The most leftist wing of the New Democratic Party (NDP) has traditionally been very active in supporting chavismo in Canada, even going beyond the more “balanced” official position of the party on the crisis in Venezuela. The Green Party decided to repeat the lies of the Maduro regime, quoting Alfred de Zayas, a consultant close to chavismo who lives in Geneva and a former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), who blames U.S. sanctions for Venezuela’s chaotic situation. On the extreme left, groups such as Canadian Marxists are quite active in social media supporting Maduro’s international agenda.
I had the opportunity of confronting them on March 23rd in Ottawa, when a panel took place at the national headquarters of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) pretending to present the “truth” about “manufacturing consent” for a supposed coup in Venezuela. The puppet master is, according to panellists, the U.S. government that’s using Juan Guaidó as a proxy.
Lawyer and journalist Dimitri Lascaris, from Real News Network, Jean Saint-Vil, a Haitian-Canadian activist, and Laura Ávalos, a Canadian-Salvadorian who has been very active in the so-called “Canadian chavismo” served as panelists. No Venezuelan was invited to talk. Not even chavistas. Ávalos, by the way, used to work at the Venezuelan embassy in Ottawa with Ambassador General Wilmer Barrientos as you can see in this photo—first on the right. The Venezuelan embassy is still functioning in Ottawa, but with no ambassador. Consular services are at their minimum. But those working at the embassy are very active in their propaganda endeavours offering, at least, logistical support to the events as the one celebrated in Ottawa.
The star of the event, Lascaris—an habitué of radical causes, accused of sympathizing with terrorists—spent one week in Caracas, from February 1st until the 8th. He acknowledged he doesn’t speak Spanish, and said he couldn’t go to shanty towns (barrios) since the local fixer refused to go to poor areas. He stayed at a four-star hotel in Altamira, where all the international correspondents stayed. He claims he didn’t receive any payment of any sort from the Maduro regime.
He gave some background about a country that was “very biased” presenting, for example, a picture of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), and another of the National Assembly (AN). It was clear to him that the ANC, fully red, showed the “majority” of Venezuelans who are colored and mestizos, while the picture from the opposition AN showed mainly white people, the “minority”. Lascaris played the racial card many times during his presentation, always implying that the democratic movement against Chávez and Maduro is mainly composed of “white supremacists” trying to impose the interests of a minority on a large majority of colored/mestizos/black Venezuelans. By the way, these two doctored racialized photos are part of a propaganda smear used by chavismo and its allies everywhere in the world.
Lascaris, who repeatedly said he wasn’t “an expert in Venezuela,” conveyed the lies of the propaganda apparatus: Guaidó is a “self-proclaimed” president, Maduro won a “fair election with 68% of the votes” in May 2018, the current economic crisis is due to the “U.S. embargo” and the fall of oil prices in the international market, Venezuela has a wonderful Constitution that protects the environment, the rights of natives, and all kinds of fantasies. He attended a couple of demonstrations in Caracas too, one from forces supporting Guaidó, and another in Bolívar Ave., with Maduro supporters. He saw two peaceful demonstrations, neither police nor soldiers blocked people from either side, and the picture he painted was of almost Swiss order and peace. Zero mentions about Maduro’s police and military killing 240 protesters during the demonstrations of 2017 and 2014, arresting more than 3,000 people, with almost 1,000 civilians subjected to military trials, violating the law and their human rights.
Besides these lies, Lascaris omitted several facts. He didn’t mention the well-known reports from the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on Venezuela, several reports from Amnesty International denouncing grave violations of human rights, or the well-documented environmental devastation that is taking place right now in Southern Venezuela. There wasn’t a single word about the killing of Amerindian Pemon people just a few weeks ago by the National Guard and Maduro’s paramilitary, called colectivos.
But the ignorance displayed by the panellists is nothing compared to the hysteria and delusion of the sectarian Maduro supporters in the room that afternoon (some Canadian, most of them retired public servants, and some Latin Americans, mainly Central Americans). I had to endure the hysterical position of some attendees, shouting at me that I have to “renounce my white privilege” if I want to really understand Venezuela. A surreal moment came courtesy of Don, a Canadian communist, who told me he can’t believe that Cubans have any influence in Venezuela, that they control the military and have intelligence services in the country.
I’ve been confronting these mercenaries for a long time, even accepting invitations by the Russian propaganda network RT. What’s most “surprising” is the level of coordination and the resources they have to feed their propaganda. It’s not clear who finances this, but certainly there’s an organized and funded effort to confuse Canadians and present the criminal Maduro regime as a poor victim of imperialism.My intervention, along with a note I wrote in my blog, prompted the hate machine that always goes along with chavismo. I received a couple of hate emails, bots insulted me on Twitter (“cerdo imperialista” and “hijo de la gran puta”), and Lascaris himself continued for a few days with his uninformed arguments and ad-hominem attacks.