel Garcia.

“Hitler, come back and put all the Tupamaros in gas chambers” wrote Andreina Leonett.

“When the first student dies all the streets of Venezuela will burn,” wrote Jose Gamboa.

Over the last week far right opposition leaders such as Leopoldo Lopez have been calling for people to “go out into the street” in order to achieve an “exit” of the national government.

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Theatre Program Launched in Venezuelan Schools to Create “Culture of Peace”

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | September 17, 2013

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President Maduro at the Teresa Carreno Theatre in Caracas launching the Children’s and Youth Theatre Movement (Prensa Presidencial)

Merida – Yesterday the school program titled the “Cesar Rengifo” Children’s and Youth Theatre Movement was kicked off, as students returned to class for the new school year.

The program is being run initially in 135 Bolivarian schools in Caracas, and will gradually be expanded around the rest of the country.

Classes include body language, literature, oral narration, musical appreciation, acting, lighting, and theatre music.

“The idea is to awaken sensitivity, responsibility, and critical and creative thought in children, through theatre,” said the program’s coordinator, Pedro Lander.

Lander explained that actors, directors, theatrical designers, voice teachers, and playwrights have been called on to teach in the schools. He said that Cesar Rengifo’s plays will be used, as well as other local and international ones.

Cesar Rengifo, a playwright, poet, painter, and journalist, was born in Caracas on 14 May 1915, and died on 2 November 1980. He founded the theatre group Mascaras (Masks), was director of Cultural Extension of the University of the Andes, and he won a range of national prizes for his plays. His plays and paintings focused on life in Venezuela, petroleum, and the oppression of marginalised people and the working class.

Children will watch plays in the Teresa Carreño Theatre as part of their initiation into the subject.

“Today a movement is being started which will make history and will contribute to…achieving a peaceful country. A country of peace is a country which takes on the culture of life, the values of life, the love of life, and respect, as its fundamental values,” President Nicolas Maduro said at the official launch of the program yesterday in Caracas.

September 17, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing for a Post-Chávez Venezuela

Not One Step Backward, Ni Un Paso Atrás

By GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER | CounterPunch | March 6, 2013

Hugo Chávez is no more, and yet the symbolic importance of the Venezuelan President that exceeded his physical persona in life, providing a condensation point around which popular struggles coalesced, will inevitably continue to function long after his death. It’s not for nothing that the words of the great revolutionary folk singer Alí Primera are on the tip of many tongues:

Los que mueren por la vida

no pueden llamarse muertos

Those who die for life

cannot be called dead.

A Barefoot Revolutionary

Hugo Chávez was a poor kid from the country, which tells you much of what you need to know about him. Bare feet, mud hut, perpetual sunburn, gleaning hard lessons and a strong dose of audacity from everyday experiences in that wild part of the Venezuelan flatlands, or llanos, that crash abruptly into the towering Andes mountains.

While politics was in the soil under his feet and in his every social interaction, Chávez’s first formal contact with revolutionary politics came through his elder brother, Adán, a member of the still-clandestine former guerrilla organization, Party of the Venezuelan Revolution (PRV). It was the PRV that refused intransigently to come down from the mountains in the late 1960s when the Venezuelan Communist Party decided to withdraw from the armed struggle, and it was the PRV more than any other organization that resisted Marxist orthodoxy by excavating Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary traditions under the umbrella of “Bolivarianism.”

Through Adán, Chávez the younger was imbued with the legacy of this Venezuelan guerrilla struggle and its aspirations, a necessary and portentous counterbalance to the official doctrine he would learn in the military academy. But even as a soldier, Chávez was always irreverent to the core, and it wasn’t long before he had begun to organize with other radical officers. Their conspiratorial grouping would eventually be called the MBR-200, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement, and it was not a purely military affair, evolving in close contact with revolutionary communist guerrillas from the PRV and elsewhere.

The Old Venezuela

The old Venezuela is no more. The Venezuelan ancien regime was one of self-professed harmony, and it cultivated this myth to the very end. For political scientists, this translated as “Venezuelan exceptionalism”: in a sea of unrest and dictatorship, it alone remained relatively stable and “democratic.” But this was a harmony premised on the invisibility of the majority, and a stability crafted through the incorporation and neutralization of any and all oppositional movements. Those who refused to concede were murdered or imprisoned in the gulags of this “exceptional” democracy.

When Hugo Chávez first attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, he was attacking a democracy in name only. Decades of two-party rule had created a system that was utterly unresponsive to the needs of the vast majority, and as economic crisis set in during the “lost decade” of the 1980s, the poor turned to rebellion and the government to brute repression. In only the most spectacular of many moments of resistance, the week-long 1989 rebellion known as the Caracazo, somewhere between 300 and 3,000 were slaughtered as Pérez ordered the military to “restore order” in the poor barrios that surround Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.

It was this rebellion more than any other, and the repression it unleashed, that led, nay forced, Chávez and others to attempt a coup with the support of revolutionary grassroots movements, and it was this coup more than any other event that led to his eventual election in 1998. Finally someone had taken a stand, and when Chávez promised on national television that the conspirators had only failed “por ahora, for now,” he was effectively promising, as did Fidel Castro nearly 40 years prior, that history would absolve him.

The New Venezuela

In many ways, it has. Under Chávez’s watch, Venezuela has become more equal, the most egalitarian country in Latin America in fact, according to the Gini coefficient of income distribution. Poverty has been reduced significantly, and extreme poverty almost stamped out. Illiteracy has been eliminated and education is freely accessible, through the university level, to even the poorest Venezuelans. Health care is free and universal. Despite catastrophic language used by the Venezuelan opposition and foreign press, the economy is strong, and has weathered the global economic crisis better than most (notably, the United States).

More important than this improvement in the social welfare of the Venezuelan majority, however, are the political transformations that the Venezuelan state and people have undergone, transformations that remain far from complete. This was not merely a populist government that sought to buy votes through handouts, but a radically democratic government that sought, often despite its own autocratic tendencies, to empower the people to intervene from below as the true “protagonists” of history. Through communal councils, cooperatives, communes, and popular militias, the Venezuelan government has radically empowered the radical grassroots, albeit not without resistance from its own bureaucrats.

But these accomplishments do not belong to Chávez alone, and in fact, they do not belong to Chávez at all. Long before Chávez, there were the revolutionary movements that tried, failed, and tried better, generating the experiences, organizations, and outlooks that would eventually propel Chávez to the helm of an untrustworthy state. Any celebration of Chávez that presents him as a savior is an insult to the people he held in such high esteem, and whose orders he followed.

Inversely, some ill-informed leftists decry him as not having been revolutionary enough, not moving quickly enough toward socialism: the revolution must be all at once or not at all. Others, here taking a page from the liberals, attack him for being authoritarian, autocratic, and undemocratic. But this all misses the most fundamental point: that the Venezuelan revolution is not Chávez. If we fail to understand why many millions of Venezuelans are in mourning today, then we have voluntarily abandoned any serious effort to understand what is going on in Venezuela.

A Combative Democrat

Even as President, Chávez’s rural persona always managed to break through the polite veneer of political leadership: as when he would often spontaneously break into llanero song, speak in country parables and refrains, or brutally attack opponents and allies alike on live television. Also arguably a legacy of the countryside was his paradoxical democratic authoritarianism: deeply respectful of the people and fervently egalitarian, he would not take no for an answer when it came to revolutionizing the country. While Chávez had long dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher, his childhood nickname, latigo, the whip, described his approach to politics at least as well as it described his fastball.

But this contradiction was not his own: direct democracy and representative democracy are rarely the sympathetic allies their names might suggest, and one of the seeming paradoxes of the Bolivarian Revolution is that it has taken a firm push from above to clear the way for radically democratic participation from below. This is what critics of Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution mean when they suggest that he has run roughshod over democratic “checks and balances,” failing to note that such institutional constraints, however justifiable, are often far from democratic.

As a result, the two sides seem to speak completely different languages: for the one, which seems to include Republican Congressman Ed Royce bid a quick “good riddance” to Chávez, the leader was an authoritarian dictator. Such claims come as a surprise to Chavistas, however, who have elected him many times, repeatedly choosing the path of an increasingly radical revolutionary process, and who are quick to point out the contradiction between their democratic will and term limits. Many poor Venezuelans, too, were surprised at the outrage that ensued when Chávez referred to George W. Bush as “the devil” or as a “donkey.” The poor rarely grasp the role of politeness in politics, seeing it instead, intuitively but correctly, as the realm of powerful oppositions, of Bush’s own “you’re with us or you’re against us.”

The Manichean nature of Venezuelan politics in recent years has been undeniable, but we would be well advised to recognize, with Frantz Fanon, that this division between us and them, Chavistas and escualidos (or more recently, majunches), was more a reflection of a structural reality than the fault of Chávez or the Revolution. While elite Venezuelans began to mourn the disappearance of Venezuelan “harmony,” what they really meant was that, all of a sudden, poor and dark-skinned Venezuelans had appeared, had made their presence felt, and had even assumed the mantle of the government as a mechanism for pressing their demands.

Chávez certainly courted Manicheanism to mobilize the people in the struggle, but this Manicheanism also came to him, for phenotypic as well as political reasons: dark-skinned, with a wide nose and large ears, “with his very image, Chávez has shaken up the beehive of social harmony… His image upsets the wealthy women of Cuarimare.” Chávez and his supporters have long been racialized in terms that would seem scandalous anywhere else: monkey, blackie, scum, horde, rabble. Open racism exploded during the 2002 coup that unseated Chávez for less than two days, in many ways forcing him to recognize it publicly in a country that had often celebrated mestizaje and insisted that there was no racism in Venezuela. In the end, this Manicheanism has become the most important motor for driving the revolutionary process forward, unifying the people against a common enemy and preparing them for the struggle ahead.

I was supposed to meet Hugo Chávez, but he cancelled at the last minute. His unpredictability stemmed from a combination of security concerns and an irrepressible desire to do everything himself. The closest I ever got was about 10 feet away, awash in a rushing torrent of red-shirted Chavistas on the Avenida Bolívar in 2007, as the now late President drove by atop a truck. As he passed, I reached up and performed my favorite Chavista gesture: pounding palm with fist to symbolize the brutal pummeling of the opposition. As though confirming the centrality of combat in a Revolution that would outlive him, he looked at me and did the same.

The Revolution Will Not Be Reversed

What will happen next? Within 30 days, there will be elections, in which Chávez’s hand-picked successor Nicólas Maduro will almost certainly prevail against an opposition that only seems to ever come together for the purposes of then falling apart. But the future in the longer term remains unwritten. While nothing is inevitable, however, a great many poor and radicalized Venezuelans will tell you that they will not take ni un paso atras, a single step back, and that conversely, no volverán, they shall not return. And they mean it.

This is a revolutionary assurance that has never depended solely on the figure of Chávez. As I write in the introduction to my forthcoming book We Created Chávez:

“The Bolivarian Revolution is not about Hugo Chávez. He is not the center, not the driving force, not the individual revolutionary genius on whom the process as a whole relies or in whom it finds a quasi-divine inspiration. To paraphrase the great Trinidadian theorist and historian C.L.R. James: Chávez, like the Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, ‘did not make the revolution. It was the revolution that made’ Chávez. Or, as a Venezuelan organizer told me, ‘Chavez didn’t create the movements, we created him.’”

In 1959, Frantz Fanon declared the Algerian Revolution irreversible, despite the fact that the country would not gain formal independence for another three years. Studying closely the transformation of Algerian culture during the course of the struggle and the creation of what he called a “new humanity,” Fanon was certain that a point of no return had been reached, writing that:

“An army can at any time reconquer the ground lost, but how can the inferiority complex, the fear and the despair of the past be re-implanted in the consciousness of the people?”

In revolution, there are no guarantees, and there’s no saying that the historical dialectic cannot be bent back upon itself, beaten and bloody. The point is simply that for the forces of reaction to do so will be no easy task. Long ago, the Venezuelan people stood up, and it is difficult if not impossible to tell a people on their feet to get back down on their knees.

George Ciccariello-Maher, teaches political theory at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Duke University Press, May 2013), and can be reached at gjcm(at)drexel.edu.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Preparing for a Post-Chávez Venezuela

Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 54% of the Vote

By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | October 7th 2012

Mérida – Hugo Chavez has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 54.42% of the vote against 44.97% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chavez has made his victory speech, while Capriles has recognised his defeat.

The “first bulletin” results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, at around 10pm Venezuelan time, with 90% of the votes totaled, enough to give Chavez an irreversible victory.

The CNE president said, “Once again we’ve had a calm electoral process, without problems, with the joy of this people who decided to vote massively today”.

A spontaneous street party immediately kicked off in the centre of the Andean city of Merida, and a massive crowd of Chavez supporters began celebrating in front of the presidential palace, Miraflores, in Caracas.

“Venezuela will never return to neoliberalism and will continue in the transition to socialism of the 21st century,” Chavez declared to supporters from the “People’s Balcony” of the presidential palace, after his victory was confirmed.

“I want make a recognition to the whole Venezuelan people, the whole Venezuelan nation. Today the country of (Simon) Bolivar was reborn,” added the socialist president, while congratulating the country “for a civic and democratic day”.

The re-elected Venezuelan president also congratulated the Venezuelan opposition for recognising the CNE’s result, saying “they’ve recognised the truth, they’ve recognised the victory of the people”.

Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, who was the candidate for the opposition Roundtable of Democratic Unity Coalition (MUD), recognised his defeat, stating to supporters “to know how to win, you need to know how to lose!”

He added, “We began the construction of a path and on it there are more than six million people who are looking for a better future…I’m convinced that this country can be better and I’m convinced that Venezuela is going to be better”.

Chavez received a total of 7,444,082 votes to 6,151,154 for his right-wing rival. He will govern for the 2013 – 2019 presidential term, his third constitutional term in office under the 1999 National Constitution.

Turnout was one the highest in Venezuela’s history, with 80.94% of the 19,119,809 registered voters in Venezuela participating in the election.

October 8, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 3 Comments

Venezuelan Government Promotes “Car-Free” Caracas for Urban Cyclists

By Rachael Boothroyd | Venezuelanalysis | April 23rd 2012

Caracas – Venezuelan citizens took to the streets of Caracas yesterday as part of the government’s “Caracas Free Wheeling” campaign, a plan aimed at reducing the unnecessary use of cars and promoting a healthier lifestyle for residents of the nation’s capital.

With a slogan of “the car is turned off and you get active”, the campaign began on the 25th of March and involves the closing of roads across the city from 7 am to 3 pm every Sunday so that cyclists, runners and skaters can have free rein over the capital – without worrying about Caracas’ infamously hectic traffic.

So far the Venezuelan government has spent over 30 million bolivars ($US 6.976 million) as part of an initiative to take back areas of the capital city for its citizens, with “Caracas Free Wheeling” being the latest project launched. Open air gyms and children’s parks have also been built across sectors of Caracas.

Jorge Rodriguez, the Mayor of Caracas, said the project’s goal is to create spaces of “enjoyment and recreation” in the capital, and to “re-create a different city to that rushed metropolis which is full of cars”.

“Caracas is different if you travel it by bicycle, walking in the city is wonderful. There are spaces which have been recovered by the revolution for the enjoyment of all Caracas residents and visitors,” he added.

Venezuelan families turned out in droves yesterday to take advantage of the closed roads, either bringing their own bicycles or borrowing one of the 200 government bicycles made available through a joint manufacturing project with Iran.

“We want to promote the use of bicycles and skates, to encourage people to walk freely in the streets,” said Manuel Valera from the Urban Guerrilla Cycling collective, who praised the initiative.

“You get to know Caracas in a totally different way and you fall in love with it,” he added.

The government hopes to keep progressively increasing the amount of “car-free areas” throughout the city, eventually bringing the total amount of routes to 17.5 kilometres. Another cycle path was opened yesterday, giving Caracas residents the option of three different routes spanning a distance of 8km.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Comments Off on Venezuelan Government Promotes “Car-Free” Caracas for Urban Cyclists