I heard a bit of NPR’s On the Media over the weekend. In discussing Protests in Ukraine, Bob Garfield talked about Venezuela and how the reason Ukraine got so much more coverage was that it had good visuals in a way that Venezuela did not. He then went on to say how repressive the regime in Venezuela was and left it at that. While it is certainly true that the Venezuelan government is far from perfect, I thought it was shocking that a program dedicated to examining the media would push such a bit of propaganda. That is the US government line. And as a result, that is the line from the corporate media. But this is NPR media criticism?!
For those that haven’t been following, there have been anti-government protests in Venezuela the last two weeks. They have turned violent and a number of people have died. This has been reported in the United States as peaceful protesters and a repressive government reaction to them. Now, I’m not saying that the Venezuelan government is blameless in this. In particular, it seems that Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) has been responsible for some of the deaths. But we know this because the government reported it (Spanish language) and has made arrests and is continuing to investigate the case.
What seems to be going on is that the same anti-government groups as always are protesting the government. Dan Beeton provides a good rundown of the history, Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern. The most important part of this is that these are the same people who were responsible for the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. And these are the same people who claimed that Nicolas Maduro’s election victory last year was a fraud. Then they claimed that the municipal elections in December would show that the people really were behind them. After they lost those elections by 10 percentage points, they didn’t even try to claim fraud.
I think we see much the same kind of thing there as we do here with the conservative movement. They know that their policies (basically to sell off the oil industry to corporate giants) are unpopular. So they can’t depend upon democracy. Instead, they try to take power by other means. But it looks now like the anti-government forces are fracturing and fighting among themselves. There is some evidence that factional fighting is responsible for some of the deaths in this struggle.
The opposition could try to craft policies that appeal to a larger part of the electorate. But instead, their plan is to overthrow the government. And this isn’t just speculation. During these protests (just as in the past), opposition leaders have explicitly argued that the people have the right to overthrow their democratically elected government. Let’s be clear here: that behavior would get anyone in the United States arrested for treason. But when opposition leaders say that in Venezuela, they are suddenly heroes?! It’s outrageous.
I’m none too thrilled with the way that the Venezuelan government has responded to all of this. But given the actions of anti-democratic opposition forces in the country’s recent history, it is hard to blame the government for their current actions and, frankly, quite a bit more.
The best place to go for information about what’s going on in Venezuela right now is The Americas Blog. I’m not saying that they don’t have their own biases, but they at least look at the facts and put them into perspective. They are a whole lot more objective than the usual corporate media whose response is always that the Venezuelan government is wrong and needs to be overthrown.