Venezuela has been rocked in recent weeks by almost daily protests and counter-protests, as right-wing opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro seek to bring down his government.
While the media portrays these events as a popular rebellion against an “authoritarian” government, supporters of the pro-poor Bolivarian revolution initiated by former president Hugo Chavez say the country is witnessing an escalation in what is an ongoing counter-revolutionary campaign seeking to restore Venezuela’s traditional elites in power and reverse the gains made by the poor majority under Chavez and Maduro.
Federico Fuentes interviewed Steve Ellner, a well-known analyst of Venezuelan and Latin American politics and a retired professor at Venezuela’s Universidad de Oriente, to get his views on recent events.
This interview was originally published at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.
When it comes to the current turmoil in Venezuela, the media have been unanimous in their version of events: the Maduro regime is on its last legs due to the overwhelming opposition it faces from the people, including among the poorest sectors that previously supported the government, and therefore its only recourse for survival is violent repression. How accurate is this media narrative?
It’s hardly a far-gone conclusion.
There is no better indication of the deceptiveness of the mainstream media’s narrative than the spatial nature of the anti-government protests in early 2014 known as the “guarimba” and again this year.
The protests are centred in the middle and upper class areas whose mayors belong to the opposition. The strategy behind the protests is for the mass civil disobedience, confrontation with security forces and widespread destruction of public property to spread to the poorer areas.
Certainly, the popular sectors have a long tradition of street protests, particularly over deficient public services. But the popular sectors have remained largely passive, although with more exceptions now than in 2014. Obviously the opposition is banking on greater active popular support than in 2014.
Along similar lines, the Chavista United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has been more damaged by electoral abstention among disenchanted Chavistas than those who end up voting for the opposition. Such electoral behaviour is what explains the Chavista defeat in the December 2014 elections for the National Assembly.
But the Chavista leaders still have an impressive degree of mobilisation capacity, as was demonstrated in two recent marches, one on Venezuelan Independence Day on April 19, and the other on May 1.