On Monday night at least 7 people were killed, 61 injured, and many institutional buildings, including multiple public health clinics, were set ablaze by right-wing mobs all across Venezuela. These attacks were encouraged by Henrique Capriles’ call to action that reached a fiery pinnacle the day after his defeat in Sunday’s electoral race. His shouted to his followers to take to the streets and, “Take all of your hatred out, all your frustration, in the name of peace.”
On Monday night at least 7 people were killed, 61 injured, and many institutional buildings, including multiple public health clinics, were set ablaze by right-wing mobs all across Venezuela.
These attacks were encouraged by Henrique Capriles’ call to action that reached a fiery pinnacle the day after his defeat in Sunday’s electoral race. His shouted to his followers to take to the streets and, “Take all of your hatred out, all your frustration, in the name of peace.” Hundreds of Chavistas have since reported attacks on their homes and threatening messages written across their doors.
The alarm sounded on April 14, when opposition candidate Capriles lost by a 1.7 percent margin to Nicolas Maduro, the former vice president of Hugo Chavez. Capriles’ initial response appeared to be the gut reaction of a vehemently sore loser – he declared the elections fraudulent and Maduro’s presidency illegitimate.
As the night grew longer, however, it became clear that his stance was keenly premeditated. Many believe that this strategy is part of an ongoing destabilization plan devised by Venezuela’s oligarchical powers in tandem with Washington.
For example, Patrick Duddy, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela under the Bush Administration, “outlined a range of military, financial and diplomatic measures that the US should be prepared to take against the Chavez government” in response to the country’s October 2012 election. Furthermore, a WikiLeaks cable intercepted from former U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield’s office, who is now an Assistant Secretary of State, reveals five core objectives to undermine Venezuelan democracy, from “penetrating Chavez’s political base,” and “isolating Chavez internationally” to the predictable “protecting vital US business.” Presently, Nicolas Maduro now represents the threat that Chavez once did.
Capriles has appeared on all major corporate media channels urging his supporters to take to the streets and demand that their vote be “counted.” He claims there were irregularities and urges the electoral branch to conduct a “100% re-count.” He fails to mention two important bits of information:
1. According to the laws of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (CNE), an audit translates as follows- after the digital data has been totaled from the computerized polling machines, 54 percent of the boxes containing the paper ballots are opened at random so the digital numbers may be verified to be concurrent with the ballots. The CNE has already conducted this audit with witnesses representing both opposing parties. The 100 percent audit that Capriles is calling for is not only unlawful- it will make very little difference, statistically speaking.
2. Neither Capriles nor anyone representing his campaign has filed an official petition to the electoral department for this audit to take place. His wild cries of fraud are for media ears only.
Similarly, the White House issued a statement today saying they will refuse to accept Maduro as president until the 100 percent recount is conducted. Without making mention of our own personal electoral woes, much less those of Mexico, whose genuine electoral fraud in recent years was entirely ignored by the White House, it’s disconcerting that the U.S. government would want such a sentiment to be made public.
“If the White House merely wanted to support a 100 percent audit, it could do so privately, even to both sides (the NYT reported today that President Maduro reached out to the Obama administration through Bill Richardson, looking to improve relations),” wrote Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The really ominous thing here is that for years the Obama administration has been smart enough not to overtly take sides in an internal struggle within Venezuela. That’s because the Obama team knows that this only helps discredit the opposition. “
This sudden show of support for Capriles’ demands is an unnerving sign of intervention on behalf of the U.S. government.
Former Brazilian president Lula da Silva said in response to the White House’s demands, “It’s all very funny because- every now and then [U.S.] Americans decide to contest an election. Why don’t they start worrying more about themselves and let us [in Latin America] decide our fate?”
Whether or not the White House recognizes Maduro’s victory, their less transparent strategies for destabilization have already taken a toll. International mass media attacked and belittled Hugo Chavez for 14 years with an anti-socialist rhetoric that was made popular with Venezuelans through the corporate media network Globovision. Only in this state of confusion could a group of students march through the streets Monday night carrying a sign saying “Obama, Shimon Peres- Need Help Please!”
Over 50 million dollars from U.S. government sponsored organizations, such as the National Endowment of Democracy and USAID, was funneled into creating a persuasive but unspecific oppositional platform. After two extensive campaigns, Capriles finally has 49 percent of voters on his side with the vague promise of “progress.”
At any rate, Maduro faces a challenging first term regardless of the current threats.
“The saddest part is they are inhibiting our organic democratic process by forcing us into a defensive position,” reflected Benjamin Mast, Venezuelan filmmaker. “The right wing in Venezuela with their media stunt has for the moment robbed us, the revolutionary activists of this Bolivarian process, of the possibility to self-critique and profoundly review the mistakes we’ve made. That’s what we should be doing to reinforce this revolution together with Maduro in preparation for his six year term.”
In New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities across the U.S., a National Day of Action has been planned for Friday, April 19 to defend Nicolas Maduro’s victory from U.S. intervention.
Zoë Clara Dutka is an independent journalist & photographer currently based in San Francisco. She lived in Venezuela from 2008 to 2012.