Facts about Venezuela You Won’t Find in Jacobin

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….” — Noam Chomsky

This famous quote from Chomsky comes to mind concerning the limited spectrum of acceptable opinion presented by Jacobin on the contentious topic of Venezuela. At one end of the acceptable spectrum is Mike Gonzalez’s “Being Honest about Venezuela” which is critical but supportive of the Maduro administration and at the other is George Ciccariello-Maher’s “Which Way Out of the Venezuelan Crisis” which is simply supportive of his administration.

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What you won’t learn from reading any Jacobin article about Venezuela are the following inconvenient truths:

  • The government has a long record of repressing dissents that even Chavismos have objected to.
  • Hugo Chávez’s daughter became a billionaire and the country’s richest person thanks to her political connections. There are many such red oligarchs, dubbed ‘Boligarchs.’
  • High-level government officials and their family members are major players in the drug trade, including the Vice-President.
  • Transparency International rates Venezuela as one of the most corrupt countries in the world — 166 out of 176.
  • Venezuela’s murder rate steadily increased under Chavismo rule. In 2015, Venezuela had more murders than the U.S. (18,000 compared to 15,000) despite having ten times fewer people than the U.S.
  • Maduro cracked down on migrants from Colombia and bulldozed their slums and shanty towns, complaining about the “handouts” these poor migrants get from his government.
  • While Venezuelans suffer from hunger and lack of basic medicines, the government gave $500,000 to Trump’s inauguration.
  • After the state oil company PDVSA took over a program to buy food for the poor: “Over 1 million tons of food were bought for US$2.24 billion but only a little more than 25 per cent of the food was received. And of this figure, only 14 per cent of the food was distributed to those in need. At one port alone, 3,257 containers with a total of 122,000 tons of rotten food were found.”
  • The anti-government opposition is a left-right coalition. The left elements are former Chavismos like state prosecutor Luisa Ortega and former interior minister Miguel Rodriguez. There are 4 Venezuelan affiliates of the Socialist International (which technically makes them Democratic Socialists of America’s sister organizations). 3 out of the 4 Socialist International affiliates (AD, UNT, VP) combined control 57 out of 112 of the opposition’s National Assembly seats and are among the top five most powerful opposition members (most of the other parties have fewer seats; the opposition party with the most seats, PJ, is apparently a center-left party).
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The reason you won’t find facts like the above in Jacobin is because they undermine the magazine’s narrative of a well-meaning but beleaguered progressive government battered by an implacable right-wing opposition that seeks to rollback pro-people social programs and restore an overthrown oligarchy.

In reality, there are oligarchs and leftist forces (even Chavismos) on both sides of the government-opposition conflict in Venezuela. This means figuring out which side to support — if any —is far more complicated than looking at who is waving a red flag.

Groupthink is a contradiction in terms.

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