Dan Gent has written a response to Mike Gonzalez’s recent ‘Letters from Venezuela‘, in which he counters Mike’s perspective on the unfolding political turmoil in Venezuela, arguing that Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution is not so close to being destroyed as may be apparent.
The article was published on 11th April in LINKS – the International Journal of Socialist Review. We’ve reproduced the first section below. You can read the whole thing on the LINKS website, here. We also sat down with Mike Gonzalez two weeks ago to get his thoughts on the situation in Venezuela. The interview was filmed, and is embedded below. To find out more about his most recent book, Hugo Chavez: Socialist for the Twenty-first Century (Pluto, 2014), click on the cover image.
Opposition protests have rocked Venezuela for over a month now and in many areas barricades remain. These had already been going on for a while in Merida and being called protests is a loose term as these have mainly involved youths with their faces covered, setting up burning barricades in the street to completely block the road, mostly lacking any political slogans or any message. These started with students from the University of Los Andes, one of Venezuela’s elite universities, who would repeatedly block the main road of Merida (Avenida de Las Americas). Supported by the university management (who have always been anti-Chavista) who would then shut the university down whenever the tyre burning started. These protests only involved a hand full of people who would then run into the university whenever the police arrived, exploiting the fact that the police can’t legally enter the university and that the management would do nothing to help the police arrest them.
These events started to spread throughout the country when on the 22nd of January, Leopold Lopez (one of the signatories to the 2002 coup attempt) and a group of opposition leaders demanded “La Salida” (the exit) of the Chavista government. In Tachira, in early February, opposition supporters attacked the state Governor’s house with Molotov cocktails leading to a string of arrests, and then on the 12th of February, National Youth Day, the opposition marches ended in violence with many public buildings in central Caracas destroyed. Since then the various tyre burnings and blockades in major roads have escalated into permanent barricades closing off entire areas of cities. While these barricades have been responsible for many deaths and caused much disruption across the country, they are only present in a handful of opposition ran municipalities.
I have spent the last 6 weeks living in Merida, the capital of Merida state and a stronghold for the opposition, and the middle class area of the main road of Avenida Las Americas has been blocked by barricades resembling a war zone for weeks now. But take a bus for an hour in any direction and you wouldn’t know there was a problem. Recently I went to Elorza in the region “Los Llanos”, a huge flat plain several times the size of the UK, where the place is covered with PSUV propaganda. I took a ride on a mototaxi in solid red with PSUV logos all over it, and a rode in a speedboat with PSUV propaganda covering the engine. The riots in east Caracas and Merida feel as far away as they do in England. It is very important to note that the riots only affect core opposition areas and are not moving into other areas, especially not Chavista areas. As Mike says in his article, he lives in “a middle class dormitory suburb” of Caracas. Now I don’t want to attack him as I’m not about to move to a barrio, but where you live does affect how you view the situation. Presumably this area is in the east of the city, the highest average earnings in Venezuela, solid 80+% vote for the opposition and one of the epicentres of the recent opposition violence.
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