Something arrived in my inbox and with the permission of its author, who is the political cartoonist Rick The Pleb, and I think it is worthy of a wider audience.
It’s a story direct from the recent protests outside the Venezuelan embassy.
I think it is interesting in a couple of ways. Firstly for what it says about the continuing campaign to undo what Chavez and his companions did, and want to continue doing, and secondly for what it says about protest in the modern age and how protests are occasionally organised by the rich and powerful to give the impression of a grassroots movement of the people where no such movement actually exists.
Even the Guardian seemed to cover the story from a particularly one-sided perspective, neglecting to mention that there has also been some fairly aggressive behaviour toward Venezuelan consular staff by Capriles supporters, so I hope this provides some kind of corrective.
I’ve come back from London, where I was attending a counter-demonstration outside the Venezuelan Embassy.
The Opposition supporters who have refused to recognise the election result had organised a demonstration, so a group of us in the Venezuelan Consul yesterday agreed to organise a counter demonstration.
We (the pro-democracy, pro-Maduro group) arrived early and started to talk to people walking past. Then a few early Opposition demonstrators arrived. I talked to them and tried to reason with them. I quickly realised that facts do not matter to them.
One of the Opposition was from Italy. We ended up talking about Cuba. He said he knew about Cuba because he had seen a documentary on TV !!
“I’ve been to Cuba 7 times” I said.
“But you’ve only been to Havana!”…so I reeled off a list of places I’ve been to “Havana and Santiago, Santa Clara, Guantanamo, Cienfuegos, Bayamo, Holguin, Camaguey, Remedios…”
“Ah, but did you speak to any Cubans!!!” Er…yes!
We clearly would not agree. I said that the Carter Centre and the EU have verified Venezuelan elections as free and fair…and said it would be a big conspiracy if he was correct(!)..a conspiracy of the Venezuelan Government with the EU, Jimmy Carter… “Yes!” he replied.
He even asked me if I was being paid to be there! Er, no. I spent £14 on a train ticket! I said, “OK, can we agree that when the rest of the paper ballots are counted (54% have already been counted)…if it is the same as the electronic vote…can we agree that Maduro is the President?” No prizes for guessing the answer: “Um, er..” and he walks away.
Then the mass of the Opposition arrived. We had already occupied the space around the Embassy, so they could not get near.
One of the Opposition walked down our line saying “Shame on you!”. I gestured comically in shock, so she said “Speak Spanish!” (assuming I couldn’t)…so I said “Yo hablo español” [“I speak Spanish”]…so she walked away.
The Opposition protest organisers had called the police, they wanted us removed! The police arrived and simply stood between the two groups. About 8 policemen, all were OK. The police faced us and had their backs to the Opposition. After about an hour they faced the Opposition – the more likely side for trouble! We were worried that the Opposition would simply kick the crap out of us, so I was quite pleased to have some police there. We were outnumbered by the Opposition, it was their demonstration after all, and the counter-demonstration was only organised yesterday so we didn’t have much time to get people there.
An Opposition demonstrator entered our group and called one of us a “Paki” [slur for Pakistani, or anyone with slightly brown skin]. She swore at him, and then the police escorted him back to his side of the demonstration. There were a few more incursions, mainly to try and remove our flags that were taped to the Embassy wall.
The Opposition were perhaps 99% white, and in their 20s or early 30s (except for a few little kids), and seemed to be mainly Venezuelan or British. I think they clearly had more Venezuelans than us, but then our demonstration was organised in just over 12 hours.
“Go to Cuba!” they yelled at us. “Go to Miami” we yelled back. By this time we had a proper sound system. We were outnumbered but we were by far the loudest.
The Opposition suddenly had a massive Venezuelan flag. Measuring perhaps 1 metre by 20 metres long! I asked who paid for the flag…no answer. I asked more and more people…one said I had to speak in Spanish! So I asked in Spanish…still no answer.
The funny thing was the number of stars on this flag. The Venezuelan flag has 8 stars. Chavez’s government added the 8th. The Opposition still say there are only 7 stars…but their massive flag had 8.
They put the flag in front of us, then held it up high to block us out from their photos (I assume). Sometimes they would turn and look over the flag to yell at us. If we were speaking English over the megaphone…they would yell “Speak Spanish!!”…so we’d get a Venezuelan, Cuban or a Chilean to speak.
One Opposition girl was speaking at us. I decided to use a metaphor: “If someone comes second in the Olympics, they can’t have the Gold Medal. It’s the same with elections, Capriles came second”. The metaphor was lost on her, she said I knew nothing and walked away.
They continued to complain to the police, but the only people the police had to move away were Opposition protesters trying to cause trouble.
I think we drowned them out with sound, and their films for YouTube or the Opposition Media are hopefully ruined. I don’t think they were happy with our presence!
Then the strangest thing happened. Many of us had been asked if we were being paid to protest. Clearly not. I had looked at my phone to see what time it was. It was nearly 5pm. Then suddenly the entire Opposition protest walked away?!
Now I have been guilty of “clock-watching” in my office job sometimes, and leaving at exactly 5pm. But why would a whole protest suddenly vanish at 5pm? Were they all from the same bus? Were they being paid until 5pm? Were they flown in especially from Venezuela and had to catch the flight home? No idea, but its very strange. Any ideas?
We then had the entire area to ourselves. As people who had probably been visiting the Museums nearby were walking past and taking photos, a group of various nationalities and colours were dancing and singing in a big circle!