How many retweets are needed to construct truths? How much time in trending topics, minutes on periscope, in the repetition of videos, memes, and photos, is necessary for them to be accepted as truth? How much distance is there between reality and that truth? Is reality, at the end of the day, that truth?
Caracas, April 8th, 3pm. According to social media and news agencies, the streets of the city [Caracas] are a mix between the battle of Aleppo, and an insurrection of the masses, the police repress with dictatorial gusto, a red-colored gas just gave signs of a possible chemical attack by the regime. There are heroes: young people, adults, families, thousands who are saying “enough”, those who are resisting. They are convinced that they will do whatever it takes to achieve that long awaited and forbidden liberty. A libertarian epic being lived in the heart of Caracas.
At that same hour, in the west and the majority of the city, there is total calm. Just that the Miraflores Presidential Palace is more heavily guarded than usual and the metro is closed. If you don’t look at social media, or at news agencies, nothing is happening. It is a Saturday like any other.
Eastern Caracas: the road is blocked by the police in Plaza Venezuela. The epicenter of the violence is Liberator Avenue: they throw stones, mount barricades, attack fire engines, they have the latest state of the art mobile phones. They hold their open hands up for the photos, they choreograph poses, they retweet, they make the epic and the truth. How many of them are there? In total, and at their strongest moment, around 6000. There are 200 in some focos, in others they are just small cells. It doesn’t matter: closed camera shots can make up for the lack of masses – this is lesson number one when you look at the images – and a photo in a narrow or curved street can give the impression of a huge number [of protestors]. Who are they? The upper middle and upper classes, the bourgeoisie, and their children. They hate Chavez and Maduro, they despise the poor and Chavistas. It is the right-wing’s social base. Escualidos, which is different than saying opposition supporters.
By night Libertator Avenue and its surroundings are littered with debris, poles, sewerage grids, and sluiceways. The remains of a fire at the Supreme Court, lit by the right-wing. The same right-wing that says that it was the government that did it in order to blame them. The rest of Caracas – basically the whole city – is as normal.
The truth is made just as it is disputed. The rightwing says that it is repressed in the streets. The reality – seen from the ground and not from social media – is that organized groups intent on clashing [with security forces], many of them paid, have already entered into confrontations with authorities to reach the point that their protest is blocked. Some were detained with explosives. Their march to the west of the city was blocked for two main reasons: to avoid them coming into contact with Chavista rallies, and to stop them setting fire to and destroying institutions, as they have done on several occasions. The right-wing looks for an incident for the media, it sets it up and it circulates it through its accounts, and the network of media alliances that it has on a national and international level.
They need four things: to depict themselves as victims of a dictatorship which is punishing and pursuing them, to make people believe that they are the “people” and not a classist minority, to consolidate these ideas internationally to construct a matrix of opinion, and circulate the image of a capital city in total disarray outside of Caracas.
The question is: will they achieve these objectives? They will do if they manage to consolidate an image throughout the continent, in the US and Europe [where they secure their correlation of forces], of extreme confusion, where only ideas relating to dictatorship, violations of human rights and press freedoms, and hunger make it through. For them this is vital, they depend on this front abroad, they need it and respond to these demands. Every image must legitimize the statements of the secretary general of the Organization of American States, presidents Mauricio Macri and Michel Temer, and the European governments that are already asking for intervention, alleging that the time for dialogue is over, above all the United States.
Friday April 7th in the evening, the US Southern Command made the following declarations: “Venezuela is facing a state of insecurity due to a lack of food and medicines. Political uncertainty continues and there is a deterioration of the economic situation. The growing crisis situation in Venezuela could compel an urgent regional response”. Hours before, it had unilaterally launched missiles on Syria. Imperialism exists and its danger levels are on red.
It is not the first time that the right-wing has set up a situation like this. The most recent episode was at the beginning of 2014, which left 43 people dead, its social base exhausted, public buildings and buses burnt, Chavistas attacked, the use of snipers and the siege of television channels. It is part of their repertoire of actions, to put it in sociological terms. On that occasion, the violence ended up destroying itself. Even [President] Nicolas Maduro said that he had made a mistake by underestimating the right-wing’s potential for damage. Do they have more [potential] this time? How do they intend to give the final blow?
Their capacity for mobilization is less than it was then. The right-wing grassroots does not believe in a large part of their own leadership — due to an excess of scams and internal disputes. Their support level could grow as the street confrontations manage to attract more radicalized and exclusively rich sectors. It is improbable that sectors of the working class listen to the right-wing calls for violence. Up until now, the images are clear: they are not present. The upcoming weeks will decide whether they manage to reverse that central problem. The other great absence is that of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces. Plans for coups have been discovered, operations dismantled and no traction [within the armed forces] has publicly come to light. Without military personnel and without the barrios, a correlation of forces will not break out in the streets of Venezuela.
That is why the central danger is coming from the external front, that's to say, the United States and the tools they respond to. For them, the photos, the statements, the retweets, the media show. Because it is a show. It is dangerous: a young boy already died. A policeman was arrested: did he shoot because of the orders of a superior? Was it a right-wing plan to generate deaths? How much does it cost when a policeman opens fire? Or was it down to an error? A tumultuous river, that is what they need. And to take advantage of the government’s decisions to strengthen their strategy. Such as that of the decision to bar Capriles Radonsky from office for 15 years: adding more fuel to the fire. A political misstep in the current circumstances.
The rightwing has already set out its fighting agenda. Its central day will be April 19th, a date which is the four year anniversary of the swearing in of Maduro as president. Until then we will see its capacity for regroupment, ability to set the international stage — the government has Russia as a central ally, and the Vatican as a force which is pushing for dialogue — and build a scenario which allows for mass violence to spill over, or a foreign intervention. This is what is happening in Venezuela. The outcome is yet to be revealed.
Translated by Rachael Boothroyd Rojas for Venezuelanalysis.