In this interview, Gonzalo Gómez, founder of leftist Venezuelan website Aporrea.org and militant of Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) criticizes the PSUV for stifling political debates. He also expresses regret for participating in a debating panel with members of the right-wing opposition, and defends Aporrea from claims that it is financed by the CIA. Gómez, a long time militant in the Bolivarian revolution, was criticized within Chavista ranks for his participation in a panel with powerful members of the right-wing opposition. The panel was organized by the media outlet Reporte Confidencial, and Gómez’s concession of some problems within the economy and the government has sparked criticism within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the government. Accusations began to circulate that Gómez, and Aporrea.org, the independent web-page that he co-founded, were funded by the CIA, and these accusations were amplified when commentators suggested this relationship on a state-run national television evening program. Gómez is also a member of Marea Socialista, a Trotskyist current that played a key role in the founding of the PSUV, and which has recently released numerous reports critical of what they see as the Venezuelan governments’ close relationship with international capital and transnational corporations. Vanessa Davies, the editor of pro-government newspaper Correo del Orinoco, spoke to Gómez on Union Radio on October 17, 2014. The following was translated, transcribed and abridged by Venezuelanalysis.com.
Vanessa Davies: Is Aporrea financed by the CIA, as some sectors within the national government claim?
Gonzalo Gómez: Aporrea began with our own resources, out of our pockets, when we were in the revolutionary national assembly in an attempt to push forward a popular agenda in defense of the Bolivarian revolution and President Chavez in Miraflores [the presidential palace].
VD: In 2002.
GG. Yes. And in the past we have been funded with institutional advertising [public service announcements]. This has been the primary source of funding with some support and donations that were given to us spontaneously by some supporters or writers of Aporrea.
VD: It is important to mention that there are some sectors within chavismo that think that Aporrea is a tool of the CIA or the Pentagon or a counter-revolutionary web-page…
GG: Well, to make any affirmations of that nature, it would be necessary to prove that. It can’t just be that it occurred to someone to think that a person or organization is with the CIA, because it is a really delicate topic. In my opinion this has to do with fact that there are criticisms and denouncements coming from the Bolivarian people, because we do not invent this criticism at Aporrea. We don’t generate this content in an artificial way; we simply publish things that already flow through the people and the chavista vanguard. So, there are articles dedicated to congratulating or applauding the government and their results, and there are others that point to the fact that there are problems and that make denouncements of irregularities. And so then we are marked, as if we belong to the right, to the opposition. It [the critiques] makes some sectors of Chavismo uncomfortable. This happens because there is a pernicious method which, instead of debating and discussing the weaknesses and vulnerabilities, in many cases they would rather ignore the problems, hide them and pretend that they don’t exist. Instead of adopting an attitude of criticism and self-criticism, they totally do the opposite. They try to silence the criticism and not enter into a debate. When you converse with the people who have this inclination, it turns out that they want to intervene to moderate the discussion…
VD: What do you mean by “moderate the discussion”?
GG: There are people that say that we shouldn’t publish something or shouldn’t say certain things that are irritating or unpleasant or that they might seem to be from the opposition. OK, our general line is that we publish things within the boundaries of the defense of the Bolivarian revolution and this has limits that are more or less flexible. Well, there are some people who think that positions that are published do not defend the process, and there are others who say that not including these critical postures are against the process because by failing to acknowledge what is happening and the problems that exist would only serve to suffocate the process. And so there are people who want to assume responsibility for their own stances, and so they say it. What do we need to do in the face of the problems and the difficulties? Hide? Cover up? Silence? Not Discuss? Or, the opposite; we need more protagonistic participatory democracy, more spaces of discussion and analysis,
VD: There aren’t spaces for discussion?
GG: There aren’t.
VD: Why aren’t there? In your opinion…?
GG: Simply, there is a deformation in the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). They [assumed to mean the party leadership] are not fulfilling the founding principles of the PSUV nor the principles described in the programmatic document of the PSUV. And they pretend to allow diversity of thinking, as long as it is within the bounds of their organization as though they are the only group, the only thinkers. Of course this type of thinking belongs exclusively to the highest members of the party, which says that there is no other way to think. I have here in my hand something that has to do with the founding principles of the party., in which I participated as a founding delegate in 2007, because Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) is a founding current of the PSUV.
VD: But the PSUV directive doesn’t see it that way.
GG: Even though they don’t admit it, I have some contrasting documents from the Vice Presidency of the Party that seem to me as though they are in absolute conflict with the [PSUV’s] declaration of principles. Listen to this: In Chapter 7, referring to unity, in the declaration of principles in the famous little red book where the party program is stated, it says “the Party is a unifying force of all of the contours of the revolution, and belongs to the exploited and oppressed classes. [Representing the] revolutionary unity of the multifaceted majorities, it is inclusive of the greatest diversity of political and cultural origins, etc…” It says, in terms of the principles, the program, and the statutes, that the ideological fundamental is unity. However it is also trying to break with particular political interests. Which is to say, that there can be ideological diversity but there can’t be fractures or special interest groups around positions or figures, or of [personal] appetites.
VD: Is this the case with Marea Socialista? Is it a fraction that is looking for positions or has a personal appetite?
GG: No. Marea Socialista is a pre-existing ideological current of the PSUV, which incorporated into the party in response to the call by Commandante Hugo Chavez Frias. Marea grew out of trade union politics from within the first confederation created in the country during the Bolivarian revolution, which was the National Union of Workers (UNT). Afterwards, having been incorporated into the PSUV, we participated in the first battalions of registering new members. And we went to the founding congress, and participated in some regional directives, we incorporated youth and popular sectors, and now we are in another dynamic of expansion, but we don’t have government posts. We don’t have participation in the state apparatus. We don’t constitute a special interest group surrounding any figure.
VD: You continue to claim that you are members of the PSUV but the PSUV doesn’t recognize you as such.
GG: Precisely, we incorporated into the PSUV, understanding that the construction of a unified party of the Bolivarian revolution was a great conquest; that it was a marker created through a participatory protagonistic democracy providing a wealth of ideological diversity. Furthermore, we have adopted the declaration of the principles of the PSUV. We participated in the construction, continue in its defense and we identify with the fundamental founding principles of the party.
VD: But the leadership of the party doesn’t recognize you as such.
GG: That is a problem. But the problem within the PSUV is different, it is that there is a lack of consistency and coherence and this corresponds to the politics of the leadership in the party and the founding principles and program of the party. Because here it says, as I was saying before, it says here, in Chapter 7 dealing with unity, [that the PSUV is] “a party respectful of ideological diversity, that democratically and permanently debates the ways in which to construct the revolution and socialist society.” And the leadership does not drive, does not promote this. It constricts, it puts obstacles, and they criminalize those who want to make this discussion happen. So, who is with this declaration of principles of the party?
VD: Are you saying that you have betrayed these principles?
GG: No, on the contrary. We want, or me in particular, and the compañeros of Marea Socialista, we believe that we are being loyal to these principles and just for that reason we have to confront the consequences of being marked, being sectioned off, being marginalized…
VD: What are the consequences? Or better said, What consequences has Gonzalo Gómez had? What consequences has Aporrea faced? What consequences has Marea Socialista confronted?
GG: Well, we are seeing some of them, for example there is a campaign that is being developed through a night program on Venezolano de Televesión (VTV), a state-owned station that ought to be at the service of the social subject of the Bolivarian revolution, exercising its free expression. And on the contrary, they behave like a public relations instrument of one sector of the state apparatus, kidnapped by the functionaries and not handed over to popular power and so…
VD: You don’t have the ability to defend yourselves [banter].
GG: But it’s been a while of making claims in absolute terms. It is to say that they invite you, in a moment when they think that your opinion can be functional for a government campaign or the party, but [not] if you are going to question, to problematize, albeit in a productive framework, even if you are presenting alternatives, alerting people, saying “geez, we think that this path is wrong and what we need to do is this other thing.” You can’t do that, there isn’t space for that. And so this is what happens, sometimes the right or the private media, not always, because sometimes people invite you simply because they believe in debate, or it is a part of their professional practice as journalists. But there are also media that like when there are people with critical positions to manipulate them in their own service.
VD: Do you think that your position…that the position of Marea Socialista and Aporrea has been used for this? To generate more conflict?
GG: In some occasions, yes. In the wake of my participation in a debate that happened in Margarita [island] called by a media outlet. They invited me to participate in a debate, and they invited the regional leadership of the PSUV, who decided not to come and so I had to confront 5 opposition leaders, within them María Corina Machado, Antonio Ecarri, some clown legislator, a young student, and a mayor of Primero Justicia [opposition political party]
VD: Do you regret having gone to this debate?
GG: Yes, I regret it because I went to the debate to assert defense of the Bolivarian revolution but without omitting a critique. For what reason? Because there are some critiques that the opposition makes that can’t really be denied because they are the same critiques that the people make- of cost of food, of the queues, a series of circumstances that the people are experiencing. The problem is that the opposition explains these facts in a distinct manner from how we revolutionaries explain it and, the solutions that the opposition sees to this are also very different. For example, they propose a poison as a remedy, something absolutely toxic. They say that socialism and the Bolivarian revolution have failed, but it isn’t socialism which has failed, because further socialist policies haven’t been applied in the most consequential ways. What has failed is that the government has given in to the politicians that the opposition has put forth with their chants for the guarimba [violent unrest], the economic war, terrorism, and in the peace agreements. There, where the government has given in to them, policies have failed, it has created discomfort for the people, the prices have gone up, it bothers people that there has been a flexibilization in some aspects of the employment law…
VD: So, what are the things that you want to debate?
GG: These things are necessary to debate, if it is necessary to loosen up access to dollars or there needs to be an audit of the dollars handed over the bourgeoisie. Who is responsible for handing over these dollars [for imports]? Did they [the government] monitor the handing over of these dollars or have they handed them over in some irresponsible way in which it could be taken advantage of in this scramble for the extractive pump of resources from oil sales. We’re going to talk about it because those that did this, if they were civil servants, are acting in a complicit way with the business sector and transnationals, or they benefited as an accomplice in these actions. That is not revolutionary.
VD: Has there been an answer to report that Marea Socialist published about the use of currency?
GG: No, sadly that report, nor the report that Enrique Gavazut wrote about the 20 billion dollars and how they were distributed in 2012, nor the report done by the investigative team of Marea Socialista about devaluation and capital flight, nor what we recently presented about external debt and the commitments and problems that we need to examine to confront payment without affecting the importing of basic goods, none of these were contradicted nor debated. They haven’t called us liars or said that our statistics are false nor have they proposed another solution. The government should call Venezuelan citizens who are doing accounting and say, geez, send us your report.
VD: Have you handed in your report to the government?
GG: We presented it in a public forum through Aporrea.org, with thousands of visits. I suppose that they should also be looking at it.
VD: How is Aporrea going to continue sustaining itself? How is Marea Socialista going to continue promoting your opinions and being heard?
GG: Well, I want to explain, Aporrea is a media outlet born out of the plural, diverse framework of the Bolivarian revolution. Some members of Aporrea have also been part of Marea Socialista but they are two different things. Marea has space within Aporrea, just as other [ideological] currents do.
VD: But how are you going to continue with the context today?
GG: I am going to mention that there is an absurd conduct on this night program [on VTV], there has been damaging commentary. It is one thing to criticize me and say, for example, that I made a mistake, that I shouldn’t have gone to a debate where there were the people from the right wing; that this isn’t the way; that creates prejudice against me. Fine, that is valid. You can tell me, “I disagree.” But to call me a traitor, to say, “You sat down with murderer and you are becoming part of the right,” well they are taking it too far. For example, [comments such as] “manipulator of the victims of the coup d’etat,” saying that “they should have been picked up by the paramilitaries,” or that “Aporrea is a web page of the extreme right-wing and it is one of the worst things that exist!” No, please, this is taking it too far. And there are others who say, that Aporrea is doing publicity for such and such governor, or legislator. We aspire (and this we say to the readers and writers of Aporrea and to the Bolivarian revolutionary movements), we aspire to sustain ourselves with the efforts of the popular movements and that the popular movements know how to defend their tools of communication. Because we cannot simply depend on institutional support, so we must be sustainable or we’ll withdraw.
The interview concluded with Gustavo Gonzalez encouraging listeners to go to Aporrea.org and click on “Colabora” to make a donation.