This clip is a couple days old already but I didn’t see it until last night. This is Roger Waters of Pink Floyd demanding that everyone leave Venezuela alone. He says it’s okay to do that because things are apparently going fine down there. Here’s the clip. It’s not long but you’ll want to at least watch the 2nd half:
The Red Cross and the UN, unequivocally agree, don’t politicize aid. Leave the Venezuelan people alone to exercise their legal right to self determination. pic.twitter.com/I0yS3u75b6
— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) February 18, 2019
“I have friends who are in Caracas right now,” Waters said. “There is, so far, no civil war, no mayhem, no murder, no apparent dictatorship, no mass imprisonment of opposition, no suppression of the press—none of that is going on even though that is the narrative that is being sold to the rest of us,” he added.
Let’s just step through this. He’s correct that there’s no civil war. How about mayhem and murder? Well, Reuters reported two weeks ago that a special forces group controlled by Maduro was raiding the slums and murdering people, especially those who had protested the government.
What about mass imprisonment of the opposition? Today, Reuters reports that Amnesty International (note: not a right-wing organization) claims dozens of people were murdered last month and many more were imprisoned:
In a report titled “Hunger, punishment and fear, the formula for repression in Venezuela,” Amnesty said dozens died during five days of protests from Jan 21 to Jan 25, almost all from gunshot wounds, and 900 people were arrested.
Amnesty called on the U.N. Human Rights Council to take action to address the “total impunity that prevails in Venezuela” by creating an independent investigative body to report on the human rights situation…
“The authorities under Nicolas Maduro are trying to use fear and punishment to impose a repulsive strategy of social control against those who demand change,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty.
“His government is attacking the most impoverished people that it claims to defend, but instead it murders, detains and threatens them.”
What happens to political prisoners in Venezuela? I’m glad you asked. Just before Maduro’s most recent (bogus) election, prisoners in Caracas’ most notorious jail revolted because they said they were tired of being tortured by the secret police. This comes from the Guardian (note: not a right-wing paper):
Roderick Navarro, an exiled Venezuelan activist who said he was in touch with the rebelling inmates, told the Guardian they had taken control of the facility at about 2pm after being enraged by the alleged beating and torture of an incarcerated activist called Gregory Sanabria. “The prisoners got angry and [decided] to stop the situation,” said Navarro, from the group Rumbo Libertad. “They are asking for freedom … they are asking for health care … they are asking for human rights … they want the aggression and the torture to stop.”
A flurry of videos that were posted on social media and could not be immediately verified purported to show El Helicoide’s inmates fleeing their cells and issuing pleas for outside help.
In one clip an inmate tells the camera: “It’s 3.15 in the afternoon and we are in El Helicode – SEBIN’s torture centre. The political prisoners have peacefully taken control of it … We are here because we are tired of being tortured.”
In another video a man with a badly swollen face who is identified as Sanabria vows: “We prefer to die with dignity! We prefer to die with pride!”
What about suppression of the press? That happens too. CNN was kicked out of Venezuela by Maduro in 2014. Last year, Reuters reported that all but one independent paper in the country had closed and the government had also shuttered dozens of radio stations:
Almost three-quarters of Venezuela’s newspapers have closed during five years of recession in the once-prosperous OPEC member country, according to the national journalism association, leaving El Nacional as the last independent national daily…
Venezuela slid six places in Reporters Without Borders’ index of world press freedom to 143 place from 180 countries surveyed.
According to Venezuela’s Press Institute IPYS, the national telecoms regulator also closed 40 radio stations in 2017 citing irregularities in their licenses…
The closures have left coverage increasingly in the hands of state-controlled radio and television outlets and pro-government newspapers like Ultimas Noticias, covering Maduro’s official activities while ignoring rising levels of malnutrition and disease.
By this point the answer to whether or not there is “apparent dictatorship” in Venezuela should be obvious to everyone who isn’t an addled rock star. It’s so obvious that even Vox (note: not a conservative site) has called Maduro’s Venezuela a dictatorship (all the way back in 2017):
Not far from the US, a desperate leader is steering a once-prosperous democracy toward dictatorship.
Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, is scrambling to cling to power as his country is battered by an unprecedented economic crisis. And in the process, he’s becoming an autocrat.
Maduro is tossing political opponents in prison. He is cracking down on growing street protests with lethal force, with government security forces killing at least 46 demonstrators in recent months. He has repeatedly postponed regional government elections in order to stave off threats to his party’s power. And in July he held a rigged election for a special legislative body that supplanted the country’s parliament — the one branch of government that was controlled by his political opposition. The new superbody has carte blanche to rewrite the country’s constitution and expand his executive powers.
Maduro and his supporters now have total control of the government, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
In short, everything Roger Waters said about the situation in Venezuela is wrong. Whoever his friends in Caracas are, they have definitely missed a few things.