Photo: El Carabobeño retrieved

Political persecution isn’t new in Venezuela. Ever since we were called Capitanía General de Venezuela, regent governments have always tried to unvoice political adversaries and any dissenting vote. But when we look at this (not so brief) history of political persecution, certain prerogatives stand out: Is history repeating itself? Why are Venezuelan politicians so prone to criminalizing the divergence?

Today, the response to social protests has been the arrest and persecution of students, citizens, and political leaders. During the Chávez and Maduro regimes, we have witnessed the normalization of events such as the arbitrary detention of citizens without court orders; violation of due process of detainees during demonstrations; the opening of criminal proceedings against protesters and public harassment by representatives of institutions of the National Public Power to the leaders of the Venezuelan opposition. It’s safe to say that criminalization of protest; the physical and psychological mistreatment of citizens by SEBIN officials and the Bolivarian National Guard during detention is the new normal.  

Why are Venezuelan politicians so prone to criminalizing the divergence?

For those who do not remember, Chávez gave clues about what his government would be like in 1992, during the coup d’etat when he was released with a presidential pardon. In 1998 he began his political career promising to “fry the heads of the adecos”. Not a very peaceful way to try opponents. But how did he manage to get away with it? Was it something in our political history that enabled him to persecute dissenting citizens?

Maybe we should start at the beginning.

In the 17th century the process started against José María España with a command by the Real Audiencia due to high treason, instructed authorities to “be removed from jail, dragged from the tail of a pack-saddle beast and driven to the gallows”. Including, of course, the confiscation of all property. Does it sound familiar?

Some years later, the son of a Spaniard who was not accepted by mantuanos, Francisco de Miranda was accused of being an English agent. Sold to the Spanish authorities by Bolívar, properties confiscated and abandoned to die in La Carraca. Even today his ashes haven’t been found. While being handed over to the Spanish authorities, he said one of his most famous phrases: “Bochinche, bochinche, these people don’t know how to do anything but bochinche“.

Juan Vicente Gómez himself had been exiled in Colombia, but once in power, he used repressive policies to consolidate his control while developing the country through oil wealth and a strong army. The citizen’s discontent with the government is expressed openly in the student demonstration that took place on February, 1928. During Youth Day, Jóvito Villalba gave a speech where the gomecista dictatorship was openly criticized. With the imprisonment of students, the Caracas community perceived the youth’s political action as heroic. There is a collective handing over to the authorities to accompany their leaders in prison. Sadly, this is also a recurrent episode in our history: idealization of political fellows, regardless of their political party. For some mysterious reason, we think someone who fights for their rights deserves homage. But, it was not all bad news: 

Sadly, this is also a recurrent episode in our history: idealization of political fellows, regardless of their political party.

He had to experience the ideological crisis in an agitated socio-political panorama marked by student demonstrations, persecutions, imprisonment and the failed military coup of April 1928. Even as we aim for democracy, we haven’t taken a peaceful path. Politicians faced difficulty as conspiration outbreaks sparked from right and left wing alike.A worthy representative of the Generation of ‘28, writer Arturo Uslar Pietri, showed the ideo-political crisis that characterized Venezuelan society in the first half of the 20th century.

Another representative of the Generation of ‘28, Rómulo Betancourt, student leader exiled after the failed coup attempt of Gómez. That Youth Day ended with the incarceration of Betancourt (who was only 20 years old) and of the group of university leaders in the Cuartel El Cuño, later transferred to the Liberator Castle in Puerto Cabello. The young opponents were kept in dark rooms without windows, where they were forced to use “grillos” (chains) on their feet and subjected to cruel conditions. Once released, Betancourt participated in another subversive movement against Gómez, that resulted in police persecution, the exile of opponents and the closure of the Central University of Venezuela.

Years later, Betancourt was elected president. One and a half months after the Cuban Revolution triumphed, Betancourt, who had been a leader of the Communist Party in Costa Rica, openly rejected communism, leftism and anti-imperialism because he considered it an obsolete ideology.

Also motivated by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the guerrilla movement launches into an armed struggle and begins an urban and rural violence plan that marks the decade of the 70s in Venezuela. Betancourt’s response was not legal or democratic, and many crimes, tortures and assassinations were committed by the armed and police forces.

The constitution was violated with a court-martial and orders to capture parliamentarians from the MIR and the PCV, as well as the illegal persecution of professors and teachers who belonged to these leftist parties.

Thus begins the armed resistance (mostly middle-class students, young peasants and women) of leftist orientation that ended with El Porteñazo, the most horrendous and medically projected massacre in the Venezuelan democratic trajectory.

In addition to the political violence of the 19th century, in the dictatorships and in the 20th century democracies, strong expressions of political and social violence are present through persecution, torture and political murder. The most remembered cases? Leonardo Ruiz Pineda and Jorge Rodríguez (yes, the father of those creepy siblings).

Strong expressions of political and social violence are present through persecution, torture and political murder.

Time has passed, and dissident voices have been treated with the same disdain. Do you see any difference? Maybe that we plant fear and isolation through Facebook Live. In the last 20 years, the lack of democratic institutions has contributed to the political polarization that leads to the repression of opponents.

Is our way of pursuing political dissidents something learned, justified by precedents from the past?

 

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29 COMMENTS

  1. “Is our way of pursuing political dissidence something learned…?”–No, it’s in the nature of the Beast. FdeM should have said, “Barbarie, barbarie, these people are nothing but Barbarians.”

    • Pompeo and Trump, and the US CONGRESS, most importantly, do not give a rat’s ass about Klepto-Narco Cubazuela, There are many comparable shitholes in the planets not to worry about. Especially now that the US doesn’t need more Kleptozuelan oil. Other sources. Comprende?

      Some millionaires gotta fund snipers and drones. Covertly with the CIA. If they care about the remnants of Venezuela.

      • if you believe the U.S’s interest in Venezuela is purely because of oil, you’re an idiot.
        Neo-marxistism can’t be allowed to spread and that’s exactly what they are doing with the refugee crisis.

        It’s an ideological threat in the Americas much more potent than Cuba has ever been.

        • 100% correct, the U.S. MUST cortar por lo sano, if not, se va a pudrir el Continente, and in the U.S.’s own back yard (btw, Haddad is ahead in polls in Brasil, AMLO hasn’t yet shown his true colors/spots).

        • “Neo-marxistism can’t be allowed to spread and that’s exactly what they are doing with the refugee crisis.”

          I disagree, maybe if we were in the 1980s, but not now. The disaster that has befallen Venezuela is potent advertizing against neo-Marxism.

          Best thing for the US to do is not get involved.

    • Yep.

      Summer driving season is over, and the winter cold is a long way off.

      Perfect time for the embargo of not just the purchase of VZ oil, but the sale of diluents to them.

  2. “Is history repeating itself? Why are Venezuelan politicians so prone to criminalizing the divergence?”

    Let me break it down for you, real simple:

    YES.

    Because no one bothered to educate the CORRUPT, ignorant and Clueless Pueblo-People.

    I hope that’s relatively easy to comprehend.

  3. Klepto-Kleptozuelan politicians are what they are: Corrupt CRAP (CC), and guess what, they are often better educated than your average Pueblo-People tipo or geva. Multiply that by 28 Million and do the math.

  4. Marcos Perez Jimenez might have killed and tortured and stolen a couple million bucks. So what.

    Did any of you ever bothered to see what he did in LESS than 5 years? How the economy my went?

    Didn’t think so.

  5. Conversely, Pinochet killed only a few and jailed a few more, compared to Chavismo, and look at Chile today.

    Educated, hard-working, almost like a European nation. Saved Chile from Chavismo.

    Tough love.

    And if you think the MUDcrap, Capriles and shit, or even MCM, wouldfix anything in Klepto-Cubazuela in decades to come, DREAM ON.

  6. Monica,
    Where on earth did you get your information on the Betancourt presidency post-1958? A lot of what you have written is either wrong or highly misleading.

    “Also motivated by the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the guerrilla movement launches into an armed struggle and begins an urban and rural violence plan that marks the decade of the 70s in Venezuela.” I think you mean the decade of the 60’s. The MIR started in late 1960. The FALN started in late 1962. They were both finished by the late 60’s for lack of popular support.

    “The constitution was violated with a court-martial and orders to capture parliamentarians from the MIR and the PCV, as well as the illegal persecution of professors and teachers who belonged to these leftist parties. Thus begins the armed resistance (mostly middle-class students, young peasants and women) of leftist orientation that ended with El Porteñazo, the most horrendous and medically projected massacre in the Venezuelan democratic trajectory.”

    Difficult to untangle all of this. First, El Porteñazo was a leftwing MILITARY uprising led by three naval officers, the leader of which. Manuel Ponte Rodriguez, was a Fidelista and a senior planner in MIR. The rebel fortifications were manned by 1200 armed personnel, made up mostly of marine infantry, but also including guerrilleros who had been held prisoner in Castillo Libertador and were freed by the rebels. No middle-class students, peasants and women. The government response was a brutally successful armed attack on the fortifications by 40mm naval canon and rocket attacks from aircraft, followed by an infantry assault. About a third of the rebels were killed. Secondly, nothing ended with El Porteñazo, as such. This uprising took place in June 1962, after a previous failed military uprising in May of the same year in Carupano, also with leftwing leaders, and BEFORE the proscription of MIR and PCV.

    It was in September 1962 AFTER El Porteñazo, that Betancourt declared a suspension of civil liberties, and legally proscribed the MIR and the PCV. Throughout 1961, these groups (together with URD) – disenfranchised by Betancourt’s policies of democratic reform and incensed by the Betancourt government’s support for the expulsion of Cuba from the OAS and for breaking off diplomatic relations with Cuba – had quite openly consolidated their advocacy of antigovernment guerrilla warfare. (See editions of Izquierda available from that time.) Betancourt held them directly responsible for the failed military uprisings in 1962. He ordered the arrest of the leadership, and this did include putting the MIR and PCV congressmen under house arrest. Some 200 civilians were arrested as well according to contemporary reports. In November of the same year he presented evidence to the OAS that these groups had been supported directly by Cuba, including arms supply. The resistance at this stage promptly went underground and the FALN was formed.
    Betancourt handed over power in late 1963 in a clean election process.

    You wrote: “Betancourt’s response was not legal or democratic, and many crimes, tortures and assassinations were committed by the armed and police forces.” I would be very pleased to know your sources for this comment. It may be true, but I have seen nothing at all which would support it in any of the historical accounts I have read.

      • Well I did check a number of sources, but here is a real paste from Wiki. Note the timeline and compare it with the above article. I think that the article is simply misleading on Betancourt.

        QUOTE
        Betancourt also faced determined opposition from extremists and rebellious army units, yet he continued to push for economic and educational reform. A fraction split from the AD and formed the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR). When leftists were involved in unsuccessful revolts at Barcelona (El Barcelonazo) in 1961 and in navy bases in 1962 (El Carupanazo, Carúpano and El Porteñazo, Puerto Cabello), Betancourt suspended civil liberties. Elements of the left parties then formed the Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN), a communist guerrilla army to fight him. This drove the leftists underground, where they engaged in rural and urban guerrilla activities, including sabotaging oil pipelines, bombing a Sears Roebuck warehouse, Alfredo Di Stefano kidnapping, and bombing the United States Embassy in Caracas. FALN failed to rally the rural poor and to disrupt the December 1963 elections

        After numerous attacks, he finally arrested the MIR and Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) members of Congress. It became clear that a leftist Fidel Castro had been arming the rebels, so Venezuela protested to the Organization of American States (OAS). ENDQUOTE

  7. Excellent, Krib. The importance of Cuba/Cuban influence cannot be underestimated, nor the leftist “middle-class students, young peasants and women” over-exaggerated. Betancourt changed his spots/was even forced to do so. Caldera’s “pacification”/AD-COPEI indolence-complacency resulted in only 20 years in the Leftist infiltration of the Ven. military, which produced Chavez/the Chiripero military-backed stolen Caldera Pres. election/Chavez et, al. pardons, and the tremendous cluster-fuck that is Venezuela today, all grounded in Poeta’s bullet-points (new format) mentioned above.

  8. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is preparing a “series of actions” in the coming days to increase pressure on the Venezuelan government, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

    Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he talks to the media during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello
    “You’ll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership folks, who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo said. “We’re determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say.”

    Wonder how that will play out, specifically? More sanctions against individuals? No more buying Venny oil?

    • Oh, it’s gotta be an embargo against buying VZ oil AND not selling them diluents. He wouldn’t make such an announcement just regarding individual sanctions against regime members.

      There also might be something in the works regarding visas, and that might be the very big surprise.

      There are 70,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. who applied for asylum. God knows the total number, but the rest don’t count if they’re here illegally and didn’t go through the process to legally stay.

      70,000 is nothing compared to what the rest of South America is going through, and I can’t see any possible way that the U.S. isn’t going to approve these asylum requests while at the same time pushing for VZ’s neighbors to accept millions.

  9. George Washington invented the concept of two-term limits, and in the U.S., 4 years per term. He did this even though he served two terms and was begged to serve a third.

    Later, the two-term limit was established, and only reestablished because Reagan believed two terms tops.

    Both guys understood that no matter how good you may appear to be doing in the beginning, you’re gonna fuck up and get corrupt and/or complacent after that. And they were both right.

    Any democracy that tries to curtail term limits…ain’t a democracy. And this is true whether from the left or the right.

    • I meant to say, the two-term limit didn’t really exist…it was just common practice and circumstance…and Reagan was the one who made it law.

      I gotta study up on this. I’m just going on memory.p

      • If not mistaken, the imposition of the two term limits was pushed through in response to FDR winning an unprecedented fourth term in office.

        From the net: “Passed by Congress in 1947, and ratified by the states on February 27, 1951, the Twenty-Second Amendment limits an elected president to two terms in office, a total of eight years.”

  10. Ira you are right that the two term presidency was the custom and convention. Then came FDR who died a few months into his 4th term. The two term limit was enacted in 1951.

  11. Monica,
    Can I repeat my question about your source(s) for your comment “Betancourt’s response was not legal or democratic, and many crimes, tortures and assassinations were committed by the armed and police forces.” It was not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely interested.

    Here is a contemporary account written by a UK journalist describing what he saw and knew about Venezuela in February 1963. http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/22nd-february-1963/12/venezuela-under-siege It makes very interesting reading.

  12. Missed the stuff from CAP I and II and Caldera. They were not saints particularly CAP I and the remnants of the FALN in early 1970. Lapse or convenience?

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