Caracas (OrinocoTribune.com)—Last week, Orinoco Tribune interviewed Venezuelan community journalist Elida Polanco in the second episode of the interview series with Venezuelan Chavistas called “Coffee & Chavistas.” Polanco stressed that María Corina Machado and Henrique Capriles, among most of the far-right Venezuelan opposition leadership, should be in jail for the crimes and damage they have inflicted against the country.
Elida Polanco is a Venezuelan alternative communicator. She is co-founder of Radio Perola and Voces Libertarias, two notable community radio stations. She is currently an instructor in community journalism and radio script at the Ciudad CCS newspaper and can be contacted through her X (formerly Twitter) account (@epolancoster).
When asked about Venezuela’s current economic situation, Polanco said, “The economic situation of the country is quite tough due to the sanctions imposed on us by both the United States and the European Community. That means that medicine and healthcare supplies are scarce. We have not been able to increase salaries; we still have very low salaries, but President Maduro is giving us special bonuses.”
She explained that public sector workers, pensioners, and retirees receive special bonuses via the Patria System, often meaning approximately six times the minimum wage.
“With the sanctions, they have made trade so terrible that not even the minimum wage is enough for a kilo of meat. We do not even have enough to buy 30 eggs, but this bonus they give helps us. And in the communities, in the popular areas, there are protein and chicken CLAP combos. These are government programs. In the communities, in the low-income areas, we receive protein and chicken combos, which are government programs, and the CLAP bag arrives every month. Some communities receive it twice a month. These are indirect benefits that help us. Sometimes, people do not talk about them, especially people who want to do harm. There are also the popular pharmacies, where you can find medicines at very low prices. But, of course, there is a lack of supplies in hospitals.”
Polanco told Orinoco Tribune that she was hospitalized less than two weeks ago in the Pérez Carreño hospital for a gastric obstruction. She evaluated her experience very positively despite the lack of healthcare supplies.
We bought all the medications, the tubes for the injections, for all those things because they had me on medication and a gastric tube because I had intestinal obstruction. The hospital also gave me another medication, the intravenous antibiotics were given to me by the hospital and the doctors’ attention was very good, very good… So the care was excellent. Then, they took me down the next day to see the gastroenterologist. They gave me a spectacular echo, they did all the tests, and I came out well. I felt good about the care and well taken care of… I know there are problems because there are no supplies, and the relatives must go out to buy supplies. Just like if we are going to have an operation, we have to buy the operating kit because there is none… In the Perez Carreño, there were no X-rays, but I went to a CDI [Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers belonging to the Barrio Adentro network] that is in the neighborhood… and there I had my intestine X-rayed… I took it to the hospital, and they saw the problem I had. So, yes, there are CDIs that have everything, then you are hospitalized and there they give you all the medicines.
“These opposition groups have done a lot of damage to the country. It is thanks to them that we have the sanctions because they asked for them. And now they are asking for more,” said Polanco. She added that María Corina Machado launched her neoliberal government plan from New York as late Democratic Action (AD) leader, Romulo Betancourt did in the late 1950s, handing out Venezuelan oil to the United States. In her words, the situation is more dramatic now because Venezuela has coltan, thorium, and water sources, among other strategic minerals that are the objective of US interests.
Elida Polanco was an active actor in the flourishing era of the “free, community, and alternative media” boom in the early 2000s. She was part of Radio Perola in Caricuao, Caracas, and was a prolific writer for Aporrea.org, a then-Chavista news outlet that she currently labels as right-wing.
Orinoco Tribune asked Polanco about the current situation of community and alternative radios. She responded that community radios have declined significantly due to those running them lacking management skills and the lack of management and marketing training that would allow them to make community radios sustainable projects with quality content and less dependent on state funding.
She recognized that at Radio Voces Libertarias, Roberto Zanabria has tried to create quality content. On the opposite side, she said that Aporrea.org began to receive funding from former PDVSA head Rafael Ramírez and ended up selling itself to the highest bidder
On the success cases still in operation, she also mentioned Radio Negro Primero, Radio en Petare, and Radio Macarao, “which, with its ups and downs, continues to do good programming.”
“Radio Perola had a big drop because when a transmitter is damaged, there is no money to fix it. There were many comrades who made alternative transmitters, but they always needed material from abroad, and with the sanctions,” that is an uphill task, Polanco said.
“There are two radios in Catia and 23 de Enero [Caracas], which also work very well. You see, TV Catia has fallen a lot because it lacks money, and the problem with the management of the administration and the whole country is that it costs a lot, just as TV Caricuao declined a lot because of lack of supplies.”
On the need for training, Elida Polanco told Orinoco Tribune that the Yanira Albornoz School of Popular Communication, attached to the Ciudad CCS newspaper, is doing fantastic training work for which they have received two national journalism awards. Polanco herself is teaching Community Journalism and Radio Script, among other subjects, to approximately 300 people yearly at the school. She hopes this initiative will be replicated in the communes across Venezuela, as many people, not just in Venezuela, do not realize the importance of community and alternative communication.
When asked about the far-right opposition primaries, Polanco said the opposition launders money from the United States and the European Union. In addition, they now illegally use Venezuelans’ private data that belongs to the National Electoral Council (CNE). In her opinion, this will lead to a monumental fraud where the opposition will claim that millions of Venezuelans vote in the process that many have estimated will have only 1.5 or 2 million far-right voters participating in the best-case scenario.
She added that the lack of popular support has prevented the opposition from organizing street activities in Caracas. In the few street events they have organized in Venezuela’s countryside, there are very few supporters, most of whom are paid or members of the opposition parties.
When discussing the disqualifications of some opposition politicians such as Machado and Capriles, she clarified that those are not political decisions taken this year for electoral reasons but administrative and judicial decisions taken several years ago. Then, Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza, Orinoco Tribune’s founder and editor conducting the interview, commented that it is very different to the lawfare against Donald Trump in the United States, that despite all his wrong-doings, is clearly of an electoral nature. “And then the gringos talk about Venezuela to give us lessons in democracy,” added Rodríguez-Espinoza.
As for the outcome of the upcoming 2024 presidential elections in Venezuela, Polanco does not doubt a victory for Nicolás Maduro and the PSUV. For her, the imperial aggression, sanctions, blockades, and assassination attempts against Maduro and the country’s leadership, analyzed through the lens of resistance and the economic recovery seen in recent months, are elements that will strengthen Maduro’s victory along with the internal unity of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV).
Special for Orinoco Tribune by staff
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/September 28, 2023