The 2007 shutdown of Radio Caracas Televisión, “RCTV” for short, was the canary-in-the-coal-mine for Venezuela’s freedom. A variety TV broadcaster with a mix of soap-operas, sports and critical journalism; it was the first major media victim of Hugo Chávez’s determination to control the airwaves. The shutdown threw its 3,000 employees out of jobs, and dealt a massive blow to freedom of information in Venezuela.

We need creativity. And  RCTV showed how it could be done.  

That was ten years ago last week. To commemorate this event, Radio Caracas Televisión came back to life for an evening. If not quite on the airwaves, then live, in Las Mercedes’ Plaza Alfredo Sadel. The event might just have become the kind of creative, outside the box protest Venezuela is badly in need of. Because, when you think about it, in Caracas we’re always marching toward some government office or other — and we keep getting injured and killed. And yes, we need to keep marching, but we need to explore other ways to protest as well.  

We need creativity. And  RCTV showed how it could be done.  

In a normal march, the National Guard or the National Police invariably confronts us. A “you shall not pass” backed up by brutal repression. Everyone gets angry, but most people are too scared to fight, so they leave. Some remain though, and armed with slingshots and Molotov cocktails, they skirmish with the security forces. They hardly ever win, but even when they do, it never matters. Every little bit of ground they gain feels like a great victory, but it only draws a line in the sand that is washed away hours later, when everyone goes home.

The only way for violent protests to take out the government by themselves is to somehow reach and hold a dangerous position for the government, someplace like El Silencio or Miraflores, but that won’t happen. The front lines don’t have enough people to brute force their way in, nor a strategy to reach and hold those positions.

Another fifty injured, another twenty detained, more deaths. Those numbers have become meaningless, mere statistics added to the day’s saldo.

Initially, what they did was useful for the movement against Maduro, in a Machiavellian kind of way. Their actions incite repression, which causes injuries, detentions, and deaths. Those mounting numbers, together with the humbling images of hundreds of thousands of people marching through the city, had an impact. They turned Luisa Ortega Diaz into a respected chief of prosecutions; they got Yibram Saab to raise his voice against his father – the “Defensor del Pueblo” Tarek William Saab – and they got two judges of the Supreme Tribunal to speak out against the constituyente.

But diminishing returns have caught up with us. Another fifty injured, another twenty detained, more deaths. Those numbers have become meaningless, mere statistics added to the day’s saldo. People say that these fights push the guards towards rebelling, but the government’s only become more ruthless with time.

We don’t encourage defections by giving them reasons to hate us.

Add to that the fact that every Molotov explosion and every injured policeman or guard becomes ammunition for government propaganda, and you’ll realize that violence, which was never the right thing to do isn’t tactically savvy, either.

The things we’ve been doing, then, aren’t enough. It’s time for creative protests aimed at maximum psychological impact, time for the non-violence that we always profess, but never practice.

Which brings us back to RCTV’s brief revival at the Plaza Alfredo Sadel.

The event was intended to be fun. Yes, people were interviewed, but satirically, in a “remember how we used to interview politicians without feeding them the questions beforehand?” kind of way, and just like on the old RCTV, most of the programming wasn’t about politics. There was singing, there was joking, people cried because they came to realize that, my God, I’m back on stage, and I may get my stage back soon after all these years!

The show was bound to be controversial, it was an island of joy in the middle of Armageddon, but the subtext was clear: “we’re going to bring RCTV back on air, bitch.” This was no mere social gathering, it was a protest. Sure, not the kind we’re used to, but perhaps the kind that would get Winston Vallenilla types to turn around and fight for freedom of speech.

It was emotional for me, and I never even watched RCTV. My mom’s friends sang, bursting with nostalgia; one of them cried when she saw Juan Corazón’s performance.

At some point, RCTV handed the mic over to an encapuchado, who started rapping about the bleak reality of the ongoing protests. He was interrupted by a girl draped in a Venezuelan flag, who got on stage and started shouting “how the fuck are you singing while our people are fighting for you and getting injured a few steps from here? How are any of these people even here?”

I saw her face from far away, yet I could tell she was speaking from the bottom of her heart. She was right to be indignant for sure: what the fuck were we doing enjoying this farce while people were getting hurt just blocks away? On the other hand, who the fuck told them to go pick a fight so close to a large, peaceful event?

Their actions disrupted what was might have been a more effective protest.

Let me be clear, they weren’t protecting us, the government wasn’t advancing on our position. They wanted to march, so they left and marched. They stopped traffic on the highway and pushed into Bello Monte and Chacaíto. Predictably, they got repressed. Most people criticize MUD’s alleged marchar hasta el piquete strategy, but they literally did just that, without even having a strategic objective in mind.

Their actions disrupted what was might have been a more effective protest.

The brilliant Coquito was hosting at RCTV’s stage, and he argued with the girl “We all have our own ways of fighting this fight, art is the only way I know, let me do what I do best. For all of us”. The rapper also intervened “Hey, I’m always up there with you, but right now, I’m here to tell them how things are for us”. After tensions calmed down, and the rapper finished singing, Coquito came up to announce that, due to the many injured nearby, the show wouldn’t go on.

With the sun still out, contrary to the plan, we jumped straight to the Big Reveal. The show was to end as RCTV ended ten years ago. Their anthem would play, followed by Venezuela’s, followed by silence. This chilling conclusion to an afternoon of delightful nostalgia would put everything into context.

We had this. They took it away from us. Don’t you want it back? It was a narrative capable of empowering a movement.

That was the plan, at least. Instead, we got new repression pics to share on Twitter and more injured to treat with the few supplies we have left. The whole “someone from the resistance is shouting on stage” bit scared most of the crowd into leaving early. The backstage hadn’t made preparations, so Venezuela’s anthem didn’t play. We sang it limply as we left instead.

 

28 COMMENTS

  1. Radio Rochela …. “Del buen humor cantando ….” And the big guy, the tel’aran~a guy … They did one skit once of a girl made up to look really like, um, “fat and ugly”, and she talked for over a minute about how she never got any dates, and sat at home every weekend wishing someone would ask her out, and … and… how she learned to cry herself to sleep … and the big guy dressed in a dark suit with dark makeup would came out and said in a deep voice, “Telarana la vida de la chica fea.” Today, they might do a skit on a Chavista who fell out of favor or got busted by the FBI for money-laundering and convicted to 18 years … “Telarana la vida del Chavista desenchufa’o ….” And Reny – dark-rimmed glasses – somehow, you just couldn’t forget the guy’s face and his winning smile for everyone. Good times. We didn’t know ….

    And telenovelas … I listened to two Caraquenas talk for over twenty minutes about the events in the (fictional) characters’ lives … I thought one of them was going to start crying. (I was young. I was amazed.)

    Yeah. Bring RCTV back. Diversify the attack on the regime. Hay un million de historias en la cuidad desnuda … esta ha sido solo una de ellas. A million ways to get your country back. Maybe 33 million. Avispa’os.

  2. I fear that a lot of the more energetic young protesters feel that anything that isnt a direct confrontation is just some sifrinos being useless.

    As you say, violence is not the way, by many reasons. But I can understand that reaction, and I have to admire the courage it takes for them to face the repression. But it needs to be in defense, not attack, and in defense of something. There has to be something to believe in, apart from the obvious need to get rid of the murderers and thieves.

    When (and I’m not going to say if, I hope is not if) the government falls, a long way of suffering still lays ahead. Only hope in a vision of what can be achieved will sustain the people in the long days of recovery after the brutal mauling of the country at the hands of Maduro and company.

  3. Awesome article, I agree with you that we need other ways of protest. In this moment we cant go back and every type of protest can help us in this fight.

  4. Thank you for the great analysis. I think part of the criticism, and it is something that you didn’t address, is the location and the idea of “preaching to the choir.” You don’t have to do a lot of outreach in Las Mercedes. We need to expand outreach. One new/cool initiative is @elbusTV where people present uncensored news on buses as news anchors. People criticize Cacerolazos (pot-banging) but I think it is highly effective at demonstrating strength of force.

  5. I need help. People that have seen my previous posts may know that I have been shipping supplies to VZLA through a shipping company in Miami for an extended period.

    My most recent shipment was over 1000 pounds. It was mostly food but also included prescription medicines that people desperately need, vitamins, protein powders and personal care items.

    The bastards that control the port in Caracas have stolen everything that was shipped from all of the customers of the shipping company. I don’t need to tell anyone how desperately this is needed. I need people to tell me who needs to be bribed or what shipping company can still get items into the country.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Save your money John. None of what you ship gets to those who need it . In fact, it’s being used by those responsible for the repression.

      As for the theme of the subject article, I humbly disagree that those fighting the GNB are only giving the government propaganda ammo. The GNB is the only thing propping up this regime at the moment. This government does not have the support of the great majority of the population, and can only control the streets through force. And they scream every single day about the violence because they know it’s wearing down th foot soldiers.

      When Miraflores is completely surrounded by several hundred thousand opposition supporters, then you will see Maduro et al fall.

      Sing songs till the cows come home if you wish, I’m just afraid that the only thing that will bring meaningful change is blood in the street.

      • This is the first shipment that I have lost. Every shipment has been delivered before this. One of the reasons that my shipments were so big was because they would be on their own pallet and shrink wrapped. Making it harder for the soldiers to get to the packages.

        This seizure was everything in the shipping containers.

        • You were amazingly lucky then. Besides the normal corruption, as you’ve probably read recently, customs officials are under new orders to really scrutinize incoming shipments for anything that looks humanitarian in natue or might be used by protestors.

          Are you writing your congressman and senator and drawing attention to this conflict? If enough US lawmakers apply pressure to Trump, perhaps he’ll take some meaningful actions.

          • I have written to my Representative and Senators.
            I am a New Yorker. Schumer’s office doesn’t answer like they used to. I guess constituent service has taken a backseat now that he is minority leader.
            My Congresswoman is in her first term. I did support her candidacy and we have discussed the situation in Venezuela. She has listened to my concrns but has very little influence as a junior Representative.
            I spent a career in government service. 31 years until injuries sidelined me. I have made some inquiries but my contacts have all left.
            I have no more influence than any other citizen.
            I can still get money to the people that I am helping. The lack of so many necessities is why I was shipping supplies.
            I would appreciate any options you may become aware of.
            i do have friends in Brazil that can send things. From what I have been told I believe the soldiers are stealing everything coming through there also.

          • John, there’s a NGO called “Unidos por la Democracia” which is also sending supplies to Venezuela, they got one representative interviewed by Patricia Poleo some days ago, and the representative claimed they’ve managed to basically smuggle the supplies inside the country because the regime keeps stealing everything that’s worth something from the usual courier companies (Which also explains why they don’t import many stuff these days)

    • John,
      I understand the issue. We send food, medicine, and toiletries to Vzla via a firm in Orlando.
      Amazingly and thankfully, all boxes have arrived unopened at their destination. We are certain a payoff to the military is involved.

  6. Hey John, this message board might not be the best place to ask. You never know if a sapo chavista is reading ccs chronicles and then is like: “hmmmm well we have not heard of that company before, lets go raid them”. You might have to do this the hard way by asking around. Plus if someone on this message board is getting stuff through, they are not going to say anything.

    We know this is how the generals make money, maybe some of them are letting stuff get through. But this is war and loose lips sink ships.

  7. 13 Metro stations closed today. Yet the opposition manages to reach the rally points. Silly government…Masters in inefficiency.

  8. “Hoy, mientras había fuerte represión en la autopista y lanzaban bombas por el CVA, varios restaurantes en Las Mercedes con gente. País Raro.”

    “El chavismo siempre aprovechó que una buena parte de la sociedad de Vzla actúa como zombie, sin aspirar a mejorar, conformista, sumisa.”
    Luis Oliveros‏ @luisoliveros

    Estos dos tweets recientes del economista Luis Oliveros explican a su manera por qué dos meses de protestas no han derribado a Maduro ni tampoco parece que por ahora vayan a hacerlo. Usted pide creatividad, como si esto fuese un asunto de artistas pero lo que hay que pedir a la MUD es seriedad y que asuman de una vez lo que está ocurriendo. Si no lo hacen olvídense de Ucrania o Rumanía y piensen en Cuba, donde la dictadura lleva 50 años sin grandes sobresaltos internos.

    La fiscal general, aunque sea a medias, el hijo del defensor y dos jueces hablando contra el régimen son muy poca cosa para un movimiento que pretende derribar este régimen. Mientras alguien da con la tecla adecuada (preferiblente general con miles de soldados a su mando, no cuenten con los sumisos y conformistas) por desgracia todo se sigue deteriorando sin que nadie sepa cómo pararlo. La única estrategia eficaz para la MUD parece ser “cuanto peor, mejor para nosotros” pero, eso sí, sin abusar de ella. Es decir, sin por ejemplo convocar un paro general, no sé si porque tienen miedo a que la gente se acuerde del anterior y se hagan todos chavistas otra vez o qué otro motivo ridículo les impide ponerse serios definitivamente. Esto es lo único que les sacará del agujero y no ninguna acción creativa que será convenientemente ignorada por el régimen.

    • Las “opciones creativas” no se refieren a hacer una bailoterapia en el Cafetal o una actuación de teatro.

      Las “opciones creativas” se refieren, entre otras cosas, a que si ya sabes que antes de acercarte al CNE ya te van a tener el piquete, hay que empezar a armar marchas a sitios que no se lo esperen, a organizarlas de otras maneras, a básicamente no ir a darse de narices con la ballena, el rino y toda la fauna habida y por haber

      • pero entonces ustedes tendrán el problema que Alberto Delgado describe de un modo tan sincero en este post: más represión, más muertos… y ningún cambio. Por otro lado, es realmente lamentable que un cambio en el país tenga que venir a través de la violencia y jamás pediría o estaría a favor de un golpe de estado en ninguna parte pero teniendo en cuenta que el régimen ya ha dejado claro que, o venís a por mí o yo de aquí no me voy nunca, no sé que otra opción hay para el país.

  9. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force
    Book by Eliot A. Cohen
    https://g.co/kgs/sgHZug

    In The Big Stick, Eliot A. Cohen, a scholar and practitioner of international relations, argues that hard power remains essential for American foreign policy. While acknowledging that the U.S. must be careful about why, when, and how it uses force, he insists that its international role is as critical as ever, and armed force is vital to that role.

    Cohen explains that American leaders must learn to use hard power in new ways and for new circumstances.

    If the U.S. relinquishes its position as a strong but prudent military power, and fails to accept its role as the guardian of a stable world order, we risk unleashing disorder, violence and tyranny on a scale not seen since the 1930s.

    • Absolutely correct. That is why, if the U.S. does not act decisively in its own backyard, it cannot expect any respect/fear by rogue regimes far away. Kennedy blundered the Bay Of Pigs, Krushchev saw him weak/inexperienced, and we got the Missile Crisis, and near Armageddon, not to mention Castro for 50 years jodiendo SA/Africa (part), and, partly, Kennedy’s own just demise.

  10. God bless you John, you’re a good man. Gocho, rest assured there are chavista sapos reading this forum. I hope they all burn in hell for what they’ve done to this country. Never has so little been done with so much.

  11. The Ukrainians fought day and night, well-organized, in terrible winter weather, for 100+ days to finally topple the Regime. Even then, at the end, it took a young protester to grab the mic at the dais from the moderate Capriles-type leadership (and, I DO think ECR is doing a good job), and tell the crowd that if the Pres. was not gone by noon or so the next day, the until then peaceful (no bullets) demonstrators would start shooting–the Pres left, I believe, at 11 AM the next day for Russia. We are coming up on the probability of the spurious ANC being called/installed, with a probable declaration of illegality/jailing of the AN/its Oppo members, as well as the end of individual rights/liberty/private property. Obviously, if the large majority of the population does not want to become Cubanized slaves, something’s got to/going to give….

  12. Has anyone tried ordering groceries from Amazon?
    I have been looking at the global shipping but many items are not available to ship from the US to VZLA.
    I am curious about putting the order in from VZLA and then I could contact Amazon to make the payment.
    I am going to call them tomorrow but I am curious as to whether anyone has an opinion or experience with them.
    The loss of this shipment has been a terrific blow and I am desperate to find a solution.

    • People buy groceries on Amazon and have them sent to their couriers who then ship them to Venezuela. Amazon does not ship to Venezuela

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