Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, March 2019
Venezuela Suffers Major Power Outages After a Cyber Attack, Juan Guaido Faces Sabotage Investigation
March 13, 2019
UNHCR Venezuela Situation Update - March 2019
Report from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 12 Mar 2019 —
FUNDING THE RESPONSE
While many governments in the region have been generous in their response, more support by the international community is needed to complement their efforts. Venezuelans continue facing difficulties in accessing services, impacting their ability to provide food, housing, health care, and other basic needs for their families. Families are exhausting their savings and resources, and are falling further into poverty.
UNHCR’s overall requirements for its comprehensive response inside and outside the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela currently total $146 million, of which $134 million is included in the inter-agency RMRP.
UNHCR’s overall requirements are only 7% funded (March 2019), meaning the response is facing considerable constraints to meet even the most basic survival needs of those affected by the situation. This puts in jeopardy critical activities covering essential protection, such as granting access to territory, strengthening asylum systems, registration, child protection, and the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence.
The exodus of Venezuelan nationals is the largest in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean. There are currently over 3.4 million refugees and migrants from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela throughout the world. Around 2.7 million have left their country since 2015 with no prospects for return in the short to medium term due to ongoing political and socio-economic developments.
Globally and to date, more than 408,000 Venezuelans have filed asylum claims - over 248,800 in 2018 alone - while Latin American countries have granted some 1.3 million residence permits and other forms of regular status to Venezuelans. However, many Venezuelans remain in an irregular situation or with an expiring tourist visa which does not guarantee international protection or access to other basic rights.
Venezuela's Juan Guaidó faces sabotage investigation
BBC, March 12, 2019
Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab says he has asked the Supreme Court to investigate opposition leader Juan Guaidó for allegedly sabotaging the country's electrical system.
Much of Venezuela has been without power since Thursday afternoon.
President Nicolás Maduro has said that "US technology" was used to sabotage the electricity grid and has pointed the finger at the opposition.
Mr Guaidó says it is down to government mismanagement.
Image copyright AFP Image caption President Maduro said "justice" would be done
Mr Saab's announcement came just hours after President Maduro had said in a televised message to the nation that "the hour of justice has come" and that the "justice [system] will go after the person behind this criminal attack against the Venezuelan electricity system".
Separately, the US is preparing to impose "very significant" additional sanctions against Venezuelan financial institutions in the coming days, its special envoy Elliott Abrams has said, without giving any further details.
The US has already imposed sanctions designed to curtail Venezuelan oil sales, and has targeted a growing list of individuals and companies linked to the Maduro government.
The move against Mr Guaidó comes at a moment of high tension in the country, with he and Mr Maduro each claiming to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.
The two men have been at loggerheads since Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president on 23 January, arguing that the election which returned Mr Maduro to power for a second term last May was neither free nor fair.
Shortly after that move, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, which is dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on Mr Guaidó.
The 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.
He had been widely expected to be arrested upon his return but when he flew into Caracas' main airport on 4 March, he was "warmly welcomed" by immigration officers, according to his own account.
He has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.
Following the devastating power cut on Thursday, which has plunged much of the country into darkness and which is still ongoing in many areas, the two sides blamed each other for the electricity crisis.
Image copyright Reuters Image caption Looting broke out in Caracas on Sunday night as residents grew desperate for food
President Maduro has alleged - without giving any evidence - that the power cut is the result of "electromagnetic and cyber attacks" on the grid, which he said were orchestrated from the US and carried out with high-end US technology.
Chief Prosecutor Saab said Mr Guaidó would be investigated for allegedly being "one of the intellectual authors" of these attacks.
Before Mr Guaidó's return to Venezuela, US Vice-President Mike Pence warned the Maduro government that threats against the opposition leader would not be tolerated.
In other developments:
Prominent journalist Luis Carlos Díaz has been arrested after he was accused of playing a role in the blackout The US state department announced it would withdraw all diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week due to the "deteriorating situation" Twenty-four people are reported to have died as a result of the power cut, according to a tally kept by an opposition lawmaker Migration officials in Colombia say a cousin of Nicolás Maduro and some of that cousin's relatives tried to enter Colombia to escape the "unbearable heat" during the continuing power cut. Colombian migration officials did not let them in
Venezuela Suffers Major Power Outages After Alleged Cyber Attack
Venezuelan authorities denounced repeated attacks against the central control system of Venezuela’s electricity grid.
Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.
Caracas, March 10, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) –
An electricity blackout has affected most of Venezuela for several days after an alleged cyber attack crashed the country’s main electricity generator, the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant in Bolivar State, commonly known as the Guri Dam.
Starting around 5 PM on Thursday, the outage affected 70 percent of the country, with only several eastern states unaffected. By Saturday morning, power had been restored to most of Caracas and to central states such as Miranda, Aragua and Carabobo, when a second major outage took place as a result of a renewed cyberattack, according to Venezuelan authorities.
As of Sunday evening, power has been restored to most of the capital and to parts of the western states of Tachira and Barinas. According to on the ground testimonies on social media, various other states, including Merida and Zulia, have not had power since Thursday.
On Saturday, President Maduro told crowds at the end of a pro-government rally that a large scale attack against the country’s electric infrastructure had taken place on Thursday afternoon. He pointed the finger at the US, stressing the high level of sophistication of the alleged aggression and adding that efforts to restore power were set back by a new cyber attack on Saturday morning.
Maduro announced that he was ordering a massive distribution of food and drinkable water starting Monday, as well as efforts to secure the normal functioning of hospitals. Water Minister Evelyn Vazquez announced on Sunday that water tanks were being deployed while the water pumping system was getting up to speed.
On Friday, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez told press that a cyberattack had taken place against the “Ardas” computerized system of the Guri Dam, targeting 3 of the 5 generators and forcing the dam’s turbines to stop. He added that Venezuela would present evidence of the attack to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and to other international bodies.
Rodriguez went on to deny the opposition’s claim that 79 people had died in hospitals as a consequence of the outage, but did not offer an official number. NGO Doctors for Health reported 21 deaths as of Sunday evening after allegedly contacting hospitals throughout the country.
Beginning in the middle of rush hour Thursday afternoon, the outage immediately affected public transit networks, with the Caracas metro and suburban trains paralyzed. Miranda’s governorship mobilized buses to help take citizens home, while many were forced to walk back from work. Caracas’ metro system has yet to restore service, with authorities waiting for the electrical supply to stabilize. The Venezuelan government has suspended work and school activities on Monday.
The power outages generated some skirmishes in various cities, with groups burning tyres or garbage, but no major confrontations with authorities have been reported at the time of writing.
Venezuela’s electrical system has been dogged by poor maintenance and sabotage in recent years, with infrastructure strained by under-investment and Washington’s economic sanctions further compounding difficulties. In addition, as The New York Times reported, fuel shortages caused by US sanctions have prevented thermal power plants from backing up the Guri Dam.
Self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido gave a press conference on Sunday, slamming the government’s handling of the electricity crisis and repeating calls for the armed forces to back his efforts in ousting the Maduro government.
Guaido announced he would ask the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since 2016, to declare a state of “national alarm” on Monday.
The opposition leader had previously addressed supporters after a march on Saturday in the east side of the capital. Tensions flared up between opposition followers and security forces after the former blocked the Francisco Fajardo highway for a short period.
“All options are on the table,” Guaido told supporters when pressed about calling for a foreign intervention, while adding that further mobilizations will be announced in the near future. Hours earlier he had tweeted that “electricity will return once the usurpation ends.”
An anti-imperialist march was held in Caracas on Saturday, March 9. (Ricardo Vaz)
A Chavista anti-imperialist march from the city center to Miraflores Presidential Palace also took place Saturday, marking the fourth anniversary of the executive order declaring Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security.
Maduro and other Chavista leaders slammed what they termed as the “worst aggression” in recent history, praising the population’s “resistance” and urging patience while efforts to restore electricity to the country continue.
For their part, US officials blamed the Maduro government for the blackout, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeting “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.” Venezuelan officials have pointed to tweets by Pompeo, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and other US leaders as evidence of a US hand behind the blackout, though further evidence has yet to be made public.
US Media Erase Years of Chavismo’s Gains
Gregory Shupak – FAIR
Venezuelan Analysis, March 11, 2019
In ignoring the social gains achieved under the Bolivarian government, the corporate media justifies the US coup and right-wing opposition's to eliminate Chavismo as a social force, argues Greg Shupak.
Mural of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Bellas Artes, central Caracas. (Courtesy) By Gregory Shupak – FAIR Mar 11th 2019 at 9.26pm Topics Media Watch Tags 23 January 2019 CoupPoverty ReductionNew York Times Short URL:
Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, which took off with the election of President Hugo Chávez in December 1998, frequently and even quite recently received praise for its social gains from the United Nations, international humanitarian organizations and economists. This aspect of the country’s story has been almost entirely written out of media coverage of the effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government by the US, Canada and their right-wing partners in Venezuela and the region.
Under Chávez, poverty in Venezuela was cut by more than a third, and extreme poverty by 57 percent (CEPR, 3/7/13). (These declines were even steeper if measured from the depths of the opposition-led oil strike, designed to force Chávez out by wrecking the economy.)
Malnutrition in children under five was one of several social indicators that improved dramatically in Venezuela following the election of Hugo Chávez in 1999. (Source: Instituto Nacional de Nutrición/CEPR)
In June 2013, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) included Venezuela in a group of 18 nations that that had cut their number of hungry people by half in the preceding 20 years, 14 of which were governed by Chavismo: The FAO said that Venezuela reduced the number of people suffering from malnutrition from 13.5 percent of the population in 1990–92 to less than 5 percent of the population in 2010–12; the FAO credited government-run supermarket networks and nutrition programs created by Chávez.
Three months later, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said that it “welcomes the social development measures, programs and plans that include indigenous peoples and people of African descent, which have helped to combat structural racial discrimination” in the country. The committee also noted that it
welcomes the progress made by the [Venezuelan government] in the area of education and its efforts to reduce illiteracy, as a result of which it was declared an “illiteracy-free territory” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in October 2005.
In 2014, Niky Fabiancic, resident UN coordinator for Venezuela, called the country “one of the leading countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in reducing inequality,” according to Venezuelanalysis (5/9/14). The website also quoted UNICEF representative Kiyomi Kawaguchi as saying that from 2009–10, 7.7 million students attended school, an increase of 24 percent over ten years previously.
Thus, in the Bolivarian Revolution’s 14th and 15th year, multiple UN organs highlighted how Chavismo had improved the lives of Venezuela’s poor majority.
Similarly, the UN’s Economic and Social Council published a report in 2015, two years into the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, that said the council
takes note with satisfaction of the progress made by [the Venezuelan government] in combating poverty and reducing inequality. The Committee also welcomes the huge progress made by the [Venezuelan government] in the fight against malnutrition through the expansion of the school meals program and the food allowance for low-income families.
One widely used measure of a country or territory’s overall well-being is the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), a statistical composite index of life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. The most recent HDI report is the one that was published in 2018, based on 2017 data.
The 2018 report put Venezuela in the category of countries or territories that have “High Human Development,” the second best of the HDI’s four rankings, and 78th of the 189 countries and territories examined. On that list, Venezuela outranks the majority of the states in the 14-country Lima Group currently trying to overthrow its government, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia. Guatemala, Guyana and Honduras are categorized as “Medium Human Development,” the group below the one to which Venezuela belongs and the second lowest HDI category.
The HDI does not provide a perfect picture of present conditions in Venezuela, since the situation in the country has evolved and appears to have worsened since 2017, in large part because of the sharp escalation of the economic war on the country by the Trump administration in August 2017. The HDI does, however, indicate that by this metric, in 2017 Venezuela was doing reasonably well by regional and global standards even in the face of harsh sanctions.
While the progress made by the Bolivarian Revolution has eroded – in larger measure due to US, Canadian and European sanctions undercutting Venezuela’s economy and its people’s access to food and medicine – a mere six months ago, Alfred de Zayas, the first UN special rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years, issued a report based on his late 2017 visit to the country, four years into the Maduro era. The report says:
In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Gran Misión Vivienda low-cost housing program has contributed to saving millions of persons from homelessness. Over 2 million housing units have been delivered to persons who would otherwise live in shanty towns. In order to address hunger, the Local Supply and Production Committees provide needy Venezuelans with 16kg packages containing sugar, flour, dried milk, oil etc., as the independent expert was able to verify at the Urbanización Nelson Mandela. Another social acquis, El Sistema, established by the late José Antonio Abreu, has offered free musical education to over 1 million youngsters, contributing to a reduction in juvenile delinquency.
Each of these pieces of information constitutes evidence about life in Venezuela in the Chavismo period, which the US and its partners are attempting to end. As such, this data should at least be part of the current conversation about Venezuela, especially inside of states that are trying to illegally oust the Venezuelan movement that not long ago was being praised for its successes by the UN, international humanitarian groups, and economists, and drawing favourable comparisons to the social order that had previously prevailed in the country.
To assess whether US media have noted this crucial part of the story of the Bolivarian Revolution, I used the media aggregator Factiva to search the databases of three of the country’s major newspapers: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. I examined the period since the US government and its allies have asserted that Juan Guaidó is the president of Venezuela, not the elected Nicolás Maduro. According to Factiva, the three outlets have run a combined 800 pieces in the intervening period, and I was able to find four that make reference to Chavismo social programs and even these are done in a vague, dismissive fashion. None discuss in any detail the accomplishments that won the Bolivarian Revolution international acclaim.
The Wall Street Journal (2/7/19) gave a timeline of Venezuelan history that, in a section labelled “2003–12,” asserts:
Mr. Chávez expropriates farms and businesses, and uses oil revenue to build homes, distribute food and upgrade healthcare. The programs reduce poverty and make him popular. But he also saddles Venezuela with high inflation, billions in foreign debt and makes the country even more oil dependent.
This piece’s mention of Chavismo’s achievements subsumes them into an overarching narrative that is overwhelmingly focused on the many failures the authors attribute to the Bolivarian Revolution.
To the Wall Street Journal (2/7/19), Venezuela was “paradise” when it was much more unequal. (Screenshot)
Max Fisher of the New York Times (1/24/19) noted that “Mr. Chávez was a dedicated leftist who spent heavily on social programs,” but failed to mention that these programs benefited Venezuelans for a very long time, especially the poorest in the country. In a common trope that’s typically used against leftist governments, especially those in the Global South with non-white majorities, Fisher denigrates the use of Venezuela’s resources to aid its people as a kind of bribery: “handouts to maintain support among his supporters.”
Also in the Times, Virginia Lopez Glass (1/25/19) made a brief, hand-waving reference to the long period of successes of the Bolivarian Revolution, writing that “perhaps Venezuela is finally at the end of a political cycle that, despite some years of social gains, ultimately impoverished what was once the richest nation in the region.”
Times columnist Bret Stephens (1/28/19) mentioned Chavismo’s social programs, but only to blame government spending on these for the country’s ailments.
The New York Times‘ “short, simple primer” (1/24/19) on “how did things in Venezuela get so bad?” never mentions the word “sanctions.” (Screenshot)
The Post seems not to have made any mention at all of the improvements the Bolivarian Revolution brought to the poor and working class who make up most of Venezuela’s population.
When the gains that Chavismo made are erased from the story being told about the country, a distorted version of events is presented. This accounting carries the incorrect message that the Bolivarian Revolution has been an abject failure from start to finish, and that every aspect of the project must therefore be abandoned in order to improve Venezuelans’ conditions. Such a misleading narrative further suggests that, since the Venezuelan government has allegedly brought only harm to the country’s people, the states involved in the effort to remove the Venezuelan government are justified in so doing, and their citizens should support rather than try to stop these efforts.
The starting point for discussions about Venezuela involving anyone who purports to care about the welfare of the people of the country ought to be the question, “What steps can be taken for Venezuela to resume making the impressive strides that it made for the majority of the time that Chavismo has held power?” as opposed to, “How can we disempower the social forces that gave birth to those gains, namely Venezuela’s poor and disproportionately mestizo, indigenous and black populations?” To their discredit, corporate media have framed their coverage around the latter rather than the former – a question whose answer necessarily involves lifting the draconian sanctions.
Greg Shupak is the author of the book, The Wrong Story: Palestine, Israel, and the Media.
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