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February 24, 2014 - No. 18

U.S.-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela

Hands Off Venezuela!
Uphold the Sovereignty of All Nations!

 
Demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Office in Ottawa, February 20, 2014, to oppose the U.S.-backed coup attempt in Venezuela and demand the Canadian government take a stand to oppose against U.S. inteference in other countries.
(Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front)

U.S.-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela
Hands Off Venezuela! Uphold the Sovereignty of All Nations!
Venezuelans March Against Violence and Fascism
Venezuela Repudiates U.S. Interference
Government Shows Restraint and Resolve in Face of Anti-Chavista Mayhem - Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Venezuela Beyond the Protests: The Revolution Is Here to Stay - Eva Golinger
Representation to the Government of Canada
Declaration of Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs


U.S.-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela

Hands Off Venezuela!
Uphold the Sovereignty of All Nations!


Ottawa; Montreal, February 20, 2014

On February 12, U.S.-backed elements in Venezuela organized unrest for purposes of destablizing the government of President Nicolás Maduro and undermining the Bolivarian Revolution. February 12 is marked as Youth Day in Venezuela and commemorates the youth who fought and died in the Battle of La Victoria February 12, 1814 during the Venezuelan War of Independence. The rioting instigated by the counterrevolutionary elements took place amidst celebrations to mark the bicentennial of the battle.


Ottawa, February 20, 2014

The actions that took place February 12 bear an uncanny resemblance to the events 12 years ago in April 2002 which briefly removed President Hugo Chávez from office before he was restored through the actions of the people. This shows how hide-bound and bankrupt the reactionary elements in Venezuela and their patrons in the U.S. are. Twelve years later and not only have they not changed their tune but they seriously think that the people will fall prey to their trickery and give up all that they have fought for and won. With no credibility for their neo-liberal, anti-people and anti-national schemes, they resort to intrigue and violence. It must not pass!

TML Daily vehemently condemns the actions of the counter-revolutionaries and their U.S. imperialist masters and expresses its full support for the democratically-elected government of President Maduro. TML Daily also expresses its full support for the Venezuelan government and its efforts to maintain the peace as part of its social responsibility for the well-being of the people. TML Daily has great confidence in the broad masses of the Venezuelan people, who have championed the cause of the Bolivarian Revolution through which they are realizing their own dignity and security and which they will defend to the end.


Demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Montreal, February 20, 2014.



Vancouver, February 22, 2014



Toronto, February 22, 2014

(Photos: Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front/Frente para la Defensa Hugo Chávez, Colectivo de Movimientos Sociales de Quebec Amigos de CELAC y ALBA-TCP)

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Venezuelans March Against Violence and Fascism


Caracas, February 15, 2014

On February 15, Venezuelans held a march in the capital Caracas to reject the recent wave of violence and destabilization attempts against the constitutional government by certain sections of the political opposition.

Announcing the action on February 14, President Nicolas Maduro said, "This Saturday, all the people of Caracas will mobilize against fascism, violence and destabilization. We'll take to the streets to demonstrate that what we want is peace, coexistence, democracy and socialism." President Maduro urged Venezuelans to be attentive to the Plan for Peace and Coexistence launched that day as part of efforts to make Venezuela a peaceful territory.

"We are facing a developing coup d'etat in Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution is going to triumph through the constitution, its laws and there will be peace in Venezuela," Maduro said on February 13.

Opposition Leader Arrested

On February 18, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was arrested on murder and terrorism charges linked to the February 12 protests that resulted in the deaths of three people. Lopez is accused of sowing violence to try to clear the path for a coup similar to the one 12 years ago that briefly ousted late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Lopez was amongst those involved in the 2002 coup against the late President Hugo Chávez.

(Radio Havana Cuba, Prensa Latina, Venezuela Analysis; Photos: Government of Venezuela, AVN)

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Venezuela Repudiates U.S. Interference


Venezuelans march in Caracas, February 15, 2014, to express their opposition to violence and show
their support for the government. (AVN)

Since the beginning of the opposition's attempts to stage a coup, Venezuela has pointed out the U.S. role in fomenting the unrest and violence. On February 20 the Venezuelan government reiterated this position in response to U.S. President Barack Obama's declarations on the political turmoil, rejecting his remarks as "offensive interference" in its domestic affairs.

Obama, in Mexico at the North American Leaders' Summit on February 19, addressed the ongoing violent anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela, accusing the government of using the protests as a "distraction" from the country's economic situation.

The government "emphatically repudiates the declarations made on Wednesday, Feb. 19, by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to the extent that they constitute a new and offensive interference in the internal affairs of our country," said a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Those declarations were additionally "based on false information and baseless contentions," the statement added.

"The declaration that independent governments and countries of the world are waiting for is one in which the government of the United States ... explains why it finances, encourages and defends opposition leaders that promote violence in our country," said the statement.

The U.S. government should also clarify "by what right Deputy Assistant Secretary [of State] Alex Lee relayed a message from his government, in which it tries to condition and threaten the Venezuelan government for its decision to prosecute those responsible for acts of violence in recent days," it said.

"The Venezuelan government reaffirms it will continue to monitor and take the steps necessary to impede U.S. agents seeking to sow violence and instability, and to inform the world about the nature of the interventionist policy of the Obama administration in our country," said the statement.

Earlier last week, on February 17, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua ratified the expulsion of three U.S. officials for their interference in Venezuela's internal affairs in relation to the recent attempt to instigate a coup.

The government declared Vice Consuls Mary Machusquer and Elsen Gordon, and the Second Secretary of the U.S. Embassy Clark Christopher Lee persona non grata and gave them 48 hours to leave the country, Jaua told a press conference at the Foreign Ministry headquarters.

Jaua said these officials took an active part in the organization of the groups trying to generate violence and instability in Venezuela. He added that the State has the responsibility to guarantee the safety of the population and the government has the right to make this type of decision.

It is the classic dog fight scheme: violence is used, the State is forced to act and then comes criminalization, specially by the U.S. government, which supports and funds these fascist groups, said Jaua.

The Foreign Minister expressed his appreciation for the expressions of solidarity from 20 nations, 156 political parties and social movements, and the bodies of regional integration the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

In related news, on February 21, Venezuela revoked the accreditation of CNN's Caracas-based reporter, Osmary Hernandez, and those of two other CNN journalists sent to Venezuela based on what it deemed hostile coverage. "I won't accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they don't rectify themselves, out of Venezuela," said President Maduro earlier in the week. CNN amongst others, has been circulating fake photos of the protests, said to be from Venezuela, but in reality from protests elsewhere in the world.

Later that day, President Maduro invited President Obama to take part in talks, on equal terms, to resolve the problems between the two countries.

Plots Against Oil Sector Denounced

Workers from the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela march against violence and show their support for the government of President Nicolás Maduro, Caracas, February 18, 2014?

On February 21, Venezuelan authorities warned today of information related to plans aimed at attacking the national energy sector. Rafael Ramirez, urged the people to be on alert because "there is information that fascist gangs plan to attack oil service and transport stations."

"The fascist gangs, in their frantic violence, do not care about affecting citizens. We will take all measures to preserve peace," he said.

The state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is on alert, while the National Bolivarian Guard (GNB) are on duty, said Ramirez, who added that it is prepared to cut off oil and gas supplies in areas under fascist siege should public safety be endangered.

On February 18, thousands of PDVSA workers marched in support of the Bolivarian Revolution, President Maduro and the Constitution. This show of support is important as wealth from Venezuela's oil production supports the country's many social programs. Previous opposition attempts to undermine the government involved instigating work slowdowns and sabotage in the oil sector.

(Xinhua, Prensa Latina, BBC)

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Government Shows Restraint and Resolve in Face of Anti-Chavista Mayhem

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) views with great alarm the violence perpetrated against the democratically elected government and civilians in Venezuela that has resulted, as of February 12, 2014, in three confirmed deaths, 61 persons wounded and 69 detained. The carnage and destruction in Caracas on Wednesday comes on the heels of generally peaceful marches held on the 200th anniversary of the battle of La Victoria, a battle in which students played a critical role in a victory against royalist forces during Venezuela's war of independence. While some groups of students marched in celebration of the Day of the Student, anti-government demonstrators used the occasion to protest episodic shortages of some basic goods, persistent crime, and to demand the release of students who had been arrested in earlier demonstrations.

The vicious street attack near the national headquarters of the prosecutor's office in Caracas came after several days of often violent anti-government protests in the streets of Aragua, Lara, Mérida and Táchira.[1] Some of these protests included the use of rocks, guns, and Molotov cocktails, and were largely directed against government buildings, the public (pro-government) television station Venezolana de Televisión, vehicles and other property, the police, and civilians.

Among the injured were three students of the Central University of Venezuela who were reportedly wounded by gunfire as well as 17 Bolivarian National Police personnel, two of whom were attacked with Molotov Cocktails. Among those killed in Caracas were Juan Montoya, a community activist in the pro-Chavista 23rd of January barrio and Bassil Da Costa, a marketing student. A third person was killed in the Chacao neighborhood in the Eastern part of the Venezuelan capital.

In Venezuela, the media war and the contest over how to portray the demonstrations and violence is already at full throttle. Thabata Molina, reporting for the opposition newspaper El Universal (February 13), claimed that Montoya and one other victim were shot in the head by pro-government "collectivists" who, Molina reports, without offering evidence, were shooting at student marchers.[2] The term "colectivos" is being used in this context to evoke a pejorative image of Chavistas who are associates of collectives. Molina's version of events has been challenged by reports by a number of eye witnesses as well as reporters who suggest right wing extremists were taking advantage of the day of demonstrations to wreak violence and death.[3] Also, the generally anti-government flavor of the attacks indicates that the main culprits are more likely extreme elements of the opposition. It stretches the bounds of credibility to argue that the government would seek to destabilize itself when it has come out the winner in two important elections (presidential and municipal), has made reducing violence and crime a top priority, has recently met with opposition mayors to find ground on which to cooperate, and seeks a peaceful implementation of the government's six year plan (Plan de la Patria).

Renouncing Violence

Venezuelans who are now mobilizing in the barrios of Caracas have seen a similar set of events unfold during the prelude to the coup of 2002 against the democratically elected former President Hugo Chavez, so they are not likely to be taken in by the opposition's skewed version of events. On the contrary, the killings have ignited calls from the Chavista base for strong government intervention to bring a halt to the violence and punish both the intellectual authors and the direct perpetrators of these crimes.[4] A number of student leaders, both pro and anti government, have spoken out against the violence., and the more ostensibly moderate elements of the opposition that have called for peaceful marches have also condemned the violence. Former right wing MUD candidate for President and current governor of Miranda, Henrique Capriles, who participated in a pro-opposition student march, has distanced himself from the ultra-right, declaring on twitter ""We condemn the violence. Violence will never be our path. We are sure that the large majority reject and condemn this!"[5] While it is uncertain whether Capriles's statement signals a growing breach within the opposition leadership over strategy and tactics, his statement correctly reads the aversion to violence of the large majority of Venezuelans. There is well founded skepticism about whether Capriles is committed to democratic procedures and peace. The proof is in the practice.

A mounting number of Chavistas in the government and among the popular sectors fault ultra-right wing leader of the Voluntad Popular party, Leopoldo López, for inciting much of the violence. The right wing figure, who played a role in the short-lived coup against former President Hugo Chavez in 2002, has been calling for more demonstrations and for the "exit" of Maduro from the government, blaming government repression by the national guard for the violence. In an interview with Reuters reporter Peter Murphy on February 11, López insisted that his intention was to lead peaceful protests, declaring, "We are proposing to have millions of people supporting the movement and to activate one of the mechanisms that is within the Constitution, including (seeking) the resignation of the president" adding that "It's not a conspiracy, it's not incitement to a coup It's the citizens' right to assemble in the street."[6]

Speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, accused armed right wing groups for the killings, saying, "They are fascists, murderers, and then they talk about dialogue."[7] In an interview with TeleSUR, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua has declared that, "there are fascist groups that are defending transnational interests that seek an end to the sovereign and independent management of the natural resources, just as they have done ever since the arrival of Commandante (Hugo) Chavez fifteen years ago."[8] He alleged that Leopoldo López was the "intellectual author of the deaths and injuries in Caracas."[9] On February 13, El Universal reported that a warrant had been issued by a Caracas judge for Leopoldo López's arrest on charges that include homicide and terrorism.[10] This press report, however, has not yet been confirmed by the Attorney General or other judicial authority.

Maduro Calls for Restraint and Resolve

Government officials have been urging against retaliation and are seeking to avoid any escalation of violence in the streets. Maduro charged that "these are trained groups who are prepared to overthrow the government in a violent way, and I'm not going to allow this, so I call on Venezuela to be peaceful."[11] He has also promised to fully support the attorney general in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence and murder. Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, said detainees would be presented promptly for judicial review.[12]

The practice of extreme elements of the opposition during the past week does indeed look somewhat similar to the tactics used to engineer a coup in 2002. The balance of forces, however, is not on the side of counter revolution. First, the memory of the 2002 coup has produced an alert Chavista base that is prepared to join in a civic military alliance to defend the bolivarian revolution from any threats from within or without. Second, the opposition is not of one voice, with more moderate sectors opting out of violent confrontation and seeking to shake off the stain of golpismo. Third, the opposition strategy of turning the municipal elections of December 8, 2013 into a plebiscite on the status of the Maduro administration only magnified the Chavista victory at the polls and has generally solidified Maduro's democratic legitimacy both at home and abroad. Fourth, Maduro has galvanized the Chavista base by launching a counter offensive in the economic war and stepping up government support for the communal organizations that express grass roots constituent power. While there are indeed some divisions within Chavismo, in this moment of crisis they have apparently closed ranks when the fate of the revolution is at stake.

The Bolivarian Revolution Stays the Course

The moderate response of Maduro to what he takes to be an attempted coup, should not be mistaken for a lack of resolve. Nor should this challenge by the extreme right sabotage the attempts by Maduro to build national unity with the more moderate opposition in the fight against crime. The current clash between revolution and counter revolution reflects an underlying dialectic between two different visions of the social and economic spheres. The Chavista counter offensive in the economic war has seriously called into question the priority of the claims of private property over the claims of human life and development for all citizens. We can expect the government counter offensive, the struggle for food sovereignty, and the building of communes to continue unabated, despite challenges, sometimes violent, from the hard liners on the right. For the formerly excluded and dispossessed, for those working towards building 21st century socialism, there is no turning back.

References

1. Juan Francisco Alonso. "Fiscal assegai que atacantes del Ministerio Público buscaban "matar," El Universal, February 13, 2014. http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140213/fiscal-asegura-que-ata cantes-del-ministerio-publico-buscaban-matar; Molina, Thabata. "Jornada de protesta dejó tres muertos," El Universal, February 13, 2014. http://www.eluniversal.com/sucesos/140213/jornada-de-protesta-dejo-tres-mu ertos; Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim. "Peaceful Marches and Opposition Violence, Two Deaths Mark Day of Youth in Venezuela," Venezuelanalysis.com, February 12, 2014. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10346; see also La Nacion on events in Tachira. http://www.lanacion.com.ve/regional/gobernador-del-tachira-denuncio-plan-p ara-incendiar-san-cristobal/ [All articles were accessed on 13 Feb. 2014].

2. See note 1, Thabata Molina, February 13, 2014.

3. Pearson, Tamara. "Opposition Violence Continues in Some Venezuelan Cities, Attacks on Journalists," Venezuelananalysis.com, February 11, 2014. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10345 [Accessed on February 13, 2014].

4. The Aporrea.org website has a series of videos on the anti-government violence and the Chavista response. See, for example, "A Community Response to the Killings," and "Pueblo exige justicia contra los responsables de muertes y hechos violentos generados desde la oposición," February 12, 2014. http://www.aporrea.org/oposicion/n245059.html [Accessed on February 13, 2014].

5. "Condena Capriles Violencia Tras Marchas En Venezuela," El Universal, February 12, 2014. http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/el-mundo/2014/condena-capriles-violencia-tr as-marchas-en-venezuela-987146.html [Accessed on February 13, 2014]

6. Murphy, Peter. "Venezuela Protest Leader Says Seeks Maduro's Exit, Not Coup," Reuters, February 12, 2014 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/12/us-venezuela-opposition-lopez-id USBREA1B1UJ20140212 [Accessed on February 13, 2014].

7. see note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim. Venezuelananalysis.com, 10346.

8. "Venezuela está enfrentando a un grupo fascista liderado por Leopoldo López," Correo del Orinoco, February13 http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/multipolaridad/venezuela-esta-enfrentan do-a-un-grupo-fascista-liderado-por-leopoldo-lopez/ (The translation into English is the author's and is not official)[Accessed on February 13, 2014].

9. See note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim. Venezuelananalysis.com, 10346.

10. Juan Francisco Alonso. El Universal, February 13, 2014. http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140213/ordenan-al-sebin-capt urar-a-leopoldo-lopez [Accessed on February 13, 2014].

11. See note 1, Pearson, Tamara and Ryan Mallet-Outtrim. Venezuelananalysis.com, 10346.

12. See note 1. El Universal, 104213. http://www.eluniversal.com/nacional-y-politica/140213/fiscal-asegura-que-ata cantes-del-ministerio-publico-buscaban-matar [Accessed on February 13, 2014].

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Venezuela Beyond the Protests:
The Revolution Is Here to Stay

For those of you unfamiliar with Venezuelan issues, don't let the title of this article fool you. The revolution referred to is not what most media outlets are showing taking place today in Caracas, with protestors calling for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The revolution that is here to stay is the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was first elected president and has subsequently transformed the mega oil producing nation into a socially-focused, progressive country with a grassroots government. Demonstrations taking place over the past few days in Venezuela are attempts to undermine and destroy that transformation in order to return power to the hands of the elite who ruled the nation previously for over 40 years.

Those protesting do not represent Venezuela's vast working class majority that struggled to overcome the oppressive exclusion they were subjected to during administrations before Chavez. The youth taking to the streets today in Caracas and other cities throughout the country, hiding their faces behind masks and balaclavas, destroying public buildings, vehicles, burning garbage, violently blocking transit and throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at security forces are being driven by extremist right-wing interests from Venezuela's wealthiest sector. Led by hardline neoconservatives, Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles and Maria Corina Machado -- who come from three of the wealthiest families in Venezuela, the 1% of the 1% - the protesters seek not to revindicate their basic fundamental rights, or gain access to free healthcare or education, all of which are guaranteed by the state, thanks to Chavez, but rather are attempting to spiral the country into a state of ungovernability that would justify an international intervention leading to regime change.

Before Chavez was elected in 1998, Venezuela was in a very dark, difficult period with a dangerously eroded democracy. During the early 1990s, poverty swelled at around 80%, the economy was in a sinkhole, the nation's vast middle class was disappearing with millions falling into economic dispair, constitutional rights were suspended, a national curfew was imposed and corruption was rampant. Those who protested the actions of the government were brutally repressed and often killed. In fact, during the period of so-called "representative democracy" in Venezuela from 1958-1998, before the nation's transformation into a participatory democracy under Chavez, thousands of Venezuelans were disappeared, tortured, persecuted and assassinated by state security forces. None of their rights were guaranteed and no one, except the majority excluded poor, seemed to care. International Human Rights organizations showed little interest in Venezuela during that time, despite clear and systematic violations taking place against the people.

Those in power during that period, also referred to in Venezuela as the "Fourth Republic", represented an elite minority -- families that held the nation's wealth and profited heavily from the lucrative oil reserves. Millions of dollars from oil profits belonging to the state (oil was nationalized in Venezuela in 1976) were embezzled out of the country into the bloated bank accounts of wealthy Venezuelans and corrupt public officials who had homes in Miami, New York and the Dominican Republic and lived the high life off the backs of an impoverished majority.

Hugo Chavez's electoral victory in 1998 shattered the opulent banquet the Venezuelan elite had enjoyed for decades, while they ran the country into the ground. He was elected precisely to break the hold on power those groups had harnessed for so many years, and Chavez's promise was revolution -- complete transformation of the economic, social and political system in the country. His electoral victories were solid, year after year, each time rising in popularity as more and more Venezuelans became motivated to participate in their governance and the construction of a new, inclusive, nation with social justice as its banner.


The many Bolivarian missions through which the people's rights are affirmed in an all-sided way.

Chavez's election was a huge blow to Washington and the powerful interests in the United States that wanted control over Venezuela's oil reserves -- the largest on the planet. In April 2002, the Bush administration backed a coup d'etat to overthrow Chavez, led by the very same elite that had been in power before. The coup involved mass marches in the streets of Caracas, composed of the wealthy and middle classes, calling for Chavez's ouster. Snipers were used to shoot on those in the marches, creating violence and chaos that was immediately blamed on Chavez. Television, radio and newspapers in Venezuela all joined in the coup efforts, manipulating images and distorting facts to justify Chavez's overthrow. He became the villian, the evil dictator, the brutal murderer in the eyes of international media, though in reality those overthrowing him and their backers in Washington were responsible for the death and destruction caused. After Chavez was kidnapped on April 11, 2002 and set to be assassinated, the wealthy businessmen behind the coup took power and imposed a dictatorship. All democratic institutions were dissolved, including the legistature and the supreme court.


President Chávez is returned to power by the people and armed forces in the 2002 coup.

The majority who had voted for Chavez and had finally become protagonists in their own governance were determined to defend their democracy and took to the streets demanding return of their president. Forty-eight hours later, Chavez was rescued by millions of supporters and loyal armed forces. The coup was defeated and the revolution survived, but the threats continued.

A subsequent economic sabotage attemped to bring down the oil industry. 18,000 high level technical and managerial workers at the state-owned company, PDVSA, walked off the job, sabotaging equipment and causing nearly $20 billion in damages to the Venezuelan economy. After 64 days of strikes, barren supermarket shelves due to intentional hoarding to create panic, and a brutal media war in which every private station broadcast opposition propaganda 24/7, Venezuelans were fed up with the opposition. Chavez's popularity soared. A year and a half later, when the opposition tried to oust him through a recall referendum, he won a 60-40 landslide victory.

Leading efforts to overthrow Chavez were the very same three who today call for their supporters to take to the streets to force current President Nicolas Maduro from power. Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles were both mayors of two of Caracas' wealthiest municipalities during the 2002 coup -- Chacao and Baruta, while Maria Corina Machado was a close ally of Pedro Carmona, the wealthy businessman who proclaimed himself dictator during Chavez's brief ouster. Lopez and Machado signed the infamous "Carmona Decree" dissolving Venezuela's democratic institutions, trashing the constitution. Both Capriles and Lopez were also responsible for persecuting and violently detaining members of Chavez's government during the coup, including allowing some of them to be publicly beaten, such as Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, former Minister of Interior in 2002.

All three have been major recipients of US funding and political support for their endeavors to overthrow Chavez, and now Maduro. The US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its offshoots, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided start-up funds for Machado's NGO Sumate, and Capriles' and Lopez's right-wing party Primero Justicia. When Lopez split from Primero Justicia in 2010 to form his own party, Voluntad Popular, it was bankrolled by US dollars.

Over the ten year period, from 2000-2010, US agencies, including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), set up in Caracas in 2002, channeled more than $100 million dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela. The overall objective was regime change.

When Chavez was reelected in 2006 with an even larger margin of victory, nearly 64% of the vote, the US shifted its support from the traditional opposition political parties and NGOs in order to create new ones with youthful, fresh faces. Over one third of US funding, nearly $15 million annually by 2007, was directed towards youth and student groups, including training in the use of social networks to mobilize political activism. Student leaders were sent to the US for workshops and conferences on Internet activism and media networking. They were formed in tactics to promote regime change via street riots and strategic use of media to portray the government as repressive.

In 2007, these student groups, funded and trained by US agencies, took to the streets of Caracas to demand Chavez's ouster after the government chose not to renew the public concession of RCTV, a popular private television station known for its seedy soap operas. The protests were composed of mainly middle and upper class youth and opposition politicians, defending corporate media and a station also known for its direct involvement in the April 2002 coup. Though their protests failed to achieve their objective, the "students" had earn their credentials as a solid fixture in the opposition. Later that year, their organizing helped to narrowly defeat a constitutional reform package Chavez had proposed in a national referendum.

After President Chavez passed away in March 2013 following a brutal battle with cancer, the opposition saw an opportunity to snatch power back from his supporters. Elections were held on April 14, 2013 in an extremely tense and volatile environment. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, ran against Henrique Capriles, who months earlier in October 2012 had lost the presidential election to Chavez by 11 points. This time, however, the results were much narrower with Maduro winning by a slim margen of just under 2 points. Capriles refused to accept the results and called his supporters to take to the streets in protest, to "get all their rage out". During the two days after the elections, 11 government supporters were killed by Capriles' followers. It was a bloodbath that received no attention in international media, the victims just weren't glamorous enough, and were on the wrong side.

As 2013 wore on, the economic crisis in the country intensified and the old strategy of hoarding products to provoke shortages and panic amongst the population was back again. Basic consumer products disappeared from the shelves -- toilet paper, cooking oil, powdered milk, corn flour -- staples needed for everyday life in Venezuela. Inflation began to rise and speculation, price hikes, were rampant. While some of this was related to government controls on foreign currency exchange to prevent capital flight, a lot had to do with sabotage. A full economic war was underway against Maduro's government.

Problems persisted throughout the year and discontent grew. But as the electoral period came around again in December, for mayors, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had sweeping victories. 242 out of 317 mayoralties were won by the PSUV, showing a solid majority of the country still supported the government's party.

Maduro called opposition governors and newly-elected mayors to a meeting at the presidential palace in late December in an attempt to dialogue and create a space to work together to improve the situation in country. The meeting was generously received by a majority of Venezuelans. Nevertheless, extremists, such as Machado and Lopez, saw the meeting as a threat to their goal of ousting Maduro well before his term ended in 2019. Once again they began to call for street protests and other actions against his government.

In January 2014, as Venezuelans arrived back from their Christmas vacations, economic difficulties continued. Maduro began cracking down on businesses violating newly-enacted laws on price controls and speculation. Towards the end of January, new measures were announced regarding access to foreign exchange that many perceived as a devaluing of the national currency, the bolivar. Sentiment built amongst opposition groups rejecting the new measures and calls for Maduro's resignation increased. By February, small pockets of protests popped up around the country, mainly confined to middle and upper class neighborhoods.

During the celebration of National Youth Day on February 12, while thousands marched peacefully to commemorate the historic achievements of youth in the nation's independence, another group sought a different agenda. Opposition youth, "students", led an agressive march calling for Maduro's resignation that ended in a violent confrontation with authorities after the protestors destroyed building façades, including the Attorney General's office, threw objects at police and national guard and used molotov cocktails to burn property and block transit. The clashes caused three deaths and multiple injuries.

The leader of the violent protest, Leopoldo Lopez, went into hiding following the confrontation and a warrant was issued for his arrest due to his role in the deadly events and his public calls to oust the president. Days later, after a lengthy show including videos from a "clandestine" location, Lopez convened another march and used the event to publicly turn himself over to authorities. He was taken into custody and held for questioning, all his rights guaranteed by the state.

Lopez became the rallying point for the violent protests, which have continued to date, causing several additional deaths, dozens of injuries and the destruction of public property. Relatively small, violent groups of protestors have blocked transit in wealthier zones of Caracas, causing traffic delays and terrorizing residents. Several deaths have resulted because protestors refused to let ambulances through to take patients to the emergency room.

Ironically, international media has been portraying these protestors as peaceful victims of state repression. Even celebrities, such as Cher and Paris Hilton have been drawn into a false hysteria, calling for freedom for Venezuelans from a "brutal dictatorship". The reality is quite different. While there is no doubt that a significant number of protestors in the larger marches that have taken place have demonstrated peacefully their legitimate concerns, the driving force behind those protests is a violent plan to overthrow a democratic government. Lopez, who has publicly stated his pride for his role in the April 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez, continues to call on his supporters to rally against the Venezuelan "dictatorship".

While dozens of governments and international organizations, including UNASUR and Mercosur have expressed their clear support and solidarity for the Venezuelan government and President Maduro, Washington was quick to back the opposition protestors and demand the government release all those detained during the demonstrations. The Obama administration went so far as to threaten President Maduro with international consequences if Leopoldo Lopez were to be detained. In the aftermath of the first wave of violent protests, Maduro expelled three US diplomats from the US Embassy in Caracas, accusing them of conspiring to recruit students in Venezuela to engage in destabilization.

As the violence continues in some areas around the country, Maduro has made widespread calls for peace. A movement for peace was launched last week, led by artists, athletes and cultural figures, together with organized communities seeking to end not just the current chaotic situation, but also the high crime levels that have plagued the country over the past few years.

Most Venezuelans want peace in their country and a majority continue to support the current government. The opposition has failed to present an alternative platform or agenda beyond regime change, and their continued dependence on US funding and support -- even this year Obama included $5 million in the 2014 Foreign Operations Budget for opposition groups in Venezuela -- is a ongoing sign of their weakness. As a State Department cable from the US Embassy in Caracas, published by Wikileaks, explained in March 2009, "Without our continued assistance, it is possible that the organizations we helped create...could be forced to close...Our funding will provide those organizations a much-needed lifeline".


President Chávez with students at Misión Robinson, part of the fight against illiteracy in Venezuela.

During the past decade in Venezuela, poverty has been reduced by over 50%, healthcare has become free and accessible to all, as has quality education from primary through graduate school. State subsidies provide affordable food and housing for those who need it, as well as job training programs and worker placement. Media outlets, especially community media, have expanded nationwide, giving more space for the expression of diverse voices. Internet access has increased significantly and the state also built hundreds of public infocenters with free computer and Internet access throughout the country. Students are given free laptops and tablets to use for their studies. The government has raised minimum wage by 10-20% each year leading Venezuela to have one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America. Pensions are guaranteed after only 25 years of work and those who work in the informal economy are still guaranteed a pension from the state.

While problems persist in the country, as they do every where, most Venezuelans are wary of giving up the immense social and political gains they have made in the past fourteen years. An opposition with nothing to offer except foreign intervention and uncertainty does not appeal to the majority. Unfortunately, media fail to see this reality, or chose not to portray it in order to advance a political agenda. In Venezuela, the revolution is here to stay and the interests of the 1% are not going to overcome those of the 99% already in power.

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Representation to the Government of Canada

We, the undersigned Canadian organizations, call on the Government of Canada to condemn the recent acts of violence in several Venezuelan cities. These actions were instigated by a minority of the Venezuelan opposition with the objective of undermining the elected government and democratic institutions of Venezuela. The Canadian Government should express its time-honoured commitment to peace and democracy by denouncing these illegal acts, which deny the will of the Venezuelan electorate.


Vancouver, February 22, 2014
(Frente para la Defensa Hugo Chávez)

In April 2013, Nicolas Maduro was elected President of Venezuela, the tenth since 1957. The election was recognized as transparent, fair and orderly by hundreds of independent international observers including the Carter Centre. President Maduro was elected on a platform in which the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in Venezuela are to be given particular attention through a range of health, education, literacy and housing programs. These programs have been applauded by UNESCO for their effectiveness and reach.

Some privileged Venezuelans, who are willing to use violence to obtain political power, deny the needs of their fellow citizens, even though the country's oil wealth and its strong, accessible education system and mixed economy provide a solid foundation for a good standard of living for all.

Canada and Venezuela are both part of the Americas and as such should always support democracy in each other's country. We ask the Government of Canada to publicly stand with the Venezuelan people and their elected Government and to express its dismay at the use of violence by some members of the Venezuelan opposition to obtain what was denied them at the ballot box.

For list of signatories, click here. To add your name or the name of your organization, e-mail venesolnet@gmail.com.

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Declaration of Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Government of the Republic of Cuba strongly condemns the ongoing attempts to perpetrate a coup d'etat against the constitutional government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as well as the violent incidents that caused several deaths and tens of wounded; attacks on public institutions; the burning of vehicles and destruction which were organized by fascists groups, as was denounced to the world by President Nicolás Maduro Moros.

The Cuban Government expresses its full support to the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution and calls for the broadest international solidarity, convinced that the Venezuelan people will defend its irreversible achievements, the legacy of Hugo Chávez Frías and the government that it freely and sovereignly elected, headed by President Maduro.

It is worthwhile remembering that the incidents occurred yesterday, while the Venezuelan youth and the entire nation were celebrating the bicentennial of the heroic battle of "La Victoria", were similar to those [that] occurred on April 11, 2002, which were then magnified by some accomplice governments, oligarchic circles and transnationals as part of the coup that was later on defeated by the people's mobilization around the triumphant return of Chávez.

Likewise, Cuba reiterates its unconditional support for the indefatigable and evident efforts made by President Maduro and the political and military leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution to preserve peace, incorporate all sectors of the country and promote the economic and social development of that fraternal nation.

Havana, February 13, 2014.

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