IN-DEPTH: Looking left and right in Venezuela’s crisis

How different narratives drive different perspectives as the country’s political and economic crisis rumbles on

MEDIA

After the leader of the legislative assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared on 23 January that he would serve as interim president, the world’s politicians and media have been offering widely varying viewpoints.

Some support Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, others have backed Guaidó and the opposition, whereas some have even chosen to come out in favour of neither side and promote a ‘third way’ or compromise path.

But before the stunning move from a now re-invigorated anti-Maduro movement in Venezuela, there was already evidence of how the media cover the same events differently if we look at Nicolás Maduro’s contested inauguration for a second term earlier on this month.

Here is how leftist broadcaster Telesur covered the occasion:

 

And here is the video from The Economist, which has decried the Maduro government:

 

Juan Guaidó’s announcement has been called a coup, a crisis, outside intervention, a challenge to the Maduro regime, a threat to democracy and all manner of descriptions under the hot Caracas sun.

The media have been tying themselves in knots to analyse the continuing instability in the country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

For Venezuelanalysis, a socialist online news website, Guaidó’s move should be seen for what it is: Venezuela: Call It What It Is — a Coup

But, as Patricia Laya of Bloomberg points out, Guaidó has cited the constitution to show how his declaration is not illegal:

“In a Jan. 15 column for the Washington Post, Guaido also cited Article 350, which says Venezuelans ‘shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights.'”

Indeed, inside Venezuela, there is strong anti-Maduro sentiment online.

This article from Caracas Chronicles makes it clear on which side of the fence it stands, saying Nicolás Maduro leads a “criminal dictatorship”: As Venezuelan Bishops Recognize Guaidó, Chavista Mobs Terrorize Local Churches.

Looking to the international media, the socialist newspaper Morning Star excoriates the US as an “imperial state” with a bloody history in the region in this article: Stand in solidarity with Venezuela’s people, describing the current situation in Venezuela as “class struggle with the gloves off”.

POLITICS

It is indeed true that the United States does not have a good record in Latin America.

Despite that, no sooner had Juan Guaidó made his announcement – in what was surely a co-ordinated decision – than the United States led a swathe of Latin American nations and other western allies in recognising Guaidó and calling for fresh elections.

Denouncing the opposition as treacherous and proudly supporting the government were its usual backers, notably Russia, Turkey and China.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, criticised the US for ‘violating international law with Venezuela’ in its support for Juan Guaidó and its pursuit of sanctions against the state oil company, PDVSA.

But there has been a slight chink in the armour in more recent days.

On 30 January, the Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “without a doubt, President Maduro’s openness to dialogue is highly commendable”, as Maduro suggested he could consider possible talks with the opposition.

But did the president truly mean face-to-face negotiated talks? Again, there is further room for interpretative differences here based on the translation from Spanish to English, as the Wall Street Journal’s Anatoly Kurmanaev explains.

There were other interesting points to note in reactions in the region.

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno voiced his support for Juan Guaidó. What is interesting in this case is that under Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa the response from Ecuador would almost certainly have been the opposite.

Correa was a paid-up member of the socialist bloc across the region at the time, including former leaders Lula da Silva (Brazil), Cristina Fernandez (Argentina) and Michelle Bachelet (Chile) and one that still comprises Maduro along with Evo Morales (Bolivia), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Cuba (Raul Castro then, Miguel Diaz-Canel now).

Evo Morales, the leftist Bolivian president running for re-election later this year, came out with strong support of Nicolás Maduro, whose inauguration ceremony in Caracas he attended on 10 January.

Like Ecuador, Mexico has performed a U-turn – only from the other direction.

From 2012-2018, when Enrique Peña Nieto was in charge, Mexico City fell into line with its fellow Lima Group members in condemning the Maduro administration.

Now that long-time leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is president, we have seen a change – no explicit criticism of the government, with Mexico calling for a third way negotiation between both sides.

Nicolás Maduro attended López Obrador’s inauguration in Mexico in December, although many Mexican members of congress made their feelings clear with chants of “dictator, dictator” when his name was mentioned.

And while all this arguing in the media and discord between regional neighbours and wider world powers continues, the average woman and man in Venezuela still struggle on, as the country battles hyperinflation, with violent and growing protests, crippled by a lack of medicines and basic goods.

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