An increasingly intollerant Venezuelan Government criminalizes protest

November 13, 2010

Headlines since yesterday have been dominated by the detention of thirty three people who began protesting in Caracas’ subway system when a subway train was suddenly take out of service. The Government accuses the protesters of planning the action (??) blaming Leopoldo Lopez’ Voluntaf Popular movement of the action, claiming that it was planned ahead of time, simply because the movement has been distributing leaflets like the ones above, in order to exploit politically (why not?) the people’s frustration with the increasing bad service at Caracas’s subway system.

The subway has indeed become one of the Government’s Achilles Heel’s as it seems to break down almost daily, like I wrote about before. But clearly, the Government is getting increasingly sensitive and and intolerant on the issue. First it began kicking those that took pictures of the subways problems and Tweeted them, this time around it arrested the protesters, has now held them for two days and it plans to accuse them of terrorism, organizing to commit a crime and altering public order. Clearly the first two charges are exaggerated, but the Chavez Government wants to stop protests in any way it can.

This is not new, there has been an increasing level of criminalization of protest. Just last week, it was announced that Miguel Angel Hernandez would be tried for wearing the t-shirt below:

which says “Hugo I shit on your revolution”, which has a picture of Homer Simpson. Mr. Hernandez did this during the Caribbean Baseball Series last February and was detained by the National Guard as he was leaving the stadium. Nobody thought he would be tried for this. The words may be offensive but Mr. Hernandez has the right to do exactly what he says in a democracy.

The Government knows that the proliferation of protest will damage its image. The subway used to be a symbol of something that worked in Venezuela, but now is facing problems that are impossible to resolve in the short term (Only 18 of its 41 trains work today and the Government gave three years ago the maintenance contract to a Spanish company used to working with incompatible equipment, it was a french company that built it originally) Opposition groups are definitely trying to take advantage of the symbolism and reality of the subway, this is what the Government wants to stop.

But accusing these people of terrorism and trying to suggest these are yuppies and oligarchs may backfire, as their relatives protest on live TV and subway users are certainly not your typical Venezuelan yuppie. The subway has indeed become a political testing ground for the incompetence of the Government and any further deterioration of the system, or a major break down, will simply back fire and make this a very hot political issue without the Government having the ability of fixing it in the short term.

Sounds like so many other problems in Venezuela…

22 Responses to “An increasingly intollerant Venezuelan Government criminalizes protest”

  1. m_astera Says:

    The most important change that is needed:

    Anyone taking a government paycheck gives up the vote.

    They are no longer allowed to vote themselves a raise or to keep those employing them in power.

    If you work for the government, you lose your franchise. Simple as that.

  2. metodex Says:

    We got enough material in this post and its comments to make each one of you all presidents.
    The only good thing the revolution has done is focus people.
    People like me,are now focus and now know whats good,whats bad,and whats utter bullshit.

    Again,following a person and not an ideology is one of the main reasons why venezuela is a sinking ship. Why do the people need to have somebody saying “countrymen, peasants,poor people, i’m with you” to vote for that person.In my opinion it says nothing.If only, if only….

  3. Roy Says:


    You hit the nail on the head with the following comment:

    “a party that can exist independent of a person or a family (worst cases: Convergencia, Proyecto Venezuela, the first created by and for Caldera, the second created for the Salas-Feo clan of Carabobo)”

    I have been trying to say this to many Venezuelans for a long time now. At best, perhaps 5% understand what I am saying. The rest simply can’t understand the concept.

    In Municipio Maniero in Nueva Esparta (the most upscale and prosperous part of Maniero), the Opposition candidate who won the election for mayor now has her picture pasted on every piece of city property and on the uniforms that are worn by the employees. When I try to explain to people why this is inappropriate, the vast majority simply don’t understand why this bothers me.

    The essential problem is that Venezuela is still at a Feudal stage of political and social development. The vast majority of the population have still not made that quantum leap from being loyal to a particular person (be it Lord, King, or President), to being loyal to an organization founded on a set of ideals or principles. I call it a “quantum leap”, because this step in human political/social development requires that humans learn the trick of applying their highest loyalties, not to an individual person with a human face, but to the State, an abstract concept that has no human image associated with it.

    Until Venezuelans learn this trick, we will continue (with or without Chavez) to be mired in the political quagmire of dozens of political clans and dynasties fighting for power and influence without regard for political principles.

  4. Kepler Says:


    OK, I have to express it better.
    Yes, leaders are necessary. They are very necessary. And as I say: leaders of a national party need to move and charm and talk to people everywhere. They need to do that in Curiapo and Maturín and Caracas.

    What we need is this:
    – a party that can exist independet of a person or a family (worst cases: Convergencia, Proyecto Venezuela, the first created by and for Caldera, the second created for the Salas-Feo clan of Carabobo)

    – a party that organizes primaries

    – a party where at least some open discussion between top leaders AND the base is public. You should see discussions in political meetings in Germany to understand the level of open criticism without people insulting each other.

    – a leader who shares some explicit set of values – call it ideology if you want-, values that people can describe and identify with

    – a party with a plan and a programme and people with balls to tell some hard truths

    – a party with shadow ministers who take time to become the best in one given area, follow up the ministry they “shadow”, pass the information to the head or/and spokesperson or give their voice

    – a party that challenges people to real debate

    – a charming head of party, a leader, but not a God or a repetition of the so vicious personality cult that has plagued Venezuela since Simón Bolívar himself promoted a cult around himself.

    The main issue is that when a leader leaves a certain place after campaigning there should be at least some people left who say: I will vote for party X because they talked about how to do this and that…and that guy explained it well and he seems to be in touch.

    We do not need people shouting “ese es el hombreeeeee carajo”.

  5. Kepler Says:

    apologies for the clumsy grammar. Cheers

  6. amiere Says:

    Leaders are always necessary. People actually follow leaders, not ideas (preferably leaders with good ideas).

    There are good leaders and bad leaders, a caudillo being a bad leader.
    One of the differences between a good leader and a bad one (caudillo) is that a good leader uses his influence to strengthen the institution(s) he leads so they can grow and continue being strong even after he’s left them.
    A caudillo instead uses the institution(s) to expand and strengthen his own influence, often damaging the instution in the process and making them more dependent on his own persona.

  7. A_Antonio Says:

    Kepler, 100% agree about opposition parties.

    I hope that opo agree with you some day.

  8. Kepler Says:

    Going back to what Deananash said: I find that a great idea.
    Protest signs should be made obiquitous, everywhere. And over and over we should talk to people about:

    – pluralism
    – open societies
    – freedom to criticize
    – transparency
    – need to transform Venezuela into a tolerant society working to become a developed nation (distant dream, but we need that target)

  9. Kepler Says:


    Creo que primero tienes que hacer el “reality check” tú mismo.

    I don’t like Leopoldo Lopez more than I like Borges.
    I don’t live in Venezuela, but I am very aware of what Ocariz is doing and I am actually in contact with people close to Capriles.

    I have been actually helping people of PJ with a very concret hands-on project, for over a year. I do not belong to PJ nor to any other party and I will never want to be in a party, so I say things as I please and I say blunter things to them via email. I don’t want a single penny, so I am very free.
    I think that is one thing Venezuelans could use: get used to hearing contrary opinions without freaking out when their loved ones politically speaking get criticized.

    I have written a bit about Ocariz (16 April 2010, for instance) and Capriles in my blog, actually rather positively. I am aware of what they do.

    Do you see where Petare is? Very good. Now take a look at Miranda. See? Fine. Well, Petare and Miranda are in the capital-greater capital area. PJ is supposed to be a national party. You have to get rid of this idea that Caracas es Caracas (con Miranda) y lo demás es monte.
    Just do the maths, I have gone in length about those numbers for loads of municipios all over Venezuela and the repercutions for national results.
    We need to advance and not stay in fiefdoms.

    Borges has family in El Trigal Norte, Northern Valencia. And yet: absolutely no one knows him in Carabobo less it is via TV. He is supposed to be the head of a national party, not a state party. Only recently did he show up to talk to people because of the Valencia Lake floodings. I wondered if he had taken the wrong road that he actually arrived there. If you are driving from Caracas to Valencia and just take a little turn north you are in a couple of minutes from the Panamericana in Guacara, with over a hundred thousand voters and if you do the same to the South you are in areas of class C, D and E in Los Guayos, with one of the highest densities of Carabobo. I studied there and I know loads of people there and they tell as of now they don’t see the PJ guys ever there.

    Is that the head of a party? Is it like PJ keeps Miranda and Petare, Proyecto Venezuela Carabobo, UNT Zulia and COPEI Táchira? I know how some PJ’s have tried to fix their problems in Monagas…hardly much luck. I know how PJ did not accept Andrés Velázquez popularity – something any citizen living in Bolívar and apparently me in Europe- knew but not PJ. That is why we lost Bolívar (by the way, in a similar fashion as we lost Valencia, but in that case the very obvious fault was on the Salas-Feo clan…I could go on to say what I think Salas-Feo’s party should do, but I digress).

    There are other issues for other parties: Leopoldo wants to play if he is the leader, like the Salas-Feo clan in Carabobo and people in the UNT party haven’t been able to put up a plan beyond any caudillo. I have no proofs, but the things I hear about Rosales does not make very confident.
    And there is Convergencia and COPEI, which exist separately simply because they are not really political parties, but platforms for their leaders.

    Leopoldo is getting that right. I don’t like his ego, but he is getting that right. Parties cannot act now as if we were in the Middle Ages and they just had to defend a bloody fiefdom, be it Petares or Miranda. In other things it is Leopoldo who has to learn: he is not Bolívar and he should stop behaving like one. Our fight should be about ideas and common proposals, not líderes.

    A last thing: I presented to one of the parties in power another idea and concrete measures to go forward. The only thing you need to implement it is to tackle it nationally with the help of the other alternative parties.
    I won’t get into what idea that is here because Chavistas read.

    What do I get as answer from the one of that party? ‘That’s a great idea to implement for our constituency’. They think they live in Sweden or Switzerland, where they can grow like that and then go nationally…or perhaps they think the idea needs to be patented first.
    Venezuela is living through a dictatorship. Some topics they need to tackle at a national level and if they do not have the resources, they need to do that with the other parties.

    At this moment all parties are not lavando ni prestando la batea.
    One thing PJ got right? Primaries (even if few know about them)
    One thing it does not get it? Really go nationally or delegate.
    Miranda is not a nation.

  10. A_Antonio Says:

    The Venezuelan’s free falling in the abysm do not had bottom.

    Sad, vey sad.

  11. comotu Says:

    Dear Kepler, do you live in Venezuela?

    “I wonder when the guys from PJ are going to understand that.”

    Have you been in Petare? Do you know Los Teques? Please go to google and search for Carlos Ocariz/Petare or Henrique Capriles/Miranda…

    They are not only talking to the people, but also solving their problems and been accountable. It is ok that you like Leopoldo. You may also be anti-PJ or anti-Borges, that’s ok. But a reallity check is important…


  12. deananash Says:

    Gringo, thanks for that link. Just incredible. And an INCREDIBLE opportunity.

    If Chavez jails this man, then EVERYONE should wear the same shirt, but add “and your ‘justice’ system and your ‘democracy’.”

    And by everyone, I mean a protest march of hundreds of thousands.

    For him to put up or shut up.

    One thing is for sure, you’re never going to win back your country WITHOUT sacrifice. It simply isn’t going to happen.

    To me, this seems like a sacrifice (chance) worth taking.

  13. deananash Says:

    Part of the Chavez strategy is to keep the news churning. He does this so that his failures are quickly moved off center stage. And as the opposition dutifully brings up issue after issue, they begin to appear as nothing more than noisy cymbals – to be ignored.

    This is why I.C.’s point is so important to understand. To the Chavista, if they’ve food, clothing, shelter, and a job, well, that’s more than before. In other words, they like sucking at the tit of daddy Chavez.

    Whatever happened to the 3 STRIKES campaign?

    I would think that a video could straighten things out. Perhaps showing Chavez running around like one of the 3 stooges or Charlie Chaplin, or Mr. Bean. And where would he be running? From one of his failures to the next, and the next, and so on. My god, there must be literally HUNDREDS of failures. ARE THERE ANY SUCCESSES? (If so, show them.)

  14. Kepler Says:

    Island, get to Facebook and look for Leopoldo López’s account. 90% of the messages are from women wishing him success but he also write a bit about how he is meeting people everywhere in Venezuela and talking the right things to them. I am sorry this all has to be so leader-oriented in Venezuela, we need to grow up and see things more in terms of movements, ideas, principles. And still what he is doing is what the oppo should have been doing ages ago.

    I wish the other parties would also do a similar stuff.
    Carajo, and at this stage they should all share the costs for the bus, for the food they need to take, for the logistics in general. We are not talking about campaign in Norway. We are talking about campaign in a land that is already under a military dictatorship.

  15. Kepler Says:

    Sure, Island, but they are starting to do it in the bus terminals, for instance. Of course the way is to go there yourself. Leopoldo is doing it.
    I wonder when the guys from PJ are going to understand that. Perhaps they should replace Borges for someone who is ready to beat the road, talk to people. UNT is doing it but mostly in Zulia.
    Several parties need to merge and the rest cooperate logistically, not just by putting forward one candidate for things.

  16. island canuck Says:

    Remember one thing. The strength of Chavismo is the lower levels of society & the rural countryside.

    The message may not be reaching the right people.

    How many users of the Metro are with the revolution? Does it matter to them as they go to their government paid jobs? Who cares if they show up late?

    El metro no sirve, That’s why I’m late. No problem Jose.

  17. Kepler Says:

    I’m happy for the leaftlets. Finalmente. Now we should go for much much more. Leaflets are good. We need to show our contempt for the government, symbols, symbols, and always talk there is pluralism in many countries outside Venezuela. Remind people: esa mierda no es normal.

  18. Roger Says:

    Poster hell Spray Paint!

  19. mick Says:

    Wouldn’t the subways be a great place to post leaflets with pictures of all of Hugo’s failed projects, broken promises, and corrupt ex-military millionaires.

    A poster on the wall of a train car would probably be worth a thousand blogs.

  20. Roger Says:

    He broke His train set! They can’t fix it because no matter how inefficient the old managers and workers were they kept the system running. Now you have Chavista managers and workers there to support Chavez not run the trains. Caracas without the subway running is scary but sometimes scary is good.

  21. Gringo Says:

    Can’t get ahead of the Devil. I was going to put a link up about the T-shirt, but it was already up.

  22. CarlosElio Says:

    There is a course, an evolutionary path for totalitarian governments. Although I should have said “an involutionary path” since it aims at more primitive forms of government.
    The Iranians went from an awful dictatorship under the Shah, to a despotic government that acts in the name of a weird god. I think that the compass of the path is the notion of a supernatural being who is powerful and demands obedience. For the Iraians is Allah, for chavismo is the revolution. Like god, no one has ever seeing the revolution, but it has its tropical Ayatollah who offiates as the supreme priest and vicariously demands complete obedience to himself, the revolution incarnate. Whenever someone speaks in the name of supernatural beings, a lot of people are going to suffer. DemoCracy, is the healthy belief thata when it comes to governments, there are no supernatural beings. It is the atheism of political thinking.

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