Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24 is the International Day for the Right to the Truth: Help Venezuela

"I have frequently been threatened with death I must tell you that as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people." - Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

"Truth never damages a cause that is just." - Mohandas Gandhi

13 of the 37 killed in Venezuela since February 12 in protests
 The body count continues to rise in Venezuela along with the charges and counter-charges between the government of Maduro, opposition political parties and a democratic resistance led by university students. The United Nations recognizes March 24 as the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims. This day is set aside in rememberance of El Salvador's Archbishop Romero assassinated on March 24, 1980. Today is also an important day to remember victims of political violence such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero Escalante murdered in Cuba on July 22, 2012 and the Venezuelans killed since February 12, 2014. According to DeutscheWelle: "Venezuela's national guard has been firing tear gas and live ammunition at demonstrators. Protestors resort to stones and the burning of cars." The national guard has also raided the home of journalists, detaining them and searched through their belongings as was the case with Mildred Manrique

The great English writer and poet Samuel Johnson observed that "Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages." There is a fog of war in which rumors take on a life of their own and need to be put down with the slower moving facts, but then there is also propaganda, ( information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view). An extreme example of this was on display in print and in television with Mark Weisbrot, and Oliver Stone in the Boston Globe.

Mark Weisbrot in a February 20, 2014 interview with Abby Martin on RT's "Breaking the Set" claimed at 20 minutes and 58 seconds that the protests "started out from the beginning demanding that the president resign." That statement is a lie. The protests initially were not about Maduro. What sparked this round of demonstrations began in Táchira on February 4, 2014 when a student at the University of Los Andes in the Botanical Garden of the University was the victim of an attempted rape. Students protested that "insecurity had taken over the campus." The protest was repressed and a number of students arrested and physically mistreated by the authorities. The news of the abuse by government officials sparked additional protests

However, if you read the February 10th open letter tweeted by student leader Juan Requesens, who has more than 528,000 followers the message is one that is open to dialogue with the government on two conditions 1) that students who were arrested exercising their legitimate right to protest be freed and 2) that calling them "coup plotters" or "terrorists" for engaging in nonviolent protests to demand their rights is unacceptable.

February 12 in Venezuela is a national youth day and students across the country organized nonviolent mass demonstrations in response to the earlier repression and were met with violence by regime officials working in coordination with paramilitary groups known as "colectivos." Students were shot in the head and killed. This escalated the protests and as the violence increased the demands expanded and began to focus on Maduro.

March 22, 2014 opposition protests
 The article also presents a false picture of the protests as "small groups of protesters [who] engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas"and contrasting it with the "... the crowd that showed up for the March 5 ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Chávez’s death, it was a sea of working-class Venezuelans, tens of thousands of them." The opposition to Maduro since February 12th has repeatedly mobilized tens of thousands of protesters from across Venezuela in anti-government protests. In this article there are photos of just three isolated pictures on three different dates with massive numbers of demonstrators.

March 2, 2014 opposition protests
Since February 12, 2014 tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest against the Maduro regime and its excesses. The response of the government: escalating violence and the use of snipers to shoot demonstrators in the head has driven the demands from issues of security and  concerns of scarcity into a call for his resignation.

February 12, 2014 opposition protests
Furthermore, the killings by snipers shooting demonstrators and passersby in the head along with the collaboration of the national guard with paramilitary units on motorcycles is reminiscent of the tactics used by the Iranians in crushing mass student protests in 2009. The targeting  and murder of young women by sniper fire was also a practice captured on video with the death of Neda Agha-Soltan that captured international attention in June of 2009 much the same way that  Génesis Carmona's murder did last month.  The role of the Cubans in the Venezuelan military and intelligence apparatus has been much commented on over the past month, but the relationship with Iran and the presence of Iranians in Venezuela has not drawn as much attention, but it should.

Weisbrot, who has collaborated with Chávez on initiatives such as the Bank of the South, in his Boston Globe piece writes about Washington "funding opposition groups" but doesn't touch on charges made by the Panamanian president that the Maduro government is funding the opposition in Panama. Weisbrot also fails to mention that Hugo Chávez engaged in a massive Chavista foreign aid program with ideological considerations for more than a decade:
 "began providing oil assistance to Cuba in 2000. In June 2005, he launched Petrocaribe to offer discounted oil to an expanding list of member nations. Currently, 19 Caribbean and Central American nations benefit from Petrocaribe. Members consume about 300,000 barrels per day, roughly 10 percent of Venezuela's daily output on concessionary terms. While payment terms vary according to rises and falls in the price of oil, the standard Petrocaribe mechanism requires payments of 40 to 50 percent in the first 90 days, and the balance over 20 years at 1 percent interest." 
 Weisbrot has made claims about the success of the Venezuelan government in reducing poverty rates that have been questioned for their veracity. Also not mentioned in Wesibrot's analysis of poverty reduction is that the region as a whole has achieved as much or more poverty reduction, then claimed by the Chavista's without the drastic measures that bode ill for Venezuela in the long run.

The victims and their loved ones have a right to the truth and while many remain silent or worse defend the Maduro regime as it murders unarmed demonstrators, people of good will need to help. Please share the video below in which a Venezuelan student explains the reasons for their protests.

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