Monday, July 29, 2013

And finally… the proofs of the “magnicidio” conspiracy

On Monday 23rd President Maduro announced that National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello would, within hours, reveal the proofs of plans by the opposition to assassinate him.

Today Cabello declared that those proofs will finally be provided “in the coming days.” They will include “names of persons that live outside Venezuela, implicated in the plans… with itineraries.”

He gave no further details but did mention as “notable evidence” that representatives of the opposition have met people close to Augusto Pinochet, Alvaro Uribe, and ex-President of Peru, Alan García, and that opposition party Primero Justicia “is always present where there is violence.”

Friday, July 26, 2013

The “magnicidio” week

This last week was the “magnicidio” week, with almost daily claims by government officials that the opposition is plotting to kill either President Maduro, or National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

On Sunday 22, José Vicente Rangel announced the plot, citing as his source the blog La Colmena, written by Grima Gallardo.

On the 23rd Maduro and Cabello jointly insisted on the magnicidio claims: “If they were to do something to me, the wrath of the gods and of the people would be uncontainable, they would be banned for 10 centuries and the Revolution would acquire a new character,” declared Maduro. Cabello also stated that “if they dare to do something, they are going to have a hard time.”

Cabello repeated that the “source” of his information is José Vicente Rangel and La Colmena: “he [JVR] made a very serious denunciation, that a CIA group, from Chile and in contact with the pinochetistas, are planning to kill Maduro, or if they fail, kill me.” 

That same day, on a separate event, Maduro announced that Diosdado Cabello would be showing, “within hours”, the proofs of the ongoing assassination plot: “I have designated Diosdado Cabello, as head of the PSUV, to reveal all the truths of how attempts to assassinate me have been planned for month.” 

Those proofs have not yet surfaced. The 24th however Diosdado Cabello , on his address commemorating the 446 anniversary of the foundation of Caracas, again alerted of the existence of the conspiracy and the consequences if it were to succeed: “If something were to happen to Maduro, the people would be ruthless with you [the opposition].” This time Cabello argued that the conspiracy is based, not in Chile as previously mentioned, but in Miami: “This right wing people, together with some other people in Miami, are preparing an attempt against the life of the compañero Nicolás Maduro, and this is very serious.”

I am still surprised that local commentators and media seem to not have taken the time to actually read the famous La Colmena blog by Pedro Grima Gallardo, the only “source” of the plot publically revealed so far. As I argued in a previous post, La Colmena is really an eclectic re-blog of almost every conspiracy theory circulating on internet. The last articles include claims that the US government is hiding contacts with extraterrestrials, and a denunciation that the US Federal Reserve is really a private bank owned by Jews plotting to take over the world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

NGOs respond to accusations by Rodríguez Torres that Rocío San Miguel is a CIA agent

Human Rights NGO’s in Venezula have published a communiqué expressing concern over the recent declarations by Interior Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres.

Comunicado de las ONG´s de DDHH, ante las acusaciones del Ministro de Interior, Justicia y Paz Miguel Rodríguez Torres contra de la defensora de DDHH y Presidenta de la ONG Control Ciudadano Rocío San Miguel

Las organizaciones no gubernamentales de derechos humanos abajo firmantes, ante las acusaciones del Ministro de Interior, Justicia y Paz Miguel Rodríguez Torres en contra de la defensora de derechos humanos y Presidenta de la ONG Control Ciudadano Rocío San Miguel queremos expresar lo siguiente:
1.-Rechazamos de manera categórica lo dicho en entrevista concedida al canal del Estado por el Ministro de Interior, Justicia y Paz Miguel Rodríguez Torres donde se refirió a la abogada y presidenta de la ONG Control Ciudadano, Rocía San Miguel acusándola de ser operadora del servicio secreto estadounidense.
“Personas como Rocío San Miguel que en estos días la escuchaba yo hablando de derechos humanos y Fuerza Armada. De ella te puedo decir que es una operadora de la CIA en Venezuela, lo puedo comprobar”, aseguró.
Sostuvo que San Miguel realiza una “campaña psicológica” para restar mérito al plan de seguridad que implementa el gobierno.

2.- La Dra. Rocío San Miguel es una respetable defensora de derechos humanos venezolana que ha dedicado una buena parte de su vida a lograr que en nuestro país se respeten los derechos y la dignidad de los ciudadanos y ciudadanos aun en contra de amenazas y persecuciones por parte de funcionarios del Estado Venezolano.
3.- La defensora de derechos humanos Rocío San Miguel es beneficiaria desde el 18 de enero de 2012 de Medidas Cautelares de Protección otorgadas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos mediante la cual el Estado venezolano debe garantizar la integridad física, moral y sicológica de la Dra. San  Miguel cuestión con las cuales ante este tipo de acusaciones sin fundamento están muy distantes de ser cumplidas por los personeros del gobierno.
4.- Por estas razones solicitamos al Presidente de la Republica así como al Ministro de Interior, Justicia y Paz Miguel Rodríguez Torres que cesen los descalificativos y amenazas en contra de la defensora de derechos humanos Rocío San Miguel por el trabajo que realiza y de cumplimiento a las Medidas Cautelares de Protección otorgadas por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y que igualmente se respete su trabajo de defensa a los derechos humanos así como el de todos los defensores de derechos humanos del país cumpliendo de esta manera con convenios que han sido suscritos y ratificados por Venezuela en esta materia.
5.- Las organizaciones aquí firmantes se declaran veedoras del respeto a la vida e integridad física, moral y sicológica de la defensora de derechos humanos Rocío San Miguel y en el caso que sea necesario ejerceremos las acciones legales tanto nacionales como internacionales que diera lugar.
En Caracas a los veintidós (22) días del mes de julio del año dos mil trece (2013)
·       IDELL

Monday, July 22, 2013

José Vicente Rangel reveals his sources, and they are disturbing...

José Vicente Rangel should be more careful with his sources, or he could end up quoting directly from the Protocol of the Elders of Zion next time.

Yesterday in his weekly TV program, José Vicente Rangel insisted on his usual conspiracy claims and added details of the plots: “the criminal agents of the CIA operating from Chile, Washington Moreira (DEA credentials), and Todd Porter (FBI agent), are in charge of managing the trespass of clandestine funds to finance the assassinations of Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello.” These agents would only be in charge of managing the funds which would be obtained from drug trafficking sources.

The conspiracy, according to JVR, would have two scenarios: The first one would be the assassination of Maduro, which would trigger a power vacuum filled by a military intervention with the support of the CIA and the Venezuelan opposition.

If the attempt on Maduro’s life were to fail, the second scenario would be the assassination of National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, with the purpose of blaming Maduro and Iran’s intelligence services.

JVR gave more details of the very elaborate plot which also includes his previous claims of war planes purchased by the opposition and the use of Colombian military bases by the conspirators.

But the most interesting thing to come out yesterday was that, for the first time, JVR spoke openly of the main source for his conspiracy theorizing: he has in fact been quoting extensively from the blog La Colmena, written by Dr Pedro Grima Gallardo, a Physics Professor at the Universidad de los Andes in Mérida.

The blog La Colmena has several other interesting articles written by Grima Gallardo. Here are two examples of his most recent pieces:

In this article Grima Gallardo subscribes to the theories that the September 11 events in New York could really be an elaborate scam by insurance companies owned by “Zionists”. He re-blogs and article by Kevin Barret on the issue.

In this second article, Grima Gallardo explains that the US Federal Reserve is in truth a private bank controlled by a “Consortium of Jewish bankers.” He further explains revelations by a converted Jew, Nathanael Kapner, which would indicate that: “the United States, led by its powerful Jewish masters, are driving the world to an economic debacle, with the final objective of establishing a world government which would include a single currency, a single economic policy, demolition of commercial frontiers, an end of protectionism (which is today considered the eight capital sin, and even the inoperative and clumsy Bachelete had words against protectionism, when she certainly doesn’t know what she is talking about), and the imposition of global norms that would make absolutely illusory any national sovereignty.”

Sunday, July 21, 2013

These have been the years of conspiracies

The new Defense Minister Carmen Meléndez declared this morning in an interview in Televén that “these last years have been years of conspiracy after conspiracy, and not only inside the Armed Forces, but also related to shortages, speculation, medicines, electricity, and all types of conspiracies to destabilize the country, and they are still threatening us, but we have a government that is paying attention to everything.”

She also warned the conspirators: “we, as Armed Forces, are watching everything that happens in the country and we are ready to take actions if we notice any type disturbance, we are attentive to any fire (candelita) that might light up and we will do all we can to put it out. We will be on the alert.”

Rodríguez Torres: Rocío San Miguel is a CIA agent

Interior, Peace, and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres declared in a TV interview the following: “people like that Rocío San Miguel, who I was listening to the other day, talking about human rights and the Armed Forces. About her I can tell you that she is a CIA operator in Venezuela, and I can prove it.”

Rocío San Miguel is a lawyer and human rights activist, and often writes in local media about Armed Forces related issues. She has been critical of the government anti-crime Plan Patria Segura because of its use of military personnel in citizen’s security.

San Miguel directly responded to the accusations via twitter (@rociosanmiguel): “A message to @RodriguezT_MIJP regarding his accusation that I am a CIA operator: defenders of human rights know what to expect from characters like you.” 

Maduro: Mariano Rajoy funds Venezuela’s fascist right

In a speech delivered during a military ceremony yesterday, Nicolás Maduro publically called Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “very corrupt.” He also accused him of being “the political patron and financial arm of the Venezuelan fascist right.” 

The Spanish daily El País today reminds its readers that “the government of Caracas has been denouncing, through its media network of information and propaganda, that the businessman from Galicia, Manuel Jove Capellán – identified by Venezuelan state media as “the great financial backer of the Partido Popular – and the company Veta, constitute a source of funding for destabilizing actions against the [Venezuelan] regime.” 

During the same ceremony Maduro accused opposition leader Henrique Capriles of traveling to Chile in order to meet pinochetistas and seek support for a military coup in Venezuela. Maduro also announced that the he is terminating the Venezuela-United States approach as a response to the recent declarations by Samantha Powers. 

El País ends its note with this assessment: “Official media in Venezuela has immediately given wide circulation to the threats by Maduro, which would indicate that they represent a deliberate turn in foreign policy and not a momentary outburst by President.”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Capriles traveled to Chile in search of privatization models

Nicolas Maduro commented yesterday a trip by opposition leader Henrique Capriles to Chile. According to the president, Capriles motive for the trip is a meeting with “pinochetistas” in search for models of privatization experiences, especially in the area of education.

The Agencia Venezolana de Noticias published the following note in English:

Caracas, 19 Jul. AVN.- The search and subsequent replica of privatization models of education and services is one of the objectives of the Venezuelan right with his tour of the region to discredit the Venezuelan institutions, warned Friday President Nicolas Maduro, regarding the visit to Chile made by the loser of the last two presidential elections, Henrique Capriles.
In a meeting with hundreds of students from 4,000 schools across the country, at Fuerte Tiuna military fort, in Caracas, the president spoke about the importance of maintaining a free and inclusive education in the country, which is not the Chile's case, where the payment of high tuition costs restricts access to education, causing massive protests over the years.
"They want to impose on Venezuela the private education existing in Chile. That's what they are going to search in Chile: privatization models that the people massively repudiate on the streets," he said.
During the event, Maduro recalled the high school student movements of the decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s, which took to the streets to protest for the right to study.
"Thanks to the powerful high school student movements of the 70s and 80s massive privatization of education could be stopped in Venezuela."
This cost deaths arising from repression to which hundreds of young people across the country were subjected, he criticized.
Furthermore, Maduro also recalled the times he was subjected by the security forces of the Venezuelan state.
He told that the police officers of the 80s were equipped with some instruments called electric curlers which "when touching people, it delivers shocks of volts and let people on the floor," he said.
He then asked students if they knew what a peinilla –a blunt sword, long and flat, used by police in riot control– or a rolo was, which were instruments used to suppress protests.
Given the silence of all, the President was pleased to be part of a government that has seen a youth growing up without repression and enjoying free education.
 AVN 19/07/2013 17:34

It is curious that Maduro did not ascribe other conspiracy motives to Caprile´s trip to Chile, such as searching for foreign support for an “ongoing coup”. The reason for this could be the context of the declarations, which were delivered in a meeting with students. In this case Maduro choses the plot theory that is most likely to interest his audience.

It is also worth noting the use of the term “the right” when making reference to the opposition. As I commented in previous posts, government officials and state media constantly use “the right” and “fascists” when referring to the opposition. This is a practice that has now become common and prevalent and it does not seem to alarm most readers. But as I have argued before, it is a polarizing practice that dehumanizes political adversaries and precludes political dialogue.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Venezuela Conspiracy by Captain E. S. Geary

Here is a book that will make even Eva Golinger look like a CIA agent; literally, since Captain E. S. Geary claims that Chávez himself was a puppet of the US government. He was installed in power by the CIA, with the assistance of the US Coast Guard!

It seems the author is currently based in Gibraltar and has written a second book: Checkmate. Fables and Tales of the Unexpected (2012). Apart from conspiracy writer, he shows up in his surveying company web page: Geary International Limited of Gibraltar.

I haven´t read The Venezuela Conspiracy (2007). Until I can get my hands on it, here is some info taken from  its web page:

“The CIA believes that to insure the unimpeded flow of Venezuelan oil to the United States it is necessary to install a puppet government in the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. They determine that this new government should be lead by a charismatic socialist revolutionary and former paratroop commander who the Agency believes will follow Washington’s agenda.
The Central Intelligence Agency with assistance of the US Coast Guard embarked on a clandestine mission to destabilize the elected government and install Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela
After assuming control of the government Chávez double-crosses the CIA and begins to actively support the anti-American policies of Fidel Castro, Muammar al-Qaddafi and the late Saddam Hussein. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias remains today the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Maduro: José Vicente Rangel warns us of threats to the Fatherland

Some hours ago via twitter President Nicolas Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) urged his followers to “read and reproduce” an article by José Vicente Rangel published in Últimas Nocicias.

In his article JVR repeats many of the claims he has made many times before and that I have posted here. He compares the opposition strategy with “the fascist coup of Antonio Tejero in Spain,” the coup against Allende in Chile, and the recent coup in Egypt. (However his claims of 18 war planes purchased by the opposition and stationed in Colombia have been dropped from his most recent articles and declarations.)

He also repeats his argument of an “ongoing electoral coup”. According to him, this is exactly what the Venezuelan opposition attempted when it failed to recognize Maduro as the winner of the April 14 elections. In JVR’s narrative of the events following that day, Capriles sent his followers a “subversive message” which “unleashed violence.” Maduro was able however, a few hours later, to “abort the developing coup.” But, JVR warns: this is all part of an “ongoing coup”, and the scheme used by the opposition in April will be repeated during the Municipal elections scheduled for December this year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A fascist plot to discredit the memory of Chávez

Yesterday Nicolás Maduro wrote several tweets alerting of an ongoing “discrediting campaign carried on by fascist groups against the memory of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez.” (according to a note by AVN)

Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) wrote this sequence of tweets during the afternoon:

“People on the alert! The fascists have now begun a campaign against the memory of our supreme comandante in order to destroy him.”

“They want to destroy the noble sentiments and the loving memory of Hugo Chávez held by the fatherland. I call on all patriots to defend his dignity.”

“We have to defend Chávez’s dignity. They could not destroy him during his life time and we will not allow them to debase his memory now. Let´s defend his legacy.”

“Hugo Chávez is the Supreme Comandante of a revolution and he will continue the road of independence towards a new fatherland. He is the undefeated comandante of Venezuela.”

The President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, also seconded the President on twitter (@dcabellor):

“The fascist murderer Capriles attempted to trivialize [banalizar] the memory, dignity and honor of our Eternal Comandante. Chávez was too big for you mafioso [Capriles]”

The tweets were a reaction to declarations by Capriles earlier during the day in which he criticized the way government leaders and state media have been referring to Chávez a “Comandante Supremo,” and “Comandante Eterno.” Capriles argued: “it is wrong to use the name of a person to manipulate. (…) Supreme Comandante, Galactic Comandante, what’s that all about? Nobody is going to come back from beyond and solve our problems. (…) The only supreme chief is God. I only kneel to God and the people.”

To understand the process of consecration of Chávez’s figure in Venezuela read the following posts published in Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights: Civil Religion and the Transfer of Charismatic Authority in Venezuela and From Bolívar to Chávez to Maduro: Transfer of Charismatic Authority, Part IIFor the link between these political religious phenomena and conspiracy theories read my previous post in this blog: Secular Theodicies and Some Political Consequences of Conspiracy Theories

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chávez wax figure in sarcophagus of Cuartel de la Montaña

Today the conservative Spanish paper ABC publishes an interview with opposition politician Pablo Medina, cofounder of Causa R and Patria Para Todos parties and now a leader of Movimiento Laboralista.

Medina argues that there is information that "Maduro’s mother and two sisters were born in Colombia and that they resided in Cúcuta. In the civil registry of San Antonio de Padua in Cúcuta, they said they could not find the birth registry of Maduro because it had been destroyed by a fire.”

Medina qualified the situation as “a bi-national fraud. There is complicity among the powers. There is a lot of mystery about the origins of Maduro.”

But further into the interview Medina also doubted the date of Chávez’s death as has been presented by the government, and went so far as to claim that his remains are not in the mausoleum of the Cuartel de la Montaña: “inside the sarcophagus there is only a wax figure of Chávez.”

Chávez, according to Medina, was really buried in his home state of Barinas.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The conspiracy to deny the conspiracy according to José Vicente Rangel

If by chance you are accused of being part of a conspiracy, you may find that the most exasperating consequence is that the more you try to deny your involvement, the guiltier you will seem in the eyes of the conspiracy theorist.

This is a feature that makes conspiracy theories very hard to debunk: denying or not believing in them makes you a dupe in the best of cases, an accomplice or conspirator at worst.

Today José Vicente Rangel gives us an excellent example of this form of reasoning. Some hours ago in his TV show José Vicente Hoy, he explained that “the right is persistently engaged in conspiratorial actions, and they intent to repeat the coup format of April 2002.”

But JVR also argued that the biggest challenge facing Maduro’s government is “to dismount the enemy’s tactic which consists in denying that they conspire, when in truth they are up to their noses [hasta la coronilla] in a new adventure.”

For JVR it is useless for “the right” to deny the conspiracy since there are “too many signs, too many unusual revelations, even indiscretions, that confirm the evil purposes [despropósitos] and the anti-patriotic actions that some are advancing outside the country in order to secure the solidarity of the imperial power.”  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Snowden is a media strategic military plot by the USA

As I commented yesterday, it’s just a matter of time before someone in claims that Snowden is still a US agent.

Today Oscar Heck presents  an interesting argument: since espionage by the NSA is not a secret, and most countries know all about it, it’s hard to understand why so many are making such a big deal of the Snowden case.

The answer?

“Snowden, and even the political-diplomatic reaction of the affected countries, is a show, it has to be,” thinks Heck

The purpose for this show would be “among other things, a military exercise, I mean, an exercise in war propaganda designed to measure the military capacity of media reaction by Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and any other country willing to give Snowden asylum, any country ‘enemy’ of the USA.”

It’s not exactly clear from the article how media reaction allows the US government to “measure” the military capability of those countries. But Heck adds another hypothesis: perhaps the “media strategic military show” serves a different purpose. He did a quick Google search and found out that the US is currently testing a new aircraft carrier for drones. The whole Snowden affair could be a cover operation for this military test.

Heck finishes his article with a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “All wars are based on deception.”  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Aveledo is also a Birther

In a previous post I commented that no high ranking opposition figure had yet echoed the theory that Maduro was not born in Venezuela.

Today however, MUD secretary Ramón Guillermo Aveledo declared in a Televen interview that “in the country there are many Venezuelans of foreign origin, in fact many are of Colombian origin.” He added that he was puzzled by the fact “that Maduro has never been willing to clearly say the truth and has been hiding the truth, which is something very consistent with his conduct of always saying lies. I think this is a relevant fact, that there is no motive to be ashamed of… no motive for hiding your foreign origin.” 

Snowden is a trap

The popular pro-government web page publishes today an article by Oswaldo Leal that argues that Snowden is really a trap for Venezuela’s government.

According to Leal, Snowden’s presence in Venezuela would be used by the US government as a casus belli for the invasion of the country. The invasion would be carried out from Colombia where “everything is ready, even the war planes bought by the oil industry people, the seven military bases, Uribe and his para-militaries, drug traffickers and their networks. Let´s not fool ourselves, whenever they like, they can take us off the map, they have everything…”  

The article does not clarify if Snowden is a willing part of the plot or only a CIA dupe.

Aporrea is not part of the official media system SiBCI, and its columnists are not government officials. However it is a good source for theories held by government supporters that go beyond the official line.

The theory that Snowden is really part of an elaborate plot by the CIA against Venezuela has appeared before in aporrea. I think it’s probable that someone in the page will soon argue that Snowden is still a CIA agent, and that the whole asylum deal is really a ruse form the CIA to plant an agent inside Venezuela.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Minister Iris Varela calls on followers to close their facebook accounts

A few hours ago, Iris Varela, Minister of Penitentiary Services, wrote the following two tweets:

Compatriotas: cancel your facebook accounts because without knowing it you have been working for free as CIA informants. Check out the Snowden case!”

“Countries and persons victims of gringo spying should demand a just compensation from the USA. Let’s bankrupt the USA economy!”

Monday, July 8, 2013

José Vicente Rangel and the 18 war planes: the plot thickens

José Vicente Rangel announced yesterday that five of the eighteen war planes he claims were bought by the opposition in the United States have already been delivered to a Colombian military base. Complicit in the plot are, according to JVR, an oil company based in Canada called Pacific Rubiales, the ex-PDVSA executives organization Gente del Petróleo, and also CIA, FBI, and DEA agents.

He also warned that “the conspiracy against Venezuela orchestrated from Colombia by the international and national right is increasing every day. (…) The ultra-right of Colombia, the Uribistas, the powerful economic groups, retired generals, media,  oil company Pacific Rubiales, and the intense activities of a sector of the Venezuelan opposition that moves with complete freedom in Colombia, have turned that country into an operation base against Venezuela.”

Elaborate plots have been routinely denounced by JVR in his TV program for more than a decade. He was behind many of the warnings of supposed attempts to kill President Chávez and, in his claims of an ongoing permanent conspiracy against the Venezuelan government, coined several memorable oxymora around the word coup, such as “electoral coup” and “continuous coup.”

Yesterday’s presentation by JVR included almost every event of the last months and every actor of the Venezuelan opposition in the ongoing plot: “an insistent campaign inside the Armed Forces, the exasperation of social conflicts, the political (politiquero) handling of university problems, speculation and hoarding of basic products of Venezuelan’s diet, and the excessive re-heating of street conflicts. Not a day goes by without an increase in the coup script and in the coverage of the conspirators.”

Also notable was his warning of the opposition’s “insistence on denying that there is an ongoing plot against the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro.” For JVR precisely this denial constitutes proof of the conspiracy. 

More on the Venezuelan Birthers

Top opposition leaders in Venezuela have not yet echoed the claims that Maduro was born in Colombia.

However the theory seems to have received much more attention outside than in the country due to its similarity with the claims made in the US about Obama’s birth place.

A good summary of the issue can be read in the blog Obama Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Samán, Kimberly Clark, and Toilet Paper

Eduardo Samán, President of Idepabis (the governmental consumer’s protection office in charge of controlling prices), declared yesterday that the recent shortages of toilet paper in Venezuela were part of destabilizing plot against the country: “The ultra-right forged a coup plan in which the United States company Kimberly Clark was involved.” 
According to Samán, Kimberly Clark had claimed lack of dollars was the reason for its failing production of toilet paper.

Analysts argue that a combination of factors, including distortions produced by the fixed Bolivar/Dollar exchange rate, decreasing production due to expropriations, and an overall anti-business environment, among others, are the real causes of recurrent shortages in Venezuela.

Notice that, for Samán and other government officials that have been quoted in this blog, there is a lack of agency in these economic explanations that they seem to find unconvincing. For Samán the economic policies of the government are not the problem: price controls, expropriations, and state ownership of the means of production, are just what a society in transition to socialism is supposed to be doing. If things go wrong, the root of the problem must be elsewhere. There must be evil agents, “wreckers and saboteurs,” that are hoarding products, sabotaging production, wrecking the energy grid, corrupting governmental agencies in charge of controls, etc.

Conspiracy theories are theodicies that rely on strict forms of social agency and direct causality: evil just doesn’t happen, or is the product of impersonal social or natural causes, or is the result of unintended consequences of actions. Instead evil is produced by a concrete somebody who is a powerful agent and can be singled out as the enemy.

Compare this with the assessment made by Charles Taylor of the pre-French Revolution way of framing economic problems in his book Modern Social Imaginaries (Duke, 2004, p.130):

      “Two things seem crucial to this mentality. First, it leaves very little place for impersonal mechanisms. It had no place for the new conception of the economy, where shortage and glut are explained by certain state of the market, which in turn can be affected by events in distant lands. If prices rise, it´s because the engrosser is hiding stocks to exact a higher tribute from us. Of course, people knew that harvests could be good or bad, and that in this sense, shortages were also natural phenomena. But they thought that within certain limits, the powers in charge were able to bring the necessary supplies from elsewhere to avoid at least the most dramatic hikes. This was another sign, if one likes, that theirs was a mentality of subjects, who tended to attribute to their rulers powers that they don’t in fact have. This is also a mentality at the antipodes of capitalism, because it has no place for an economy ordered by impersonal laws, central to a new political economy; besides, it tends to demand an interventionist remedy for every evil.

          This belief in the power of direct intervention reflects the second important facet of this mind-set: if things go wrong, it´s always someone’s fault. One can identify the evildoer and act against him. What’s more, because the responsible agent is always an evildoer – not the unconscious and unwilling cause of some misfortune, but a malevolent, even criminal agent – action against him means not just neutralizing his actions, but also punishing him. An elementary sense of justice demands this. But there was something more: retribution often has the sense not only of punishing a wrong, but of purging a noxious element.”

More on Snowden and Venezuela

The blog Venezuelan Human Rights and Politics publishes a good explanation by David Smilde on the reasos why Maduro offered asylum to Snowden, at a time when Venezuela was attempting a rapprochement with the US. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Will Snowden apply for a job at Venezuela’s surveillance program? (Working materials for conspiracy theorists)

Yesterday, during the events celebrating the anniversary of Venezuela’s declaration of independence from Spain, Maduro announced he would offer Snowden humanitarian asylum to protect him “form the persecution unleashed by the most powerful empire of the world against a young man that has only told the truth.” No word yet form Snowden if he will accept (Nicaragua has also issued an offer to process his asylum request.)

There is certain irony in Maduro praising Snowden’s actions. The Venezuelan security services routinely records phone conversations of political opponents. Sometimes these recordings make star appearances in public state TV programs. Indeed now disgraced Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) presenter Mario Silva owed much of his fame to his use of these recordings in his show La Hojilla, until he became a victim of his own methods.

Of course phone tapping does not amount to a full “surveillance program”. And the Venezuelan security services are far from the technological capabilities necessary for internet surveillance.

Or are they?

Back in January the New York Times carried an article on a report by the Citizen Lab of the Munk School of Global Affairs of the University of Toronto. The report claimed that technology for internet surveillance made by Blue Coat Systems, California, was being used for censoring purposes by a long list of countries, mentioned last among them was Venezuela.

However in the actual report from Citizen Lab, Venezuela was only mentioned in a final paragraph. The report stated that: “We identified a single installation of PacketShaper on a netblock belonging to CANTV Servicios, one of the country’s largest telecommunications providers and a state-owned enterprise. This was identified by Shodan in August 2012 and was verified during testing. There is no current evidence of filtering of political or social sites in Venezuela. However, Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern that the lack of extensive Internet censorship in the country ignores other methods of controlling Venezuelan cyberspace, such as the monitoring of Internet forums and websites for politically sensitive content.”

In short, the report claimed that Venezuela has the technology but had not yet actually used it for censoring, much less fur surveillance. It does however quote and repeat the concerns form Reporters Without Frontiers and Freedom House that the Venezuelan government is using other methods to control opinions in cyberspace.

I can´t wait for conspiracy theorist out there to come up with explanations so I can write about them. I’ll just go ahead an offer one: Since Venezuelan security services are still building a proper internet surveillance program, why not hire a former CIA agent that seems to have a lot of firsthand knowledge on how these things are actually done?

Friday, July 5, 2013

According to Maduro Venezuela's opposition plans to copy the Egypt coup script

Yesterday, before the extraordinary meeting of UNASUR to express solidarity with Evo Morales, Maduro declared that the Venezuelan “right” is plotting to stage against him a coup similar to the one in Egypt against Mohamed Mursi:

“Now they are saying that, just like in Egypt, they deposed President Mursi, they derogated the Constitutions, and outside of the Constitution they named a government. Well now the opposition says they will do the same thing in Venezuela, now they say they will come and depose the government of Venezuela”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Maduro was born in Colombia

This theory claims that Maduro was born not in Venezuela but in Colombia, and therefore does not constitutionally qualify for the post of President of Venezuela.

The theory has been running around  in social media for a while, but it was only recently that opposition politicians have started to endorse it. The most strident seems to be National Assembly representative from COPEI, Abelardo Diaz, who yesterday claimed that Maduro’s parents are Colombian and that the President was born in the frontier city of Cúcuta.

Bloomberg ran a note on the issue yesterday, and the Blog Caracas Chronicles also made some very interesting comments about it.

But the most interesting piece was published last week by the Correo del Orinoco and republished in English in the pro-government blog venezuelanalysis. Until now, the issue has received little attention by local media (there have been opinion pieces about this in El Universal), however the article from Correo del Orinoco correctly informs that Spanish paper El País and Miami´s El Nuevo Herald have mentioned it. For both newspapers the source of the claim was Panama diplomat Guillermo Cochez.

Pay attention to the way Correo del Orinoco frames the news:

“As part of ongoing attempts to prevent President Nicolas Maduro from consolidating his leadership in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, right-wing forces at home and abroad have reissued false claims that he was born in neighboring Colombia.

It later adds:

“As part of the anti-Maduro campaign described by Minister Villegas, private media outlets tied to the Venezuelan opposition issued their own interpretations of Cochez’s claim. In an article titled “What if Maduro is Colombian?”, Venezuelan daily El Universal published a piece by rightwing blogger Alexander Cambero in which he warns that “if Nicolas Maduro is proven to have been born in the Colombian city of Cucuta, in the state of North Santander, we will be facing the greatest fraud ever committed against the good will of the Venezuelan people.”

The claims that Maduro was born in Colombia would therefore be part of a campaign by “right-wing forces at home and abroad.” It seems that the best way to counter a conspiracy theory, is with yet another conspiracy theory.