Saturday, June 29, 2013

University strike is part of a manipulation by “rightist sectors”

The faculty of public universities has been on indefinite strike since May 30 protesting budget constraints and dismal salaries. 

Today two rival marches, pro and anti-government, took to the streets of Caracas.

According to the government student and professors protest are but a part of a destabilizing plan against the country. 

During the pro-government march, the rector of the public Universidad Nacional de las Fuerzas Armadas (UNEFA) General JesúsGonzález González declared that the strike responds to “political interests, because it is clear the they [the professors] want to promote disorder, differences, and destabilization of Venezuela.” 

The rector of the Univesidad Bolivariana added that opposition students wanted to “surrender the country to the empire. Our students support a socialist country.” 

Minutes ago President Maduro, on a State visit to Nicaragua, wrote on twitter: “I appeal to all university sectors to reject the manipulations and sabotage of rightist politicians and to come back to dialogue so that we can reach an understanding…”

Such appeals to dialogue are unlikely to appease the protests. As David Smilde and I explain in an article for the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, the government is paying the price of excluding elected union leaders from negotiations in favor of professors “representatives” appointed by the government. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The María Corina Conspiracy

Jorge Rodriguez and Ernesto Villegas revealed yesterday an audio recording of a conversation between opposition leader Maria Corina Machado and historian Germán Carrera Damas.

In the recording Machado says that Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, secretary of opposition MUD, told the US Department of State that “the only way to get out of this is to provoke and to accentuate the crisis. A coup, or an auto-coup.”

Government officials are already presenting the recording as proof of a wide raging conspiracy to destabilize the country.

The audio does show that there are sectors of the opposition that favor a radical and conspiratorial strategy. This is publically known to be the case of leaders such as Maria Corina Machado and Diego Arrias.

But Machado is also heard venting her frustration at what she considers is a soft and non-confrontational course taken by Henrique Capriles. She argues that Capriles should not have called off the April 17 opposition march, and criticizes Aveledo for having praised the Kerry-Jaua meeting.

Machado further seems to complain that she was the one 
that should have met the Department of State instead of Aveledo, but that they (it’s not clear if the government or the opposition leaders themselves) are afraid of her because they consider her a radical. She clearly thinks that the “soft” course has the upper hand inside the MUD.

Capriles has declared in relation to the recording that “a violent outcome in the country is the worst that could happen, it’s the worst scenario. If I am sure of something is that in the mind of Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, and of those that conform the Unity [MUD], there is no other idea different form the peaceful and democratic outcome.”

Clearly some opposition leaders could use a bit more conspiracy theory paranoia themselves. It is well known that Venezuelan intelligence services tap phone conversations and then leak them to the official media channels. From the Machado-Carrera Damas case it also seems that they record open conversations in public places.

(For a more detailed analysis of the possible fall out of the recording read the article by David Smilde in Venezuelan Human Rights and Politics.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scarcity and Shortages

Read Part I of an excellent article by David Smilde and Melina Sánchez Montañés detailing the intricacies of consumer goods shortages in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Eduardo Samán and the electoral-economic sabotage theory

Yesterday (June 24) the recently appointed President of the Instituto para la Defensa de las Personas en el Acceso a los Bienes y Servicios (Indepabis, the ombudsman for the defense of consumers), declared that it is important that the people become fully involved in the struggle against speculation and basic goods shortages.

According to the AVN press note, Samán declared that people have to understand the real origins of scarcity. According to him the “rise in shortages and the economic sabotage generally increase in the days before and after electoral campaigns and voting events, [which is a] ploy generally used by the right.”

He further explained the solution to this electoral-shortages correlation problem: “As we come to understand that this issue of goods shortages has an electoral component, we can force the high bourgeoisie to stop using it as a form of blackmail. When it ceases to be effective, they [the high bourgeoisie] will stop using it.”

Samán’s electoral-sabotage-shortages correlation theory is difficult to demonstrate. The electoral calendar has been intense in recent years and to an outside observer it may seem that Venezuela is in a permanent electoral campaign. Indeed in the case of the October 7, 2012 presidential elections, the relation may have been negative, as an increase in public spending in the months leading up to the elections produced a mini boom of imports and consumption and a decrease in shortages.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The FAO conspiracy and sabotage

The reason this blog mainly focuses on the political use of conspiracy theories by the Venezuelan government, and the opposition is rarely mentioned, is that the “paranoid style” of governmental officials by far surpasses the opposition. This is because the Bolivarian revolution is a project based on a conspiracy outlook of society. Conspiracy theories are an important part of the basic theodicy of a convinced revolutionary.

Needless to say however, in Venezuela the government does not have the monopoly of conspiracy theories.
An interesting case is the recent recognition given by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to Venezuela for hunger reduction. 

Twenty countries have satisfied Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number one, to halve the proportion of hungry people. Their progress was measured between 1990-92 and 2010-2012, against benchmarks established by the international community at the UN General Assembly in 2000.
An additional 18 countries were congratulated for reaching both MDG 1 and the more stringent World Food Summit (WFS) goal, having reduced by half the absolute number of undernourished people between 1990-92 and 2010-2012.

Venezuela is among this last list of 18 countries.

The Venezuelan opposition immediately considered the issue strange. How can a country that is facing recurrent shortages of basic products, high inflation, and that is forced to import most what it consumes, be even considered for such recognition? Henrique Capriles was the first to point out the suspicions and denounce that “there are other interests behind this… behind this award there is a person that was part of the government of President Lula, and we all know his inclinations.” 

Opposition party Primero Justica leader Julio Borges explained who this person is: FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva was for a time a minister in Lula’s government. For Borges the recognition is part of a pay back by Brazil, via FAO, for past favors received from the Venezuelan government. This, declared Borges in typical conspiracy theory rhetoric, is a “mathematical reality.”

For his part Nicolás Maduro, receiving the recognition in Rome, could not refrain from advancing his usual “economic war” argument, claiming that there is no such thing as scarcity in Venezuela, but only “an internal and external economic sabotage” that produces shortages. He went so far as to ask FAO for its support in the establishment of a system for monitoring production and consumption of food in Venezuela.

Venezuela received the recognition toghether with 17 countries, as diverse as Peru and Armenia, and the period measured by the FAO starts in 1990, well before the Bolivarian revolution. But Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua claimed that “the only possible way to fight hunger is the construction of a socialist society,” and that “Chávez put an end to hunger in Venezuela“ 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Diosdado Cabello fights against several conspiracies

Yesterday´s declarations by National Assembly President, and Vice-President of PSUV, Diosdado Cabello are a classical example of the political use of conspiracy theory. 

As many times before, he warned that the “if the Venezuelan right tries anything against our compañero Presidente Nicolás Maduro, it will be a declaration of war because we will go out to the streets to defend him, and we will take appropriate actions. (…) We know who they are, if they try anything against Nicolás, we will be forced to act in consequence.”

Cabello further specified who the conspirators are, and directly addressed them: “Señores of the opposition, from the party Primero Fascista [referring to Primero Justicia] and allies, (…) such as Acción Democrática, Copei, Convergencia and their by-products. We cannot allow you play with the peace, security, stability, tranquility, and future of Venezuelans.”

If you have read other posts in this blog, or simply follow Venezuelan politics, you know that these strident remarks from Cabello are not new. However they do seem to point to a higher level of radicalization of his usually virulent discourse.

I would like now to propose an experiment in conspiracy theory construction and outline my own conspiracy theory about this.

Cabello’s increasing radicalization has to be understood in the context of his relations with the compañero Presidente Maduro. The past week has seen Maduro insisting on the need to take measures to curve rampant government corruption. He has couched this anti-corruption campaign on appeals to new forms of “socialist morality” to defeat “capitalist corruption”. Cabello is often accused by the opposition (and even sometimes by contributors) of being the ring-leader of a government corruption clique. He needs to show that he is the most radical of radical socialists, at least in his discourse. It could well be that the most dangerous conspiracy Cabello is facing is not a plot by the “fascist right” but one from inside the government.

Note how I have used a very typical conspiracy theory mechanism here: if we firmly believe in my theory, the more Cabello claims to love his compañero Presidente, the more we will think their relations are strained; the more Cabello claims innocence and insists on his radical socialist credentials, the more we will consider that as further proof of his cynical corrupt intent. I would also like to remind the reader that, as with the Dreyfus affair, conspiracy theories sometimes turn out to be true. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Secular Theodicies and Some Political Consequences of Conspiracy Theories

When people stop believing in God, they don´t believe in nothing – they believe in anything. G.K. Chesterton

In this blog I am not so much concerned with the truth claims made by conspiracy theorists but with the consequences of believing in them. This is not a value free claim; instead I believe that in certain historical moments, when vast numbers of people become convinced that their polity is threatened or controlled by powerful conspiracies, the consequences for society have been catastrophic and even genocidal.

Elsewhere I have argued that conspiracy theories are an integral part of the construction of forms of political religion (here and here). Discursively they serve as a theodicy: clearly defining an enemy that can be blamed for all evils and calling for total loyalty to the authoritarian leader, who is presented as the only one capable of defeating the vast conspiracy. Historical examples of this are obviously Stalinism and National Socialism, and the best literary example is Orwell´s 1984.

Most modern conspiracy theories act as secular forms of theodicies (by secular theodicy I mean that the explanations of the evils of this world are to be sought in this world). Through them people can be sure that their suffering is not just part of natural, structural, or religious causes, but that concrete this-worldly groups or their agents are to blame. This gives people a sense of political empowerment because if the root of evil is inner-worldly, then it can be defeated with the tools of this world. Only that this empowerment is based on the premise that a powerful conspiracy can only be defeated by a powerful leader. The more powerful the conspiracy, the more power the leader, or in some cases the movement, needs to have in order to defeat it. The consequence is that political mobilization is only effected in support of an authoritarian leader.

Total trust in the leader and his capacity to defeat the conspiracy means that political dissent and internal opposition are considered treason. Conspiracy theories are part of a construction of a siege mentality that stresses the inner group against the enemy. As Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro clearly put it: “There is no opposition in Venezuela, there is only a conspiracy.” Internal debate must be suspended until the day the conspiracy is totally defeated.

When conspiracies are as vast as “capitalism”, “the empire”, “the Zionists”, etc., internal debate must be suspended indefinitely. The secular theodicy argument comes full circle: evils may be caused by human agents, but they are so vast and powerful that they can only be defeated by a leader with out of this world, messianic, and religious powers. Conspiracy theorists truly stop believing in God, and believe in anything.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The revolution and the Cui bono-sabotage argument

The Amuai Refinery, in Falcón, is one of the biggest in Venezuela. In August 25, 2012 an explosion of two of its main tanks killed 48 people and seriously crippled the countries oil refining capacity.

Since April this year, during his presidential campaign, Maduro has been insisting that the explosion was an act of sabotage by the opposition. In April 8th he declared: “it was sabotage. I have no doubts about it. (…) They [the opposition] do this in a way that it seems an accident. They think that with Amuai the people are going to turn around and vote for a rapacious little bourgeois [Capriles]. But the people realized what the bourgeoisie is capable of when it wants power, every day it takes away electricity, the lights, by sabotage. They believe that you [the people] will become confused and vote against the revolution.”

On Sunday 16th of June 2013, on a visit to Falcón, Maduro again proposed his theory of sabotage as the cause for the explosion: “we have repaired most of the damage caused, that fatal 25th of August, I have no doubts, by the fascist rights that stabbed the refinery, which burned and exploded. (…) I have no doubts about it. The investigation is progressing and we already have many leads, but it was the fascist right, and it´s imperial allies, who are responsible for this attack against the fatherland.”

Maduro´s theory follows a usual Cui bono form of argumentation popular with conspiracy theorists: those who stand to benefit from the crime, committed the crime. According to the President, the opposition “needed a public opinion coup that could change the polls,” before the October 7, 2012 elections. Therefore the opposition sabotaged the refinery in order to produce that “public opinion coup.” For Maduro, the fact that Chávez won that election by 9 percentage points does not disprove his theory because “the people realized what the bourgeoisie is capable of,” and did not vote for Capriles.

The opposition at the time claimed that the explosion was probably an accident due to lack of proper maintenance of the plant. But for conspiracy theorist there are no “accidental” events: all events are the results of actions with conscious intent. Accidents as explanations are considered too simple and contrary to common sense.

As with recurrent claims made by several officials of electrical sabotage and “economic war”, the Venezuelan government is also following another classic historical model of conspiracy theorizing: Socialism is the perfect scientific planning of society, it is therefore impossible for things to go wrong. If they do go wrong however, it must be because the “enemies of the people” are sabotaging the revolution.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Dollar Nymphomania” could be part of the economic war unleashed by the fascist right

President Nicolas Maduro declared on June 13 that “there is a nymphomania for dollars in many sectors. It’s impossible to satisfy them if they are looking for dollars for the dollars themselves.” He added that this was part of the economic war Venezuela is fighting against the “fascist right.” 

There is, in fact, in Venezuela an infinite demand of dollars for importing goods and for safeguarding savings in the face of high inflation. Melinda Sánchez Montañés and David Smilde argue that an “important cause of the current economic situation is the distortion of the currency system. Imposed in 2003, exchange control has rendered a progressive overvaluation of the Bolivar, which has led to a wave of imports targeted for consumption rather than investment, as well as capital flight.”   

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Universities and destabilization plans

A week old indefinite strike called by professors and administrative workers of public universities has been accompanied by student protests in several cities. The government has claimed that professors and students are only pawns of wider destabilization plans by the right. Maduro has argued that professors are not really striking for better salaries, but only “because of a whim (caprichito) of overthrowing me."

On June 14, Maduro warned the protesting students that opposition leader Leopoldo López has plans to ambush them with “a fascist attack, and then blame the revolution.” López answered the accusations in a video posted on twitter: “not this, nor any other government, is going to decide when, where, or who can protest. At this time university workers, professors, and students, have all the right to go out [to protest]” 

More on the 18 war planes and the paramilitaries

The blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights has an excellent Q&A overview by David Smilde on the Venezuela Colombia relations, and some answers to recent conspiracy claims made in Venezuela. 

Here is part of the article:

Is there any truth to Venezuela’s recent claims that theVenezuelan opposition has purchased 18 war planes to be located in Colombia and that they captured nine Colombian paramilitaries conspiring to kill President Maduro?

Of course stranger things have happened and from the outside it is impossible to know without actually seeing the evidence. But neither claim seems likely. Eighteen warplanes, depending on the model and whether they were used or new would cost somewhere between $250 million and $1 billion and it is hard to imagine who in the Venezuelan opposition would be willing to put forward that much money for such a venture. Any actual belligerent action would require extensive ground support, ammunition and ground troops. This does not seem plausible even if it were free.

Paramilitary conspiracies against the Venezuelan government are, of course, a possibility. But the timing seems unlikely. Assassination attempts usually come from groups who feel threatened by strong leaders that oppose their interests. But Maduro has struggled in his first two months and many people in the opposition and in Chavismo doubt he will finish his term. It’s not clear why right wing opponents of the Venezuelan government would want to take him out violently.

Venezuela has a long and porous border with Colombia which means in states close to that border there is extensive presence of guerrilla, paramilitaries and all sorts of irregular groups involved in contraband, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. Any given day of the week the Venezuelan armed forces could round up some paramilitaries or other irregulars and accuse them of whatever they want. So it would require some real concrete evidence beyond mug shots to make this story plausible.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Elías Jaua and the “permanent destabilization plans”

On June 13, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua informed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the opposition has “permanent plans for the destabilization of the country.” Jaua handed the Commissioner an “extract of the report from the Defensoría del Pueblo, with testimonies from the April 15 and 16 violent events that resulted from the appeal to violence made by the candidate Capriles Radonski.” 

The Venezuelan opposition refused to recognize the results of the April 14 Presidential Elections. Violent protests followed on April 15 and 16. The government has insisted that the violence was a result of a direct appeal to violence by opposition candidate Capriles Radonski. Capriles did ask his followers to protest on the 15th, but then asked them to avoid confrontational street actions and instead focus on pot bagging protests. However the Venezuelan government insists that Capriles is responsible for 11 death attributed to the post-election violence.

This was not the only conspiracy related recent declaration by Elías Jaua. On a visit to Madrid, on June 14, he declared: “we have told the Colombian government many times that in the next meeting between President Santos and President Maduro, we will hand over the proofs of the conspiracy that is being organized from Bogotá against Venezuela.”

The Agencia Venezolana de Noticias press note further informs that “the meeting would be devoted to clarify the disagreements between both governments that emerged after Caracas denounced the conspiracy plans that are in progress against the Venezuelan government, and that include economic and paramilitary actions organized from Bogotá. The plan would include the involvement of the anti-chavista ex-candidate Herique Capriles, who was received by Santos in the Colombian Presidential residence two weeks ago. We can also add to this the denunciations made by reporter and politician José Vicente Rangel about the negotiations by a sector of the Venezuelan right to purchase 18 planes in the United States. These planes would be transported and placed in a Colombian air base in the next month with the purpose of eventual launching an aggression against Venezuela.” 

Diálogo Bolivariano, economic war and sabotage

On June 12 President Nicolas Maduro broadcasted from Mérida the second of his Diálogo Bolivariano, a TV program that resembles the format of Chávez´s Aló Presidente. In reference to smuggling of goods in Zulia State, Maduro claimed that the bourgeoisie is behind the “economic sabotage” of the country: “They sabotage, these bandits, and then they go around saying that it´s the government´s fault. They go to Bogotá, they plan to bring in paramilitaries to kill Venezuelan soldiers, they try to finish me off and fill with violence the streets of the main cities of the country. They are the ones behind this economic sabotage.” 

During the program, sound problems were also attributed by Maduro to sabotage because: “if there are sound engineers here that should have control of the audio, and they had all day to test it, and then it goes and fails right when we are about to start, then it´s like sabotage.” 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

“Magnicidio” and the transfer of charisma

During an interview on Globovision, the Popular Power Minister of Interior, Justice, and Peace, Rodríguez Torres, made new denunciations that “sectors of the extreme right” have plans to assassinate President Maduro (“Magnicidio” is the word most often used by the Venezuelan government for these plots).

Rodríguez Torres linked the plot to kill Maduro with plans to bring paramilitaries into the country by the “extreme right”. He compared the situation to past cases in which “groups” had brought paramilitaries to assassinate Chávez: “in that opportunity they brought 150 [paramilitaries], in a single block and wearing uniforms, with the intention of bombing Aló Presidente, and to deploy them all over Caracas in order to create a great confusion and to kill President Chávez. Now they are acting with groups that come from the autodenfensas, that are important criminal gangs in Colombia, but with a different method, they now get into the country posing as citizens and try to merge in society, but they carry war guns, and their mission is always the same: destabilize Venezuelan politics and create violence.” 

Claims of “magnicidio” plans were regularly made by Chávez´s during his government. His illness and death have been attributed by Maduro to a cancer “inoculated” by his enemies. As can be seen in the chronology presented in past posts of this blog, the Maduro government has also presented a theory of an extensive ongoing plan to kill the President. The plot denunciations have included many actors at different times: Otto Reich, Roger Noriega, Álvaro Uribe, Armando Briquet, and Henrique Capriles as masterminds, and mercenaries from El Salvador or paramilitaries from Colombia as executioners.

The transfer of charisma from Chávez to his chosen successor has proven a challenge. Conspiracy theories that center on the figure of the leader serve the purpose of presenting Maduro as the true continuation of Chávez: he has inherited not only his powers, but also his sworn enemies. They also help create the perception among his followers that the Revolution is under constant threat. The danger must be conjured by rallying around the Leader with complete, uncritical loyalty. Critics are presented as accomplices of the conspiracy plots and therefore as non-loyal opposition. As Diosdado Cabello has argued: “there is no opposition in Venezuela, there is only a conspiracy.”

More on “Gente de Petróleo” and the 18 war planes

The government´s Sistema Bolivariano de Comunicación e Información published a note yesterday claiming that Gente de Petróleo (the organization of PDVSA executives fired after the oil strike of 2002), “control” the production of 20,000 barrels of oil in Colombia trough a company called Vetra Energía. 

The note, originally published in the government free daily newspaper Ciudad CCS, argues that this company could be linked to the “purchase of 18 war planes by the opposition, to be placed in one of seven US military bases in Colombia,” as previously denounced by José Vicente Rangel and by President Nicolás Maduro. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Desecration of the Presidential Grave by the Right, The Fascist Air Force, and the ongoing “Mercenaries Plot”

According to a press note from AVN published on June 8, Maduro reveals on a public meeting of the Gran Polo Patriótico that the “right” had plans for stealing the body of President Chávez form his resting place: “The national fascist right had planned for April 15, to irrupt into the Cuartel de la Montaña and assault the coffin of the Supreme Commander Hugo Chávez, and also massacre the people of 23 the Enero [a low income are of Caracas near the Cuartel] and leave at least 10,000 dead. (…) I have no doubt, they had it all planned.” Maduro also declares that this is still the plan of the “right”. Later during the same meeting Maduro again mentions his theory about the “war of the dogs.” This is the full quote of a press note in English released by AVN that day:

Caracas, 08 Jun. AVN.- People's Power and Chavista ideology were defined by Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro as people's strength to face and defeat fascism.
"Fascism is fought with a clear revolutionary ideology, which we have. We have bolivarianism and the 21 century socialism, which are summarized in Chavismo," said president Nicolas Maduro.
The Venezuelan President stressed that another strength of the country fighting fascism is expressed in "a powerful State, which abides by Law and Constitution."
There must not exist weakness before fascism, its campaigns and lies, warned Maduro, urging to bear in mind what we are facing.
He said opponents seek to spread hatred and "inject scenarios which some experts in strategic analysis call 'dog wars,' a miserable name used to define actions aimed at dividing and breaking peace in countries, which are then intervened by the imperial foot."
Such war of rumors and strategies, Maduro said, are part of the fascist behavior of local rightists, anchored in their class interests.
President Maduro said Venezuelans already have elements to fight that: "It is fought with ideology as project, ideas; it is fought with spirit, new spirit based in love, homeland, future, a Christian love for the humble, for those who claim justice."
"Fascists, do not be wrong about me, about people. Here are people willing to defeat you," stressed president Nicolas Maduro.
 AVN 08/06/2013 17:55

On June 9, José Vicente Rangel reveals that a “sector of the Venezuelan right” has negotiated in the United States the purchase of war planes. These planes would be used, from a US military base in Colombia, in an “aggression operation” against Venezuela. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles qualified Rangel´s denunciation as a “good joke” and added that the idea could only come from “the twisted and dark mind of a nefarious character.” On June 11 Capriles again made reference to the claims: “Where are we supposed to keep 18 planes? In a garage?” 

On June 10, Minister of Interior Relations, Justice, and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres informs on VTV that on Sunday 9 two groups of paramilitary were captured in Portuguesa and Táchira. Rodríguez Torres presumes “with much certainty, that all this could be part of a plan orchestrated from Colombia with the purpose of attempting against the life of our President and against the stability of the Bolivarian Government. (…) We are not at all surprised that this plan has undoubtedly a political end, a destabilizing end, within the context of the extreme right that dreams of a violent outcome, a non-constitutional outcome, of what they consider a crisis.”

The denunciations by Rodríguez Torres are ratified by Maduro via twitter a few minutes later: “I ratify it, they conspire form Colombia against our fatherland, the right has again coordinated groups of assassins to come to our fatherland,” and “The psychological war and the dirty war against our fatherland has as a basis to bring [into the country] the fascist violence of paramilitaries from Colombia.” Later during the day Maduro gave further detailsof the plot explaining that it was financed by Gente de Petroleo (an organization of PDVSA ex-executives of who lost their jobs after the oil strike of 2002 and that operates mainly in Colombia): “I will latter say their names, but first I would like to alert this financing of huge amounts of dollars.” The objectives of the plot, according to Maduro, would be the assassination of the President, the “confrontation” with military personnel of the Plan Patria Segura, and the “increase of the homicide rates in the country.”

On June 11, Foregoing Minister Elías Jaua declares: “From Bogotá a platform of conspiracy is being installed for the development and propagation of rumors, intrigues, and psychological warfare against the Venezuelan people. (…) [Groups] are organized, promoted and financed from Bogotá by obscure characters of the Colombian political and economic life. (…) These are paramilitary bands dedicated to fomenting violence in Venezulea, the facts are there, we have captured two paramilitary bands in two different States of the country and we will continue hitting at this destabilization strategy.”

On June 10, a note in English from the AVN web page informs that “Organizing open air food markets and supervising public and private distribution networks to guarantee stocks, the National Government intensifies its battle against an economic war staged by local right-wing sector in an attempt to destabilize the country through shortage, speculation and hoarding. (…) Ministers of Agriculture and Lands and Commerce, Yvan Gil and Alejandro Fleming, respectively, said the statement during an inspection to an open air market of staple goods and personal hygiene products at fair prices, arranged in downtown Caracas by the National Executive. (…) Gil said the State will continue ‘facing this war declared by a rightist sector, boycotting staple goods' distribution, production, availability.’”

May and June 2013. Capriles meets Santos

(Parts of this chronology were previously published in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)

May 28, In reference to a trip by Henrique Capriles to Colombia for a meeting with President Santos, Maduro declares that: “There are people of the Venezuelan right that are traveling to countries of Latin America and to the United States to sabotage the [Venezuelan] economy, to hire sicarios to come and kill in the main cities.” After the private meeting between President Santos and Capriles, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua declared: “To receive a person that does not recognize the Venezuelan institutions and that openly called for violence on April 15th is a very bad sign, and in a way, reveals what we have repeated many times: there has been a conspiracy against Venezuela form Bogota. We did not want to believe that that conspiracy reaches the highest powers of the Colombian State. We have to alert the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean of this new surge of aggressions against Venezuela and its government…” The President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, also concurred that in the theory that the real motive of Caprile´s visit to Colombia was to conspire against Venezuela. According to Cabello the meeting Santos-Capriles was in reality a cover for another meeting between Colombian ex-President Uribe and Caprile´s campaign advisor J.J. Rondón.

May 30, Maduro again points out that there is a plan, plotted from Colombia, to “morally and physically” assassinate National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello: “This son of Chávez [Cabello] is being today subjected to fire, they are trying to accomplish his moral assassination, to then see if they can accomplish his physical assassination. This is a plan directed from Bogotá with the aim of weakening Venezuelan democracy, it is directed by perverse minds.” Later that day on a public meeting at Aragua State, Maduro  gave furhter details of the plot and spoke of proofs of the conspiracy (which however would not be made public in order to protect the sources): “I have proving elements to demonstrate to anyone in the world, it would have to be in private, because I am not going to reveal the precious sources that have been constructed by Venezuela´s State intelligence (…). Roger Noriega, a member of the United States power elites, even if his party is not directly in the government now, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Colombian ex-President, J.J. Rendón, unfortunately born in Venezuela, but a man of unlimited perversity, have a plan for psychological warfare based on actions against the peace and security of Venezuela, they have approved this plan (...) They say it’s a perfect plan and this group met yesterday night in Bogota with part of the Venezuelan fascist right (…), to prepare a plan that includes acts of sabotage against the Venezuelan economy, the dollar, the shortages, and a group of sicarios that will be brought to the country, some say they are already here, to murder Venezuelan soldiers of this Plan of the Patria [Plan Patria Segura]”. He added a threat to the opposition: “I don´t want opposition leaders to come later whining, leaders like Julio Borges [Primero Justicia] (…) No! It can´t be that they go out of the country to conspire with the mafias gringas, Colombian mafias, to destroy Venezuela, while we are here working.” Maduro also publically asked the Fiscal General to look into the case and see if it amounted to treason to the fatherland. He also added another aspect of the plot: “A group of experts has arrived with a poison, and they are prepared to inoculate me with it. I would not die in one day, no, it would sicken me in the duration of the months to come. Can I remain silent about this? No, I have to denounce it and face it.” Maduro ended the meeting with a direct plea to the people: “People be on the alert! Venezuelan State be ready to face the open treason to the Venezuelan fatherland by the fascist right!”

May 31, On a Cabinet Meeting transmitted by public TV Maduro declares: “We are neutralizing conspiracies against our country, you all know that the main conspiracy against our fatherland has moved to Bogotá, all Venezuela knows this, we have put forth the proofs. (…) We are willing to give the Colombian government the precise proofs of how, from Bogotá a conspiracy against the stability of Venezuela has been configured, that thinks it can defeat the Bolivarian revolution." Maduro also gave directs instructions to Foreign Minister Elías Jaua to begin “reconstructing the relations between pour countries.” But he also advised the Judicial Power to look into the “evident violations” by the opposition on its visit to Colombia: “We are cannot be blackmailed. Whoever has to go to jail for treason to the fatherland, will be acted upon no matter who he might be. Here there are no family names or official office that can claim impunity when laws and peace of the Republic are at stake.” Colombian President Santos declared that “it is absurd to think that the Colombian government knows about, or worse that is supporting, any type of action to destabilize the Venezuelan government. We are harmed the most by any problem in Venezuela, what we want is the good of Venezuela, and this is why there must be some sort of misunderstanding, and we will solve any difference with prudence and through the diplomatic channels.”

June 1, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declares: “In the month of June, NATO will subscribe and agreement with the Colombian government, with the Ministry of Defense, to begin an approachment process of cooperation, with the aim of becoming a part of that organization. Maduro, on a State visit to Nicaragua, reacts to the announcement: “There are some that now want to bring the invading armies of the world to Latin America, this contradicts the international doctrine and legality on which union is based.” Maduro also writes on twitter: “The right, in its hate and craziness, wants to blow (zarpazo) the peace of the country. All on the alert! To continue to struggle for the stability of the country.” The official AVN tittles the news press inwhich it reports the tweet: “Maduro calls on the Venezuelan to be on the alert against the conspiracy of the right.” And goes on to inform that “The offensive of the opposition, through a campaign of disqualification in the social media and the mass media, has centered on the figure of the Head of State [Maduro], and the President of the National Assembly and First Vice-President of the PSUV, Diosdado Cabello, the institutions of the State, the Electoral Power, and the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB).” The note also reminds the reader that “President Maduro has also denounced the plans and conspiracies of the right, with its international allies, with the aim of destabilizing the country. One of those attacks was produced on 15 and 16 of the past April, when they did not recognize the results of the Presidential elections, won by Nicolás Maduro, and attacked the institutions of the State, the Centers for Integral Diagnosis (CDI), and the headquarters of the Psuv, all of which left 11 Venezuelan dead.”

June 2, José Vicente Rangel warns that there are “external and internal agents” actively conspiring against the country: “The daily send out a lethal message calling for the downfall of the constitutional government and inciting a military uprising.”

June 3, Nicmar Evans, political analyst andpro-government activist, writes in his opinion column: “The Colombian government has never ceased to be the epicenter of the conspiracy of the bi-national oligarchies, under the directives of the United States. The Uribe-Santos conflict is not a political conflict, it is an economic one, and the Venezuelan opposition has permanently use Colombia as a base for conspirative operations, therefore what is really hard to understand is our surprise with the public reception of Capriles by Santos.”

June 3, in a meeting with the military High Command, Maduro declares about the impasse with Colombia: “Don´t you think for a moment that what has happened in these last days is only a misunderstanding, as President Juan Manuel Santos has qualified it. (…) This was no misunderstanding, what they did, they turned Bogotá into the center of the conspiracy against us. They are planning the murder of Diosdado Cabello, my own poisoning, and the murder of soldiers of the Plan Patria Segura on the streets. (…) It is no misunderstanding what is passing now, and now they announce that they are going to NATO. There you have another negative turn against the Bolivarian revolution, an attack against the Bolivarian revolution and a backing of the imperial hegemonic plans.” He ends with a warning: “If you break the rules of the game and want an alliance with NATO, and to come and meddle with Venezuelan internal issues to propitiate destabilization, don´s expect flowers from us, expect clear and blunt answers from us.”

June 4, President Maduro again criticized private media for what he called a “conspiracy of silence”. Directly referring to Últimas Noticias, he complained that they had a veto over the “accomplishments” of the Plan Patria Segura and “over the truth about the miracles that are being done for Venezuela (…), and they magnify the problems of the country.” 

June 6, Diosdado Cabello, addressing a public meeting of the PSUV electoral Unidades de Batalla, declares that: “The time for forgiveness is over (…). From now on, anyone that conspires against the fatherland has to assume his responsibility, we will act according to the law.” 

May 2013. The “Mercenaries Plot” and other various miscellaneous plots form May

(Parts of this chronology were previously published in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)

May 4, Maduro renews his accusations made in March, mainly against Alvaro Uribe, ex-president of Colombia, but also against Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, of being behind a plot to kill him: “We have the proofs and sufficient elements to think that there are plans, directed from Miami by Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, and form Bogotá by Alvaro Uribe to make me physically disappear. Uribe is behind a plan to murder me. He is a murderer.” He elaborates the denunciation claiming that there are “sectors of the right” that are in cahoots with Uribe and with paramilitary mercenaries that are “trying to penetrate the country through jungle trails.” On May 3 Maduro had also accused Uribe of being behind a crime that shocked public opinion, the assassination of Johnny González, a sport journalist shot dead in Caracas. Maduro claimd that “we have to be careful, behind all this could be the hand of Uribe Vélez, of the paracos (Colombian paramilitary).” On May 7 the Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holgín met the Venezuelan Ambassador in Bogota Iván Ricón, and short of presenting a formal protest note, she did express the dissatisfaction of the Colombian government for the treatment the ex-president had received form Venezuela. On May 8, Uribe´s lawyers asked the asked the IACHR to extend a precautionary measure in his favor as he is the victim of an “irresponsible public persecution.”

May 4, on a cadena, Maduro accuses opposition Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma of being a “traitor to the fatherland” for meeting Mayors of the Miami area, and calls the on the General Attorney (Fiscal General) to open an investigation on him for “calling for a foreign intervention in Venezuela.” On May 5 Maduro further criticized Ledezma´s visit to Miami and called him an “adeco mequetrefe (good for nothing member of Acción Democrática), corrupt, traitor to the fatherland,” and a murderer. He insisted that “The Fiscalía has to look into this and see if there are elements, according to the law, to qualify this as treason to the fatherland, because we cannot accept someone asking for the interventions of a country like the US in internal matters.” Ledezma answered that in fact he did meet with local Miami officials during his trip and with representatives of the Venezuelan exile community in Miami in the local Venezuelan hangouts “El Arepazo” and “Café Canela”, but that he has never called for a foreign intervention. On May 8, PSUV representatives to the Municipal Council of Metropolitan Caracas Nahum Fernández and Alexander Nebreda, denounced in a press conference that Ledezma has been using public resources to travel around the world to “conspire against Venezuela”. They claim that Ledezma, on his trip to Miami, ostensibly to meet Mayors of the city, in reality had met with “agents of the spying web of the Israeli Mossad.” They added that “He has travelled to Miami in order to conspire in a campaign that seeks the international non-recognition of our leader Nicolás Maduro, legitimate President of the Republic.” Ledezma answered on his twitter account: “The only treason to the fatherland is to give our oil away to the Cuban government.”

May 4, in the same allocution in which he called on an investigation on Ledezma, Maduro named the US President Obama as the “chief of the devils.” He lamented that “Obama has been dragged to ultra-reactionary position by the Pentagon,” and alerted “all independent governments of a plan by the North American government to produce what has been called ´The War of the Dogs´ in Venezuela, to justify an imperialist intervention. Know, all friends of the world, sons of the Liberator and of Hugo Chávez, that we are ready to defend our right to be free from any form of imperial domination.”

May 6, the new Justice and Interior Minister, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, in a television interview with José Vicente Rangel, gives details of a “conspiracy plan” that has links with foreign agents. The objective of this plot is to “intoxicate society with fear and destabilization” by making demands for the non-recognition of established institutions (he does not specify if he is referring to the similar, previously denounced, “April Connection” plot). The conspirators include NGOs, political parties, the media, and social media web sites. As proof of this plot Rodríguez Torrez mentioned a 2010 meeting in Mexico between Freddy Guevara, Yon Goicochea, Lester Toledo (opposition leaders) and “two retired Generals” to “talk about a plan for civil resistance.” The plot would further include Alejandro Plaz Castillo who would have, according to the Minister, presented the MUD with a “rapid action plan” to cry fraud after the 2012 presidential elections (although the MUD did not claim fraud at the time). This plan would include Armando Briquet (head of the Capriles campaign) and Herique Capriles himself. The far reaching plot thickens with “important components such as Álvaro Uribe, Otto Reich, and Roger Noriega, (…) with the aim of creating the conditions for a civil war in Venezuela.”

May 14, Maduro announces that there is a plot to make him quarrel with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, and then “physically eliminate” one of the two, so as to blame the survivor for the crime: “They attack us and say that we hate each other. You know what´s the objective? To promote demoralization and division. (…) The objective, this may sound macabre, is to try to physically eliminate one of the two and blame the other. These are the perverse and macabre objectives and sentiments of those behind these plans.”

May 15, PSUV Governor of the State of Táchira, José Gregorio Vielma Mora, reveals a plot by paramilitaries to assassinate him. The plot was discovered after investigations by intelligence services in the State of Zulia, governed by the opposition. Vielma Mora claims to have been named first in a list of politicians of Táchira that should be assassinated “with two shots, in the areas of the back of the neck and the head”. The Governor does not inform who are the other politicians named in the list. 

May 16, during a visit to the State of Barinas Maduro suggests that at least part of the citizens insecurity problem in that State is due to the plotting of the “fascist right”. He declares that he has “no doubt that the right, and external factors, are bringing in groups in order to kidnap and kill for money. (…) You know who those external factors are, you know who they are because I won´t be naming the devils in this sacred home [Chávez´s family house in Barinas], but I have no doubt that they are moving the buttons of paramilitary and that they will try to bring in groups, just as they do in Barinas with the sicarios, and in that way they will keep setting on the insecurity issue.” He added that “they did the same thing by bringing in hard drugs to our barrios, to give away for free to young people.” 

May 20, after the opposition reveals a recording of Mario Silva supposedly reporting to a Cuban agent, Silva writes on twitter that it is all a montage and that “Zionism is doing a good job.”

May 27, in an interview in State channel VTV, Maduro accuses CNN of promoting foreign intervention and a coup d’état in Venezuela. According to him the international news broadcaster is “at the service of destabilization, (…) openly calling for a coup, (…) and has turned into the spearhead of the promotion of intervention.” CNN answered in a communiqué that it had repeatedly and unsuccessfully invited Maduro to an interview.

May 27 Maduro alerts that there is a foreign plan to sabotage his citizens security initiative Plan Patria Segura which includes the deployment of military officers to the streets. Maduro explains that “some characters of the fascist right are planning a meeting, we know where, how, and when, in a neighboring country with a sinister character who is used to violence. The plan is to sabotage the Plan Patria Segura. (…) We have to be alert against sabotage. They want to bring groups of sicarios, drug traffickers to bring in hard drugs. People, be watchful of these groups.” The Technical Secretary of the Presidential Commission for Arms Control, Pablo Fernández, reaffirms Maduro´s theory declaring in an interview in the public VTV that “they [the opposition] are looking for international alliances in order to sabotage the advances in the security policies.”

April 2013. The Thimoty Tracy and Antonio Rivero Cases

(Shorter versions of this chronology were previously published in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights)

Thimoty Tracy

April 26, At a news conference Interior and Justices Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres reveals that the government has detained a US citizen named Timothy Hallet Tracy that, according to the Minister, belongs to a US “intelligence organization” and that had been handing out money to “students and parties of the right with the aim of generating violence.” Rodriguez Torres specifies that the money was channeled to a plot called “April Connection” that the SEBIN (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia) had been monitoring since October 2012, when “all the information we had pointed to a normal development of the elections, but that after the announcement of the results by the CNE there would be a non-recognition of those results by the candidate of the right and that violent street actions would be generated with the purpose of destabilizing and delegitimizing the government.” (Opposition leaders ridiculed Rodríguez Torres via twitter asking how could the SEBIN know there would be elections in October 2012 if Chávez died in March 2013). 

As proof of the plot Rodríguez Torres showed during his press conference excerpts from a video of an opposition rally. In the video a group of students joke with the camera asking for 5 million dollars for the rights of appearing in the movie Tracy is making, and “600 million Bs. to be deposited to me if you want me to activate the city of Merida.” Rodríguez Torres explained that these experts clearly showed that “what motivates these students is to burn the country down. What they are interested in is money.” The family of Tracy claims that he is an amateur documentary producer. The US State Department denies that he is an intelligence agent. 

Tracy was expelled form Venezuela on June 5. The Minister of Interior, Justice, and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres wrote on twitter: “The gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy captured spying on our country, has been expelled from the national territory.”

General Antonio Rivero

April 27, Leopoldo López of the opposition party Voluntad Popular denounces via twitter that a leader of his party, the retired General Antonio Rivero has been illegally detained. The next day his lawyer announces that he will be indicted with charges of “conspiracy and instigation to commit crimes.” 

April 25, two days before his arrest, the public Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) had aired news claiming that Antonio Rivero was a CIA agent that had been recruited by the US State Department three years ago, with the aim of “denouncing the supposed ´cubanization´ of the FANB”, and shows a video of Rivero participating in the post April 14 election protests and giving instructions to protestors. Rivero is waiting for trial. On May 2 he started a hunger strike which he suspended on May 13.