Violence In Venezuela

How to Dismantle ‘Chavez’

Farooque Chowdhury

Violence has again placed Venezuela on news headlines. And, it has exposed the source of the violence: vested interests, the rich with imperialist connections. Propaganda based on lies is also being exposed. It's a reality of politics in Venezuela, polarized along line of class interests.

To many, the situation in Venezuela appears confusing. Reports of protests by "millions" and "violence" by authorities cloud perceptions of a part of Venezuela news-audience.

But a careful look takes away confusion created by a part of mainstream media.

In today's Venezuela, it's not possible to perceive incidents without considering a major line of contradiction moving through the society: politics of the poor and of the rich. Political divide in Venezuela is now based on poor-rich interests. Incidents and interpretations, actors and their role are now being governed by the conflicting interests.

The two—the poor and the rich—stand opposed to each other. Societies going through transition process can't escape the reality of the contradictions related to this divide, which is fundamental. Failure to identify the contradictions complicates interpretation of incidents.

Venezuelan media network controlled by the native rich has an edge: propagate whatever they like, manipulate in whatever way they like. Then, they have their external class-allies. Their money power, experience and efficiency turn stronger with their connections. "As the US political scientists Ronald Sylvia and Constantine Danopoulos explain, the availability of such cultural capital is restricted: 'Weekend shopping trips to Miami were the order of the day for the bourgeois classes." (Lee Salter "What's going on in Venezuela?", February 21, 2014)

It's an economic connection, a financial connection, a cultural connection, a political connection of the few native rich with their global masters. Propaganda appears "factual" with images and news reports craftily concocted by this connection.

Dr Salter, an academic from the UK, describes an incident experienced personally: "So, when a story needs to get out about the dramatic abuse of journalists (in one occasion I noted a human rights group release a story about such an abuse, which I investigated to find the original footage of a camera operator being jostled on a picket line), the lines of communication are open, and a primed international media is ready to accept anything that conforms to expectations."

Dr Salter cites two more experiences. The first one is with now world-"famous" Venezuelan "darkness":
"It is thus that I heard from an 'exile', a really cool, funky hippie-type whose plight had caught the sympathy of everyone in her wide network of English friends: (paraphrased) 'Chavez hates the people, he hates anyone with money. He is trying to stop the dams from producing electricity so that rich people can't have televisions and things. In Caracas they only have 4 hours of electricity per day'. My response: I've just come back from ten days in Venezuela, and there was one power cut of about 20 minutes."

And, the other one is:
"Another time I was stuck with rather scary English-speaking Venezuelan in a cable car in Caracas. She and her partner began talking to me and my friend about lightbulbs: 'you know anything about Venezuela, about Chavez? He's a communist you know? He's trying to destroy the country. He's trying to force everybody to have energy saving lightbulbs...but this isn't Cuba'. After 5 minutes of ranting, my friend in his inimitable Irish accent gently explained that they have energy saving lightbulbs in Ireland and he doesn't feel particularly oppressed by them."

A long drought, as Salter describes the background of energy saving Lghtbulbs, reduced water levels in hydropower dams in Venezuela that, in turn, reduced power generation. There were no required number of engineers with the expertise of working with the dams and rivers. At the same time, there was the increase in the sales of consumer electrical goods including refrigerators, which was encouraged by the government to improve the quality of life. "So, drought + lack of care for hydroelectric plants + increase demand on electricity = power cuts. The short-term solution: energy saving items." This was a Chavez "sin" in the world of the rich.

The current of propaganda turns a laughingstock as is exposed by a researcher:
"When quizzing Thomas Muhr, a researcher on Venezuela at the University of Bristol, about the mania over lightbulbs, he told me that it was all led by a rumor that Chavez was placing video cameras in them so he could spy on them in their homes. Quite."

Salter, an expert on media coverage of Venezuela, makes a comparison:
"It is worth reflecting how other states of emergency are mediated. After the 2011 riots in the UK, 3000 young people were swept up in a dragnet and sent to kangaroo courts for what would no doubt be called in Venezuela, a protest against an out of touch and corrupt government. The repressive clampdovvn was cheered on by the British media."

Then a hard fact is told by him:
"Yet if the current President Maduro or Chavez before him had received as small a proportion of the vote as Cameron, Venezuela would probably have been invaded by now."

Doesn't a perspective, of biasness of mainstream propaganda, emerge? It's a perspective of, broadly, interest of hegemony, and, actually, a class interest. The view based on class interest is described by Salter:
"The most recent protests are indeed about a lot of things, and no doubt reflect a plethora of voices .... Indeed, Venezuela still has ... a lot of problems. Yet the 'opposition' is as concerned with poverty as its leaders were when they presided over massive levels of poverty. They are as concerned with human rights as they were during the Caracazo Massacre. They are as concerned with democracy as they were when there was de facto exclusion of most of the population from political life. The big fear is the change in this latter. And it is this fear of the 'plebs' that drives the 'opposition'."

The opposition is not only driven by the fear of the plebs struggling to take control of their own lives to improve their life, whose 67% had to live on less than $2 a day in 1997. The super-rich like to regain their lost hegemony.

To counter the plebs, a part of mainstream media plays its role as it's owned by the 'opposition', the super-propertied absolute minority of the population. They have backing of the external masters. The minority of the population was skimming oil profit to fuel their wasteful ultra-luxury in Miami and New York, in London, Paris and Geneva, was engaged with land-hoarding, keeping idle thousands of hectares of land in the hope of pocketing a huge profit in future, while the country could not produce enough to feed its population. The majority, the poor, challenged this "democratic" land hoarding practice of the minority. The mode of challenge was closer to the mode of Lincoln.

The mainstream media stories ridicule their creators as it's exposed as cooked.

So, stories about and photographs of "brutality unleashed" by Chavez followers are circulated on Twitter and picked up by a part of mainstream media.

So, one finds photographs of protest and oppression from "Venezuela", as Dr Dawg has presented in a blog on February 17, 2014: "Some brutal cops, with nice woolly caps and fur collars ... guard against the 24°C Caracas weather, [they are] visiting police officers from Bulgaria", "a re-purposed photo taken in Argentina", "a photo from Chile", "an unfortunate fellow, shot in April and then again in the exact-same way during the current protests", "an iconic photo, which CNN had to admit that the graphic photo was actually taken in Singapore", "one from Greece", "an absolutely shameless steal from Egypt: this photo became known world-wide during the Arab Spring", "a heart-wrenching picture of babies in laundry-baskets, with the question, What kind of revolution is this? A photo from Honduras", "a religious procession, reincarnated as an anti-government protest". ("Constructing 'Venezuela' Protests: a Photo Gallery (fixed)", February 17, 2014)

These photographs from other countries have been spread as photographs of violence unleashed by the Venezuelan authorities. There are also similar photographs from Brazil, Catalonia and Syria.

This "objectivity" in news and photographs as tools of mainstream politics is not only a Venezuela case. This is an old practice mainstream politics resorts to in other countries and societies. History is replete with this type of examples. A very recent example is Syria. Prior to Syria, there was Iraq: Saddam's WMD, actually a long tube. There are countries in South Asia that also bear stark example of this practice.

This practice finds sudden emergence of writers preferring alternate media. They capitalize credibility of alternate media, sell biased political stories by blurring major questions in concerned society, and wage, as part of a long-term intervention plan, media and psychological war against the society. A part of alternate media "wisely" lends its space to these newly emergent writers. And, attempts to befool audience move on. And, plans are being implemented to manufacture heroes with long and "valuable" experience as Leopoldo Lopez in Venezuela is being made although Wikileaks cables don't portray him favorably.

It'll be befooling none but self to assume that the doctoring or "mistaken" use of photographs and distortion of facts are work of a few young boys and students. These can't be done without expert service and resource. A very few in this world has that resource and capacity.

Dr Dawg writes: The present "manufactured crisis is a re-run. Anyone remember the massive demo/counter-demo at the Miraflores palace in 2002, the lead-up to a short-lived coup against Hugo Chavez."
"There is no flabby pretense of 'objectivity' on the part of the international media when it comes to Venezuela. That country poses a stark threat to the hegemonic order... Having enough oil wealth to say No to all that, Venezuela created its own counter-hegemonic partnership... And domestically, while all we hear about is toilet-paper shortages and inflation, there has been substantial progress on a number of fronts for years now—a sharp reduction of dire poverty, major advances in education, reduced child mortality, and rapid steps taken towards gender equality, maternal health, and environmental protection."

Jack Johnston, a science teacher from England, recently experienced a situation in San Cristobal, Venezuela, first hand as he was spending nine days there. A group of students, according to Johnston, was complaining about insecurity, but was demanding the fall of the government. When asked about the response he had observed from the authorities to the situation, he replied, "Inexplicably non-existent. It's far from a repressive crackdown, the exact opposite. They've allowed a small number of students to occupy a main crossroads and dozens of blocs without any opposition... I explained to them [opposition activists] that there's no way this would be allowed to continue for more than one day in my country". (Ewan Robertson, "Venezuelan Government Sends Army to Combat 'Grave' Opposition Disorder near Colombian Border", February 22, 2014)

This type of "objective" news reporting happens and political "protests" are organized when one tries to move outside of the Empire's hegemony. Decades ago, Tehran experienced engaging of hired hoodlums to overthrow Mosaddegh.

Plans are drawn for destabilization and intervention. It's part of regular work by the world capital. Today's Venezuela-violence reiterates this part of politics by forces of hegemony.

Vol. 46, No. 37, Mar 23 - 29, 2014