Posts tagged South America

Translation of “One comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh I’ve got the desire” (Viento sin Fronteras, in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another translation from Venezuela, once again of a one-compa-sounds-off article, this time from Viento sin Fronteras (Wind without Borders) in a rural area of Mérida, a state in western Venezuela. The article was reprinted by the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t always know, and moving through a lot of material coming out more quickly than I can translate it; this is a working draft; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here. Again, there are lots of different Anarchists in Venezuela, and this is one compa’s view; there are many with different views about the attitude that Anarchists should take towards the protest. (See, for example, this previous translation of a commentary by Victor Camacho. Viento sin Fronteras is, let’s say, significantly more hands-on.)

A comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh, I’ve got the desire

Viento sin Fronteras

This is a little chronicle many are certainly familiar with. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. so I could get ready to go to work. I arrived at work around 7:30 am and I spent the whole day over there. At 7pm I went back to my house. When I got home I had to go down to the nearest bodega (I live in a rural area) to buy stuff for making dinner or lunch in the coming days. Well O.K., so a purchase that consists of some three potatoes, two cans of sardines, three tomatoes, an onion, laundry soap,[1] a box of cigarettes and a few cookies, comes out to 170 bolivars [≈ US $27]. Up to this point everything seems normal but it isn’t. My daily salary is 200 bolivars [≈ US $32].

Clearly, they are 200 bolivars and this leaves me only just 30 bolivars [≈ US $5] to save for paying the rest of my expenses, like the rent for example. Or the fare for public transport, if I weren’t walking to work I’d have to take 10 bolivars off these 30 that are supposed to be left over for me.

Besides this, I remembered that the last time that I went without natural gas nearly a month passed before that commodity came back to my house. And I my house, of course, a little house of 38 square meters [≈ 409 sq. ft.] where the water shuts off every day for an hour or two, with a rent that’s equivalent to nearly half the minimum wage I work for. It brings to mind that house from the housing project[2] that that the showboat[3] of the Communal Council[4] built (great affiliate of PSUV[5] certainly and an ideological reference for many here) and which was empty until two weeks ago, which he managed to sell, for no less than the discreet sum of 700,000 bolivars [≈ US $ 111,250].

Something comes into my mind, and my nerves get hotter. I spent 10 years of my life in college. I have an undergraduate degree, a master’s, and I left my doctoral thesis half done when I lost interest. And O.K., it’s not that I believe that I deserve a Ministry salary, but for some reason, and this reason for some other reason always ends up being my fault; it has been impossible for me to find a job that, without being exactly the thing for which I supposedly studied at least would permit me (and that’s what college is supposedly about) to give back to society or to whoever, a little bit of that intellectual or technical material that I supposedly acquired in those years. At times, they then give me some moments of clarity and I say: clearly, it’s that to get hooked up you have to know whose balls to yank.[6] Or I think and I swear[7] about how to set up that writing project with the ever sacrosanct words: Eternal Commander, Fellow Comrade, the Little Bird, Our Process, the Economic War, the Eternal Giant, the Legacy.[8] All this without a doubt adds to the degree of a feeling of frustration that’s growing.

And with that, what comes into my head are the contracts for the Guasare coal, the Deltana Plate, the three billion dollars that Chevron loaned us, the concessions to Chinese timber companies in the high Caroní, the death of the Sabinos, the criminalization of the Wayuu, the Red Fascist wall shooting dissident unionists, the armed forces of the government holding old women with their pans at gunpoint, ordering them to be quiet, the dead of Uribana, the 400 dying every year in prison, the intellectual authors of the massacre of El Amparo placed in the government designing the anti-terrorism laws. And so on. And so I think that late or early, me, and many people who aren’t identified one bit with the spokespeople of the opposition parties, including folks who come from the Chavista movement, are getting out into the streets to protest. And I’ll be over there, if country life lets me, handing out pamphlets to anyone who has eyes to read them. Without falling into naivete, I know that there will be plenty of imbecile fanatics for Pérez Jiménez[9] or Leopoldo Lopez[10] there with their slogans and believe me that I’ll fight them right there. Right there I’ll show that they’re the same as the others.

Oh, I’ve got the desire[11] to go out hurling stones when the police car crosses my path. Because they are some thugs and some cheerleaders.[12] Oh, I’ve got the desire to take all the trash that they aren’t capable of managing and set it all on fire in the doorway of the Mérida state government. Oh, I’ve got the desire to smash the windows of the supermarket and leave all those products tossed on the floor that I have to wait in line for on my weekend days. Oh, I’ve got the desire to catch an ATM[13] alone and try once and for all to see how the fuck you can withdraw all the money with a sledgehammer.

I’ve got the desire to give thanks in person to the folks who set SEBIN’s trucks on fire[14] because they’re a murdering intelligence agency that tortures and persecutes political dissidents. I’ve got the desire to go up to that student leader, who’s really an ally of PJ,[15] and tell her to shut her mouth, that she’s a wanker,[16] that it’s her fault (and that of those mamelotracios[17] that she obeys) that the protest — which could have been a good way to lock up the pigs[18] and a place where we’d all recognize that all these demands are the vindication urgent for EVERYONE — was converted instead into a slogan, pretty much belonging to their own partisan interests.

The year is just beginning and it doesn’t promise to be a year for calm ones. Well, let the storm come.

— Ganas no me faltan (21 Feb. 2014). Very imperfectly translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1] Lit. jabón azul, a specialized kind of soap used especially for laundry (although it can also be used for household cleaning or for personal hygiene).
  2. [2] misión vivienda, a huge public housing construction project launched as part of the Bolivarian Missions sponsored by the government, and administered through government-approved community councils.
  3. [3] Cantamañanas, more accurately, someone who promises to do something and never does it.
  4. [4] Orig. Spanish: CC, i.e., Consejo Comunal, a local council which, among other things, administers government funds granted under the Bolivarian Mission programs.
  5. [5] United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the current ruling political party.
  6. [6] Venezuelan slang, jalar bolas, lit. to pull balls, fig. to flatter or sweet talk with an ulterior motive.
  7. [7] Ambiguous: reniego, meaning either potentially reneging, cursing, detesting, renouncing a religion, or, significantly given the context, uttering blasphemy.
  8. [8] comandante eterno, compañero camarada, el arañero, nuestro proceso, la guerra económica, el gigante eterno, el legado, all nicknames or honorary phrases associated with the Bolivarian Socialist government and especially with the cult of personality around Hugo Chávez.
  9. [9] Presumably Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1914-2001), right-wing military dictator of Venezuela 1952-1958. A few of the more right-wing opposition groups explicitly identify their goals with perezjimenismo.
  10. [10] Leopoldo López Mendoza, leader in the right-wing political opposition party Voluntad Popular, arrested earlier this month and imprisoned on terrorism charges after the outbreak of street protests in Venezuela.
  11. [11] Ganas no me faltan, common phrase, meaning I don’t lack the desire or I don’t lack the urge.
  12. [12] Matraqueros, lit. those who use matracas, a kind of spinning noise-maker popular with diehard Latin American sports fans.
  13. [13] Cajero del banco, which can refer either to an ATM or to a human teller. From the reference to smashing with sledgehammers, I assume (hope?) from context that this is referring to smashing up a machine to get at the cash inside of it.
  14. [14] Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, the main national intelligence agency and political police force in Venezuela.
  15. [15] Primero Justicia, a center-right party in the political opposition, run by Henrique Capriles, a right-wing opposition leader who has condemned the street protests.
  16. [16] Pajua, from paja, lit. masturbation or fig. wankery, in the sense of talking bullshit.
  17. [17] Original Spanish, untranslated. I don’t have a good idea of what this means, even after consulting with native speakers from South America. (It’s not in any slang dictionaries I have access to, either.) Our best guess is that it’s probably a portmanteau profanity of some kind and that it’s probably intended to suggest something like cocksuckers.
  18. [18] I am not at all sure that this is a correct translation. Orig. Spanish: que podría haber sido una buena tranca de cochina. Tranca is a lock or a door-bolt, cochina literally means sow, but cochino/a are also used as the masculine and feminine forms of an insult meaning nasty or dirty. This phrase, taken as a whole, doesn’t seem to be an idiomatic expression, or at least, does not seem to occur anywhere else on the Internet.

Translation of “From Chile, a pitch for the foundation of anarcho-Madurism” (Armando Vergueiro, from El Libertario)

Here is another translation from Venezuela. This was a controversial one. As I mentioned previously, many writers on the left looking in on the Venezuelan situation from outside of the country operate from a limited selection of official news sources, heavily influenced by either the ruling Socialist party or one of the right-wing opposition parties; many independent radicals in Venezuela are finding this extremely frustrating and have been trying to put out their own view of things. This here is a broadside assault by the Venezuelan anarchist Armando Vergueiro against a document from some Chilean Platformists expressing uncritical support for the Boli-Socialist government. The comments thread had drawn 75 comments, last I checked, including angry retorts from FEL and also some stinging criticisms of FEL from other anarchists in Chile.) It was posted online by the anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t always know, and moving through a lot of material coming out more quickly than I can translate it; this is a working draft; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.

From Chile, a pitch for the foundation of anarcho-Madurism

Armando Vergueiro

In the web page maintained by the Chilean Platformists in the Federation of “Libertarian” Students (FEL), there has been published, in a stellar plan, an official declaration from this grouping, which without a doubt will pass into history as the cornerstone of a new and picturesque version (or better misrepresentation) of non-hierarchical thought[1] It goes by the name With the Venezuelan people and against the coup movement, and it deserves that we should occupy ourselves, even if briefly, with the pearls that adorn it.

  • Out of the ignorance that only nurtures itself and gives credibility to what it sees on TeleSur about Venezuela, in the first paragraph it talks about a march of university students, from the most privileged sectors in Venezuelan society. Nobody told these comrades that today the most privileged sectors in these streets are the Boli-bureaucracy, the politico-military elite in power, their transnational associates like Chevron and Gustavo Cisneros, the Chinese “comrades” and the parasites of the old Cuban bureaucracy?

  • According to FEL, in Venezuela there is “A process of radical transformations that has bettered the life of the majority of the inhabitants of that country, above all for the ordinary people and workers.” Don’t expect another opinion from those who just read here the stuff they’re given in the waiting room at the Madurista government’s embassy in Santiago, so that it would be a waste of time to suggest they look for the multitude provable and verifiable sources that refute that propagandistic idea, not to mention consulting the dominant opinion among Venezuelans in the streets.

  • Today the Venezuelan right is trying to disable the legitimate government of Maduro in order to create an environment suitable for carrying on their plans for a coup d’etat. Apart from the touching sight of these “libertarians” preoccupied with the fortunes of a legitimate government, this is olympically detached from the fact that after 15 years, and especially after the coup attempt in 2002, the Armed Forces have been, one the one hand, submitted to a politico-ideological purge that has exterminated whatever dissidence from their heart. And on the other, being even more important, they have accentuated the militarization of the apparatus of the State, arriving at a degree where it is made incomprehensible that they should want a coup in order to displace themselves from a government that favores them with ample powers and possibilities for enrichment through corruption. If there were any such military coup or anything similar, it would be in order to guarantee their privileges and immunities even more.

  • The — FEL-istas? FEL-ines? FEL-ons? — proclaim: this attempt that today is made from the mobilization in the streets, the call to violence, the manipulation of information and the hoarding of goods to create the sensation that there’s a crisis that the government is incapable of resolving. Since they couldn’t win at the ballot-box, they are trying to pull down the government and put an end to the revolutionary project of the people, hoarding basic necessities, calling for violence and generating the environment to legitimize a coup d’etat. Once again they evince an unfamiliarity with the present juncture in Venezuela, except for what the government asserts, which is only explicable only by fanatical ignorance, out of taxed cynicism or lost innocence. Furthermore, we hold back the opinion that, as anarchists, we believe is deserved by FEL’s dismay that there are doubts about the government’s capacity to resolve the crisis. You can take our silence the same way concerning the sanctimonious indigation, with the stalest electoral flavor, against those who couldn’t win at the ballot box

  • They complain with sadness because in Chile: the future president elect and the greater part of the forces of the New Majority keep a complicit silence, or simply lament the acts of violence in an abstract way. They do not denounce those who try to hold back a political and social project of justice and equality for all, because they do not share it. At least it should be said that this lament is a truism, for how could you expect anything else from Doña Bachelet[2] and her gang?

  • In the best spirit of the Stalinist Popular Front in the 1930s, they preach: We believe to be necessary the greatest unity of the Chilean and Latin American left to sharply denounce and reject the coup movement’s attempts in Venezuela. Once more as libertarians we are opposed to this type of play from the right, allied with imperialism, to hold back the socialist project of the people of Venezuela. No other diligent student of Martha Harnecker and other classics of continental Marxist-Leninism could have said it better!

  • Continuing their tale worthy of obedient PaCos militants (or the communist party, same thing),[3] now one has to give: All our support and solidarity to the working people of Venezuela, the principal actor in the construction of socialism in their country and in which we are fully confident. This vote of absolute faith would be because whatever opposition to the sacrosanct government of Maduro, even what might come from anarchism and critical segments of the left, seeks to end the process of change that they have carried forward there for more than 15 years. No doubt, with comrades like those at FEL, anarchism doesn’t need any enemies!

  • As a glorious finish, these fellow travelers conclude with a celebration that they will surely applaud in the Venezuelan embassy, so that we wouldn’t hesitate to put it forward as worthy of airfare for revolutionary tourism to the beaches of the Caribbean Sea: Yet much is lacking, there exist contradictions and issues for debate like in any process, but the socialist project continues intact. To the deepening of the Bolivarian process, to the building of socialism.

Clearly the editors of the seeming gem will not be pleased with qualifying as anarcho-Maduristas. They prefer to call themselves libertarians, — or libertarian communists in their moments of radical emotion — when they are in Chile and the rest of Latin America; although curiosly they do identify themselves as anarchists when they come to promote themselves in North America or in Europe. All the same, it’s worth leaving them the nickname, because it fits them very well.

— Desde Chile se lanza documento para fundar el “anarco-madurismo,” (18.Feb.2014). Translated by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1] pensamiento ácrata, lit. akratic thought. In Spanish it is often used as a near-synonym for anarchism.
  2. [2] Michelle Bachelet, a Chilean social democrat, recently re-elected as president in Chile.
  3. [3] PaCos: a derisive term for Chilean national police or Carabineros.

Translation of “One comrade sounds off: What’s happening now in Venezuela?” (Victor Camacho, in El Libertario)

Here is another translation, this time of a commentary by the radical writer Victor Camacho, posted online as part of a series of different opinions from Venezuelan comrades by the anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a quick and nervous translator, this is a working draft, if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here. The closing note of apathy about the protest is, for what it’s worth, just one compa’s opinion; other articles from other folks at EL LIBERT@RIO have taken a range of different stances towards the protests, although all of them condemn the government’s repression of the demonstrations and the assault on civil and human rights.

Edited 23.Feb.2014. I’ve fixed three typographical errors (pointed out by Joe in comments below. —CJ

One comrade sounds off: What’s happening now in Venezuela?

Victor Camacho

Several people from outside the country have asked me about the situation in Venezuela right now. And I don’t know with scientific certainty even though I live here. But putting things in perspective, I venture to say that the great crisis in Venezuela is not a latent “coup d’etat” (as the conspiranoid government says)[1] , nor is it an economic crisis (as the opposition says), but rather an uncertainty due to the lack of elections in 2014.[2]

But first, let’s talk about context. The most remarkable, definitely, is the economic situation. Here the use of terms is interesting: for the administration, it’s a matter of “economic warfare”; for the opposition it’s a matter of an “economic crisis.” There is a shortage of basic resources, high inflation, a recently devalued currency and more forceful State intervention in the economy. The word “crisis” is intented to demonstrate the inability and the ineptitude of the government in solving those problems; the word “warfare” denotes the government’s intention to make itself out as the victim of agents who cause these problems, from without or from within. On the political side, we are facing a situation which is a very strange one for Venezuela, given that this year there will not be elections. Elections have functioned as a way of dissolving conflicts between the opposition parties and the administration, and even more, they have functioned as a factor unifying both groups: to unite against a common enemy. Thus, 2014 brings with it the risk of partisan division. Both sides, which not only have lost support but also run the risk of splitting apart, are looking ahead to a 2014 in which there is no need to keep holding themselves together. Inflation, shortages, and insecurity are conjoining factors, which function as catalysts for the political crisis, but they are not the great driving factor in this moment.

The crisis of splitting is still worse in the opposition parties. Many in the rank and file of the opposition are not content with the efforts of MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) [Board of Democratic Unity] or of Capriles, these would be above all the most radical opposition figures. they are not content with the recent pact between the leaders of the opposition, which has tacitly accepted the Maduro government to work together with the government on many different projects, among them the issue of insecurity. In fact, the larger part of the leadership of MUD is not promoting the protests. Thus, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, also former candidates for the presidency, are exploiting this rank-and-file discontent in the opposition in order to steal the show.[3] Many in the opposition are really bothered by the current situation and waited very eagerly for the call to get out into the streets, which is why Leopoldo López is the name most discussed these days to be the one who expresses many of their sentiments, while the popularity of Capriles decays. Ironically, the reasons for the protest are vague enough and there is no unified criterion: not everyone protests for the same reason, whether it be for the detained students, the economic situation, the insecurity, all of the above or something else that escapes me.

On the government’s side, more than anything, there’s rejoicing. Opposition radicalism benefits Chavismo a lot, because if Chavismo knows how to do anything, it’s uniting in the face of adversity. The protests help the government to demonstrate that the opposition is violent and outside of the law. They serve to create a scenario where the State is the victim of a common enemy, that there is no time for internal discussions within the Chavista movement, because better us than them. The government signals that there is an environment of protest similar to the one on April 11, 2002,[4] as if there were a coup d’etat lying hidden in these protests, but even though the environment is tense enough like in 2002, and one of the demands is the immediate resignation of the president, there is no likely terrain for a coup d’etat. The opposition hasn’t got one bit of control in the Armed Forces; nor in any other public force; the opposition has only two governors, and, also, their leaders are negotiating with the government. It is hardly likely that a coup d’etat could happen, and, for it to happen, this could only come from high places in the same government.

It is difficult to know exactly what is happening in the country, given that there is an information barrier imposed by the government. One of the factors that caused the protests to spring up is printed media’s lack of acccess to paper, what it costs to start up many newspapers with national or local circulation, including communal and worker-run media.[5] On national television, they are not showing the protests that are happening in the country, and when it happens it is only to show the acts of vandalism and violence in which protesters are involved. The government’s imposition on audiovisual media has been so constant that self-censorship is the norm. In this way, civil society jumps over the information-wall through the use of social networks, especially Twitter. But also this has not been perfect; on the one hand there have been accusations of censorship of connections to the social network Twitter by the State telecommunications company, CANTV, which offers approximately 90% of the Internet connections; and, on the other hand there have been accusations from the government of the use of social networks to spread false information, above all of images of supposed repressions of protests. The information has been used as a matter of convenience for both sides, for example, the administration typically only gives importance to the death of one pro-government demonstrator,[6] forgetting the other 2 deaths in the opposition; while the opposition is accustomed to forget the death of the pro-government demonstrator while crying over the death of the 2 opposition members. In this sense, the political repression and the para-policing groups are no “fairy tale” as the government tries to insist. The police have used firearms against the protesters and what the police cannot do (tortures and intimidation, for example) is done by so-called “colectivos,” armed groups which function as para-police corps.

In my opinion, these protests benefit only the government, and the only good thing that they offer to the opposition is to free the rage that they are keeping inside. Keep in mind, I’ll remind you, I don’t identify with either side. Beyond that, I can’t add any more.

— Opina un compa: ¿Qué pasa ahora en Venezuela? (February 22, 2014). Translated by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1] Original Spanish: conspiranoia, a play on conspiración and paranoia.
  2. [2] He doesn’t mean that elections have been suspended; it’s due to coincidences in the normal scheduling of elections. Presidential elections in Venezuela are held every six years, with the most recent election in 2013. Parliamentary elections are held every five years, with the most recent election in 2010. Regional elections are held every four years, with the most recent election in 2012. As a result it’s common to have many election years in a row, but as it happens there are no regular elections scheduled for 2014. —CJ
  3. [3] para robar el protagonismo
  4. [4] The date of the U.S.-backed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in 2002
  5. [5] medios comunitarios y autogestionados
  6. [6] Original Spanish: el oficialismo sólo suele dar importancia a la muerte de un oficialista.

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.

Translation of Message from CDH-UCAB: on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of the detainees from 12-F (Centro de DDHH de la UCAB, reprinted in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another report on the protests and government repression Venezuela, originally published by the Center for Human Rights at UCAB, and re-posted online by the Venezuelan anarchist paper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. The same caveats apply as elsewhere; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.

Message from CDH-UCAB: On Torture and Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of the Detainees from 12-F.

Human Rights Center at UCAB

In a press notice published by the newspaper Últimas Noticias and reproduced with additional and equally false reports by the Sistema Bolivariano de Información y Comunicación (SIBCI),[1] reference is made to a supposed declaration by the Center for Human Rights at UCAB[2] (CDHUCAB) in order to downplay the importance of the serious accusations by spokespeople of Foro Penal about the torture of people detained in Valencia, in the state of Carabobo.[3]

It’s necessary to clarify concerning:

  1. The CDH-UCAB had no direct contact with those detained in Valencia, Carabobo, so it can neither confirm nor deny these allegations which, because of their severity, require an investigation by the authorities, independently, without intimidation or retaliation against the victims or the accusers, without anyone being disqualified ahead of time,[4] and following international standards that bind Venezuela as a country party to the International Convention against Torture.

  2. Beginning February 12, teams of lawyers from CDH-UCAB have given support to detainees in the capital region, having responded, from the early hours of the 13th, to invitations from many communications media, in which, because they were still in the process of locating detainees, were unable to supply detailed information about the conditions of detention they faced, without having meant, as we stated in many media outlets, that there was or was not torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

  3. The CDH-UCAB did warn, within a few hours of the first detentions, that it was worried about the detainee’s lack of access to their families and lawyers, since under that condition the conditions of detention could not be verified, to which was added the seizure of their cellular phones, preventing any communication.

  4. After visiting various detention centers and having had contact with a considerable number of detainees and their families, the CDH-UCAB has identified a series of unacceptable situations that affect many different rights, including the penalization of protest, the minimum guarantees to the detained, the guarantees of due process and the conditions of detention, among which there have been acts which could qualify as torture or cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment, in accord with the UN Convention against Torture:

    a. In practically every case with a verdict, the judges have included an injunction prohibiting those convicted from demonstrations, a sanction that the law does not expressly provide for, and which violates the constitutionally-protected right to peacefully demonstrate.

    b. In nearly the totality of the cases, the families have been arbitrarily denied from seeing the detainees. This has basically happened in the detention centers of CICPC[5] and those of the National Guard. In all cases in which they banned families from seeing their detained relatives, the authorities have alleged “orders from higher up.”

    c. The conditions of the places that they have used as centers of detention are in some cases absolutely inadequate, this is the case of the National Guard Command located in La Dolorita, in which 18 youths — the majority students — were held for 2 days in the same extremely small room, without a functioning bathroom, without adequate ventilation, without beds or mats, and without These conditions were noted directly by lawyers from CDHUCAB, who also verified the presence of a functionary from the Public Defender’s,[6] who, in spite of these inhuman conditions, had not issued reports on it.

    d. In some cases the families were not even permitted to make telephone contact with the detained for 48 hours or more during the time they were detained, which is not only a violation of the most basic rights of detainees and families, but has even generated some accusations of disappearing prisoners[7] that ceased after some hours, and which could have been avoided with relevant information about the whereabouts of the detainees, as established by international standards.

    e. Many detainees were not brought before a judge, or in the process of being brought before a judge, within the 48 hour limit that the law refers to. Some had spent 56 to 60 hours without being presented to a court, as was the case of Hugo[8] Gerrero, a professor at UCV,[9] who the judge finally freed with apologies, because he was not even participating in the protest.

    f. In the great majority of the cases the lawyers have not been able to have private conversations with the detainees. When they have permitted a lawyer access to see their defendants in the detention centers, at least one official has always been present during the entire conversation, limiting the possibility for the detainees to clearly report the actions and the treatment that they are receiving in detention.

    g. Practically all the detained have made accusations that they have been assaulted psychologically and many physically. The psychological attacks range from threats of being physically assaulted or even threats that they would be raped. The physical attacks range from minor injuries on different parts of the body, up to highly sensitive situations we are in the process of verifying.

    h. In some cases an undue delay is produced in order for the detainees to be brought to the show-cause hearing. That is to say, to the time of detention (which many times exceeds the legal maximum time of 48 hours) in some cases up to 10 or 12 more hours are added to be heard by the judge in the show-cause hearing.

    i. Without a judge’s order, in the majority of the cases security forces reviewed the private information contained in detainees’ cellular phones or electronic devices (their e-mails, text messages, photos, etc.), and, on occasions, have proceeded to offload images that could document excesses by the security forces of the State.

  5. In addition to some deeds which the CDH-UCAB is still investigating, the situations we just described are also contrary to the Convention against Torture, to which Venezuela is a party, and contravene the standards to apply to all detainees under this and under the Special Law to prevent and punish torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,[10] whenever the obstacles presented by those responsible for the custody of the detainees are contrary to the procedures required for the prevention of torture, involving those officials in responsibility for acts that can be investigated and punished and which constitute human rights offenses with no statute of limitations.[11]

  6. Finally, the CDH-UCAB rejects this new attempt by SIBCI to discredit the work of Provea,[12] alleging a supposed source of funding noted for financing groups against government in the country while remaining silent, just like the Public Defender’s office,[13] about the kidnapping and assault of the same organization’s Media Coordinator,[14] acts which, it is worth noting, also form part of the conduct which the State is obligated to investigated and punished due to the commitments assumed by the UN Convention against Torture. This accusation has been lodged at the office of the Attorney General and the Public Defender’s.[15]

Caracas, 18 February 2014

— Translation of Comunicado del CDH-UCAB: Sobre torturas y trato cruel e inhumano de detenidos del 12F. Translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1] A propaganda system established and operated by the Venezuelan government.
  2. [2] Centro de Derechos Humanos, at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, a private university, which is one of the largest universities in Venezuela.
  3. [3] See for example Foro Penal: Hay torturas (Foro Penal: There is torture), 22 Feb. 2014.
  4. [4] Lit. “apriori disqualifications.”
  5. [5] Cuerpo de Invasticaiones Cientificas, Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas, Venezuela’s largest national police force and forensic investigation agency.
  6. [6] Lit. Defensoría del Pueblo, an ombudsman’s office which is tasked with monitoring, promoting and defending human rights under the Venezuelan constitution. The office-holder is appointed for a 7-year term by a committee on the national legislature.
  7. [7] Lit. denuncias de desapariciones fisicas, a reference to the long-standing dirty-war tactic of disappearing enemies of the regime, i.e. imprisoning and murdering them in secret, while officially denying knowledge of their condition or their whereabouts.
  8. [8] Hug in text; this seems to be a typo.
  9. [9] Universidad Central de Venezuela, a public university in Caracas.
  10. [10] Ley Especial para prevenir y sancionar la tortura y otros tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes, a Venezuelan national law.
  11. [11] Lit. delitos imprescriptibles, imprescriptible or inextinguishable offenses, a category in international law applying to, for example, torture, disappearance, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  12. [12] Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos, a prominent Venezuelan human-rights NGO which has repeatedly criticized the Bolivarian government
  13. [13] Again, Defensoría del Pueblo, the government’s human-rights ombudsman.
  14. [14] Inti Rodríguez, the media coordinator of Provea, was allegedly kidnapped on February 12 by about 20 disguised men who interrogated, beat, and threatened to kill him, which he claims to have included pro-government paramilitaries and (from the language they used in the interrogation) possibly also members of police or intelligence agencies.
  15. [15] Again, Defensoría del Pueblo, the government’s human-rights ombudsman.