As students and the middle class protest for almost two weeks in the streets of Venezuela, the international left remain silent. Why is this wide swath of Venezuelan society protesting? Because of meddling from the United States in preparation of a fascist coup, says Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Certainly lines borrowed from the Cuban/Soviet handbook.
Venezuelans are protesting because of 56 percent inflation, one of the highest in the world. Venezuelans are protesting because they have one of the highest murder rates in the world, 25,000 violent deaths last year, one person killed every twenty minutes. The murder rate in Caracas is 122 per 100,000, numbers not seen in war zones. They are in the streets because they don’t have basic necessities such as bread, meat, toilet paper, electricity... the list is long.
Take former London Mayor Ken Livingston, a long time supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution. Would he violently repress London residents if they were out in the streets protesting a murder rate higher than Baghdad’s such as Caracas’? I don’t think so, he would be forced to resign.
Or Sean Penn and Oliver Stone, also admirers of the “pretty revolution” as Chávez used to call it. What would they do if President Obama shut down newspapers, TV stations, and jailed those that opposed his views, just as President Maduro has done? I think they would call on people in the United States to take to the streets and protest just as Venezuelans have done.
The Venezuelan government has closed television stations critical of the government. It is denying opposition newspapers foreign currency in order to purchase printing paper, some have closed and others can only publish slimmed down dailies. Colombian news station NTN24 was taken off the air by the government for their extensive coverage of the protests, and four CNN reporters in Venezuela had their credentials revoked. Are these the actions of a legitimate democracy?
Supporters of the Venezuelan government argue that President Maduro was democratically elected. Yes, technically he was. But were those fair elections? As those that follow Venezuela closely know, the PSUV — the government ruling party — uses tax payer’s money to fund their campaigns, where as the opposition has to rely on legal fundraising to a huge disadvantage.
Let’s not forget the “Tascón List” effect. In the 2004 recall referendum, Luis Tascón, a member of Chávez’s ruling party, published a list online of all those that voted to recall Chávez. Those that worked government jobs were summarily fired and lost their livelihood for exercising a democratic right, so much for a secret vote. To this day, and before each election, government workers are advised to vote for the ruling party or otherwise face losing their jobs.
Human Rights Watched has denounced, “the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute its critics.” As James Bloodworth points out in his brilliant article in The Independent, “In Britain there is an ongoing debate over the use of water cannons which the home secretary wants the police to have the power to deploy during unrest. The British left is in principle opposed to water cannons, as any civilised person should be. However I have just watched a video of Venezuelan protesters being water-cannoned and I have heard not a word of condemnation from the people who will be writing angry letters to the New Statesman if the same weapon is deployed on British streets. Why the double standard?” Mr. Livingston, can you please explain?
Those on the international left that applaud the reduction of poverty in Venezuela, fail to see that more advances have been made in other Latin American countries without the huge oil wealth that Venezuela possesses, and without eroding democratic principles. True social justice cannot exist outside a fully functioning democracy.
It’s time for those us on the left to stop defending the undefendable, to denounce the repressive actions of a government shooting at it’s own citizens for demanding a true democracy and a better life. Socialism without democracy is simply a dictatorship.
President Maduro keeps calling the students and the middle class that are protesting on the streets fascists, perhaps he should look in the mirror.
fas•cism noun \’fa-shi-zem also ‘fa-,si-\
: a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government.
: very harsh control or authority.
Originally published on the Huffington Post