May 31, 2016

Venezuelan protests pattern

Our government has recently condemned the unfolding opposition-led violence against the government in Venezuela. The MERCOSUR governments (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela) stated that they too, “reject the criminal actions of violent groups that want to spread intolerance and hatred in… Venezuela as a political tool”. What is behind this violence?

The Centre for Economic and Policy Research is a credible Washington, DC-based Think Tank. In an article by Dan Beeton, it recently asserted that the “Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern”. We offer excerpts from their report:

“Venezuela’s latest round of violent protests appears to fit a pattern, and represents the tug-and-pull nature of the country’s divided opposition. Several times over the past 15 years since the late, former President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, the political opposition has launched violent protests aimed at forcing the current president out of office. Most notably, such protests were a part of the April 2002 coup that temporarily deposed Chávez, and then accompanied the 2002/2003 oil strike.

“Then – as now – the strategy is clear: a sector of the opposition seeks to overturn the results of democratic elections. A key part of the opposition’s strategy overall has been to depict Nicolás Maduro as a pale imitation of his predecessor and a president ill-equipped to deal with the country’s problems (many of which are exaggerated in the Venezuelan private media, which is still largely opposition-owned, as well as the international media).

“Following Maduro’s electoral victory in April last year (with much of the opposition crying ‘fraud’ despite there being no reasonable doubts about the validity of the results), the opposition looked to the December municipal elections as a referendum on Maduro’s government, vowing to defeat governing party PSUV and allied candidates. The outcome, which left the pro-Maduro parties with a 10-point margin of victory, was a stunning defeat for the opposition, and this time they did not even bother claiming the elections were rigged.

“Defeated at the polls, the anti-democratic faction of the opposition prepared for a new attempt at destabilising the elected government, and promoted relatively small, but often violent student protests in early February.  They then called for a massive protest on February 12, Venezuela’s Youth Day in the centre of Caracas.  The demonstrations have been accompanied by a social media campaign that has spread misinformation in an attempt to depict the Maduro administration as a violent dictatorship instead of a popular elected government.

“Images of police violence from other countries and past protests – some several years old – have been presented on social media as having occurred in recent days in Venezuela. Similar disinformation occurred in April 2002 and in other past incidents in Venezuela, most notably when manipulated video footage was used to provide political justification for the coup d’état.

“While some in Washington foreign policy circles may attempt to portray the leaders of this new wave of protests as persecuted pro-democracy heroes, they, in fact, have histories of supporting anti-democratic and unconstitutional efforts to oust the government. Both Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado supported the 2002 coup; in López’s case, he participated in it by supervising the arrest of then Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, when López was mayor of Chacao.

“Venezuela’s opposition receives funding from U.S. ‘democracy promotion’ groups, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and core grantees such as the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NED, which the Washington Post noted was set up to conduct activities, ‘much of’ which ‘[t]he CIA used to fund covertly’, has made a number of grants directed at empowering youth and students in Venezuela in recent years, and USAID has also given money to IRI, NDI, and other groups for Venezuelan programmes.

“In Venezuela, (the IRI) funded groups involved in the 2002 coup, and (their) spokespersons infamously praised the coup after it happened.”

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