Venezuela Facts

1 chavez

Here are some of the facts and outlook that many Western media outlets purposefully obscure or ignore.

The border's issue: Venezuela’s border problems with Colombia

Facts recalling Venezuela’s border problems with Colombia:

? Venezuela has a long tradition of welcoming Colombian migrants; be they economic migrants, political refugees, or any other kind. There are approximately 5.6 million Colombian immigrants in Venezuela, of a total population of 30 million. The truth is that Venezuela has cooperated in a consistent and inexhaustible fashion with Colombia and its people, something which is evidenced in the hundreds of treaties of cooperation and in the fraternal welcome of the millions of Colombian citizens that immigrated to the country in the context of the conflict that the country has suffered for over 50 years.
? Venezuela has achieved international recognition for its efforts in welcoming Colombian refugees. Venezuela has welcomed millions of Colombians with the greatest solidarity and protection, as is well documented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations and the World Bank, among others.
? The country has suffered the consequences not only of the internal conflict underway in Colombia, but also the Colombian state’s lack of control over violent paramilitary groups and criminal activity in and around the joint border. Of these issues, one of the most prescient is the smuggling of contraband items out of Venezuela, taking advantage of the price controls in place on essential items in Venezuela- making such cross-border operations extremely lucrative, at the expense of the Venezuelan people who have to deal with the shortages caused as a result of these operations. The items that are subject to being smuggled as contraband include, but are not limited to, immeasurable quantities of foodstuffs, medicines, machinery and equipment and, of course, petrol among all sorts of provision and attacks on the Venezuelan national currency, the Bolivar.
? The government of Venezuela calls for its counterpart to assume its own socio-economic responsibilities with its citizens, and tackle the crimes committed within its own territory, so that they do not have to be resolved outside its borders. Venezuela asks Colombia for absolute engagement with its responsibility in putting an end to the criminal acts perpetrated by persons, paramilitary groups or organised crime who operate outside the law, as a result of the indifference of the Colombian State to confront these groups, who commit crimes against human rights, and create the obligation to entirely fix the harm caused by the losses and injuries, in part derived from the lack of attention to its duties as a State. 


Timeline of recent events in the border between Venezuela and Colombia:

19th of August 2015: President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela announced the temporary closure of the border between Colombia and Venezuela in Tachira state (south west of Venezuela) for a period of 72 hours, launching a so-called ‘People’s Liberation Operation (OLP)’ in the area in order to detain the perpetrators of an ambush against members of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces that same day, resulting in the injury of two military personnel.
21st of August 2015: The Venezuelan leader extended the border closure and decreed a state of emergency in 6 border municipalities in the state of Táchira (Bolivar, Pedro Maria Urena, Junin, Capacho Nuevo, Capacho Viejo and Rafael Urdaneta).
26th of August: A meeting of the foreign ministers of Venezuela and Colombia (Delcy Rodriguez and Maria Angela Holguin, respectively) was held in which an agreement wasn’t reached in respect to the closure or the possible re-opening of the border. A meeting was pencilled in of the two countries’ ombudsmen to establish ‘the protocol for deportations from Colombia to Venezuela’.
27th of August: The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, called its Ambassador in Venezuela Ricardo Lozana in for consultations. This measure was reciprocated by the Venezuelan government which called its Ambassador in Colombia, Ivan Dario Rincon, in for consultations that very day.
28th of August: President Maduro extended the border closure to another 4 municipalities in Tachira (Lobatera, Garcia de Hevia, Ayacucho, Panamericano) and 3 days later decreed a state of emergency in those same municipalities. The Venezuelan president embarked on a tour that saw him visiting Vietnam, China and Qatar.
31st of August: The Organisation of American States (OAS) held a meeting but did not reach a consensus on organising a conference of the foreign ministers of the countries which make up the organisation (34) to tackle the border issues.
7th of September: The Venezuelan president decrees a state of emergency in 3 municipalities in the state of Zulia, north west Venezuela (Guajira, Mara and Almirante Padilla), at the same time ordering the closure of the border crossing in Paraguachon, in Zulia.
8th of September: The governor of Tachira, Jose Vielma Mora, reported that the Operation for the Liberation of the People (OLP) that had been underway in the region, with 7 paramilitaries belonging to the Los Urabeños being killed, while 8 others had been detained.

Figures on the reception of Colombian refugees and immigrants in Venezuela:

•    85% of Colombians who have fled their country as a result of internal conflict or a poor economic situation reside in Venezuela; with the remaining 15% in other countries.
•    The Venezuelan government has built and assigned in the last years some 800,000 houses to those in need; 25% of those have been assigned to Colombians.
•    Venezuela is the country with the greatest amount of refugees in Latin America and the Caribbean; as well as receiving the second greatest amount of refugees in the Western hemisphere and being among the top 24-25 in the world. (According to data published by different reports of the World Bank between 2010 and 2014, and by a 2014 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR])
•    In 2014, Venezuela could count with more than 204,000 protected people in its territory, 95% of them from Colombia, according to the World Bank.
•    The US welcomes the most refugees in the Western Hemisphere, with 263,000; however its total population is 300 million, 10 times greater than that of Venezuela’s population. Expressed as a percentage (ratio?) of people, Venezuela hosts more than 10 times more refugees than the US.
•    The UNHCR counts with support centres for refugees and/or displaced people in the Venezuelan states of Apure, Táchira and Zulia, where special support is given to Colombian refugees.
•    In 2011, a law was passed known as the Organic Law for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, which protects the right to seek refuge, while article 12 of the same law established the Venezuelan National Commission for Refugees.
•    In May 2015, the UNHCR recognised our country as a state that complies with international treaties on Human Rights.
•    In 2003, Venezuela signed a ‘Memorandum of understanding between Venezuela and Colombia on the treatment of displaced persons in Colombian territory who reach the Venezuelan border’, with the goal of attending to the victims of the Colombian War.
•    The Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, said on the 4th of September that following the closure of the Colombian-Venezuelan border, the Bolivarian Government has established a “humanitarian corridor” for 350 schoolchildren registered, both Venezuelan and Colombian, so they can cross the border into Colombia and continue their education in schools of that country.
•    He also noted that the Bolivarian Government is guaranteeing the right to work for Colombians living in Colombia and working in companies located in the Venezuelan border municipalities. Therefore, Venezuelan authorities have asked employers for the details of all their employees on their payroll.

Venezuela - making another world possible

Hugo Chávez today leads one of the most progressive governments in the world. Collaborating with organisations of working people, the poor and dispossessed, the Venezuelan government has implemented major social reforms, transforming the lives of millions. This stands in stark contrast to the attacks on services, living standards and jobs being endured by people in Scotland.

Venezuela — democracy and social progress

For decades most Venezuelans lived in poverty, in barrios (shanty towns) with unreliable electricity, unsafe water and desperately inadequate public services. Now ordinary people’s lives are being transformed.

Inspiring social changes include:
• More than 2.7 million Venezuelans have been lifted out of poverty since 1998, with extreme poverty halved.
• Over 17 million people now have access to free healthcare for the first time, saving up to 300,000 lives.
• Over 1.6 million adults have benefited from literacy campaigns with illiteracy now abolished according to UNESCO standards.
• Access to clean drinking water has increased from 80% in 1998 to over 92% today, benefitting more than 6 million people.
• 98% of Venezuelans now eat three times per day thanks to government provision of subsidised food and free school meals.
• New rights for working people — Venezuela’s minimum
wage is now the highest in Latin America, with recently announced increases.
• The creation of a Women’s Development Bank and new Ministry for Women, giving opportunities to millions.
• Historic racism is being tackled with new rights for indigenous people and other black and minority ethnic communities.
• The expansion of the El Sistema programme, which provides free musical education to thousands of children from poor backgrounds and is the model for the acclaimed Big Noise Programme in Raploch, Stirling.

Due to these policies, Venezuela has met the UN Millennium Development Goals six years ahead of schedule, whilst many countries are decades behind.
These changes have received enormous democratic approval. Chávez and his supporters have won fourteen national elections and referenda since 1998. In the last presidential election in December 2006, Chávez received an incredible 63% of the vote.
Democratic involvement in Venezuela has increased, with millions of previously excluded people being enfranchised.
Grassroots democracy has also been expanded with the formation and funding of thousands of “Community Councils” across the country.

Freeing Latin America and the Caribbean from exploitation

Venezuela is seen as a beacon of hope and social progress across the region, encouraging regional co-operation as an alternative to decades of US domination and neo-liberalism.

Venezuela’s inspiring work internationally includes:
• ‘Operation Miracle’, which has so far provided free eye operations to 2 million poor people in Latin America, the Caribbean and now Africa.
• Supplying oil at preferential prices to 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries to help their economies, and subsidised heating oil to poor communities in the US.
• The mutually beneficial ALBA (‘Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas’) agreement with other nations, putting social development and poverty reduction ahead of private profit; an alternative to the US promoted Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Threats to Venezuela

The old ruling oligarchy and their allies in the US do not intend to allow Chávez to continue to redistribute power and wealth.
Numerous attempts to destabilise and overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government have taken place.
The US supported a failed military coup in 2002 and subsequently organised attempts to sabotage the oil industry — the mainstay of the economy. Today, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition continues to hold democracy and the rule of law in contempt.

Alongside this, opponents of Venezuela’s government have orchestrated a sustained international media campaign of distortion and misrepresentation against the Chavez-led government. Within Venezuela, there is great concern that such international demonisation could be used as a pretext for further intervention and ‘regime change.’ In recent years the United States has been building up it’s military presence in South America.

Now is the time to show solidarity with the Venezuelan people —

THE IMPORTANCE OF HUGO CHAVEZ by Matthew Crighton for The Citizen

It has taken his death to show us how many friends Hugo Chavez had. The regular drip, drip of hostile lies about Venezuela in the media gave way to a torrent of praise for the remarkable changes he brought to his country; and in doing that, to the world. Governments and leaders across the world, in particular Africa as well as of course Latin America, lined up to praise him.

The achievements are hard to ignore in any but the most biased assessments. He and his governments halved poverty; introduced universal healthcare systems, eliminated illiteracy. He had a practical commitment to improving the lives of Venezuela’s people and in particular the millions who had been left to a life of poverty by previous regimes. The sheer scope of the imaginative programmes he led forward is extraordinary - for health, education, food sovereignty, land reform, electoral democracy, environmental protection, employment laws, racial and gender equality, the rights of indigenous people and industrial democracy, for example.

 Venezuela has done more than any other country in the last decade to reduce inequality and bring welfare services to its people. In doing that it has shown that, whatever is said in Washington and London, there is an alternative to the cuts, austerity and privatisations we are suffering.

 It is surprising to me how often people say 'I like all that but I don't like his methods' and go on to assert that he controlled the media and was some kind of totalitarian or demagogue – an echo of the efforts of US spokespeople to taint him by referring to him alongside Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi and 'other tyrants'. We can expec that from the USA. Yet even left of centre papers like the Guardian and the Independent found people to slur him - like Martin Kettle saying that he was a ‘human rights abuser’ and Rory Carroll suggesting he had ‘ruined Venezuela’.

 So, it is still necessary to nail a few of the more persistent lies. For the record, the Venezuelan media is biased against Chavez – 80% of national TV is owned by his opponents; the only TV station shut down was the one which played an active part in the coup against him.

 As regards being a tyrant – Chavez has won all his many election successes in an electoral system praised as one of the best in the world – in the last one registering an 80% turnout. As John Snow said: “when I started working in Latin America, the US was still killing leaders it didn't like: Chavez is part of the order that put an end to that”.

 The end to political violence as a means of government in countries ruled by Chavez and his allies (like Morales and Correa) is inspirational. Despite coups, attempted coups and assassinations, not once have they turned to the armed forces in response to political opposition. By contrast in countries still ruled by the right, like Colombia and Honduras, the state-sponsored political violence which characterised the 'lost decades' in which hundreds of thousands died across the continent continues.

 People across Latin America are also the beneficiaries of his legacy. Chavez forged new relations with other Latin American countries based on solidarity and mutual benefits (and respect) through ALBA, and the creation of Latin American institutions like Mercosur, the ‘bank of the south’ – challenging successfully the hegemony of the USA.

 One of the most remarkable examples of internationalism is the Venezuelan/Cuban Operation Miracle which has restored sight to 2 million people for free. And of course Venezuela's friendship brought much-needed respite for Cuba’s revolution.

 Not surprisingly, considering the transformations of so many spheres of Venezuelan society, there are numerous achievements of Chavez' governments from which we can learn. The best-known Venezuelan export in Scotland is El Sistema, the inspirational method of addressing poverty and exclusion through music, specifically community-based teaching of orchestral music children from an early age – though started under earlier governments its massive expansion has been funded under Chavez.

 In this case the practice has been transferred directly to The Big Noise in Raploch, Stirling. Generally however it is not specific projects which we need to bring to our country, it is the spirit and political philosophy of Chavez and his governments. One strand of this can summarised as 'Just Do It'. He was deeply pragmatic – for example, in order to go around corrupt national and local bureaucracies, captured by the old elite, he used the state oil company to deliver his famous missions in the poor barrios (or slums)! Another strand is the vital importance attached to empowering and working with the people in their communities, unions and other organisations.

 The most outstanding feature of Chavez’ politics, however, was his willingness to challenge the undemocratic powers of the rich and the powerful in his determination to build social justice in all its many forms.

 Surely this is the message we should hear in Scotland – what matters most is the political will to build an equitable society which empowers its communities and looks after the most disadvantaged. If that's what a government wants to do it can find the ways to do it. How long must we wait for our own Hugo Chavez?

Matthew Crighton

March 2013

Democratic Venezuela

A quick look at the social measures and policies that have been carried out in Venezuela under the progressive government of Hugo Chávez.

He is undoubtedly one of the best-known political leaders on the international stage. His media appearances have always got people talking, but most of all it is his constant fight for a more democratic Venezuela that has taken him to the top.

The VSC (Venezuela Solidarity Campaign) is emphasising Chávez’s work surrounding social issues in particular because, in spite of the economic recession, he has remained committed to the social inclusion of the most underprivileged members of society, whilst guaranteeing public services for all.

According to the organisation, in little over a decade, free medical care has been extended to 20 million people, saving tens of thousands of lives. By providing free education for all, millions have also learned to read and write for the first time, and a record number of students are now attending university.

In view of these statistics, the VSC believes Venezuela best demonstrates that it is always possible to defend the rights of the majority without punishing the poorest citizens.

Be very careful about supporting the Venezuelan Protesters.

by Alan McLeod, PhD Student at Glasgow University

In recent days, angry anti-government protests have erupted in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. If we are to believe some influential Venezuelan bloggers, the government is sending teams of motorbike-riding death-squads roaming around rich neighbourhoods looking for people to kill. Social media is awash with pictures of children, apparently having been beaten to within an inch of their life by government thugs. All this, the New York Times eagerly reports, is making Secretary of State John Kerry “increasingly concerned.” Surely this must be the beginning of a democratic uprising against an authoritarian dictator?

All this does not sit easily with the reaction elsewhere, however. President Morales of Bolivia alleged that, far from being a spontaneous democratic uprising, this was a US-financed coup d'etat which was trying to destroy Hugo Chavez's humanist legacy. Morales went on to say that “on behalf of the Bolivian people, we send our energy and support to the courageous Venezuelan people and president Nicolás Maduro.” President Fernandez de Kirchner sent her solidarity to the President and people of Venezuela in the face of violent attacks on its sovereignty. Similar statements have been made by the Presidents of Ecuador and Nicaragua and even from political parties in Europe. Indeed, Unasur, the Union of South American Nations, has stood firmly behind President Maduro, while even the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs praised the government for its moderation in dealing with violent protesters and castigated the White House for its “misguided policy toward South America.”

But what has the White House got to do with all this? And why are so many respected international bodies talking about imperialism? You would be forgiven for not knowing, as no New York Times article has revealed the fact that Washington has been funding and training the heads of these protests for at least 12 years. Indeed, the US government has spent hundred of millions of dollars trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Those leading the protests, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, are two of the wealthiest people in South America; Machado is a personal friend of George W. Bush. She was also involved in the last three opposition attempts to overthrow the government: in 2002, 2002-2003 and 2004. In 2002, with the financial, technical and political help of the US government, she and her co-conspirators kidnapped President Hugo Chavez and installed Pedro Carmona as President. He immediately suspended the constitution, sacked all politicians, sacked all judges in the country, suspended human rights, gave himself power to rule by decree, and even changed the name of the country. They were only stopped by a massive revolt, some 25-50 times the size of the current protests, of ordinary, poor Venezuelan citizens.

  Prominent among the current protesters are students from Caracas' elite, fee-paying universities, who wish for change in the country. And yet Venezuela has changed enormously since Hugo Chavez's election in 1998. Poverty was reduced by 50%, extreme poverty by 72%. The bottom 40% of Venezuela's population have seen their slice of the economic pie expand by nearly half and those in the economic percentile 40-70 have also seen their incomes rise. How did the government manage this? By destroying the middle class? In fact, those in percentiles between 70-90 have seen their comparative income stay virtually the same. It is only the top 10% of Venezuelan society, and in particular, the top 1% who have seen their incomes fall. It is from these groups that these young Venezuelans disproportionately come from. In 1998, Venezuela was the most unequal country in the most unequal region in the world, with some of the highest proportions of private jet ownership and child malnutrition in the world. Thanks to massive social programs, a national health service was created and UNESCO hailed Venezuela's achievements in reducing illiteracy. Very little of this has ever been reported by the media.

 But the government was far from winning universal support. Chief among their adversaries were the Venezuelan middle and upper classes, who use their power in business, finance and the media to put pressure on the government. Venezuela still faces a host of pressing social and economic programs, some of which have been highlighted by protesters as key issues. But to characterize these protests as democratic movements against an illegitimate government is altogether misleading. Let us not forget that Maduro's party has won 18 elections since 1998, elections which have drawn near-universal praise for their fairness, with Jimmy Carter stating that Venezuelan elections are “the best in the world.”This latest attempt at revolution can only be seen as an attempt by the upper-classes to regain their power lost under the Chavez government.

It turns out those death squads and the pictures of tortured children were manipulated, as were our emotions. But triflings such as this matter little to the media, who will continue to bang the drum for regime change. Tread carefully though the minefield of Venezuelan politics.

Recent reports on Venezuela: DN, RN, LAB, ROAR, COHA

Venezuela: Ordinary people are the engine of transformation

ADRIAN WEIR on a timely pamphlet on workers’ rights and the new labour law in Venezuela

With the forces of counter-revolution apparently rampant in Caracas (although importantly not supported in barrios) and drooled over by the western press led by neoliberal free-sheet (who would pay for it) City AM, the Institute of Employment Rights has recently published the 10th booklet in its series of Comparative Notes, examining the system of labour and employment rights in countries around the world, this time in Bolivarian Venezuela.

Reading the booklet simultaneously with Victor Figueroa Clark’s biography of Salvador Allende, I was struck by the similarities between the Popular Unity era in Chile of the early 1970s and today’s Venezuela.

With regard to the right-wing gangs now on the streets in Caracas, Clark notes that “Castro privately encouraged the Popular Unity to take steps to prepare for the violence that the reactionary elite and its allies in the United States were clearly preparing.”

In the comparative context, Clark describes the industrial relations philosophy of Popular Unity. “Participation was to be demanded at every level. Workers were to participate in management of enterprises, and trade unions and other social organisations were to be incorporated into administering enterprises, and in the planning process.”

Similarly, in this booklet on Venezuela, the authors make the point. “Running through the [new labour] law, as in much of Venezuelan political life, is the nurturing of a participative democracy… ordinary people are not expected to be passive but politically active and the engine of transformation in the country.”

The passing into law of the new labour code in Venezuela was one of the last acts of late President Hugo Chávez. But this was no top-down drafting – the labour code process was a “product of more than 19,000 proposals resulting from over 1,800 popular assemblies of working people held around the country in liaison with trade unions.”

The LOTT, as it’s known by its Spanish acronym, deals with most aspects of working life and more, including contracts of employment, wages, collective bargaining and the right to strike, working conditions (including dignified employment and health and safety), outsourcing, privatisation and bogus self-employment, trade union rights, equalities and life outside work, lifelong learning and enforcement.

That such an all-embracing statute could be passed into law with the support of the unions is all the more remarkable given the unions have been in a state of flux since the advent of Chávismo. The old unions, organised in the CTV confederation, supported the coup against Chávez in 2002.

The CTV has now shrunk to a rump although union density has grown under Chávez, not least because more and more workers have been brought in from the informal labour market.

As they enter the formal sector workers now join the new unions organised in the CBST confederation. It was CBST general secretary Carlos Lopez who participated in the special commission convened to synthesise the workers’ proposals into the new legislation.

It remains a shame that the CTV is still able to claim some official recognition within the international labour movement.

This booklet is extremely timely. Given the western press’s support for the counterrevolutionary elements it’s refreshing to be able to read about just one aspect of the positive advances of working people in the Chávez era. Don’t just read it yourself, buy it and pass it on.

    Adrian Weir is assistant secretary for the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom
    Comparative Note 10. Bolivarian Venezuela: sustained progress for workers’ rights by Francisco Dominguez and Sian Errington. Published by IER, 4th Floor, Jack Jones House, Liverpool L3 8EG. Priced £6.50 available to Morning Star readers at discounted price of £5. Tel: 0151 207 5265

VSC Statement Condemning Extreme Right-wing Violence in Venezuela that Seeks the “Exit” of the Government


As part of a campaign launched by Venezuela’s extreme right-wing opposition leaders, which they have called La Salida (The Ousting), groups of violent Venezuelan opposition thugs launched a wave of violent street disturbances in various parts of Venezuela on Wednesday 12 February. Tragically this has resulted in the death of at least two people with the authorities reporting that 23 people were also injured.

President Maduro has called the wave of opposition violence an attempt at a coup, after leading opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez (a campaign manager for Henrique Capriles in the recent Presidential election) and María Corina Machado (a close George W Bush ally and signatory of the 2002 coup deceleration in Venezuela) among others, called on people to take to the streets to force “the exit” of the government. (See a video of Maduro here in English)

After the killing of two people yesterday (one a pro-government community leader and friend of President Maduro and one an opposition supporter), President Maduro drew analogies with the sniper fire against crowds of both government and opposition supporters in 2002 which was used as a pretext to justify the coup against Chavez (See video here in English).

The right-wing opposition violence also targeted public buildings including the national office of the Public Prosecutor. In the wealthy district of Chacao the violence targeted the Court of Law building. Jesse Chacon, Minister for Electricity, denounced that Molotov cocktails were thrown at the electric substation plant in Tachira state. A few days before, thugs had surrounded the pro-government State Governor’s official residence in Tachira and attacked it with Molotov cocktails , bottles and stones.

La Salida (The Ousting) is the political strategy identified with extreme right elements of the Venezuelan opposition’s leaders. Its declared aim is to oust the democratically elected government of President Maduro well before he finishes his constitutional mandate in 2019. The violence unleashed on February 12 shows the means by which elements of the extreme right will try to achieve the illegal and unconstitutional objectives of La Salida.

During one of the marches on 12 February senior opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said the wave of opposition violence will only ‘be over when we manage to remove those who govern us’ (You can see this in a video here ). Furthermore, he told Reuters that the protests seek “the resignation” of the President.

The violence is reminiscent of the tragic events leading to the wanton destruction and violence, including the death of 13 people, in the aftermath of Henrique Capriles’ call to opposition supporters on 14 April 2013 to ‘vent their fury’ by claiming falsely that the April 2013 presidential election, which he lost to Nicolas Maduro, had been fraudulent. (See video here)

There is no justification for violent opposition to the elected government in Venezuela, which has a free and fair democratic system that offers plenty of opportunities to express any opposition to the elected Maduro government. The opposition regularly participates in these elections – but nearly every time they do so they fail to secure a majority. Hence the most extreme right-wing sections are now seeking to use violence to make up for their electoral failings.

La Salida is being unleashed just as President Maduro has begun a highly productive dialogue with recently elected opposition mayors focused on bringing about stability in Venezuela, seeking to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiations, including in terms of collaboration to combat crime and economic speculation. Clearly extreme right wing elements within the opposition, and their external funders, see Maduro’s calls for collaboration in peace and harmony as a threat to their illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional objectives.

We therefore:

  • Condemn the violence unleashed by extreme right wing elements during opposition rallies and marches that led to the death of innocent people as a result of that violence, and condemn any undemocratic, illegal and unconstitutional actions against the democratically elected and constitutional government of President Maduro.
  • Call for the immediate cessation of extreme right wing violence against the established and constitutional authorities of Venezuela, and urge everybody to heed President Maduro’s call for peace and dialogue in Venezuela.
  • Express our unconditional support for President Maduro, his elected government and the constitutional principles enshrined in the democratically-endorsed constitution.
  • Urge statements of solidarity for the the elected government of Venezuela and condemning the extreme right wing violence (you can send your statements of support to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

No to violence! No to coup-mongering in Venezuela! Yes to dialogue, peace and respecting the democratic will of the majority!

What is really going on in Venezuela? Frequently asked questions

What is really going on in Venezuela? Frequently asked questions

By the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

If you prefer, you can download and view a PDF of this document here

In recent weeks, a wave of violence has left 13 dead and 150 injured in Venezuela. Many misleading reports and images have been recycled in the international media, without verification, giving the impression of state-organised violence against peaceful protesters. Here we answer some frequently asked questions with facts, revealing a very different picture.

  • What started the current wave of violence?

On 22 January, a number of opposition leaders demanded “the ousting” (La Salida) of the elected Government of President Nicolas Maduro. Leopoldo Lopez, a right-wing politician, leads this faction of the Venezuelan opposition coalition and has said the aim is regime change:

”there should be a complete ... change in those who are in power... It’s clear now that the problem isn’t just Maduro, it’s all the heads of the public powers who have kidnapped the state“.

He added that this was only possible by “getting the people into the streets”. [i]

In Venezuela there is a democratic route to ousting the president during the term of office - through a recall referendum, not street violence. Nonetheless, this has been rejected and the first violent incidents occurred soon after these remarks.

In early February, in Tachira (a state bordering Colombia) the state Governor’s house was attacked with Molotov cocktails, stones and bottles by opposition supporters when a group of up to seventy attacked his official residence. 12 people were injured and they allegedly destroyed a police sentry post, broke down the main gates and threatened his wife, who was protected by police. A bus of Cuban baseball players was also attacked by opposition activists. Targeting Cubans is symbolic as Cuba provides Venezuela with doctors in exchange for oil - one of the social policies closely identified with the Government.

  • So this is political and not really about students?

Yes. The next wave of major incidents occurred on 12 February when thousands marched to celebrate National Youth Day. However the majority of students out that day were on different demonstrations to express support for the Government, or just to celebrate youth day, an important national day in Venezuela; they were not marching against the Government. [ii]

A small minority, as is their right, used the day to organise marches opposing the Government. No serious commentator has claimed that these were sizable demonstrations and they passed off peacefully. But later in the day a tiny minority sought to exploit the situation and unleash a wave of violence which resulted in the first three people killed, including supporters and opponents of the Government, after what was described as “the vicious street attack near the national headquarters of the prosecutor’s office in Caracas” by US think tank the Council on Hemispheric Affairs[iii]

As the Center for Democracy in the Americas states, there is little doubt that the violence has mostly been provoked by some sectors of the opposition.[iv] The vast majority of Venezuelans agree, with opinion polls showing over 80% believe that opposition protests have been violent. [v]

  • Why would elements of the right-wing opposition use violence?

Because they’re not winning at the ballot box. The right-wing opposition’s electoral coalition, known as MUD, lost the regional and mayoral elections in December by a wide margin. President Nicolas Maduro’s coalition won 55% of the vote, with a 10% lead of 1.2m votes [vi]. The opposition coalition has lost four elections in the past 16 months including two since the death of Hugo Chavez, a development that they had believed would create their best opportunity to come to power.

Opposition leader (and candidate in the last two presidential elections) Henrique Capriles had held up December’s elections as a referendum on the Government - and the opposition lost this ‘referendum’. As a result, those politicians advocating a strategy of defeating the Government at the ballot box have been weakened. With the earliest date for a constitutional recall referendum to vote out the President being 2016, those advocating alternative paths to oust the Government, such as violence, are seeking to take the lead. While Henrique Capriles shook hands with President Maduro in January, signifying not only a more conciliatory stance but tacitly recognizing Maduro’s legitimacy as President, Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado have both taken a harder line. Notably, whilst Capriles has said he supports opposition protests, he has also directly condemned the violence whilst the leaders ofLa Salida haven’t. [vii]

  • Have right-wing extremists used violence and unconstitutional means before?

Very much so. Right-wing opposition groupings in Venezuela have engaged in unconstitutional measures with the aim of overturning the results of democratic elections ever since a new republic was created in Venezuela in 1999. This includes the military coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002, which left dozens dead; a lock-out of oil workers in 2003 that collapsed the economy in a bid to oust the Government; a wave of serious street violence in 2004; opposition refusal to recognise many of the elections it lost (but accepting results when it wins local governorships for example); and the wave of violence that left 13 Government supporters dead following the 2013 Presidential election. [viii]

  • Is the Government cracking down on and killing peaceful protesters?

No. Contrary to many media reports, there is no evidence of organised Government violence or arrests of peaceful protesters. Far from the impression given in much of the international media, the deaths have not all been of opposition protesters at the hands of state forces. The real picture is very different. Indeed the Government has repeatedly condemned all violence and called for peace and dialogue with all forces.