Monday, September 30, 2013

Conatel to investigate Globovision for reporting on shortages and not mentioning the “Economic War”

The General Director of Conatel (media control agency) Pedro Maldonado said today that he is opening a new “administrative process” against the TV channel Globovision for exposing cases of shortages of products in its program “Caso de Investigacion.”

According to Maldonado: “presumably [Globovisión] could be disseminating through this program elements that could generate anxiety [zozobra] among citizens, by covering issues such as scarcity of vehicles and products at a national level.”

“Caso de Investigación” will not be canceled for the time being, pending the revision of its content by Conatel.

What makes this news interesting for this blog is the reason Maldonado gave for starting an investigation on the program: “It is public knowledge that at this time an economic war by some sector is under development.” Apparently Globovision failed to mention the “true” reasons for shortages, thus producing anxiety among the population.

Maldonado’s declarations follow President Maduro’s petition to the Fiscal General to investigate the “psychological warfare” by the private media against the country: “I ask the Fiscal General de la República, Dra. Luisa Ortega Díaz to, according to our laws, evaluate special measures (…) to punish the psychological warfare of the press, the television, and the radio, against the food security of our people and against the economic life of the nation. There must be no impunity. (…) This type of warfare is something not allowed in the so called developed countries. You go and look if in the United States the Washington Post or the NY Times start to publish headlines such as 'there will be no more potatoes,' or 'there will be no more meat,' they would be closed within 24 hours because that is war propaganda,” said Maduro on Saturday.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Maduro threatens with a new phase of the Revolution if conspiracies continue

At a meeting yesterday (September 28) in Vargas with the PSUV’s campaign structure leaders (the Unidades de Batalla Hugo Chávez), President Maduro delivered a strong warning to the opposition:

“If we continue to determine the presence of pernicious, anti-constitutional, illegal elements of psychological, economical, and electrical warfare against democracy; I have put down a date and I will take especial measures to push for a new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution, and for this I ask for the support of the Socialist Party.”

Maduro did not specify the date of the ultimatum, but said that on October 5th “the people and the army” will swear a special oath. “We cannot be weak,” he declared and added that the case of evidence of an electric sabotage or of any other “violent perturbation” the Dirección Política Militar knew what it had to do: “you know where to go, take over power in every avenue, in every highway.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Maduro: They are hunting me, and I am no rabbit

Two mayor plots to kill President Maduro were revealed this week.

One was the planned “provocation” in New York by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega that precluded Maduro from attending the United Nations Assembly, The second was the “Airbus Conspiracy,” a plot by the “international right” to assassinate Maduro by sabotaging the presidential plane: “The international right knew that I had a long trip to China, and they were making their calculations.”

“They are hunting me, and I am no rabbit,” said Maduro yesterday, “they think that by taking out Nicolas Maduro, they will finish off the Bolivarian Revolution.”

Maduro is now making almost daily magnicidio plots announcements. It does seem, as he claims, that preserving his own life has become the “maximum objective” of the Revolution.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Magnicidio in New York

President Maduro declared yesterday (September 25), on national cadena, that he canceled his scheduled trip to New York to speak at the 68th United Nations General Assembly because he feared for his life:

“There were two provocations [planned], one more serious than the other. It seems to me impossible to think that Obama might be informed of this situation and lets it happen under his own nose. (…) I decided the suspension of my trip to New York and I returned to Caracas instead in order to fulfill my maximum objective, you [Venezuelans] know [the objective]: to preserve mi physical integrity, my life, and the honor of the Venezuelan people.”

Maduro explained that one of the plans in New York was to “produce violent circumstances in New York, and the other one was to affect my physical integrity.”

As to who was behind these planned “provocations” he stated that “the clan, the Otto Reich and Roger Noriega mafia, once again had planned a crazy, terrible, provocation, because these things cannot be qualified in any other way.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eduardo Samán. The perfect conspiracy theorist

Of many the government officials quoted in this blog, the President of the Instituto para la Defensa de las Personas en el Acceso de a los Bienes y Servicios (Indepabis), Eduardo Samán, is probably the most radical and straight forward in making explicit what exactly conspiracy theories are for when used by political leaders. 

Conspiracy theories are forms of secular theodicies that explain in a simple way social problems. They are useful for pointing out where evil is supposed to reside and for allocating blame. They simplify reality with a political rhetoric of us against them, and ultimately prepare the way for the repression and destruction of the “objective enemy.” 

Eduardo Samán believes that the current economic crisis in Venezuela is not the result of complex economic circumstances, many of which are the responsibility of the past and current government, but of a conspiracy by “the right”: “the National Government has assumed the struggle against the economic war and the sabotage attempts orchestrated by the Venezuelan right, who are trying to blame the State policies for the problems of shortages and food distribution the country is facing.”

As seen in this blog, this has become the official government explanation for the economic crisis, endorsed by President Maduro. But exactly how this narrative is politically useful is clearly explained by Samán: “the true enemy must be identified, he is not the small street vendor [buhonero], the enemy is the north American imperialism, the opposition, the representatives of Fedecámaras [business owners cartel], the industry owners, who have always turned the needs of the people into merchandize. (…) The opposition is trying to destabilize the people with an operation to create discontent; it is a massive, silent, psychological war with subtle and well planned actions.” 

Samán also explains how the people can help defeat this terrible and all-powerful enemy: “there are two ways in which people can denounce hoarding and speculation of food products, calling the phone numbers 0800 RECLAMA and 0800 SABOTAJE.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Clone Hugo Chávez, just like a Mammoth

This is not really about conspiracy theories but something far better. It takes the Comandante Eterno motto a bit further…

The Raelian movement -An extraterrestrial “Elohim” scientist met prophet Rael in 1974 and told him they had created all life on earth- has proposed the cloning of Chávez.

Here is my translation of their press release:

We Propose the Human Cloning of Hugo Chávez Frías

Caracas, August 30, 2013. Alan Rojas Sánchez, the spokesperson of the Raelian Movement, on his visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, has expressed the following: It would be positive for the world to bring back to life a leader with the characteristics of Hugo Chávez: his sensibility, compassion, respect, great sense of equality, and his desire to construct a more humane world, all of which led him to be named a Honorary Guide of the Raelian Movement in 2002.

Furthermore, the policies implemented during the time of the Presidency of Mr. Chávez are very close to the Paradism Paradism is a political system proposed by Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement, the implementation of the paradist political system on Earth would allow people to live without money or the need to work, and this would turn our planet into a real paradise.

Alan Rojas also proposes that one of the daughters of the late president should act as a surrogate mother for the gestation of the clone of Hugo Chávez. Thus, more genetic fidelity would be assured, declared Rojas. This scientific possibility of bringing back to life a human being is supported by the recent advances in genetics. Russian scientists have been working to bring back to life extinct species, more specifically: Mammoths from Siberia. This advanced science allows us to imagine that cloning will allow humans to live eternally…

The Raelian Movement affirms that all life forms on Earth were scientifically created in a laboratory by an extraterrestrial civilization called Elohim.

Friday 6 September 3013.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Economic War! Reports from the front

Yesterday (September 21) was an active day on several fronts of the economic war the Venezuelan government is fighting against the “fascist right.” 

During the morning, PSUV National Assembly deputy José Ávila declared in an interview at Venezolana de Televisión that defeating the right, and the “economic war it has planted in the country,” should be an objective assumed by all Venezuelans. He also said that “this is a war that has several actors: political, and media promoters. We are fighting an adversary that is a political mercenary.” 

Later during the day the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias informed that Sundecop (the government’s price controls agency) had seized more than 30,000 toilet paper rolls and hundreds of kilograms of sugar and corn flour from retail markets in Quinta Crespo, and from wholesale suppliers in Coche and Guacaipuro, Caracas. 

According to AVN: “Public attorneys of the State organism [Sundecop], led by the superintendent Karlin Granadillo, and authorities of the Ministry of Commerce, visited stores in the area as parts of the plans put into action by the Executive to fight the economic war promoted by sectors of the right with the objective of destabilizing the government.” 

The Vice-minister for Commerce, Carlos Herrera, also present during the raids, declared that hoarding was typified by the law as a “serious crime”. However, no arrests for hoarding were reported by AVN. 

Vice-president Jorge Arreaza also declared yesterday that “the national government will apply the full weight of the law on those that attempt to interrupt or affect in any way the production, distribution, and commercialization of food products in the country.” Minister for Alimentation, 

Féliz Osorio, said that “the right” is activating an “economic coup with the objective of affecting the stability of the country. (…) The instructions of President Nicolas Maduro are to advance in the realization of the legacy of my comandante Hugo Chávez, so that the people never again become a victim of the economic attacks from the right, which are always focused on the alimentary issue.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Barquisimeto Conspiracy

President Maduro yesterday (September 19) accused “the right” of planning a “social explosion” in the city of Barquisimeto, Lara state.

“I have information that the fascist right will rehears a social explosion, including looting, and the starting point will be Barquisimeto. (…) Behind these plans are Henrique Capriles Radonski and Alfredo Ramos, one of the candidates of the right in Barquisimeto for the municipal elections,” said Maduro.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

0800-SABOTAJE is already receiving tips

Mayor-General Gustavo González López, Secretary of Security and Intelligence Unit of the Electricity System, informed yesterday (September 18) that the phone number 0800-SABOTAJE has received close to one thousand calls in its first 48 hours since its establishment. “It is an instrument that can be used by anyone, from all [political] perspectives, for security, defense, and protection,” he declared.

The phone line was announced last week as part of the measures of the “Superior Organ for the Defense of the Economy,” a new governmental agency devoted, according to President Maduro, to fighting the “economic war of the fascist right.”

General González López did not specify how many of the 1,000 calls were actual denunciations of sabotage events against the electric system. He did declare that his unit had “acted in a little more than 350 cases.” (efectuamos un poquito más de 350 actuaciones.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Maduro: the media acts as an enemy of the fatherland

Today President Maduro insisted on his claim that the local private media is part of a plot to destabilize the country. Maduro has been protesting against what he perceives as a lack of coverage of his government’s accomplishments.

I re-blog the English note published earlier today by the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias:

Caracas, 18 Sep. AVN.- Nationwide and regional media chaired by bourgeois people and families with "lineage-linked surnames" made a cartel against the revolutionary and democratic governments and they are trying to destabilize the country, stated Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday.

"They are trying to make conditions for a social outbreak, serious problems of economic stability. It happens everyday," Maduro criticized during the opening of a highway exit in Miranda state.

Also, the President criticized the political and unpatriotic stance assumed by private media owners who have ordered to create a biased campaign of opinion in newspapers, despising the beginning of the school year in the country.

"Who may be bitter because the school year starts? In front of the happiness of children who wake up, fathers and mothers happy because that day they iron uniforms of their children and take them to school?," Maduro wondered.
President Maduro stressed as well that one of the main achievements in the bolivarian democracy is the guarantee of a public, free and high-quality education, which is besides characterized by the allocation of books for free among all children.

"But if we see headlines in the bourgeois media, those with big names, they are engaged in a plan to destroy the bolivarian revolution, they are committed to deprive people from their rights. When people did not have rights, they acted as a society of accomplice, concealing all their lies," Maduro remarked.

In this connection, Maduro called on conscious people in Venezuela to be aware before attacks of conservative sectors, whom he called "enemies of the fatherland. This media acts as enemy of the fatherland."
 AVN 18/09/2013 08:43


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Venezuela’s Electricity Crisis

David Smilde and I coauthor, for the Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, a comprehensive piece on the electricity crisis: Including references to the different versions of the causes of the crisis (sabotage or lack of maintenance, investment, etc.)

Mano Dura against conspirators

Yesterday (September 16), during the inauguration of the National Bolivarian School Supreme Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías, President Nicolás Maduro warned that he will take hard measures against groups that are trying to destabilize the country and that there will be “zero tolerance” in the face of recent “confabulations”.

“We will not accept more conspiracies. I call on the people to stand by me in the measures I will take against the conspiracy, against the electricity war, and against those that create shortages in the country,” Maduro declared.

In a direct reference to opposition leader Capriles, who is visiting the Venezuelan exiled community in Miami, Maduro said: “Conspirators that travel to Miami, be prepared.” He also warned the local private media: “They continue to act as accomplices of the fascist band into which the Venezuelan opposition has become.”

The President hinted at what the measures might be: he asked for an investigation into the masterminds behind the post-election violence of April, those that “gave the order to murder the people,” he said.

The government has repeatedly argued that the “fascist opposition”, and especially Capriles Radonsky, were behind the violence that left several people death. This is how the official news agency AVN describes those events:

“After Maduro’s triumph last April 14, fascist groups attacked health centers, Socialist Party (Psuv) headquarters, and other emblematic spaces of the Revolution. The attacks left 11 victims.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sabotage on twitter

The “Órgano Superior para la defensa Popular de la Economía”, the new government agency instituted last week by President Maduro to fight the “economic war” unleashed against his government, has a twitter account: @NoAlSabotaje

The account, and the phone number 0-800-SABOTAJE, will allow citizens to denounce sabotage cases they witness.

Maduro sets “small traps” for private media

Maduro said yesterday (September 15) that his recurrent language blunders (millones y millones; libros y libras) are in reality small traps (trampitas) he plants in his discourse in order to break the conspiracy of silence he claims the local private media is maintaining around the government’s accomplishments.

According to Maduro the “stupid, fascist right” quickly uploaded the video of his latest deliberate “gaffe” on the web via twitter, and in that way he was able to make people watch him handing out millions of free books to students.

“This is good because in the video they have to watch where I say ‘we handed 35 million libros y libras’. Since in their hatred and contempt they refuse to see reality, I am forced to search for ways, and I have several positive baits, to take the truth to their obscure, dull, contemptuous, hateful, and racist minds,” declared Maduro on national cadena.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New “Superior Organ for the Popular Defense of the Economy” will face Economic War

This past week President Maduro’s claim that the country is facing an “economic war” by “fascists” has been institutionalized in a new governmental agency. In September 12, addressing a meeting of the chavista youth movement, Maduro announced the creation of a “Superior Organ for the Popular Defense of the Economy.”

“I have personally decided to face the economic battle of the fascist war against the people,” said the President, “I will create a new superior instance of coordination, inspection, and control for the functioning of the whole of the economy.”

This new governmental agency will be coordinated by a “Civic-military-popular High Command” headed Mayor-General Hebert García Plaza and formed by several members of the ministerial cabinet. 

A lower level of the bureaucracy of the new agency was also announced by Maduro: the “Technical Secretariat of the High Command,” also formed by several ministers and staffed with the presidents of governmental institutes such as Indepabis (consumers defense agency), and Sundecop (price controls agency).

Because, according to Maduro, “the Venezuelan right has a plan for each instance [of the economy]”, the new agency will take immediate actions which include:

-The import of more than 600 million dollars in basic goods from Colombia.

-The establishment of an information and denunciation center which can be reached by citizens through the phone number 0800-72268253 (0800-sabotaje)

-The creation of a special inspection and supervision plan that, starting Monday 16, will inspect all production companies to ensure they are operating at full capacity and not sabotaging the economy. For these inspections “we will be helped by thousands of men and women, all incorporated as inspectors,” Maduro declared.

-Transportation and distribution companies will also be inspected to ensure they are delivering the goods because, said Maduro, “[the right] it trying to delay distribution of food products.”  

Friday, September 13, 2013

LatinPulse podcast on Venezuela

Prof. Rick Rockwell of American University interviewed me for the last of a series of podcasts on the Venezuelan political landscape. My part is from minute 3 on. Unfortunately the sound did not come out too good (it seems that my computer only has a mono microphone.) The program also includes a very interesting interview with Prof. George Ciccariello-Maher on the role of chavistas grassroots movements and how they relate to Maduro.

Just to clarify the point I sort of stumbled upon in the interview: 

I think conspiracy theories are not working all that well for Maduro as political tools because he does not have the charisma to back them up and make them believable. Evidence for this was Maduro’s campaign leading up to the April 14 election, which also relied heavily on conspiracy theorizing and which he won by a surprisingly small margin (of course, the use of conspiracy rhetoric during the campaign is probably not the main explanation for this, I only argue that it did not add anything positive to Maduro’s campaign.) Also, opinion poll numbers seem to reflect that most Venezuelan’s do not believe that saboteurs are to blame for electric power cuts (it will be interesting to compare with polls taken after the September 3 blackout.)

In a previous post I also argued that perhaps conspiracy theories are not a good idea because they can backfire if people start perceiving the government as incompetent to deal with “wreckers and saboteurs.” Especially if the government has repeatedly claimed that it has securely militarized power plants and oil refinery, and that it is a “strong” government that is decisively dealing with the conspirators. 

The government is constructing an image of opposition leaders as super-powerful, omnipresent conspirators, capable of complex coordinated operations to wreck the electric and oil industries, hoard products and disrupt goods distribution, “create” inflation, devaluate the currency, and “inoculate” cancer on political leaders. 

My point is that, even in the case of believing all those allegations, these conspirators are starting to look much more competent than the government.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Do Venezuelans really believe it’s all sabotage?

Not according the results of a poll by the Instituto Venezolano de Análisis de Datos (IVAD) conducted in July this year (before the September 3 blackout).  IVAD asked for open responses to the question: who is most responsible for the current electricity crisis in the country?

Responses were grouped as follows:

The national government: 43.4%
Lack of investments: 0.4%
Saboteurs: 3.2%
Energy Minister: 4.3 %
The People: 6.4%
The weather: 0.1%
Lack of maintenance: 5.6%
Previous governments: 2.3%
Corpoelec/Electric Industry: 18.9%
Workers: 0.6%
The Governor: 1.8%
Bad administration: 0.5%
The Mayor: 1.0%
Others: 0%
No answer: 11.5%

Adding all the categories that could be loosely understood as that “the government” (national government, lack of maintenance, Energy Minister, Corpoelec, and bad administration), 72.7% of the respondents believe the government is responsible for the crisis. Only 3.2% mentioned saboteurs.

(There are also some strange categories I don’t quite understand: The People? (el pueblo) What People?)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Evidence of Sabotage

The full report of the government’s investigation of the Amuay refinery explosion can be downloaded from the Sevicio Bolivariano de Información (Sibci) web page.

After pages of pictures and analysis of how bolts and screw are supposed to look like if they become unloose by natural fatigue, the important part comes at page 29: the bolts in the failed pump that caused the “abrupt” gas leak that eventually exploded, were “intentionally loosened.”

Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez concludes from this “intentionality” implied by the report that the opposition must have sabotaged the pump. There are images of the pump room taken by a security camera, but unfortunately no images of the saboteurs coming in or out of the room.

More details of the Total Collapse plan

In a news conference yesterday (September 9), President Maduro gave further details of the plan “Total Collapse” against the Bolivarian Revolution he claims was designed by Washington.

Maduro said he has evidence of a special meeting in July in the White House attended by representatives of the CIA, the Department of State, and the Pentagon, to “evaluate the situation in Venezuela.”

According to Maduro this is what was said at that meeting:
“the regime is consolidating, we were not able to delegitimize the revolutionary government that emerged from the victory of April 14, [the regime] has begun to occupy spaces and to develop its project with a good level of participation from the people, the Government on the Streets [Gobierno de la Calle] is dangerous because it could help to consolidate the revolutionary government.”

Therefore Maduro urged his followers to be “on maximum alert over this Total Colapse plan. (…) We have to permanently denounce these plans that are made in Washington and Miami and that are later executed by a reemergent fascism incarnated in the leaders of the right that have taken over the Venezuelan opposition.”

As evidence of the plan Maduro claimed that the Amuy refinery explosion last year was an act of sabotage aimed at affecting the results of the October 2012 presidential elections: “The big coup was Amuay, because the political aggregate of the Embassy of the United States in Venezuela told several people that Chávez was going to win the elections, and that only an extraordinary event could change public opinion.”

(Since the White House meeting was in July this year, this must mean that the “Total Collapse” plan is retroactive.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Minister Ramírez: Amuay explosion was deliberate sabotage

Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez assured yesterday (September 8) that, after series of investigations, the explosion at Amuay of August 25 last year, was “the product of deliberate sabotage.” 

The main evidence presented by Ramírez was that the gas leak that eventually caused the explosion was an “abrupt” leak and not a constant, progressive built up of gas as, according to Ramírez, would have been the case in an accident. 

For the government “abruptness” seems to be a new favorite form of evidence for sabotage. During the September 3 blackout President Maduro also tweeted that the event had been “strange and abrupt,” which led him to suspect that: “the extreme right has taken up again its plan for an electrical coup against the country.”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Maduro: White House plans “total collapse” of Venezuela

Yesterday (August 7) during a meeting to launch a Communal Councils Census, President Maduro announced that he has firsthand information of meetings in the White House, between the US government and the Venezuelan opposition, to plan the “total collapse” of Venezuela by October.

He declared: “I have all the data, the dates of the meetings in the White House, the names of those who were present in the meetings, the plans they made. They think that by October Venezuela will collapse, they have planned it that way, they will sabotage food distribution to the people, the electricity, fuel, refineries…”

However, Maduro is confident that this conspiracy against the country will fail because: “Venezuela today is conscious of its historical moment, and has political, military, and social strength. So I can assure that the North American Empire will be the first to collapse, before Venezuela collapses. (…) Venezuela will not collapse because of sabotage. We are going forward.”

Saturday, September 7, 2013

National Assembly deputy asks for investigation into Chávez’s death

National Assembly representative for PSUV María León has announced that she will be collecting one million signatures to ask the Fiscalía (General Attorney) to conduct an investigation into the causes of death of President Chávez.

Deputy María León is part of a women’s Colectivo called “Chávez’s Guardians [guardianas]” which will be leading the signatures collection drive.

León has little doubt of the result of the investigation she is asking for and accused the “North American Empire” of being responsible for the death of Chávez because: “wherever a leader of the category of our President emerges, they act.”

She did however express some concern about the negative effects of the constant claims not supported by evidence made by the government: “They all say something different and point accusing fingers. I say: let’s ask for an investigation. If everyone has a different version of what happened, we only increase people’s anxiety.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Political religion and conspiracy theories. Marking the 6th month of the departure of the Supreme Leader

The “Cuartel de la Montaña,” which houses the remains of Hugo Chávez, has become the new epicenter of Venezuela’s political religion, temporarily displacing the National Pantheon and the recently constructed mausoleum for the remains of Simón Bolívar.

Yesterday (August 5) was the 6 month anniversary of the passing of Chávez. Monthly ceremonies are held to mark the event. Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by President Maduro and most of his cabinet and was broadcast on national cadena. An ecumenical praying session and a Catholic mass were celebrated.

In his discourse closing the event, President Maduro summarized several every conspiracy theories held by the government.

Notably, he began his exposition framing the notion of fatherland (patria) on anti-imperialism. He explained that the fundamental characteristic of the Venezuelan fatherland was its anti-imperialist condition: 

“In our case the fatherland is anti-imperialist or it is no fatherland at all, because our fatherland was born from breaking the bonds that held it to ancient empires, and now the fatherland has been reborn to face the attempts of modern empires to dominate us.”

Maduro continued his discourse linking the Empire with the ultra-right (opposition):

“They [the opposition] are obsessed. The ultra-right, the international right and the Imperial factors have an obsession with Venezuela, and now that obsession is centered on me, and this is why there are so many plans, so many crazy things.”
“How many things did they say about Chávez? How many times did they try to morally and physically assassinate him? (…) 
We are waiting for the right historical moment and, better sooner than later, we will conform a scientific commission to investigate, as our Comandante deserves, all the antecedents and the origin of the estrange, abrupt, and surprising illness he suffered, which took hold of his body at the height of his strength and creative and physical energies.”
“The historical enemies of the fatherland were certain that, with the physical departure of our Comandante and the huge void he left behind, the Revolution would not resist for a single day.”

Blaming the opposition for the recent electric power cuts he declared:

“They [the opposition] want to blackout our souls [hacer un apagón del alma] so that we stop believing in the creative powers of our people, they want to blackout the hopes of the peoples of the world, not only of the Venezuelan people, they want to produce a general blackout of the dignity of independence.”

Maduro ended his intervention in religious terms, asking Venezuelans to live by the example set by the Eternal Comandante:

“What is the best way to be Chávez, to be loyal to his gigantic figure beyond the tears and the pain? What is the best way to authentically connect to what he was, with his dreams and hopes? What is the best way to correspond him for everything he did for the people and for the history of this reborn fatherland? (…) Those who love the Supreme Leader must revise themselves and ask themselves, such as I do every day: What do I do for Chávez? How much do I do for Chávez? How do I do it? And, where do I do it?”

[Translating President Maduro’s peculiar rhetoric is difficult. Help is welcome.]

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Kellogg’s Froot Loops Conspiracy

If you read Spanish check the article “Kellogs conspira contra la Revolución Bolivariana,” published in the pafletonegro web page by a supposed Law Professor of the Universidad Bolivariana in Carúpano, Carlos Henández. 

Hernández has been detailing the Froot Loops cereals box his children have been eating and has discovered some disturbing hidden messages against the Revolution. In the rear of the box there is a puzzle and a cryptic message: “Tu puedes ayudar a SAM y a sus sobrinos a llegar a los deliciosos Froot Loops, ahora que el hombre de las nieves está dormido. ¿Sabes cuál es el camino?”

For Hernádez, the message is clear. “Sam y sus Sobrinos” are Uncle Sam and his local puppets of the “fascist opposition”, “deliciosos Froot Loops” are the delicious Venezuelan natural resources coveted by the Yankees, “el hombre de las nieves que ahora está dormido”, is Chávez, and “¿sabes cuál es el camino?” is a clear reference to Capriles’ electoral campaign motto “Hay un camino”.

Thus, Henández believes, the Empire had been “planting the evil apátrida seed in our young forgers of the fatherland.”

The post has already more than a 150 comments debating if it is a joke. My personal opinion is that it is obviously an apocryphal text mocking conspiracy theories by the government. In any case it is symptomatic of the conspiracy theories fatigue I have been arguing about.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why blaming saboteurs is not a good idea for the government right now

As I argued in a previous post, conspiracy theories are often used in political discourse as secular forms of theodicies: they are useful for explaining evil and clearly allocating blame. But that usefulness has its limits. As I wrote yesterday, the Venezuelan government seems to be facing those limits in the form of a conspiracy theories fatigue.

Yesterday’s blackout that affected almost half the country could turn out to be good example of this. Almost immediately after the first reports of the power cut at 13:00 local time, President Maduro and other government officials blamed the opposition. Maduro spoke of a rehearsal for an “electric coup” by the “extreme right,” and expressed his suspicions because the blackout had been “abrupt.”

President Maduro ordered in April this year the “militarization” of the entire electric system. At the time, Vice-President Jorge Arreaza declared: “we are going to militarize, that is the word, all these electrical installations, which will now become security areas so that we can safeguard them and thus prevent all types of sabotage actions.” Arreaza also announced the detention of 50 workers of the electric industry, but nothing more has been said about them since then.

The problem is this: Even those voters who believe with revolutionary fervor in the perfection of socialism, and that therefore everything that goes wrong is to be blamed on “wreckers and saboteurs,” at a certain point may ask themselves if a leader that constantly denounces sabotage but is unable to stop it, even after “militarizing” the affected areas, is really competent to govern.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blackout and sabotage

A massive blackout hit half the country today, including parts of Caracas, at around 1:00pm local time.

Some States are at this time still without electricity and already some government officials are saying they suspect sabotage.

President Nicolas Maduro said that the blackout was “strange and abrupt,” and has ordered the mobilization of the Armed Forces.

According to the Sibci twitter account, Interior Minister Rodriguez Torres declared minutes ago that he did not rule out sabotage in an incident of this magnitude, and that investigations are already under way.

Maduro wrote on twitter: “at this time everything seems to indicate that the extreme right has taken up again its plan of an electrical coup d’état against the country. All active and on the alert. Venceremos

“I ask all the support of the electric workers and of the people so that we can advance into a new stage in our struggle to vaccinate the electric system against sabotage…”

Conspiracy theories fatigue

(If you have been following this blog, you are probably suffering from conspiracy theories fatigue by now. It seems that some Venezuelans are also exhausted.) 

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles declared recently that this year the Venezuelan government has denounced 11 conspiracies, including 4 magnicidios, or plots to kill the president. 

In an article published yesterday in Últimas Noticias, reporter Aimar Fernádez argues that in the last 14 years the government has mentioned a magnicidio plots at least 63 times. For 12 of those 63 claims, the Venezuelan government directly named and arrested 12 suspects, which were later released for lack of evidence. A group of 153 “paramilitaries” were also captured in the famous “paracachitos” incident in El Hatillo, near Caracas, in 2004. All 153 suspects later received a presidential pardon and were deported to Colombia. 

Counting magnicidio conspiracy claims by the government is very tricky. Most “government announcements” are in reality repetitions by different officials of the same on-going conspiracy theory and not about different plots. Chávez used to be the first one to announce magnicidio plots against him in his weekly Aló Presidente TV show, and then government officials would add details during following week. Now it seems that José Vicente Rangel is the first to announce the latest plot, and Maduro, Cabello, and Rodriguez Torres progressively fill in the details in the following days. 

Even if most of the announcements refer to the same plot, the sheer number of magnicidio claims, not counting the ones about economic/electric/oil industry sabotages, perhaps explains the conspiracy theories fatigue some political analysts have been recently commenting on. 

Nicmer Evans, an analyst close to the government, has argued that “With the issue of the magnicidio we are like in the wolf fable, ‘here comes the wolf!’ and when the wolf finally comes nobody will notice it because they warned too many times that it was going to come.” 

Writer Alberto Barrera Tyszka, in his opinion column for El Nacional, argues that the constant magnicidio announcements, with promises to later show evidence that is never made public, is a mistake: “There is a miscalculation in the government’s discourse. They always multiply their announcements. Their grandiloquence ruins the denunciations. They scream as if Bruce Willis had just been found, armed up to his teeth, (…) hiding in a sewer a few meters from the Miraflores Palace. (…) Without showing any evidence, they accuse the local political parties, then they move on to name Roger Noriega, Posada Carriles, and then Álvaro Uribe, to finish by dragging Obama into the plot and pointing to a plan to invade Syria and commit a magnicidio in Venezuela, at the same time.” 

Even President Maduro has expressed his concern over the “disrespectful” attitude that the Venezuelan opposition has shown by ridiculing the magnicidio claims. For Maduro such behavior, in the face of such serious denunciations, is “highly suspicious.”  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Conspiracy theories in Venezuela according to EFE

The Spanish international news agency EFE published a note yesterday (August 31) about conspiracy theories in Venezuela, focusing on the constant claims by President Nicolás Maduro of magnicidio plots to assassinate him.

EFE quotes the opinions of Alberto Barrera, a writer and author of a biography of Chávez, and Nicmer Evans, a pro-government intellectual and part time lecturer at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.

For Barrera the constant claims of plots reflect a “pre political society” in constant threat of “a hecatomb that never happens.” Barrera thinks that conspiracy theories are used by Maduro to generate cohesion among chavistas: “the aim is to generate huge threats so that supporters close ranks in the defense of Maduro.”

But Nicmer Evans believes that conspiracy theories should not be discarded as mere paranoia: “I would not accuse the position of Venezuela’s political leaders as paranoid because history has shown very clearly that there are profound reasons to make them think this way.” Evans believes that the magnicidio plot claims are true and that they go beyond killing the President: “the fundamental objective of all this is Venezuela’s oil.”

However Evans does believe that perhaps the government has somewhat exaggerated conspiracy announcements: “With the issue of the magnicidio we are like in the wolf fable, ‘here comes the wolf!’ and when the wolf finally comes nobody will notice because they warned too many times that it was going to come.”

Both Barrera and Evans make interesting points on the issue of the effectiveness of the political use of conspiracy theories. Barrera, who clearly does not believe in these theories, thinks that they are used by the government as tools for the creation of internal cohesion. Evans (a pro-government believer), seems to think that even if the theories are true, the government has to reveal them in a smaller dosage if it wants to be taken seriously.