February 01, 2019
Moon of Alabama
To demonize the President of Venzuela, Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuelan government forces, a concerted effort is made to falsely depict gang violence, and the police reaction to it, as a confrontation between coup supporting protesters and the Maduro government.
Gang violence in the various slums in Caracas and elsewhere has been a problem for decades. The phenomenon is by far not exclusive to Venezuela. The gangs mostly fight each other over territory, but sometimes collide with the police that tries to keep the violence level down. This violence has nothing to do with the recently attempted coup or the anti-government protest by the mostly well-off people who support it.
On January 29 the Washington Post, the CIA’s favored outlet, launched the campaign. As detailed yesterday an incident of gang violence and the police’s reaction to it was manipulated into a story of anti-government protest.
The first three paragraph of the story told of an alleged anti-government protests in a slum in Caracas which included the arson of a culture center. The next day the police arrested some culprits which led to more violence. Some twenty propaganda filled paragraphs about the coup attempt follow. Only at the end of the Washington Post piece was revealed what really happened. The arson incident took place a January 22, a day before the coup attempt. It was a gang attack:
Around midnight, neighbors say, a group of hooded boys threw molotov cocktails at the culture center.
The following day the police arrested some of the arsonists. More rioting followed:
A group set fire to barricades, threw stones and attacked an outpost of the National Guard. … Neighbors said that criminal gangs were among the crowd and created havoc by violently confronting the police.
The whole tit for tat incident was typical gang vs. police violence. It likely had nothing to do with the coup attempt.
On January 30 the New York Times added to the propaganda theme:
The agents barged into the home of Yonaiker Ordóñez, 18, on Sunday morning as he slept. Dressed in helmets and carrying rifles, the men grabbed the teenager and forced him to another room without explaining why they came, his family said.
The operation resembled one of the many police raids against the gangs that terrorize Venezuela’s poor neighborhoods. But Mr. Ordóñez’s only crime, his family said, was that he attended a protest against the government days before.
The Times goes on to claim that a special police force, the FAES, has replaced the National Guard as anti-protester force. It quotes an ‘opposition lawmaker’, a ‘human rights organization’, a ‘former military general who broke ranks with Mr. Maduro’, a ‘criminologist in Caracas who teaches at the Central University of Venezuela’ and an ‘opposition activist’ in support of that claim. No attempt is made to quote someone from the police or government side. How the FAES, a special police force with some 1,000 officers in Caracas, could ever replace the 70,000 strong militarized National Guard is left unexplained.
On January 31 an op-ed by the dude the U.S. wants to make president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, was published in the NYT. He mentioned (not by chance) the same incident describe in the Washington Post. He also claimed that it was motivated by anti-Maduro sentiment:
Last week in Caracas, citizens from the poorest neighborhoods that had been Chavista strongholds in the past took to the streets in unprecedented protests. They went out again on Jan. 23 with the full knowledge that they might be brutally repressed, and they continue to attend town hall meetings.
The phrase ‘they went out again on Jan. 23’ confirms that the incident happened before the coup-attempt on January 23 and the demonstrations related to the coup.
Today Bloomberg reports of the same incident as WaPo and NYT before. It also falsely claims that the FAES police raids against gangs are part of a government reaction to an alleged anti-Maduro sentiment:
Since protests against Maduro began last week, the socialist regime has regularly sent the police’s elite Special Action Force racing into Caracas slums on personnel carriers and motorcycles. Its masked members, all in black, attack demonstrators with weapons including tear gas, guns and even grenades. They settle long-standing scores and rob residents’ homes, eyewitnesses say. At least 35 people have died amid the demonstrations, adding to scores of deaths in two years of unrest.
The government sent the FAES to arrest gang criminals in Caracas’ slums ever since that force was founded for exactly that purpose. To say that it does so “since protests against Maduro began last week” makes absolutely no sense.
The unhinged National Security Advisor John Bolton highlighted the alleged anti-government protest in a radio interview today:
[W]hat we’ve seen, the violence you’ve referred to already, which interestingly has been largely in the poorest parts of Caracas, that is to say directed against the poorest residents of the city, the former supporters of Chavez by basically armed gangs called collectivos [sic!] in Spanish trained and equipped by Cuba. These are the thugs and killers that have been sent out in the past days, were sent out against earlier expressions of opposition to Maduro. And it’s these people, they are absolutely ruthless. This is as cold-blooded, they’re capable of cold-blooded murder, and they’ve engaged in it already.
“The slums are rising up!” “They get brutally repressed!” It is the same story repeated again and again. It is also false.
Gang violence is a huge problem in Venezuela. Like in other countries it is a side-effect of rapid urbanization and the uncontrolled growth of new city quarters or slums. Other factors are drugs and the availability of weapons. Some six million guns are believed to be in civilian hands and drug dealing is rampant. Youth unemployment exacerbates the problem. The same gang problem exists in Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere. In Los Angeles 60% of all homicides are gang related.
The problem is not new. In March 2011 the Guardian reported on Drugs, murder and redemption: the gangs of Caracas. In October 2012 Time Magazine published a photo essay about the The Street Gangs of Caracas. In June 2015 the government created a joint military and police force to get a grip on the problem. It was not successful: Controversy Continues over Venezuela’s New Security Operation. The Daily Mail ran a typically sensational piece about gang violence in Caracas in June 2016: Boss of brutal kidnap gang boasts of murdering HUNDREDS – and police admit they’re powerless to stop him. In August 2016 Reuters chimed in: Ultra-violent gangs thrive in chaotic Venezuela despite crackdown. In May 2017 the LA Times headlined Venezuela’s raging homicide epidemic is going unrecorded.
Since the late 1980s the homicide rate in Venezuela (and elsewhere) has constantly risen. The gang violence existed in Venezuela way before 2002 when the socialists under Hugo Chavez came to power. Several large programs were created to calm it down with more or less success. Special anti-gang forces were created and abandoned. The problem still does not go away. There are many ideas of how to fight gang violence. Some may work, some may not. They all require lots of money and time.
In 2017 the Venezuelan government created the Bolivarian National Police Special Forces (‘FAES’ in Spanish). It replaced a joint military and police force, the Operation Liberate the People, that was criticized after some bloody incidents. The FAES are equipped like typical SWAT teams and have a similar function. Here are pictures of them in a recent raid against criminal groups. There are only 1,000 FAES officers in Caracas, a city with 3 million people. Their job is to react to violent gang crime. The force is too small to be tasked with controlling anti-government demonstrations. That is the job of the regular police and national guard.
Criminal gang activity in the slums and the police reaction to it that has been going on for decades. To now claim that it is somehow related to the recent coup attempt and anti-Maduro activities is nonsensical.
It is typical demonization propaganda. As soon as the U.S. government declares some head of state an ‘enemy’, U.S. media start to villainize that person. The same stories that were written about alleged cruelty of Saddam Hussein, Muhammad Ghaddafi, Kim Jong-Il and Bashar al-Assad will now be recycled with regards to Nicolas Maduro. In Syria the shabiha, youth groups supporting the Baath party, were claimed to be a secret killer force for the government. The same claim is now made about colectivos in Venezuela. These are civil neighborhood groups doing social work in support of the United Socialist Party. It is lather, rinse, repeat ‘reporting’ in the service of war mongering.
The people who live in the slums of Caracas have profited most from the socialist policies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. They are the most avid chavistas. It were those people who took to the streets and came to Chavez’ help during the failed coup in 2002. If they would really rise up against the government, the streets would be full and Maduro would be finished.
To claim that these people now engage in the anti-government protests is at best wishful thinking of the coup-attempt supporters. More likely it is war drumspropaganda.
Posted by b on February 1, 2019 at 03:08 PM | Permalink