democraciaAbierta

State of emergency, control and complete silence in Venezuela

Even if we reject the violent options the evidence of the government’s position is there to be seen. Español

Rafael Uzcátegui
8 May 2020
11 January 2019, Venezuela, Caracas: "We are democracy," it says on posters at a public session of the disempowered National Assembly.
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Boris Vergara/DPA/PA Images

On Monday, May 4, within the context of a confusing uprising on the Venezuelan coast, Provea (Venezuelan Program for Education and Action in Human Rights) reiterated a series of principles through its social networks, which generated a strong response from high officials of the de facto government.

What did the messages say?

1) In the face of the loss of peaceful means of conflict resolution, Maduro encouraged violence;

2) Provea supports only peaceful mechanisms for the transition to democracy;

3) The international community should reject forced withdrawals, instead relying diplomatic pressure;

4) The people who had been detained in the incidents should not be victims of torture, disappearance or extrajudicial execution.

These messages, or variations of them, had been published on other occasions in recent months. Why did they generate such a furious wave of increased criminality at this point? For now, the answer is: The nature of the conflict is changing dramatically.

The state of emergency order has generated some authoritarian measures that, in other places, we have described as having been " dreamed up " by Bolivarianism as a device for the control of Venezuelans: increasing separation, isolating individuals so that they are incapable of collective action in public space, increasing levels of censorship and self-censorship, militarising the control of the main urban centres, increasing the state control of daily life, as well as eliminating the dissent that was being seen before lockdown.

That is why we have cases of doctors detained for having complained in private conversations about not having the necessary implements in the hospital where they work, or citizens detained for having posted on Instagram their discontent about the shortage of gasoline.

A sector of Venezuelan society has come to believe that it is the use of force that will change the balance of power and trigger change.

And this is because the exceptional situation resulting from Covid-19 is being used as an exercise in discipline by the authorities to normalize complete silence and restraining people in expressing discontent.

"We may be entering a dangerous phase that includes armed conflict."

In other words, the Coronavirus has made it possible to deploy a new and extraordinary situation that, unfortunately, we believe will persist after the epidemic. By taking advantage of the circumstances and using it to reinforces these strong measures.

Even if the violent options are rejected, as is the case with us, the facts are there. A sector of Venezuelan society has come to believe that it is the use of force that will change the balance of power and trigger change.

If this were the case, we could enter into a situation that could include an armed struggled and this would allow the de facto government to respond strongly to the threat of aggression.

Not only can moral reasons be invoked to reject violence. A transition caused by an act of force, we believe, will not be the beginning of a political process to leave behind the causes and consequences of authoritarianism, but will be a continuation of the conflict.

We will have to insist on the promotion of political mechanisms and active citizens in what I believe will be a scenario with different qualitative characteristics to those that existed before the epidemic. It will not be easy in the midst of so much uncertainty, but it is definitely the way forward.

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