Caracas (GPA) – In the wake of the the historic vote to form a Constituent Assembly, there has been a steady stream of complaints from the Venezuelan opposition to President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro dismisses most of the concerns and attacks by the opposition, and he has good reason to.
The US corporate media has spent months championing the cause of everyone they know in Venezuela, even the slightest of publicly known figures, as long as they are willing to go on record and slander the government of Nicolas Maduro. These quotes are religiously parroted by every major US media outlet that only wants readers, viewers and listeners to hear one side of the ongoing fight in Venezuela.
This article is meant to help clear up a lot of the questions that are left unanswered by US media, and to do that, we have to dissect a few key aspects of the current situation. In order to understand the Venezuelan opposition better, we should look closely at three key pieces of this puzzle:
- Who the opposition is and the methods they use.
- US backing of the opposition and what happens in other countries where US backed opposition is allowed to operate.
- And finally, what exactly the alleged “brutal crackdowns” by Maduro have actually entailed.
The Venezuelan Opposition: Peaceful Resistance or the ‘Moderate Rebels’ of Caracas?
If your primary source for news on the crisis in Venezuela is the US corporate media, it’s likely you have a certain image that comes to mind when you hear about the Venezuelan opposition. If you believe outlets like CNN or The New York Times it’s likely you conjure up an image of the opposition as a faceless mass of hungry and poor people risking it all to stand against tyranny in a massive fight for some subjective concepts like “freedom.”
Now this idea of brave everyday people protesting on the ground level probably has some truth behind it, but like most “uprisings” of this nature, the civilians in the street aren’t the ones responsible for the planning and logistics behind the scenes. The truth however, is that the forces that are actually behind this AstroTurf movement are much more sinister than the average protester and promote methods that are well beyond anything that would be considered ‘peaceful and democratic’ opposition.
The opposition leaders may claim they share in the suffering endured by regular Venezuelans, and feel the same pain as those hurt the most by the economic isolation of the country but this is hardly the reality of their lives. In truth, many of the people who are seen as the leaders of the anti-Maduro movement (and who provide organizers essential financial support) live lives of extreme comfort and luxury while their pawns go hungry.
Many of the opposition leaders and financiers actually come from the wealthiest strata of Venezuelan society. While almost everyone is aware that the main driver of the Venezuelan economy is the nationalized oil industry, many people overlook or are unaware of the fact that most other sectors of the Venezuelan economy are still in the hands of private businesses.
Despite what many people may assume, both Chavez and Maduro had no problem with this arrangement. The most obvious example of this acceptance is the fact that even people like the pre-Chavez corrupt former oil tycoons still remain in Caracas with their stockpiles of ill-gotten wealth. These are the people who, in their own words, admit that “by day we throw stones,” and by night enjoy the exclusive night life that regular Venezuelans couldn’t even dream of. These oligarchs and crooks have opposed the government since Hugo Chavez won his first election and began distributing the nation’s wealth to the most poor Venezuelans as well as subsidizing and placing price controls on consumer goods.
And throwing stones isn’t all the opposition does.
Contrary to the rosy image of the opposition painted by US media the truth is that violence is one of their primary tools. The opposition has done everything from hiring poor local teens and providing them crude weapons like molotov cocktails and explosives, calling on international banks to cut off capital and further harm average Venezuelans to encouraging a military coup against the elected government. We know this is true, in part, thanks to independent US journalists who have been brave enough to expose the truth, such as Abby Martin, who opposition protesters promptly threatened to hang.
Video Credit: TeleSUR English
Now, you may be asking yourself, how does the opposition have the nerve to claim legitimacy and moral superiority while using such despicable methods? The answer to this question should be obvious based on earlier statements about US media’s representation of the opposition. The opposition’s claim of legitimacy is supported by the same people who support violent uprisings from Ukraine to Syria, the US government.
The Open Secret of US Subversion in Venezuela
Much like the recent history of Ukraine or Syria, the opposition in Venezuela persists thanks to political and financial support from Washington. Unlike Ukraine and Syria however, the US doesn’t even attempt to hide their connections to the oligarchs opposing Maduro.
The US shoves this support into the spotlight as an obvious insult to Maduro with the traditional arrogance that is expected when the US exercises what they consider to be their right to interfere in Latin America. There is such an absence of shame in the case of Venezuela that the Trump regime has no problem broadcasting events like when Trump met with the wife of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who himself has taken calls from prominent US figures like Vice-President Mike Pence.
Opposition leaders don’t just enjoy the political lip service that the US gives to anyone who opposes leaders Washington hates. As mentioned above, one major factor that allows the opposition to carry on this way is the millions of dollars sent from the US over the past few years.
Money for the Venezuelan opposition is a crucial piece of Washington’s long-game strategy to topple the Bolivarian government. This cash has been flowing to Caracas since at least 2009, adding up to at least $49 million to date. Congress’ stated purpose behind this “aid” for Venezuela is the same as it is for any country hostile to the US: “promoting democracy, civil society, independent media, and democratic political parties.”
In the 2011 budget, $1 million was specifically designated for “political competition,” showing that similar to US strategies in places like the Middle East, Washington was supporting a mediocre and artificial opposition and waiting for an opportunity to unleash their manufactured leaders. In Venezuela this chance finally presented itself when the price of oil drastically dropped, in part due to market manipulation by the US.
When you lay out all the above factors, it should be obvious why Nicolas Maduro is so committed to fending off his opponents’ attacks. If you look at other countries where the US has used tactics like those employed in Venezuela, Maduro is relatively lucky that it took this long for the opposition to become violent.
Syria, Ukraine and the End Result of US Failures
Two countries where these US policies failed due to either the unexpected resilience of the state (Syria), or the failure to predict organic resistance to intervention (Ukraine), most likely serve as examples of what’s at stake to Maduro.
Syria is a case study in what happens when a “revolution” backed by the US ends, in what is essentially, a failure. Just like Venezuela, the US was so ecstatic that they finally saw an opportunity to topple President Bashar Al Assad that Washington was practically falling all over themselves to find groups to arm and fund.
This ambition for Syria of course ended with the US placing their trust in a variety of Sunni extremists who – predictably – had no intention of taking orders from the CIA or Pentagon. Washington even allowed their future foes in the Islamic State to operate freely with the hope they would get to Damascus. Venezuela’s opposition looks similar to these groups just in a different context. In fact, the Venezuelan opposition even held a fake referendum similar to ridiculous votes organized by the US’s precious Kurds.
Ukraine should also serve as an example; not just to Maduro but to the US and the opposition as well. If the US has their way in Venezuela and basically forces an unpopular oligarch into power they should expect resistance from the millions of people who benefited from and still support the current government. They should also prepare for new dissenters once the new government is installed and actually lays out their presumably neoliberal policies, which aren’t popular anywhere in Central of South America.
These reasons show why the only option available to Maduro is to resist. At the government level Maduro has worked completely within the confines of the law, while still enjoying massive support as evidenced by Venezuela’s voters support for the new Constituent Assembly in a country known for it’s election integrity. As far as what is happening at the street level, we must make sure we take the opposition’s actions into account and understand the damage they could eventually do.