By Venezuelan Voices
As today is our page’s second anniversary, we’ll briefly review this year as it was covered by articles and journalistic reports published in Venezuelan Voices. It has been a year in which Venezuela has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the regime’s instrumentalization of it to impose further social control measures. A public health emergency handled by the Armed Forces and the police instead of health workers. In fact, the “collective social quarantine”, as the government first called it, was used to arrest medical workers denouncing the dreadful conditions of hospitals and demanding adequate materials to face the pandemic.
In Venezuelan Voices we demanded that workers will not be the ones paying the consequences of COVID-19 and the economic crisis created by the government’s policies of capitalist exploitation and plunder, later worsened by US sanctions.
Guaido’s popularity was already low a year ago and the pandemic made it clear that he never assumed actual “parallel” government functions. Quarantine was, and remains, hard to implement in an context where most working people rely on daily incomes to survive, with no saving capacity in a hyperinflation economy. Many elders have died alone, as their families joined the more than 5 million Venezuelans who have migrated.
Venezuelan feminists took the streets just days before the quarantine was declared on March 8, 2020, demanding justice for the more than 100 femicides in 2019 and demanding also free, legal and safe abortions, as this right is criminalized by the chavista government to this day. Added to gender violence, women’s extreme economic vulnerability (the monthly minimum wage is less than US$3) intensified during the pandemic, with many losing their jobs or sacrificing them in order to care for their families at home. Women were forced to quarantine with abusive partners, relatives and neighbors and by the end of 2020, more than 200 femicides had occurred at the hands of men they knew in most cases, according to what some media outlets, feminist activists and civil society organizations tell us, given the absence of official data by a government offering no social, economic or physical protection as the violence against them increased in isolation alongside COVID-19 cases.
Parties of the Bolibourgeoisie leaked to the general public through social media mostly, despite the strict quarantine measures imposed by Maduro. The most famous one happened in an exclusive island to film a reggaeton clip, hosted by the son of Elvis Amoroso, the country’s Comptroller General. He goes by the alias of “The Duke”, a macabre detail which pays tribute to the analogy with Edgar Allan Poe’s tale.
As social isolation set in the country, we looked into what the pandemic was like in the Orinoco Mining Arc, because on April 10, the first death of a 15-year-old Yanomami teenager by COVID-19 was reported in Boa Vista (Brazil), in the border with Venezuela. The Venezuelan mining area lacks proper access to clean water, since there are towns consuming water polluted with mercury and chemical products as a result of the government promoted informal mining. Sanitary conditions are extremely critical and COVID-19 happens alongside malaria and victims of gunshots from armed confrontations among different groups who fight territorial disputes in the area, in hospitals that are far away from urban centers and under-resourced. Still today we lack information of the magnitude of the crisis and the pandemic in that region.
We shared the statement of Venezuelan Workers Solidarity supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd by racist policemen in the US. This anti-racist rebellion in the US interpellated us as Venezuelans, given the structural racism that we have in our country, expressed in indigenous peoples who are subject to criminalization, massacres and denial of their most basic rights in favor of massive extractivist project (see the Pemón’s statement rejecting the Venezuelan Mining’s Corporation in Canaima), or police squads like FAES carrying out systematic extra-judicial killings every year, targeting black and brown youth in popular neighborhoods, leaving us with one of the highest police murder rates in the world. A long interview with Keymer Ávila on racism and state violence in Venezuela is essential to dive deeper into these issues, as well as the article looking into how Venezuelan women deal with state violence in their communities and the book “They say they are killing people in Venezuela” edited by Verónica Zubillaga and Manuel Llorens. We also opposed also Guaido’s support for Trump and his attempt to criminalize the protests against white supremacy across the US.
Venezuelan Voices contributed to a campaign demanding the freedom of working-class political prisoners in Venezuela, prisoners like Rodney Alvarez, a worker from Ferrominera del Orinoco who has been in prison for more than 9 years without being tried and, therefore, not convicted.
Several LGBTIQ+ organizations and activists from the region denounced dishonored obligations of the Venezuelan government and State with the LGBTIQ community in Venezuela, including the opposition-controlled National Assembly as the parliament shelved several bill proposals.
A perspective on the Essequibo conflict a territory with which Venezuelans have no cultural or historical ties, that does not have a population claiming to be Venezuelan, yet is claimed by both the chavista regime and the right wing opposition as part of their reactionary ultranationalist demagogery.
As the elections of December 6 approached, we saw the approval of the “Anti-Blockade Law”, a tool that contributed to intensify the looting and privatizarion of state assets, granting extraordinary powers to the government to open them to foreign and local capital under the utmost secrecy. A statement rejecting this law was shared was also shared.
December 6 witnessed the elections where chavismo obtained 92% of the National Assembly, with abstention estimated to be between 80%-90%. Without a doubt, it represents a new turn of the screw of the Venezuelan bourgeois dictatorial regime, taking control of the last institution that it did not totally control.
Starting 2021, we shared the campaign to demand the freedom of Vannesa Rosales, a human rights defender from Merida, Venezuela, who was detained and accused of providing information and medicines for the voluntary interruption of the pregnancy of a 13-years old victim of rape. She was accused of unlawful assembly, association to commit a crime and abortion induced by a third party, exposing her to high penalties. She is now under house arrest, following this and other campaigns in social media and international media outlets. The rapist of the 13-year-old is still free and Venus Faddoul, part of her legal team, spoke about the case recently.
Last month, we denounced the militarization of the borders in South America, a new and worrisome crackdown on Venezuelan migrants by governments of the so-called “Lima Group”, integrated by center-right and right-wing governments which aligned themselves with the US stance on the Venezuelan crisis.
In light of the US new administration following the victory of Joe Biden, we called for a real solidarity movement, as the Venezuelan people have the right to free themselves from Maduro’s oppressive rule, exercising the right of self-determination, without imperialist interference.
Protests continue in 2021 despite the pandemic and in 2020 there were at least 9,633 protests registered across Venezuela with varying demands, focused mainly on better basic services, labor rights, access to fuel, political participation rights, access to health, food and justice.
Maduro presented several “cures” for COVID-19 in 2021 and earlier this year, in a pathetic attempt at hiding the fact that Venezuela is far behind in securing access to vaccines. Also, attacks by the government against the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) increased, as Maduro’s government demonstrates its unwillingness to accept even the shyest or partial criticism.
And this month, feminist took the streets again on March 8, despite the government’s announcement reinstating stricter quarantine measures in what many feminists perceived as an attempt to prevent protests after a week of daily femicides in different parts of the country, which led to spontaneous demands for justice. The femicides continue, with one occurring every 33 hours according to civil society organizations who monitor this type of violence nationwide. Changes to the law that regulates protections for women to lead a life free from violence, created in 2007, are being discussed behind doors, without consultations with the feminist movement and no mention to sexual and reproductive rights in the proposed reform. Meanwhile fundamentalist Evangelical groups are now part of the National Assembly and recently met with other members of the Parliament, to demand restrictions on abortion and same-sex marriages to remain in place.
We thank all the people who contribute to this project with their selfless efforts always and invite all those interested in strengthening it to continue reading, disseminating and supporting it.