The Red Comet

While I was reviewing videos and other materials for the work I am conducting in order to disseminate the political thinking and deeds by President Chavez, I found a video that does not correspond his time. It was a video from 2015 and its content still puzzles me. The video gives all Venezuelans and the remaining fraction of chavismo an important lesson.

The video footage was captured somewhere in the plains of Apure State in Venezuela. A group of National Guard soldiers and policemen, under the command of an arrogant official, attempt to subdue an African Venezuelan peasant from this area –without apparent reason. The first impression one gets is that it is from the repression common during the Fourth Venezuelan Republic. After researching a bit and also after hearing the arguments voiced by the peasant in the video, one can quickly realize that it is indeed repression by the Maduro government. The similarity between the situation and attitude of the National Guard official in the video and the common manner these security forces behaved during the Fourth Republic is shocking.

What is different about the video is the people, in this case an assaulted peasant –a strong young man with the rhetoric provided by Commander Chavez to the people. This peasant who clashed like an angry bull while the guards and policemen failed to suppress him in spite of the loud agitated instructions by the official, who threatened him with shooting him. The peasant demanded respect, for him not to be trampled on –while he got off their hold, ran, and argued. He did not attack anybody. He did not seem to become intimidated at any point, which indicates the presence of the pride common in those with certainty.

At a point, more than five uniformed people succeed in toppling him on the ground and then try to tie him using a wire. One of them put his military boot on his neck and it seemed that they were going to control the peasant, who refuse to be harassed by the offended “authorities” –offended by the rebellious attitude of such African Venezuelan. The peasant managed to stand on his feet again and the military official orders for him to be handcuffed, which the peasant rejects while claiming that “[he] was not a criminal”. The military official ordered for him to be thrown on the ground once more while restating his threats caused by the peasant arrogant furious attitude. This was actually what enraged the National Guard official the most.

At this time, the peasant laying on the ground subdued by the men in uniform, as if it had been Commander Chavez himself talking through him, o perhaps Florentino from the plains, he said in a premonitory voice addressing the military official, “… you should be ashamed of yourselves, you should, as security forces… you have become insane… Do you consider this authority? God knows. Let me tell you a story Commander … I had a dream and in that dream I saw a big red comet high above.. Did you hear that? It was high above. I approached and saw the comet saying: Hot damn! Look the way they are treating the peasants… We are the same people educated by Chavez and you come to run over us. Don’t you worry. This has only started; it is yet to be over …”

The peasant, once tied, insisted on demanding respect. All of a sudden, more peasants showed up loudly voicing their indignation, particularly a woman who did this in a very courageous manner while the guards tried to take the peasant arrested. Among those shouting, one can hear voices wondering: “…Is this the Chavez legacy?… Is this that socialism?…” The argument got so heated, that many other peasants came over. Some of them holding a Venezuelan flag, many holding sticks. There was a point where the official and his subordinates were outnumbered: the peasant managed to escape while the video continues showing the skirmish until someone prevents the cameraperson from recording. (Link to video)

I want to clarify that what is displayed in the video that I am discussing does not incriminate the Apure State Governor, Colonel Carrizales, who is an honest and hard-working man and with whom I shared closely as I was a Minister and then when he served as Vice President of Venezuela, we both belonged to the Commander’s team. Certainly, I know that he would not have allowed such abuse against the peasant. He would have set things straight since he is a just –very just- man with profound chavista and humane convictions. He has my respect and appreciation.

We are addressing an organic problem here. The problem is the attitude displayed by the National Guard official and other military forces that indicate that the country is under an accelerated phase of dismantling of the Bolivarian Revolution, its ethics, and behavior. This goes along the accelerated process of reinstatement of capitalism, not only economically (which is already more than obvious when looking at the “paquetazo” by Maduro, oil and gas industry surrender, and the privatization of PDVSA), but also socially, as well as ethically and behaviorally. In other words, Venezuela is going backwards as a society.

All these events are not isolated. We are facing a phenomenon that is daily manifested in Venezuelan people’s lives. It is a tragedy for Venezuelans to live their day-to-day currently. Human beings –the Venezuelan people- are not the priority for the madurista government to protect; it has not ever been. The Bolivarian Revolution by President Chavez displayed his love for the human being and his humane and revolutionary nature. Chavez never allowed the harassment of humble people whether by military, civil powers, judges, politicians or from a powerful family.

There is direct relationship between the pivoting to the right by the Maduro government and people being mistreated. The restoration of wild capitalism taking place in Venezuela needs to impose hardship on the people, to deteriorate the people in all senses and repress when the people shows opposition to this.

However, that peasant trampled on by the National Guard in the video, from the ground and tied with a wire, gives all Venezuelans, the madurista unions, and the political parties that claim to be revolutionary an important lesson –since these remain silent, look away and simply do not care anymore about people suffering.

This unpopular and repressive emphasis by the Maduro government is directly proportional to the manner they have been abandoning people’s concerns in the midst of a crisis caused by the restoration of a capitalist hegemony in Venezuela.

Revisiting Orlando Araujo’s book “La Violencia en Venezuela”, one can understand that, the same way Venezuelan governments from the Era of “Pacto de Punto Fijo”, the people are subject to daily violence, which is administered in different manners, ranging from blackmail, social control, up to open and blunt aggression. Venezuelan people have been driven to lead a life that was unimaginable just five years ago.

First of all, Venezuelans are forced to live in distress and suffering given the widespread shortage of all sort of goods and supplies. There are never-ending lines where Venezuelans stand in order to get one or two products; it is impossible for many to buy food and medication. Following this, they have been submitted to longing for a box of cheap, low-quality and insufficient groceries by the name of CLAP. People are also forced to withstand the consequences of the collapse of essential public-service providing companies, such as running water and electricity. There are long blackouts, prolonged droughts. Everything is rationed. Public transport is also collapsing, as well as many different means of transport on the ground, including the subway and the train to Valles del Tuy. Venezuelan people manage to barely commute on trucks normally employed to carry stock/animals, called “las perreras”. Venezuelan people are being punished, given the absence or complicity of the institutions in charge, by all sorts of anti-socials: criminals, drug lords, kidnappers, profiteering resellers, counter band agents, blackmail/extortion agents, etc.

After five years of calamity-gathering, the Maduro government chooses to load the weight of all its mistakes and inconsistency on the shoulders of Venezuelan people. They decree an economic “paquetazo”: hyperinflation estimated to reach 1,000,000% by the end of this year. Mega-devaluation of the currency that went from an exchange rate of a Dollar at Bs 6 to a Dollar at Bs 172 Million. And to top everything, in order to make figures manageable for banks and attempt to supply cash on the streets, they removed five zeroes to the economy, just like that, and proclaim a new currency by the name of “Bolivar Soberano”. They decree a minimum-wage salary raise, which given the “paquetazo” just mentioned and the devaluation it originated, is around $1 per month again. This eradicates all workers’ likelihood to afford living normally on their salaries. Workers have been becoming poorer and poorer during the last five years thanks to this process of mega-devaluation and hyperinflation.

Now, they impose international gasoline prices, the same paid in industrialized countries, where the salary is not $1 but $1,500 or $2,000. They raise the tax on added value from 14% to 16%, the most regressive tax. They raise the price of a fiscal unit while they decree that oil companies, including transnational oil companies, are exempt from such taxing policies.

Perhaps the worst type of violence is that which, in the midst of such sea of anguish and chaos, depletes the self-esteem of citizens, the self-esteem of that peasant who struggles to avoid being abused by the National Guard. Venezuelans are driven to extreme degrees of want and scarcity and then they are forced to run for a box of groceries (the CLAP boxes), for getting an ID card known as the “carnet de la patria”, which is more of a politically-oriented tool than a way of getting price subsidies. Venezuelans are forced to get this ID card if they want to receive any benefits or alms. These benefits are little but people need them since they are desperate. If you do not have the “carnet de la Patria” ID, you are entitled to no Rights, basically. You cannot receive pension, bonuses, salary raises, subsidized gas prices (whose normal price is monstrous: the international price).

Of course, when this is not enough to manage the collective rage, the government resorts to open blunt violence against any protest or against any of the very few political or military leaders that dare to join the public’s concerns.

The Maduro government resorts to using the GNB (The Bolivarian National Guard) and the police in order to repress, the same way the Fourth Republic used to do. I am not going to get into the sad and bloody episodes of 2017 since there were many political factors at play bringing lots of violence to the streets. It is important to mention that repressive forces are being used permanently to abort any genuine protest from popular sectors or unions. Now, teargas is deployed on anybody: retired elderly people, nurses, peasants, neighbors, etc. Also, there are politically-motivated arrests of an unquantifiable amount of union leaders, workers and military officers.

The most noticeable proof of such mistreatment against Venezuelan people is the fact that 2.3 million Venezuelans, youths and poor people, have fled the country on foot or on a bus out of despair given the suffocating and intolerable situation in Venezuela. The spokespeople of the a government run by criminal networks based in jail (a.k.a ‘pranato’), known as the Maduro government, insist on insulting, discrediting, and ignoring these facts while constructing a ‘reality’ made of Twitter status updates by the powerful Maduro elites.

In order to solve these problems, one has to be willing to see them. Many political leaders within the revolutionary pole display the tendency –I imagine this is a self-satisfying or elusive tendency- of denying the situation, looking away, simply play dumb (link to the “Mephisto” article). It is not the first time that this occurs in the history of politics in the World. It was so when the worst totalitarian initiatives rose: through the use of brutal selective repression, fear is instated and activism demobilized (link to the “El Huevo de la Serpiente” article), when an environment conducive to the rise of fascism is desired, or when –put simply- when the aim is to be a typically repressive elite right-wing government in Latin America.

For those who still refuse to accept this qualitative change and those who insist on not wanting to see reality, just ask yourselves: Would Chavez have allowed something like this to happen? What would the Commander have done? Remember: Did Chavez ever do something like that? Would he have shot a rocket at an opponent, even if such opponent were armed? Would he have allowed the National Guard to trample on peasants or workers? Would he have arrested Rodríguez Torres and hundreds of other military officials? Would he have chased me, offended me and accused me in a cowardly manner without giving me at least the right to self defense? Would Chavez have destroyed PDVSA and turn its management positions over to political factions? Would he have privatized PDVSA or surrendered the mining areas? Would he have surrendered the natural gas and the Orinoco oil belt? No. The answer is NO. Those who claim otherwise would be lying about the Commander.

The people, as the peasants yell in the video, know that Chavez would not have done, or allowed any of that. A friend of mine, a Bolivarian Commander on the Chavez side from the time of military rebellions in 1992, once told me: “Rafa[el], we organized a Coup d’Etat for a lot less than this”.

While the people is left alone in its suffering, its problems, while institutions for inclusion and participatory democracy are being dismantled, the Maduro government moves forward in surrendering Venezuela and the enforcement of the economic “paquetazo de Maduro”. They do it in a way that shows that they do not care about how it looks anymore. They do it with high-handedness and impunity as if they had no duty to report to anybody, the arrogance of those who feel overconfident, just like the National Guard official in the video.

Maduro just went to China to sign new agreements in the oil sector, which they do not dare to make public, in a manner similar to the way they delivered oil fields to the private corporations, or the Venezuelan natural gas surrender to Trinidad and Tobago and the transnational oil giants. All this is taking place behind Venezuelan people’s back. No reasons or explanations are offered to anybody.

Among the announcements made by the government (since they have to say something), they mention that they received millions of Dollars and that they signed the sale of 9% of PDVSA’s stock in a mixed company by the name of PetroSinovensa. In other words, it is not China giving Venezuela a loan. No, what is taking place is Maduro privatizing PDVSA. Getting rid of PetroSinovensa stock is nothing but selling it to the CNPC in China. It’s privatization! That is why China gives funds back. They are paying for the purchase of PDVSA.

All this is illegal. None of it is consulted with the National Assembly or anybody. None of this is reported: the terms, conditions, and the amounts of money. They are running over our Organic Law on Hydrocarbons, our Constitution, and the radical opposition Chavez expressed to this. Chavez voiced it loudly that he did not consent the privatization of PDVSA or any of its affiliate companies.

This is why I subscribe to the peasant’s dream in the video, through which Chavez –a big red comet high above- appears to talk to the people –the poor- saying: this has only started. We have to stop madurismo before it surrenders the whole country and its sovereignty to the best bidder, eradicating our revolution.

If the chavista leadership or the revolutionary parties are not willing to take their responsibility, if they have already become the new concessionist disloyal elite, then the people will run over them. I am indefensibly on the side of the people. Between the peasant and the National Guard, I choose the side of the peasant. Between Chavez and Maduro, I choose the side of Chavez. Always with Chávez, We shall overcome!

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Rafael Ramírez Carreño

Rafael Ramírez Carreño

Soy Rafael Ramírez, ing y politico vzlano, Min. de Petróleo y Presidente de PDVSA 2002–2014. Ex-Embajador ante la ONU. Visita mi blog https://www.rafaelramirez.