First death anniversary of Chavez reactivates international media

As I have learned during my studies of public relations anniversaries are great communication opportunities – positive ones as well as negative ones. In communication anniversaries are often used as a means to bring up and place topics in the media again. The media on the other hand has a predilection for anniversaries for news value reasons.

When browsing the internet this morning I was happy to discover an unusual high amount of features treating Venezuela – even in German media, which is even more unusual as German media seems way too concerned about the situation in Ukraine to focus on any other foreign topic. The thematic anchor has been the first death anniversary of “El Commandante” Hugo Chavez in most of today’s features. The majority of articles highlights the problems Venezuela is facing at the moment and include original quotes from protesters.

I especially liked this sentence from Die Welt, though: “Viele Linke sind irritiert, können oder wollen nicht glauben, was sich in Venezuela abspielt.” (“Many left [foreign activists] are irritated, cannot or do not want to believe what is happening in Venezuela right now.”) This is exactly what I experience way too often when reading online comments. My opinion about their hypocratic behavior has been summarized very well by Michael Moynihan.

The only thing that nags at me is the way some articles place all the guilt on Maduro – I almost feel sorry for him. I mean, come on. All these problems did not come out of nowhere. I have seen them come up and deteriorate over the past couple of years. And no matter how unqualified Maduro might be, even if he had wanted to he could not have ruined Venezuela like this in a single year. He is just not as smart as Chavez was to cover up the ruin for a little longer and keep people satisfied. I get the feeling Maduro is just made the scapegoat for all of Chavez’ doings so the image of the icon the latter has become will remain undamaged. “If Chavez was still alive…” Well, but he isn’t.

That said all in all it is pretty ironic, though: It looks like Chavez, of all people, is the one to reactivate international media to cover Venezuela again. Not in the way he would have liked, for sure, but in my opinion the opposition could not be happier about this little favour from the grave.


How Venezuela is testing our relationship

© Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Ali and I ended up fighting last night and to be honest, it did not even surprise me. I somehow expected that the tension of the past days and weeks would sooner or later be released within our interactions. I don’t even remember how it all started but the primary reason was an opinion I picked up from this blog article. The (foreign) author living in Venezuela argues that it seems like many Venezuelans rely on and hope for foreign (foremost U.S.) intervention to improve the situation in Venezuela. I have read numerous tweets and comments like that on the internet as well, so I mentioned this to Ali. I said that maybe one of the reasons why Ukrainians have been more successful in their protests is the level of organisation among the opposition and people relying less on influence from the outside and more on their own actions – even at risk of their own death.

Well, to put it mildly, Ali wasn’t too happy about my remarks and felt like I had just accused the entire nation of his homeland of being lazy couch potatoes – and well, maybe without wanting to I did.

It is true that I – as a foreigner who has only spent a few months in Venezuela and has only basic Spanish language skills – am not as involved and informed as any Venezuelan citizen, although I try my best to keep up with domestic politics. What I can offer, though, are neutral opinions about what I read and experience – something many Venezuelans seem to have willingly forgotten. I think it’s critical to demand press freedom and at the same time not considering anything that differs from your own solid notions. Not everyone who doesn’t completely agree with you is automatically your enemy. That being said I know it is far easier to ask for such virtous behavior when I am not directly affected by the events in Venezuela. I am, however, indirectly affected: with Ali wanting to leave as soon as possible I will have to adjust my future plans as well and of course I identify with his home country.

And just to be clear about this and before I receive hate comments, I would never dare to blame or criticize anyone for being too afraid to go out and demonstrate when you cannot besure if you will be shot on the spot. I’m pretty sure I wouldn not be brave enough myself. I am merely saying that the people of Ukraine seemed more reckless at the end than Venezuelans are at the moment – which might have been one of the reasons they have overthrown their government when protests in Venezuela seem rather smoldering to me. And God forbid, I am not calling for violence in any way. What Venezuela really needs, in my opinion, is national reconciliation and an end to thinking in social classes. 

The essence of our fight would probably be me acting less omiscient when it comes to Venezuelan politics and Ali reconsidering his attitude towards views conflicting with his own opinion. Maybe a lesson everyone in the discussion about recent protest in Venezuela should take to their hearts? Certainly.

Dead and wounded after street riots in Venezuela

A few days ago I started working on a post for this blog trying the explain to situation in Venezuela for people who are not familiar with the politicial and economic situation there and help you understand why Ali wants to leave so badly and why moving to Venezuela is no option for me. Well, events in Venezuela have forestalled my post in planning.

For a few days now there have been demonstrations against Venezuelan president Maduro, initiated and encouraged by the dire economic situation in Venezuela und recent bottlenecks in supplies. Just the other day Ali was jokingly saying that it was good I am not there right now to put up with his body odor because he ran out of deodorant and was unable to get any new in the stores. Many basic products like wheat or toilet paper are hardly availabel. To get a better idea of the shortsfalls you may watch the video by Skynews below, this video or this feature by German ARD Weltspiegel.

According to Agence France Press and other sources cited by Yahoo News two demonstrators died on Wednesday, apparentaly another person died in the meantime (see Reuters below). It is quite difficult to find reliable and neutral sources. Press freedom is a difficult topic in Venezuela and I would go almost as far as to say it does not exist. While private media mainly reports onesided against the government, state media reports onesided for the government. Both does not help press freedom. Reporters without borders has published their map of press freedom 2013 just a few days ago and has classified Venezuela as country with “noticable problems”. Ali said there were mainly soap operas and movies on state TV on wednesday all day, only features of pro-government demonstrations were broadcasted and there have been reports of the Colombian cable TV channel NTN24’s live coverage having been censored by the Venezuelan government. I am not sure what to believe and I think many Venezuelans feel the same.

Many of the anti-government demonstrators are students, Ali’s brother is one of them and although I am not especially religious I can only pray for his safety. This video by news agency Reuters gives a short but good overview over the recent events.

All this does extremely worry me, of course. If you have a look at the video from Barquisimeto (Ali’s hometown) below, you somehow feel yourself reminded of news coverage from the Arab Spring. Ali himself says he hasn’t been this afraid for civil war in years and that worries me even more. It has always been my nightmare that Venezuela will sink in chaos overnight and there will be hardly any way out for him. I know there is no point in worrying because all I can do is sit here, hope and wait but the feeling of helplessness is killing me. It does show me quite plainly how urgent it is for Ali to finally leave Venezuela. I keep my fingers crossed that we work something out soon and will keep you updated.

Until then…