Who pays the opposition students in Venezuela?

It is not true that US imperialism does not help the Third World! One of its agencies, the Cato Institute based in Washington DC, just signed a cheque for $500,000 (yes: half a million bucks!) to a young Venezuelan. Yon Goicoechea has been awarded the "Milton Friedman Liberty Prize", for his merits in the promotion of "Individual Liberty, Free Markets, and Peace".

Well, we have to admit that Mr Goicoechea is not exactly a poor boy from a Caracas slum. He is a law student at the expensive Andrés Bello Roman Catholic University in Caracas, whose fees are 5,820 Bolivares Fuertes (officially equivalent to $2,710) per year, a very high price in Venezuela.

Nevertheless, this badly needed financial aid was honestly earned by Mr Goicochea for the good job he did in the cause of the free market (i.e. capitalism) and democracy (i.e. conspiracy against the elected government of Hugo Chávez). The reason he is considered a hero by the Cato guys is that he is the leader of the "students' movement" that opposes the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.

Right-wing and anti-democratic

The main activities of this movement have been organising demonstrations (and clashes with the police), with the typical display of inverted Venezuelan flags and an overwhelming presence of white-skinned people, on the following issues:

  • In favour of the private right-wing TV channel RCTV, that supported the coup against Chávez in April 2002;
  • Against progressive reforms in the universities (e.g., equalising the weight of students' and teachers' votes in elections for university institutions) and promotion of affordable universities for the poor;
  • Against the progressive reforms proposed by the Constitutional Referendum held on December 2, 2007.

There is no need to comment on the recurrent accusations about "erosion of human and civil rights" or "a constitutional reform that would have turned the country into a dictatorship". In the current war that the US ruling class and the nation's government are waging against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, those statements have the same character as the old stories told by the British and American governments during the First World War about German soldiers cutting off the breasts of Belgian women - they are purely war propaganda fabrications.

Fabrications that our free and independent media, watchdog of democracy and freedom, waste no time in reproducing: "Venezuelan student leader who challenged Chávez wins prize", says Associated Press; "Student who challenged Chávez wins $500,000", announces US Today; and CBS tells us "Venezuelan student leader wins award for challenging Chávez". The movement has also been defined as "non-violent" in the award ceremony, but first-hand accounts by revolutionary students tell quite a different story (see Opposition violence at Venezuelan university - What really happened at the UCV).

In the muddied waters of CIA platforms and "neo-liberalism", "free-market libertarianism" or however Friedman's intellectual miscarriage is labelled, there can be no irony in the fact that an award for "Advancing Democracy" is conceded to someone who is attempting to destabilise, and eventually overthrow by any means possible, the democratically elected government of Venezuela, a country where, according to the Andean Commission of Justice (Comisión Andina de Justicia) - a body not very friendly to the Bolivarian revolution - 77% of people believe in democracy and 59% are satisfied with the levels of the democracy they experience, the highest rate in the region, and probably in the continent, if not the world.

Could it be otherwise when there have been over 11 democratic elections since Chávez was voted in? These were local, regional and national, including a recall referendum on the president himself, and all were declared free, clean and fair by such pro-revolutionary bodies as the Carter Centre or the European Union. The government was also (unfortunately) defeated in the last constitutional referendum - which would be unheard of under a dictatorship.

Remote-controlled

After spending weeks denouncing the totalitarian character of the "Chávez regime", Yon Goicoechea and his friends demanded their "right" to be heard at the National Assembly. Contrary to what they were expecting, the National Assembly invited them, along with students belonging to revolutionary organisations, to express their concerns and debate about free speech and freedom of the press; never before had a student representative been invited into the National Assembly.

The session opened with Douglas Bravo, a student opposition leader from the Metropolitan University, a private and notoriously elitist centre. He read out his speech, which was as vague as it was well written. On the one hand, he promised to continue the fight for the RCTV to the very end. On the other, he hinted to the possibility of a national reconciliation process if the revolutionary government stopped being a revolutionary government and behaved as every respectable government is expected to behave, defending the interests of the capitalist and landlords.

At the end of his speech he said in a declamatory way: "a dream of a country in which we can be taken into account without the need to wear a uniform", at which point he and his friends took off the red T-shirts they were wearing and revealed a series of pro-RCTV slogans. They started to withdraw from the Assembly, but revolutionary students convinced them to stay and, at least, listen to the intervention of Andreína Taranzón, a revolutionary student from the Central University of Venezuela.

Taranzón finished, and here came our hero. Yon Goicoechea took on the speaker's role, but having already done their show for the media, he did not feel like debating anything. Goicoechea announced that the opposition party was leaving. "We did not come to this Assembly to play at being politicians, we are students", said Goicoechea, "Having spoken once and listened once, we leave". And they left, leaving behind the script of the speech read earlier by Douglas Bravo.

The script was signed by ARS Publicity, part of Globovision's business group. Not only was the speech scripted, but also its performance. César Trompiz, a revolutionary student from the Bolivarian University, read out the last sheet of the script: "A dream of a country in which we can be taken into account without the need to wear a uniform [take off the t-shirt] with no more to say [pause] so far".

These "oppositionists" are not just generously funded by the oligarchy, they are also remote-controlled!

Tools of world capitalism

Mr Goicoechea has been long praised by the Western press for his role in giving the Venezuelan opposition a "fresh" image and a new, relatively clean, face. Among the Goicoechea enthusiasts we also find the editorial board of Playboy-Venezuela, who put him (not his picture, that space was already occupied by a half-naked girl) on the front page of this, er..., serious political magazine.

The talent scouts who have hailed him the champion of anti-Chavism are not such an innocent group. The board who appointed Yon as a modern-day capitalist hero has an interesting composition:

  • Kakha Bendukidze, a Georgian leading politician and good friend of the White House, who profited out of the US-backed privatisation and destruction of the Soviet planned economy.
  • Ed Crane, president of the Institute, member of the Mont Pelerin Society, a freemasonry-like think tank founded by rabid anti-socialist economist Friedrich von Hayek. He is a vocal supporter for the abolition of the Social Security insurance system in the US, because the sick, old and disabled, if poor, should be given the freedom to die without any government interference in their health conditions.
  • Francisco Gil Díaz, Mexican minister of finances until 2006, now hired by the giant banking group HSBC (the largest capitalist company in the world).
  • The capitalist Charles G. Koch (Koch Industries), who's been described as "the world's most successful private billionaire".
  • Another European neo-liberal ultra-rich ideologue known by the name of Karen Horn.
  • Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan journalist who opposes sending aid to Africa and debt relief for the highly indebted countries.
  • Mary O'Grady (The Wall Street Journal) and Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek), two other journalists on the payroll of Big Business.
  • Rose Director, the widow of the laissez-faire economist Milton Friedman and a lunatic "libertarian" economist herself.

Another individual who has won a Friedman "award" was Hernando de Soto, who was economic adviser in promoting the "Fujishock" in Perú, a packet of shock economic measures during the Fujimori dictatorship (free market and dictatoirship!).

Milton Friedman gave good economic advice to the dictator Augusto Pinochet who strictly collaborated with his pupils, the Chicago Boys, while he was in charge of dramatically worsening the living conditions of Chilean workers, killing and torturing thousands in the process. Receiving the Friedman Prize must have been a great honour for Yon Goicoechea. Who knows, a future career as a Venezuelan Pinochet is still possible for this brilliant advocate of capitalist freedom!

(Written with Pablo Roldan and published on In Defence of Marxism on May 8, 2008)

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