To the streets!

Photo: Efecto Cocuyo

Caretaker President Juan Guaidó addressed Venezuelans as “legitimate commander in chief of the Armed Forces” through a video shared on social media to ratify his call for protest this May 1st: “Today we started the final phase of Operation Freedom and tomorrow we’ll keep on with more courage than ever,” said Guaidó in the message, claiming that Nicolás “doesn’t have the support or respect of the Armed Forces, much less of the Venezuelan people: because he doesn’t protect anyone, because he doesn’t offer results, because he doesn’t offer solutions.” He said Tuesday was a historic day for the country, also explaining that there’s no chance for a coup d’état in Venezuela (unless they want to arrest him) and that we have the possibility of a peaceful rebellion against “a tyrant entrenched within four walls for fear of facing our people.” He insisted that the streets are our territory and that we’ll meet this Wednesday there.

Dissonances

After Juan Guaidó’s message circulated, over 15 hours after the start of this move, Nicolás appeared on a mandatory broadcast with a recorded video. Dressed in blue and with a table showing more soldiers than civilians, he unfolded a tale with several dissonances, as if he hadn’t decided on the plot: the challenge against his power or the victory he said he accomplished. That’s why he said the rebel action was merely a skirmish and a coup at the same time; he claimed that he had everything under control from the start but also spoke of national anxiety, saying that the action’s goal was simply a right-wing show and also a threat to his legitimate power to enslave the country. Nicolás didn’t speak to the people he claims to support (he said 60,000 rallied in Miraflores,) and tried to disregard the fact that the unity around him is a farce. I’d swear he didn’t make it, that what he described as his “supreme wisdom” is as true as his “nerves of steel.”

What he said between the lines

Nicolás congratulated the military high command for conducting the defeat “of the small coup-mongering group,” meaning that he admitted there was a breakdown in the chain of command. He announced the return of Gustavo González López as head of SEBIN (removed just a few months ago from that post, after the death of councilman Fernando Albán) which can be interpreted as a lack of loyalists. He also claimed that Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López led the coup, but didn’t say anything about the fact that they are still free. He said that 80% of the soldiers called for this action were deceived, opening another sphere of criticism to his talents. Nicolás spoke of colonels with bullet wounds (and in intensive care) but he didn’t mention repressed, wounded and arrested citizens. He announced that three prosecutors are already investigating the case because “we can’t tolerate impunity,” however, when he said that the soldiers who supported Guaidó went from the Colombian embassy to the Brazilian embassy, he didn’t explain why they weren’t arrested.

Repression and censorship

Yesterday was a day of protests marked by tear gas and the impunity of paramilitary groups loyal to Nicolás. By 8:00 p.m., NGO Foro Penal recorded 83 arrests in protests this Tuesday. PROVEA said that a 24-year old man died identified as Samuel Enrique Méndez was killed in Aragua. The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict reported 109 people wounded. PROVEA said that since April 2002, and until April 30th, 2019, at least 8,150 people have been wounded in protests, over 5,000 of them during the Maduro era.

The National Union of Press Workers reported 15 incidents where the right to information and free speech was violated, affecting 13 journalists and press workers, one radio station shut down and two international media outlets off the air. VE Sin Filtro confirmed that Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and YouTube were blocked from CANTV; the block was lifted around 9:00 p.m., during Nicolás’ mandatory broadcast.

Human Rights Watch director José Miguel Vivanco said: “Maduro restricted the access to social networks for most of the day. He allowed it scarcely 20 minutes before his speech. This is a vulgar dictator who wants to make sure that the people can only listen to him.”

U.S. vs. Cuba

By the end of the day, both nations deployed their spokespeople to share their versions of events, in a duel that was both diplomatic and communicational. U.S. Security Advisor John Bolton said that his nation “condemns Cuba’s direct role in propping up the failed Maduro regime in Venezuela. We will continue to take actions to cut the Cuban regime’s lifelines in Venezuela and hold it accountable for the destabilizing role it plays in this man-made crisis.”

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said that Bolton is a “pathological liar who misinforms President Trump.” He also claimed that there are no Cuban troops in Venezuela, “only medical staff in a humanitarian mission.”

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel answered on Twitter to the threat issued by President Donald Trump about sanctioning them: “Enough lies already,” claiming that “there are no military operations or Cuba troops in Venezuela” and calling the international community to stop this “dangerous aggressive escalation.”

And against Russia?

U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo restated that Russia talked Nicolás out of leaving to Cuba, although Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said that the information is false: “Washington has done everything in their power to demoralize the Armed Forces in Venezuela and now they tell lies as part of an information war,” said Zakharova. Pompeo insisted that it’s time for Nicolás Maduro to leave, and added that “he has no answers for the Venezuelan people and the United States is determined to assist the Venezuelan people in restoring democracy.”

In addition to this tirade, Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said that Leopoldo López and his family moved to the Spanish embassy in Caracas because the Chilean embassy “had guests already.”

Nightfall

Juan Guaidó didn’t get everything he hoped for, but Nicolás didn’t have the capacity to cover the cracks around him with neither repression nor censorship. Leopoldo López’s freedom is a tremendously power symbolic blow. Rocío San Miguel said that “there’s no peace in the National Armed Forces. There are important spaces for transition. I hope it’s achieved without deaths,” and although we ended the day without a resolution, the Operation Freedom blindsided the regime, unleashed their wrath in the form of unnecessary and disproportionate violence, with other victims that demanded on the streets the possibility of free and fair elections to put an end to this version of the country. Chavistas are responsible for hyperinflation, scarcity, recession, corruption, the precarity of public services, plummeting oil production, the return of diseases that used to be under control and the forced and mass migration of Venezuelans. Chavistas represent the worst version of our country. We have more than enough reasons to rise in peaceful rebellion, to return to the streets, to keep pushing, time and again.

We go on.

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