San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Bolivarian Revolution

Why I support Nicolás Maduro

Protesters in Venezuela are portrayed as peaceful students repressed by an authoritarian Maduro government that has caused shortages and widespread crime. In this light, many will wonder why Nicolás Maduro’s administration continues to have widespread support.

The explanation is that the situation is much different than the way it is portrayed in the media. The protests are neither a student rebellion, nor are they peaceful. There is no government repression or censorship, and while there are economic and criminal problems, living conditions in the country have improved sharply.

Students have led opposition protests, but they are only a small minority from wealthy areas. Under the late leader Hugo Chávez and current President Maduro, the education system has been revolutionized to the benefit of the entire population, leading to an increase in the number of university students from 895,000 in 2000 to 2.3 million in 2011. Most of those are students from poor families who are pro-government. This has been confirmed by student elections.

An anti-government protest in Caracas on Feb. 28, 2014.

Juan Barreto/AFP

From the start, recent demonstrations were violent, as protesters assaulted police and bystanders, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, set fire to public buildings (including a state-owned TV-channel), and shot at police, Chavista demonstrators and journalists. On the other hand, the government has shown restraint. While claims about police repression are plenty, evidence is not – not a single piece of evidence has been produced. What have been provided are false pictures – not from Venezuela, but from Egypt, Ukraine and Chile.

“But what about the dead?” one might ask. As of this moment, at least 11 people have been killed, including one police officer, three Chavistas, four pro-opposition people and three passers-by. And how did they die?

The opposition killed at least seven, including one policeman, one Chavista who was shot while passing an opposition blockade, one man whose car hit a blockade, two motorcyclists who hit barbed wire set up by the opposition and one senior citizen (a known Chavista woman) whose ambulance couldn’t reach a hospital due to the blockades.

Then there is the case of beauty queen Genensis Carmona, who was shot during a protest, but not by police. Ballistic evidence shows, and witnesses clearly state, that she was shot from behind, in the opposite direction of the police, which points toward an opposition protester firing at the police and hitting her by accident.

The other deaths include one opposition protester run over while blocking a road, and one pro-government and two opposition protesters killed on Feb. 12. Those deaths occurred in uncertain circumstances.

The Venezuelan intelligence service SEBIN was accused of three deaths. This is under investigation, and one officer has been arrested. However, it is often left out that SEBIN acted against the orders of Maduro, who told them to stay in their barracks. Neither Chávez nor Maduro has ever had complete control over Venezuela’s security forces.

In 2002, police played a major role in the coup against Chávez, of which opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles were a part, and where protesters from both Chavista and opposition camps were killed, creating a massacre for the opposition to blame Chávez to justify the coup.

Under Chávez and Maduro, Venezuela has been gripped by a revolution that gives power to ordinary people. Local democratic councils now exist all over Venezuela, as well as experiments with workers’ democracy in factories. Unlike what is often claimed, all major television channels – with the exception of two state-owned channels – are part of the opposition, as are hundreds of radio stations and newspapers. No Venezuelan TV station has been closed or censored, despite the fact that all major private TV channels boasted about their role in the 2002 coup. If The Tico Times organized a bloody coup against Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, would they be allowed to continue? In Venezuela, that’s what happened.

Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro take part in a ceremony commemorating the late leader Hugo Chávez in Caracas, on Feb. 27, 2014.

Leo Ramírez/AFP

A principle complaint made by the opposition is shortages. Undoubtedly, it is a big problem, but two points should be made. One is that the shortages are a result of the opposition sabotaging the economy. The opposition includes all the largest companies, which are engaged in a destabilization campaign to withhold products from the market to create a false shortage and an increase in prices. Every week large secret illegal depots of everyday products are discovered, proving that the shortage is artificial. This was the same tactic used in Chile before the coup of 1973.

Secondly, despite sabotage, conditions are improving. Since Chávez took office, poverty has been halved, and extreme poverty has been reduced by 70 percent. Venezuela now has the highest minimum wage on the continent and the lowest inequality. Illiteracy has been virtually exterminated, while the percentage of the population with a high school education has increased from 53.6 percent to 73.3 percent.

Venezuela has free universal health care. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Venezuela is the country in Latin America closest to eliminating starvation. In the 1990s, dog food was the primary source of protein for millions, while under Chávez, malnutrition among children fell from 21 percent to 3 percent. Food consumption rose by 81 percent. And national production covers 81 percent compared to 71 percent before Chávez.

Three million hectares of land have been redistributed to poor peasants, and one million hectares have been given to native populations. Factories closed in the ’90s have been nationalized and reopened, unemployment has been halved, the gross national product has doubled, and public debt has been halved. Venezuela continues to have one of the highest growth rates in the world.

In these facts exist the simple answer as to why the Chavistas have won 19 out of the last 20 elections. The masses of Venezuela have for the first time felt respect, hope and power over their own lives, and they are not going to let a bunch of upper-class rioters put an end to that.

Niklas Zenius Jespersen is a spokesman in Denmark for the international solidarity campaign “Hands Off Venezuela.” Visit the group at Follow more of our Venezuela coverage at the hashtag #Bolivarian Revolution

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Ben, if you really think this article (without sources, without facts, with logical inconsistencies, and to top it off, written by someone who is an open shill for Chavismo) is well written, you would make the perfect stooge for a Maduro, a Castro, a Chavez, or an Ortega. Maybe you should move to one of these places. You could be an editor for the dictator’s propaganda de jour, making sure it is, “well-written”.

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Ben, you should move to Nicaragua. They have much better income equality. They have the wealthiest two families in the region while the rest live in absolute poverty. Socialism works very well there. I have met engineers, architects, etc., working in Guanacaste as saloneros and maids. Their crime? They were not members of the Ortega party and made the mistake of campaigning against him. They were banned from working in the ports, etc., and are doomed to a life of poverty. That is left winged politics when they take absolute control.

Ben, I would suggest that you avoid wings all around. Left wing and Right Winged governments end up in wars and economic doom–history has proven that. It is very rare for a center government to end up like that. My father once told me that Right winged governments organize the people, create prosperity then use that prosperity for war. Left winged governments destroy prosperity, chase away the wealthy and educated then create a war against their own people. What is happening in Venezuela is the second scenario. Vote for the middle. Nobody is 100% happy that way and it is a good thing.

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Right wing people suck they steal from the poor and don´t pay fair wages. This is well written thank you.

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I don´t know if the person who wrote this colum is paid by the Venezuelan Government or if he´s a Venezuelan chavista which I doubt,whatsoever without the intention of offending rather but to inform accurate and timely information either he´s misinformed about actual reality of VENEZUELA or is an international fan of the XXI new socialism fan the same way just as there exists many Che Guevaras fans now a days who admire a rebel myth without a deep knowledge of what they represented,I am middle class and was born in Venezuela I lived there until December 2010 until I emigrated looking for a better economic future,I lived 13 years of a socialist/communist revolution which has made of Venezuela one of the most violent countries in the world now a days,the highests inflation worldwide,more than 80% of what´s consumed(food)is imported,all media is censored be it:radio,tv,internet,newspapers by the way impartial independent private media;TV,radio stations have all been bought by figureheads(Boliburgueses)with money from corruption business deals from the oil,many many many(more than 6.000)hard working and decent peoples properties and enterprises have been confiscated without proper and opportune reimbursement,a total lack of human rights for people who disagree with the system been imposed,an absence of rule of law and legal uncertainty,an increase of food and medicines shortages no normal supply of chicken,meat,toillet paper,cheese,vegetables,fruits,corn flour for the famous arepas making,(my family everytime they need to buy groceries they must join the queues in the markets for hours without the guarantee if finding their protein and carbohudrate needs,internet service providers are state owned so it´s highly censored my family does nbot have the freedom to see everything I can see online because content is highly monitored or manipulated,the students protests which began by February 12th had Active participation of multiple social strata from people of poor neighborhoods to middle to high class the´re fed with actual circumstances which affects by the way everyone without discrimination even many chavistas population are suffering all major problems just mentioned above,the government of Venezuela is a communist authoritarian regime highly powerful financially due to the sale of oil and most important is governed in parallel by the Castro communist regime of CUBA which dictates guidelines and is paid daily with more than 100.000 barrels of oil,in VENEZUELA there´s no real freedom of speech,an authentic democracy with independent judicial legislative and executive powers does not exists,many pacific protesters unarmed have disappeared and are being tortured and killed too,the Venezuelan government is making of VENEZUELA a 2nd CUBA.
The Venezuelan government pays criminal armed thugs of Cuba and Venezuela too to intimidate the pacific population who happen to be protesting against a mediocre and failed system which distributes misery and unhappiness equally,a system which does not allow the individual capacity to expand to be creative and innovative but the opposite to have no other choice but to depend from the government hand,besides those criminal thugs represent a government policy to make poor middle and high class be afraid very afraid;is a way of controlling people by fear.
Please log in so everyone knows the truth not the one manipulated internationally by the Venezuelan dictatorian regime but the one being suffered by the population of the opposition as Chavistas too.

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Mr. Niklas presents “facts” without citing sources of any kind, and he is a “spokesman” for an organization that obviously supports the existing regime (according to his bio at end of article). This article is clearly an editorial, not a news story, and certainly is not what would be considered journalism. I have mostly enjoyed Tico Time’s relaunch, but when I see unadulterated propaganda like this, it really makes me wonder about the veracity of everything else that is posted on this “news” website.

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The Gringos at the Tico Times will not rest until Costa Ricans love communism as much as they obviously do! How can anyone support this terrible dictator and blame the students! It is those students who’s future is being stolen by Maduro and his communist regime. I am thankful that legitimate press agencies are paying attention and working to make sure that someone like Villalta does not try to destroy Costa Rica in the same way.

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Popeye Sailor

Niklas, were the owners of the 4 million hectares land and the owners of the factories and businesses nationalized in the 90s, properly reimbursed or were it confiscated by government?

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What are you talking about. Stop slandering. I guess you can´t put your really name.

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Thank You Tico Times

To show the facts that Rich hate the poor in Venezuela. Well written. I hope that people understand that the richest 88 people in the world control 1.7 trillion dollars in world. Well written. Facts right on the money. I as well surported Chavez and Maduro. This is well written.

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