By Mision Verdad – Mar 16, 2021
Social media networks are currently one of the main tools used to promote narratives that later serve as an imperialist justification for the application of interventionist measures in sovereign countries. There is no war that does not contemplate the psychological and media dimension, since it is on this level that offensive and defensive decisions are made within the framework of an unconventional war.
From this point on, the Venezuelan opposition “in exile” has adopted an aggressive and strident rhetoric that projects a biased view of what is happening in Venezuela, in order to seek greater intervention by actors exogenous to the conflict (“all options are on the table”). This is due, firstly, to the fact that they have no personal interests in the country that could be compromised in the event of an escalation of violence and greater misery due to the blockade and insurrectionary actions launched from the United States and/or Colombia.
A report by the Crisis Group, an organization aimed at the resolution and prevention of international armed conflicts with a presence on four continents, reveals the hysteria of the discourse of the so-called “exiles” and its detrimental effect on the interests of Venezuela when seeking a way out of the conjuncture.
It is these voices that claim to represent the dubious figure of more than five million Venezuelans who “have fled” the crisis.
“This ‘exile effect’ could be an impediment to peace talks, to which Maduro, the opposition and their external supporters will be required to commit. Host countries must ensure that the voices of exiles do not dominate political discussions to the detriment of those most open to a negotiated political settlement,” says the report by the organization financed by magnate George Soros.
The Crisis Group maintains that Chavismo is responsible for the crisis, an argument it uses to justify the attacks on Venezuelan institutions such as the coup d’état perpetrated near La Carlota air base on April 30, 2019:
“These actions have not gone unanswered. Maduro’s repression prompted his opponents to embark on a campaign, led by Guaidó, to overthrow the government and push for a return to democracy.”
Later, it acknowledges the failure of the maximum pressure campaign and refers to Chavismo‘s victory in December 2020 as “Maduro’s control over almost all parts of the Venezuelan state.” However, in reality only the most belligerent sector of the opposition decided not to participate in the constitutional elections scheduled for last December.
This boycott comes after they had sought a way to suspend the elections, with the support of the European Union, arguing that they should “improve conditions.” It is worth noting that all the guarantees were offered and there were concessions given and agreed with all the participants.
The entire pressure campaign against Venezuela by the United States is justified by the alleged voices from exile that call for military intervention to end the alleged dictatorship, the same ones who support the fake presidency of Guaidó.
An example of this can be seen in the interactions that keep Juan Guaidó painfully in the public arena. Those who still support the figure of the “interim government” are social media users who live outside the country, mainly in the United States. Although it had a boost provided by the support of the United States and its satellites in the beginning, within a few months, it was deflating due to the lack of any real effectiveness.
Guaidó fue el mayor ridículo político del 2019. El apoyo digital de los USA es pornográfico, todas las páginas de fb que le apoyan están administradas desde EE.UU.:
– Guaidó y los 20 principales políticos opositores
– Los principales medios digitales
– La Asamblea Nacional y más pic.twitter.com/oaFqH6TLrc
— Julián Macías Tovar (@JulianMaciasT) January 2, 2020
But the attempt to create a parallel government did not begin with the stark figure of Guaidó. Already in 2017, the extreme right-wing leader María Corina Machado and the former mayor, a fugitive from Venezuelan justice, Antonio Ledezma, created the Soy Venezuela platform, which would be in charge of gathering dissent to Chavismo. The figure of Ledezma is one of the references to those making up the “voices in exile” that fight for the freedom of Venezuela.
Historically, it might be thought that the figure of the exile is a person forced to flee his country of origin to save his life. Throughout the last century, one can find many of these characters who, from other regions, became the voice that complained about the injustice that was occurring in the country they had left.
Subjects such as Julio Borges, Antonio Ledezma, Leopoldo López, Carlos Vecchio, among others, are far from being representatives of the true exile, at least in political terms. Their privileges and well-off lives abroad, having left Venezuela due to corruption and terrorism, remove them from being icons of the true struggle for social justice.
Conspiracies against dialogue
The Crisis Group report states that the dialogue agenda between the opposition and Chavismo stalled in September 2019, after a turbulent year marked by Guaidó’s self-proclamation, attempts to enter the country illegally under the screen of humanitarian aid, sabotage of the electrical system, attempted takeover of the air base and the dispossession of the country’s assets abroad.
After what was described, it points out that there was an attempt to establish negotiations between both political blocks. Obviously, the only support for the opposition came from the United States. Chavismo decided to stop participating in the meetings after a new round of “sanctions” was applied and soon after, the opposition declared the negotiating tables “exhausted.”
It is necessary to remember that in the face of all the destabilization scenarios promoted by the opposition, including the guarimbas (violent street protests) of 2014 and 2017, in addition to the coup attempts in 2019 and 2020, the government of President Nicolás Maduro has sought a way out through dialogue.
Faced with these scenarios, in the ecosystem that makes up the Venezuelan opposition, there are conciliatory positions that have sought to find a democratic way out of the crisis, without meaning they are in agreement with Maduro’s government. “The most conciliatory members also separated from the mainstream of the opposition in search of a greater commitment to the government,” the report notes. It then recalls the 2018 presidential elections, in which the leader of the Avanzada Progresista party Henri Falcón participated, despite a boycott by the defunct Democratic Unity Table (MUD).
The National Dialogue Table has carried out its own negotiations as an interlocutor that has a little more autonomy and is more anchored to national interests than to the designs of the United States. The difference is significant when compared to the Soy Venezuela movement, which “openly calls for a foreign-backed intervention to overthrow Maduro, advocating the prior appointment of a government-in-exile.”
These disagreements were also evident in the parliamentary elections. While Guaidó called for abstention, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a two-time presidential candidate, called on the opposition to negotiate better conditions for the elections to “not leave civil society without options.”
Faced with this dilemma, it is easy to recognize those who bet on a way out of a stalled situation by the Venezuelans themselves, and those who seek to promote military intervention. There is a constant conspiracy against peaceful dialogue in Venezuela, and the fingers point to this “exiled” sector.
Radicalization of discourse
The Crisis Group report includes a survey that reveals how the discourse of those leaving the country varies, a narrative that has become radicalized as pressure increases. It “includes the analysis of their social media posts in which they uses quantitative methods. It is also based on interviews with opposition figures inside and outside Venezuela, diplomats and other knowledgeable observers, as well as on the published writings of prominent exiles.”
According to the survey, the dynamics of the exiles are always more or less the same. Opposition politicians often remain active trying to influence the policies of their host countries against Maduro’s government, especially if they belong to Guaido’s fictitious cabinet and “run parallel embassies in countries that recognize him as interim president.”
On the other hand, the diaspora in general tends to meet with these leaders to organize rallies and thereby press for tougher policies against the government of President Maduro.
Although they tend to maintain the same anti-Maduro line, “there is a generalized perception that those who flee tend to adopt a more hostile posture after leaving the country,” and one of the reasons, according to the NGO, is that exile may be destabilizing both psychologically and physically due to the division of families.
Another argument is that exile supposedly offers greater freedom of expression, which allows activists to unleash the repressed antagonism against Chavismo, an argument that falls apart as long as there is freedom of expression in Venezuela and social networks are a platform for opposition leaders inside the country [as anyone can testify with a single visit to Twitter].
And everything seems to indicate that the radicalization of the anti-Chavista discourse of the “exiles” has been naturalized. Therefore, anyone who wants to be a symbolic part of this social mass must follow this route. Whoever does not do so or jumps from this extreme position is rejected. “To come out with a slightly different idea, a little more centrist, is almost unacceptable,” is the opinion of an “exiled” politician after publicly expressing a more centrist idea.
The extremes are such that those who hold an opinion contrary to those leaders in exile are classified as traitors and Chavistas. This means that at some point the “exiles” form packs against countrymen who disagree with extremist ideas or question any conduct of those leaders.
The Crisis Group compared the activity of Venezuelan opposition figures in exile with leaders who are still in Venezuela to test whether exiles take more intransigent positions outside the country.
The sample consisted of 357 members of the opposition elite with active Twitter accounts.
“About two-thirds of them are politicians, either mayors or members of the National Assembly, while the rest are unelected activists, journalists and judges. A total of 94 of these 357 went into exile for some period between January 2013 and May 2020. Of those 94, 86 left after Maduro took office in April 2013. The study examined the analysis of more than five million tweets from the 357 opponents since January 1, 2013 —shortly before Maduro took office— until May 31, 2020.”
The study focused on two categories of tweets from “Venezuelan exiles” that demonstrate a change in tone and content over the time outlined above.
The first category includes tweets that convey scathing criticism against President Maduro aimed at delegitimizing his position. The second category included those tweets that justify aggressive foreign action to squeeze or unseat the government, ranging from economic “sanctions” to military intervention.
In addition to the extremism of the discourse of the “exiles,” the small sample shows that their highest peaks of interaction are marked by events that could have an impact on a geopolitical decision in the United States, meaning the election of former President Trump in 2016, the insurrectionary events in 2017, and the self-proclamation of Juan Guaidó in 2019, among others.
The north is not Venezuela
Is Venezuela still a priority for those who settle outside the country? According to the Crisis Group, “exiled leaders can also disconnect from the priorities of those who stay at home.” They may even have an erratic interpretation as they may not have a real appreciation of what is happening in the field, especially if the sources are US media or social networks.
Therefore, not being well-informed of Venezuelan reality can make them “less aware of the widespread discontent that exists in Venezuela with opposition politicians linked to acts of corruption.” An example of this can be seen in the unconditional support they still show for the figure of Juan Guaidó, which is causing great damage to the nation.
The growth of the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States can influence the policies applied against this country. Like the Cuban situation, it can even have an impact on the electoral processes in the US and define the regional government of Florida, for example, as well as seats in the Congress and the Senate in Washington.
If a speculative relationship with the Cuban diaspora is established, its great impact on policies used against the island must be taken into account. Hardline exiles have promoted policies that hurt Cubans on the island, a decades-long embargo that has been ineffective in bringing about regime change, but is responsible for Cuba’s high level of poverty.
Although the orientation of the Crisis group report is openly anti-Chavista, it states that the harsher positions of the “exiles” affect local politics by exacerbating divisions among opposition politicians, especially among activists abroad and at home. Likewise, it highlights the preponderant role that politicians such as Carlos Vecchio have played, as he seeks foreign military intervention in Venezuela and directs the opposition embassy in the United States. It is a position that has allowed him to discuss anti-Venezuelan policy with former Vice President Mike Pence.
On the other hand, it mentions Antonio Ledezma as a constant promoter of “humanitarian intervention” (R2P) for the country and actively participates in the attempt to define policies towards Venezuela in Spain, where the political debate on the subject has been lively.
The Crisis Group’s vision continues to be interventionist, but it appears to be suggesting negotiations with international mediation between the Chavista government and the opposition as a hope of getting out of the crisis peacefully. As expected, it blames the government of President Maduro as the promoter of the current situation. It argues that all key parties—the government, the opposition and external actors—will have to engage in the search for a negotiated solution.
Both government and political opposition retain their irreconcilable views. However, they have put national interests ahead to overcome the blockade promoted by the “external actors” that we have mentioned throughout this piece, the same ones who, without experiencing what is happening in Venezuela, project an abject and toxic image outside the country.
Featured image: Representatives of the Venezuelan opposition in exile (Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP).
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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