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YouTube Video Series ‘Argumentos’ Offers Insight Into Venezuelan Conflict

Categories: Latin America, Venezuela, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Human Rights, Literature, Politics, Protest

Argumentos, image taken from its YouTube p [1]age 

[All links lead to Spanish-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

Video series Argumentos [1], which launched a few weeks ago, features the views of journalists, researchers, artists and thinkers who try to shed light on the clashes that have erupted in Venezuela lately.

According to their YouTube channel: “Argumentos seeks to offer insights for understanding the moment that Venezuelan society is going through, […] it portrays the diversity of views of stakeholders and specialists from different backgrounds and disciplines, as a commitment to pluralistic thinking.”

It is an initiative of Automático Films [2] [en] in association with bookseller Lugar Común [3] [es] and artistic group the Nelson Garrido Organization [4] [es]. Views on the causes of the conflict are shared in the videos as well as a bit of the country's recent history. Interviewees share their personal impressions and recommend different readings for those who want to look into the matter further.

Nelson Garrido, the founder of one of the organizations behind the project, explains describes the conflict:

La situación de violencia que se vive en el país era previsible y los síntomas se presentaron mucho antes […]. Estamos sobre una cantidad de capas de frustraciones que de repente explotan […]. Lo que está pasando ahora es simplemente un resultado histórico [que] ni el gobierno ni la oposición [están] capitalizando […]. Por primera vez la sociedad civil, la población en general está explotando […]. Hay una instancia de descontento social masivo […].

The violence that exists in the country was predictable and the symptoms appeared long before […] We are dealing with a number of layers of frustrations suddenly exploding […] What is happening now is simply a historical result [that] neither the government nor the opposition [are] capitalizing on […] For the first time in civil society, the general population is exploding […] There is an instance of massive social unrest […]

As for his views on Hugo Chávez [5], the charismatic president of Venezuela who died in 2013, he says:

Que ya se defina a Chavez como comandante supremo eterno es una cosa de un carácter tan fascista […]. Las instancias del poder están manejando eso ya casi a nivel religioso […].

What defines Chávez as an eternal supreme commander has to do with having such a fascist character […] The examples of power are driving that to an almost religious level […]

Father Alejandro Moreno, a psychologist, philosopher, theologian, doctor of social sciences and director of Center for Popular Research [6], talks about how understanding the common Venezuelan identity can help explain the reality in which they live. According to the authors of the interviews:

Para Moreno, gran parte de las interpretaciones […] se alejan de la interpretación del venezolano popular que privilegia la afectividad frente a la racionalidad. Objetivamente, los problemas que viven los venezolanos son los mismos, pero la respuesta y manera de manifestar el descontento son diferentes.

For Moreno, much of the interpretation […] departs from the interpretation of the common Venezuelan which favors affectivity over rationality. Objectively, the problems that Venezuelans are experiencing are the same, but the response and the way of expressing discontent are different.

As far as the protest movement that has shaped the discussions of recent weeks, Moreno says:

Este movomiento es muy auténtico […] lo que se está haciendo es lo que debe llevar a un cambio radical en la política del país. A pesar de todas las represiones […] que en un momento determinado [pueden] aplastar este movimiento […] nunca lo elimina. Esos son carbones encendidos que van a estar siempre debajo de las cenizas…

This is a very authentic movement […] what you are doing is what should lead to a radical change in this country’s policy. Despite all the repression […] that at any given time [can] crush this movement […] it will never be shut down. These coals will always be burning under the ashes …

From the point of view of defending human rights, Rafael Uzcátegui [7] [en] highlights the new elements in the protests. For Uzcátegui, the protests show many elements which until now had not seen in Venezuelan social movements.

Among other things, it is a unique and significant fact that the protest movement comes from the interior of the country and moves toward the capital city of Caracas, contrary to the traditional dynamics of social movements in Venezuela. “Uzcátegui speaks of the political legitimacy of all groups as the principle of a democratic society and highlights the importance of promoting a process of depolarization after recognition of the other.”

[La primera novedad es] expansión en el tiempo […] lo cual de alguna manera contradice la cultura inmediatista del venezolano de querer resultados inmediatos […]. Una segunda novedad es la cantidad de ciudades que están involucradas en esta situación, lo que hace que Caracas haya perdido esa condición que tenía hasta este año de ser el centro de la protesta nacional…

[The first novelty is] the expansion of time […] which somehow contradicts the immediatist Venezuelan culture of wanting immediate results […]. A second development is the number of cities that are involved in this situation, meaning that Caracas has lost the status it had until this year of being the center of the nationwide protest…

Uzcátegui also discusses the reaction of pro-government sectors, as well as the causes of the protests, saying:

Hay una molestia generalizada que se expresa de diferentes maneras […]. Esta expresión de molestia tiene sus referentes en el propio sector de base que ha apoyado al gobierno en los últimos [y puede verse] en que la gente no está apoyando activamente, no está asistiendo a las convocatorias del gobierno a las marchas. [Esta] es una expresión del malestar generalizado producido por una situación aguda de crisis económica, que es el gran telón de fondo de esta situación…

There is a widespread discontent that is expressed in different ways […]. This expression of annoyance has its own benchmarks in the exact base that has supported the government in the past [and can be seen] that people are not actively supporting it now, is not attending the calls from the government to leave. [This] is an expression of malaise produced by an acute economic crisis, which is the great backdrop of this situation…

As for the State's response, he adds:

También la respuesta del Estado ha sido diferente. Hay nuevos patrones en la violación de los derechos humanos que incluyen la participación de grupos paramilitares, el uso de la fuerza desproporcionada por funcionarios policiales y el robo sistemático por parte de los funcionarios a los detenidos.

The State's response was also different. There are new players in the violation of human rights that include the participation of paramilitary groups, the use of disproportionate force by police officers and the systematic theft from detainees by officials.

The use of citizen media was also at the center of many of these conversations, as the journalist Hugo Prieto says, noting how popular participation has taken shape with new technologies:

Para Prieto, todos estamos en capacidad de desarrollar trabajo periodístico apoyándonos en las nuevas herramientas que brinda la Internet y un teléfono inteligente. Sin embargo, se requiere aprender técnicas básicas periodísticas para generar información veraz y pertinente que pueda hacer frente al cerco informativo. [En la opinión del periodista] la división del país es resultado de un proyecto político que ha desconocido sistemáticamente a los que piensan diferente. Esto ha provocado una espiral de violencia que lejos de disminuir, crece alimentándose de los sentimientos de indignación e ira. Recomienda el desarrollo de espacios que den cabida al pensamiento plural y a despojarse de “gríngolas ideológicas” en aras de favorecer el entendimiento.

For Prieto, we’re all able to work as journalists, using the new tools afforded by the Internet and a smart phone. However, it requires learning basic journalistic techniques to generate accurate and relevant information to cope with the siege of information. [In the opinion of the journalist] the country’s devision is the result of a political project that has systematically ignored those who think differently. This has led to a spiral of violence that, far from diminishing, is growing, feeding off of the feelings of indignation and anger. He recommends the development of spaces that accommodate plural thinking and shed “ideological blinders” in order to promote understanding.

In the video in which the journalist Tamoa Calzadilla is interviewed, the conversation revolves around the use of new media and the process of polarization that continues to grow in the country. According to the video’s summary, for Calzadilla:

la crisis de gobernabilidad se agrava ante el secuestro de los cinco poderes públicos por parte del PSUV [8], la sustitución de los medios oficiales de comunicación por propaganda política, la compra y el cambio de línea editorial de medios privados, así como la dificultad de medios independientes para encontrar papel. La asimetría comunicacional ha llevado a los ciudadanos a buscar información veraz y oportuna en medios alternos como las redes sociales y el aprendizaje progresivo de los ciudadanos a informar de los hechos a los que tienen acceso de primera mano.

The crisis of governance is compounded by the kidnapping of the five public branches by the PSUV [United Socialist Party of Venezuela], the replacement of the official media by political propaganda, the purchase and changes in editorials by private media, as well as the difficulty of independent media to find paper. The communication asymmetry has led citizens to seek accurate and timely information in alternate media such as social networking and the progressive education of citizens to report the facts to those who have first-hand access.

La polarización se ha robustecido en estos últimos 15 años y pareciera irreconciliable … Creo que hay unos grises que no hemos sabido explorar, porque cada vez que hay un problema, se polariza…

The polarization has grown stronger in the last 15 years and it seems irreconcilable … I think there are gray areas that we have failed to explore, because whenever there is a problem, it gets polarized,,,

More and more authors and thinkers get involved in the series. With them come more ideas, more conversations and more reading recommendations. The conversation about citizen participation online, about violence and social crisis is growing, as well as the publishers’ struggles and the paper crisis [9]. The Venezuelan conflict continues, but spaces are also opening for reflection, searching for a solution to the confusion.