Venezuela Faces a Soft War

Framed in a historical and political context, Segarra describes a soft war, a psychological and multifaceted war, waged by foreign interests and local elites against Venezuelans following death of Hugo Chavez.


The night after the elections, unknown groups deploy across Venezuela. Hospitals are attacked. Leftwing party headquarters are set on fire. Graffiti appears threatening the death of Bolivarian activists. Journalists are shot at and injured. Armed groups take advantage of the darkness to attack neighbourhood groups which have come out to defend their houses, schools, and hospitals. Eight Chavistas [translator: now, 9] all of them from the lower classes, are killed by gunshot. This happens the day after the rightwing loses the elections. Only two countries doubt Nicolas Maduro’s victory: Spain, and the United States. [Translator: Spain later recognised the results].

The fact is, Venezuela poses the greatest petroleum reserves in the world. In the twentieth century four presidents tried to put natural resources and petroleum under national control. All four suffered coup d’états lead by an alliance between foreign powers and local elites. All four lost power, but the fourth, Hugo Chavez, managed to reverse the coup in 2002 thanks to the massive rebellion of the popular classes in alliance with nationalist sectors of the army. Spain and the United States lost control of the biggest source of petroleum. But they had another option; just a year later they invaded Iraq. Empower themselves with Iraqi petroleum would mean the destruction of the Arabic nation, a million deaths, and unimaginable suffering. Venezuela could live ten years of peace thanks to the strength of the Venezuelan people and the Iraqi resistance.

During the eleven years that have since passed, Venezuela has rebuilt its nation,  that five centuries of colonialism had reduced to extreme poverty, extreme insecurity (crime), and extreme chaos. The creation of public health and education, as well as the struggle against poverty have been the key battles. Today Venezuela doesn’t look at all like what it did ten years ago. The 80% poverty rate has reduced to 40% at the most [Translator: around 26%]. There’s health and public education. And the most important thing; the invisible majority today have recovered their pride, identity, and power over their lives. There are however, enormous problems that are being confronted with the creation of new participative democracy, where the citizenship can participate through communal councils, open assemblies, and in that way make decisions about their own communities. At the same time, the conventional democratic system of parties continues. It’s a system that combines traditional western politics and popular assembly experiences.

Over the last eleven years Venezuela has promoted the alliance of Latin American nations and created a new geopolitical reality. Before a unipolar world where the United States had predicted the end of history and its ultimate control, a multipolar world appears where power is shared by different regions of the world. Venezuela leads the building and consolidation of the Latin American bloc. Between the coup of 2002 and 2013 leftwing nationalist movements have been winning elections across the continent, creating a new reality and new alliances. The ALBA, UNASUR, CELAC and others which visualise the new independence appear. As a result of the coup in Paraguay in 2012, Venezuela orchestrates a daring diplomatic manoeuvre and enters Mercosur. Together with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, they become the fifth largest economy. Along the way, Haiti and Honduras have fallen in other coup d’états.

With the death of Chavez, the United States, Spain, and other Venezuelan elites see their chance. A lightening attack is necessary. New elections to elect a new president are called. The country is in emotional shock. The Bolivarian candidate is Nicolas Maduro Moros, from the popular bases, ex-driver, unionist, and leftwing activist. He accompanied Chavez for over twenty years. He was minister for foreign affairs and participated in the design of the new political architecture of Latin America. Facing him is Henrique Capriles Radonski, son of two of the richest families, owners of the main chain of newspapers and cinemas. Lawyer, trained in private national and international universities. In 2002 they already confronted each other when Capriles lead a coup d’état and Maduro had to go into hiding. But its 2013 and democracy seems to be consolidated in Venezuela.

Since 1998 anti-Chavista discourse has been that the “primates” and “hoards” had taken power, lead by the “red gorilla”.  The extremeness of the colonial, racist, and classist narrative made them lose election after election. National and popular pride was gradually consolidated in the face of the discourse based attacks of the Venezuelan elite. But in 2007 the anti-Chavista strategy changed radically. They realise that Venezuela has changed. The popular classes have become aware of themselves and can’t be returned to their cages. So there begins an extraordinary process that will culminate in 2013. The stateless elites take on a Bolivarian narrative. They recover the use of the national flag, the figure of Bolivar, and the constitution. They begin a process of penetration of the popular barrios, the favelas that they had insulted and feared so much. All the media analysts have been able to see how their publicity changed from just showing white people to systematically using people with dark skin behind the anti-Chavista leaders. Which, of course continue to be all white and upper class.

With the change in discourse there is a change in strategy. The elites start to read Sun Tzu and Lakoff [Translator: an ancient Chinese military strategist and George Lakoff, a US linguist who also wrote the book ‘Moral Politics’] The boxing ring strategy, of brutal and head on confrontation disappears. Their foreign advisors convince them that they have to be patient and intelligent. The attack now will be multifaceted, slow, and won’t seek to destroy the government militarily, but rather wear it down slowly.  The multitude strategy is begun: attacking all over the place, without a face, without protagonists, without shape or identification. The anti-Chavista leadership will systematically deny all connection with the rumours, the psychological war, or the violent attacks.

All Venezuelan elections are held under unidentified attacks that affect all aspects of daily life. Large companies hide their food in order to produce discomfort in the population. They even hoard intimate hygiene products, sacred things for women. They begin to sabotage the electrical system, which affects the tranquillity of the popular barrios. Financial engineers attack the economy, manipulating the price of the dollar. The majority of the media only report bad news. The private media has 90% of the Venezuelan audience. The government has to face the odyssey of reconstructing a nation and at the same time respond to attacks from all sides. Without any apparent connection, the attack on the economy and public services, the bad news put out by the mass media, and the secret war of the networks, consolidate the world view of the Venezuelan elite, who now present themselves as neo-Bolivarians, neo-nationalists, and quasi neo-socialists. The skill of the opposition is based on presenting themselves as the inheritors of the best of Chavez. The elites seemed to have learned their lesson: yes, its necessary to respect the poor classes and defend the country. But we are the elites that will do this historical task better than the actual poor classes. At the end of it all, Maduro was just a bus driver. Maduro isn’t Chavez. We are Chavez, they are on the verge of saying in a turnaround of Machiavellian cynicism.

But the attack, invisible to the eyes of the state and the government, doesn’t just come from the streets or the press. It’s an anonymous and mass one that hits and penetrates hearts and minds. It goes to mobile telephone screens through social networks. Creating a narrative and a complete conceptual and closed framework that is reinforced by the mainstream media and the declarations of opposition leaders. During the last weeks and including today there is a huge operation of psychological war against Venezuela. The objective: generate the most amount of hate and frustration possibly within the anti-Chavista opposition masses. The instrume: dozens of anonymous sources that generate thousands of false messages daily and arrive by Blackberry, Twitter, and Facebook. In real time the government and thousands of Bolivarian cyber-activists try to undo each lie and all the farce, but they work by reacting, by defending themselves. The initiative, the capacity for surprise, the guerrilla attack is in hands of the imperialist forces. From Bogota and Miami a massive attack on the psychology of millions of Venezuelans is led. Every minute there are new rumours, new false photos of violence, new calls for insurrection, that have managed to generate a climate of hysteria in millions of Venezuelans. These campaigns are exactly the same that they used in Europe in the thirties against the Jews, in the fifties against the communists, or against the Chile of Allende. It’s about creating panic, without any basis, and hate in the face of the possibility- never concretised – of the indicated enemy attacking us. The aim of psychological war is to close the receptors in on themselves. Make them immune to reality and the truth, creating a closed world that only exists virtually. But that creates a total authenticity. Even some of the fashionable artists support the rumours and the campaign. Maybe consciously, maybe unconsciously. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is to convert each citizen into a carrier and mobilise of the campaign of hate.

This is combined with the real attack, in the streets, by unknown shock groups, who have tried to plant panic among the Chavistas. And also the psychological war towards the Chavistas, towards those who put out rumours of a coup and persecution in order to create a climate of panic and giving up.

The objective of this battle of the minds that we are going through isn’t to win. It’s to plant the seed of hate and permanent mobilisation among the anti-Chavistas. And confusion and demoralisation among the Chavistas. With two scenarios: civil confrontation and chaos and electoral defeat of the Bolivarian forces. The strategy of tension.

This episode shows us that wars and battles are fought in the streets and the farms, but also fundamentally in minds and hearts.

Some, and we know who they are, have read Goebbels and Sun Tzu well and have launched they attacks against Venezuela.

The elites who have governed Venezuela for 500 years are desperate to return to power.

But the Venezuela of 2013 isn’t what it was in 2002, when it had just defeated a coup. Now Venezuela is infinitely stronger, as much at a internal level as at an external one. Latin America, Brazil, China, and Russia aren’t any old small thing. The Venezuelan people aren’t any small thing. The Venezuelan army isn’t any small thing. And Venezuela,  like the revolutionaries of history, is master in the art of war of Sun Tzu, of Bolivar, and of Chavez.

Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com