Blue Lives Matter, Except in Venezuela

Why does the mainstream media systematically ignore the Venezuelan right’s almost non-stop violence against government personnel and institutions?


On July 8, 25-year-old Afghanistan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson killed five Dallas police officers with a sniper rifle reportedly in revenge for a recent wave of police killings of African-Americans across the United States.

“The violence- and hate-filled messages pouring out of Black Lives Matter seek exactly this kind of bloody resolution, or revolution, though they cannot admit it in polite society,” wrote Milwaukie Sheriff David Clarke in a Fox News op-ed.The incident ignited a firestorm of criticism against the Black Lives Matter movement, with prominent right-wing pundits and politicians screaming for “law and order.”

Some outlets attempted to extrapolate concrete links to Black radical groups from the Johnson’s Facebook page. “Micah Johnson, Dallas Cop-Killer, Was Black Militant and Army Veteran,” writes The Daily Beast. “Dallas gunman Micah Xavier Johnson was inspired by Black Power groups before rampage,” the U.K.’s The Mirror printed.

Even liberal establishment media like the New York Times more subtly conflated the episode with nationwide protests against police killings despite all indications that Johnson was a reclusive, psychologically disturbed lonewolf with no ties whatsoever to the Black Lives Matter organization.

“The gunman turned a demonstration against fatal police shootings this week of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana from a peaceful march focused on violence committed by officers into a scene of chaos and bloodshed aimed against them,” the newspaper reported

Forget about the systematic police violence that killed Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the countless other Black men and women. What matters, they insisted, are the “Blue lives” threatened by the Mica Johnsons of the world.

Yet, for the international corporate media, Blue lives seem to matter in a lot of places, just not in Venezuela. On Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, the Venezuelan opposition convened nationwide demonstrations against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, protesting the national electoral body’s decision to temporarily suspend preparations for a presidential recall referendum pending investigations into fraud.

As was to be expected, international media lauded the protests, rejoicing at the idea that the Maduro “regime” was now in its death throes.

Mass Protest in Venezuela Demanding End of ‘Dictatorship’,” writes AP.

In Venezuela, ‘Maduro For Longer’ Spells Trouble,” salivates Forbes.

“As the situation worsens, it is only logical that more Venezuelans will be driven by desperation to rise up. If there is more bloodshed, Mr. Maduro will be responsible,”writes the New York Times Editorial Board.

Miranda state police officer Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez was shot and killed in the course of attempting to disperse a protest near the Pan-American highway in the southeastern Caracas municipality of San Antonio.Yet strangely missing from the narrative of the Venezuelan opposition’s peaceful march to victory over a cruel dictatorship was the small detail of the murder of a Venezuelan police officer by demonstrators Wednesday evening.

In a graphic video, Ramirez and other officers can be seen approaching a group of demonstrators when they suddenly come under gunfire from what appear to be the nearby buildings.

While Venezuelan media reported the incident as a confrontation between police and opposition protesters, international media sought to separate the crime from the day’s demonstrations.

The Guardian suggested that the Miranda state police “did not link the incident to the opposition protest,” yet offered no quote from the police department in question. A review of the local department’s Twitter feed as well as local media accounts fails to uncover any such announcement. Nor does the newspaper bother to cite Interior Minister Nestor Reverol’s official statement that the homicide occurred in the course of a law enforcement effort to disperse demonstrators.

Although The New York Times and the Miami Herald indeed mention the killing in the context of the day’s protests, both newspapers consider the episode sufficiently unimportant to merit no more than one sentence each.

To its credit, CNN does include the homicide in its headline, devoting one line to the incident before going on to cite “opposition leader” Henrique Capriles’ unverified figures for the number of injured and imprisoned from the day’s protests. Absent is any indication that Capriles is in fact governor of Miranda state and as such is responsible for the safety its police personnel.

Despite being updated late Thursday afternoon, the CNN article likewise makes no mention of Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega’s official figures, which include 86 people injured nationwide, including 26 police and National Guard personnel.

Reuters, meanwhile, succeeds in suppressing any mention of the dead police at all, preferring to highlight “veteran activist Maria Corina Machado and jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez’ wife Lilian Tintori,” who it said are urging “Gandhi-style civil disobedience.”

The irony that these far/right figures were key protagonists in 2014’s violent anti-government protests – which left 43 dead, over half of whom government supporters, police and National Guard troops, and passerby – is lost on the international news service.

Why does the mainstream media systematically underreport or outright ignore the Venezuelan right’s almost non-stop violence against Venezuelan government personnel and institutions?

Because reporting incidents like the killing of Molina, the wounding of 26 other officers, attacks on socialist youth leaders in Cojedes or state cultural workers in Amazonas threaten to slaughter a sacred cow, namely the idea of a peaceful and democratic Venezuelan opposition.

Simply put, it’s difficult to argue that Venezuela is an “all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship” when you have an opposition that wins elections and holds regular, authorized protests where its activists frequently attack police, civil servants, and government supporters, often with complete impunity.

It’s just downright inconvenient to report these uncomfortable facts that evidence opposition leaders’ utter disregard for the rule of law, which is normally considered a sacrilege by any self-respecting Western journalist.

Yet no one seems to care that Henrique Capriles has yet to issue a public statement condemning the homicide of a police officer in his state during a protest that he himself led. Contrast with the media’s eagerness to report Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s comments blaming Black Lives Matter for the killing of Dallas police.

Nor does the international media hesitate in calling hard right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a “political prisoner.” Lopez– who previously played an active role in the 2002 US-backed coup for which he was granted amnesty – is currently serving a 13 year prison sentence for public incitement to violence and criminal conspiracy during 2014’s anti-government protests. In the United States, he would likely be facing a much stiffer sentence or possibly life imprisonment for such offenses. Compare with Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Rivera López, who is currently serving a 55-year sentence in US federal prison for seditious conspiracy despite the fact that “he was not convicted of any violent crimes.”

Sadly, the international media has a lot more tears to shed for Leopoldo Lopez than it does for the victims of opposition violence.

That is, “Blue lives” seem to matter an awful lot, except when they’re serving under a self-declared socialist national government that has been branded an “unusual and extraordinary threat” by the United States.