Telling the truth about Venezuela and acting accordingly

Photo by Federico Parra/AFP and Yuri Cortez/AFP: Juan Guaido and Nicolas Maduro

Contributed by Joe Montero

Since the Juan Guaido debacle in Venezuela, reports coming from the Guaido opposition and its backers in Washington, that beggar belief.

Take this one. When a group of people assemble with arms and say they are taking control of the government that they are not running, it not a coup. Whether you believe Guaido’s action was legitimate or not, by definition this was a coup attempt.

It failed. One good reason is, that most of the handful of soldiers involved had been brought there by deception. They soon left, joined the other side, and left behind hardly anyone. The other good reason is that few civilians joined. These two little facts are so stark, they can’t be convincingly painted any other way.

Soldiers who were tricked into going to Guaido and left after they found out the truth, speak out against the coup attempt and name those responsible. This has been blocked. You can reach it through the link below.

Video from Vive Televisión

Which brings in the valiant effort to do this with the preposterous assertion that it was not an action to overthrow the government, since Guido represents the real government. The point is he does not. He does not control the administration, and lacks the support of the courts army and police. Saying he represents the government is playing with words and flies against the practical reality.

Putting it another way. If Nicolas Maduro and his government were not the government in practice, there would be no need to remove him. And this is exactly what Guaido and his backers are trying to do.

The coup attempt was a move to take power. He said so himself, recorded it on video and sent to his supporters, calling them to join him in the effort. To repeat the obvious. Hardly anyone came.

Guaido was in no position to admit the truth of this. His need was to save face in the jaws of a major setback and draw attention away from his dilemma. This drove him to a second preposterous claim. Eighty percent of the army is still with him and so are nearly all Venezuelans. What he can’t explain away, is why almost nobody came at the hour of need.

Pro Maduro rally responding to Gauido’s coup attempt

Video from Ruptly

More on the responses and the respective rallies

Video from The Real News Network

Then Guaido called a general strike of government employees to topple Maduro. Same result. It was a non-event. It’s only use. To convey the impression that the the momentum is still on, for the purposes of pumping breath into the dwindling support base and the creation a mirage for international consumption.

There was violence in the streets during the week of the attempted coup. Much of it came from the few thousand who did come out to support Guaido. They had to face the much bigger angry crowds of Maduro supporters, and the army did unload a lot of teargas against the Guaido supporters.  Given the passion involved, none came as no surprise.

It is regrettable. More than anything else, Venezuela needs a turn towards dialogue, to resolve differences without resort to violence.

The division in Venezuela is being copied in Australia in a small way. Since the return of the the person fact finding delegation to Venezuela in which I participated, there opinion here has started to shift towards opposing foreign intervention and Australian government support for Guido. As much as we may like to claim responsibility for this, it is Guaido who deserves the honour. He is not a good look.

Europe, much of which initially supported him, is now showing signs of getting cold feet.

Aside from this, our reports on what we saw and heard have been well received by most, and we have been involved in a series of speaking engagements.

In all this there is a small element however, which is becoming increasingly hostile.

Hostility is coming from some Venezuelan, emigres who chose to leave their country in the wake of the rise of Chavismo, as well as elements associated with ultra right groups. Both have subjected us to vicious verbal abuse, some of which is unprintable, and accused of everything from being in the pay of Maduro to being Cuban spies. One of them even insisted that I’m not even in Australia.

Most don’t go that far. We are a socialist conspiracy. The tag is being applied to me personally and the online publication for which I write – the Pen.

How do I plead? It depends on what is meant. If being a socialist is believing in a society ruled by a small privileged cast from the top down, the answer is no. If it means believing in a society, where the power is in the hands of ordinary people, exercising it from the bottom up, the answer is yes. This is a vision that The Pen shares. That’s why I write for it.

The political labels mean very little. All too often, they are used to cover up the real issues. In this case, they are a symptom of the weak position the supporters of Guaido find themselves in.

Our reports are not merely what came out of the mouths of officials. Most of the content reflects what ordinary people told us. We are the messengers conveying their words. If a few people don’t like the message, by all means prove us wrong. Abuse demeans the abuser and adds to credibility of those who are targeted.

It happens, because the abusers are unable to break out of their thought bubbles, conditioned by a diet of no-one supports Maduro, anything that challenges the narrative is fake news, and an incapacity to see what is going on outside these thought bubbles.

What did we find?

Above all, we learned that while not everyone supports Maduro, most are dead set against Guaido. Even sections of the traditional opposition feel this way. They see him as a pretender working to divide the country, and worst of all, calling on a foreign military force to invade. Guaido has therefore been gaining the reputation of a traitor to his country.

More people are seeing that the main cause of the economic problems are the sanctions. There is recognition that the Maduro government has acted to improve the situation. Every household receives monthly rations of staples and the country is producing more food. Although it’s still bad, hyperinflation is starting to ease. Back in 2015-16 people were dying. Few do so now. The biggest problem is that the sanctions are still causing a major shortage of medicines, especially antibiotics and medicines for pregnant women, older people and the acutely ill.

Journalist Anya Parampil speaks about Venezuela on Fox News. This has been blocked. You may reach iut through the link below.

Video from teleSUR English

While there might have been individual incidents, the Maduro government is not considered to be brutal. Much less so than pre-Chavez governments. There are complaints about the corruption of some officials and the red tape in dealing with departments. Critics come from the right and left of politics. On the other hand, there is widespread agreement that Maduro at this moment is a unifying figure. This is something that the rise of Guaido has strengthened, while Guaido is a divider.

The simple reality is that the Maduro administration is control and running the country. Guaido’s insistence that he is the real president, and his recognition by certain governments, looks like a complete farce inside the country.

Finally, we witnessed a rising new political power called the colectivo movement. Colectivo means collective, which is just another name for cooperative.  These colectivos take on the initiative and political power at the local level.

Colectivos were not invented by Chavez or Maduro, for they came into existence during the disturbances of late 1980’s and 1990’s, as a means for people to look after themselves, in the face of extreme poverty, destruction of government services and brutal repression. In early March 1998, when the situation had deteriorated to ongoing demonstrations and riots, the army was ordered to shoot, arrest, torture and murder. At least 2,000 were killed. in a three day period that is called the Caracazo.

The Caracazo irrevocably changed politics, alienated an army which was sickened by being made to kill fellow Venezuelans and the rest is history.

Many Venezuelans fear a return to the days of the Caracazo and the opposition is not offering an alternative, when the only glue binding it is to be against Chavismo and Maduro.

The idea of the colectivos has stuck. Chavez and Maduro encouraged their further growth as a new political power.

There are even some colectivos that support the opposition. When the Guaido supporters in Australia send aid, it is distributed in Venezuela through friendly colectivos. The difficulty is that the great majority of colectivos support Chavismo and Maduro and are not friendly to the opposition. This is a serious political weakness for the opposition and a strength for Maduro.

For this reason, the opposition has gone through two transformations  over the least two decades, and especially since 2015, when the traditional major parties, COPEI and Democratic Action began to unravel and fall into warring factions. Some joined the Chavista movement, others stayed in the opposition and a third grouping decided to stay clear of both camps.

COPIE and Democratic Action were the core of the opposition alliance called the Democratic Unity Roundtable. It also included political parties to both the right and left of them. The leftist parties unraveled in the same manner as the two major parties, and the Rountable fell into the hands of the parties furthest to the right.

About the same time, the impact of the sanctions was being felt most acutely, and the opposition was abler to take advantage of it and ride on the protest vote to get a majority in the Congress.

Under these circumstances and the lack of leadership form much of the opposition, Guaido was able to rise to the head, although through through factional deals, not because Venezuela had voted him into the position.

At the time of his declaration as president this January, polls suggested that only 25 percent of the Venezuelans had ever heard of him.

These are the realities that we and others from a range of countries have found, by going there and having a look. A few in Australia don’t want to hear it, and don’t want anyone else to either. This is why they get so worked up.

Where do we go from here?

For my part, I will continue to investigate what is going on in Venezuela and put it out there. I will continue to join others working to expose the truth and win support for the people of Venezuela.

I will also play a role in sending aid. Not the pretend aid with the stars and stripes, but ordinary people asked us for. They told us that they need equipment and materials to help them provide for themselves, farm tools and much needed medicines. There is an acute shortage of antibiotics to combat infections, medicines to treat pregnant women, older people, and of course, the seriously ill.

There will be another project to help realise a farm with an agricultural college, to provide local farmers with a livelihood and build sustainable agriculture in the form of a colectivo.

Last but not least, there is a plan to send a bigger number to Venezuela next year, on an even more extensive fact finding mission, and to build a bridge between the peoples of our two countries.

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