Social Media Coup: The Vile Virality of Venezuela’s Opposition


UPDATE: FEBRUARY 12, 2015 – VIOLENT PROTESTS MARK THE 2014 ANNIVERSARY

TelesurBy Heather Gies and Cyril Mychalejko

On the anniversary of the outbreak of violent right-wing protests, teleSUR examines the role of social media in fomenting violence and misinformation.

Last February the world recoiled in horror after photos and testimonies allegedly showing and describing Venezuelan state violence against opposition protests spread through Twitter and Facebook. One viral article even declared a “tropical pogrom” was underway in the South American nation.

The Twitter hashtag #SOSVenezuela immediately emerged as a cry for help to the world to intervene.

The international media, especially in the United States, jumped at the opportunity to paint Venezuela in a negative, albeit misleading, light. And even some well-meaning folks on social media, without a comprehensive knowledge of Venezuelan politics, were seduced by the dramatic images and descriptions that seemed to chronicle peaceful protesters being repressed by Venezuelan government forces.

Except it didn’t happen.

Some of the most egregious and gruesome photos were fakes; they were photos taken from other parts of the world and passed off as being from Venezuela. A few others were indeed from Venezuela, but from a different year and different context.

“The opposition protests of 2014 were really decisive proof of both the strategic usefulness and the powerful dangers of social media,” George Ciccariello-Maher, Professor of Politics at Drexel University and author of “We Created Chavez,” told teleSUR. “False images and manipulated claims spread and circulated like wildfire, and while it was possible to discredit some – for example, images from other countries, other periods in history – by the time one was debunked, a dozen had emerged in its place.”

One example is a photo that showed a police officer roughly pulling a protester in a headlock. An accompanying tweet with the photo said “SOS repression in Venezuela URGENT that this photo go around the world.” However, the photo was a fake, dating back to 2011 student protests in Santiago, Chile.

Another particularly odious example claimed to show a Venezuelan police officer forcing a protester to perform oral sex on him. However, the photo, which was posted by Venezuelan actress Amanda Gutierrez, was from a U.S.-based porn site, something the actress later apologized for doing to her 228,000 Twitter followers. Her apology setting the record straight didn’t receive near as much attention as the original misinformation she posted with the photo.

A less inflammatory and more humanizing photo showed a young woman with her hands on the arms of an officer in line of riot police, her face obviously distressed as if crying and pleading with the officer. The photo was tweeted with the text, “You and I are both Venezuelan my buddy.” However, the heartwarming photo, purportedly showing the humanity of opposition protesters, was a complete farce. The photo was actually from protests in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2013.

As Ciccariello-Maher explained, “In a place as politically divided as Venezuela, where the opposition exists in a sort of echo chamber that always repeats the same mantras about electoral fraud, dictatorship, etc., this (social media use) proved to be powerfully dangerous, since it mobilized the extremists who simply took to the streets on the basis of something they already believed to be true.”

So why was the corporate media so willing, if not incautious, to use these and other tweets as fact in their reporting? As Steve Ellner, long time analyst of Venezuelan history and politics and author of “Latin America’s Radical Left: Challenges and Complexities of Political Power in the Twenty-First Century,” told teleSUR: “The international corporate media are experts in presenting unreliable information disguised as viewpoints. By doing so they promote opinions, or at least doubts, among millions of people who do not have ready access to more reliable information.”

According to Ellner, using Twitter as a journalistic source is a “useful tool” for corporate and international media, and quoting right-wing tweets as insider opinions to present an on-the-ground and supposedly balanced view “has been applied to the Venezuelan case in a big way.”

The narrative in much international mainstream news coverage during this wave of extreme right-wing political violence was that the opposition was forced to take to social media as a result of a dictatorial media blockade in Venezuela that prevented opposition voices and views being heard in traditional media. But analysts argue that this is not the case.

Ciccariello-Maher explained that the Venezuelan government “has successfully reined in some of the most extreme elements” of the press since private media helped orchestrate the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002, but “there is no media blockade in Venezuela.” Rather, he characterized it as “a nuanced debate around the right of people to accurate media and the responsibility of the private sector in providing this.”

Julia Buxton, Professor of Comparative Politics in the School of Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, understands the Venezuelan media context similarly. With this backdrop, she said in an interview with teleSUR, “The lack of an articulated (opposition) platform has less to do with media censorship and restriction than the simple fact of the absence of a plan.” Buxton observed that “opposition supporters have not used Twitter to discuss or disseminate ideas, but to abuse and insult.”

But one plan the opposition did have was to use all of its media and social media platforms to frame the narrative of what was happening in Venezuela internationally. In a Feb. 20, 2014, article that went viral, “The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch,” writer Francisco Toro, founder of the right-wing opposition blog Caracas Chronicles, called on international media to pay attention to the “state-hatched offensive to suppress and terrorize its opponents” in Venezuela. Toro’s article received hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes and shares and tens of thousands of tweets. Toro, a former New York Times stringer who resigned after being outed as an active opposition member, yet who afterward was still afforded regular columns and blog posts with the same paper, wrote about “state-sponsored paramilitaries” who were “shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting” that he claimed resulted in what amounted to a “tropical pogrom” the previous evening.

This “pogrom” resulted in the death of one person – not that night mind you, but four days later as a result of injuries.

When pressed by media critics Keane Bhatt and Jim Naureckas on Twitter, Toro admitted to “overstatement in the heat of the moment.” He even took to the pages of his website to write that “it has since become clear that the violence that night left … just one fatality, and so did not rise to the commonly understood definition of a ‘pogrom’.”

A pogrom by definition is an organized massacre.

However, the damage was done. In contrast to the hundreds of thousands of people his original piece reached, his correction was shared 14 times on Facebook and 12 times on Twitter. Such is the norm on social media, where sensational misinformation seems to consistently attract more attention than corrections.

Another example of strategically viral content was a YouTube video called “What’s going on in Venezuela in a nutshell,” made and narrated by a young Venezuelan college student living in the U.S. Despite the fact that the video was rife with false and misleading information, the deceptively innocent cry for help made good fodder for social media “clicktivism” and quickly reached viral proportions. It garnered over 3 million views on YouTube and was widely shared on other social media platforms. In addition to exaggerating statistics, such as “millions of homicides” occurring in the country each day, which would have wiped out the whole population of Venezuela within a month, she also lied about protesters being killed, protesters being peaceful, and that there is press censorship in the country. Nevertheless, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper featured the video on its website, lauding it for bringing “the plight of student protesters in Venezuela to global attention.”

What doesn’t go viral on Twitter can obviously be just as important as what does.

Another example, in addition to Toro’s retraction, would be an article in the New York Times which offered a rare case of honest reporting. The article “Crude Weapons Help Fuel Unrest in Bastion of Venezuelan Opposition” (02/25/2014) reported that anti-government student protesters had “a variety of homemade weapons — mortars to lob small, noisy explosives, miniature firebombs, slingshots, clubs and nasty-looking things called Miguelitos made from hoses festooned with nails.” The article quoted 19-year-old Andryth Niño admitting that, “We’re not peaceful here.”

Unmasking Social Media – Digital Democracy without Guarantees

While opposition forces have maintained an ongoing presence on social media, renewed mobilization and destabilization campaigns characterize the lead-up to the anniversary of last year’s wave of violence. The opposition is mobilizing its bases, calling supporters to the streets for the Feb. 12 anniversary protests.

Supporters use the hashtags #12F and #YoSalgoEl12F to announce their participation in the right-wing opposition protests. Perhaps more interesting is the hashtag #YoSalgoPor (I’m going out for), which opposition supporters use to express their reasons and motivations for joining the Guarimba anniversary marches.

The majority of these #YoSalgoPor tweets say that the protesters will go to the streets for “all the fallen heroes” of the opposition struggle, or for “justice for the fallen ones” who cannot attend the marches this year. These tweets commemorate the apparent victims of government violence in the first round of Guarimbas last year. However the overwhelming majority of the 43 fatalities died as a result of the violent opposition protests and destabilized conditions the opposition helped provoke. At least 10 individuals were killed at opposition barricades alone, and several government security personnel as well as others were also killed, according to data collected by the U.S.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

María Corina Machado is a leading figure of the Venezuelan opposition, was involved in the 2002 failed coup attempt, and was a main organizer of opposition protests last year. Her civil society organization, Súmate, accepted funds from the mainly U.S. Congress funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

As is the nature of social media, providing merely a snapshot without a broader context, these #YoSalgoPor tweets of course do not allude to the violence and fatalities caused by the right-wing opposition violence themselves. The most horrific among these fatalities included a woman being decapitated by barbed wire intentionally strung at the barricades by opposition extremists to cause danger to pro-government motorcyclists. A number of motorcyclists were indeed decapitated, several others motorists died crashing into barricades. At least three people were shot dead while attempting to clear away barricades. Six members of the National Guard were also killed.

These actions lived up to the goals of a strategic destabilization plan developed in 2013 by Colombian and U.S. organizations, including USAID, in collaboration with Venezuelan opposition leaders. As detailed in the leaked strategic plan published online by lawyer and journalist Eva Golinger, the opposition strategy was to “create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate U.S. intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries” (emphasis added).

With disregard for their violent actions, #YoSalgoPor tweets portray the opposition as the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators.

But it’s no coincidence that social media has become a key instrument of opposition propaganda. Rather, it’s a concerted strategy that has at least partial roots in the U.S. attempt to foment chaos and instability in Venezuela. U.S. sources such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) heavily fund Venezuelan opposition forces and provide “democracy” training for opposition student groups, which has included training in social media use. In 2013, NED provided a total of $1,752,300 in grants to Venezuela in various program areas including $63,000 for “Emerging Leadership, Communication, and Social Networks” and another almost $300,000 for “Training and Communication Skills for Political Activists,” including training in the use of ICTs, or internet communication tools.

“The focus on youth has been a long running strategy, while the social media element is a more recent (and cheaper) instrument of soft power, which is, in my opinion, wholly deleterious to the interests of genuinely pluralistic and democratic voices,” added Central European University’s Buxton. “As with all aspects of U.S. intervention in other countries, these forms of sovereignty violation – soft or hard, are most usually counter productive and as we see in other aspects of social media ‘wars’, they can lead to a more problematic blowback from even more radical oppositional forces and groups.”

In an era of extreme police brutality against political protest on a global scale, the equivocations that could be drawn based on this partial and misleading information are easy to make, particularly for those already poorly informed as a result of the mainstream media coverage of Venezuela.

Social media, particularly in a complex and poorly understood political context, can easily decontextualize events and perpetuate misinformation, often with the willing help of international media. Given historical tensions between Venezuela and the U.S. and other Western capitalist world powers, Venezuela is a particularly intriguing specimen for this kind of confirmation-bias reporting, and with the help of social media, misinformation abounds.

Venezuelan Guarimbas: 11 Things the Media Didn’t Tell You

By Tamara Pearson

At one year since the violence opposition barricades in Venezuela that aimed to bring down the democratically elected government, teleSUR reviews 11 things the media kept secret.

One year ago, three people were killed in unrest in Caracas, sparking international interest in a wave of violence that had gripped Venezuela. Across the country on February 12, 2014, anti-government groups took to the streets to roll out a carefully prepared campaign for “la salida” – “the exit” from the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro. While the international media relied heavily on opposition-aligned private Venezuelan media outlets and anti-government groups for information on the rapidly changing situation, we  – Ryan and Tamara – were on the ground everyday watching the unrest evolve, speaking to ordinary Venezuelans and getting the real story from the streets. While the international media described a spontaneous, peaceful protest movement that was quashed by repressive security forces, we saw something completely different. We drew conclusions based on what we could see on the ground, and burned the midnight oil researching our way through the fog of war to get to the tangible truth. Looking back on the unrest a year later, this is what “la salida” really was, what the media doesn’t want you to know.

1. Despite constant harassment and attacks, the national guard were peaceful

(Ryan) As the unrest heated up in February, international human rights groups decried what they claimed was mass repression against peaceful protesters. On social media, photographs were proffered as evidence of widespread abuses. Most of the photos later turned out to be lifted from protests elsewhere in the world, such as Egypt, Ukraine and Yemen. While the government has acknowledged numerous cases of misconduct by police and the national guard (GNB) and arrested those allegedly responsible, the majority of security forces that did their jobs well were largely ignored. The hundreds of GNB personnel that spent weeks guarding social missions and media outlets while enduring verbal abuse and physical attacks from guarimberos, or violent barricaders, went largely ignored. This wasn’t an accident, as activist Luigino Bracci explained in February 2014. In an article published online he said he regularly saw guarimberos in Caracas using a time tested tactic of goading GNB troops for hours on end, filming their targets in a “coordinated effort.”

“If the guard makes a mistake and represses someone who is insulting him, in just minutes the video is doing the rounds of Youtube, it will be seen by millions of people and will form part of multimedia material that arrives at international chains such as CNN, NTN24 Caracol and others,” he explained.

Yet these brief snippets aren’t representative of the general conduct of the GNB. For example, in the second week of March 2014, El Nacional newspaper and opposition politicians spread a story of how the GNB supposedly repressed a peaceful protest in Lara state’s National Poli-technical Experimental University. Luckily for the GNB involved, a local independent journalist filmed the entire confrontation. The video  shows the GNB negotiating with guarimberos, before giving them a short workshop on human rights and releasing them.

Merida locals thanking national guard – Photo: Tatuy

2. There was amazing, unusual police restraint

(Ryan) The video above is representative of the conduct of the majority of Venezuela’s security forces during the protests, and a far cry from the narrative espoused by the private media. The guarimberos complaints of repression in reality boiled down to the government’s intolerance of armed groups roaming the streets attacking pedestrians, throwing stones at cars and stringing wire across the road to decapitate motorcyclists. Cities were brought to a standstill by opposition violence, and essentially the public was held hostage by groups demanding the resignation of Maduro. Amid the chaos, I tried to imagine what would happen in my home country of Australia if someone tried to do something similar. How generously would they be treated by authorities? Today, I don’t need to imagine it. In December 2014, Man Haron Monis held members of the Australian public hostage in a Sydney cafe, and tried to use them as leverage to make demands of the government. Like the guarimberos, he wasn’t afraid to execute some of those he held hostage. I’m yet to hear any human rights groups decry the Australian government for refusing to surrender at Monis’ feet.

3. Beautiful cities were turned into rubbish dumps, and the Chavistas cleaned it up

(Tamara) Merida is giant green mountains standing right over the streets, old pastel colored houses, vibrant and often organized communities, and quiet plazas full of artisans, dogs, pigeons, old people mulling the shade, couples, skaters, and tall beard trees. During the guarimbas, the violent opposition blocked off communities and main roads, shutting down the city center, and turning Merida city into a harsh empty zone of scattered and burnt rubbish, ripped up and destroyed street fences, billboards, and burnt buses. The entrance to our dear barrio – a tiny bridge over a shallow river – was blocked with rubbish, stopping gas delivery trucks and food from getting to us:

Santa Anita – Photo: Tamara Pearson

The private media didn’t tell the world about that, nor did they describe how many nights, while the barricaders slept, communities would go out and try to clean up the mess. Gisella Rubilar was shot and killed by men in balaclavas on a motorbike, while helping to clean up. The (at the time) Chavista city council and grassroots organizations also organized a number of mass clean-ups, with the national guard tanks clearing the big obstacles, and the council providing trucks for removal of debris. Hundreds of communal council members, PSUV and PCV activists and more would join in these 5am clean-ups, sometimes singing to Ali Primera as they did, while opposition supporters watched on and booed and yelled at them.

4. While the media claimed government crack down on free speech, the violent opposition attacked journalists

(Tamara) On Feb. 11, the day before the violence broke out in Caracas, I walked home from work, passing one of the main blockades, on Avenue Las Americas. Opposition barricaders, with no placards, no chanting, no demands, were burning things in the intersection, pulling buses over at gunpoint and ordering people to get off and the buses turn around, and throwing rocks or pointing weapons at any motorcyclists who dared to try to get through. I stopped to take photos:

Photo: Tamara Pearson

Then three of them came over and put their guns to my face and demanded my camera. “Give us your camera, or we’ll kill you,” they said, over and over, pushing me onto the ground, shoving me, ripping my bag. That was just one case of many. Already, a VTV office had been attacked, a Radio Mundial journalist in Merida was attacked and a photographer was shot in the leg. Later, they attacked journalists form the Merida TV collective, Tatuy, and threw their one video camera on the ground. A VTV office in San Cristobal was attacked with molotovs and shot at, a community TV in Tachira was set on fire, as was a community radio station in Arapuey, Merida state. Journalists – public, community, and private- were attacked repeatedly in Plaza Altamira, Caracas, and the VTV head offices in Caracas were basically under siege throughout February, March, and April.

5. The psychological effects of constant fear and destruction

(Tamara) Chavistas, non-political people, and even the peaceful opposition suffered the psychological effects of the constant violence, insecurity, and fear, but the media were more interested in the far-right, whiter, upper-class sectors, and didn’t cover this. It didn’t suit their message. I remember walking in the street, being scared, when people on motorbikes holding long things drove past, or there were groups of young men talking in the street – because they resembled barricaders. We were scared to take photos, to meet or march too, since snipers had killed people at a march in Bolivar – of course, we did anyway. A doctor friend would walk three hours through barricades to get to the hospital, and be scared every time she crossed one, because they would yell out sexual abuse, beat up people, or demand large bribes to be able to cross. Once we tried to leave our barrio late at night to work, and because we weren’t participating in the caceroles – weren’t banging pots, neighbors we didn’t know yelled at us, “Go to hell, Chavistas, die!”. Chavista effigies were hung off bridges. Another friend had a heart attack because his son had been stuck at home for weeks due to death threats. It became an act of courage to wear a red t-shirt in the street. A lot of public institutions were attacked, burnt, had windows smashed. An explosive was thrown at a Mercal food store in San Cristobal, the governors’ residencies in San Cristobal and Merida were attacked, Chavista ULA students were attacked, ambulances trying to take people injured at the barricades were attacked, a man was half striped and tied to a tree and humiliated, a gas truck was burnt, as were many buses and private vehicles including food delivery trucks, various of Merida’s new free tram stops were destroyed, some of the Bolivarian universities were ransacked, burnt, or wrecked, the housing ministry in Caracas was burnt, Merida’s water was poisoned, a national park was set on fire, 5,000 trees were chopped down for the barricades, metro bus stations were wrecked. In Lara, they tried to burn Cuban doctors alive, and all up, there were 162 attacks registered on Cuban doctors.

In early April, before the guarimbas were over, Maduro calculated total damages at US$15 billion. But how do you calculate the long term damage on human beings caused by constant fear and loss?

Hung Chavista effigies – Photo: teleSUR

Destroying a Metro Bus station – Photo: Alba Ciudad

6. Who was responsible for the death toll

(Ryan) Yet the opposition’s violence rarely seeps into international media coverage, despite the death toll from the 2014 unrest undermining claims the guarimberos were peaceful.

In an op-ed for the New York Times in March 2014, opposition figure Leopoldo Lopez claimed, “More than 1,500 protesters have been detained, more than 30 have been killed.” To its credit, the NYT issued a correction admitting the figure of 30 deaths “includes security forces and civilians, not only protesters,” but didn’t go into details. So what does the actual death toll look like?

Throughout the disturbances of early 2014, independent news collective Venezuelanalysis.com (VA) kept a detailed, running tally of who died, where and how. Of the 40 deaths listed by VA, deaths of those against and for the government are almost equal, though the news organization conceded a number of killings took place in unclear circumstances. Around 20 deaths were deemed to have been directly caused by opposition violence or barricades. As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting put it, “The presence of the protest barricades appears to be the most common cause of deaths: individuals shot while attempting to clear the opposition street blockades, automobile accidents caused by the presence of the barricades, and several incidents attributed to the opposition stringing razor wire across streets near the barricades.”

7. What the origins of the violence were

“Peaceful” protests in Caracas on February 12 – Photo: Reuters

(Ryan and Tamara) The 2014 BBC article, ‘What lies behind the protests in Venezuela?’, nicely summed up the Western media’s understanding of what sparked the unrest when it stated, “The protests began in early February in the western states of Tachira and Merida when students demanded increased security after a female student alleged she had been the victim of an attempted rape.”

This isn’t true. The “protests” began in the first week of January 2014, when a few dozen masked individuals began barricading the main road outside the University of the Andes (ULA), and burning tires. For the first week, the masked individuals drew no police attention, and were left to block the street and harass passerbys. Buses carrying residents of the working class barrios uphill from the ULA were forced back. Without the buses, it became difficult to reach the city center from the barrios, and it was a common sight to see poor retirees slowly walking up the hill past the ULA, carrying their shopping in the tropical heat – while the “peaceful protesters” looked on. The protesters carried small arms, and weren’t afraid to draw them on anyone who complained. When the police began trying to clear the barricades, the guarimbas would hide in the university and throw rocks. Once the officers left, they would quickly rebuild. This was the prototype of the kind of urban fighting that would be employed across Venezuela a month later.

The media failed to explain this, and did not explain any of the context behind the guarimbas: upperclass and business discontent with a revolution and national government that favored (and favors) the poor, the failed opposition coup in 2002 and many opposition electoral loses, including one just months before  – seeing them desperately seeking other means to gain power.

8. How dodgy the private media’s sources were

Chavista rallies such as this one on February 12 in Merida rarely made it to international media – Photo: Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

(Ryan) A major part of the reason why the international perception of Venezuela’s opposition is so skewed is because of the voices presented in the Western media. While ordinary, working class Venezuelan voices rarely appear in the international media, right-wing fanatics are often presented as experts. Take Caracas Chronicles co-founder Francisco Toro, whose work was described by Associated Press in 2014 as “a must-read for foreign journalists, academics and political junkies.” One of Toro’s last regular articles for the blog he founded was penned on January 20, when he broke news of a “tropical pogrom” where protesters in middle class neighborhoods were supposedly massacred by pro-government “paramilitaries” the night earlier. The article went viral on social media, despite the fact that still today there is no evidence of any mass killings on February 19. The “tropical pogrom” never happened, but Caracas Chronicles continues to be taken as a credible source of information by the mainstream media. For example, in a January 2015 edition of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, Caracas Chronicles blogger Emiliana Duarte Otero joined a panel of academics and a student activist to discuss Venezuela’s economy. She used the opportunity to warn that Venezuelans could start going hungry within months, labeled one of the other guests (George Ciccariello-Maher, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Drexel University) an “agent of communism” and claimed “every single supermarket” in Venezuela has military personnel monitoring “ration” distribution – of course, completely false.

9. Human rights were denied

(Tamara) The opposition barricades meant that for months, people couldn’t get to schools or hospitals. One friend couldn’t get medicine to her sick, elderly mother. Other people couldn’t get to the social security center for vital medicine, such as insulin shots. Schools – primary, high schools, and universities – near the main guarimbas were closed for months, denying children their human right to education. A few schools held classes in alternative venues, when they could, including a meeting room in the workers’ hall. The media ignored all this.

10. Scarcity was exacerbated

(Ryan) One of the main complaints from Venezuela’s opposition was regarding scarcity of consumer products, yet their main “protest” strategy was to block roads. By blocking roads, the opposition inevitably impeded the transportation of consumer products. Unsurprisingly, the height of opposition unrest was accompanied by a spike in scarcity. For me personally, the logic of this was rammed home one March morning, when I passed a shuttered supermarket with a torched out semi-trailer out front. The burned truck was graffitied with anti-government slogans and had an opposition electoral poster slapped on the side. A few minutes further down the road, there was more anti-government graffiti complaining of scarcity. Again, the media ignored this.

Photo: Tamara Pearson

11. People still organized, despite it all, and continue to do so.

(Tamara) Most importantly, what the media doesn’t want anyone to know is that the guarimbas failed. There were weekly marches around the country demanding an end to the violence, and the Chavista’s main form of resistance to it was to keep on working on their media, education, health, and community projects – projects they are still working on one year later. The alternative school I taught at still held classes, though I couldn’t go because the two main entrances to the barrio were blocked by armed barricaders. Despite no public transport and all the fear, hundreds of us met in the main cultural hall to discuss a collective response to the violence.

Protesting against the violencing during last year’s guarimbas – Photo: Tamara Pearson

While the media demonized the “collectives,” portraying government supporters and grassroots organizations as violent, and the opposition as peaceful, the pro-government youth organized regular cultural events in the main plaza to counter the violence. The collective patience in the face of abuse was, and continues to be extraordinary.

Elias Sanchez, PSUV youth activist told teleSUR, “We’re in a permanent struggle, advancing more every day.”