Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dissident Chavismo and conspiracy theories

Read my piece published by Conspiracy Watch about dissident chavistas, once conspiracy theorists, now labeled conspirators: Les chavistes dissidents et la théorie du complot, une histoire d’arroseurs arrosés. Thanks to Rudy Reichstadt for inviting me to contribute.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Maduro’s press conference: Three interlinked coup plots

Except for magnicidio plot claims, president Maduro’s press conference yesterday was a compendium of most of the conspiracy theories proposed by the Venezuelan government in the past years. The Empire was the main object of Maduro’s claims about destabilization attempts against his government, which he called a state of “permanent conspiracy.” But also local opposition leaders and other regional governments were included in the plots.

The economic war theory featured prominently. The United States was accused of promoting a “financial and economic blockade” of the country. “Nobody has the right to try to impose his policies with threats, pressures, sanctions, and economic, financial, political, diplomatic, and much less military aggressions. Venezuela claims its right to peace, independence, and self-determination,” said Maduro. He added that even though 86% of Venezuelans rejected a US intervention in the country, this possibility is supported by the opposition leadership: “Only they back this threat, which they have sanctified, and they have gone out of the country to ask for an economic and financial blockade against Venezuela.”

International media was also accused by Maduro of being part of this “permanent conspiracy.” The BBC was particularly singled out by the president as the media outlet behind what he called “an imperialist aggression of world-wide nature,” of which the BBC has become “the biggest propaganda apparatus.” He added that “since the war in Iraq, the BBC had not played such a disgusting [asqueroso] role.”

Most interesting of yesterday’s conference was that Maduro provided a theory of three interlinked coup plots backed by the United States against his government, financed and coordinated via Miami and Bogotá, and enacted by local opposition leaders:

“There is a permanent conspiracy from Miami against Venezuela. All those captured after the attack against the Paramacay fort have confessed, and we know of their links and finances. Another group [of plotters] is related to the old coupist military of 2002, which have fled the country. And another group belongs to the incorrectly called Blue Coup, even if most of them are in jail, they are still trying to make noise. These three groups have been activated by them [United States] with a lot of many, but the Venezuelan armed forces have developed very effective anti-coup strategies.”

Despite the “evidence” presented by Maduro of these coup plots, he also said he would be writing a letter to US President Trump asking for conversations. “Trump and I have to talk, because we don’t want our people to suffer, we have to co-exist in peace. We are anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists, but we are not against the United States, we love the people of the United States,” said Maduro.

(Read previous posts on the Paramacay Fort incident here and here, and on the Blue Coup here, here, and here. Even though Maduro spoke against the term Blue Coup, it was widely used by government officials and state media at the time. The Agencia Venezolana de Noticias yesterday ran a note explaining the links between the three coup plots under the title “Groups managed from abroad have attacked the rule of law in Venezuela.”)

Here by Venezolana de Televisión on the press conference:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump and anti-imperialism

“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary” said US President Trump last night. “We have troops all over the world in places that are very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and people are suffering and they’re dying,” he added.

It’s unlikely that Trump’s declarations will be followed by an imminent invasion of Venezuela, but they are sure to boost the anti-imperialist and nationalist rhetoric of the Venezuelan government. The declarations will be presented as part of a “coordinated” hemispheric plan led by the US government, and backed by other “rightist” governments in the region and the local opposition, to put an end to the Bolivarian revolution and its “accomplishments”.

These are the first reactions by several government officials to President Trump’s declarations:

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López told Venezolana de Televisión: “This is an act of craziness, and act of extremism. There is extremist elite now governing the United States.”

Information and Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas, has said that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister will issue and official communique later today. He wrote on Twitter:

Amenaza proferida por Trump une a todos los venezolanos de bien en rechazo a injerencia y en defensa de la Patria

Delcy Rodríguez, President of the newly convened National Constitutive Assembly, wrote:

Rechazamos las cobardes, insolentes e infames amenazas del Pdte de los EEUU contra la sagrada soberanía de Venezuela

Translated by Telesur:

.: We reject the cowardly, insolent, and vile threats from US President against the sacred sovereignty of Ven

Both Rodríguez and Villegas re-twitted this response by Argentinian pro-chavista philosopher Fernando Buen Abad D.:

Nosotros también tenemos muchas "opciones" respecto al imperio y sus gerentes. Si quieren acelerar la lucha de clases nos encontrarán unidos

Abad added this picture:


Thursday, August 10, 2017

August 6: Hiroshima and Paramacay

On August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima an atomic bomb killed at least 90,000 people, perhaps as many as 146,000. On August 6, 2017, an armed group of at least 18 attacked the military fort of Paramacay in the Venezuelan city of Valencia. After a gun battle that lasted for three hours, two of the attackers were dead and 10 had been detained, according to the government. The rest of the attacker fled after stealing a cache of guns form the fort.

To even suggest a comparison between these two events may seem tasteless to most. Not so to the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (AVN) and its main conspiracy theorist-in-residence Hernán Mena Cifuentes (previous mentions of him on this blog can be read here and here.)

Mena Cifuentes’s latest piece From the Hiroshima Genocide to paramilitary terrorism in Paramacay suggests that “There are crimes against humanity, such as the ones perpetrated on August 6 in Hiroshima 72 years ago, and on August 6, 2017, in Paramacay Fort, Valencia, that remain, not only in the collective memory of the people of the countries where they were committed, but also in the whole world, the footprint of the barbaric fascist terrorism on its grim march of violence, destruction and death.”

“Prohibido Olvidar” is the motto with which Mena Cifuentes closes his article.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Smartmatic, conspiracies and conspiracy theories

After Venezuela’s electoral authority the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced on June 31 that 8,089,320 people had voted on elections the previous day for the new Constitutive Assembly, the opposition immediately cried foul. Participation levels were important as the opposition refused to participate in the elections. The opposition argued that the participation in the elections had not reached 3 million. But the only evidence that the CNE had conspired with the Executive to inflate the participation numbers were images of empty voting centers, and previous polls that showed that more that 80% of likely voters rejected a new Constitutive Assembly.

Since yesterday the claims by the opposition have suddenly received very strong support from Smartmatic, the e-voting company that has provided technical support in 14 of the last elections in Venezuela, including the June 30 Constitutive Assembly elections. Indeed, Smartmatic was accused by sectors of the opposition in previous elections of not revealing successive “elections frauds” in Venezuela. But now the company seems willing to do just that.
In a statement read in London by Smartmatic director Antonio Mugica, and first reported by the BBC, the company said it could not vouch for the results provided by the CNE: “Based on the robustness of our system, we know, without any doubt, that the turn out of the recent election for a National Constituent Assembly was manipulated. It is important to highlight that similar manipulations are made in manual elections in many countries, but because of the lack of electronic security and auditing safeguards, they go unnoticed.” Mugica also said that there was discrepancy of “at least a million votes” between Smartmatic data and what the CNE had reported. 

Also yesterday Girish Gupta, Reuters’ correspondent in Caracas, reported that according to CNE internal data, only 3.7 million people had voted by 5:30. The polls closed at 7:00 and political analyst Jennifer McCoy told Gupta: "Although it's possible to have a late push at the end of the day, and the Socialist Party has tried to do that in the past, to double the vote in the last hour and a half would be without precedent."

And now it is of course the government, and government media, hinting at Smartmatic being part of a broad right-wing imperial conspiracy to discredit the election’s results. The main argument exposed by government media is that Smartmatic is contradicting itself by claiming its systems are robust and that electoral results cannot be changed. However Smartmatic claims that its systems are as robust as ever, but that the CNE ignored the control and auditing safeguards this time around, and simply reported a different result.

The head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, gave a press conference yesterday afternoon. She said that what has been said by Smartmatic amounts to “an opinion by a company whose only role in the electoral process is to provide services and technical support, which do not determine the results. These declarations [by Smartmatic] have been made in the context of a permanent aggression against the CNE.”

“It is not a private company, located outside the country who guarantees the transparency and credibility of Venezuela’s electoral system. Antonio Mugica says the differences between what was announced and what the system provided were a million votes, that is and irresponsible and groundless assertion,” added Lucena.

After Lucena’s press conference, the Mayor of Caracas and top PSUV leader, Jorge Rodríguez, declared that if it were not for “the violent acts of the fascist”, 10 million would have turned out to vote in the elections. Asked by reporters if the PSUV would ask for an audit of the process, he said that chavismo would not “play the oppositions game.”

President Maduro has announced that the newly elected Constitutive Assembly will be stablished this Friday, in the nation’s Capitol, where the National Assembly meets. Maduro called Smartmatic’s director Antonio Mugica “stupid” and said that “this electoral process cannot be tainted by anything because it is transparent.”

Maduro also hinted at possible future solution to Venezuela´s economic troubles: he will summon the members of the Constitutive Assembly elected from the “business sector” to Miraflores presidential palace, where they will meet with him every day and advise him on economic decrees to defeat the “economic unconventional war waged by sectors of the opposition.”

“I would like for you (business sector representatives) to form a powerful economic commission that will go to Miraflores every day to issue permanent economic decrees until we recover that economy of the country,” explained the President.

Here is an image published yesterday by Telesur explaining Smatmatic’s “contradictions”: