Venezuela’s opposition united against Maduro, but divided within Page 7
Venezuela is not occupy Page 8
Friday, March 14, 2014 | Nº 195 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve
Opposition violence claims more lives On the night of March 8, community activist Gisella Rubilar was shot by a masked protestor as she attempted to clear a barricade that had been erected in one of the main thoroughfares of the Andean city of Merida. Rubilar, a Chilean citizen studying in Venezuela and a sympathizer of the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, was rushed to the hospital where she later died from a bullet that pierced her left eye. More than 20 people have now died as a result of the violence that has gripped some areas of the South American country.
ENGLISH EDITION/The artillery of ideas
Women’s day & free healthcare programs celebrated in Venezuela
President Maduro has invited all sectors to participate in a solution to political violence in the country. Page 4 Culture
Telesur in English to be launched The Latin American TV station will start an English-language channel in July. Page 5 International
Venezuela & Panama break ties The two nations ruptured relations this week after Panama was accused of meddling. Page 6
Venezuela Informs UN on Human Rights Investigations T/ AVN
Peace dialogue continues
Venezuelans commemorated International Women’s Day last Saturday with a series of public acts and forums that saw the participation of community activists, government ofﬁcials and military personnel. On Monday, head of state Nicolas Maduro presided over the graduation of a new group of community doctors to ensure healthcare for the nation’s poor. The act was held in celebration of Venezuela’s National Doctor’s Day and saw the participation of graduating students from the states of Miranda, Vargas, and the Capital District of Caracas. Page 3
Chile’s Bachelet supports Venezuelan democracy T/ AVN
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet expressed support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro, with the aim of preserving peace and democracy in Venezuela, said Wednesday Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua. “We had the opportunity to talk for a few minutes and we thanked her for her words of support of
the Venezuelan people, President Nicolas Maduro and her commitment to democracy”, he said. Jaua attended Bachelet’s inaugural ceremony in Santiago de Chile this week. The Venezuelan Foreign Minister also conveyed that Bachelet said Venezuela “could rely on Chile for whatever is needed to ensure peace and democracy in our country”. Jaua stressed that the support shown by Chile to Venezuela was the same expressed by most heads of state in the region. Regional foreign ministers also met in the Chilean capital as part of an UNASUR meeting on the situation in Venezuela.
enezuela’s Ombudsperson, Gabriela Ramirez, delivered documents to the United Nations regarding investigations in Venezuela into the alleged physical mistreatment of people during violent events caused by opposition groups in the country. Ramirez explained that her ofﬁce is currently tracking 44 such cases. Regarding security ofﬁcers who have allegedly exceeded their authority through repression, she noted that “several have already been detained” and those investigations are ongoing. Ramirez indicated that should the charges prove to be true, the affected people “should be secure [in knowing] that those people will go to jail where they will serve terms our laws establish”. The Ombudsperson also spoke to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as well as to the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, about the hate campaign waged against her ofﬁce and herself following a lie published by the media, speciﬁcally El Nacional newspaper. This past Sunday, that newspaper published an article titled “Ombudswoman justiﬁes torture of student youth”. The article distorted comments she made about torture and placed them entirely out of context. “I denounced that information in front of the media and I sent a reply within ten minutes to El Nacional. They left that information up for four hours, they denied my constitutional right to a response and they did not publish the statement”, she said. The false information in the El Nacional article also led to death threats against Ramirez and her family.
2 Impact | . s Friday, March 14, 2014
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela’s protests claim another innocent life; residents clamor for increased police action T/ Edward Ellis P/ Agencies
n the night of March 8, community activist Gisella Rubilar was shot by a masked protestor as she attempted to clear a barricade that had been erected in one of the main thoroughfares of the Andean city of Merida. Rubilar, a Chilean citizen studying in Venezuela and a sympathizer of the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, was rushed to the hospital where she later died from a bullet that pierced her left eye. Two other members of the Merida community of Pie del Tiro were wounded in the incident which, while sparking outrage in social media, has been underreported in the international, and even the national Venezuelan press. More than 20 people have now died as a result of the violence that has gripped some areas of the South American country. The night before the murder, I spoke with the 47 year-old Rubilar as she and other members of her neighborhood community council attempted to maintain the access that links the main road to their lower class residences open. “We’re here watching over this space because this morning we worked with the governor’s ofﬁce to clear [the barricades in the road]”, the mother of three said. “But the protestors in the neighborhood across the road want to put up the barricades again and the community does not want them to because it’s preventing us from buying food, from moving around, and for getting on with our lives”, she insisted. The protests in Merida began in early February and have been spearheaded by extremist sectors of Venezuela’s rightwing opposition. Similar demonstrations have taken place in the capital of Caracas and other major cities, but the Andean states of Tachira and Merida have seen some of the worst and most prolonged violence. Public buildings, health clinics, security vehicles, and buses have been torched by the protestors who began their guarimbas, or violent street
Community activist Gisella Rubilar
actions, decrying Venezuela’s high inﬂation, insecurity, and the shortage of some consumer products. Ironically, the majority of the protests have occurred in middle class neighborhoods where crime is lowest and where living standards are highest.
They have also occurred in the municipalities where the Venezuelan opposition has traditionally been the strongest. Such is the case in the wealthy neighborhood of Altamira in Caracas, in the city of San Cristobal in Tachira, and in the municipality of Libertador in Merida.
While economic and security concerns have been the most ostensible instigator of the protests, the student groups and opposition parties that have led the demonstrations have been vocal in their demands that the democratically elected president of the country step down. The banners that adorn the makeshift barricades make this point clear, with the slogan “Maduro Leave!” being the most popular spray painted onto tattered clothes and scraps of tin. A press release emitted by the groups who have been most active in the guarimbas further indicates that the aim of the protestors is more akin to the 2002 attempted coup d’etat in Venezuela than it is about solving the alleged hardships facing the country. “We do not accept the controls imposed by this Castro-communist regime...” the release reads, demanding that any dialogue with the government be “conditioned on a complete overhaul of the political system.” Yet, while the middle and upper classes protests, it is clear that it is the working class that suffers most. The barricades in Merida have been particularly detrimental to those who depend on public transportation to support their families. Blockades have prevented students from attending class-
es, workers from earning wages, and small businesses from opening their doors. “We’re all Venezuelans and we all have the right to move around freely... I drive a motorbike for a living and it’s been a month since I’ve been able to work. I can’t provide for my children. So how is that fair?” asked Cesar, a community member at last Friday’s action. On Monday, a group of armed opposition demonstrators in Merida hijacked two buses and demanded a work stoppage under threats of violence. It is clear that the extremist sectors responsible for terrorist acts are becoming more and more isolated. Greater numbers of opposition supporters are calling for an end to the guarimbas and the voice of indignation emanating from government supporters is growing stronger each day. In the city of Merida, however, many residents continue to question the effectiveness of the National Guard and the state’s police force as they have failed to successfully put down the protests. Although the security corps are present, there has been no apparent strategy, no evident plan and no coordinated actions to detain the small numbers of extremists who, in some cases, have taken control of certain areas of the city. “If the authorities don’t take drastic actions and put an end to this, then the society will do it themselves. We’re fed up”, said one resident last Friday. Some argue that the government is overly concerned with its image abroad as international media outlets attempt to paint the Maduro administration as repressing dissent in the country. At the same time, if the government does not enforce public order and enact a realistic police strategy, the violence could very well escalate as extremist factions of the opposition become even more desperate. If this happens, the death of innocent community members such as Gisella Rubilar has the frightening potential to become more frequent as citizens take it upon themselves to restore order in the areas affected by the protests.
. s Friday, March 14, 2014
The artillery of ideas
Women celebrate greater rights as result of Bolivarian Revolution T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
enezuelans commemorated International Women’s Day last Saturday with a series of public acts and forums that saw the participation of community activists, government ofﬁcials and military personnel. In the capital Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro was in attendance for a peace conference focused on Venezuelan Women as part of the ongoing forum established by the head of state to promote dialogue in the face of violent protests in the country. Maduro highlighted the advances that women have seen under the nation’s Bolivarian Revolution spearheaded by his predecessor Hugo Chavez and afﬁrmed the importance that feminism plays in Venezuela’s move towards socialism. “There will be no socialism if there is no equality for women in society. There will be no socialism if feminism does not become a daily reality in economic production, in study, in our cultural lives, and in the construction of a new family model”, Maduro said. Also on hand for the conference was Andreina Tarazon, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Gender Equality. Tarazon spoke of the necessity of linking women’s struggles with that of a new society which intends to put the rights and needs of the population before the excessive proﬁts and beneﬁts of the wealthy. “The only system that is capable of providing dignity, culture, and sustenance to our women is the socialist system. It is the alternative metabolism to capitalism which promotes peace, inclusion and equality”, she asserted. The minister additionally underscored the growing visibility of women workers and students as a result of the policies of the Venezuelan government, which has created greater opportunities for low-interest loans and scholarships. “We’re talking about social peace that has to do with our women farmers receiving greater rights thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution. We are defending a peace that is seen in the face of our women students
who today represent 65 percent of those matriculated in our universities”, Tarazon stated. Venezuela’s ﬁrst woman to be designated as Defense Min-
ister, Carmen Melendez, informed that a full 33.5 percent of the South American nation’s armed forces is comprised of women.
Thousands of community doctors graduate from government health program T/ COI P/ Presidential Press
uring a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace of Miraﬂores in Caracas, head of state Nicolas Maduro presided over the graduation of a new group of community doctors on Monday to ensure healthcare for the nation’s poor. The act was held in celebration of Venezuela’s National Doctor’s Day and saw the participation of graduating students from the states of Miranda, Vargas, and the Capital District of Caracas. Monday’s group formed part of the 2,585 new Venezuelan doctors who received their diplomas from a governmentsponsored program that has trained more than 18,000 medical professionals over the past decade.
President Maduro informed during the commencement ceremony that 20,000 students are currently receiving training in the program, which is a joint initiative between Venezuela and Cuba. Thanks to the collaboration between the allied governments of Havana and Caracas, the head of state said, the social mission Barrio Adentro was created in 2003 and has carried out millions of free check-ups, operations, and rehab programs for the Venezuelan population. “We have to be aware that with the birth of Barrio Adentro in 2003, we saw the initiation of a new era and the construction of a new public healthcare system that is free, universal, and of maximum scientiﬁc quality”, Maduro afﬁrmed.
“[There are] women deployed throughout the national territory, giving their services to ﬁght for the homeland and to defend the nation from
In his address, the former union leader also announced greater investment in Venezuela’s public health infrastructure. More than 1.8 billion bolivars ($285 million) have been approved for the construction and repair of Barrio Adentro health centers, for the elaboration of a new hospital for the community of San Felix in the state of Bolivar, and for the acquisition of vaccines. Twenty-four additional hospitals will also receive a boost in funding which, according to Maduro, will “put them in a situation of optimal operational capacity”. Venezuelan Health Minister Francisco Armada referred to the construction of more than 10 thousand community health centers in Venezuela as a result of the program Barrio Adentro as “a consolidation of the national public health system”. “We celebrate...this dream of Comandante Chavez when he designed, alongside Fidel Castro, what is the right to health care. The reality is that people who had no type of health care today have access
any kind of aggression. [There are women] behind the canon to protect the Venezuelan people”, said Melendez. The Defense Minister attributes the increased inclusion of women in the armed forces as part of the legacy of the late Hugo Chavez who “with his feminist character allowed us to become visible and valued in order to take on the roles that we women are fulﬁlling”. Following hours of discussion and debate, the 91 groups in representation for Saturday’s conference delivered a series of proposals to President Maduro calling for a strengthening of the Bolivarian Revolution and the creation of a commission to dismantle patriarchy in the government. The document further proposes greater protection for victims of domestic violence in the country, greater discussion of sexual rights and sex education, and an opening of a debate on abortion, which continues to be illegal in Venezuela. “Today, March 8, we afﬁrm that Venezuelan women will continue to be in the streets, defending the economic rights that have been won and defending peace and life”, the resolution reads.
to health services which are guaranteed as a result of Barrio Adentro”, Armada said.
MEETING WITH ARTISTS Later on Monday, President Maduro attended a meeting with musicians, poets, and celebrities who have joined the government’s call for peace and dialogue in the face of the violent protests that have occurred in some municipalities in the country. The event, entitled “Songs of Tolerance and Peace” saw the delivery of a series of proposals by Venezuelan artists to promote understanding between the different political factions in the country. “Lets create an international campaign for peace”, said merengue singer Omar Enrique. “Some international artists have created a vision of the country which isn’t real. In front of this, we have the duty to tell the truth and to carry this message of peace... Our reality is totally different than what has been shown in the international media”, Enrique stated.
4 Politics | . s Friday, March 14, 2014
The artillery of ideas
OAS approves message of solidarity and support of Venezuelan government T/ Zoë Clara Dutka
Venezuelan government organizes peace talks while opposition avoids dialogue T/ Ewan Robertson P/ Agencies
he Venezuelan government has established regional peace talks in order to end the violence perpetrated by extremist right-wing groups in recent weeks. While a few opposition politicians have participated in the talks, all main opposition parties have rejected the government’s offer of dialogue. “I call on the MUD [opposition Democratic Unity coalition] to stop being scared and enter dialogue… they have a guaranteed political space”, said President Nicolas Maduro on Monday. “Come in, sit down, say everything that you want. We’ll sit where you want without an agenda, it can be in private, behind closed doors, and we can say everything we have to say to each other”, Maduro offered. Since early February sectors of the opposition have been protesting against the govern-
ment, while a radical wing has used violent street barricades and riots to try and force President Maduro’s resignation. Two weeks ago the government launched a national Peace Conference initiative to resolve the situation. In the initial meeting at the presidential palace in Caracas, business groups, religious leaders and some opposition politicians participated. However, the main opposition parties of the MUD coalition refused to attend. The parties of the MUD also rejected Maduro’s most recent call to dialogue. “The government isn’t interested in sincere dialogue. What they have is an urgent need to show to the world that it’s a government that dialogues”, claimed Tomas Gunipa, secretary general of right-wing Primero Justicia party. Other opposition leaders made similar statements. Authorities are also pursuing a strategy of regional talks between different social and political sectors to attempt to
reach agreements and end the violence. Outside of the wealthy east side of Caracas, street barricades and violence have been strongest in the Andean state of Tachira. Since last week government and local opposition representatives have been meeting in working groups to reach understandings and design strategies to end the violence. On Monday, Interior Affairs and Justice Minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, announced that a permanent commission would be set up to establish normality in Tachira state. “There will be a monitoring commission with people from the opposition and the government in order to keep working on problems, so that they keep working on existing commitments and pending tasks”, the minister explained in an interview with state channel VTV. Rodriguez Torres said that authorities would work towards a peaceful resolution based on the context and prob-
he Organization of American States (OAS) approved in last Friday’s summit a statement expressing solidarity and support for the Venezuelan government in light of recent events. On March 7, after two full days of heated debate, 29 states of the OAS voted in favor of a declaration lamenting the victims of protest-related violence in Venezuela, detailing the need for continued dialogue, and decidedly rejecting any notion of intervention or sanctions upon Venezuela’s democratically elected government. Only Panama, the United States and Canada voted against the statement. Both Panama and the US made assertions included in the declaration’s footnotes accusing the OAS of partiality, and pointed to diplomatic intervention as an imperative step for protecting human rights and democracy in the region. US vice-president Joe Biden made his stark difference of opinion known upon his arrival in Chile this morning, where he will attend Tuesday’s inauguration of President-elect Michelle Bachelet. “The situation in Venezuela reminds me of the past, when strongmen ruled through violence and oppression, and human rights,
lems of Tachira, in order to achieve “structural peace”. However the minister warned that extremist groups were trying to undermine peace talks, and that the opposition mayor of the state’s biggest city was helping to organize street barricades. “The peace conference [in Tachira] is achieving results, but radical and violent groups generate greater violence, and use these [barricade] groups to sabotage peace talks”, he said. Further up the Andes in the state of Merida, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) state governor, Alexis Ramirez, also began peace talks last week. In Merida city, the state capital, two people
hyperinﬂation, shortages and extreme poverty caused havoc on the peoples of the hemisphere”, Biden said in an interview with Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. “[Maduro] should listen to the Venezuelan people, and look at the example of those leaders who resisted oppression in the Americas, or risk repeating the injustices against which they fought so bravely”. Biden did not specify what exemplary leaders resisted oppression and whose oppression they resisted. Maduro responded by arguing that Biden’s remarks are revenge for the OAS decision to stand by the Venezuelan government in the face of recent opposition protests and violence. “Why did Biden attack Venezuela upon his arrival in Chile?, Maduro asked. “It’s because they know they were defeated in the OAS”. Maduro, in turn, praised the OAS declaration as an important show of support for Venezuelan democracy. On March 12, after Bachelet’s inauguration, foreign ministers of the UNASUR bloc (Union of South American Nations) met in Santiago to discuss the situation in Venezuela. The summit was organized in part to see where each participating nation might stand if the OAS had approved an intervention.
have died in recent weeks as a direct result of the opposition street barricades. Ramirez said the talks had the purpose of establishing “respectful, tolerant and sincere dialogue with all sectors…to establish an agenda of political and social peace that allows all citizens to re-start everyday life”. However the local Catholic Church, the opposition mayor of Merida city, and the local representatives of the MUD all refused to attend the talks. The pro-opposition archbishop of Merida, Baltazar Porras, questioned the government’s “ﬁrm will to achieve citizen peace” and defended the street barricades as “forms of protest”.
. s Friday, March 14, 2014
The artillery of ideas
Maduro announces Telesur English to launch in July T/ Ryan Mallett-Outtrim P/ Agencies
resident Nicolas Maduro has ofﬁcially announced that the pan-Latin American broadcaster Telesur will launch an English language section on July 24. “We will inaugurate Telesur English, that’s what it will take to get serious in the [United States]”, Maduro stated during a ceremony commemorating Women’s Day on Saturday. According to the president, a “media war” against Venezuela is being waged in the international press and on social media. Like its Spanish language counterpart, Telesur English will provide news coverage from a progressive, south-centric angle. Based in Caracas, Telesur was ﬁrst launched on July 24, 2005 as a progressive alternative to Latin America’s private broadcasters, such as CNN Español. The station’s editorial policy is aimed at “showing Latin America through the eyes of Latin Americans”. At its launch in 2005, Venezuela’s then information minister and ﬁrst head of Telesur Andres Izarra explained that the channel is intended as “an initiative against cultural imperialism and against imperialism in any of its expressions”. “But, this should not be interpreted as an initiative against the people of the US”, Izarra stated. The channel is funded by left-wing governments of Latin American countries including Venezuela, Argen-
tina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Cuba. It carries no commercial advertising. Currently, Telesur broadcasts in parts of Latin America, Europe and Africa. Telesur has also been available in the US since 2011, despite criticism from some lawmakers in Washington in recent years. The broadcaster already offers limited online material in English and Portuguese, including subtitled clips from its news broadcasts. However, in January, Maduro stated that Telesur was planning to provide more coverage in languages other than Spanish, after ﬁrst hinting at plans to expand into three languages last year. Along with English, Maduro has indicated that the broadcaster has considered providing coverage in French and Portuguese. “We’re heading towards a second stage of Telesur”, Maduro stated. The launch of Telesur English will coincide with commemorations for the anniversary of the South American liberation ﬁgure Simon Bolivar’s birth.
Venezuela’s 2014 International Book Fair is a “tribute to Chavez” T/ Ryan Mallett-Outtrim P/ Agencies
enezuela’s annual International Book Fair (FILVEN2014) launches today, as part of a government push to promote reading. Twenty-two countries will be represented at the event, which according to organizers boasts around 200 different booths and over 100 exhibitions. This is the tenth consecutive year that such a book fair has been held. According to head of the National Book Center (CENAL) Christian Valles, the FILVEN’s main objective this year is not only to encourage reading, but also to foster national pride and an appreciation of Latin American literature. During an interview with state broadcaster VTV, Valles described the encouragement of reading as “an instrument of absolute liberation for the people”. Along with purchasing books, visitors can also attend writing workshops and other special events over the course of the weekend.
Brazil is this year’s guest of honor, though attendees are coming from as far as Spain, France, Haiti, and the Palestinian Territories. The threeday FILVEN 2014 runs until Sunday at three sites in Caracas, including the National University of Arts, the public meeting rooms at the Teresa Carreño and near Plaza de Los Museos. Entry is free. First established as the Caracas Book Fair, FILVEN was launched amid a national campaign to eradicate illiteracy in 2005. The literacy campaign has been one of the hallmarks of Venezuela’s socialist revolution, initiated under former President Hugo Chavez. Venezuela was declared a territory free of illiteracy in 2005 by the United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “The fair gives tribute to Chavez”, Valles told VTV. “It’s a product of all that the Comandante [Chavez] built to guarantee the cultural rights of the people of Venezuela”, Valles explained. Like in previous years, the fair also offers an area speciﬁcally aimed at children, located at the Plaza de Los Museos. Vice minister for cultural economy Gaston Fortis has told Noticias24 Radio that the children’s pavilion will have “incredible things from comics workshops to other activities that were designed especially for [children]”. FILVEN 2014 opens each day at 10am, and continues to 8pm. The children’s pavilion opens at 9am.
6 International | . s Friday, March 14, 2014
The artillery of ideas
T/ Paul Dobson P/ Agencies
resident Maduro broke off diplomatic and commercial relations with Panama this week, following the latter’s attempts to intervene in the sovereign affairs of the nation by openly supporting anti-government protests in the country which are calling for the ousting of the Venezuelan head of state. Maduro denounced that the Panamanian President, Ricardo Martinelli, was conspiring and trying to use the Washington-based regional block, the Organization of American States (OAS), to meddle in Venezuela’s affairs. “A right wing president, who doesn’t dignify even his own people, is creating the conditions for the OAS and other international organisms to move towards intervention. I am talking about the President of Panama. I have decided, considering the open conspiring of their foreign minister, to break diplomatic and commercial relations with Panama”, declared Maduro. The Panamanian Ambassador and 3 diplomatic staff were immediately expelled from Venezuela. “Venezuela is ﬁghting for its stability”, explained Maduro, and “whoever looks for problems with Venezuela will be left high and dry. Whoever looks for problems with Venezuela will bottom out. Whoever looks for problems with Venezuela will pay for it”.
OAS CONSPIRACY BACKFIRES The problems started when Panama convened an emergency meeting of the OAS this week to discuss “the Venezuelan case”, echoing the US agenda of proposing third party intervention and even sanctions on the Maduro administration. The Venezuelan opposition has launched a strong international campaign to distort what’s happening in the country, and hoped to use the US-dominated OAS to justify their calls for a coup d’état against Maduro. However, despite serious pressure applied on member states from the US and Panama, the regional body voted 29 to 3 to support an alternative declaration which “recognizes, plainly sup-
Venezuela breaks relations with Panama for interference ports, and encourages the initiatives and efforts of the democratically elected government and of the political, economic, and social sectors to continue advancing in the process of national dialogue in Venezuela”. It further expresses its “solidarity with the people and government of Venezuela”, as well as clarifying that member nations “respect the principal of non-intervention” and “commitment with the defense of institutional democracy”. Maduro highlighted the unity of the region behind his initiatives for peace and dialogue, with only the US, Canada, and Panama choosing to reject the declaration. “The OAS has never obtained such a strong vote for such an important declaration as this”, he explained. Panama “did the dirty work of the US Government. How about that?! Venezuela is accompanied and loved by this world of brother and sisters from our American Continent”. The regional bloc UNASUR, which has largely replaced the OAS and which excludes the USA and Canada, is due to issue a similar declaration in the upcoming days. Maduro reinforced the nation’s right to sovereignty and to resolve its affairs internally, without the help of
“Venezuela has not asked for the intervention of the OAS, and if they were to designate a delegation to come to Venezuela, they would have to enter clandestinely, because no OAS delegation can touch down in Venezuela without our authorization! We don’t believe in the OAS, our destiny if to the South!” the US. “No one can conspire to request intervention from the OAS without punishment”, stated Maduro. “This is the Patria of Bolívar, and it must be respected!” Furthermore, the Venezuelan President declared that even if the attempts of Panama, whom he described as a “lackey” of the US, had been successful, Venezuela would not permit an interventionist delegation from the OAS in the country. “Venezuela has not asked for the intervention of the OAS, and if they were to designate a delegation to come to Venezuela, they would have to enter clandestinely, because no OAS delegation can touch down in Venezuela without our authorization! We don’t believe in the OAS, our destiny if to the South!”
90% OF DEBT TO PANAMA “FRAUDULENT” Following the breaking of relations, the Venezuelan opposition declared themselves
“The debt concerns ‘merchandise which never left Panama and which they want to charge us for’, hence, ‘we have suspended the revision of the debt and we will start penal investigations against Venezuelan businessmen, as well as asking that the Panamanian authorities investigate” in support of Panama, which is one of the largest trading partners of the Venezuelan commercial class which form the backbone of the opposition’s support base. It is also a popular safe haven for wealthier Venezuelans ﬂeeing the justice system.
In 2012, Venezuela imported roughly $1.7 billion of merchandise from Panama, and in 2013 over $600 million, almost entirely imported through the private sector. It is also a popular destination to run currency scams, taking advantage of the subsidized dollars from the Venezuelan state. Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua, explained that his Panamanian counterpart had been warned “time and time again” about such repercussions for such conspiracy and the illegal acts taking place. He went on to explain that “we are not breaking relations with the Panamanian people, who are linked to us by deep Bolivarian ties”, but rather with the government and the business class. Following the breaking of commercial relations, the Panamanian commercial entities reminded the Venezuelan government of the $1 billion of debt it has with various ﬁrms in the Free Trade Sector of Colon, Panama. Due to currency controls in place in Venezuela, Venezuelan importing ﬁrms receive subsidized dollars through state meditation, leaving the state responsible for the payment to the foreign ﬁrms. However, Jaua explained that upon revision of this debt, it seems that 90% is fraudulent and forms part of the currency scams frequently used by Venezuelan commercial sectors to obtain subsidized dollars for speculative resale without ever bringing the promised goods into the country. The debt concerns “merchandise which never left Panama and which they want to charge us for”, hence, “we have suspended the revision of the debt and we will start penal investigations against Venezuelan businessmen, as well as asking that the Panamanian authorities investigate” explained the Foreign Minister. The Panamanian government expressed it “surprise” at Maduro’s decision, and reinforced its desire to see peace and democracy in Venezuela. Panama is one of the world’s largest trading posts, and has been a staunch ally of the US for decades. It is a frequent destination for Venezuelan opposition leaders.
. s Friday, March 7, 2014
The artillery of ideas
Venezuela’s opposition is united against Maduro, but internally divided T/ Roberto Lovato P/ AFP
is face and muscular arms sweating, hands dirtied from the sand-ﬁlled sugar bags he dragged toward the makeshift rampart blocking half of his street, Emilio Palacios’ immediate political struggle was with his mother. “No, Mama, no!” he yelled toward his mother, Maria Bravo, a longtime resident of the Chacaito district of Venezuela’s capital. “No!” he repeated, after hearing her tell this reporter that the purpose of the barricade under construction in front of their apartment was “getting rid of this government”. Measuring his words, he offered a different explanation. “We’re here as students to protest against the insecurity in the country and scarcity and the killing of students by the National Guard”, said Palacios, an engineering student at Central University. “This is not a protest against the government. We’re sending a message to the government”. “OK. We have differences”, responded Bravo, a 48-year-old publicity and marketing executive, while sitting in a plastic lounge chair alongside her dog, Bruno, who almost knocked over a makeshift sign saying “Resistencia SOS Venezuela”. On the anniversary of the death of socialist President Hugo Chavez, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his 10-month-old government. Demonstrators frustrated by a long string of electoral defeats in municipal, gubernatorial and presidential election challenges to the Chavistas are exploring new strategies: taking to the streets to demand Maduro’s resignation as a solution for rampant crime and food shortages. But history suggests it may be difﬁcult to overthrow a Venezuelan government without support from the country’s have-nots, and they have yet to be seen mimicking the burning of garbage or smashing of concrete seen in more well-off neighborhoods. “Yes, we’re here to support the students, to protest the waiting in lines for food like we
were in Cuba”, Bravo continued. “But we’ll be in the streets until this nefarious government, until this dictatorship goes, until Maduro renounces!” Asked how the crisis affects her well-groomed mixed sheepdog, she said, “Four kilos of dog food costs 400 bolivares ($63). Four hundred bolivares! Absurdo!” A visibly tense Emilio raised his eyebrows, nodded his head from left to right and rushed down the street to continue gathering tree trunks and sugar bags to fortify the barricade. The lines of burning garbage, rocks and dead trees were not clearly drawn. Neither are the political divisions within Venezuela’s opposition. The family argument between Palacios and Bravo reﬂects wider differences in the opposition involving politics, strategy and tactics over the protests and street clashes that have left 18 dead, including some Chavistas. While Chavez built the base of his movement among Venezuela’s poor and working class, the current protests are centered in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods. The movement challenging Maduro is led by wealthy and privileged individuals, some of whose photographs feature regularly on the society pages of El Universal and other newspapers. And they seem unable to agree on whether change will be achieved via the ballot box and negotiation or through insur-
rection and violence — and also on who should lead the opposition. What they are united over is their desire to end crime and shortages, but also to reverse the Chavez legacy of major government spending in housing, education and other social programs, limits on proﬁts that can be made by companies and other socialist initiatives. The most visible leaders of the opposition — former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, the telegenic Harvard-educated former mayor of Chacao Leopoldo Lopez and Lopez’s closest ally, Maria Corina Machado — all hail from families that own or have powerful positions with conglomerates in media, food and other industries. All are connected to middle- and upper-class student groups currently protesting in the streets of Caracas. And WikilLeaks cables suggest that the key protest groups have, over many years, been the beneﬁciaries of hundreds of millions of dollars in US “democracy promotion” assistance. Despite efforts to project unity at recent rallies and marches, deep differences divide the opposition. Lopez and Machado are seen as promoting the more confrontational street actions to end Chavismo, but other opposition leaders fear that those tactics will alienate the larger public. Some opposition leaders even called for a moratorium on protests out of respect
for commemorations of Chavez this week — a call that was ignored by student leaders and Machado. Capriles and his key allies, including a number of industrialists, are more inclined to press for negotiations with Maduro, signaling discomfort with the more radical approach of the unyielding “Salida” (“Exit”) call by Lopez, Machado and many student groups on the streets who demand Maduro’s ouster. Capriles ally Lorenzo Mendoza, one of the wealthiest people in Venezuela, recently stood alongside Maduro to report on the National Conference for Peace, convened by the president and attended by leaders in politics and industry. “This is a convening to build a peace agenda”, declared a solemn Mendoza to a national audience. Statements like Mendoza’s also reﬂect growing discomfort on the right with some of the student violence, like that which ended the life of Santiago Henrique Pedroza Longa. He was a 29-year-old motorcyclist who was beheaded by barbed wire put up by students at the behest of a pro-opposition retired general who had tweeted instructions on how to “neutralize the criminal hordes on bikes”. And then there are the more radical student activists who distrust the close ties between fellow student groups and wellconnected, well-heeled leaders
of the political parties. “Leopoldo Lopez is a prefabricated martyr engaged in political theater designed to promote him as the new leader of the opposition”, said Joshua Cespedes, a 20-year-old workingclass student protester and member of the Organization of Nationalist Students (ORDEN). “Capriles is the same, but he’s losing ground to him because people on our side are getting desperate and want quick solutions”, he said on Sunday at an opposition protest, standing next to a colleague hiding his face behind large, dark shades and a black poster with big white letters saying “Negotiation = Submission”. Cespedes and other youth founded ORDEN after concluding that “politics in Venezuela is controlled by international interests. The opposition is controlled by the US and Obama, and the government by Cuba. So the only solution is a nationalist solution”. ORDEN traces its nationalist legacy to El Generalissimo Marcos Perez Jimenez, a former dictator, whose repressive policies eventually brought about his demise. Many years and several political defeats later, Perez Jimenez’s legacy still brings division to the right. After unfurling a banner with a picture of the smiling generalissimo, members of ORDEN were violently challenged by supporters of rival opposition groups during a widely televised opposition gathering on Jan. 23, 2013. “We were beaten with our own ﬂags, punched, kicked at and dragged out of the conference — all at the hands of our ‘allies’”, said Cespedes. Despite the internal tensions, he said, he and the other members of ORDEN will “continue to organize and agitate in the streets”. Striking a philosophical pose about the possibility of continued student clashes with Venezuelan government forces, 62-year-old Edith Mujica, Secretary for Organization for Caracas in Primero Justicia — the political party founded by both Lopez and Capriles — worried that the continued confrontation will not yield the desired results. “We may learn that all this excitement in the streets turns out to be an error”, said Mujica. “We might actually end up looking like we don’t want peace. We may even end up strengthening Maduro and the Chavistas. And we all agree we don’t want to do anything to make them stronger than they already are”.
Friday, March 14, 2014 | Nº 195 | Caracas | www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve
! PUBLICATION OF THE &UNDACION #ORREO DEL /RINOCO s Editor-in-Chief %VA 'OLINGER s Graphic Design Pablo Valduciel L. - Aimara Aguilera - Audra Ramones
Venezuela is not occupy: US Congress got it wrong
sabotage by elite domestic elements backed by the US. Unlike the under-funded Occupy Movement, the opposition in Venezuela has enjoyed hundreds of millions of US aid dollars according to WikiLeaks documents. Unlike the militantly leaderless Occupy Movement, the Venezuelan opposition is headed most prominently by the US prep school and Harvard educated Leopoldo Lopez, a scion of one of Venezuela’s wealthiest families. Ditto for Maria Corina Machado, who founded the nonproﬁt Sumate, a major recipient of US regime-change funding. Or take retired General Angel Vivas who tweeted instructions to opposition followers on how to “neutralize the criminal hordes” by stringing taut wire across roads, which could (and has) decapitated people.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AS A PLEBISCITE
T/ Roger Harris
ith demonstrating students in the streets confronting state security forces, the recent unrest and violence in Venezuela superﬁcially bears a resemblance to the Occupy Movement that began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park on September 2011. But there the similarity ends.
MANUFACTURED CRISIS The overwhelming character of Occupy was its spontaneity, unpredictability, and certainly its independence from corporate or government inﬂuence. Occupy appealed to and was supported by the disposed and marginalized. The Venezuelan unrest has been the opposite. Building on genuine popular discontent in an already highly polarized context, the recent violence in Venezuela has all the elements of a manufactured crisis. To ﬁnd a script for the violence to come in Venezuela, one need only go to the Brookings Institute’s January 23rd memo to President Obama suggesting “inciting a violent popular re-
action” could “oust the radicals and president”. In the polite doublespeak of the Washington consensus, the memo deplores violence at the same time it welcomes its possibilities including a “traditional coup” in Venezuela. The source of this memo is not a fringe right-wing nut-shop. The Washington, DC-based Brookings Institute is funded in major part by the US government and is ranked as the most inﬂuential think tank in the US and in the world. Some 98% of Brookings’s employees’ political donations went to Democrats. The positions of the Brookings Institute are generally considered reﬂective of ofﬁcial US policy, which is to achieve regime change in Venezuela despite the democratic will of its people.
SABOTAGE BY THE WEALTHY Venezuela is experiencing serious problems: rampant inﬂation, scarcities of basic consumer goods such as toilet paper, and one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. Crime and consumer product shortages are complex problems
“Defeated electorally, the more right-wing elements in the opposition implemented a strategy of fomenting violence to provoke a government overreaction which could then be used as an excuse to call in outside assistance from the US and its allies with the hope of overthrowing the democratically elected government” deeply rooted in Venezuela’s history and the predominant role of oil in its economy. Neither President Chavez nor President Maduro’s governments have been fully able to resolve these problems; both committed missteps as well as had their efforts blunted by individual corruption within state agencies. But in major part, the Venezuelan people have been victims of deliberate
Far from spontaneous, what triggered the current unrest in Venezuela have not been upticks in crime, inﬂation, and shortages of consumer goods. Under the leadership of President Maduro, there have been modest improvements in some of these indices (though there is a long way to go). Rather the December 8th municipal elections in Venezuela were a signiﬁcant precipitating factor. The opposition had touted the upcoming elections as a popular plebiscite that would condemn the Maduro government and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. And indeed the elections proved to be a mandate, but not as the opposition hoped. The government party won by a landslide of over 70% of the municipalities. Defeated electorally, the more right-wing elements in the opposition implemented a strategy of fomenting violence to provoke a government overreaction which could then be used as an excuse to call in outside assistance from the US and its allies with the hope of overthrowing the democratically elected government. This strategy of deliberately provoking violence is backﬁring on the opposition. More moderate elements in the opposition, such as former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, have broken with the more militant right and have criticized them. Even more telling is that the violence has almost entirely been perpetrated by the rich and mid-
dle-class and contained in their own neighborhoods. The majority poor and working class people, although suffering from the current economic and security problems, continue to support the Bolivarian government. The majority of the Venezuelan people see their elected government as the solution not the cause of the difﬁculties as shown in recent public opinion polls.
US CONGRESS GOT IT WRONG It comes as no surprise that one of the most bellicose reactionary members of the US Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (RFlorida) sponsored a resolution condemning the Venezuelan government and accusing it of promoting violence, eroding democracy, and engaging in political intimidation. The resolution urges the US State Department to work with other countries and the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene in the international affairs of Venezuela. (Unlike Occupy, where the neo-conservatives in the US never suggested that there was a need for international intervention on behalf of the beleaguered Occupiers.) The response of the US House of Representatives was sobering and reﬂective of the military bent of the Washington consensus. On March 4, House Resolution 488 was approved by a nearly unanimous 393 in favor and only one dissenting vote from a Republican congressman from Kentucky. The entire progressive caucus from California fell in line behind the resolution. Now both Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan effort are considering sanctions against the sovereignty of Venezuela. As shown by the lead-up to the Iraq War, Congressional resolutions such as this can pave the way for future US aggression. The distortions by Representatives who should know better need to be directly challenged. Ask your Representative why, in the recent words of a Colombian commentator, “Venezuela is an odd country, the only place where the rich protest and the poor celebrate.” And demand that they renounce their vote and let the Venezuelans solve their own problems without the meddling of the US. Roger D. Harris is president of the Task Force on the Americas (http://www.mitfamericas.org)