The rift between the national government and the colectivos – their most loyal followers – appears to be widening. Tensions have been high between the two groups since a raid against a colectivo headquarters in Caracas in early October left 5 people dead.
The Movimiento de Resistencia Popular Juan Montoya, an association of approximately 260 colectivos, has drafted a document titled “Initial Proposal for a Discussion Round Table for Peace, Justice and Revolution, and an Agreement Between the Colectivos de Trabajo Revolutionario and Movimiento Resistencia Popular Juan Muntoya and the National Government”. The full document, in Spanish, can be found here.
The document, while containing typical government-esque language regarding capitalism and the right wing, also criticises the government for “the deep institutional crisis in which we live”. The document calls into question the government’s ability to commit to a truly socialist transformation of Venezuela, saying:
… [the crisis] has postponed the search for political alternatives to fully revive the socialist transformation process. It’s about promoting mechanisms that will permanently renew a governability that connects the government and the people, within the framework of a process that has suffered from major cracks and institutional and moral failures.
The colectivos (sometimes referred to as colectivos armados, “armed collectives”) took part in anti-protest activities earlier this year. Human Rights Watch identified these “armed pro-government groups” as problematic, since they operated outside of the law with tacit government approval.
The takes issue with the fact that, as they see it, the government calls on them in times of need but does little to offer them assistance when they need it:
… the bureaucratic idea… has made us into simple political appendages, crumbs on the table, where we are only worth anything when it is convenient for anyone in the political machine to carry out police or community operations, or as electoral servants when the time comes to search for votes, for candidates we’ve never elected.
Document Denounces Co-Opting of Revolution
Aside from pointing out the imbalance in the government-colectivo relationship, the document also denounces the co-opting of the revolutionary process by “new agents” of the government it claims are simply looking to enrich themselves and their relatives.
… loot the country through corruption, the abuse of power at different levels, nepotism, the inversion of the ethical and moral values of civil servants, mafias, organized crime. This is a reality which forced the government to fall into traps and create a repressive institution, wanting to justify oppression with the hypocritical speeches on peace and the criminalization of the people by fighting against its organizations.
The document, which first appeared on line last week, was drafted with the intention of handing it over to Maduro, although it is not clear when or if that will happen.
There’s a British comedy duo called “Mitchell and Webb” who have a sketch comedy show on the BBC. In one sketch (which you can see here) Mitchell and Webb play two Nazi SS officers waiting for a Russian attack. Mitchell, wearing a childish look of concern, ends up asking Webb, “Are we the baddies?” after realizing that the insignia on his hat is a skull and crossbones, and no self-respecting good guy would wear a badge like that.
Just as I am certain that there are people within the colectivos who use their position relative to the government for their own good, I have no doubt that there are countless others who are really trying to do good. I believe that the kind of grassroots community organization the colectivos represent, at least on paper, is a powerful tool for positive social change and community development.
With this document, I wonder if these colectivo members – after so many years of lies and corruption – have begun to wonder if they are the baddies.