In the so called Venezuelan democracy these days you are not even allowed to use any form of protest that may have a chance of being successful. As reported here earlier, a group called “Cambio” plastered Caracas a few weeks ago with paper skeletons, which the Government tried to say were poisonous, as a way of classifying the protesters as some form of terrorists. Alexandra Belandia Ruiz Pineda at some point was the spokesperson for the group, which cost her some harassment by the investigative police which called her to testify about this protest. (By the way, there is an interview with her in yesterday’s El Universal)
Then on Sunday Hugo Chavez bothered to talk against the celebration of Halloween as not part of our heritage. Some laughed at this, but I didn’t it was simply a way of attempting to disqualify this form of protest, by turning it into something anti-Venezuelan. Well, this reached the ridiculous level that the intelligence police detained seven young activists of the Primero Justicia party for “promoting hate”, using “illegal campaign material” and the Vice-Minister of Justice says these activist “may be connected” to that other placement of skeletons, as if that was a crime.
And then the Prosecutor’s office, the same one that can not figure out hundreds of murders and injuries says that these charges should go in the same case file as that of the previous skeletons, which so far nobody has managed to tell us what is the crime that that is being investigated unless it is Government stupidity.
But of course it isn’t. A Government that has all of the resources at its services, where the separation between party and state is no longer visible, uses the intelligence police to intimidate and stop a clever way of raising doubts about the Government and its abilities. This is typical autocratic behavior; stop the opposition form even attempting to gain any on you and if it does, simply squash it. We saw it two years ago when pot banging became such a popular and powerful way of protesting against the Government that it was criminalized and since has disappeared as a form of protest.
Of course, the skeletons may backfire if they become too common. This is what the Primero Justicia activists had in mind when they began using them as a form of pretest and in some sense their protest went beyond their plans. But will others dare use the same form of protest?
Of course, this does not even include asking questions such as whether the role of the political police or the Prosecutor’s office in defining what is legal or illegal campaign material. Thus, adding to the overwhelming advantages of financing and power that the Government has, we now have to add the fact that they can use any police body to block, spin and mutilate any form of electoral campaign or protest, while the Electoral Board fails to stop the President for making use of his beloved “cadenas” to unfairly campaign for his party’s candidates.
Of course, Chavez will later boast of Venezuelan being a full democracy, where everyone can do and say whatever they want and where races are decided on the ballot box. Of course, we know they are decided in the Electoral Registry, the voting machines, the redistricting, the intimidation of the opposition and the absurd rulings of a servile Supreme Court, the balot boxes being almost incidental to the process.
For myself, I am ordering a gross of paper skeletons by mail, which I plan to shamelessly flaunt at electoral events, in front of the police and the National Guard. I am still not sure if I will use the Primero Justicia model below on your left or the one with the two scary figures below on the right. And I am not talking about the kids in the picture