The Truth About Venezuela’s Opposition

Western journalists can't admit that Venezuela's opposition is neither democratic nor peaceful.

Henrique Capriles (third from left) in 2013. Daniel Guarache / Flickr

For the corporate media, “blue lives” seem to matter in a lot of places. Just not in Venezuela.

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, the Venezuelan opposition convened nationwide demonstrations against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, protesting the national electoral body’s decision to temporarily suspend preparations for a presidential recall referendum pending investigations into fraud.

As was to be expected, international media lauded the protests, rejoicing at the idea that the Maduro “regime” was now in its death throes.

Mass Protest in Venezuela Demanding End of ‘Dictatorship’,” wrote the AP. “In Venezuela, ‘Maduro For Longer’ Spells Trouble,” salivated Forbes.

“As the situation worsens, it is only logical that more Venezuelans will be driven by desperation to rise up. If there is more bloodshed, Mr. Maduro will be responsible,” wrote the New York Times editorial board.

Yet strangely missing from the narrative of the Venezuelan opposition’s peaceful march to victory over a cruel dictatorship was the small detail of the murder of a Venezuelan police officer by demonstrators Wednesday evening.

Miranda state police officer Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez was shot and killed while attempting to disperse a protest near the Pan-American Highway in the southeastern Caracas municipality of San Antonio. In a graphic video, Ramirez and other officers can be seen approaching a group of demonstrators when they suddenly come under gunfire from what appear to be the nearby buildings.

While Venezuelan media reported the incident as a confrontation between police and opposition protesters, international media sought to separate the crime from the day’s demonstrations.

The Guardian suggested that the Miranda state police “did not link the incident to the opposition protest,” yet offers no quote from the police department in question. A review of the local department’s Twitter feed as well as local media accounts fails to uncover any such announcement. Nor does the newspaper bother to cite Interior Minister Nestor Reverol’s official statement that the homicide occurred in the course of a law enforcement effort to disperse demonstrators.

Although the New York Times and the Miami Herald indeed mention the killing in the context of the day’s protests, both newspapers consider the episode sufficiently unimportant to merit no more than one sentence each.

To its credit, CNN does include the homicide in its headline, devoting one line to the incident before going on to cite “opposition leader” Henrique Capriles’s unverified figures for the number of injured and imprisoned from the day’s protests. Absent is any indication that Capriles is in fact governor of Miranda state and as such is responsible for the safety its police personnel.

Despite being updated late Thursday afternoon, the CNN article likewise makes no mention of Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega’s official figures, which include eighty-six people injured nationwide, including twenty-six police and National Guard personnel.

Reuters, meanwhile, succeeds in suppressing any mention of the dead cop at all, preferring to highlight “veteran activist Maria Corina Machado and jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori” who it said are urging “Gandhi-style civil disobedience.”

The irony that these far-right figures were key protagonists in 2014’s violent antigovernment protests — which left forty-three dead, over half of whom were government supporters, police and National Guard troops, and passerby — is lost on the international news service.

Why does the mainstream media systematically under-report or outright ignore the Venezuelan right’s almost nonstop violence against Venezuelan government personnel and institutions?

Because reporting incidents like the killing of Molina, the wounding of twenty-six other officers, attacks on socialist youth leaders in Cojedes or state cultural workers in Amazonas threaten to slaughter a sacred cow — namely the idea of a peaceful and democratic Venezuelan opposition.

After all, it’s difficult to argue that Venezuela is an “all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship” when you have an opposition that wins elections and holds regular, authorized protests where its activists frequently attack police, civil servants, and government supporters, often with complete impunity.

It’s inconvenient to report these uncomfortable facts that show opposition leaders’ utter disregard for the rule of law, which is normally considered a sacrilege by Western journalists.

Yet no one seems to care that Henrique Capriles has yet to issue a public statement condemning the homicide of a police officer in his state during a protest that he himself led. Contrast this with the media’s eagerness to report Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick’s comments blaming Black Lives Matter for the killing of Dallas police at a protest earlier this year.

Nor does the international media hesitate in calling hard-right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez a “political prisoner.” Lopez — who previously played an active role in the 2002 US-backed coup for which he was granted amnesty — is currently serving a thirteen-year prison sentence for public incitement to violence and criminal conspiracy during 2014’s antigovernment protests.

In the United States, he would likely be facing a much stiffer sentence or possibly life imprisonment for such offenses. Compare with Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Rivera López, who is currently serving a fifty-five-year sentence in US federal prison for seditious conspiracy despite the fact that “he was not convicted of any violent crimes.”

Sadly, the international media has a lot more tears to shed for Leopoldo Lopez than it does for the victims of opposition violence.

In most cases, “blue lives” apparently matter an awful lot — except when they’re serving under a self-declared socialist national government that has been branded an “unusual and extraordinary threat” by the United States.