By Raffique Shah
June 21, 2019
During the recent Venezuelan migrants registration exercise, I found myself subconsciously scanning video-clips and photographs of the hundreds of hopefuls who turned up at the three designated centres each day for, I am not ashamed to admit it, applicants of colour. “Where are the Waraos?” I kept asking aloud. “Where are the Afro-Venezuelans?” I spotted one or two of the latter during the two-week exercise, but not one of the indigenous people (Warao and other tribes), who, I am told by fisher-folks who routinely make trips across to the Main”, live closest to Trinidad and Tobago.
At the registration centres, there were significant numbers of Mestizos, people of mixed races (Caucasian/Afro/indigenous), who have evolved into the biggest segment of Venezuela’s 30 million population—slightly over 65 percent according to some demographics reports. Many belong to the poor-to-middle classes, and with the Afros (10 percent) and indigenous peoples (two percent), far outnumber the 20 percent pure Caucasians who rigidly resist the dilution of their ancestral bloodline.
There were few Caucasians at the registration centres: I suspect they would hardly demean themselves to seeking refuge in an Afro/Indo-dominated country like T&T. If they really felt compelled to flee Venezuela, they will have opted for temporary sanctuary in countries such as Brazil, Peru and Colombia where their kith and kin wield political and economic power much the way they did in Venezuela before Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998.
I do not pretend to know Venezuela the country, or its people and politics, enough to write about them with any authority. What I can say as fact is that on the few occasions I visited in the 1970s/1980s, I was shocked by the miles of un-plastered-red-brick slums that virtually surrounded Caracas and its environs, enormous concrete versions of what we then called “Shanty Town” at the eastern entrance to Port of Spain.
Here was the wealthiest country in South America, boasting of a modern capital city with a skyline and business centre that could compete with any other in the developed world, but which could not hide the squalor millions of its citizens lived in, generation after generation.
And that was long before Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998. In fact, Chavez, who wore with pride his Mestizo ancestry, especially the “Indio” (indigenous) component, did a lot to improve the lives of the non-Caucasians, though not as much as he had planned to do when illness struck him a fatal blow. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, was dealt an even crueller blow when oil prices collapsed in 2014 shortly after he became president.
Add to those unforeseen woes the economic stranglehold the USA applied under Donald Trump’s lunatic leadership—withholding billions of dollars’ payment for oil purchased, freezing the operations and accounts of businesses in the US owned and operated by the government in Caracas, and mobilising minion-states to illegally and multilaterally destabilise the Maduro regime and install an imposter in office—the clear aim being to starve the population into submission.
That such violations of international charters would trigger mass migration and put unfair pressure on struggling countries such as T&T means nothing to the political and economic sadists in Washington. Hell, it was they who orchestrated the bloody wars in Syria and surrounding states, ISIS et al, that led to millions of refugees and migrants storming into the European Union, their allies’ homelands. If they could wreak havoc on Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and other friendly countries, then what does it matter if the fire they are stoking in Venezuela adversely affects T&T, Curacao, Colombia, Brazil and other vulnerable neighbouring states?
Washington is altering the demographics of South American countries, only the fools don’t see it, they blame Maduro.
That they have not removed him from office after years of trying, and currently six months of intense fire in the forms of economic strangulation and political isolation, should tell the fools that short of a military invasion, they cannot reverse the onward march of the Chavista revolution in The Americas. Evidence of this fight-to-the-finish is plainly visible in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, where the toppling of radical regimes and their replacement with compliant, right-wing regimes has triggered unrest among the mass of poor-to-middle-income natives. In Brazil, supporters of jailed ex-President Lula, have mounted a round-the-clock vigil and protest to free him, and restore him to power.
The USA and its allies inside and outside of Venezuela have failed to remove Maduro from office not for want of trying. They have failed because he commands the support of the majority among the population, primarily the non-whites. The military alone could not keep him in office if the vast majority wanted him out.
America-born international investigative journalist Gregory Palast, who has been covering the events in Venezuela since the first attempted coup against Chavez in 2002, summed up the current crisis in an article published last February titled “In Venezuela, White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Coup“, His report featured three interesting photographs. The first was of Juan Guaido and his family—white. The second showed Guaido’s national assembly supporters, again, all white. And the third showed Maduro’s members of congress—Mestizos and blacks.
Palast, who is white, recalled covering early anti-Chavez protests: “… the US press does not recognize its own racial bias. In 2002, as today, the massive demonstrations of the whiter Venezuelans were reported as evidence that Chavez was wildly unpopular. Yet, the day after each anti-Chavez march, I would witness and film the pro-Chavez demonstrations that flooded Caracas with an ocean of nearly half a million marchers, overwhelmingly poor Mestizos, that received little or no coverage in the US press…”
I personally saw on CNN evidence of this bias during the most recent attempted coup against Maduro: one half of the split screen showed a mass of white-clad anti-Maduro protestors, the other red-clad, mixed-races Maduro supporters. The voice-over focussed only on the former, totally ignoring the latter.
That lie that the US promotes and so many among us choose to believe is one reason why the crisis next door will continue for a long, long time.