Venezuelans: Take Up Arms for Democracy?


EspañolA recent video made by General Ángel Vivas, a well-known opposition figure in Venezuela, eliminates any hope that one might still have about democracy returning to Venezuela. Instead, it reveals the profound authoritarian tendencies that have become embedded in our national psyche.

In the video, Vivas calls for citizens to take arms to defend themselves against the “Castro-Communist” invasion suffocating the Venezuelan state. The general fails to take into account the dangers of beginning a civil war in Venezuela, still less the vicious precedent that would be set by a “civil-military” coup.

His proposal is a direct attack on the diversity of political opinion and freedom of Venezuelans. To hear him, it may as well have been Hugo Chávez speaking.

For Vivas, the proof that the Cuban dictatorship has taken complete control over Venezuela is the resolution taken on January 27 that permits the armed forces to use firearms and lethal force against demonstrations.

But what is the general’s solution? “Everyone that has a weapon had better prepare to use it, exercising their right to self-defense, not only for themselves but for their country.” Words like these make me wonder whether Vivas is on the government’s payroll. For what could be better proof of the regime’s long-standing claims of “attacks from the far right” against the government? Vivas’s speech plays right into their hands.

With Simón Bolívar behind him, the go-to of any Venezuelan looking to shore up an intellectually or ideologically shaky position, Vivas made a call to join his movement, the Anti-Castro-Communist Venezuelan Resistance (RAV). “It’s not a political party, but a mechanism of equality for all patriotic Venezuelans, for all organizations to join with the point of honor which is to liberate the Republic of Venezuela, our fatherland,” he railed to the camera.

It’s a beautiful and noble aim, which (for the General) justifies any means. He went on to say, like an aspiring dictator, that “we must share this point of honor fervently among all Venezuelans who love Venezuela. Any Venezuelan who doesn’t share it is undeniably against their own fatherland, and is therefore a traitor.”

We’re not talking about joining a noble cause. We’re talking about the annihilation of diversity of thought, even among the opponents of the Chavista regime. In General Vivas’s plan, the opposition must adopt the same practices that have sunk Venezuela into the grave of misery and hate.

In the video, the general says that those who join the RAV must leave aside their individual interests until the country is freed from Castro-communism, and those who serve its cause are punished. The RAV would then supposedly hand over to a transitional government to restore democracy, despite having seized power through the least democratic way possible.

Ever since I learned to value democracy, I’ve always asked myself why Venezuelans voted for Hugo Chávez in 1998, believing that he would follow democratic procedures. In reality, they voted for a soldier who had already managed to rattle the foundations of our democracy in his 1992 attempted coup. Although our democracy was imperfect, it was still democracy. But after 1998, Chávez began to impose a single way of thinking, ensuring that freedom became a luxury enjoyed by the few. I wonder what’s so different about General Vivas’s proposal.

I understand that desperation makes us want to find the quickest way to end the nightmare we find ourselves in. But would a military uprising, even if ostensibly in favor of democracy, result in anything different?

When will Venezuelans stop believing that we can achieve the democracy we want through anti-democratic measures? Eliminating the armed forces would be a blessing for Venezuela. Simple authoritarianism will always be tempting, but until we embrace freedom — and opposition — as a way of life, our country will never change. It would seem that we don’t know how to build the Venezuela that we want — or at least profess to want.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Subscribe free to our daily newsletter
Sign up here to get the latest news, updates and special reports delivered directly to your inbox.
You can unsubscribe at any time