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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Why does Democracy Now miss what's important about Venezuela?

Yesterday I received this information from Amnesty International. The subject line caught my attention, Crisis in Venezuela: Children are being sent to jail:
Venezuelan security forces have been detaining children for allegedly protesting in Venezuela.
Dear Clay,
A human rights crisis in Venezuela is unfolding: thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest the serious institutional and human rights crisis that has gripped the country.
Venezuelans are starving. Inflation and scarcity has left many people unable to afford or find anything to eat. It has led entire families, especially children, to scavenge for scraps of food. Instead of seeking solutions, the authorities have responded by sending military and police officials onto the streets to arrest adults and children.
Venezuelan security forces have been detaining children for allegedly protesting in Venezuela. Take action: tell the Venezuelan government to release the imprisoned children now.
In just one week, 77 children under the age of 18 have been detained, including a girl of 12. There are reports that judges have been pressed to punish children as a way to deter anyone in civil society from protesting.
Protesting is a human right — and using bullets in an attempt to silence those who make legitimate demands for their human rights only leads to further crisis in Venezuela. Tell the Venezuelan government to release these children before it’s too late.
This isn’t the first time an assault on young people by authorities has happened in Venezuela. Young people in Venezuela are living in poverty, and being killed and criminalized for it by the authorities. Poverty and survival is not a crime.
I have to believe that Amy Goodman is also on the Amnesty International mailing list, because on Tuesday's show she reported that:
Amnesty International says that activists were sexually harassed, electrocuted, flogged and subjected to death threats.
This was about women activists in Saudi Arabia. This would seem to indicate that they think AI is a credible information source, and not just an imperialist mouthpiece. But when it comes to the crisis in Venezuela, which occupied the bulk of the show, none of Amnesty International's concerns about the condition of the people were addressed. Children starving to death, and being sent to jail, isn't the crisis they are concerned with. For Democracy Now, the crisis in Venezuela is that so many, including the US government, are demanding that Maduro step down as president. His crisis is their crisis.

For them it is Nicolás Maduro versus John Bolton, and they're for Maduro. That keeps it simple. They try to leave the Venezuela people out of it. And why not? More than three million have left the country already!

Even when they talk about the effect of US sanctions on Venezuela, their focus is not on the famine killing people but on oil industry losses tanking profits. Amy Goodman said:
While the U.S. is rejecting negotiations, the impact of the sweeping new U.S. sanctions on Venezuela are being felt across the country. The Wall Street Journal is reporting oil tankers are beginning to pile up off the Venezuelan coast as Venezuela struggles to pump and ship oil.
Fortunately, Democracy Now, had a guest on Tuesday that was knowledgeable about the real situation in Venezuela, and was able to end the segment by brushing aside all the "anti-imperialist" nonsense and conspiracy theories, and bring the focus back to the people. David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and professor of sociology at Tulane, ended the segment with:
Yeah, I have no doubt that this—you know, what’s going on in Venezuela—is part of a larger strategy of the neocons that have now inhabited the Trump administration. But I would suggest that I think, you know, it’s good to take Venezuela on its own. I think, you know, simply reacting to this—I’m no fan of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, but I think we have to look at Venezuela and prioritize the people there. I don’t think that, you know, “enemy of my enemy is my friend” or “enemy of my enemy gets a critical bye” is a proper response. I don’t think that’s a progressive response. I think it dehumanizes people. I think Venezuelans have to be prioritized. And in every case, I think you have to look at the situation, look at who’s suffering, who has power, who needs to change, and criticize and comment as needed.

And so, I think—in the case of Venezuela, I don’t think that the actions of the Trump administration should be held against the Venezuelan opposition and their struggles. And I think, you know, Maduro’s legacy and Maduro’s record, I think, is very clear to everybody. I think he’s been an absolute disaster in Venezuela in the past few years, and now he’s become a very undemocratic disaster. And I think that’s really what’s got to be prioritized here. I mean, I think, you know, the Trump foreign policy is very worrying. But I think we have to treat contacts and people as ends in themselves.
That attitude is rare on Democracy Now. Thank you for that.

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