Venezuela and the flood of misinformation

Illustration by Karli Kruse

Illustration by Karli Kruse

Venezuela is currently going through one of the biggest changes Latin America has seen in the last decade. These changes that have left the international community split into Cold War-like teams supporting or not supporting recent events. That is why I, a person with family in and around Venezuela, have been unable to stand the stream of misinformation that has flooded the US. I’m not referring to disagreements rooted in fact or informed conversations about geopolitics. I’m talking about the folks who simply didn’t check the facts.

On Jan. 23rd, the president of the national assembly of Venezuela, a position similar to the Speaker of the House, declared himself the new president of Venezuela after the current president, Nicolas Maduro, had been inaugurated following an election riddled with reports of fraud. Guaido has been recognized by over twenty nations, including the US, Colombia, and Brazil.

One flaw is the reporting of what has happened. The Guardian ran a story on Jan. 28th declaring, “What has happened in Venezuela is a coup.” Merriam-Webster defines a coup as, “the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.” The word coup has gaslighted many, but an understanding of what has actually happened shows the word is not accurate.

Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution states that the president of the national assembly must become interim president if there is no available president during an inauguration period. Guaido activated Article 233 and made himself president.

Maduro’s election was held in question not only due to evidence that the last several elections were rigged, but also because he blocked major opposition candidates from running due to their involvement in protests that took place in 2016. VICE reported thus, “the vote was criticized as a sham, with the Democratic Unity Roundtable — the main opposition coalition — boycotting the vote, while opposition leaders [like] Henrique Capriles… were not allowed to run”. No sign of a coup.

Another key comment made by some is that this is part of a far right take over. This has even made its way into a series of statements from recently-elected Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Congresswoman Omar stated that, “A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution… Trump’s efforts to install a far-right opposition will only incite violence”.

The idea that Guaido and Popular Will are far-right is slightly silly because both are socialist. Popular Will is actually part of Socialist International, a network of socialist parties that promote Democratic Socialism globally. Socialist International is widely seen as a stamp of approval for global socialist communities. One would struggle to even loosely describe either with a phrase like “far-right”.

Another misconception is that people disliked Maduro because he was a socialist. People dislike Maduro’s corruption and lack of response to Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.

Popular Will leader Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced to over 13 years in jail for inciting violence during protests in 2014, Human Rights Watch, however, reported that, “López is serving a 13-year sentence… despite the lack of any credible evidence against him.” Lopez is one of many political prisoners in Venezuela.

Maduro removed the National Assembly’s ability to act out any usual legislative powers. The Guardian reported thus in 2017, “Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened after a new pro-government “superbody” stripped the opposition-held parliament of its legislative powers”.

Maduro’s VP, Tareck El Aissami, has connections to the drug trade, with The Guardian reporting, “As governor of Aragua state and minister of the interior, he allegedly oversaw or partially owned drug shipments… and dealt directly with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and Colombian narco-boss Daniel El Loco Barrera.”

Finally, Maduro has denied international aid for the people of his country, one that is crippled by poverty, starvation and crime. Colombian officials say that from “560,000 to 700,000 Venezuelans” have migrated to Colombia, legally and illegally.

This moment is the one Venezuelans around the world have waited on for two decades. Don’t let misinformation allow you to take that from them.

VoicesDominic Bisogno