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Remembering the revolutionary tourist

Cross-posted from Venezuela News and Views

By Alex Beech

“There was a whiff of Ozymandias to it all, but foreign supporters applauded the fantasy. Oliver Stone, visiting Caracas to make a documentary, looked blank when I asked about the distortions and corruption haemorrhaging the economy. Shrewder observers – writers and academics – would visit and confide over rum that, yes, it all seemed a bit chaotic, then return home and publicly laud the revolution’s progress.” – Rory Carroll, The Guardian

Had foreigners who profited from the revolution not ignored signs that Venezuela was in free fall, had they lived and worked there, enduring horrific violence, food shortages, and the sheer exhaustion of listening to a government spew hatred, perhaps their consciences wouldn’t have allowed them to make films and write books that confused the world to this day.

A racist, colonial mentality is one that accepts and condones conditions for Latin Americans that would be untenable for their own children. The defenders of the revolution confused the foreign news media, students, academics, policymakers, intellectuals, think tanks, and those around the world who could have led a healthy discourse on the merits and shortcomings of the Chavez regime. Considering the growing chaos, they could have supported Venezuela’s battered and exhausted opposition. Instead, they applauded the abuse, calling Chavez’s opponents “oligarchs,” and other denigrating terms, borrowed from Chavez’s own vocabulary.

When by 2004 the opposition had collected enough signatures to trigger a presidential referendum, (multiple times and each one rejected by the government), these foreigners were merciless and unrelenting. They continued to blame foreign powers and the CIA for conflicts in the country. Further, as time passed, they didn’t blink when the balance of powers eroded, when the judicial system was purged of judges who didn’t cater to the government’s will, when generals who didn’t bow to Chavez suddenly disappeared, when opposition lawmakers were both verbally and physically attacked at the National Assembly, and the list goes in.

While the number of revolutionary tourists has diminished considerably, I’m amazed that even today, with a 56% inflation rate, more deaths per week than almost any country, and severe food shortages, there are still foreigners who blame shadow forces for what is due to the Venezuelan government’s own mismanagement and incompetence. Admitting that the government failed would mean that their books and films were wrong, maybe making them question their worldviews. More importantly, they would have to face the fact that they created the international atmosphere that resulted in bloodshed and a monumental brain drain that starved the country of its finest minds. Because of their complicity in the regime’s horrors, “Venezuela is a shambolic, crumbling, dysfunctional ruin,” according to Carroll. Perhaps an apology to the opposition is in order.

*****

By Stephen Laing

An open response to the Occupy member who called me a fascist for criticizing the Maduro government in Venezuela:

In my life I have been called many things, some deserved; others not. “Fascist” is a new one. Apparently, according to a certain Occupy member, my criticism of the Venezuelan government for shooting civilian protesters with live ammunition (remember how everyone was cool with it when the Ohio National Guard did the same thing to students at Kent State?) makes me a CIA stooge defending the Global Oligarchy. Normally this name-calling-as-argument logic would be pretty easy for me to dismiss, but the anti-authoritarian/philosophical anarchist in me is exceptionally pissed off about the “Fascist” handle. So, I want to take a minute to address why I’m supporting the Venezuelan protesters and talk about an enormous logical fallacy I am seeing pop up regularly in the arguments of many Americans defending the Maduro regime.

The number one problem that I want to address–and as some one identifying as libertarian-left, with emphasis on left, this is a big one—is what I am seeing as the Left’s tendency in this case to allow policy to excuse lack of legitimacy. While I am willing to accept that the policies of Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela have lessened income inequality and reduced the oligarchic influence the extremely wealthy in Venezuela enjoyed prior to 1999, those policies cannot excuse the fact that the government of Venezuela surrendered its legitimacy when it refused to allow a recount of an election with a result margin of less than 1%. It further destroyed its legitimacy as it destroyed the ballots of that election to ensure a recount would never happen. It completely annihilated any remaining trace of legitimacy by killing demonstrators, who under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are entitled to peaceably criticize their government. These are not the actions of a democratic government and the policies of any such government cannot excuse such atrocious actions.

Recall the arguments that the right-wing pundits of Fox News et al made following the death of Augusto Pinochet when they made excuses for the horrific abuses of his regime because he, according to these apologists, saved Chile from the scourge of Communism and helped Chile maintain a market economy that is now one of the strongest in South America. It doesn’t matter! The policies of such a government become irrelevant when the means to achieve them demand the destruction of the rights that government was created to protect in the first place. That argument was garbage when the Right made it in 2006 and it is no less absolute, festering, stinking garbage now that the Left is making it today.

The anti-authoritarian in me bristles when witnessing those with whom I have marched in advocacy of social justice making excuses for autocrats. As members of the Left we have a responsibility to speak out against the abuses perpetrated by the Left in the name of social justice. Policy cannot absolve a government that is in breach of the Social Contract. The government of Venezuela, regardless of its policies, has lost its legitimacy.