By Paulo Paraguaná
Le Monde.fr – Published March 7, 2014
Venezuela and Ukraine are not only separated by thousands of kilometers, but also by huge historical, political and cultural differences. However, President Nicolás Maduro and his deposed counterpart Viktor Yanukóvich have resorted to the same type of rhetoric when facing protests and demonstrations from opponents.
In their speeches they both qualify their opponents as “fascists” and “coup plotters”.
In both cases, the intention is to discredit their opponents. The question is why do they use exactly the same terms, the exact same words?
We won’t find the answer in the shared history of both countries. In Ukraine, fascism can be traced to a dishonorable past during the Second World War, while in the case of Venezuela there is nothing similar. Let us make a brief historical overview:
Venezuelans overthrew the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958. For the next forty years, power was shared alternately by social democrats (Acción Democrática) and Christian democrats (COPEI). So, there were left-wing reformists and moderate centrists. Today, the Venezuelan opposition is comprised of these groups plus other parties, some leaning more to the right, others more to the left, and even to the extreme left. Both Henrique Capriles Radonski, former presidential candidate, and Leopoldo López, presently behind bars, have chosen the center-left.
Venezuelans against the trend in Latin America
Followers of former President Hugo Chavez, February 20, Caracas. Rodrigo Abd/AP
Between the 1960s and 1998, before Chávez was first voted into office, Venezuela was moving in the opposite direction to that of most of Latin America, as the region had fallen victim to a series of military coups and authoritarian regimes. Fascists and coup perpetrators were found beyond the Venezuelan border, and the democratic haven of Caracas welcomed waves of Latin American political refugees.
In 1992, two military coup attempts were staged in Venezuela led by lieutenant colonel Hugo Chávez. Although it may seem incongruous, these attempts to subvert the constitutional order are celebrated today by the Chavista regime as heroic feats that are commemorated with a national holiday on the 4th of February.
Once they rose to power, these former coup plotters became part of Chávez’s inner circle. The lieutenant colonel always bestowed greater trust in the military than in civilians. In fact, these former members of the military continue playing an important role in the institutions and state-owned companies of the Maduro administration, something that is reinforced by the presence of active officers. The President of the National Assembly and second most powerful in the regime, Diosdado Cabello, was recently promoted from lieutenant to captain despite only being part of the reserve army.
In 2002, another failed coup attempt was staged, this time against Chávez. What Chavistas “forget” to remember is that the President resigned upon the request of the military hierarchy and that he surrendered without resisting, as he had done in 1992. TV channels, businessmen and politicians rushed to catch the moving train, but the locomotive was undoubtedly in the hands of the military.
Experience shows that you cannot carry out a military coup without active officers at the helm of operational units. In between the ghosts of some and the vagaries of others everything seems to be the same.
Repression from groups of paramilitaries
During the commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez, March 5th. Fernando Llano/AP
On Thursday, March 5th, during the military parade to commemorate the first anniversary of Chávez’s death it was plain to see on which side the arms rested in Venezuela. Apart from the armored vehicles and infantry troops of the armed forces and police, also visible were the militias and Chavista “collectives”, the paramilitary groups commanded by those in power. Maduro has asked the latter to suppress the opposition’s demonstrations. Since the beginning of February, the clashes have resulted in twenty dead, most of which have been caused by firearms.
The use of irregular forces to repress opponents was indeed one of the characteristics of Italian fascism, which is precisely where the term “fascio” derives from: the former combatants and thugs in charge of instilling terror. However, it is no longer with the castor oil used in the times of Mussolini but with firearms, rifles, and even machineguns.
Therefore, the use of a similar rhetorical language to refer to those that protest in Ukraine and Venezuela cannot be explained by possible similarities of both countries, but rather by their common source of inspiration: the Soviet manuals. Cuba has taken the mantle from Russia and for quite some time has been disseminating and using this type of Soviet documentation in Latin America, the influence of which should not be underestimated in the shaping of mentalities and Pavlovian defense mechanisms. Nicolás Maduro sat through his politics lectures with the Cubans.
Original Source: Paraguaná, Paulo. « Qui sont les “fascistes” au Venezuela et en Ukranie ? ». Le Monde.fr/M Blogs. March 7th, 2014. Le Monde.fr. 07.03.2014. http://america-latina.blog.lemonde.fr/2014/03/07/qui-sont-les-fascistes-au-venezuela-et-en-ukraine/
Main photograph: “Des graffitis en faveur du gouvernement vénézuélien, le 20 février à Caracas”. Rodrigo Abd/AP
Translated by #infoVnzla