Thursday, October 31, 2013

Maduro shows evidence of a new Chávez epiphany

Not really about conspiracy theories, but equally fun: President Maduro announced yesterday that a figure resembling Chavez’s face appeared in one of the walls of the construction tunnels of the new Caracas metro line:

“Look at this figure that made its apparition to the workers, you can talk to them if you like: it is a face, whose face? It is a gaze, it is a gaze staring at the Fatherland everywhere, even from these types of phenomena that have no explanation.”

Maduro explained that the workers in the tunnel had seen the figure days before at around 2 a.m. and took pictures with their cell phones, which they then took to Maduro. However the actual image has by now unfortunately disappeared: “the same way it appeared, it disappeared, but look, what everyone is saying is true, Chavez is everywhere, we are all Chávez,” added Maduro.

Here is the picture shown by Maduro on national television and published by El Universal:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We will have elections, even without electricity

In a public meeting yesterday with chavista candidates, President Maduro declared that the opposition is planning to prevent the December 8 municipal elections from happening by sabotaging the electric grid. However he assured that “We will have elections, even without electricity, let the People decide!”

Maduro also emphasized that his party, the PSUV, should cease in its “internal war” in the face of the “economic war” he claims the country is facing, and mentioned those he believes are behind for the plot: “Those directly responsible for the economic war plan are the owners and directives of FEDECAMARAS, CONSECOMERCIO, and VENANCHAMP. They are the faces of the economic war against the people, they are directly responsible,” he insisted.

What the “internal war” of the PSUV is about was not explained, but Maduro could be referring to internal struggles within chavismo for the candidacies to the upcoming municipal elections, and to criticism the party has received from its basis for the selections process of the candidates.

Red Storm. Opposition is also sabotaged

The opposition mayor of Sucre Municipality, Carlos Ocariz declared yesterday that the government is behind a sabotage plot against his municipality. The plot, according to Ocariz, goes under the name “Red Storm”, and is basically devoted to spreading lies (montar ollas) about his administration of Sucre.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The extreme right is conducting an economic war under the orders of the US

Yesterday in his weekly TV program, José Vicente Rangel interviewed PDVSA President and Minister of Oil Rafael Ramírez. These are some of his declarations according to SIBCI:

The extreme right is conducting an offensive against the Venezuelan People. This offensive is based on an economic war ordered by the United States, which consists on a strategic line that pretends to generate the total collapse of the country with the ultimate objective of overthrowing the Revolutionary Government lead by President Nicolás Maduro.

With CADIVI we handed out in September 33,000 million dollars, much more than what was handed out in 2012. This means that they [the extreme right] have diverted funds to generate an economic war.

The fact that we have a parallel dollar, which is not justifiable at its current levels, and that they have created this distressing and chaotic situation for those that really need dollars for their economic activities, are a consequence of this economic war.

Ramírez also assured that there will be no devaluation of the Bolivar in the near future and that the controls established by the government are the right economic policy in order to “keep our sovereignty over our national reserves.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Anti-Coup Command

During meeting with leaders of the parties that form the pro-government coalition, the Gran Polo Patriótico, President Maduro announced that he will “reactivate” an Anti-Coup Command that will face the “destabilizing attacks of the Venezuelan right.”

The Command was first established by President Chávez in April 2012 to, according to the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, “elaborate an integral anti-coup plan against the plots and pretensions of the bourgeoisie and the North American Empire to destabilize the country.”

“We are in the presence of, not only an economic war, but also a psychological and political war. This is a continued coup against the State and the People,” explained Maduro.   

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Trilogy of Evil

During the announcement of the creation of the new “Vice-ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the Venezuelan People,” President Maduro again mentioned “the trilogy of evil,” conformed by opposition leaders María Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and Leopoldo López.

Maduro called them “fascist parasites and enemies of the Fatherland,” and argued that they are behind the economic war he claims is being waged against the country.

“I call on the People to recognize these enemies of the People and the Fatherland, enemies of the future, who do not want to show their faces. They are untouchable princes and princesses. There is no one in the media that dares to criticize them. The parasite of Miranda [Capriles] abandoned his post as Governor, and there are constitutional mechanisms to strip him of the post …ah but he is a bourgeois prince. They are the ones sabotaging ¡People recognize them! They are the trilogy of evil, they have Washington’s blessing,” explained Maduro.

He also made a warning against the “trilogy of evil”: “we will have no remorse, we will not be moved by tears [lloriqueo que valga], you have to pay for what you have done to the People. (…) We are preparing an effective offensive. We are going to take them down from their posts through constitutional means.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Love Chávez and hate the enemies of the Fatherland

Yesterday President Maduro gave a preview of his campaign rhetoric for the coming municipal elections of December 8: Government followers are to express their “love and loyalty” to the memory of Chávez, by voting against the enemies of the Fatherland who have been sabotaging the Revolution.

In a session of his “Gobierno de Calle” in the city of Maturín, Maduro declared: “December 8 will be from now on the Day of Love and Loyalty to Hugo Chávez, because on that day he came to say farewell to his People, even when he was suffering from his illness, he came with strength and calmness to say farewell to his Fatherland. (…) The Venezuelan People cannot betray this memory, this legacy, and the dreams of the Leader of the Bolivarian Revolution. We cannot betray history and our roots. That day Chávez showed all his courage.”

But he also clearly stated the dangers posed by the conspiratorial opposition: “The only enemies of the Fatherland are the ‘trilogy of evil’ (Opposition leaders Henrique, Capriles, Leopoldo López, and María Corina Machado) who are in charge of sabotaging electricity, food supplies, and of waging an economic war. Let the People be aware of this and who they are: they are the ones sabotaging the peace of the country.”

Later during the day, Maduro visited a thermoelectric plant and explained the need to conform a “vanguard for the defense of the Fatherland against destabilizing attempts by the Venezuelan right. I invoke the construction of a profound offensive by the Revolution as an answer to the plans of economic sabotage,” he emphasized. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who is behind the economic war?

In recent months Venezuelan government has accused a wide range of actors of conspiring against the country by waging an “economic war”: the US government, Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, opposition parties, local private media, Venezuelans exiled in Miami, “the right,” the bourgeoisie, and Colombian oligarchs, among others have been blamed for high inflation and scarcity.

Yesterday President Maduro added to the list of conspirators three of the main trade and business owners associations of the country: FEDECAMARAS (Federación de Cámaras y Asociaciones de Comercio y Producción de Venezuela), CONSECOMERCIO (Consejo Nacional de Comercio y Servicios), and VENAMCHAM (Cámara Venezolano Americana de Comercio e Industria).

“They are behind the economic war, these three institutions; they are the enemies of the People. But they not the rulers here, and will never be our rulers. Nor does the International Monetary Fund. I don’t take calls from Washington to tell me things like ‘you cannot invest in this school because you have to reduce social spending,’” declared Maduro after a meeting with Brazil’s Industry and Commerce Minister Fernando Pimentel.

The “economic war” rhetoric is a Grand Conspiracy Theory, therefore the accusation of very different actors of being part of the plot is not a contradiction. A plan to sabotage the whole economy of a country must forcibly include many and very powerful conspirators acting in coordination. This does not mean that there is lack of hierarchy among them: In the government’s rhetoric the “Empire” always comes on top as the main culprit of Venezuela’s economic troubles. Local opposition, media, or business groups are only puppets acting under direct orders form Washington.    

Sunday, October 20, 2013

For Maduro to speak of the possibility of a new government is conspiratorial

President Maduro declared yesterday (October 19) that he would give 24 hours to Lara state Governor Henri Falcon to explain why he mentioned the possibility of a new government.

Falcón had declared in a press conference that: “In view of the deterioration of State institutions and the wrongful administration of justice, the urgent priority of a new government would be the re-institutionalization of the country. (…) To persecute dissidence, limit critiques, and to politicize in the extreme the administration of justice generates deep unbalances in a State.”

President Maduro considered these declarations “reckless” (temerarias), and gave Falcon a 24 hour ultimatum to deny them, after which Maduro said will ask the Attorney General to press charges against Falcon for “reckless declarations against the Constitution and the legitimate mandate given to me [Maduro] by the Venezuelan People.”

“Governor Henry Falcón said yesterday: ‘the new coming government should begin be re-institutionalizing the country.’ But from what I know, here the Presidential elections are scheduled for December 2018. (…) From what I know, I have no plans to betray the People and quit the presidency Mr.  Henri Falcón, or is it that you know something I don’t know about? What new government are you referring to?” asked Maduro.

According to the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, President Maduro added that he will not tolerate conspiracies and that Falcon’s declarations are very similar to those issued by “the right” in 2001 and 2002 before the coup against Chávez

Friday, October 18, 2013

Enabling law will transform almost everything

According to a note published in English by the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN), President Maduro believes that the special powers to rule by decree he is asking the National Assembly to grant him will be a very powerful tool indeed: Not only will the enabling law serve him to “fight corruption and the economic war,” it will also allow him to deepen the socialist model, transform ethics and morality, and “restrain the vices fostered by some economic sectors.”

Here is the note as published by AVN:
Caracas, 18 Oct. AVN.- Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro stressed Thursday that enabling powers will "go straight to the new economic model."
On 8 October, president presented to the National Assembly the draft enabling law, a legal instrument designed to strengthen the fight against corruption and economic war, fostered by the bourgeoisie to destabilize the country's economy.
From Aragua State, the Head of State said: "This situation of economic war must be seen as an opportunity to deepen the socialist economic model. We are going to take this opportunity to turn around this economic situation."
He added that the enabling law will transform ethics and morality: "let's change that way of doing politics left by the Fourth Republic."
He also expressed his belief that the state should become ever stronger to restrain the vices fostered by some economic sectors "and ensure the future of the people."
"Let's tide over difficulties together and make possible the country dreamed by Bolivar and Chavez," Maduro told state media.
At the end of his speech, the Bolivarian Military Aviation presented the president a statuette of the Virgin of Loreto.
 AVN 18/10/2013 10:15

Maduro creates an intelligence unit for the defense of the Fatherland

In a post published today in the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, I write about the recent creation by President Maduro of the Centro Estratégico de Seguridad y Protección de la Patria (CESPPA.)

This has been a matter of much concern for local and international media organizations. Specially because of the ambiguous and wide powers bestowed on the Presidency by articles 3 and 9 of the CESSPA Promulgation Decree.

Here is a translation of those two polemical articles:

Article 3. The Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Fatherland will request, organize, integrate, and evaluate the information associated with internal and external enemy activity, from all security and intelligence agencies of the State or other public and private agencies, that is of interest for the strategic concerns of the Nation, according to the requirements of the Political Military Directorate of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Article 9. The President of the CESPPA may declare as reserved, classified, or of limited circulation, any information, fact, or circumstance that, in the fulfillment of his functions he may have knowledge of, or that has been processed in the CESPPA, in conformity with Article 59 of the Organic Law of Administrative Procedures and the Article 171 of the Organic Law of Public Administration.

Economic War. If you want to believe…

If you want to believe in the theory that Venezuela is not suffering the consequences of mismanagement, but instead is the victim of a Grand Conspiracy in the form of an “economic war, here is a more articulate presentation than one made by most government official quoted in this blog.

Arturo Rosales wrote for Axis of Logic the piece “The War on the Venezuelan Economy (includes photographic evidence).”
My favorite paragraph of the article is the usual enumeration of all that has gone wrong in Venezuela during the last year presented, in itself and in a circular logic, as evidence of sabotage by the opposition (Rosales adds several more accusations than those usually made by Venezuelan officials, such as “circulation of illegal drugs” and “denial of agriculture”):

There was the speculation by the stock exchange houses in Caracas, resulting in capital flight; the corrupting of the private bank officials resulting in the theft of millions of depositors' funds; infiltration of government bureaucracies by the fifth column to render services ineffective; the circulation of illegal drugs into Venezuelan youth, particularly in locales of the Chavista electorate; Colombian paramilitary groups crossing the border illegally to spawn violence and in some cases, executing labor leaders; the organizing and funding of the opposition by the US State Department for elections and violent street actions; the August 2012 attack on Venezuela's biggest oil refinery at Amuay; the sabotage of the national electrical system causing blackouts throughout the country; the opposition's denial of agriculture on vast stretches of their privately-held fertile lands; artificially-produced inflation by means of the parallel dollar market and attacks on the production and distribution of food and household items with their control of food processing and distribution and their hoarding and dumping of massive quantities of food to create shortages in the market. Of course each of these attacks against the revolution have been made-to-order for consumption by the US/European capitalist media to convince the public that the Venezuelan government is failing and more broadly that "socialism doesn't work."

As with the claims made by the Venezuelan government, no real evidence for any of this is provided. The article does make emphasis on the “sabotage of food processing and distribution” by the opposition, and evidence for this is promised. Basically, Rosales argues, hoarding and smuggling are to blame shortages. But he also twists the currency exchange problem in a curious way:

Since last November, the opposition has stepped up two main fronts: manipulating the parallel dollar-bolivar exchange rate market causing the devaluation of the local currency, the bolivar and the hoarding and price speculation on basic food products typical of the average Venezuelan family’s diet. Regarding the foods kept off the market, it's worth mentioning that most of it is under price controls which offers lower profits to the opposition food industries.

A truly all powerful opposition is capable of manipulating the parallel exchange rate at will, and can also coordinate hoarding, smuggling and “price speculation”.

“Photographic evidence” of the hoarding of food products follows. This includes pictures of Táchira state governor Vielma Mora conducting a raid on a warehouse in the frontier city of San Cristobal, where 400 tons in diverse products were seized. Presumably the products ready to be smuggled into Colombia.

Note however that most economist do not deny the fact that there is hoarding, smuggling, and panic buying on Venezuela. The difference is who gets the blame. Some believe that they are the consequence of economic policies by the government. Rosales on the contrary seems to believe that the government is doing the right thing, but that persons are somehow failing to live up to the high moral standards of socialism and therefore engaging in sabotage. Subsidizing food prices, for example, does not necessarily produce smuggling of those products, you need evil conspirators to actually hoard and take those products out of the country to sell them at better prices, ostensibly to get rich, but really with the ultimate aim of destabilizing Venezuela’s economy. 

Socialism does work; it’s just that the people living in it don't want to behave properly. Perhaps, as Maduro seems to suggests, as the “new man” delays his appearance, what is needed is a stronger, more authoritarian form of socialism… have you hear this before?  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Attorney General: Media is generating chaos

In an opinion piece published in Últimas Noticias, the Fiscal General Luisa Ortega Díaz blamed the media for creating conditions that produce shortages.

According to Ortega Díaz: “in the last months there has been an intensification in our country of the spreading of false information which could be oriented to stimulate panic among the population by exacerbating their basic needs. The spreading of messages about supposed shortages of products of the basic diet generates panic buying and, as a consequence, shelves are emptied by people that fear being left without products.”

The theory that product’s shortages are not the consequences of government’s policies, but of people trying to destabilize the economy by using the media to generate chaos, has also been recently expressed by President Maduro and by Conatel President Pedro Maldonado.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Total Collapse of Venezuelan economy was due yesterday

Responding to Carpiles’ declaration yesterday that in Venezuela there is no such thing as an “economic war” but an “economy of war,” President Maduro instead accused him directly of being responsible for sabotaging the economy.

Maduro also gave new information on the plan “total collapse” which he denounced some weeks ago. According to him the date in which the economy was plotted to collapse was October 15, but fortunately the government has successfully uncovered the plot and “done the outmost so that you [the People] can have housing and food.”

“They had calculated everything so that today [October 15], I can now reveal the full truth: today was to be the day of the total collapse according to the plan of this phony bourgeoisie. They had everything calculated,” Maduro explained.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

José Vicente Rangel: Magnicidio… again…

In an article titled “The Hunt” (La Caceríapublished yesterday, reporter José Vicente Rangel argued that “the right” is again considering plans to assassinate President Maduro amid their fears that “Maduro will consolidate his power after favorable results in the December 8 elections.”

Rangel believes that Maduro is being systematically “hunted down” by the opposition. He emphasized: “The option is still on the table. The plan is connected with the juncture of the municipal elections. Before or after these elections they will use [the elections] for their magnicidio plans –I use the word even if it exasperates them,- the attempt would be a commando style coup. This is something that is looming in the criminal imagination of those that are willing to do anything to drive away the fear that hounds them. (…) According to the information I have been receiving, these plans exist and are being implemented. (…) For now there is no other option than to wait, we have to be on the alert.”

Rangel has periodically accused the Venezuelan opposition of plotting to assassinate Maduro, without showing evidence to support his accusations. In the past he also repeatedly claimed that “the right” was plotting to kill President Chávez.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Enabling law against corruption and economic war

Last week (October 8) President Maduro asked the National Assembly to grant him especial powers through an enabling law, in order to “fight corruption and the economic war.” He addressed the assembly in a three hour long, mostly read discourse. He did not give many specifics of the new laws he would decree with the especial powers, but he did reiterate some of the central themes that have become central to the government’s rhetoric in the last month: the revolution is fighting a psychological, political, and economic war against its enemies, and only by granting him more powers can he defeat this threat.

The President insisted that corruption is basically a problem of the opposition, but also acknowledged that it is found within his government. However he explained that corruption is something inherited from the “capitalist” past and will only be overcome through a new ethic based on socialism.

Here is a translation of a selection of relevant parts of Maduro’s discourse:   

...we are now on the offensive in this truly decisive battle, and we will not abandon this offensive. I therefore call the People to not allow corruption and the corrupt; to not tolerate corruption, be this yellow collar corruption or red collar corruption, it is the same, dressed whichever way it is the same anti-Fatherland (apátrida) and anti-popular conduct.

Long and bloody has been the war our country has had to fight to reach full democracy, [to reach] the splendor of republican life. Democracy, a republican life, it must be said, were always under threat by the representatives of Capital, domestic or foreign, first by a ruthless colonial domination, characterized by the most barbaric of plunders. Then, after gaining our independence and after the libertarian struggles of the nineteenth century, we witnessed the emergence of a landowners cast. They reserved for themselves the rights to fence huge ranches that had as only limits the frontiers of the Fatherland. Later, with the discovery of oil we saw the emergence of a bourgeoisie and a business class who finally plundered all the riches of the land and managed to take control of governments. These governments had as their only function to keep a watch over the privileges of the bourgeoisie and of the sectors that negotiated in this country without limits.

We can conclude that all forms of government we have known until 1999 were based in complete and cowardly obedience to the economic interests of the transnationals and a parasite and unproductive local bourgeoisie.

These reflections lead us to underscore that the Venezuelan economy is currently facing a very special juncture, the productive apparatus of the country is being hit very strongly by a series of distortions such as: speculation and hoarding, smuggling, the illegal foreign currency market, a set of difficulties that perhaps we could name as “cavidismo” [in reference to CADIVI, the currency exchange government agency], as one of the most vulgar expressions of the existence of a parasite bourgeoisie in the last 100 years of Venezuelan history. This is “cavidismo”: the current trend in the obstinate tendency of certain economic sectors to claim earnings [without] producing them. It seems it is a matter of outmost importance to establish who has taken advantage of these mechanisms, who conform the power groups and their relations to banking, insurance, and financial markets. We will get to them, let no one doubt that.

This is really the core of the battle, let us not fool ourselves, this is the core of the national battle: today the bourgeoisie is still searching for different ways of maintaining the control of oil revenues. If 70% of our gross internal product still corresponds to the local bourgeoisie, this means that our economic dynamics is still far from socialism… too far compañeros, comrades, compatriots, People listening, it is no coincidence that our parasitic and importing bourgeoisie is mainly devoted to commerce, because this allows it to quickly and easily get a hold of oil revenues, and that is how they are bleeding the country, this is “cavidismo.” The Venezuela as super power that was the dream, the project that our Comandante worked for, is fundamentally antagonistic with the expansion of consumption as a function of the interests of the parasitic bourgeoisie.

Dear Deputies, we need to consolidate a revolutionary solidarity so that we can act without delay against all kinds of corrupts that are bleeding the Fatherland. If we want to be at the level of the circumstances we need to bring bag “Chávez’s whip” to punish corruption and inefficiency, to reduce impunity until we defeat it and it disappears. We need, as Bolivar himself knew, to triumph in the path of Revolution, there is no other way, a war without mercy against all these burdens that have become a tremendous threat to the Republic and to the survival of the Bolivarian Revolution itself.

I have not come here to ask to the right [the opposition] for a truce, that right that has no national consciousness. But let the decent and honest people of our Fatherland know, that the anti-national right is betting every second on my failure, on our failure, so that they can definitely get hold of the rich oil revenues of our country, so they can then hand them to the transnational interests. They have and will put obstacle to everything we do.

They are not even capable, with a minimum of rationality, to open themselves to dialogue, so that they can listen to the national clamor that Nicolas Maduro must be allowed to govern, according to the Constitutions, without sabotaging him, without war. Cease now the war and the sabotage against the democratic government that I preside! Enough is enough! The People of Venezuela say enough! Until when will we have to put up with sabotage! With dirty wars! Psychological wars!Hate wars!       

Sunday, October 13, 2013

José Vicente Rangel calls for “urgent measures” against conspiracy

Every Sunday Rangel devotes a segment his TV program “José Vicente Hoy” to accuse the Venezuelan opposition of a wide variety of conspiracies.

In today’s program he asked the government to take “urgent measures against the right in order to preserve democracy.”

He argued that “Venezuela is reaching a situation of rupture that demands, in order to preserve democracy, urgent measures by those that have the responsibility to defend the values and the coexistence of the nation.”

Rangel enumerated the actions promoted by the opposition that, according to him, would warrant a strong and urgent governmental reaction: “To deliberately create shortages in the country, manipulate the economic policies, play with the national currency, stimulate inflation, back conspiracies with their discourses, and other provocative attitudes, are actions that aim at creating chaos in the country.”

The Anointed Lady Conspiracy

Yesterday (September 12), President Maduro announced that he has information that the United States is changing its plot line against Venezuela. Washington will no longer support Capriles as the leader of the local opposition and instead will back a “lady,” he informed in reference to opposition leader Maria Corina Machado.

Maduro warned: “There has been a change in Washington’s line. They have anointed a lady and they are preparing her. She has been anointed by [the US] power and has been told she needs to prepare her image. They told her: ‘you should wear red, you should wear a cap with the national colors [tricolor], you will be the President of the national transition that will replace Maduro the ass [Maburro].’”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Venezuela in a “defensive mode” in the its war against…

The “psychological, political, and economic war” waged against the Fatherland by its enemies has reached a new stage, according to President Maduro. Therefore he is “preparing and calling on the youth, workers, military, women, and all the social, political, institutional, and communicational forces of the Fatherland: It is time to say enough to this war against the Fatherland!”

However the Revolution will not be in this defensive phase for long, according to Maduro. He again announced a coming revolution within the revolution: “Sooner than later I will call for a revolution within the revolution, a new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution, a new offensive phase. Enough of so many attacks of the bourgeoisie against the People!”

Venezuela’s Municipal Elections

David Smilde and I wrote a series of three post on the coming Municipal Elections of December 8 for the blog Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Currency exchange agency (Cadivi) has been penetrated by capitalism and corruption

Yesterday in an interview for the state TV channel VTV, the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, spoke about the need to transform the current currency control mechanism into a “more trustworthy and just” system.

Cabello explained that “if the currency administration system has been penetrated by capitalism and corruption, then it must be transformed. (…) The capitalist culture means to want to make a lot of money in a very short time, always to maximize earnings, they [the capitalists] only care about money. But dollars must be used for what is essential, for our people.”

Maduro criminalizes media for speaking of fuel shortages

Yesterday (October 10) President Maduro accused the newspaper 2001, which belongs to the local media conglomerate Bloque de Armas, of committing a “crime” by publishing the “gross and dirty” headline: “La gasolina la echan con gotero”. According to 2001 fuel station are now receiving less than half the fuel they were receiving three years ago and are therefore rationing fuel. The daily informed that “some drivers are complaining about the shortage of 91 octane gasoline.”

Maduro said that such headlines were part of a sabotage of the economy: “[Bloque de Armas] has gone beyond the Constitution; they have declared war against me and against the people. This cannot be. They don´t want to listen. (…) I, Nicolás Maduro, a man of the people, a son of Chávez, elected according to the Constitution, don´t I have the right to govern this country in peace? Don’t the People have the right to live in peace?” he asked.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Birthers theories are not a good campaign strategy

Juan Cristobal Nagel argues in Caracas Chronicles that the Venezuelan birthers are very different from the US anti-Obama version. He makes the case that Maduro has not even shown a proper birth certificate. He also point to the fact that the question is now part of the “opposition mainstream’s political strategy.”

The issue does seem to have become more relevant in the past weeks. If it is indeed part of the opposition campaign strategy for the December municipal elections, I believe it is not very good.

I have argued that conspiracy theories are more than just a campaign strategy for the Government. But even if it is just part of the electoral campaign, it is the wrong strategy: most Venezuelans are not buying the government’s constant conspiracy theories that claim that the opposition is sabotaging everything, from the electric system to the economy. In the case of the opposition and the birthers, I doubt that most Venezuelans even care if Maduro was born in Colombia or not. I hope to see poll numbers on this issue soon.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Civic-military oath against the enemies of the fatherland

Yesterday (September 5) President Maduro heard a public oath taken by the Venezuelan military commanders of the national armed forces and the so called “Political High Command of the Revolution” in Campo de Carabobo, the place the most important battle in 1821 of the independence war.

Maduro characterized the oath as an “unconditional” support for the defense of socialism against the “psychological, electrical, and political war against the people.”

The actual wording, as published by the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, is a vague statement in the style of the patriotic rhetoric of Venezuela’s Bolivarian/Chavista political religion, but it does mention “socialism” and the need to be prepared for “any eventuality”:

We swear with all our patriotic soul, bolivarian soul, and chavista soul, to construct an independent fatherland and to construct the fatherland of socialist equality. We swear to unite all the strength of our people and to be prepared for any eventuality [coyuntura] and to guarantee the peace, the stability, and the continuity of the Bolivarian Revolution. We thus swear in this immortal field [of Carabobo].

Before the swearing of the oath, Maduro stated that October will be the month of “preparation for combat and the month of early victory in the face of the psychological, electrical, and political war against our people.”

He further explained that “a criminal war has been unleashed against the Venezuelan people; they want to drag us into chaos, they want the division of our people, they want to take us back to the times of confusion, the times of darkness. (…) The people need to know who the enemies of the fatherland are, (…) their complete names, where they are, what they think, what is their psychology. They are not my personal enemies, they are the enemies of the fatherland, of the independence of the fatherland, they are the enemies of our people, not recent enemies, but enemies that have been always there.”

(Here is the text of the oath in Spanish: "Juramos con el alma de patriotas, con el ama de bolivarianos, con el alma de chavistas, construir la patria independiente y construir la igualdad de la patria socialista. Juramos unir las fuerzas del pueblo y estar preparados ante cualquier coyuntura y garantizar la paz, la estabilidad y la continuidad de la Revolución Bolivariana. Así lo juramos en este campo inmortal")

Friday, October 4, 2013

Against the bad guys, no evidence needed

Les Blough’s article Sobering Reasons for Venezuelan President Maduro’s Cancellation of Beijing to New York Trip published by Venezuelanalysis reaches an interesting conclusion:
"For people living outside of Latin America these claims of sabotage and assassination plots may seem to be strange and difficult to believe. But the enlightened see these threats in the context of 200 years of Washington's history of interference in internal affairs, creation and funding of sedition,  their training and support of right-wing death squads, coups and assassinations in Latin America.
"More recently in Venezuela these plots to discredit, weaken and even assassinate President Maduro become illuminated with knowledge of Washington's non-stop attacks on Venezuela's economy causing hyperinflation; sabotage of food production and distribution and the electrical system; funding of the opposition with multi-millions of US tax payer dollars; infiltration and corruption of some government officials, police, military and organized labor; advising and funding a malicious private media by CIA and State Department out of the US Embassy in Caracas; the violation of Venezuelan airspace; cross border attacks and assassinations of labor leaders by Colombian death squads; the attack on Venezuela's biggest oil refinery at Amuay in August, 2012 that killed 42 people and injured 120 and of course, the failed US-backed coup in April, 2002 when they kidnapped President Chavez and the 2002-2003 manager's walkout that shut down the country's oil industry for 3 months. There are also valid reasons why many in Venezuela and throughout Latin America are convinced that President Chavez was assassinated by induced cancer.
"If this isn't enough for the skeptics, think about the history and evidence of US wars for "regime change" and theft of natural resources. Think about Venezuela in possession of the world's largest proven oil reserves, only 5 days journey from US refineries by tanker. Then ask yourself if the deviants in Washington are not sufficiently immoral and capable of planning the assassination of a defiant President Maduro who follows in the path of Bolivar and Chavez for Venezuelan sovereignty and independence."
It is a good point: Anti-Americanism has good reasons to exist in Latin American given past and recent history.

The Venezuelan government has been presenting that history as “evidence” of its conspiracy theories: “we know the US is evil, we know it is capable of some pretty awful things, we have seen them in the past, and therefore we don’t need to show any evidence of our accusations.”

I remain a skeptic: no matter how far I agree with a critical assessment of past US policies towards Latin America, I don’t see how this somehow exempts Maduro from showing real evidence of his almost daily accusations. I don’t see how we are “illuminated with knowledge” by presenting as proven facts precisely the things for which we need evidence.

Also keep in mind that it is not only a matter of US imperialist involvement in Latin America: What Maduro is claiming is a truly gigantic “ongoing conspiracy” that includes the United States, but also “the European powers,” the “Colombian oligarchy,” the Miami Cuban and Venezuelan exiles, the Venezuelan opposition, the Venezuelan Church, and Venezuelan and international NGO's, all in cahoots against the country. It’s far worse than what Abbé Barruel claimed France had to face before the Revolution.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Conspiracy theories are more than just a campaign strategy

Political analysts and opposition leaders keep telling us that the current conspiracy theories explosion in the Venezuelan governmental discourse has to do with the approaching December 8 municipal elections: This is an election year, so claiming that problems are caused by sabotage and “economic war” by puppets of the Empire, is a way of diverting attention from the real issues.
This is only partly true.

First, it is very hard to correlate the peaks in the government’s conspiratorial theorizing and electoral periods in Venezuela. For the past 14 years Venezuelans have gone to the ballots almost every year, sometimes two times in the same year.

Second, radical political views have an elective affinity with conspiracy theories. This has been consistently pointed out by authors from Hofstadter to Furet.

My opinion is that most of the people now in the government are real radical revolutionaries who sincerely believe in that what they are doing (not all of course, some are cynical corrupt opportunists). They have a radical Manichean conception of good and evil and a simple, clear, and easy to understand theodicy that helps them frame the struggle against evil. Their theodicy is based on the Leninist idea of imperialism as the last stage of capitalism, and it inevitably includes a lot of conspiracy theories to back it up. According to this view, Socialism is “scientifically” perfect; price controls and planned economy is the right way to go. If things go wrong, the only possible explanation is that the enemies are sabotaging the road to utopia.