Latin American writer Luis Britto García has written at length on the role of the media in Venezuelan politics. “The current situation”, he says in a recent interview, “has a historical context that must be understood”. We must look back at how the TV networks played a large part in the 2002 coup attempt, which owed a lot to the media. These networks, according to Britto García, “became political actors”, with many “representatives of the major media” signing the ‘Carmona decree’ in 2002 which looked set to destroy much of the content of the new constitution. They also “edited out images, stories and facts that didn’t fit their narrative”, playing a central part in the events of 2002.
“In this current coup attempt”, he continues, the television networks have behaved differently, “but the radio and social media and international press are playing a leading role”. They have used “images of repression in Egypt, Syria, the United States and other countries to depict supposed repression in Venezuela”.
He focusses our attention on the fact that 2.5 million of Venezuela’s 29 million inhabitants are in higher education, and that “the overwhelming majority of them are in perpetually free institutions”. The media hopes to convince people that all of these young people, and others, are against the government, Maduro, and the Bolivarian Revolution. Such a portrayal, he affirms, “is absolutely false”. While there are young people opposed to the government, it is “just a fraction, a small minority of the entire student population”, which is “something the international media aren’t reporting”.
He also points out that the media is not reporting on how “the right wing in Venezuela is very divided”, and that the imprisoned López only commands the support of a small portion of the country’s right-wing. As a result, López has decided to support “the option of desperate street violence”. Meanwhile, Capriles, the right-wing candidate who has lost each presidential election he has participated in, has warned supporters not to expect change to come from such actions in the street.
When the traditional parties collapsed in Venezuela in the late nineties, allowing the largely united left to win elections under Hugo Chávez, right-wingers knew they had to set up a new party. And, in this environment, Capriles, López and their parties began to gain support from the right. In their youth, they had been members of a group “somewhere between a religious and a political organisation” that “used to stand out on street corners of urban neighbourhoods with large Superman-style red capes”. They subsequently formed “Primero Justicia”, inspired by “a television show begun by a lawyer named Julio Borges”, who is now the party’s leader.
With the party being at least “partly funded for more than a decade by the United States through the National Endowment for Democracy”, according to WikiLeaks cables, it was developed “on one side by Capriles, and on the other side by López”. Meanwhile, tactics like “grabbing and holding middle-class people prisoners in neighbourhoods with barricades called guarimbas” were used by more extreme elements to gain media attention. Such a method, Britto García emphasises, “immobilises the right”, cutting them off “from the very people who could support” them. “It’s a ludicrous political action”, he says, pointing out that they also tried it in 2004, but failed.
The Venezuelan right is getting increasingly desperate. An example of this is how, in the recent carnival celebrations, “the right called for a boycott”. However, the poor rejected the call, filling beaches and streets with their celebrations. “The international media”, of course, “didn’t take notice”. While throughout the world “the rich celebrate and the poor protest”, in Venezuela the poor celebrate and the rich protest. With his comments, Britto García invites us to consider why.
Adapted from an article posted originally at http://www.thenation.com/article/179125/why-media-are-giving-free-pass-venezuelas-neo-fascist-creeps