Editor's Note: Venezuelanalysis.com generally tries to stay out of issues such as the one discussed below because we feel that the site's main function is to inform, analyze, and contextualize the news coming from Venezuela. As such, debates about how to best conduct solidarity with the people of Venezuela is best left for websites dedicated to that, such as the sites of the Bolivarian Circles or Aporrea.org. In this case, however, I have decided to make an exception because the article below does provide important contextual information about the complexities of engaging in solidarity work. In the near future we hope to have a section for debates such as these.
For more background information, see: Columbus Statue Toppled in Venezuela on Day of Indigenous Resistance
The entire controversy in Spanish at: www.aporrea.org
- Gregory Wilpert
Based on the account of the October 12 destruction of the Columbus statue that was written and disseminated world-wide by the organizers (some of whom do not live in Venezuela) and based on the fact that this was a pre-planned theatrical show, it appears that those arguing for the amnesty of those detained are either misinformed about what took place, or do not understand the danger of the act or of the damage it has done to the Bolivarian government.
All Revolutionary activities must be done with not only with the symbolism of the act, or the motivation for the act in mind but also with the end result in mind. While it is certainly understandable to take out ones anger on a statue of the symbol of 500 years of cruelty and injustice, the fulfilling of this impulse at the expense of the only government in the history of the world to ever make any REAL attempt at returning rights to indigenous peoples is unjustifiable. Especially when, at the same moment in another area of Caracas, the mayor Freddy Bernal was signing an agreement to take down ALL of the Columbus statues in the city and replace them with statues of Chief Guaicaipuro (although Bernal admitted that the enforcement of this agreement was not solely up to him).
The participants of the action could have been satisfied with symbolism of knocking down the statue. But they were not. They were looking for response. So they dragged the statue down to the Teresa Carreño Theater where the day’s formal celebration was happening. The National Guard of course, protected this event. Bringing the statue to the theater resulted in also bringing the Metropolitan Police who are run by the opposition and who are often in conflict with the National Guard. This was a dangerous and careless thing to do. Creating a disturbance while positioned between two rival armed forces is not only irresponsible but it would have been unforgivable if an exchange between the two would have broken out.
Luckily this did not happen and after some discussion between the organizers, the National Guard, and the police, the statue was confiscated by the police. At this point the participants surely had made their point AND have gotten a response. But this was not enough either. The small crowd began to taunt the police who responded, as one would expect of this notoriously trigger-happy group, with tear gas and rubber bullets. In the end a hand full of participants were detained.
At this point it would have made sense to wait for the situation to calm and then send a few people to talk to the police who may have released the detainees. But instead this group escalated their self-made confrontation by going to the mayor’s office expecting him to intervene and get them off the hook. Here is the worst part of the whole mess.
Regional elections are the end of this month. The last thing the government needs right now is fighting among the ranks, especially over an act that had no objective in the first place aside from the venting of a little rage. Pleading that Freddy Bernal save them from the law is not only cowardly, but is patently an expression of a fourth republic mentality. Expecting special treatment from the government for expressing a government held sentiment through illegal means is exactly the kind of favoritism and corruption of power that the Chavez government is fighting against and it is expressedly forbidden by the rules of the Fifth Republic.
While the perpetrators continue to claim that they are willing to take responsibility for their actions they have on the other hand continually attacked Freddy Bernal’s loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution for not tossing aside the rule of law and coming to their rescue. Freddy Bernal is a strong supporter and friend of Hugo Chavez, and he is the mayor of a very important part of Caracas. The protesters have put both of these men in an impossible situation forcing them to take action against their own constituents. The turmoil that this fiasco has created within the Chavista camp must be making the opposition laugh with satisfaction and has undoubtedly left them wondering why they didn’t think of perpetrating such an event themselves. In fact, this has been so beneficial to their cause; it makes one wonder if the hands of saboteurs were not involved.
On this same day, in many countries around the world there were protests against governments that are still perpetuating the oppression and misery imported by the colonialists 500 years ago. This makes sense. Protesting against current colonial tendencies is valid. Protesting against colonialism in Venezuela at this time when the government itself is fervently fighting it, is not. However, demonstrating in favor of the current government’s steps to correct the atrocities of the past is. The day would have been better spent celebrating the advances of the indigenous cause brought about by the Chavez government. Or better yet, the organizers could have spent their organizing energy doing something constructive for the indigenous community such as volunteering in the Missions.
Many of the arguments both in support of and against this action have centered on the person of Columbus. This has nothing to do with Columbus. These arguments only serve to illuminate the immaturity and lack of political preparation of those arguing. The real question here is about tactics. Revolutionaries must not act out of pure emotion, but instead must weigh the utility of their actions in respect to the effect it will have on strengthening and advancing the Revolution. Any act that results in a weakening of the Revolution is unacceptable. Above all, Revolutionaries must know WHO their enemy is and must stay focused. This kind of deviation from the goal can and will destroy the Revolution.