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Death of an Activist in Venezuela

In memory Of Orlando Figueroa

By Jimmy Centeno
Published on LatinoLA: July 8, 2017


Death of an Activist in Venezuela


On May 20, 2017 Orlando Figueroa a 21-year-old parking attendant from the shanty town of Petare Venezuela was attacked during a protest is no casual incident. Stabbed and beaten Figueroa was doused with gasoline and burnt alive by a group of merciless anti-government demonstrators (see Video).

Children are coopted and hired by rancorous opposition to cause chaos, instability and bring violence to the streets of Venezuela.
This savage act against one single defenseless human being by a mob of masked men is a treacherous act to the building of democracy. Sixteen days later, on June 5th Figueroa died due to respiratory complications. It appears that the ultra-right in Venezuela is willing to sacrifice human lives and ecological destruction to pursue their goal of recuperating control over the levers of the oil producing state. The scene of Figueroa pleading for his life is an example of how humanity's idealist utopia of no war and the presence of harmonic balance seems unattainable, yet the majority of Venezuelans have not lost hope and are on the side of a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.

Unlike countries situated in the global north, Venezuela attempts to build an alternative social-economic path that deviates from the exploitive bipolar economic structure invented, refined and executed by colonial powers of the global north against third world countries. Countries like the United States and Europe are benevolent when it sees that what it wants can be gained by means of persuasion, and violent when it does not get what it wishes. This is what I mean by bipolar. The bipolar reaction to Orlando Figueroa's civil right to manifest is met not with equality and respect, he is met with fire and destruction. This horrific incident is one to many. How then can two opposite poles negotiate when the means to negotiate are sabotaged! Is negotiating possible? Or must the safeguarding of a more promising way come not at the preservation of an opponent, but at the cost of annihilating the contending side.

What then? Is the intent to remove the current Venezuelan administration led by President Nicolas Maduro under attack by low intensity warfare? Meaning, frustrating the electoral process, intimidation, violent protests, refusing to discuss constructive alternatives, complete disavowing, sabotaging scares resources, disrupting the local economies by black market dealers and the paralyzing of a healthy national and regional conviviality. Is it possible the pressure deployed against Venezuela's experiment and it sovereignty by outside forces as the Organization of American States, the White House and media outlets meant to exhaust the faith within Venezuela and water down outside support?

Can a 500-year social-political and economic system be undone in 19 years of struggle or is the struggle permanent? If it is permanent, what are the costs and sacrifices? Is it fair to single out Venezuela's newlywed social revolution of 19 years to one that has been oppressing for the past five centuries? Can capitalism be made more humane? The ruling class, the oligarchies, dictators, corrupt presidents, conservative elites and opportunist petty bourgeois have afforded themselves 500 years of mistakes. Is it too much to expect a 19-year revolution to be a perfect revolution in a volatile capitalist world?

What other known democracy can afford the evaluation and recall by its citizens midways into a presidential term? On May 1st, 2017 President Maduro called for a constituent assembly to be held in July. The immediate bi-polar allergic reaction by the opposition was to claim this, as unconstitutional. The opposition argued the Venezuelan people had not been consulted. In other words, the oppositions reactionary take was that to call upon the people to participate in programing a constitutional change is un-constitutional.

How more democratic can such a process be that acknowledges every able citizen to partake in the process. What can one derive from such allergic reaction? Is the opposition concerned with participatory democracy or are they pretentious puppets, ill-informed citizens confused and dazed at experiencing an attempt to real democracy? Are they afraid of losing privileges attained by class privilege? Do they seek to put things back as they were in the good old days before the election of Hugo Chavez and reap their class privilege? Why punish an imperfect alternative to capitalism to bring structural and social change?

With a dose of skepticism some within the progressive camp are cautious and see the constituent assembly as buying time. If that is true, is it not a tactic vs. a strategical move better than no action at all. Or is it that Capitalism is the end of history to all other alternatives?

Dedicated to compañero Mario.
This article first appeared in counterpunch.org

Jimmy Centeno
June 16 , 2017

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