Photo: NewsBeezer retrieved.

Early this month, there was a protest of employees of the Central Bank of Venezuela near its offices in Caracas and Vladimir Caña, one of the protesters, said that when Nicolás Maduro decreed the last wage hike, they were satisfied, but that as the weeks went by they realized that what they earned wasn’t enough to buy three days worth of food.

Beyond the shock of knowing that someone’s discovering hyperinflation only this year, what’s important about this is that the popular notion that there are no protests in Venezuela is nothing more than a myth.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, there have been over 9,000 protests so far this year, but unlike 2017 (with 6,729 protests) most have been popular demonstrations and they haven’t been called by anyone.

“Although the national government holds 87% rejection, the political opposition remains deeply divided and its leadership is diluted,” says political scientist Jesús Castillos Molleda. “The opposition won’t recover any rallying power in the short term because there are no leaders capable of inspiring dissident citizens. The protests that are being reported are sparked by complaints for the poor quality of public services, they’re spontaneous and don’t generate collective force.”

The popular notion that there are no protests in Venezuela is nothing more than a myth.

Despite their isolation, Molleda believes that they do harm the government because “little by little, their own sympathizers also join some of the protests, which could eventually become a natural collective catalyst.”

For María Inés Hernández, spokeswoman of the Committee for Human Rights of Zulia State, the explanation behind the huge amount of protests is simple: “complex humanitarian emergency,” which translates to human rights violations.

“The impoverishment of citizens, the difficulty to acquire food and this whole situation push people to degrees of frustration and despair that translate into social conflict.”

And indeed, the stories of protesters show that the so-called quality of life no longer exists in the country: citizens protest because they suffer five-day-long blackouts and complain that they’ve lost food in their fridges, and some of them are forced to cook with firewood because there’s no cooking gas where they live; nurses protest because their breakfasts consist of mangoes and they have no shoes to go to work.

Repression is on a high point. For instance, in Zulia, where Hernández works as a human rights defender, they have governor Omar Prieto, a chavista radical known for his violent discourse.

Nurses protest because their breakfasts consist of mangoes and they have no shoes to go to work.

“Currently, security bodies engage in violence against protests driven by poor public services. I remember that on April 24, 30 people rallied before Corpoelec offices in the Amparo sector because they had spent 18 hours without electricity and an unidentified truck arrived, and men with rifles started arresting people who were released later, and assaulted a councilman. It’s common to see security bodies threatening people in any protest,” Hernández says.

Authorities usually justify repression with the excuse that blocking the roads harms other citizens, which is indeed an offense according to the criminal code and establishes prison time for culprits, but “there’s no excuse for repression,” Hernández adds, remembering that in 2017 some passersby who had nothing to do with the protests were affected, even murdered for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Hernández thinks that the situation is made all the more complicated because there’s “a failure in the political system that lacks institutional mechanisms to better channel people’s demands and thus we’re in a cycle of gradually growing demonstrations, which are often ignored by the media because they are still small, unlike the mass protests called by political parties, so they frequently go unnoticed.”

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26 COMMENTS

  1. “Although the national government holds 87% rejection, the political opposition remains deeply divided and its leadership is diluted…”

    Translation: 13% of Venezuelans are dyed-in-the-wool PSUV loyalists, or some other closely connected Marxist party. The other 87% want either the return of the Chavismo from the good ol’ days (75%), or Capitalism (12%). I’ve asked innumerable times on this forum: Which Venezuelan political party embraces a libertarian economy and fiscal policy?

    FACE IT. They aren’t protesting for their liberty or freedom. They want their state provided goodies to return. They are more than happy to do without free and open elections so long as they get paid.

    • If you’re in the country, you should totally go talk to those people and learn exactly why they’re protesting, instead of creating a comfortable narrative for yourself. I’m astonished and disappointed that someone would think that protesting for food when people is starving is such a despicable act. What do you think about protesting for medicines? For transportation? For water and electricity? For wages? They’re all also partially or totally provided by the State these days. Is protesting about it despicable too?

      It’s those people who are suffering the most, and they’re not the enemy, the regime is. Focus your anger on them, man.

      • Hey man, I get it. The hierarchy of needs. The problem remains that they don’t see a problem with Chavismo. They see a problem with implementation.

        Look at the MUD. Which party (AGAIN) isn’t Chavismo Lite? I can’t find a single political party in Venezuela that demands an open market and fiscal sanity. Which leads any rational person to believe that no one in the political sphere in Venezuela embraces such thinking. Or that such a core belief would be a waste of time, since such a person would be unable to collect more than a few percentage points of support.

        I haven’t been back to Venezuela since 2014, and the news I get is second hand or in the opposition news. El Pueblo wants food, water, electricity and wages. I see/hear it all the time. I understand that the basic needs need to be taken care of. The problem remains that NOBODY (including the loyal opposition) is intent on taking Venezuela in the direction it needs to go.

        El Pueblo wants bandages applied on their gangrenous legs. And the Chavistas and the opposition are content to deliver whatever filthy bandages El Pueblo demands. So if I am being harsh, it is because nobody wants to address the 800lb gorilla in the room.

        • There are numerous moves in the right directions. And there’s a growing realization that “Chavismo” doesn’t work. I could take the specific you allege about Venezuela to logical conclusion: no one anywhere wants to be free and prosperous, everyone wants everything for free, there is no hope, misery is with us forever. Monkeys find fruit on trees, so anyone who wants money on trees is a monkey.

          The small protests make the people behind the doors aware that there are protests. Is that a bad thing?

          • I’m going to state the obvious. Banging on pots and pans, and burning trash in the street isn’t protesting. It’s creating a ruckus… and when the GNB or PNB show up, they scatter like cockroaches when a light comes on.

            EVERY CHAVISTA POLITICIAN SHOULD BE AFRAID TO BE SEEN IN PUBLIC. Every mayor, every governor and every “Minister of This or That” ought to be resigning EN MASSE because they fear the people. Instead, its the other way around. Lacava and Prieto should be in hiding… instead they surround themselves with their well-fed and well-paid henchmen and threaten the public with prison if they don’t shut up.

            You want to be rid of Lacava? You go after his bodyguards. You want Prieto on the next plane to Cuba? It will happen when his henchmen quit coming to work. How plain does that plan have to be spelled out?

            The point being, whinging and wailing about how bad things are is useless unless the words have meaning. When El Pueblo tells Lacava to pack up and leave, he should be packing his gear and in a motorcade out of the city within an hour… because he fears them.

            I wouldn’t say that Venezuelans are cowards, because they are not. I know far too many to make that spurious claim. HOWEVER, I do think that culturally, they want to take the path of least resistance. They are either apathetic, or are patiently waiting.

      • Javier, it seems that El Guapo is saying that the protests are about the effects of the governing party/policy not against the cause. In this, I completely agree. It is the outcome that seems to opposed not the actual policy itself. This does not blame the victim, it means the victim has been isolated to a point where they can no longer see all the options.

  2. I tend to agree in full with ElGuapo.

    Unless there is a fundamental change in culture, replacing Maduro & Co. (insert any chavista honcho here), won’t simply do any good. It’s merely a first step (even if it is a step at all) to work towards doing that.

    The evidence suggests that this kind of change would take years to be assumed by the populace, and, we still have the problem of all the mind & professional capital that escaped the mess, which is unlikely to return.

    The mean Venezuelan will give away anything just to live with a 5$ monthly electricity bill and his free fuel. And this is the true underlying problem.

    • What evidence? Have you talked to these people personally? Do you actually know what they’re going through? Because if you do, I’m surprised you think that way.

      Basic services, food and health are rights too. Liberties are conquered by layers, and here they have been violated to the bottom. Blame the government for free fuel, blame them for the CLAP and for the failure of everything, because it’s them that are guilty. Don’t blame the people who are suffering this. They deserve and need our support and empathy. The regime scorns them and hurts them enough as it is.

      • I guess there is a fundamental cultural difference at work here. I live comfortably in the U.S.A. and think of my rights in terms of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, plus those enshrined in the Bill of Rights (free speech, etc.). I do not consider basic services, food and health as “rights”.

        If I do not pay the Electric Company on time, my lights will go out. If I then get pissed and demonstrate that my “right” to basic services is being violated, I will be laughed at by my neighbors and fellow citizens.

        The difference in the quality of life, between societies with a culture of limited government, and those that expect everything should be provided by a nanny state as a “right”, should be obvious.

        And until Venezuelans start demonstrating for the former as opposed to the latter, there is little hope for improvement. So, gotta go with El Guapo an Roliverio on this one.

        • With half of the U.S. government tax collections going to social programs, and with the Democrats winning House seats, you’re sitting comfortably? Ah ain’t!

          It’s just possible El Guapo is trolling. Many solutions have been proposed, and many are already in effect. I’ll have to read Machiavelli. My take on it is that he reported the existing problems to be dealt with, as he was asked to do, yet apparently he was blamed for creating or furthering them. The messenger blamed for the message. Negativity is a problem, in my view. Not the only one, obviously. Dependence on government is another.

          In my view it is part of the human condition that a man is more satisfied by achievement. Look at a student who failed an exam, or a worker whose work fell apart. They don’t look happy. By contrast, look at a man who set out to do something good and accomplished it. I think the mass of population everywhere prefer achievement to dependency.

          • I guess I don’t know what I would be trolling for… all of my extended family is out of Venezuela. I certainly don’t have a dog in the fight anymore.

            Life is good here in the States. If I don’t like who is in office, I wait for the next legitimate election. Its an awesome feeling that no matter how much I hate Politician A (a dolt) or Politician B (a moron), they aren’t there forever. I have survived 5 Democrats and 6 Republican POTUS. The great thing is, the earth didn’t fall off its axis when the idiot Carter was elected, and we won’t go tumbling into the sun under Trump.

            WOULDN’T IT BE AWESOME if Venezuela had that? It really really is worth fighting for.

  3. Braulio, thanks for a very excellent report/summary/reasoning. Venezuela is a dictatorship supported by a thin veneer of fixed elections, and maintained by repressive Govt. security /irregular armed forces overseen by Cuban spies. For, once, however there may be a light at the end of the tunnel: Venezuela produces 1.1 mm bbls/da. of crude, falling at about 1m/da. Venezuela owes 1.1 mm bbls/da. to China (700m/da.) and Russia (400m/da.) combined for past loans already spent, but is stiffing them by only sending 60% (400m+) daily to China, and 40% (160m+) daily to Russia (both China/Russia currently have sent commissions to Venezuela to pressure for better loan repayment), in order to have 500m/da. approx. both to deficiently cover internal Ven. gasoline needs and sell 300-400m/da. to the U.S. to cover very minimum food/etc. needs (Reuters, 7/24/2018, Ulmer/Parraga). Venezuela is more than flat broke, so much so that, in the foreseeable future, “somewhere, somehow, some place–something’s gotta give”.

  4. People dont protest human right violations or political repression for the most part but deep dissatisfaction with the govt (one they despise as innefectual and corrupt ) for its failure to meet the basic demands of civilized life , a stable currency, stable wages , reliable supplies of running electricty and water etc. If a govt like MPJ’s were in power and people felt their needs were met and they had a chance at becoming prosperous even if they lived under a political dictatorship the protests would hardly exist ….. They dont miss democracy so much as a government that works and allows them a better life quality…….now WHY IS THAT ??

  5. My question is how many people are actually protesting, I mean the photos and reports I see and read it almost always consists of a handful maybe 2 handsful of people “protesting “. Please don’t tell me that 10 people gathering on the corner of some street downtown VZ is considered a protest. Let’s be honest here …. there are NO protests that are or were worthy mentioning in the last 18 months. Venezuelans have rolled over and played dead like they have done for the last 19 years. Like ElGuapo stated correctly, about 24 million “bravo pueblo” that just want the good ol times to come back ASAmfingP.

  6. “Rice bowl theory, in an undeveloped country the poor are more interested in a bowl of rice than in democracy , in that case democracy is useless to them if it not guarantee them adequate food , clothing and shelter.”

  7. “..when Nicolás Maduro decreed the last wage hike, they were satisfied, but that as the weeks went by they realized that what they earned wasn’t enough to buy three days worth of food.”

    People discovering the meaning of fancy economic terms such as “Inflation” or “Purchasing Power”. Real life can be just as effective and instructive as going to College, huh.

  8. NET wrote: Venezuela produces 1.1 mm bbls/da. of crude, falling at about 1m/da. Venezuela owes 1.1 mm bbls/da. to China (700m/da.) and Russia (400m/da.) combined for past loans already spent, but is stiffing them by only sending 60% (400m+) daily to China, and 40% (160m+) daily to Russia (both China/Russia currently have sent commissions to Venezuela to pressure for better loan repayment), in order to have 500m/da. approx. both to deficiently cover internal Ven. gasoline needs and sell 300-400m/da. to the U.S. to cover very minimum food/etc. needs (Reuters, 7/24/2018, Ulmer/Parraga).
    ———-
    Yesterday I read those figures in Reuters, cued the calculator on my phone and arrived at the same figures. However it seems stretch that much of the income from those 300-400m barrels a day are going “to cover very minimum food/etc. needs.” First, a major chunk of that goes to paying off the military, whose upper brass are still throwing parties with Scotch and fine viands. Then monies simply looted from the dwindling pie. Then trying to underwrite – however inefficiently – a bloated public work force/sector. Granted, there is money streaming in from mining and other sources, but I’d wager that very little of that goes toward sustaining a welfare state.

    Point is, change from the inside is at this point unlikely. At least the kind of change in which democracy and a free market could take root. While most outsiders agree that establishing democracy is a free market would right the ship, so to speak, it’s unlikely the general population feels the same. Ergo, capitalism would have to be imposed on Venezuela by leaving them no other choice, which means the last income streams keeping the Chavista experiment alive would have to be shut down, also from the outside. A rather simple way to do this would be for the US to stop buying whatever oil Venezuela is still shipping our way, to “accelerate” all the bad loans, which means foreign powers could start appropriating Venezuela oil for repayment on outstanding debt, and Maduro goes away in a minute.

    But that’s a hard call that would essentially thrown Venezuela into a total meltdown, with no infrastructure not yet the public mentality to change course. The world, it would seem, is totally overmatched by the situation. One thing is for sure: Nobody wants to be on the hook for the clean up and restructuring.

    • The meltdown is happening daily as oil production declines. In retrospect, the U.S. was right to leave Venezuela hanging itself, swinging in the wind, for all to see, so that Brazil, for example, would come to their senses and elect someone like Bolsonaro, and not another Lula surrogate. The Cubans running Venezuela have been careful not to overstep/provoke the U.S. into more drastic actions. The bill for reconstruction will be paid by low-cost loans from the IMF/WB, basically financed by the U.S. Conditions for those loans will be stringent/free market/supervised; for this to happen, the Venezuelan armed forces will have to react and throw the Socialist/Commie bums out. The Venezuelan armed forces, in their vast majority/their families, are suffering economically, even hunger; only the very top levels are OK, largely due to contraband/narco income. The Venezuelan people, 90% critically poor, are mostly suffering hunger (an acquaintance family of 4 recently lost their jobs and only ate bread this past weekend); the dissatisfaction with Chavismo/the Ven. economic situation is general, the protests are limited in numbers for fear of physical harm.

  9. Good to know that there is still some rebellion left in Venezuela. Even when not even large protests like the ones a couple years ago, or the recent ones in Nicaragua can topple nasty dictatorships. At least it shows some character and dim hope for those hijacked people.

    “little by little, their own sympathizers also join some of the protests, which could eventually become a natural collective catalyst.”

    What happens here is that such tremendous hyperinflation has hit even the Chavista Enchufados, even the Millions of Public Employees, even some die-hard Chavista populists. It’s a trickle-down economics, Kleptozuelan style: since there is much less to steal, after years of debauchery and massive embezzlement, the left-over crumbs that used to trickle-down to middle and low level Enchufados no longer gets there. The top crooks get less stolen money too, so they keep it all to themselves, so the lower ranks get poor and pissed-off. The little that is left to steal is only for the 2000 top “generals”, nothing left for corrupt Lieutenants and lower officers. Thus, they switch sides and join in the protests against the very same Chavistas that used to grease them and feed them and give them freebies that are no longer there.

    Tragically, as long as the top military, the Sebin, Police and Guardia Nazional are taken care of, Maduro and his thugs will maintain firm control on the country. If some revolt gets to big, they’ll just escalate the repression. If some opposition leader gets too popular, they’ll neutralize him/her. They know that, so all the money that’s left now from the immense Drug Trade, from Oil or Mining goes to the military and the police top dogs. As long as they are happy, nothing will change.

  10. People are protesting to satisfy their urgent day-to-day needs. But they are also conscious of what is important and the cause of their daily hardships. They know that their privations are due to a perfect storm of incompetence and corruption. The important issues are in the back burner, regrettably with empty bombonas of cooking gas, por ahora.

    The people in Venezuela want to be spared the worst aspects of capitalismo salvaje but also of socialismo salvaje. Ayn Rand capitalism is not acceptable nor is Marxist communism.

    Venezuela is a hybrid of indigenous, white and black cultures. In a similar manner a hybrid political system combining the best features of capitalism, socialism and Christianity would allow for democracy and free enterprise to creatively coexist with conscience in the spiritual, educational, health and housing needs of the population. It should be modeled on the political systems of the European Union or Canada, without their downsides.

    So protests are good, even if they are only for bombonas of cooking gas.

  11. Venezuela settles $1.2 billion creditor claim to protect Citgo.

    Cash-strapped Venezuela settled a $1.2 billion arbitration claim that will prevent a creditor from stripping away its crown jewel foreign asset, the U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corp refining business, according to Canadian court documents.
    The deal with Crystallex International Corp suspends the Canadian mining company’s push for a court-ordered auction of control of Citgo as a way of collecting on an arbitration award against Venezuela that has grown to more than $1.4 billion with interest. Citgo is based in Houston, Texas.

    Venezuela completed an initial payment of $425 million, mostly in the form of “liquid securities,” on Nov. 23, according to a filing in the Ontario Court of Justice, where Crystallex sought protection from creditors in 2011.

    Part of the payment was made in bonds issued by Venezuela and its state oil company, PDVSA, according to a Venezuelan finance industry source with knowledge of the issue.

    Venezuela agreed to pay the remainder in installments by early 2021. If Venezuela fails to post collateral by Jan. 10 for the remaining payments, Crystallex can restart legal proceedings.

    A U.S. judge in Delaware was scheduled to hear on Dec. 20 Crystallex’s arguments for a court-ordered auction of control of Citgo. The company’s three U.S. refineries are a key destination for Venezuela’s crude exports, and Citgo has been valued in the billions of dollars.

    Bonds instead of cash, which suggests that the sale of CITGO is pushed into the future.

    • And what about the 1.5 billion they still owe ConocoPhillips?

      All Trump has to do is embargo VZ oil tomorrow, and ConocoPhillips owns Citgo.

      I’m amazed he hasn’t done it yet, but if he’s considering putting them on the terror list, that has to happen as well.

      • Trump is playing it exactly how he should be. CITGO is fine. The problem is the Chavistas and their mismanagement.

        If Venezuelans suffer, it isn’t because of Trump or El Imperio. The Castroists are doing all of the hard work for Capitalism.

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