Chávez’s War of Survival

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez has taken some overt and covert positions lately that may have surprised many, such as supporting Gaddafi in Libya, and restarting the insurrection in Honduras. Yet, by thinking a few moves ahead in the game of chess his strategy becomes apparent. He is simply trying to position himself to quell a popular uprising that is brewing within Venezuela, and he is using an array of tools to do this, from breaking the chain of successful revolutions in the Arab world, to undermining peace and security in Honduras.

In December of 2010 there were strong anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela, both on the country-side and in the capital. Hugo Chávez deployed the security forces against them and ridiculed them as being irrelevant and totally unable to stop his socialist project. Not even the fact that a majority of the voters had rejected his policy deterred him. His allies in the new congress that took office on January 5th showed nothing but open contempt at those disagreeing with them, and disregarded the principles of conduct that are commonplace in democratic parliaments. On January 23rd Chávez said in a party rally outside the presidential palace that nothing would stop the socialist revolution, while the media dismissed as insignificant the large opposition rally in the other end of town.

However, on January 25th the uprising in Egypt started. Tunisia could be seen as an isolated event, but now it proved to be contagious. People talked about Libya, too. Chávez surely advised his friend, as he calls him, Moammar Gaddafi, how he had successfully stopped a similar uprising back on April 11, 2002. In Venezuela it is known as Plan Avila. It consists of shooting with live ammo into the peaceful demonstration. Hugo Chávez had at least 57 armed persons positioned in an ambush, and in the afternoon they killed 19 persons and injured some 150. There were both snipers who could deliver head shots from roof tops, and staffers with pistols shooting without aiming from a bridge over the street. Chávez’s propaganda later claimed that this massacre had been orchestrated by the opposition in order to make him resign. It is not clear whether he actually resigned voluntarily or was forced to, but later he was helped to return and then he declared that it had been a coup d’état – while ignoring his own culpability in the massacre. While the massacre took place Chávez was on live TV on all channels, after having ordered them to broadcast his speech (a so-called cadena). However, several of the channels went into a split-screen, with Chávez declaring that all is calm on half the screen, and live images of the bloodbath outside the presidential palace on the other half.

One may suspect that Chávez advised his friend in Libya that Plan Avila works, just as long as he makes sure there is no media present. Which is just what Gaddafi did, as he had his henchmen fire into the unarmed crowd with exploding anti-aircraft grenades. Using guns that, according to a source in Chávez’s government that was quoted anonymously online, were delivered from Venezuela to Libya in the present month (March of 2011).

However, just like Chávez failed in 2002, so did Gaddafi fail in 2011. Social media became his Achilles heel. The images spread over the world and the uprising in Libya intensified.

Meanwhile, the success of the peaceful revolutions in Tunisia and especially Egypt had given new hope to the dissidents in both Venezuela and Cuba. The Castro regime is so concerned that they went out on TV and accused the U.S. of instigating a popular uprising via social media, something that of course just contributed to making more people on the island aware of it. In Venezuela, the Operacion Libertad started as a student-led hunger-strike to demand the release of political prisoners. At first many doubted that they could succeed, but after several weeks they managed to get attention from the government and have now managed to get significant concessions and several high-profile releases.

Last week there was a backlash, though. A judge had ordered the release of Carlos Chancellor, but at the door he was stopped on the order of another judge, and the activists and media waiting outside were beaten and arrested. This let to calls for help via Twitter and Facebook. Within an hour the activists were released again, and within 12 hours the prisoner was released, for real. Obviously the regime is threading very carefully. The change compared to pre-Tunisian revolution is staggering.

Does this mean that Chávez has become democratic? No. Since 2 weeks back there has been a new wave of street protests, road blocks, and general anarchist activities by the so-called resistance in Honduras. There is strong reason to believe that Chávez finances them, and that this action was commenced on his orders. What does he gain by this?

My take is that he needs a distraction. What he wants most of all is to provoke some reaction from the government of Porfirio Lobo that his media can spin into it being right-wing violence against the people (his minister of information is the head of TeleSur). He needs some “news” that enforces the prejudice that Latin America is full of military golpistas and wannabe dictators who don’t care about the people. If he can manage to get such a story running, then he can justify a crackdown at home by blaming the dissidents of being allied with the “golpistas” in Honduras. That is his game plan.

It will of course fail because Chávez has lost his credibility. And so has TeleSur, after backing Gaddafi. Plus Honduras understands the lay of the land. They understand that the real enemy is not FNRP of the teacher’s union, but Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. They know that attack is the best defense, and the best attack is to get the TRUTH out on the internet and in social media. They are aware of the vast resources that Castro and Chávez spend in having paid staff editing collaborative sites such as Wikipedia, to promote their version of history (i.e., calling the 2002 massacre a “coup d’état”). All of democratic Latin America is gradually waking up to the reality that the Trotskyist threat from Cuba has to be fought by networking in social media, and collaborating across borders just like the communists do. It is happening as you read this.

Created 14:17, last updated 16:52.