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.


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