Last night, Nicolás activated this plan most recently referenced in January this year and was described as an exercise of “integral anti-imperialist action (…) meant to strengthen the national deployment of civilian-military union to defend the nation.” The description’s made worse by the threats made by several regime members since Monday, concerning the plan to align all of their paramilitary groups – colectivos – and PSUV’s fighting corps towards the same goal of “defense”.
Nicolás promised to issue a special statement “to defeat the coup d’État and foreign interference, revealing concrete right-wing schemes in the next few days.” He didn’t come through. He just ad-libbed a message loaded with profound contradictions, with the true holders of power (Cabello, El Aissami, Jaua, Cilia Flores, Jorge and Delcy Rodríguez) surrounding him.
Geopolitics of a self-coup
Evidently sleep-deprived, Nicolás spoke about Trump and the extremists that recently took power in the U.S., blaming the State Department for the coup d’État that, in his view, Julio Borges called by urging the Armed Forces to ponder their constitutional duties. That’s why he dubbed the opposition as “Yankee right-wing.” Once again, he said that April 19th is a date for patriots, not for dissidents and that they’ll be able to protest only in eastern Caracas.
Whether deliberately or not, he admitted that there’s an ongoing rebellion within the brass, that the country’s bankrupt, that more arrests will come and that Plan Zamora is meant to bully the opposition. He claimed to have captured a command group heading to the capital, after raiding over 300 hotels. He urged opposition leaders – after calling them terrorists, criminals, murderers and traitors – “to avoid a tragedy that will leave our nation mourning.” He specifically threatened lawmakers Julio Borges and José Guerra with taking them to face justice. Most of the opposition disregarded the talk of Plan Zamora and redoubled its commitment to today’s march.
What did Julio Borges say?
The National Assembly Speaker issued a message to Armed Forces officers, calling them to ponder the role they play before the government’s Human Rights violations and demanding an end to repression. He urged soldiers to consider their role in history, emphasizing that this “is the time for the Armed Forces to show that they stand with the Constitution and the people.”
And the State Department’s communiqué?
Signed by Mark Toner, it says that Venezuela has been taken over by social protests ever since the TSJ demonstrated its lack of independence through court rulings against the National Assembly, that six protesters have been killed, that hundreds have been arrested and there are credible accounts of the use of torture and that’s why they think that “more demonstrations are called for the coming days, in particular for Wednesday, April 19th.”
It urges the government to fulfill the commitments it made during last year’s dialogue; they support Monday’s statement signed by 11 nations; it calls for non-violent protest and deplore the use of colectivos, reminding State security forces that their constitutional responsibility is to protect protests instead of preventing them, and it also says that those responsible for Human Rights violations will be held individually accountable by the international community.
To the ICC
The National Assembly, with the PSUV caucus absent, approved an agreement to file a formal complaint before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed by the government: repression, persecution, torture and other Human Rights violations.
The assembly insists that the rupture of constitutional order has only worsened. They urge the Ombudsman’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office to defend fundamental rights and to carry out the necessary investigations to hold criminals accountable. They also installed the Preliminary Committee of Judicial Nominations, whose task will be to order the procedure and eventual selection of aspiring justices for the TSJ.
Yesterday, several institutions and public figures issued statements about Venezuela for two reasons: the threat to arm civilians made by Nicolás last night and the need for the government to guarantee the right to protest. These included the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, UNICEF, the group of former presidents IDEA and even Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos himself. OAS head Luis Almagro also wrote a statement regarding these issues before meeting in the Dominican Republic with former president Leonel Fernández who, along with Zapatero and Torrijos, have mediated the dialogue that hasn’t happened.
Conditions for today
Avenida Bolívar —the main east-west thoroughfare leading to Central Caracas — was closed off yesterday afternoon and, coincidentally, this has been the only common feature of the chaotic calls chavismo has made for their event, including obligatory attendance for public employees, with the usual threat of layoffs.
Private flights and drones were banned nationwide until April 20th; national newspapers are not circulating, allegedly to ensure the distribution network’s safety, and the Metro of Caracas won’t open 25 stations. Lastly, the Interior, Justice and Peace Ministry announced that the National Guard will take over state police departments, until further notice.
One march, one country
We’ll take to the streets in protest today. It’s not the final episode of Star Wars, or an invitation to Miraflores, but a huge demonstration to protest a regime that has lost all sense of disaster, or is trying hard to make it appear like it has. Pressure is a vital step to force Nicolás’ feeble bastions to finally break apart. The cameras during Nicolás’ message showed an upset ruling clique, not firm or victorious, but upset.
Just like last Monday, a speech meant to intimidate the opposition ended up revealing Nicolás’s contradictions, which serve as encouragement for anyone who had already decided to march, and as invitation for anyone who was still on the fence. It’s up to us to disregard intimidation, the military deployment to inhibit protests with the excuse of a fake coup d’État. It’s probable that today’s marches will overwhelm the dissident leadership’s logistical capacity, that’s why we must be ever more prudent. Chavismo is a minority and dissatisfaction among Venezuelans goes well beyond the protesters, which makes it crucial to exercise our right to protest peacefully.
Today, it’s about more than “ousting Nicolás.” Restoring democracy is a nobler and more complex goal, which can’t be achieved with a march, however big, and requires sustained action, pressure and conviction, so the next time these malandros sit at a table, they understand that they can’t stop civil society with brute force, that tear gas does nothing to sate hunger, that change is imminent.