The Kremlin’s propaganda narrative about the current situation developments in Venezuela which coincides with Russia’s official position, is distributed by Sputnik-Georgia’s Abkhazian and South Ossetian Russian-language websites and Facebook page “Politicano”. They depict popular protests against President Maduro’s socialist regime as a “disorder” organized by the United States and accuse the US of interfering in affairs of other countries.
From January 23 to 28, 2019, Abkhazian and so-called South Ossetian websites of Sputnik-Georgia published minimum of 11 articles dedicated to current issues in Venezuela. The published articles were one-sided and unbalanced and only the position depicted there was that of the Russian authorities, and some of the representatives of the separatist governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. All the articles claimed that the only reason behind the current changes and developments in Venezuela was economic and geopolitical interests of the US and blamed it for interfering in the affairs of other countries. In many cases, the Venezuelan events were considered to be next “color revolution” and parallels were drawn with the events in Syria and Libya. It has to be noted that Georgian-language Sputnik is substantially different from Russian-language one and here we have only relatively neutral information with the official Tbilisi position and photo collage about Venezuelan events.
In addition, the photo collage titled “Fire and flame above the capital of Venezuela – unrest in Caracas” is a collection of pictures, where protesters start fire and throw glass bottles. Without showing larger picture and the context this collage creates a negative attitude towards protesters.
The Facebook page Politicano offers a similar version of coverage of the events in Venezuela to that of Sputnik. According to the articles published on January 24, the US plays a decisive role in the events of Venezuela, which is driven by economic interests and the US ” is trying to attack Venezuela”. In January 26, Politicano referred to above mentioned events in Venezuela as “American putsch”. In the post published on September 24, Politicano tried to idolize Chávez, Maduro and other socialist dictators of Latin America.
The statements distributed by Sputnik and Politicano, that allegedly the US interests play the major role in ongoing protests in Venezuela, but not the internal problems, is a lie. The reason for the protest and the dissatisfaction of the people is the collapse of socialist politics: the humanitarian catastrophe and economic crisis in the country, alongside with Nicolás Maduro’s attempt to strengthen the dictatorship with full consolidation of power and persecution of the opposition. In addition, the Venezuelan people and democratic states consider Maduro as an illegitimate president.
In the 1970s, Venezuela was the richest state in Latin America and was developing towards democracy. Venezuela was in the world’s top twenty wealthiest states. However, Hugo Chávez’s socialist economic policy, which his successor Nicolás Maduro also continued, led the Venezuelan economy to the collapse. The nationalization of the large part of the farms and the expropriation of the factories, as well as the fixed prices on the products, resulted in the diminution of production of agricultural goods and heavy industry in Venezuela. The Chávez government has nationalized telecommunication and other systems, resulting in shortage of water and electricity. Maduro continued Chávez’s policy. However, since oil revenues have fallen, the Venezuelan government could not afford to buy products from abroad, and food shortages and famine began in the country. Buying dollars in Venezuela is possible only on black markets, as the government banned free currency operations several years ago.
source: Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters
- Super Inflation: According to the IMF, the inflation rate was 1,370,000% in 2018, and is predicted to be 100 million % by 2019. As a result of hyperinflation, bartering has been introduced in the country.
- GDP has decreased by 50% over the last 4 years.
- Nationalization resulted in destruction of agriculture and heavy industry.
- According to the 2019 Economic Freedom Index published by the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, Venezuela is on the last place after North Korea.
- Venezuela exploits natural resources: oil production is 95% of the Venezuelan economy.
source: Marco Bello / Reuters
The Venezuelan government blames the economic crisis, lack of food and medicines, on “economic war”, which they claim is created by “imperialistic forces”.
- Nearly 90% of Venezuelan population is below the poverty line and eats only once a day. In Venezuela’s streets waste collection from garbage bins is a common picture.
- Venezuela’s food products are sold on the black market and even there it is shortage of food. Only a very small group of elites can have a complete ration;
- Venezuela is in an alarming situation in terms of health care. Hospitals do not have proper equipment and there is a lack of medication in the country. Alongside famine, epidemics such as malaria and measles and other diseases are increasing.
- Children die from starvation. According to data from the Ministry of Health of Venezuela, in 2016, 11 446 newborns (younger than 1 year) died. According to Caritas, Catholic humanitarian organization, 300,000 children are at risk of death.
- Venezuela has become a cocaine and trafficking hub. Officials are involved in drug trafficking and other criminal activities.
- Venezuela’s statistics of violence are alarming. Official statistics are not published by the authorities, however, according to the Venezuela’s Violence Observatory’s 2017 statistics, there are 89 murders per 100,000 people making Venezuela one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
- According to UN data, since 2014, 3 million people have left Venezuela.
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees calls on all countries to receive and support Venezuelan refugees
Luis Robayo / AFP / Getty
Despite humanitarian catastrophe, the Maduro regime refuses to receive assistance from international organizations as well as the Catholic Church and neighboring states.
- According to Human Rights Watch, more than 13,000 were arrested due to oppositional activities since 2013. People were arrested for importing humanitarian aid from abroad and “international contacts” were considered an offense.
- During January 2019 manifestations, 364 people were arrested and 26 – killed.
- In 2014-2017, mass protests were followed by arrests and torture of political opponents.
- With the aim of a complete consolidation of power, President Maduro created an alternative of the National Assembly – Constitutional Assembly. United States, European Union and Latin American countries did not recognize the newly created institution.
- According to the 2018 report by Transparency International, Venezuela is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, as it holds 169th place out of 180 in Corruption Perceptions Index.
Nicolás Maduro finished above his opponent by only 1.6% in the 2013 elections that followed the death of Hugo Chávez. As his presidency began with deepening economic problems, the population started to blame the impoverishment of the country on Maduro and his communist policies, which resulted in stark reduction of his rating. In May 2018, majority of oppositional parties boycotted the Presidential Elections. Maduro did not allow several oppositional candidates to participate in the elections. They were persecuted and arrested, and some opposition politicians even had to flee the country. According to the official statistics, 46% of the population participated in the elections, however, the opposition claims that the figure was far smaller.
Majority of democratic countries (50 countries) does not recognize the 2018 election results in Venezuela, as they were held in unfair, non-competitive environment, against the background of violations.
The National Assembly did not recognize Maduro’s victory in the elections either and considered the post of the President to be vacant. Therefore, the National Assembly ruled that in this case, the Head of the National Assembly, the sole legitimately elected body, should become the President. On January 23, 2019, the Head of the National Assembly – Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself the President.