During a speech today, Maduro made some comments regarding the continuing unrest Venezuela is facing. On the nature of the unrest, Maduro said:
Some evil golpistas [a person who participates in a coup d’etat] guarimberos [someone who participates in barricades] have dedicated themselves to hiring criminal gangs and they are paying them with drugs and other means to create violence and kill, in some cases known political and television personalities. The intention is to destroy the country through violence. They want to take the country to chaos. I denounce [this action], and we have been denouncing it.
Maduro also said that he had ordered the Minister of Justice, Rodriguez Torres, to show evidence that “right wing sectors are conspiring”. This is not the first time that Maduro has ordered the Minister to provide evidence of his claims. Most recently, Rodriguez Torres spoke at length on the grand conspiracy against Venezuela during a press conference in which he named dozens of individuals an entities as conspirators, but provided no evidence to back up his claims.
Maduro’s comments continue a long-standing trend of creating as nebulous an enemy as possible – this time, unknown conspirators acting through drug-fuelled gangsters – without providing a shred of evidence. Maduro reinforced their role in the unrest, characterising Venezuela as a country that finds itself the target of “a permanent conspiracy, from small groups”.
Maduro also claimed that through interrogations of alleged captured conspirators, the government has learned that there is a coup planned for June. This isn’t the first time that Maduro has talked about a coup taking place, and if true, this future “June Coup” would be the third that the government has claimed to neutralize this year.
Speaking specifically on the kind of government that the opposition would form were it to one day come to power again, Maduro said:
Pinochet’s dictatorship would seem like a baby compared to the outrages the opposition would commit were it to come to power.
Maduro’s comments regarding the opposition bear reminding that the opposition earlier this week postponed planned talks between its representatives and the government, after essentially claiming that the government was not coming to the table in good faith.
In Other News
April’s inflation numbers have been leaked, and they indicate that inflation rose 5.7% in April. The annualized inflation rate taking April’s numbers into consideration now sits at 61.5%. Meanwhile, scarcity increased to 30% last month. While the numbers are unofficial, the Banco Central de Venezuela is expected to release the official figures within the next ten days.
The Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum], an NGO that tracks the legal status of detained individuals, has some interesting updated numbers. According to the organization, since the unrest started in February, there are to date:
- 1,805 individuals free with judicial conditions, including 93 children.
- 399 individuals free unconditionally, including 48 children.
- 164 individuals currently detained, including 7 children.
- 54 individuals currently incarcerated, including 7 children.
According to the Forum, a total of 3,080 people have been arrested in connection with the protests that have taken place in February, including 207 children.
Finally, a political cartoon I saw on Twitter today. The people trapped inside the caricature of Maduro are holding up signs that say “Students” and “Opposition”, while giant-Maduro says “Democracy!”:
I wanted to quickly point out how important Maduro’s characterization of the unrest as sign of a “permanent conspiracy” is. Back in March, I wrote about how dangerous it was to fall into the trap of believing that the Bolivarian Revolution was a permanent revolution, one which had to be worked at continuously and in perpetuity or it would be lost. Back then, I argued that by creating the notion of a permanent national project, the PSUV was creating ideological conditions for it to always be justified in being in power.
By claiming that there is a permanent conspiracy against Venezuela, Maduro is attempting to achieve a similar goal. There is no better way to unite a people than to claim to be protecting them from an external threat. Whether or not that threat is real is immaterial. There is also no better way to justify the mistreatment of enemies than to claim that they are part of a plot to destroy everything you and your supporters have worked for.
This is what Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben called the “state of exception“ in action. In his book of the same name, Agamben points to the unprecedented intrusions into individual rights spearheaded by the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11. Citing the threat of future terrorist attacks, the Bush administration was able to gain an almost inconceivable amount of power in the name of the greater good. Far from being temporary emergency measures, however, the trampling of individual liberties in the name of the “War on Terror” became staples of the “new world” in which we still live.
In this way, I believe that Maduro is wading into “state of exception’ territory. Not only is the Bolivarian revolution a permanent exercise; now the country needs protection against the “permanent conspiracy” it faces. By saying this, Maduro is justifying not only the 3,080 arrests of protesters since February, but also the arrests of future demonstrators as well.