The roles hatred and racism play among Venezuela’s middle class


(By Arturo Rosales writes from Caracas. Axis of Logic, Feb 27, 2014)

 

Two participants in the “peaceful student protests” on February 21 in San Cristóbal, Tachira State. One hides behind the other and the barricade, preparing to hurl a molotov cocktail at the Venezuela National Guard. The opposition and western media portray young men like this as heroes. The National Guard and other security forces are ordered to maintain order but not to react under penalty of Venezuelan law.

Talk to any middle class or upper class opposition person in Venezuela and they will tell you that there is no racism in Venezuela’s rich, multi-cultural society. Even though they are the main practitioners of it and they would see it if ever they were to honestly look in the mirror.

Malditos hijos de puta, malditos cubanos de mierda, fuera de mi país!
(translated: “Fucking sons of whores, Cuban pieces of shit, get out of my country.”)

Malditos chavistas de mierda, vamos a matar a todos!,

(Translated: “Fucking chavista pieces of shit, we are gonna kill you all!”)

Asesinos! Cobardes! Jalabolas de Maduro!

(Translated: “Murderers! Cowards! Maduro ass lickers!”)

These are a selection of standard insults hurled at the National Guard protecting the National Public Television station (VTV) from being destroyed or burned to the ground in the middle class area of Los Ruices in Eastern Caracas.

The people hurling these insults are generally local inhabitants who have been trained from early development to hate anything that is Cuban or smells of Chávez by a 14 year campaign in the private media that has fostered division, racism and hatred in Venezuela.

The victims of this abuse are men and women in the National Guard, people from humble, often poorer backgrounds, regarded by the perpetrators of such filthy diatribes as being somehow inferior as human beings.

Racism in Venezuela is not necessarily due to the color of one’s skin but it is primarily social racism that is characterized by where you live, what your job is, how much money you have in the bank, how you dress and these days by your political views and affiliations.

The people doing the abusing in Los Ruices near VTV are paid agent- provocateurs in the present scenario or if not, they are probably university educated professionals of European extraction whose parents and grandparents came to Venezuela in the 1940’s and 1950´s precisely to escape the fascism sweeping Europe, carried out by Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal and Mussolini in Italy.

Now two generations later their offspring were born into and grew up in comfortable middle class surroundings with money, private education, quality health care, cars, all the material trappings of the privilege and opporunity. Not all but many of these younger people have turned into the 21st century neo-fascists hating and despising the Venezuela’s original people, indigenous, descendents of slaves and other immigrants like themselves such as poor Colombians and the not-as-well-educated popular classes that live in the crowded mountainside barrios overlooking their splendid homes in East Caracas.

These realities are the irony of ironies and the shame of this otherwise beautiful people and country.

More middle class pearls and attitudes

The middle class have many words to describe humble people from poor areas. One of their epithets for those who clean their houses is “Chusma” which means “lower class scum” – a favorite to be dropped into a diatribe by unhappy middle class people upset by the fact that the poor now have the same rights and some of the same things that they have enjoyed for centuries, thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution.

Fortunately for these middle class denizens of civility they can get away with this sort of behavior towards the Venezuelan National Guard (GNB) as this military body is trained not to react under any circumstances to verbal abuse, being spat upon or even having rocks and molotov cocktails thrown at them. Members of the GNB are only permitted to react with force if they are physically abused. In such cases they are only authorized to use proportional force that includes tear gas, water cannon or plastic bullets – all internationally approved for crowd control.

Twenty years ago the situation was completely different before President Chavez put limits on how crowd control could be exercised in Venezuela. Back then, insult a National Guardsman you would be whipped with a cane they carried called a “peinilla”, receive a beating or if necessary they would drag you out of your home, beat you and spirit you away to an uncertain destiny – sometimes to be “disappeared.”

Adults among modern day middle class fascists have forgotten those dark days and the younger ones among many in the “student protests” never experienced them.  Now, with impunity they abuse the soldiers, the same ones who have helped them in cases of natural disasters like earthquakes or a floods. I wonder if the National Guard or its equivalent in US, Germany, France, Spain, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil or any other “developed country” would be so tolerant when facing such mindless hatred and intolerance. I very much doubt it.

The worst part of this panorama is that people acting in these ways against fellow Venezuelans serving the public somehow feel their actions and attitudes are completely justified. The right wing politicians, leaders and media have been working hard to foster such attitudes and gain support from the 70% middle classes that live in Los Ruices? For many years right wing parties such as First Justice and Popular Will have been working hard to harvest votes and create aggressive and violent activists in these urbanizations – just in case the “chusma” show up………or even worse, some Cubans!

Other inhabitants of Los Ruices

Now make no mistake. There are government supporters or “chavistas” who live in Los Ruices but most of them have been cowed into keeping a low profile. They or their families could be subject to aggression or violence if their political opinions were known or even worse, expressed.

In other words, it’s not the freedom of expression by the opposition that has been oppressed. One only has to look at the non-violent segment of the student protests in Central Caracas and other cities to see this. Nor is the freedom of the press by national and foreign television and print media that is suppressed. Mark Weisbrot gave us the names, facts and numbers of them in his excellent article, Does Venezuelan Television Provide Coverage That Opposes the Government? – now featured on Axis of Logic. Rather, it is the government supporters who have been marginalized and had their freedom of expression removed by intimidation and latent, mindless violence exercised by their fascist neighbors. Can you imagine what would happen if such fascist groups ever manage to get back into power in Venezuela? The undesireable but likely result would be a chavista witch hunt and probably, a purge and bloodbath.

Such citizens, sympathetic to the humanistic, social policies of chavismo cannot even offer the National Guard a drink at the risk of being identified as a ”f#*king chavista”. These people have to stand by and watch the National Guard (often friends from their communities), insulted, provoked and filmed in case they overreact and hit a civilian. Opposition cameras are rolling all the time at the “protests” in front of VTV in Los Ruices, ready to post a video on YouTube as “evidence of human rights abuses in Venezuela” meant to be used by the US and the state-controlled western media as a pretext “to invade to save us all!” Those isolated videos and photos then appear on CNN, NYT, BBC NTN24 and Fox News while viewers see “SOS Venezuela” scrawled on the road.

The paid protesters often set fire to barricades in the street near VTV and when the National Guard go to douse the flames they are pelted with bottles and stones which triggers the use of tear gas and creates the scenes of chaos often seen on YouTube. Screams of “murderers”, “chavista pieces of shit”, “traitors” and other unimaginable insults against their mothers, sisters and wives are proffered with this ingrained hatred.

Despite the mayhem, night after night, no-one has yet been killed in these violent protests in front of VTV which speaks volumes for the restraint of these young men and women in uniform who are being abused day after day by people suffering from a kind of psychosis, people who in a less tolerant society would be shot down in the street or in jail by now. One only has to look at how police react against anti-war activists in the US or even to a deranged man in Times Square who reaches into his pocket to see this.

Class Struggle

It is important for readers in the US and other countries to understand who is protesting and causing violence and who it is that is trying to keep public order.

Most National Guardsmen of the Bolivarian Republic come from the barrios or popular areas, from small towns or humble dwellings from other parts of the country. Those protesting are mainly middle or upper middle class from the four most populated cities in the country. No, they are not petit-bourgeois who own factories. Many are high school and university graduates who are salaried employees or self-employed professionals, university students and small business people. In many cases they will earn the same as a worker from the barrios but they’ve been made to believe that they are somehow “superior” because they live in an apartment block in the East of Caracas and have European forefathers, while their “enemies” live in poor housing conditions and look like simians to them.

Now you can appreciate the context. Put yourself in the army boots of a 24 year old National Guardsperson with brown skin coming from a small village in Zulia, from a peasant farming community in Apure or a fishing village in Sucre. They have to put up with the sort of insults described earlier from a 28 year old Mommy’s boy or girl living in Caracas of Spanish, Portuguese or Italian descent, who yell from the open window of a smart car, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding an Iphone, telling those in uniform they are a “f#*king piece of Cuban shit”. Is this a class struggle? Draw your own conclusions.

Mistakes can be made

In the face of such fascist violence and provocation being foisted on members of the National Guard in the 18 municipalities controlled by opposition mayors, it is hardly surprising that a few in uniform have overreacted and the consequences can be tragic.

In Valencia student Geraldine Moreno died after being hit in the face by a volley of plastic bullets according to press reports. We are waiting for the prosecutors to complete their investigations to establish if any among the National Guard are to be charged with murder or manslaughter.

Also, an unnamed male protester was hit in the eye by a tear gas canister fired by the National Guard on Avenida Francisco de Miranda in Chacao in East Caracas. He lost his eye and is still in hospital four days later.

So far, around 18 people have died in the violence since February 12th with a further 30 plus dying from lung conditions caused by the smoke of burning barricades on the cities or by accidents such as protestor who fell off a rooftop while lying in wait for the police to pass below.

At least 150 people have been injured and some 712 arrests have been made with only 55 people held in custody for serious crimes. The rest have been released on caution or bail to present themselves in the future at the court.

Some, including the state controlled media in the US and Europe will probably say that the members of the National Guard arrested are mere government “tokens” and will receive a slap on the wrist and let go. They should know that two officers in SEBIN (Bolivarian Security Forces) are also in custody, arrested for the deaths of Basil Da Costa and Juan Montoya on February 12th. They were represented in court two days ago and are accused of first degree mruder. This is the reason why President Maduro fired the head of SEBIN and substituted him a few days ago. The SEBIN officers were identified by ballistic investigations by the CICPC (Scientific and Criminal Investigative Police Corps) who found that the bullets were fired from the same gun to kill both victims.

How much do the middle class really understand?

In a nutshell, great swathes of the Venezuelan middle class are anti-chavistas and after so many years of conditioning by the private media and the youth by their parents, are so blinded by hatred that they cannot bring themselves to believe anything the government ministers say nor anything reported on national television and radio.

For example – there is clear evidence that about 1500 youths were trained in urban rioting in Central America, Colombia and the Florida. Thus, the riots are organized and have a purpose; these agent-provocateurs are being paid by those who planned the February riots. Parents should know that it is therefore very dangerous to allow their young sons and daughters to go out on to the street to have some sport throwing rocks at the police and National Guard. Unfortunately, there are many naive kids involved probably because they mistakenly believe when going to a protest that “it can’t happen to me”
.
The middle classes do not realize that if these violent protests were not controlled it could eventually spiral into a civil war, exactly what is desired by foreign elements. They have no concept of what sort of gratuitous killing goes on in such situations and even less so when it comes down to US intervention. They somehow think that US bombs would only drop on the barrios where the “chusma” live and they themselves will not be shot because have painted “SOS” on their car windows or because they have European backgrounds.

Despite these dangers that could become reality if the government were less vigilent, many middle class people would then be blaming the government when their son or daughter is shot on the street by a US marine. So deep and damaged are the values, understanding and spiritual lives of these people who are in the end, victims themselves.

Conclusion

There may be a social, humanistic and sovereign transformation taking place in Venezuela but the disgrace of the middle and upper classes is that their lives have been ruined by the inculcated hatred and racism that has unfortunately come to characterize such urbanizations as Los Ruices and now……….it has been inherited by their children.

May God save them from their own self-imposed destiny of living in a mire of unbridled hatred and mendacity. Having lived among Venezuela’s middle class for many years, I do not harbor hatred for them. Rather, I’ve learned from Chávez, President Maduro and the majority of the people that the correct response to their vitriol, insults and in some cases, violence, is one of compassion. Nevertheless, the government must continue to fulfill its responsibility to be firm, putting down the violence and providing security for all Venezuelans from every socio-econimic class.  It is the obligation of the state to impose justice on the people who have committed violent acts and crimes against the people and society.

Quoting words spoken many times by Comandante Hugo Chávez

“Without Justice, there is no Peace.”


Th author thanks Luigino Bracci for inspiring this essay.

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