Posts filed under Abroad

Translation of “Quick Overview of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious and Ill-informed” (Rafael Uzcategui, El Libertario)

More from Venezuelan anarchists on the current wave of protest and government repression. I started translating Rafael Uzcategui’s recent, extremely helpful overview Resumen express de la situación venezolana para curioso/as y poco informado/as but I found that a translation had already been done by the author himself, and reposted by volunteers at the anarchist activist blog ROAR.[1] The translation is his work. I have, however: (1) restored some boldface emphasis from the original Spanish that was left out in the translation, (2) made editorial revisions to a few isolated phrases that I thought reflected careless errors or were potentially misleading (with editorial notes where I made any changes), (3) re-added a P.S. at the very end of the article which was omitted from the English translation, and, (4) to fit the usual format at this blog, I’ve added the headline back in. (Any editorial changes I’ve made, after the headline, are explicitly noted.) This one is translated by the author himself, but as with previous translations, if you notice any issues with the translation feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach an editorial note or correction to the text here.

Quick Overview of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious and Ill-informed.

Rafael Uzcategui

On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (Experimental University of Táchira), located in the inland state of the country, protested the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate, which took place in the context of the city’s increasing insecurity. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained. The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, and these demonstrations were also repressed, with some of the activists incarcerated.

The wave of indignation had as context the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basic public services, as well as the beginnings of the imposition of new economic austerity measures by President Nicolás Maduro. Two opposition politicians, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and also tried to press for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities of the interior, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Últimas Noticias, which receives the majority of its advertising budget from the government itself, revealed through photographs that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolás Maduro stated on national television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”

The repression of the protesters draws not only on police and military enforcement agencies; it also incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of them on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he calls colectivos (collectives).

The Venezuelan government currently[2] controls all of the major TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information have been the social media networks, especially Twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed record-keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repressive forces. Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released). The number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered torture, including reports of sexual assault, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolás Maduro incites[3] the protesters opposing him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any ongoing criminal investigation, he automatically stated that everyone killed has been murdered by the protesters themselves, who he disqualifies with every possible adjective.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavista movement, because a lot of its base is currently withholding its active support, waiting to see what will come next. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has called. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolás Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, the most recent being a tax increase.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left-wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of President Maduro, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have fired guns at police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, especially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The independent revolutionary left in Venezuela (anarchists, sections of Trotskyism and Marxist-Leninist-Guevarism) has no involvement in this situation, and we are simple spectators.[4] Some of us are actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil-driven country. It possesses low levels of political culture among its population, which explains why the opposition protesters have the same “content” problem as those supporting the government. But while the international left-wing continues to turn its back and support — without any criticism — the government’s version of “a coup”, it leaves thousands of protesters at the mercy of the most conservative discourse of the opposition parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, Leopoldo López, the detained conservative opposition leader, tries to make himself the center of a dynamic movement that, up to the time of this writing, had gone beyond the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute by minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:

P.S. If you want to read about the elements that contradict the possibility that there would be a coup d’etat in Venezuela, I recommend you read: https://rafaeluzcategui.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/las-diferencias-de-abril/[5]

— Resumen express de la situación venezolana para curioso/as y poco informado/as (Feb. 21, 2014). Translated by the author, Rafael Uzcategui, with minor editorial revisions by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1]When I first posted this story, I picked up the English translation from ROAR and assumed that it had been done by volunteers there. They helpfully pointed out, in the comments below, that they had re-posted an English translation originally offered by the author himself. I’ve revised the text here to reflect that. –CJ, 22.Feb.2014
  2. [2]actually in author’s translation. Original Spanish: El gobierno venezolano actualmente controla todas las estaciones de televisión.
  3. [3]encourages in author’s translation. Original Spanish: En sus discursos Nicolás Maduro estimula que los manifestantes en su contra asuman posiciones más radicales y violentas.
  4. [4]In author’s translation: The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (which includes anarchists and sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) is not involved in this situation. We are simple spectators. Original Spanish: La izquierda revolucionaria independiente venezolana (anarquistas, sectores del trotsquismo y del marxismo-leninismo-guevarismo) no tiene ninguna incidencia en esta situación y somos simple espectadores.
  5. [5]This paragraph, omitted from the first translation, added by Charles W. Johnson.

The Same Government

In the middle of the last decade, political scientist Marc Hetherington wrote about the declining public trust in government. . . . And such [media] portrayals contribute to a remarkable problem: not ideological hostility to government . . . but diminished expectations—in the public and in the press—about what government can accomplish. . . .

–Greg Marx, How the Press Erodes Our Belief [sic] in Government in The Nation (April 9, 2012)

marines-in-saddams-palace-dm-s

. . . The same government that accomplished the killing of over 180,000 people in Iraq, in the pursuit of a transparent lie and an ever-shifting set of the flimsiest possible rationalizations?

. . . The same government that accomplished the ongoing, decade-long state of perpetual siege in Baghdad?

. . . The same government that accomplished the displacement of 3,000,000 war refugees?

To-day is the tenth anniversary of the U.S. government’s invasion of Iraq. It’s a day when, even more than most days, the same government? should be the question immediately asked by anyone who has an ounce of respect for peace, compassion, human life or human decency. There is nothing that should turn you against government as much as simply watching what it can accomplish when it is let loose.

Change You Can Believe In (At Home and Abroad Edition)

From Mr. Obama’s occupation of Afghanistan, by the government that his war policy has been actively designed to support at all costs.

President Hamid Karzai has backed guidelines issued by Afghanistan’s religious council that relegate women to the position of second-class citizens, raising questions about . . . a government that seems prepared to sell out on the issue in order to engage the Taliban in a peace deal.

The Afghan leader endorsed the repressive guidelines on Tuesday . . . . Men are fundamental and women are secondary, the 150-member Ulema Council said in a statement that was subsequently posted on Mr Karzai’s own website. It also said that men and women should not mix in work or education, and that women must have a male guardian when they travel.

Mr Karzai’s endorsement, which came on the eve of International Women’s Day today, is seen by critics as a huge step back in the effort to promote women’s rights after the Taliban was displaced by the US invasion of the country in 2001.

— Lianne Gutcher, Back to the bad old days: Karzai beats retreat on women’s rights, in The Independent (8 March 2012)

(Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

See also:

Guatemaltecan Trade Union Leader Killed, Others in Danger: FW Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas

R.I.P. FW Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas, and three bystanders — Bildave Santos Barco, Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos, Oscar Alexander Rodríguez — murdered last week in Guatemala City. From Amnesty International USA:

URGENT ACTION

TRADE UNION LEADER KILLED, OTHERS IN DANGER

A trade union leader was shot dead on 24 March in Guatemala City, together with three other men. He may have been targeted for his trade union activities. Other members of the trade union may be in grave danger.

Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas was shot on 24 March at around 8.30pm as he walked to a shop near his home in the capital, Guatemala City. He was a public relations secretary of the Executive Committee of the National Trade Union of Health Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Salud de GuatemalaSNTSG). A group of men were playing cards outside the shop. As Ovidio Ortíz was about to go into the shop, a young man got out of a white sedan car and started shooting at him and the group playing cards, with what a local source said was a 9mm pistol. Another local source said that Ovidio Ortíz was shot about eight times, twice in the head and six times in his upper torso. The other men who died as a result of the attack were: a farmer, Bildave Santos Barco, who was shot twice in the head and died instantly; Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos and Oscar Alexander Rodríguez Lima who died later in hospital. Two other men were wounded.

The trade union of which Ovidio Ortíz was a member has campaigned for many years on issues of corruption in the management of the country’s public health facilities, and in December 2010 filed an official complaint against the previous Minister of Health, accusing him of corruption. On 22 March the trade union’s Executive Committee reached an agreement with the Ministry of Labour regarding seniority-based annual pay rises (bono de antigüedad) for health sector employees.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

Call on the authorities to order an independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Luis Ovidio Ortíz Cajas and the three other men (Bildave Santos Barco, Fredy Leonel Estrada Mazariegos, Oscar Alexander Rodríguez Lima) killed on 24 March, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice;

Urge them to take immediate steps to provide all necessary protection to SNTSG members, in accordance with their wishes;

Remind them that human rights defenders, including trade union leaders, have the right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals, as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 11 MAY 2012 TO:

Attorney General
Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República
Ministerio Público
15ª Avenida 15-16, Zona 1, Barrio Gerona
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2411 9210

Twitter : @mpclaudiapaz

Salutation : Estimada Sra. Fiscal General

Minister of the Interior Lic. Mauricio López Bonilla
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1,
Ciudad de Guatemala,
GUATEMALA

Fax: +502 2413 8658

Twitter: @mingobguate

Salutation: Dear Minister / Estimado Sr. Ministro

And copies to:

Health workers’ trade union
Sindicato Nacional Trabajadores de la Salud de Guatemala – SNTSG
Email : sindicatodesalud@yahoo.com

. . .

Additional Information

Trade unionists in Guatemala face dangerous conditions due to their work on labour rights.

Byron Arreaga, a member of an administrative workers’ trade union, the Sindicato de Trabajadores Administrativos del Segundo Registro de la Propiedad (Trade Union of Administrative Workers for the Second Property Registrar, SITRASEREPRO) was shot dead in the north-western city of Quetzaltenango, on 13 September 2011. See UA 293/11, AMR 34/013/2011 – : http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR34/013/2011/en

Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy, a finance secretary in the Sindicato de Trabajadores de las Bananeras de Izabal (Trade Union of Banana Workers, SITRABI), was shot several times by individuals riding on a motorcycle on 26 May 2011. Amnesty International called for a thorough and impartial investigation into the killing. See the press release, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/guatemala-urged-investigated-trade-unionist%E2%80%99s-killing-2011-05-27

Humanitarian intervention

Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of NATO’s Military Operations in Libya, would like you to know that NATO is fulfilling its U.N. mandate to stop and prevent attacks against civilians with precision and care. Protecting Libyan civilians apparently includes taking the time to fire two missile into a family home and executing babies for having the wrong grandfather. But not taking the time to stop and rescue 72 Libyan refugees — people fleeing the war that NATO is practicing with so much precision and care — from dying of hunger and thirst while adrift at sea.

After several hours of waiting, it became apparent to those on board that help was not on the way. The vessel had only 20 litres of fuel left, but the captain told passengers that Lampedusa was close enough for him to make it there unaided. It was a fatal mistake. By 27 March, the boat had lost its way, run out of fuel and was drifting with the currents.

“We’d finished the oil, we’d finished the food and water, we’d finished everything,” said Kurke, a 24-year-old migrant who was fleeing ethnic conflict in his homeland, the Oromia region of Ethiopia. “We were drifting in the sea, and the weather was very dangerous.” At some point on 29 or 30 March the boat was carried near to an aircraft carrier – so close that it would have been impossible to be missed. According to survivors, two jets took off from the ship and flew low over the boat while the migrants stood on deck holding the two starving babies aloft. But from that point on, no help was forthcoming. Unable to manoeuvre any closer to the aircraft carrier, the migrants’ boat drifted away. Shorn of supplies, fuel or means of contacting the outside world, they began succumbing one by one to thirst and starvation.

The Guardian has made extensive inquiries to ascertain the identity of the aircraft carrier, and has concluded that it is likely to have been the French ship Charles de Gaulle, which was operating in the Mediterranean on those dates.

French naval authorities initially denied the carrier was in the region at that time. After being shown news reports which indicated this was untrue, a spokesperson declined to comment.

— Jack Shenker, Aircraft carrier left us to die, say migrants, in The Guardian (8 May 2011)

I’m sure that they had something very important to do that day.

For most of the migrants, the failure of the ship to mount any rescue attempt proved fatal. Over the next 10 days, almost everyone on board died. We saved one bottle of water from the helicopter for the two babies, and kept feeding them even after their parents had passed, said Kurke, who survived by drinking his own urine and eating two tubes of toothpaste. But after two days, the babies passed too, because they were so small.

On 10 April, the boat washed up on a beach near the Libyan town of Zlitan near Misrata. Of the 72 migrants who had embarked at Tripoli, only 11 were still alive, and one of those died almost immediately on reaching land. Another survivor died shortly afterwards in prison, after Gaddafi’s forces arrested the migrants and detained them for four days.

— Jack Shenker, Aircraft carrier left us to die, say migrants, in The Guardian (8 May 2011)

Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of NATO’s Military Operations in Libya, would like you to know that NATO regrets all loss of life, especially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of this ongoing conflict. A Spokesman for NATO would like you to know that Saving lives is a priority for any Nato ships. Progressive Peace President Barack Obama would like you to know that his Kinetic Military Action in Libya was necessary to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

See also: