By Jennifer Barreto-Leyva
Any normal country has a government, its supporters and detractors. In Venezuela, the story is different: we have a regime, a so-called opposition and the opposition to the opposition.
Yes, you read it right.
As a parallel, yet very strong voice, there is an opposition to the opposition. It’s a very critical voice watching politicians and even journalists. They pretty much are like a third party that supervises everything and raises its voice when something is not going right. They are acting the way an opposition should act (but is not).
The Venezuelan opposition is currently dealing with several corruption scandals and Juan Guaidó, the man in charge, has not escaped from being involved. He and his party have several things to explain to Venezuelans, but so far no one is talking.
In the meantime, they have tried to convince the country that all is going good. In the simplest of responses: people ain’t buying it.
Venezuela is going through a humanitarian crisis. The bigger picture reveals a very complicated and dark situation: there is extreme violence in the streets; the number of people dying due to the lack of medicines is rising; and hyperinflation is increasingly making life unaffordable — and unbearable. These are just three of the most significant problems facing Venezuelans, as they wait for Juan Guaidó to act.
The faces of the opposition to the opposition
Tamara Suju — Penal Lawyer & Human Rights Specialist
This opposition to the opposition, as I call it, has many faces. Yet, they all agree on something: they will not tolerate manipulation from the old generations of politicians.
The price of being the opposition to a dictatorship is very high. It includes being targeted by the government for torture to imprisonment, and everything else in between. Countless legal cases regarding government violence are on the books. So much so, that one attorney compiled registered cases of government violence in Venezuela between 2002 and 2014.
The attorney, Tamara Suju, formalized a demand against Nicolás Maduro in the International Criminal Court on July 2016.
Adelina Drout – Cyberactivist from the CCL
Adelina, a Venezuelan cyber-activist based in Paris, described to me her frustration. She doesn´t at all feel represented by Venezuelan politicians who, in her opinion, are using the people to only pretend they are doing something for them, but in reality, they aren’t.
Because of her outspokenness, Adelina has been removed from opposition protests. She has been muted on Twitter by Juan Guaidó. Adelina doesn´t believe in badmouthing other cyber-activists, but firmly believes in the power of the educated voice.
Guzmán González – Journalist. President of Centro Thatcher.
Guzmán González has been disappointed for years by Venezuelan politicians. Guzmán says they currently represent, what he calls “the work without working.” In other words, they do nothing for the people but are in their positions to only fill their own pockets, even if it means scamming the people with false hopes.
“People doesn’t believe anymore in the opposition’s promises. They have mocked an entire country. It is not Juan Guaidó´s fault. We are just demanding answers and actions. He hasn´t done what he needs to do to solve this. It’s all on his hands. He has the support of more than 60 countries, but he has preferred to participate in elections and we all know what will happen,” says Gonzalez.
Guzmán González hasn’t been blocked yet on social media by politicians, but he sure has been on the receiving end of insults and the kind of verbal abuse people like Guzmán get when in his position.
“You are being paid.” “Stop dividing us.” “You are a Chávez follower!” — are but three of the favorite insults hurled at those who still believe in traditional opposition politicians.
“I have been insulted because I demand a representative of the opposition to do his job. Thinking differently from the masses has become a betrayal to the Chavismo and to many socialists.”
Guzmán thinks that, the extreme fan behavior that many Venezuelans display towards the opposition, is worthy of research and analysis by psychologists. “Desperation has made them accepting of the first thing they are being offered. But as citizens, we need to analyze (what is being said) to avoid fake promises.”
Carlos Caballero – Journalist. Media sensation.
Carlos Caballero, a Venezuelan journalist living in Caracas, has become the latest media sensation because of this particular time in history of Venezuelan politics. On November 16, 2019, Carlos showed up to a protest the opposition organized, carrying a sign with the words: “Guaidó estafador” (Guaidó scammer)
The sign was born of an idea to protest and express how tired Venezuelans were of politicians and their promises. Carlos couldn’t find anyone to go with him, so he decided to lead that moment.
Because of his fearless outspokenness, Carlos has been blocked on Twitter by Henry Ramos Allup, General Secretary of Acción Democrática, the oldest political party in the country. He has received the same insults on social media described by Guzmán González, yet he remains a steadfast cyber-activist. But Venezuela’s opposition feels especially threatened by Carlos.
So much so, Carlos was accused of being a double agent, a fraud. His twitter account has suffered multiple hacking attempts, with no success to date.
During my 20 years of political activism, I have been a very cautious observer of Venezuelans behavior when it comes to their reactions and responses to political news. Our behavior has become more violent and aggressive over time, and this is having consequences for all sides.
Recently, I asked my followers on Twitter if they have been blocked on any social media by any Venezuelan politician, a very common complaint by users, especially among those who eventually have been suspended on that platform for violent behavior. What started as a simple poll, turned into a viral tweet tweet that netted an unsurprising result — a list of the same five politicians guilty of silencing their own critics:
1. Henry Ramos Allup, Secretary-General of the Democratic Action Party
2. Diosdado Cabello, Chavista radical
3. Tarek William Saab, “People’s Defender” of the National Assembly
5. Juan Guaidó
These politicians have blocked, not just the average citizen, but well-known and respected people from Venezuela´s society, journalists included.
After all this analysis, a few questions remain for Venezuelans to ask of ourselves: Have Venezuelans learned anything from this 20-year journey? Have we become part of the Chavismo mindset where criticisms are seen as threatening? Do politicians have the right to block the voice of the people?
It’s been one year since Juan Guaidó swore to all Venezuelans that he would liberate the country. He is celebrating with a very successful worldwide tour, where he has been feted by leaders of the Free World — for not delivering on his promises.
Jennifer Barreto-Leyva is a lawyer and journalist. She is the editor-in-chief of Belleza XL, the first and only magazine for plus-size Latinos worldwide. Jennifer is also a former reporter for Fox News Latino and the fashion and lifestyle editor for Dubai Fashion News.