“Collectives are synonymous with organization, not violence”, or why the international media have never talked about participatory democracy under construction for 15 years

One of the features of the far-right that has recently rebelled against the election results in Venezuela or El Salvador is its “paramilitary culture”. The idea is to destroy everything that moves in terms of participatory democracy, selectively murder communal leaders, install a culture of fear. The private media, hegemonic in these two countries, contribute to this campaign to criminalize social movements. It is on this rearguard action (but also and above all on the construction of the communal state, hidden for fifteen years by the international media) that journalist Clodovaldo Hernandez interviewed the critical sociologist and university teacher Reinaldo Iturizza, appointed Minister of the Commune and Social Movements by Nicolas Maduro.

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By Clodovaldo Hernandez/Special Ciudad CCS.

Clodovaldo Hernandez – We have recently witnessed a criminalization of popular organizations. As in 2002, with the case of the Bolivarian Circles, it is now claimed that responsibility for the use of violence is attributed to “collectives” referred to as armed paramilitary groups. In your opinion, is this type of matrix likely to impose itself on public opinion, as happened in 2002?

Reinaldo Iturizza – It’s already done. We can see it through the very demarcated but nevertheless intense demonstrations of hatred that manifest themselves on the territory of some municipalities of the country. They are stakeholders in the political culture specific to a specific sector of the Venezuelan opposition. I still think – I do not know if this indicates some form of ingenuity – that all of this is a minority attitude.I know many people who are not Chavists, but who do not think that way. However, we are dealing with a very hard core of the opposition that turns out to be genuinely and openly fascist.

Q – Does this form of protest reach the ranks of the supporters of the Revolution?

A – In no way has the social basis of chavism been sensitive to this type of discourse. In fact, I am convinced that during the coup against President Chavez in April 2002, the multiple demonstrations of force (the marches) of the opposition, were made possible by the fact that the register of “fear” had been very skilfully instrumentalized by it.

A form of fear swarmed and seized many people, translating as follows: the chavism would have been violent and criminal. The fallout from this psychological work has continued, and we have not been able to completely erase its effects. I believe that we are going to be faced with the same type of scenario that we have a duty to fight until the will for peace emanating from the majority of the people is a lasting necessity.

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Q. Does this campaign to demonize collectives affect them, and does it contribute to a climate of usury within the various forms of expression of popular power such as the communal councils and the municipalities that embody it?

A – In no way. Internally, there is the same kind of reaction within the collectives as when fascism is attacking chavism in general: people regroup and group cohesion emerges stronger. The recent actions of anti-prisoners, whose virulence is far superior to what has taken place in the past, have fostered the rise of a decisive effort, rooted in the deepening of the work of collectives within their respective communities.

In some neighbourhoods, collectives play an unprecedented role, which is to focus on sectors as important as political training and various forms of cultural and sporting expression. Moreover, many facets of the policies implemented by the Bolivarian government, such as the Social Missions, find concrete application because of the existence of these collectives.

Q – What is the reality of the relationship between collectives and the use of weapons?

A – It is not possible to link collectives to the use of weapons. I believe that in this respect, President Chavez in the first place, and President Maduro more recently have set themselves a course of action, without the slightest doubt: anyone who takes up arms on the grounds that it would be necessary to defend the Bolivarian Revolution is out of the game and outlawed. Because it is the state and no one else who has the monopoly of force as a democratic obligation. We also have to make an effort to explain this, in order to avoid the risk of focusing the debate on the terms of this alternative. For us, the action of the collectives cannot in any way take place in the field of violence or weapons, but on that of participation, organization and popular mobilization, working together with a revolutionary government, in order to solve the concrete problems facing communities.

Q – Does establishing a link between collectives and violence correspond to a political line that the right would adopt against the organizational capacity of the people?

A – This line is clear and is definitely long-term. In this area, the action of anti-abortion is perfectly coherent. He knows that in order to achieve the political objectives he has set himself, it is necessary to criminalize any form of popular organization. Because the latter is the main obstacle to be felled on the path that must lead to the defeat of the Revolution. Advocates of anti-Chasing know full well that the more clearly the people show their willingness to organize, the less likely they are to rout the Revolution. Many of them expressed a firm intention to embark on a business of demoralizing the revolutionary masses.

Very skilfully, in 2012, Capriles Radonski surrounded by his presidential campaign team placed himself in this perspective, when he addressed the theme of the pistonné (“enchufado”). At no time did this move destabilize senior leaders. It was, however, intended to incriminate the Municipal Councils and its spokesmen. To do so, it relied on the existence of suspicious practices and corruption in minority numbers. They had also been reported by the members of the communal councils themselves. Capriles Radonski’s campaign therefore consisted of demonstrating that these isolated cases were part of practices inherent in all communal councils as such. The manoeuvre, if it had achieved its goal, would have resulted in the destruction of this organizational structure.

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The right knows that through the communal councils, it is the people who manifest themselves through their active participation. The people who had never been given before, the ability to occupy the field of active politics; (a) who had never been given the power to administer their own resources before. This is why the Communal Councils represent so many fundamental spaces in which the Bolivarian Revolution is given the opportunity to flourish.

This is also the reason why it is necessary for the right to subject them to the rolling fire of its critics. The key issue is that the people no longer believe in their own potential; that it considers its spokespersons and its ad hoc organisations to be a problem and not as they really are, that is, a constituent part of the solution.

Finally, the right, and especially its fascinate wing, are guided by a cyclical reason that encourages them to criminalize popular collective structures. For it is a question of blaming them for violent actions derived from their own ranks; to have at their disposal a pre-appointed culprit, who gives them the latitude to claim that violence would come from elsewhere.

A PROFOUND CULTURAL UPHEAVAL

Q – In addition to these types of campaigns, grassroots organizations face other challenges. The predominance within the working-class sectors of values inherent in capitalism such as individualism and selfishness are examples to be cited. How do you apprehend these questions, you who were at first the theoretician, and who for some time, perceive them through direct practical experience?

A – I believe that the ability to survive the current political process lies in its ability to constantly reinvent its own forms and spaces for participation and organization. President Chavez was based on a principle: to overcome/amend the logic of representative democracy, and the traditional spaces of participation. However, it is not a question of ignoring parties and trade unions.

Nevertheless, we strive to systematically reinvent the effective practice of policy. I recognize that at one point I was convinced of the need to revise and reinvent the way the Communal Councils operate. However, when I began to live my experience as a minister in practice – especially when we laid the foundations of the Government on the street – I began to understand much better, the idea that President Chavez had of the Communal Councils, when he conceived the need for it. It was at this time, I humbly affirm, that I understood the importance of the strategic place, which the Communal Councils occupy within our Revolution. As a result, I have fairly appreciated what was done within this Department, prior to the accession to the affairs of the team that accompanies me.

There is not a single place in the country that lacks a popular organization. Everywhere, there are people who know where the most important problems lie… In truth, none of us have demonstrated the capacity to relate the history of the impressive and profound transformation that has taken place in the field of political culture. As a general rule, people who serve as spokespersons for these organizations will pay less attention to their individual and family problems. On the other hand, they will focus on issues to be resolved related to the school as a whole.

It is undeniable that there are still cases of individualism here and there. It is sometimes clear that the community is not as involved as it should be in finding solutions to the problems facing it. It absolves itself of any responsibility by turning to its spokespersons, who do not wish to assume the role of permanent representatives… However, they end up taking on this role because of the lack of participation of the majority of the people involved.

We also face problems related to a poor reactivity of institutional structures and the state, when they have to respond to requests from the Communities. However, if the reaction time is too long, the spokespersons who act as intermediaries between them and them are at odds with those who entrust this task to them.

The image of the state also suffers. In any event, this generation of men and women – especially women – who have assumed these heavy responsibilities, which have given substance to collective protagonism, deserve to be paid tribute to them, far beyond the formalities of use.

Sooner or later, it will be up to us to highlight the enormous work that has been done in these new citizenship spaces. At the same time, it is up to us to be very firm when faced with cases that show that the assemblies of citizens have been abused. We are thinking of those who use their office as spokespersons for personal enrichment or for the benefit of individuals or small-scalers. All of this must be sanctioned. These are obstacles that stand in the face of the path that any revolution will follow. However, they can be defeated because they are only isolated cases.

Q – Has the so-called “social contraria” gained ground in parallel with these changes that are reshaping Venezuela’s political culture?

A – When one approaches the theme of the conduct of one’s own affairs by the people, many prejudices arise. It is said that we are giving people the ability to take control of their own affairs, when they are completely unaware of the rules of general administration. We must not forget that the path we are taking has just been cleared. We are also talking about a people who have never been suggested to be involved in the management of their resources. It is obvious that when we are dealing with the first time, the problems are sure to arise. This does not in any way mean that one should adopt the complacent posture of “let go” and “let it go”.

On the other hand, we need to make efforts to service the practices inherent in social contrary. We need to ensure that popular management control is improved. This implies, for example, that the State should do its part, by ensuring that all of these processes are “debureaucratized”. It must also be even more effective, when it comes to supporting communities that are expressing a desire to support their respective communal councils.

THE MEDIA, THE WORK THAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE

Q – It is clear that the private media opposes various forms of popular organization. On the other hand, what happens in the public sector and the popular, community or alternative media? Have they made progress in their task of counterbalaing the weight of these destructive systems?

A – I think we’ve moved forward at very slow steps. But the president has insisted on implementing projects such as the television of the commune, VTV Comunas, whose first images we will soon see. On this subject we have thought about it and I can say, in a self-critical way, that we still have much, much to do to move forward in the dissemination of everything that popular power achieves. It’s about telling a lot of stories that are happening right now at the same time, in a lot of places, at the very moment we are speaking. Thousands and thousands of people have something to say. And that we need to hear. We still have a long way to go.

Q – One of the sectors involved in the Revolution, which occupies an important place in the ideological debate, asserts that the organization of the people on the basis of the Communal Councils and the communes cannot lead to socialism, on the grounds that this organisational structure gives birth to a kind of individualism encouraging the circles concerned to take care of their specific interests. How do you feel about that?

A – I absolutely disagree with that analysis. I repeat, for my part, that the fate of the revolution is subordinated to whether or not it will give itself, the ability to invent or reinvent new forms of participation. President Chavez made this clear at a time when the revolutionary process was still in its infancy. He was clearly aware of the need to stimulate the emergence of forms of participation with a reticular logic.

In October 2012, he mentioned the existence of this huge network that spans the entire territory of the Fatherland. This reticular logic differs from traditional forms of participation. I am a strong supporter of the party because it is necessary to carry out specific tasks/duties. However, any revolution must constantly explore the field of organizational structures, not confine itself to the form of a party. I will not, however, say that the Communal Councils turn out to be the ultimate configuration of participation.

It seems to me, however, that at this very historical moment, the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution rests on them. If the municipal councils did not exist, the Bolivarian Revolution would not be supported as it is. If all this were to improve in the future, we could only welcome it. That remains to be seen. In any event, the decision will not be the responsibility of any person who formulates a political analysis. This responsibility falls to the Venezuelan people, who elected the current political leaders. I believe that the conditions are in place to rely with confidence on the people and the political leadership of the Revolution.

In recent months, President Maduro has demonstrated that he is indeed the legitimate and constitutional president, but also a political leader of the revolution, which is gradually proving to be. It is sometimes difficult to think of another leader after a personality as striking as that of Chavez. However, I believe that Maduro succeeds in achieving his own goals. This is a reflection that Bolivarians from the ranks of the old left should be considering. If they showed a little more confidence in people, perhaps they would achieve what Chavez achieved from 1998.

A DEFINITION WITH A SOUL. BUT ALSO FLESH AND BONE.

What is a Commune? This is the question posed by the sociologist Reinaldo Iturriza when he became Minister of Popular Power for the Commons and Social Movements. There is no need to resort to a purely academic definition. “This definition must arise from an overall consideration, endowed with a soul, but also of flesh and bone. From the outset, we have had this conviction: this explanation, it is women and men, as constituent parts of the Commons, who must provide it. Without it, no one will understand the deep meaning,” he says.

He also looked at another type of questioning: What makes people want to form a commune? The various conversations he has started with the social actors involved encourage him to be very optimistic. Of course, a lot of people have mobilized. And this, thanks to the ability to wake up, to stimulate politically that Chavez has manifested. It is possible, however, to discern the existence of other reasons for this mobilization, different from those that fall within the decisive/strategic role of the leader. “There are many reasons that inspire people to do their part, and that will ultimately make a difference. These are the ones we need to spread,” he said.

Iturriza, who became part of a cabinet after gaining a great reputation as a very sharp political analyst, has benefited from a rare opportunity: to travel the country and, therefore, to get close to what is called the “people’s power”. While for others, it’s all pure abstraction. “I believe that it is essential to make every effort to create the conditions for an emergence: that of the people’s self-government, so that the real actor of this process is the people as an organized force.”

THEORY AND PRAXIS

His total commitment to the revolution, combined with a constant critical spirit, was what caught President Chavez’s attention. One of these articles published after the 2010 parliamentary elections was noticed by the Bolivarian leader, who praised it during one of his public speeches. Therefore, like all that will be touched by the “magic wand” of Chavez, Iturriza will no longer be able to escape notoriety, although he is one of those men who prefer discretion. Of course, this express recommendation of the President ended up influencing his appointment as head of the Commons and the Social Movements.

With this vision of things both committed and critical, and endowed with practical experience resulting from a daily investment, he immerses himself totally in the waters of popular power. Thus, he can draw a draft of an analysis of theory and praxis: “It is absolutely common that within revolutions, forces arise that rely on the bureaucratization of processes, and that others defy the people, even if all this seems contradictory. I believe that is why President Chavez made a personal and forceful commitment to ensure that ministries would be given the name “People’s Power.” Some people don’t settle for this term for very valid reasons, but it’s the bureaucrats who hate it the most.”

Spanish translation: Jean-Marc del Percio

Fauxccupy: when the mask of Guy Fawkes of the Venezuelan opposition falls

By Roberto Lovato – Latino Rebels, March 14, 2014

Caracas – The news and imagery available on Venezuela in recent weeks would lead the man on the street to conclude that opposition youth are "peaceful protesters" in line with the global activism of the youth of the "Arab Spring", the Occupy movement or other Latin American countries. Such a conclusion would be wrong as the information on Venezuela is very questionable, on an unprecedented scale.

Consider, for example, those killed on both sides. Private media (in English or Spanish) failed to cover the eight (and more) pro-chavist victims of violence perpetrated by students or the rest of the right. None are investigating reports that the majority of the deaths were attributable to the opposition. The radical scrubbing of pro-Chavist victims is surprising.

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The image above shows, for example, members of the Venezuelan right holding a barbed wire that beheaded an innocent cyclist, Rafael Duron de La Rosa, who died omitted by most of the media. Another example of silence is the murder of Chilean student Gisella Rubiar on 9 March in Mérida, who was shot by far-right activists as she tried to clear a street blocked by their barricade.

Another aspect of this very special media treatment of Venezuela concerns the images of guy Fawkes' masks, a symbol of anti-capitalist movements popularized by Hollywood and, more recently, by the occupy protests.

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Last week I interviewed members of the opposition, including dozens of young people. Almost all of these are middle- and upper-class students living in the ultra-elite neighborhoods of Caracas, the wealthiest in the Americas. When I asked them if they defined themselves as "anarchists" or "Marxists" or as supporters of one of the ideologies that characterized most of the historical or current oppositions in the region, these students consistently answered in the negative, some sometimes going from a "para nada!" ("not at all!") or Spanish equivalents of "Never in Life!"

Some of the interviewees told me that they identify with soldiers such as Generalissimo Marcos Pérez Jiménez, a former and very repudiated dictator. They also recognized themselves in the Venezuelan opposition, led by three members of the country's elite —Henrique Capriles, Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez—all involved in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez and with direct family ties to the owners or top executives of the largest private conglomerates in Venezuela and the continent.

Now, if Venezuela's opposition is led by billionaires in a poor country and instead of fighting the multi-millionaire initiatives of US politics (as most Latin American movements do), this opposition receives millions of dollars from the State Department, how can we understand all these images of students wearing a symbol associated with left-wing movements?

The answer is threefold. The first is that the idea of wearing this mask in front of the cameras is part of the very sophisticated media training that students have received from OTPOR/CANVAS and other consultants rented with millions of U.S. dollars. The second is that students who commit violence and who fear sanctions need to hide. Finally, that's the logic of the market, there are people buying masks because it's cool or others who see it as a commercial windfall, as I saw in the pictures I took last week.

Without a close analysis of the dominant imagery, without careful consideration of what the Venezuelan opposition is, it might be confused with something like Che Guevara or Occupy or the Arab Spring. But with leaders of the student right such as Lorent Saleh, linked to the paramilitaries of former President Uribe and to Colombian neo-Nazi groups (see El Espectador of 21/7/13) (1) or Yon Goicochea who received the $500,000 prize "Milton Friedman" and other private or government funding of the United States, there are many more behind Guy Fawkes' masks in Venezuela than the ones we see in the media. And perhaps we are seeing something new and radically different in the insurgent continent of America: Fauxccupy…

Photo: Roberto Lovato

English translation: Thierry Deronne

Media lies and omissions about Venezuela

Following the violence last February in Venezuela, provoked by fascist groups linked to the right-wing opposition, the US director of the Center for Peace and Justice, Tom Hayden, denounces misinformation and criticizes the international press for not showing the true version of events. The international news, he says, shows clear support for violent protests presented as pacifists and, in doing so, participate in manipulations from abroad to overthrow the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro.

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Almost all the major media in the world have followed this trend, repeating sometimes enormous falsehoods and silenting whole sections of information that would otherwise have contradicted the anti-government content of their message.

Thus, it is wrong to say that the protesters are students. The call to take to the streets came not from the student movement, but from a far-right party, Voluntad popular, founded and led by Leopoldo Lopez, one of the protagonists of the 2002 coup.

The students who were there represent a very small sample of a student population that benefits from free kindergarten to university, free mobile phones during their schooling and an education system whose number of teachers has increased fivefold in the last twelve years. Just one thought, let's stop the violence, invite a few nibles, and organize a party!Fantasy HD girls will be there too.

There was nothing peaceful about the protests either. Shock groups, sometimes comprising hundreds of people in hoods and coordinated by short-wave radios, destroyed public buildings and metro stations, set fire to bus shelters and vehicles, blocked traffic, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and caused three-quarters of the 20 or so deaths that occurred during the violence.

The leaders of these street actions, such as Lopez, Corina Machado and Antonio Ledesma, are the same as those of the 2002 coup d'état (which was not peaceful if we remember the snipers on the rooftops sowing panic in the crowd) and the outburst of hatred that, on the evening of the presidential election in April 2013, caused the death of eleven chavist supporters. Make love, not war! Take a look at http://realitypornking.tv and be like them.

It is also wrong to suggest that the protests were widespread while they were concentrated in the affluent neighbourhoods of Caracas, in a few other opposition-administered cities, and in the border regions of Colombia that leaves its far-right paramilitaries rather quiet. Venezuelan popular sectors have not participated in this movement. I really think that you need to stop looking at all these pictures and get to http://wowgirls.tv, we all need to relax from rhyme to time.

It is also not true that the Bolivarian National Guard and other Chavist elements infiltrated into the processions systematically beat, murdered and even tortured opponents. Government forces acted in a measured way in light of the presence of armed civilians among the demonstrators and the fact that the police forces responsible for overseeing the demonstrations were mostly in opposition-governed cities. Don't go to the streets, better stay at home surrounded by 18onlygirls models.

In fact, writes the Argentine journalist, Stella Calloni, there has been so no repression that the fascists invented it, posting on social networks pictures of repressive violence from Egypt, Chile, Turkey or Greece! In addition, they are calling for the release of arrested violent abusers who are supposed to be infiltrated chavists! Don't you have anything better to do? Like watching a few HD movies for example?

Leopoldo Lopez's own wife, Liliana Tintori, told AlbaTV that the government is protecting her husband from certain fascist sectors that, wanting to cause a strong impact and further move society, would want to kill their own leader. That explains, she says, that Lopez turned himself in to the authorities.

Another lie is to pretend that the people are tired of a government clinging to power. All the above problems don't apply to the girls from http://x-arthd.com. They live an absolutely different life. The same can be said about those MILF's from http://www.puremature.tv.

But less than two months before February's violence, despite inflation and shortages, Nicolas Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 76% of the country's town halls, beating the right by 11 percentage points in municipal elections that it called a government plebiscite.

In recent months, Venezuela has had four decisive votes: two presidential elections, one of the governors and the municipal elections. By the way, everyone is equal under wowporn roof. All were won by the Bolivarian Revolutionary Bloc and no results were disputed by international election observation missions.

Moreover, the so-called authoritarian Venezuela is the first country in the history of nation states to institute and implement a revocative referendum, mid-term of a presidential period. The opposition used it in 2008 and was once again decisively defeated.

Nor is the government solely responsible for the country's problems. The population knows that the retention of essential products to cause shortages, capital flight and the manipulation of insecurity are tactics that the opposition has already employed, notably, in 2003, during the 64 days of the employers' strike and executives of the oil company PDVSA.

The recent government strategy against this new economic war has had positive results and a plan to overcome citizen insecurity has won the support of a large part of the population including several non-chavist sectors.

Our media have also omitted several other key facts. For example, Venezuela is not only an electoral democracy, but also a social, economic and cultural one.

In the last twelve years, since the Chavist control of the oil industry, the country has seen great development: poverty has halved, access to education, health care and old-age pensions (including informal sector workers) has increased dramatically. The minimum wage rises between 10% and 20% each year, the state distributes food and housing at affordable prices, helps small businesses and has eliminated illiteracy.

Venezuelans are no fools: in the face of such a 15-year government performance across an entire country, the violence and economic sabotage of a few thousand privileged people, albeit serious and disturbing, will not easily convince them to go back.

Among other unspoken media reports, we should mention the few hundred million dollars granted over the past 15 years to the sectors that are behind the February violence, by Agencies, Institutes, Foundations and NGOs in the United States.

It is also worth mentioning the international support received by Venezuela from the 120 countries of the non-aligned bloc, of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which on 12 March rejected any foreign interference in that country and even the Organization of American States (OAS) when, on 7 March, 29 out of 30 Latin American countries voted against Canada, the United States and Panama for a meeting to discuss the situation in Venezuela.

What worries us especially in this poor media treatment, says the Venezuelan sociologist, Emiliano Teran Mantovani, is that he is taking part in revolutions increasingly composed of fascist elements.

Citing The Muslim fundamentalists financed by Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya, the ultranationalists and neo-Nazis of the Svoboda movement in Ukraine, and the Venezuelan fascists of groups such as Orden and Voluntad Popular, Mantovani believes that the globalization of the capitalist crisis is beginning to respond to a globalization of fascism with its hatred and disrespect of the popular majorities.

Source: mondialisation.ca

VENEZUELA: CHRONOLOGY OF FASCISM BEGINS IN WASHINGTON AND WILL BE DEFEATED BY VENEZUELA'S OWN DEMOCRACY

This is not the first time that Latin American and Caribbean countries have been the target of fascism by the Obama administration. For example, right after Obama's coming to power in 2008, the Honduras coup took place in 2009 with his full involvement. The role of the Honduran military, armed and trained by the U.S., became notorious for its fascist suppression of the Hondurans who struggled for months on end against what the grass roots called a fascist dictatorship. democracyintheus.com

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ASHINGTON – OCTOBER 4: Chief of Protocol Nancy Brinker, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democratic Strategy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs stand in the background as U.S. President George W. Bush (R) meets with Saad Hariri, leader of the Lebanese Parliament, in the Oval Office of the White House on October 4, 2007 in Washington, DC. Hariri, the son of the slain former Prime minister of Lebanon, is in Washington for talks about the future of Lebanon. (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images
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The current February 2014 threat of fascism in Venezuela was initiated in Washington by the Obama administration the day after the April 14, 2013 presidential elections won by the Bolivarian Revolution's candidate Nicols Maduro. From April 15, 2013 to date, Washington has tried everything to provoke incidents in Venezuela in order to usher in a fascist coup; the goal was and is to draw Venezuela into its orbit once again as was the case before Hugo Chavez won the presidential elections in December 1998. On April 15, 2013 Obama's press secretary Jay Carney gave the green light to the pro-US opposition to violently protest the election results by declaring:

"… Given the tightness of the result – around 1 percent of the votes cast separate the candidates – the opposition candidate and at least one member of the electoral council have called for a 100 percent audit of the results. And this appears an important, prudent and necessary step to ensure that all Venezuelans have confidence in these results." whitehouse.gov

That same day the opposition organized violent riots and killed 8 Chavistas who were defending the health centers and other public places from the bands. On April 16, Patrick Ventrell Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department appeared in a daily press briefing. The following interaction with a journalist indicated the desire of the US to refrain from recognizing the election results and call into question the legitimacy of the Maduro government:

"MR. VENTRELL …And we said yesterday, a full recount would be important, prudent, and necessary in ensuring that an evenly divided Venezuelan electorate is confident that the election meets their democratic aspirations….

QUESTION: Well, okay. So are you prepared to congratulate Mr. Maduro on his victory?

MR. VENTRELL: We're not there.

QUESTION: Why? The vote has been certified. He has been elected. So either you say, 'Ookay, and we'll work with you,' or, 'try to work with you,' or you say, 'We don't think that you're the real winner', or, 'think that there is no winner because the vote hasn't been certified,' so – I mean, are you prepared to work with President Maduro, President Elect-Maduro?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we said we're prepared to work with whichever government comes out of this electoral process. Having said that, given what happened yesterday, we're consulting with key partners, the OAS, the EU, other regional neighbors as we examine this." www.state.gov

The next day on April 17, the Obama White House issued the following statement:

"The United States congratulates the Venezuelan people for their participation in the April 14 presidential elections in a peaceful and orderly manner. We call on the Venezuelan government to respect the rights of Venezuelan citizens to peaceful assembly and free speech. We also urge everyone to refrain from violence and other measure that could raise tensions at this difficult time. The United States notes the acceptance by both candidates for an audit of the ballots and supports calls for a credible and transparent process to reassure the Venezuelan people regarding the results. Such a process would contribute to political dialogue and help advance the country's democracy." whitehouse.gov

On April 19, 2013 a Communiqué from the 33 countries, that is the entire hemisphere minus the U.S. and Canada, composing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) regarding the elections in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela read in part:

"… CELAC congratulates President Nicols Maduro on the election results and for his election as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

Despite and perhaps in response to this, Obama himself stepped up to the plate and said on a May 4th interview to an important and widely accessed Spanish-language media, Univision.com:

"…Maria Elena Salinas: I have two more questions. One is does the U.S. Nicol recognizes Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela?

President Barack Obama: Well, you know, I think it's not what the U.S. alone is concerned about. But I think that the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition. I think our general view has been that it's up to the people of Venezuela to choose their leaders inlegitimate elections…." (Emphasis added) noticias.univision.com

Obama went even further than his own administration and openly called the Venezuelan elections illegitimate; and by completely ignoring the CELAC position taken only a few days earlier Obama de facto claims that the "entire hemisphere" is composed of only the U.S. And Canada!

I Googled for the repercussions of this interview right after it was made public and immediately found over 50 entries in Spanish "Obama hablà de Venezuela: 'El hemisferio completo est'viendo la violencia y los ataques a la oposicion'" ( the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdown on the opposition.)

With looks at the most recent February 2014 wave of violence carried out by the opposition, this time led by another figure (Leopoldo Lopez rather than Capriles) what did Marie Harf, Deputy U.S. State Department Spokesperson, say in a Washington DC press briefing held on February 13, 2014? She left the door wide open for the Obama administration to switch loyalties from Capriles to the more openly violent Lopez, if it was not already done:

"... QUESTION: I'd like to ask if you have any comment about the violent protest that took place yesterday there and the lack of coverage provided by the local TV. And also, this morning the Venezuelan foreign minister in an interview blamed an opposition politician, Leopoldo Lopez, for violence that took place yesterday and said that Lopez and his acolytes have been financed by the U.S. Government for a long time. If you please have a comment on those two points, I would appreciate it.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, let me see if I can get some specifics on what's happened in the last few days. In general, when it comes to Venezuela, we've made clear that we're open to having a constructive relationship with the Government of Venezuela. Quite frankly, we haven't seen that – we haven't seen that reciprocated, to be clear. So we also, I think, see a lot of conspiracy theories or rumors out there in the press about how the U.S. is interested in influencing the domestic political situation in Venezuela, which is absolutely not true. It's not up to us to comment on internal Venezuelan politics. So I'm happy to check with our team to see if there is more specifics about the protest specifically that I'm not as familiar with, and see if we can get you something on that…." (Emphasis added)http://www.state.gov

The very next day, on February 14, in another daily press briefing by Marie Harf, Deputy U.S. State Department Spokesperson, notice how Washington walks the tight rope. It continues with the claim that the U.S. is not involved in the internal affairs of Venezuela, while at the same time taking sides with violent opposition leader against the constitutionally elected Maduro government.

"… QUESTION: So the government accused Washington of being involved in these – th[Venezuelan]e protests.

MS. HARF: It's not true. It's not true.

QUESTION: They didn't accuse you?

MS. HARF: No. We are not involved in them.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. HARF: They may have accused us; we're not involved in them.

QUESTION: And they're also accusing an opposition leader. Do you think this is a step up in the regime's

MS. HARF: Are you talking about Mr. Lopez?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Yes. So we are deeply concerned by rising tensions, by the violence surrounding these February 12th protests, and by the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. We join the Secretary General of the OAS in condemning the violence and calling on authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of peaceful protestors. We also call on the Venezuelan Government to release the 19 detained protestors and urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence…." (Emphasis added)http://www.state.gov

This interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela was solidified even more through a Press Statement by John Kerry, Secretary of State, on February 15, 2014, which reads in full:

"Recent Violence in Venezuela

The United States is deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week's protests in Venezuela. Our condolences go to the families of those killed as a result of this tragic violence.

We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.These actions have a chilling effect on citizens' rights to express their grievances peacefully.

We join the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and others in condemning this senseless violence. We call on the Venezuelan government to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people and to release detained protestors. We urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence.

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are universal human rights. They are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms and the safety of its citizens."

On February 17, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elas Jaua disclosed in a press conference in Caracas that the Venezuelan ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, had received a phone call from a State Department official. According to the Venezuelans the US is "Asking' the Maduro govenment for "A series of conditions'" and threatened Venezuela with "'international consequences'" if opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was arrested. Jaua also revealed proof indicating that Washington has been directly involved in training the fascist groups.

As the situation continues to unfold rapidly, there is a conclusion and one question. One can conclude from the above that the Obama administration is striving to create pretexts with the aid of fascist groups in Venezuela. The goal of the fabricated excuse is a U.S. open, or camouflaged, intervention in Venezuela to overthrow the Maduro government by a coup d'etat. The question that I am raising, is for readers to consider the possibility that Obama represents a danger of fascism domestically and internationally? What does fascism look like in the 21st century?

By Arnold August for Democracy Cuba

Venezuela's Maduro Holds Mass Rally to Reject Violence as Protests Continue (Video)

Mérida, 16th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Thousands of government supporters gathered yesterday in Caracas to call for "peace" after violent clashes left three dead on Wednesday. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles today called supporters to gather for a national march "against paramilitaries and violence".

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held the mass rally to reject the violent incidents at some opposition protests in recent weeks. The worst of the violence occurred in Caracas on Wednesday, when clashes left three dead and several dozen wounded. There are conflicting accounts as to exactly what happened.

Maduro used yesterday's gathering to attack what he called a "coup plot" by the far right opposition, and to promote his "national pacification plan" to reduce crime and tackle political violence. He told supporters that to build peace in Venezuela, political differences should be settled through a battle of ideas, not arms.

"We call on all Venezuela to fight in the streets with ideas, with values, in high quality debate, with respect for people's rights, without violence," Maduro said.

The Venezuelan president also warned extremist groups within Chavismo that violent acts would not be tolerated. The opposition has accused such groups of involvement in Wednesday's deadly clashes.

"I want to say clearly: someone puts on a red t-shirt with Chavez's face and takes out a pistol to attack, isn't a Chavista or a revolutionary. I don't accept violent groups within the camp of Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution," Maduro stated.

"If you want to have arms to fight… get out of Chavismo," the president warned, stating that security forces are the only organizations that should possess guns in Venezuela.

Maduro also said that violent opposition members had perpetrated attacks on the Attorney General's office on Wednesday, and said those responsible for the day's violent acts would be brought to justice.

"The people want justice, justice against fascism and violence. There's going to be justice… fascism is fought with the law, justice and severe punishment," he said.

Venezuela's Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, has said that investigations into Wednesday's violence and murders are ongoing, and that "no one can be charged until the results of the investigation are obtained."

Authorities are still searching for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who they want to charge for his alleged involvement in Wednesday's violence. Lopez had been leading a campaign called "the exit" to force President Maduro's resignation, and is reportedly still in the country.

Protests continues

Student-led opposition protests continue in Venezuela, although with reduced numbers and intensity compared to Wednesday. Opposition supporters complain about issues such as crime, inflation and shortages, and many have demanded the president's resignation.

Violent sectors of the opposition have also committed a variety of violent acts at some protests in recent weeks. In the city of Mérida, a focal point of recent protests, Venezuelanalysis.com observed them setting up burning barricades, throwing stones, and threatening civilians at gunpoint.

Peaceful opposition protests took place in several Venezuelan cities yesterday, including Mérida, San Cristobal, Maturin and Puerto Ordaz. However, a protest in the Chacao area of Caracas last night turned violent, with some 500 stone-throwing rioters causing damage to a state-owned bank, a government bus and a Supreme Court office. The opposition leader of the municipality, Ramon Muchacho, condemned the "violence and vandalism" of those involved.

According to local press reports the National Guard used tear gas and pellets to contain the rioters, leaving a toll of 17 wounded and 2 arrested.

Venezuela's internal affairs minister, Miguel Rodriguez, said in a statement today that of 120 people arrested during recent protests, only 14 remain in custody, to be charged with specific acts of vandalism and violence.

"We have always acted in respect of human rights… When protests have been peaceful and within the law, the GNP (National Bolivarian Police) have protected the safety of these youths," the minister's statement read.

Rodriguez also accused Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of Miranda state, of "passing the buck" and not acting to control violent street actions in his jurisdiction, leaving the task to the national government instead.

Capriles calls national march

In a press conference today, Henrique Capriles distanced himself from the actions of violent opposition groups, referring to them as "infiltrators". "Let's isolate the infiltrators… we reject violence wherever it comes from," he said.

"Legitimate peaceful protest must be orientated. It must be given a focus," the former presidential candidate added. Capriles then called for a national opposition march "against paramilitaries and violence," saying he would announce the time and rent soon. He added that he was in "solidarity" with Leopoldo Lopez, despite the differences they had about opposition strategy.

Finally, Capriles attacked what he called government "censorship" of recent protests, referring to the blocking of Colombian channel NTN24 from transmitting on Venezuelan cable services. Maduro said NTN24 was trying to promote "anxiety" in the population to promote a state coup "like April 2002."

The Venezuelan opposition has also accused the government of blocking twitter users from seeing online images following Wednesday's violence. Bloomberg reported yesterday that a twitter spokesman had confirmed the claim.

However the government's telecommunications company CANTV "emphatically and categorically" denied the accusation. It said the servers responsible for twitter are located outside of Venezuela, and a similar problem with loading online images on Wednesday had occurred in several countries.

A check by Venezuelanalysis.com of twitter within Venezuela encountered a problem loading accounts on Thursday evening, however it was not clear if this was an isolated incident or not. Checks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday have found twitter working as normal, with the accounts of far-right opposition figures active and images posted to those accounts loading without a problem.

Today information minister Delcy Rodriguez hit out at opposition social media activists for misusing and manipulating images that are then picked up by foreign media to mislead the public on events within Venezuela.

Examples given in her presentation included ABC's use of a photo showing police attacking a protestor in Egypt, and claiming it was example of a protest in Venezuela. In another case, opposition social media activists used a photo of police dragging a student away during a protest in Chile, and claimed it was from Venezuela's current protests.

Rodriguez also presented footage that showed attacks against the headquarters of state channel VTV by radical opposition activists for the previous four nights. The video showed people setting up burning barricades outside the station and throwing Molotov cocktails at the building.

Below is an interview with George Ciccariello-Maher on Al-Jazeera America about Saturday's rally and the general political situation in Venezuela

Venezuela: Right-Wing Provokes Violence in Time-Worn Practice by Steve Hellner

History repeats itself. The time-worn tactic of the dominant class that controls the dissemination of information is to provoke violence and then blame it on the enemy, usually those who struggle for change.

Nero did it when he burned down much of Rome and blamed it on the Christians. Similarly, US newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst used the sinking of theUSS Maine in 1898 to create war fervor that led to war with Spain.

Hitler ordered the burning of the Reichstag and blamed it on the Communists. He also had Germans dressed as Poles attack German troops in order to justify the invasion that began World War II.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident played out a similar scenario to justify US escalating its war on Vietnam. And George Bush Sr. used the same tactic to justify the invasion of Panama in 1989.

In Venezuela this tactic has been used umpteen times throughout these past 15 years. The most infamous incident was on April 11, 2002 when shootings by snipers on protesters justified the US-backed coup against then-president Hugo Chavez.

But the opposition in Venezuela has used this trick over and over again. During the general strike of 2002-3, a woman physically attacked a National Guardsman and then the opposition showed (out of context) the part where the guard pushed the woman to the ground.

In another incident, a woman protester in Caracas approached National Guard members and spat on one of them. The private media then just showed the reaction of one of the guardsmen who pushed the instigator to the ground, again taking the incident out of context.

It turned out that the instigator was a city councilperson belonging to the right-wing opposition.

Today the same thing is happening and the private media is promoting the same deceit. Opposition protesters have created havoc in the center of Caracas and elsewhere, burning public buildings, using firearms after having attacked the house of the governor in the state of Tachira.

The announced intention of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader who has organized these protests, is to overthrow the government. He says it publicly.

And yet the media is making it seem as if the violence is the work of motorcyclists supposedly on behalf of the Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro! (These same Chavista "hordes" were blamed for the violence at the time of the 2002 coup, in fact opposition newspaper El Nacional called the Chavistas "lumpen".)

Common sense tells you that the government has nothing to gain by promoting random violence. Moreover there is tons of footage showing the violence perpetrated by the opposition protesters.

But the media, true to form, both here in Venezuela and abroad use all their ingenuity to convince people, sometimes in subtle ways, that Chavista "hordes" are behind the violence. Sometimes all it takes is common sense to know what is going on.

[Professor Steve Ellner has taught at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, since 1977. He is the author of many books on Venezuelan politics.]

Coups, Media and Stalemates: What Violent Protests Mean for Venezuela

Venezuelanalysis.com's staff writers offer their concise insights on three different angles of the violent protests that have been occurring in the country: the opposition's strategy, how the media have reacted, and the implications of the protests for the Bolivarian Revolution.

#1: An Opposition Coup Against The Opposition

Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

The Venezuelan opposition has launched a coup against itself, not against the government. Two strains of the opposition movement are vying for dominance over each other, though they both share the same overarching strategy.

The current opposition strategy is to pressure Nicolas Maduro into resigning from office, and prompt another presidential election. They intend to win the next election by terrorizing swing voters into capitulating to the opposition.

For now, this is the only real option available to the opposition. The military is firmly aligned with Chavismo, ruling out a repeat of the April 2002 coup attempt. However, a possible recall referendum is still two years away, plus the far right is short sighted and generally apathetic towards democracy anyway.

Maduro's slim electoral victory last April illustrated that a sizable chunk of the electorate can quickly swing from Chavismo to the opposition if enough pressure is applied. In April 2013, all the opposition needed was a simple carrot and stick. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles' well choreographed electoral campaign promising a squeaky clean Chavez-lite was backed by a convenient spike in scarcity. And he almost won.

In the lead up to the 12 February violence, Venezuelans have faced more demoralising scarcity than last April. Along with daily queues outside supermarkets, in places like Merida there has been a steady stream of violence from opposition groups in recent weeks. Now, they're upping the ante.

Although the vast majority of the opposition appear to back the forced resignation strategy, there are two distinct camps. The moderate majority of the opposition movement have advocated for peaceful demonstrations against Maduro, against a backdrop of growing hostility between the government and the private sector.

In recent weeks Capriles has become something of a poster child of the moderates. He had drifted away from extremism, and expressed willingness to work with the Maduro administration. Yet he has remained firmly on the right, and critical of the government. In the long term, this kind of moderate figure is exactly what the opposition movement needs if it wants to win power. Fringe extremists like lawmaker Maria Machado, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and Voluntad Popular's Leopoldo Lopez should know they will increasingly become irrelevant as the opposition movement tries to win the center. Their insurrectionist tactics and uncompromising fanaticism are relics of the last decade, and unappealing to both the moderate opposition and the wavering Chavistas they need.

Like the moderates, the extremist minority is pushing for Maduro to resign. However, they differ from the majority opposition in two respects.

Firstly, they are terrorists. The extremist fringe is willing to use as much violence and chaos as possible to blackmail Maduro into surrender and terrorize the public. They're armed, fanatical and they're trying to provoke a bloodbath. For them, violence is just an additional lift to stall the revolution, along with applying pressure to middle ground voters. After all, if the government can't maintain basic security on the streets, how can they possibly deal with the economy; let along deepen the revolution?

If they fail in their ultimate goal and Maduro doesn't break, then the least they can do is continue obstructing the government.

Secondly, the fringe right-wing knows the sun is setting on them, and the current violence is an eleventh hour attempt to cling to political relevance and radicalize the moderates. So far, the vast majority of the opposition movement has failed to condemn the aggression of the extremists. Hence, if we are witnessing an attempted coup, it's against Capriles and the moderate opposition strain he represents. Power hungry extremists like Machado, Ledezma and Lopez aspire to sixteen the reigns of the opposition movement. To them, Capriles has become meek and weighed down by two failed presidential bids. If they can provoke the bloodbath they desperately desire, they could replace the moderates as the dominant opposition force.

#2: What the Media Said, and Didn't Say

Ewan Robertson

There have been mixed responses from both national and international media following Wednesday's violence in Venezuela, which left three dead and several dozen wounded. In particular, there have been contradictory accounts of exactly what happened in the surrounds of the Attorney General's office in Caracas, when an opposition activist, Bassil Alejandro Dacosta (24), and a Chavista social activist, Juan Montoya (40), were both killed by gunshots as armed groups emerged on the scene toward the end of the opposition's march in the area.

Venezuelan media

Both state owned and independent pro-government outlets alleged that Wednesday's violence, including the two murders that occurred near the Attorney General's office, was planned by right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and perpetrated by radical armed opposition groups. In a report titled "Right-Wing Shock Group Causes Death and Chaos," Caracas-based newspaper Ciudad CCS further said that according to unofficial reports, Juan Montoya was shot from a nearby building, suggesting a premeditated attack. It also mentioned the presence of "violent motorbike riders" who "threw stones and large objects at the police and National Guard".

Venezuelan media also reported Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz's statement, which said that "political operators" and "50 hooded people" had appeared at the end of the opposition march and engaged in acts of violence against those present. Ortega said that the nature of the violence appeared "planned" by "fascists," which suggests that she suspects that radical opposition groups were behind the crimes.

Several politically-neutral private Venezuelan media sources, such as newspaperUltimas Noticias and website Noticias 24, thing not to comment in detail on the events surrounding the violence. They reported the government's and opposition's reactions to the events, without attempting to attribute the violence to either side.

Some pro-opposition media outlets accused security forces and pro-government groups called colectivos of perpetrating violent acts and the murders yesterday. Conservative newspaper El Universal said that Montoya and Dacosta died from "shots by colectivos and SEBIN (the national intelligence service)". National opposition newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual made similar accusations, in editorials titled "Brutal Attack" and "Absurd Violence," in which they claimed that police forces or colectivos (depending on the version) opened fire on anti-government protesters.

International media

Perhaps due to conflicting reports of Wednesday's violence and with the official investigation just beginning, many international media outlets did not take a strong partisan line in their coverage. CNN Espaol wrote a rather neutral reportwhich didn't document the violent events in detail, however mentioned both the government's and radical opposition's interpretations of the day. Meanwhile Spanish-language network Telesur, which is favorable to the Venezuelan government, led with a piece arguing that police involvement in yesterday's killings was ruled out, however it also did not offer a conclusion as to who the assassins were. The article further lamented that, "The events yesterday reflect that the opposition has once again chosen the path of destabilization".

In English-language media, Reuters news agency wrote a fairly straightforwardarticle which despite having journalists on the scene, could only report that the two murders occurred in "chaotic scenes" during post-protest violence. The agency also mentioned the current division within the opposition between moderates and hardliners, and that violent hardliners have been blocking roads and creating unrest (although it did not mention that these groups are sometimes armed and attack civilians) as part of a strategy to try and force President Maduro from office.

Other international outlets took a more interpretive angle on yesterday's violence, either tacitly or openly nodding to the opposition's line of "authorities cracking down on peaceful student protesters". Britain's Sky News led its article with hard-line opposition leader Maria Corina Machado's claim that two student protesters had been killed for "raising their voices" against the government. Associated Press' (AP) piece, re-printed in a variety of sources such as Fox News, hinted the same line, leading with, "Armed vigilantes on motorcycles attacked anti-government protesters in Venezuela." AP said the attackers were "unidentified." The BBC meanwhile seems to have simply borrowed its article from Associated Press. The article de-contextualized yesterday's events by omitting to explain the hard-line opposition's "exit" strategy to force Maduro's resignation, or the presence and actions of armed opposition radicals at protests in recent weeks. Al-Jazeera went further, stating what some other international media have implied but have not said due to lack of evidence, by writing of Wednesday's violence, "Armed members of a pro-government vigilante group arrived on motorcycles and began firing at more than 100 anti-Maduro student protesters."

conclusion

As Venezuelan authorities begin to investigate those responsible for Wednesday's violence, international media have suddenly turned their attention to events in the country. However these reports have often failed to explain the context of yesterday's protests, such as the hard-line opposition's "exit" strategy to try and force the government's resignation, or the violent actions of radical opposition groups on city streets over the past week and a half building up to yesterday's protests. Some reports also failed to mention the peaceful pro-government demonstrations that occurred on the same day.

Perhaps eager to brand the Venezuelan government with the "repressive" tag, at least a few international outlets have even suggested that Wednesday's violence and deaths were due to "pro-government vigilantes" at a time when such a conclusion is far from clear, as the debate within Venezuela over the events highlights. In several of the articles the radical opposition's violent actions, both on Wednesday and in recent days, have been whitewashed from the story. The BBC was a case in point. These outlets should be more responsible in their reporting so as not to mislead the global public on what is currently happening in Venezuela. As the radical wing of the opposition once again attempts to force the government's "exit" through street actions and violence rather than more democratic mechanisms, accurate reporting will be key for international observers to understand this crucial political juncture for the country.

#3: A Complex Psychological War, and What This Means for the Bolivarian Revolution

Tamara Pearson

Over the past six weeks, since the opposition lost the municipal elections, and then after the Christmas and New Year period that followed, things have gotten worse here. Prices have skyrocketed, with shops charging the black market exchange rate rather than the official one, despite most of them buying products at the official rate. The usual products are scarce (hard to find, if not impossible: milk, oil, sugar, margarine, cornmeal) and a few more have been added to the list: mayonnaise, and most soaps. Metronidazol, for common gastric infections has also become scarce. There are alternatives to Metronidozal, and the reality is you can wash most things with cheap shampoo; you don't need all the different dish and clothes soaps and so on. Most people also have most of the scarce products like sugar and margarine stocked up at home. In some barrios gas, for cooking, has been harder to get. The economic reality is a little bit tough, but what is tougher is the psychological effect all of this has on people. That feeling of insecurity, of not being sure you will be able to get the product you need, or be able to afford it. This causes people to form huge tails when a product does happen, which in turn deepens the psychological impact. At the same time, the black market rate – not at all based on the real value of the bolivar – continues to climb, and there's a 'what if' if one's head… what if they manage hyperinflation?

On top of this, we have the media constantly lying about what is going on here and about what the government does, as well as the verbal abuse towards Chavistas on social networks. Then, over the last few weeks, in some parts of Venezuela, the most violent sectors of the opposition have been active. Here in Merida it started off with a few "students" blocking the main road; burning pulls and garbage on it, and throwing rocks at anyone who tried to get close. They had no closets. From last Friday those protests escalated, both in terms of violence, people involved, and roads closed. It has been hard to get to school, work, and the hospital, and the frustration, inconvenience, and fear that comes with these spells of actions combined with the aforementioned economic insecurity. The cacerolas (pot banging protests) that started last night in my barrio and in a few others here and in other cities also cause anxiety.

Sometimes, the extent to which these spells of war of attrition strategies affect people depends on where you live or work. Many workplaces, for example, have access to Mercal food products. Other barrios are much calm, and other parts of the country are peaceful.

Now, the government has made mistakes, but purchasing power has basically continuously risen until mid last year, and inflation has also been around the 15-30% mark until mid last year. The worsening of above measures since then are clearly intentional, both for their political aims and the fact that they drastically increase the wealthy sector's profits. They came at a time when, with Chavez gone, the revolution was perceived to be more vulnerable. They are destructive measures that aim to wear people down and for collective fear and anxiety; three solid ingredients for paving the way for conservative forces. The political opposition may have lost all but one election in the last fifteen years, but the economic opposition is in a stronger position. And the hard thing about that opposition is they are less visible, and also seemingly less divided than the political opposition.

One consequence of this three pronged attack (economic, media, and violence) on the Bolivarian revolution is that the national government has been forced to go on the defensive; constantly trying to counter the price speculation, the media attacks and so on. Though the government has also tried to get on with things; with science programs, housing, cultural programs, the street government, and so on, too much of its effort has had to go into trying to just stay above water. Maduro emphasised in his address tonight (13 February) the importance of ruling by law – fair enough – yet it is hard to imagine this Law of Prices and the 30% profit limit being enforced in the thousands of shops in each city. If the grassroots were more organized to defend our rights, perhaps we could.

Maduro also said, "The most important thing is to keep governing, to keep working." Most movement activists, mission workers, and public sector workers have been doing just that, despite the climate. At the alternative school where I teach for example, we've had all sorts of activists over the last few weeks coming and wanting to do workshops, mural painting, and help out. A group started a rehabilitation program, and the state foundation for science and technology met with us and provided us with a worker for our computing and internet room. However, in this sort of climate it is still harder to deepen revolutionary organization in the way that we'd like.

The question is how this will work out in the long term. While perhaps a few Chavistas, affected by the real drop in purchasing power, could pull and change sides, most people are firm in their convictions, with government supporters largely (but often with constructive criticism) believing the public press, and opposition supporters believing (and being manipulated by) the private media. It seems unlikely that the far right, violent sector of the opposition will achieve its goal of forcing Maduro to resign, yet it is also hard for the revolution to move forward. At worse, it could be seen as a kind of checkmate, and at best, a determined revolution that is being slowed down, but little by little is actually building the communes and worker run production units, and so on, that it would like. On the one hand, the level of organization of the bases here is incredible, but organizations tend to work (very hard) in their own trinchera – trench, and there is a lack of real regional and national articulation between the bases. As we've seen in 2002/3, situations like this don't have to make things worse, they can be the crisis that pushes grassroots and national politics to radicalize, however this lack of broader articulation makes that difficult, if not impossible.