Venezuela: it’s the opposition that’s anti-democratic | Roar Mag
Don’t be fooled by the sight of protests in Venezuela: this time the anti-democratic villains are not in government but in the US-backed opposition.
I’ve been away for the past week so I wasn’t able to write anything on the unfolding turmoil in Venezuela, but I’ve been following the situation closely and in recent days have grown increasingly frustrated with (a) the total lack of balanced reporting on Venezuela in the international media, including left-liberal publications like The Guardian; (b) the seeming ease with which comrades on the libertarian left ignore the events in Venezuela as if it were somehow “irrelevant” to our cause, simply because we’re not supposed to have any close ideological affinity with chavismo; and (c) the ill-informed basis on which many activists and even several major movement pages have taken the side of the protesters against the government, unquestioningly sharing the propaganda of the right-wing opposition and echoing dangerously superficial and wrongheaded interpretations about the protests. I intend to write more on this later, but here are some initial reflections:
1. Just because there’s people in the streets doesn’t mean they’re on our side. We live in the era of the protester, and violent protest has become a media spectacle par excellence. In the wake of Tahrirand Occupy, we have been conditioned to automatically feel sympathy for all men and women taking to the streets and facing down lines of riot police. Now there’s a YouTube clip floating around the web of a Venezuelan girl with an obnoxious upper-class American accent recounting the story of Venezuela’s heroic student uprising against an “illegitimate government”. At first sight, the video — which garnered over 2 million views so far — seems to neatly fit the narrative of the global uprisings. But anyone who cares to do some fact-checking or background research will quickly discover that the protests in Venezuela are rather different from Occupy or the Chilean student movement.
2. The protests in Venezuela are (at least partly) orchestrated by the right-wing oligarchy. Let’s get the facts straight: plenty of Venezuelans are taking to the streets with legitimate grievances about violent crime, high inflation and food shortages — and there is no doubt that the Venezuelan riot police are indeed behaving violently towards many of these protesters. All police brutality should be roundly condemned. The people of Venezuela should be allowed to freely express their indignation in public without fear of repression. But it bears emphasizing in this respect that at least two of the protesters’ main grievances have been deliberately escalated by the oligarchic elite itself: through extensive hoarding and smuggling of consumer products (giving rise to shortages and fueling price inflation) and massive speculation on the foreign currency market (pushing down the Bolívar and feeding into further inflation). This is precisely the type of economic warfare that the US-backed Chilean opposition drew upon prior to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.
Moreover, even though the protests initially began as a student mobilization on Venezuela’s national Youth Day (February 12), they have in the past week become effectively subsumed under the leadership of the most right-wing section of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), led by Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo López. As the firebrand leaders of the most anti-democratic faction of the oligarchic elite, López and Machado have been actively calling for the overthrow of Nicolas Maduro’s democratically-elected government and have urged the continuation of violent protest until he resigns. In the last 15 years, these people have shown themselves to be intent on restoring their class privilege at any costs, even if it requires casualties among the general population. They are deliberately fueling violence and social unrest in order to delegitimize and oust the government.
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