What is going to happen in Venezuela? How is your family doing? Why isn’t the US media covering what it is going on in your country?
The most honest answer out there: no one really knows, my family is safe, and I don’t know. My relatively lack of expertise in Venezuelan politics render my opinions on this matter close to mute. But I will say this, a closer look Venezuela’s recent history may help explain why I do not believe a lack of International Press (specifically from the US) is inevitably a bad thing.
This is best summed up with a popular venezuelan saying: Muchas manos en la sopa ponen el caldo morado. The idiomatic translation: the more people get involved, the messier the situation. Let me illustrate by example: a few Sundays back, my class had an evening make-up session at the Weitz where the professor agreed to buy Dominoes to compensate for the incovenience. We took longer deciding on the toppings, than the actual time it took to call, make the order, pay, and deliver the pizza.
How does this relate to Venezuela’s current political situation? Any informed American (North and South American that is) understands that the US has a longstanding history of socio-political and military interventions in South America and the Caribbean against leftist governments.
From this, a natural sense of resentment arose among the left which empowered populists like Chavez and Castro. They needed only to invoke the names Bush and Obama to rally their supporters, antagonize and divide the opposition, and divert attention from the concrete issues that were clearly destroying the country. Chavez, for example, openly criticized the US all the while exporting most of our oil to the imperialists. Thus, regardless of the actual work he did, if there is something to be acknowledged about Chavez was his ability to divert attention:
- He called George W. Bush, the Devil.
- He called Uribe the lackey of Bush.
- He was told by the Spanish King to shut his mouth and feigned ignorance.
- He called Obama an ignorant fool.
- He threatened to go to war with Colombia, breaking and normalizing relations with their government to the point where if Venezuela and Colombia had a relationship on Facebook, its status would be “It’s Complicated.”
This list is by no means all-inclusive, but you get the point.
In the meantime, throughout his rule, the country was suffering from scarcity, blackouts and rationing of electricty in major cities – including Valencia and Maracaibo (harming important oil and industrial centers of Venezuela), and insecurity where celebrity baseball players like Wilson Ramos (at the time, Washington Nationals) were not immune from the violence.
Yet, where was Chavez? Most of the time, on TV using his populist rhetoric to pin the blame on the imperialist antics of the US. Today, Maduro, despite his lack of charisma and the lack of control of the country, inherited this practice and implements the same methods. Invoking the name of Chavez, El Socialismo del Siglo XXI, and el imperialismo is still enough to rally his supporters who still fear and rightfully distrust the opposition.
So now, why do I believe that a lack of coverage on behalf of the US is not inevitably a bad thing? Two things. First of all, any US involvement that does not effectively remove Maduro only further strengthens him as it feeds into the populist rhetoric that he shamelessly employs. Maduro is slowly losing grips of the country, but efforts like these end up strengthening him. Good intentions sometimes translate to unforeseen consequences, and trying to increase international pressure on Maduro through media coverage may in fact be counterproductive, and allow him to reaffirm his legitimacy as a leader protecting the sovereignty of his country.
Second ,the students protests cannot succeed and bring forth sustainable change if their movement becomes corrupted by external forces or interests. Think back to the Civil Rights Movement. It was an internal struggle, that remained internal. England and France didn’t intervene or provide expert advice, or even provide clandestine funding Dr. King’s supporters. That led to a maturity of society, that slowly but surely now attempts to move past racism. For the Venezuelan protestors, they need to maintain complete agency to uphold the credibility of their struggle. Not only for everyone watching, but most importantly for themselves. It’s like the newborn calf who is caught everytime it falls. Anything less than full autonomy delegitimizes their cause and will result in its long-term failure despite short term gains. It ends up believing it cannot stand on its own. And the unfortunate consequences of the media coverage of these movements are interventions by larger countries who see they’re selfish interests threatened and rush to serve their immediate needs. Ukraine and Russia.
I feel for the Ukranians. Their plight is similar to ours. But worse than having one Ukraine is having two Ukraines. Let the Venezuelans to themselves. Chavez was a necessary evil for Venezuela to mature, but we cannot move forth if we are not allowed to make our own mistakes.
Trust that these protests may not end up solving all our problems, but they will get the ball rolling. Only then, slowly but surely, will change come.