The renowned Venezuelan journalist and writer, Luis Britto Garcia agreed to this interview after writing an article recently about the private media and its distorting of the facts that are happening in the Caribbean country, two months since the protests began. Protests – which Britto characterises as “minority” – against the government of Nicolas Maduro. During the conversation, he observes a growing division within the Venezuelan opposition, and he analyses the work of Gene Sharp, a US political scientist, and his theory of “soft coups”.
La Epoca – Two months after the destabilising events began in Venezuela, what is your evaluation of the situation the country is currently experiencing? How do you believe the dialogue that Maduro has pushed for, together with the foreign ministers of Unasur, who are currently in Caracas for the second time in three weeks, has affected things?
Luis Britto Garcia – The wave of violence has decreased. It’s opportune to clarify, for the international public, that in the majority of the cases it wasn’t about protests, but rather blocking roads in a few municipalities with opposition mayors and police, who protect the violent people as they take their neighbours hostage. Drug traffickers wanted by Interpol and paramilitaries have been detained leading or supporting these operations.
Venezuela has 335 municipalities, the attacks occurred at the start in just 19, later they reduced to three, and today, sometimes there are sporadic road blocks, always protected by local opposition police.
What do you think is the role of the mass private Venezuelan media, in this time of political instability that the country is experiencing? Additionally, what role do you think the international mass media fulfils in creating a distorted image of Venezuela?
The events in Venezuela have paved the way for an anthology collection of violations of ethics and of the veracity of information provided by the media, which effectively in our country the majority of the mass media is private and opposition-aligned, like the advertisers which sustain them. The international and national media have circulated photos of repression from Egypt, Greece, Libya, Syria, Spain, and other countries, falsely affirming that they were from Venezuela. They have falsified mobilisations of a sector that is a minority even within the opposition, presenting them as representing “the students”, “the youth” or “the country”. I think it’s essential to insist that in Venezuela, the youth represent over 60% of the population; that one in three Venezuelans is studying, one in every ten in higher education institutions, almost all for free. If a sector of such magnitude were against Bolivarianism, then it would never have won elections, nor would it be able to stay in power.
The media have also represented the protests as “peaceful”, when within those protests, over half of the injuries were inflicted on security forces. The private media also conceal or omit that the procedures of the terrorists consist of selective killing with guns with laser viewfinders, the systematic destruction of over a hundred public transport units and metro stations, the burning of electricity centres and of 15 universities and a preschool with almost a hundred children inside, whom it happens were miraculously rescued.
Many suppositions have been built up of “common sense” about Venezuela’s reality, based on the simplistic vision of some media, that we have a “tyrannical” government, despite it having won 18 of 19 elections, and that this government supposedly censures the media, despite having a large part of the private media against it, etc. What observations would you make about this?
The media accompanies their distortions with affirmations that the government is a “dictatorship” that no dictatorship would actually allow to be published, and with protests against “censorship” that no censor would allow to happen. On the legitimacy of the Venezuelan government, one has to repeat well known facts: the ex US president Jimmy Carter declared our electoral system to be the most perfect, or one of the most, in the world.
Hundreds of international observers attend each election and they’ve never found a significant problem. When the election is over, a check is made of half the voting centres, and at the request of the opposition, complete checks have been made, without revealing errors or fraud. But for the opposition the only legitimate elections are the ones that they win, and according to them, losing an election gives them the right to govern.
Because of the events in Venezuela, people are again writing about and studying the work of Gene Sharp, above all in relation to his “manual” of five steps to generate a “soft coup”. Do you think there is a relation between Sharp’s work and what is happening in the country? Do you think the method of soft coup has expanded on our continent after what happened in Honduras (2009) and Paraguay (2012)?
Well, yes, the recommendations of Gene Sharp have been fulfilled step by step to a comical extreme: the copying of symbols and emblems of the “colour revolutions”, slogans in English, the dramatisation of concentrated disturbances that the media presents as a national commotion. Most tragically, there have been cases of protesters killed by bullets in their backs, from their own ranks, in order to have victims. There are also citizens who have been killed for the simple fact of trying to remove some obstacles, and motorcyclists with their throats cut by wire traps.
It would be good to stop calling these pre-meditated immolations of citizens in order to create the pretext for a genocide in the form of a military coup or foreign intervention, a “soft coup”. As a matter of fact none of these two final aims of the Sharp method have materialised until now in Venezuela. Once again the opposition calculated badly about the loyalty of the army and the willingness of foreign powers to put it in power through military intervention.
The conservative Venezuelan opposition seems to be divided between two tendencies: one that wants to stay in the streets at any cost, searching for “the exit”, and which is lead by Lopez and Machado, and the other which, without losing its strong criticism of the Maduro government, tries to disassociate itself from the violence in the streets – more linked to Caprilismo (Capriles). Why do you think that is? What is your evaluation of a possible division in the conservative Venezuelan opposition?
The violent events proved more than ever a division in the Venezuelan opposition, whose substance is a jealous dispute for the leadership between Capriles and Lopez. When Lopez turned himself in, all the shirts of the people at the rally were white, the colour of the minority party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), which didn’t even run a candidate in the opposition primaries. At that rally there wasn’t a single yellow shirt of First Justice, of Capriles. Capriles, when he was defeated in the presidential elections in 2013, called on his followers to go out into the street to “drain your rage”, and in the following hours they killed a dozen Bolivarians, injured eight, and destroyed medical centres and community radios. All premeditated, malicious, and the advantage: there wasn’t a single injury among the terrorist squads.
After this great feat, at the start of the year Capriles contradicted Lopez, saying that disturbances in the street wouldn’t bring anyone to power, and since then he’s held an ambiguous attitude. It’s a fact: the disturbances have died down, only every now and then is there an isolated violent episode, always under protection from local opposition police and authorities. Sometimes it gets comical. A few days ago there was a roadblock in the area where I live: the authorities set up portable toilets for the comfort of the balaclava-clad protesters. Which refutes that the neighbours support or fraternise with them.
A Hinterlaces poll revealed that 87% of those consulted reject the road blocks or guarimbas, almost all of the opposition is participating in the Peace Dialogue that Maduro convoked. Among them, Fedecameras (chamber of commerce) businessmen who want to take advantage of the turmoil to impose their program. Other opposition members have called those who have attended the dialogue ‘sell outs’, but I think regarding the current strategy and the names of the leaders, one moment or another they all resort to coup-ism, terrorism and violence without any scruples. In the current case, there was even secessionist declarations in the border states, and an evident participation of drug smugglers and paramilitaries in the violent actions. That re-opens a disturbing perspective for Venezuelan politics.
Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com