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3. Media ideologies, capitalist complicities, and the myth of a coup in Venezuela
Most news of the protests in Venezuela has been circulated on the internet and via social media. The main television channels – both state-run and privately owned – have upheld an agreement with the government and refused to broadcast live reports or images that the National Commission for Telecommunications (CONATEL) might condemn for the incitement of violence. Difficulties in obtaining imported printing paper has meant that most independent newspapers have significantly reduced their print run, while some regional newspapers have ceased circulation.
The owners of several private media outlets have aligned themselves with the government, causing members of the press (such as those working for Cadena Capriles) to organise assemblies in opposition to imposed editorial lines and restrictions on the right to information. After the widespread protests of February 12, the government went as far as removing an international Colombian news channel (NTN24) from cable and satellite services as it continued to broadcast live reports from the protests in Venezuela.
The government continues to appeal for support by claiming that a coup is being organised, like the uprising against Chávez led by the private sector in April 2002. However, this comparison has basis. There are no insurrections against the government or desertions in the armed forces. Indeed, the medium and upper command of the military is strongly allied with the government and the bourgeois sector that manages the state, popularly known as the ‘boliburguesía’ – the Bolivarian bourgeois, is made up in large part by military men themselves. Most of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) leadership does not follow ‘the exit’ campaign promoted by the Popular Will (VP) faction, and has publicly questioned their strategies. The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras) – a key organisation in the 2002 coup and a representative of capitalist interests – is not calling for a strike, and the union bureaucracy has not adhered to MUD. In the midst of this crisis, Venezuela’s billionaire capitalist, Gustavo Cisneros, announced his support for the government, while the oil transnational, Repsol, signed a financing agreement with the state oil company, PDVSA, for US$1.200 billion. The leadership of the Catholic Church has not played a confrontational role; rather, it has supported the government’s policy of ‘pacification’.
Meanwhile, Maduro has attempted to establish friendlier relations with the U.S. government: less than a year ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elías Jaua, met with U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, to announce intentions to re-establish diplomatic ties between both countries. Last week, Maduro called on Obama to appoint a new ambassador to Caracas. Further, Leopoldo López has handed himself over to the authorities who had ordered his arrest for inciting violence on February 12. This does not sit well with claims that his party is about to launch an assault on the government.
Other than the fact that both Capriles’ and López’s factions of MUD were involved in the 2002 coup, and that the bourgeois opposition includes coup attempts as part of its repertoire, there are no objective indications that an insurrection is underway. One the other hand, it is true that the government has curtailed democratic freedoms guaranteed by the constitution under the alibi of its anti-coup propaganda. The most pressing task facing the left and other social organisations is to oppose these attacks, bearing in mind that MUD does not represent a political alternative able to overcome the problems that plague the majority of the population.
* Simón Rodríguez Porras is a militant in the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSL).
This article was originally published in Spanish on February 23, 2014 at http://laclase.info. The English version was edited by Rebecca Jarman.