Coup in Venezuela: Violence and the Search for Institutional Fracture

Eduardo Viloria Daboín

The attempted coup d’état in Venezuela continues to unfold and is loaded with high levels of violence: beginning in the early hours of January 21 in Caracas, it continued to develop, intensify and expand to different regions of the country. It was to be expected: the plan designed, coordinated and ordered from the United States to overthrow Nicolás Maduro and put an end to the Bolivarian revolution, can only try to impose itself that way.

Guaidó’s self-proclamation as president of Venezuela, carried out on January 23, although he had the support and immediate recognition of Donald Trump and the governments of Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay and part of the European Union, does not have effect in Venezuelan territory, not to mention the failure of the coup plan in the OAS: Mike Pompeo, Luis Almagro and the countries of the Lima Group did not manage to get the general assembly to recognize Guaidó’s supposed government or admit his ambassador.

The five state powers, institutionally and democratically elected, stand firm around President Nicolás Maduro as the country’s Head of State and Government. The same is true of the great majority of the mayors and governors and of the Bolivarian National Armed Force, which expressed its subordination and loyalty to Maduro, to the constitution and to the Venezuelan people in a public and unitary manner on January 24.

Without institutions or armed force, only the people would remain as a key actor to be able to tip the balance in favor of the coup plan. However, the Bolivarian mobilization on January 23, as well as multitudinous mobilizations in different states of the country on January 24 and 25, have shown that Chavismo continues to have strong cohesion, organization and mobilization capacity, despite the discontent and the dent that the economic and services crisis has been generating in its social base. The intense propaganda on social networks and wassap aimed at generating a social outburst has not worked either.

Another decisive factor would be the traditional private mass media, which were decisive in the coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002 and in the oil sabotage of 2002-2003. Until now, they have kept their distance from the coup and from the side of legitimately constituted power. An example: yesterday they opted to broadcast in unison President Maduro’s press conference (without having activated the use of compulsory national joint radio and television broadcasting) and to abandon the transmission of the coup plotter Juan Guaidó in the encounter with the media that he had called from Plaza Bolívar in Chacao., together with the increased pressures and threats from the United States, is the tactic that the coup plan has deployed most forcefully. It is a violence that is financed, planned, administered and directed. To what end? To generate terror in the population, to wear out the security forces and the armed force, to intimidate, to demobilize and to annul the organized popular forces that support the government of Maduro, to stimulate the population and to provoke massive violence, looting, destruction, and to have inputs with which to construct a matrix of world opinion that accompanies the account of the national and international political spokespersons according to which the Venezuelan people are rebelling against a dictatorship that represses them when protesting because of a supposed humanitarian crisis. Nothing different from the previous coup attempts of 2002, 2003, 2013, 2014 and 2017, except for  two variants.

On this occasion, the violence has been directed towards the popular areas where the most solid social base of Chavism is concentrated, and against the infrastructure of public institutions and the PSUV. This is for several reasons:

The violence in 2014 and 2017 was mainly concentrated in middle and upper class areas of the main cities, which ended up generating a negative political result of high impact for the opposition leadership. A large part of the demobilization, disenchantment and erosion of its social base is due to the sustained suffering of the violence to which this sector was subjected at that time. The same happened with the high level of participation in the elections of the National Constituent Assembly, in which even opposition sectors attended to vote (against calls made by the right wing leadership) to end the violence. For this reason, on this occasion this factor was included in their calculations and they opted to keep violence away from these sectors. It is more convenient to the media matrix that seeks to construct that the violence that documented in videos and photographs has as its context the popular sectors and that their executors are visible.
Spanish Version