Is it the Heat? Venezuela in the Crosshairs

In Venezuela, politics is always a cause for misunderstanding and long heated conversations among friends and people in the streets. But Venezuelans are far from being a people who would turn against each other. We are known for our easygoing nature and good humor, for loving our visitors, and for being talkative and even sometimes nosy.

During the last year, however, we have seen a fierce media campaign to portray Venezuela as not only a chaotic nation and impossible to govern, but a place where political factions are ready to launch a violent civil war.

In fact, the states that border Venezuela are far more prone to criminal and political violence.

For instance, the southwestern Venezuelan town of San Cristóbal sits only a few miles from the Colombian department of Santander. San Cristóbal is known for being a place where many Colombian paramilitaries and young sicarios (hired guns) find a way into Venezuela to provoke trouble and engage in criminal activities. Kidnappings, blackmail, and drug smuggling are common crimes reported all throughout the state of Tachira.

Foreign provocations are not the only factor to consider in analyzing events in Venezuela, outside the capital of Caracas, in outlying areas like San Cristóbal. Students from various institutions of higher education regularly take to the streets to cause trouble. Sometimes there are injuries and fatalities. Last year a man was electrocuted while protestors were setting up a barricade in San Cristóbal. Apparently, while building their barricade, the protestors caused a large commercial poster to crash into a high tension cable, which in turn landed on the man.

The protests that began a year ago in Venezuela climaxed this year with the arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, a vicious opponent of President Maduro and the Bolivarian socialists. The problems in Venezuela are very much based in the class divisions, as they are in Greece and elsewhere around the world, with, generally speaking, the petite bourgeoisie supporting the counter-revolutionary opposition, and the poor supporting the revolution.

The United States, naturally, supports the forces of reaction, through covert actions and an intense propaganda campaign. After the arrest of Mayor Ledezma last week, President Maduro charged that the United States played a major role in the coup d’etat that was being organized in Caracas.

The U.S. denies ever having been involved in any coup d’etat, anywhere, ever.

Encouraged by the U.S and America’s allies on Venezuela’s borders, the opposition has steadily been conducting protests across Venezuela. On February 12, Tachira’s Governor José Vielma Mora warned about the chaos the “enemies of peace could cause” in San Cristóbal.  And indeed, during the ensuing “peaceful” demonstration, twelve Tachira state policemen were injured.

More violence ensued and on 24 February, 14-year old protestor Kluiverth Roa was shot in the head. Roa died on the way to the hospital, according to the San Cristóbal Human Rights Commission president, José Vicente García.

The main suspect is a young National Bolivarian policeman, who has already been convicted and sentenced in the social media. A witness, student Daniela Flores, said she saw the policeman shoot Roa from a motorbike.

The Minister of the Interior, Carmen Meléndez, has confirmed that a National Police officer has been detained for Roa’s murder.

Meanwhile, the opposition is making the most of the chaos. On Tuesday 24 February, an opposition website headline read: “Communist Massacre. Six youngsters murdered by head shots in a week.”

The other murders, however, did not happen during protests. Apparently, these people were kidnapped and shot: one in Tachira, two in Merida, and two in Caracas, in what appear to be “criminal acts,” not political assassinations. In any event, there is very little information about the deaths. What is undeniable is that the lives of six young men have been taken in the most awful circumstances.

Opposition sectors blame it on the government, of course.

In the meantime, the government is not only recovering from a coup attempt, it is trying to ease the international heat caused by the detention of former Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who is among the traitors to the nation.

If this is not enough, new economical regulations have been put in place and have not been cheerfully received by the population. Inflation has finally caught up with government’s policies and the sustained drop in oil prices.

I do not even want to go to the subject of standing in line for soap or shampoo. There are far more important things to be concerned about. Still, all of it adds up to create a very unstable and volatile environment, which the opposition media, at home and abroad, is happy to fuel.

The opposition continues to push for a disruptive and violent mass response on Friday, when the nation commemorates the 26th anniversary of the Caracazo – a major violent riot that began on 27 February 1989 in response to IMF austerity measures announced by Carlos Andrés Pérez government.

Those riots resulted in many deaths and much despair in Caracas and other cities. I am sure some opposition leaders would love to see that again. They keep saying “it is coming.”

In Caracas everything is quiet this evening: no riots, no barricades, people coming and going to work as usual. But in San Cristóbal there will surely be rioting.

Coromoto Jaraba is a journalist and translator working and living in Caracas. Read other articles by Coromoto.