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Latin America: Deaf, Dumb, and Blind to Crisis in Venezuela

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Mar 5, 2014, 11:16 am

EspañolProtests in Venezuela have now been going on for over a month. Crowds have come out into the streets and raised their voice against a government that will not hesitate to repress its own citizens with unusual cruelty. At the time of this writing, 18 demonstrators have been killed, over 200 injured, and almost a thousand have been jailed — many of whom are being tortured at this very moment.

Without question, the photos and videos being widely disseminated through social media have provided ample evidence of the intense civil unrest within Venezuela and the brutal repression endured by its citizens. Unfortunately, the governments of neighboring countries, international organizations, and the media itself, remain strangely passive on the facts. They are plagued by hesitation and circulated stereotypes that have little relationship with reality.

Many journalists, without knowing the recent history of Venezuela and often without ever setting foot within the country, insist that society is “profoundly divided into two halves.” They say the protests are simply a reaction from the “middle class.” However, anyone who takes an objective look at the images of what has occurred is able to see citizens from all economic levels engaged in these demonstrations — in both the capital and the interior of the country. While it has been mostly students — naturally more passionate and determined — there are people of all ages and all walks of life marching in the streets to demand an end to the violence and a change in government.

Meanwhile, the demonstrations by supporters of President Nicolás Maduro have been few, often sparsely attended, and not very spontaneous. Instead, the president relies on the well-armed colectivos (paramilitary groups) that roam the streets of Caracas at night and fire their weapons wildly. Maduro and the Chavistas do not have the support of “half the population,” but rather a portion of the country that is difficult to quantify at the moment. It’s worth recalling that in the rigged elections that took place last year, Maduro was only able to secure 51 percent of the vote, despite all the advantages of his position for manipulating the election.

If the press can be blamed for their confused attitudes and little empathy shown toward protesters, then — without a doubt — the reaction from the various international organizations and countries from the region has been far worse. Four years ago, the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the government of Honduras when its parliament and supreme court deposed their president. The OAS also harshly criticized the Paraguayans after their congress — in accordance with existing laws — impeached their president as well. In neither case were protesters repressed or was a single death recorded.

Despite the violent actions of the Venezuelan government, to date, the organization remains silent on the issue. The OAS recently canceled Panama’s request for an emergency meeting, proceeding to “look the other way,” lest they raise the ire of the socialists in power. Nor has CELAC — which not only tolerates but applauds the Cuban dictatorship — or any other Latin-American organization that has emerged from the many “summits” in the region, uttered a single critical word toward a government that mercilessly represses its own citizens.

The democratically elected governments of Latin America have also remained silent. When given the opportunity, they’ve made weak calls for peace, and they further legitimize a president who has no intention of conceding and a regime that has brought misery to a once oil-rich country.

It is understandable, of course, that Maduro would receive the support of his allies in Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, to whom he provides aid and showers with gifts. However, why haven’t the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay — to name a few — come forward to support the civil liberties of Venezuelans? Do they agree with the prevailing regime in Venezuela, their socialist policies, restriction of the media, and brutal repression?

Venezuela is now subject to a new imperialism. Cuba receives billions of dollars from their “colony,” while the South American country lacks the funds to import essential goods for its own people. Venezuela is governed by a dictatorship that has become a satellite of Cuban totalitarianism, and those who claim to defend democracy, freedom, and human rights have nothing to say about it.

As long as Latin America continues in this political cowardice, moral hypocrisy, and the implicit support of dictators in the region, we will be subject to all manner of despotism. It is important to remember in these critical times that if we do not defend the rights of others, there will be no one to defend our own when we most need them.

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324