In my previous blog about the conflict going on in Venezuela, I posed several questions that I hoped to have answered by the end of the blog. Not a very scientific approach, perhaps, as I could also have decided to not post the blog until I had full understanding of the matter. But sometimes my mind is just not ready for the answers and sometimes a blog just needs to be posted, incomplete as it may be… Also, I think my previous blog does reflect the core of the matter, and the confusion that is intertwined with this new variety of protesting.
I’ve read as much as I could about what’s going on in Venezuela since it caught my attention, and I am starting to fill in many of the blanks… In my previous blog I described the side of the story that is being reported on the most, which is the violence on the streets. A horrible thing. I was especially moved by a video of a Venezuelan mother outside a hospital, speaking about how her son had been sodomized with a police rifle, while the government’s only statement revolved around denying there were people on the streets at all. The mother’s plee for the public prosecuter and other female politicians (mothers) to come look at her son and then dare to deny to her face that it had happened, is heartwrenching.
I didn’t expect the story to come to any other conclusion than the one illustrated above; that there are horrible cruelties being committed by the Venezuelan government towards young protesters fighting for democracy. But as it turns out, there is a HOWEVER in there somewhere… And that other side of the equation was brought to my attention quite clearly in this video:
This video does answer a couple of the questions I had not managed to find the answers to previously. Let me dissect what I have come to learn.
Who does this opposition consist of?
The people on the streets are mostly being referred to as students. This is not surprising as universities tend to encourage critical thinking and many a protest in world history started out with educated youngsters speaking out against injustice. Or, as the Washington Post describes it: “the student protest is the first grass-roots movement in Venezuela to succeed in showing the government that staying the course is unacceptable — that the government itself is to blame for the country’s multiple crises.”
I believe this to be true. The government has run out of ideas about how to fix the growing problems and the people are no longer making do with the distractions Chavez used to be such an expert in presenting when facing a rough patch. Also, Maduro isn’t as good at it, even though he tries. I believe the people that are now protesting want progress to be more tangible and are especially tired of the censorship on the media and critical thinking. However, I have come to understand that the protesters are not as much in charge of the course they are following as they may like to believe. There are some hidden agendas being played out through them.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at Leopoldo Lopez. CNN describes him as “a fiery speaker and charismatic leader” with “politics running in [his] veins”. He is well educated, having attended a private boarding school in the US, completing his education by earning his master’s degree at Harvard. In short, he comes from the Venezuelan social class that has been forced to watch from the sidelines, since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution. So, even though he is being portrayed as the underdog now, it hasn’t always been that way. He is not the political David, fighting for the rights of those in dire need against the cruel Goliath government. He is fighting to regain the power his family lost a decade ago and rekindle Venezuela’s friendship with the U.S.
What is going on (really)
Another thing that we must keep in mind is that no matter how large the protests may be, this government was democratically elected. There were several recounts and the margin may not have been big, but Maduro is in fact the rightful president. I can imagine the opposition is not pleased with this, but that is how democracy works. An interesting idea accompanying this fact is that there was another party counting on last elections playing out differently: The United States of America. No surprise there and I don’t think it is unlikely that the opposition is indeed being funded by U.S. sources. As George Ciccariello-Maher states in the interview with Democracy Now that I posted above:
[This] is—against the broad backdrop of U.S. intervention and the funding of the Venezuelan opposition, this is the action of an autonomous Venezuelan opposition. (…) Once we look into this back story, what we see is yet another attempt in a long string of attempts of the Venezuelan opposition to oust a democratically elected government, this time taking advantage of student mobilizations against—you know, ostensibly against insecurity and against economic difficulties to do that.
Another idea that Ciccariello-Maher poses is that within the opposition movement Lopez is in fact the least moderate actor around. This is why Lopez was treated with kid gloves and was even given time to speak to the people before being taken into custody. The Maduro government wouldn’t mind Lopez becoming the primary face of the opposition because “he’s someone that simply can’t be elected president in Venezuela, because he really does represent that upper, upper crust of Venezuelan elites.”
It’s definitely an interesting theory, even though I must say that it wouldn’t be a first in South America. Voters can be easily manipulated and Maduro definitely didn’t do very well handling these recent protests. No matter who funded the opposition and no matter how many hidden agendas are being played out, the current government has blood on its hands and is doing a very poor job in restoring the peace.
At this moment there are still masses on the streets, both in favor as against the government. It is difficult to predict if either group will shrink or cross over to the other side. One thing that is sure, the government can definitely not go on denying the occurrences by showing cartoons on TV all day and censoring the daily news coverage. If Maduro wants to survive, he shouldn’t have to rely on manipulating the news. If he has any integrity in him, he should show true lament for what has happened to his fellow countrymen and find a way to move forward, taking all of Venezuela’s citizens into account.
We will see how this plays out in weeks and months to come, but it definitely gives room for discussion and puts the events in a different light. It shows us once again that there are always several vantage points from which a conflict as this one can (and must?) be viewed.