Media, paramilitaries, abuses, and some blood

Submit to my peace, you fascists!

Submit to my peace, you fascists!

As the protests gripping Venezuela enter their 19th day (get the basics here), it’s time to take stock of what’s happened. What are the stories? What are the non-stories? What matters?

The stories

  • The Media Blackout - From yanking a Colombian cable news channel off the air to taking an entire city offline, the government has made controlling the flow of information about the crisis a priority. This comes on the heels of the looming threat to newspapers all over the country, which we have documented extensively. President Maduro has already announced they will pull the plug on CNN En Español, an important source of independent information. Now their journos’ official credentials have been revoked. All told, the past two weeks have been dreadful for the right of Venezuelans to be informed. The result? Tons of rumors, tons of disinformation, tons of uncertainty.
  • Paramilitaries: Let’s call a spade a spade: colectivos are paramilitaries. It’s silly that chavistas are somehow trying to minimize the role of these government-sponsored groups that now roam freely in the streets of Venezuela, heavily armed, accountable to God-only-knows whom. They have been repeatedly lionized by the government. They are christened by Ministers as the main line of defense of the Revolution. They talk to the foreign press and gleefully display their weapons and their fire power. Chavista governors give them orders via Twitter. And numerous eyewitnesses tell stories of violence. True – they don’t always shoot live ammo. Sometimes their role is simply to intimidate. Regardless, they are real, and they are not going anywhere.
  • Human Rights Abuses - From the jailing of Leopoldo López to the alleged torture of student demonstrators, it seems clear that Venezuela crossed a rubicon in the past few days. This has been a PR disaster for the government, with everyone from Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch to (gulp) Madonna weighing in. I don’t know if they care or not, but Maduro’s cast in international public opinion seems set for now. He is an abusive, mustachoed thug. Any lingering claim to the moral high-ground or to hemispheric leadership that the revolution may once have held on to died this month.

The non-stories

  • Bloodshed – In spite of the deaths of six protestors, so far this is not yet a terribly bloody ordeal. To be clear, any death is one death too many. But we should have some perspective: this is not Tiananmen. It is not even Ukraine. Of course, this could change at any time, but we must be precise – Venezuelans are, so far, not being massacred indiscriminately by government forces. Let’s be thankful for that.
  • The non-coup – The government has tried mightily to frame this as a “coup.” It’s a tough sell given that protesters are severely outgunned, and so far no member of the military has publicly condemned the government. Maduro retains a tight grip on the military, and ultimately, they are the ones who stage coups. The coup chatter is hot air: maybe it speaks to the chavista hardcore base, but everyone else discounts it.
  • Everybody’s a Fascist - Of every three words spilling out of chavista talking heads, at least one of them is “fascist.” Everyone in the opposition is, apparently, a fascist. This is a turn-off for the media, who don’t really know what to do with the term. Is the opposition following Mussolini? How do you square the term with the fact that the opposition includes left-of-center and right-of-center people? Are housewives banging pots and pans also … fascist? As a marketing tool, “fascist” is going the way of “New Coke” – nowhere.

35 thoughts on “Media, paramilitaries, abuses, and some blood

  1. (Comment relevant here too, sorry for repeating)

    We know the chaverment will not leave from protesting. What was lived in 2002 is a precedent they will repeat. But much has been gained:

    -The chaverment has shown itself to be a repressive dictatorship. The WHOLE WORLD sees this now. The longer they hold Leopoldo the more he looks like our own Venezuelan Mandela.

    -It cannot repress the country into peace.

    -There is a whole lot of people that are REALLY PISSED, and they have done squat to address their grievances. They sit on a volcano.

    -The chavistas that cannot escape to Miami with the eventual demise of the government are probably thinking of what are they going to do when being chavistas is a big liability. I suspect chavistas are going to half second thoughts, think about their future, which is probably grim. Some will bolt, others will radicalize.

    -The economy is in shambles, and they will certainly blame the revolt for the need of harsh economic measures in store, but ultimately this will strike hardest to the poor and “amor con hambre no dura”, which will be the terrible divorce of chaverment and ‘el cerro’. Can you imagine what will happen when they charge SOMETHING for gas after all that has happened?

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  2. “Venezuelans are, so far, not being massacred indiscriminately by government forces.”

    What??? Indiscriminate killing by government forces is exactly what happened on the night of Feb 19!!

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    • The radical Left knows very well that the events in Venezuela are a threat to the advancement of their socialist world view. Therefore they’re going to do all they can to discredit the student protesters. You can provide them with all evidence available but in the end they will choose sides based solely upon their radical socialist ideology. To them this about protecting the reputation of socialism, and if that means defending Maduro and the colectivos they’re going to do it.

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  3. The problem about calling people fascists, in the circumstances that Venezuela is right now (Media blackout – human rights abuses – paramilitaries) is that at one point… They will REALLY start behaving as fascists.

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  4. To the author of CC who was on Huffington Post today. You did well and I think your counter arguments to Eva were spot on.

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  5. OT: I’m really amazed at the number of new participants in the CC blog , real smart people to boot , Also at the shot of adrenaline that the regular oppos ( a big jaded from recent experiences) got from seeing the protesters strut their stuff in marches and gatherings and in their enraged response to the govt hounding and brutal repression of protesters and their leaders. Internationally the US is finally starting to talk tough and one of the worlds leading news networks CNN is actually not hiding behind the neutrality screen to call the shots as they see it, Even if CNN gets thrown out of Venezuela the impact of any such measure is a kiss of death for the govts international image (now and in future), The social networks have worked very effectively to spread the truth about the clashes. Look and the stream of photos and films now going arround the globe , for all to see the ugly face of govt violence and repression , Look how Ultimas Noticias used it to make a report that revealed the assasins of the colectivo guy and the young protestors and lay the guilt at the feet of a govt goon, something that probably destroyed the govt plans to blame it on sinister oppo plot. The price has been heavy and possibly worked against the oppo strategy for bringing to its side some of the regimes traditional supporters , firing up a climate of confrotation that the regime knows how to exploit so well . The big press is looking the other way but the impact is there at a grassroots level that Im not sure existed before . Lets not forget that this is only an incident in a long running struggle that has many miles to go , and that as time passes things do get worse for the govt in so far as its favourite method for attracting support through cheap gifties and clientelar policies is concerned . !! .

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  6. It’s very interesting to keep comparing 2002 and 2014.
    Similarities:
    - Massive protests
    - Both Chavez and Maduro sent their military, police and paramilitary to suppress and contain the opposition protests.
    - In both cases there were deaths caused by government forces and the paramilitary.
    - Both Chavez and Maduro tried to implement a media blackout. Both failed.
    - In both cases there were plenty of media documentation as pictures and videos.
    Differences:
    - Chavez was still a new president, the darling of the international left and a favorite of the media
    - Maduro is a new president but the regime is old and autocratic. He is no ones darling.
    - 2002 Protests were about political discontent. Only a portion of the population was feeling that.
    - 2014 protests are about the standard of life, which has deteriorated badly. Everyone feels it.
    - Chavez’s government internal structure was shaky. Maduro’s seems much more compact.
    - Chavez was overthrown by the military … and came back!
    - The opposition as a whole was internationally regarded as a elitist, racist and putschist.
    - Global media coverage sided with Chavez. Maduro is not so lucky.
    - Technology has improved a lot in 12 years. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Smart phones with good cameras none of those existed in 2002. Even blogs were rare at the time. Political blogs on Venezuela were nonexistent.

    In terms of their actions Chavez and Maduro haven’t behaved that differently. Maduro is following the same recipe as Chavez but as the situations are so different, the results are very different. The great differences in the images of Chavez and Maduro and their regimes accounts for a big portion of the difference in the international perception and coverage from the global media.

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    • After Chavez came back to power, the opposition kept marching and the situation was very tense for a while. In December a general strike was started. The strike that initially was to last only a few days was extended indefinitely after the PDVSA workers, egged on by the National Guard, decide to join. That was when the opposition put all the eggs in one basket and went for the jugular vein: oil money. A risky bet and, as it turned out, a losing one: the government had enough international reserves and determination to outlast the strike.

      After the all-or-nothing move failed all the opposition had was the negotiating table. A delaying and defusing mechanism for the government, a way to try to save face for the opposition and to get some international recognition. Hopes then turned to the next possibility sometime down in the future: the recall referendum. But that is a story for another time.

      Today we seem to be in another all-or-nothing situation this time with protests. A mistake. Protests should be used periodically (and be pacifically), not as a terminal solution.

      Again some people are calling for negotiations. An even bigger mistake. The opposition should not sit down and negotiate. They should make demands and not make concessions. The civil society has the right to continuously demand improvements from the government, any government. That right should not be up for negotiation. If they negotiate the right to protest based on some promises, the protest would stop but the promises will remain as such. Protests should continue until the demands are satisfied, period.

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      • Having read what I wrote. I realize I seem to be at the same time calling for continuous protests and decrying them. Let me clarify. I’m all for protests but spaced in time and with different purposes and also interspersed with other mechanisms of nonviolent resistance. I’m against one huge protest until the government caves in and concedes on something.

        Mainly because the aftermath is very unpredictable and most probably undesirable or insufficient. It can range from the government staying strong and the opposition demoralized, to the government falling and chaos ensuing. Most probably somewhere in the middle some concessions will be made and the people will accept them out of sheer fatigue with the situation. Those concessions will mostly be promises that will go the way most promises go.

        In all cases protests as a way of resistance would be discredited and passivity will ensue. We have seen to in the past.

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  7. do the protesters want to topple the government?

    what do the protesters want to replace the government with?

    why dont the protesters wait for the next election and simply try to win the most votes then?

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    • “do the protesters want to topple the government?” Most of the protesters that are against maduro’s government, aka (“opposition”), think that the only way to stop the stupidity that hinders any good measures from the government will be only possible by removing the idiots that basically tossed Venezuela into the 50% annual inflation, 12 times devaluated currency, crime-ridden bloodshed that is today.

      “what do the protesters want to replace the government with?” Again, a lot of people think that any other group of folks in the government, basically anybody who doesn’t have any ties with chavismo or cuba, is a better option than these morons.

      “why dont the protesters wait for the next election and simply try to win the most votes then?” Because is infuriating to see how the country’s situation is worsening everyday, only to see how every election is used by the government as a blank check to impose their lastest bullshit law (Like the extortion-enabling fair prices law), some people are really fed up of being insulted 24/7 and being treated as scapegoats for the government’s stupidity (A minister once said that housekeepers were micro-hoarding basic products that are scarce, then he said that the street vendors that sell said products by like 8 or 10 times their value are free of any guilt)

      “Waiting for the next election” is the “strategy” that the opossition tried to use for the last like 10 years, and so far, it has done zero results, and lots of people are sick of it.

      Besides, in Venezuela, maybe you won’t live to see the next election, dude.

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