The link between white supremacy and the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela

Venezuelan working class people explain open letter to US - Hands Off Venezuela
John McEvoy

The ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela is rooted in white supremacy. Backed by Washington, Venezuela’s largely white, privileged classes are trying to wrestle democratically-won power from the country’s majority ‘Mestizo‘ (‘multi-ethnic’) population. As Greg Palast explained in Venezuelanalysis:

This year’s so-called popular uprising is, at its heart, a furious backlash of the whiter (and wealthier) Venezuelans against their replacement by the larger Mestizo… poor.

The US and British political and media elites, meanwhile, are seeking to legitimise the coup by making those who oppose it (in Venezuela, Africa, Asia, and Latin America) invisible.

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The Bolivarian revolution

The election of Hugo Chávez in 1998 ended centuries of white rule in Venezuela. His government made remarkable achievements in improving the lives of the country’s poor population by reducing poverty from nearly 50% in 1999 to 27% in 2011.

But despite steps towards ending ethnic and economic discrimination, Chavistas and opposition parties remain visibly divided on ethnic lines:

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Sectors of the Venezuelan opposition, moreover, have consistently demonstrated a “callous disregard for human life”. In 2017, for instance, over 100 opposition supporters surrounded an Afro-Venezuelan Chavista named Orlando Figuera, beat him up, stabbed him six times, and then burned him alive. Figuera’s mother said afterwards:

Who do I blame? The opposition, because they are the ones who doused my son in gasoline like an animal.

More recently, a racist meme was passed around social media likening Venezuelan vice-president Delcy Rodríguez to a monkey, with the caption “separated at birth”.

Ahmed Kaballo, who’s been covering events on the ground in Venezuela, has also reported on the country’s ethnic tensions:

Kaballo spoke to The Canary about his experience of reporting on racism in Venezuela. He said:

I spoke to an Afro-Venezuelan sister who told me she remembers hiding that day [when Figuera was attacked] because she was scared that because she was Black the same would happen to her and they would say she was a Chavista and thus attack her.

As a Black journalist in Venezuela, Kaballo continued by saying:

My experience as a journalist who opposes Western intervention in Venezuela has been different from other Western journalists I have spoken to who share a similar position such as Max Blumenthal or Ben Norton. In fact, that difference was pointed out to me by Max.

Interestingly, on the border with Colombia the so-called humanitarian aid volunteers were shouting abuse at me from afar, assuming that I was a Chavista.

International coverage

Global coverage of Venezuela reflects the white supremacy at the heart of the coup attempt.

Like inside Venezuela, the international media consistently represents Chavistas as “violent, unthinking gangs or mobs”, while the largely white opposition supporters are shown as the face of “civil society”. As author Alan MacLeod found:

Across a sample of 501 articles in seven leading Western newspapers, there were 35 references to opposition groups as representing a respectable ‘civil society’, but chavista groups were not once described in the same manner.

Kaballo agreed, telling The Canary:

The language of the coup attempts to overtly and implicitly indicate to those white European elites that it will be a return to the good old times, and that language has been picked up on by both the European elite and the Brown and Black poor of Venezuela.

Roughly three quarters of the world’s governments, meanwhile, don’t recognise Guaidó as Venezuelan president. But the Western media consistently elevates the quarter of largely white, Western nations that do. Here, both US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and US news outlet MSNBC show maps suggesting support for Guaidó is far greater than it actually is:

The BBC similarly misrepresents global opinion on Venezuela. In one article, the BBC wrote that Guaidó “has been recognised by more than 50 countries” while elected president Nicolás Maduro is “backed by key economic allies including Russia, Cuba and China”. The BBC thus ignored the majority of African, Asian, and Middle-Eastern countries that continue to recognise Maduro. It also subtly suggested that Maduro’s international support base is exclusively the West’s ‘official enemies’. And the article suggests that recognising Maduro naturally stems from economic interest, rather than respecting democracy.

In short, Venezuela’s population is battling deep structures of local and global racism. Once we recognise this, we can see that this coup is centuries in the making.

Featured images via the Grayzone/YouTube 

Get involved

  • In the UK: write to your MP and ask them to oppose the coup and return Venezuela’s gold to the Maduro government (which the UK is withholding) to help alleviate the suffering of Venezuela’s people.
  • In the US: write to your Congressperson and demand that they oppose the coup and end the crippling US sanctions that are exacerbating the humanitarian situation.
  • Read previous Canary articles on Venezuela – and for more Global articles, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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    1. The situation in Venezuela is complicated due to the fact that the majority of the population are what we would call in this country “mixed race”. You won’t find racial divisions such as those that exist in the USA. None the less, the “afrodescendientes’ and the indigenous people tend to be poorer for historical reasons although they have seen improvements in their lives in recent years under Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. The middle classes tend to be ‘lighter skinned” and emphasise the European side of their heritage rather than their African or indigenous origins.

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