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Would Bolivar have Toppled the Columbus Statue?

pescao | 20.10.2004 14:20 | Venezuela

Over 200 in Venezuela say: "Free the O12 prisoners or arrest us all!"

October 12th is traditionally celebrated as the day Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. In reality, this is nothing to celebrate, as it unleashed a wave of terror across the continent which continues today. The colonial mentality there is still very much alive with a tiny white elite holding power over a mixed afro-indigenous majority.

Three years ago, Venezuela's self-proclaimed "revolutionary" president, Hugo Chávez, decreed that October 12th should henceforth be known as "Day of Indigenous Resistance". The icon of Columbus has become offensive to the majority of the population and Chávez himself has described him as "worse than Hitler". For the neo-colonialists, however, Columbus stands symbolically as a role-model of conquest.

On "O12" this year, actions in solidarity with Venezuela's "Bolivarian Revolution" and against neo-imperialism and corporate-colonialism happened worldwide. In London we held a picket outside the Mexican and US Embassies, and in Amsterdam a caravan of cyclists denounced multi-national corporations outside their various headquarters. Solidarity actions also happened in Athens, Puerto Rico and Zimbabwe.

columbus: going, going, gone!
columbus: going, going, gone!

In Caracas hundreds of protesters gathered around the Columbus statue in Plaza Venezuela to hold a public trial, at the end of which he was unanimously declared "guilty". The activists together then pulled down the statue, painted it red and dropped it from a tree, breaking it into pieces. Police tear-gassed the crowd and fired rubber bullets. Three demonstrators, William Escalona, Freddy Tabarquino and Jorge Freites, were arrested and have been subsequently refused bail (interview with Marcelo Andrade).

After dispersing, the group congregated at the local mayor's office to demand the release of the three prisoners, with thirty of them claiming collective responsibility for the action and demanding to stand trial along with the three. This number has now (updated Thursday 21st) grown to over 200. A petition launched for the three's release, and an international day of action in solidarity with the "O12 prisoners" has been called for Thursday 21st October (O21 report from Caracas).

On that day in London the Hands Off Venezuela campaign shall be holding a picket of the Venezuelan consulate, 56 Grafton Way, W1 (off Tottenham Court Rd, nearest tube Warren St) from 3pm to 5pm, to demand the release of the three prisoners on bail until trial (report). They shall also be highlighting the courageous position of the 200+ activists who have claimed joint-responsibility for toppling the statue and who demand to stand trial alongside the prisoners.

Charley Allan from HOV explained: "We aim to send a message to the Bolivarian government of Venezuela that our support as a solidarity campaign extends to the whole Bolivarian Movement, not just its leaders and officials, or to the 'party line'. We denounce the unfair and unjust policy of trying to isolate these grassroots activists by imprisoning them without bail, and refusing to negotiate a collective-responsibility agreement with the organisers of the O12 demonstration. In Venezuela, you can topple the government and just be put under house-arrest, but topple a statue and you appear to lose your human rights.

"Regardless of our position on the way this statue was taken down, we appeal to President Chávez to extend tolerance to his allies as well as his enemies, by releasing on bail the three 'O12' prisoners until trial. We also ask him to recognise that this action, against a provocative symbol of past cruelties, has received much popular support both within and outside of Venezuela, and we call on him to consider removing all remaining statues of this ignoble, if not plain wicked, conquistador."

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Hide the following 23 comments

Stop to think?

20.10.2004 21:12

It is great to have ideals, goals and ambitions. It is not always good to have idols - in fact many adhere to the metaphorical suggestion: "Kill Your Idols!"

Mr. Chaves has done some good things, so they say, but he is still just a capitalist reformer, - not a revolutionary insofar as profound changes, such as reconfigurations of property rights and taxation of the rich, are concerned.

There are some critical analyses from within Venezuela:

Let us support the people of Venezuela by opposing the State of Chavez.



22.10.2004 01:21

I think some of you would be so idealistic as to do nothing at all.

The current government in Venezuela has done more to redress the inequality that has existed in Venezuela than any previous administration. What the previous poster ( not the first ) suggests is like cutting off your head because of the unneccessary control it exerts over the rest of your body. But a body needs a head and a head needs a body, they are all part of the same system. When the head acts against the wishes of the body, the body becomes sick and rebels. When the body acts against the wishes of the head, nothing is accomplished apart from thoughtless, instinctive pursuing of temporary desires.

You would cut off what is a useful tool to bring about positive change in the world, because it is not pure enough for you. Or maybe, secretly, because it is not you. You would rather work with the previous crooks who were in power to bring down Chavez, and bring back hard-core, no questions asked, neo-liberal politicians, because hey, at least we know where we stand with them, right? You would rather the Barrios got no health-care, schools, cheap food. Because maybe then they'll suffer enough to come around to your way of thinking, although I doubt you are suffering like they are.

Do you really have such a low opinion of the millions of poor people who are suffering in the barrios, and who support Chavez, that you think they are stupid? That you know better what they want than they do? Idealism is a privelage of the middle-class, who can comfortably sit at home and negate all and everything that does not come from their ego-centered world view. The people who are starving, or living in abject poverty, have to be pragmatic. Maybe if you go and feed them, give them health-care, and teach their children to read and write, they will listen to your opinion.

Rant over...


DEBATE: 5pm Monday 25th October, 403a Holloway Road, London N7

23.10.2004 01:51

Would Bolivar have Toppled the Columbus Statue? Are the Venezuelan O12 prisoners principled peaceful protesters or provocative property-damaging vandals? Decide for yourself on Monday 25th October, at the Long Island University-Friends World Program, 403a Holloway Road, London N7 (between Odeon cinema and junction with Parkhurst Road, nearest tube Holloway Rd). Starts 5pm, refreshments and social after. This is the first in a series of open debates on issues concerning the emerging "Latinamerican Solidarity" movement here in London.

On Monday we shall be discussing the pros and cons of tearing down parts of the "national heritage", as well as the significance and effect of the original action and its aftermath. Will this divide the Bolivarian Movement, or strengthen it? What does this say about the power relationship between the leadership and its grassroots? Is this what "participatory democracy" really looks like, and how can international solidarity remain consistent in our support for the entire people in their fight against repression, exploitation and corruption across this whole rebellious continent? Join us in this debate to explore these issues deeper and help shape the grassroots solidarity agenda worldwide.

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he fell just like Saddam

25.10.2004 17:36

this looks like a symbolic copy of the toppling of the Saddam statue (which was much more reported and approved of).. good luck to Chavez and and the people, at least they're willing to try alernatives and stand up against the big boys.. wish we had more world leaders like him

Seamus O'Blimey
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why oh why a feature? IMC's bias

27.10.2004 11:07

Why oh why was this a feature, I've heard friends say too?

Great important issue. So are so many. That's why they're on the global IMC, and even the UK newswire.

Linked to an action in the UK? Well, um, to a picket, with some people in pink, playing samba, in London. Now before you all get arsey, if you want to do demos like that, fine and good.

But a feature, please! And it's not the first time that leafletting in London in solidarity with a global issue becomes a feature, when direct actions involving, 30 people, 70 people, people locked on, people arrested, costing some big nasty company large amounts of money, don't get put up as a feature.

Take for example an item I saw the other day - "chainsaw massacre in hebden bridge" - follow the links and there's even lots of photos. It's an ongoing campaign (hey they even had a demo with samba on it I think). Local residents are the campaign, and there's even security guard violence (people strangled, twisted ankles, you name it!).

And before you say, "well, Indymedia's democratic, you just have to suggest a feature to the list" - tried it before, even just asked techie questions not requesting anything apart from info - no reply.


provincial home-grown

maybe u don't know this...

27.10.2004 17:03

but, as venezuela doesn't have an indymedia of its own, activists there (the same ones who called the O12 global day of action at this year's PGA) have asked for other sites to temporarily host venezuela sections: spanish-language in puerto rico, english-lang here in the UK. check down the features wire a little bit further and that's made pretty clear. so think of the uk wires as 'shared' with venezuela's, until we get something more permanent sorted. also, it's not as though there are a plethora of other newswire stories that are competing for space. also, as you can see there are plenty of links within the feature to other indymedia stories (from uk, pr, global and more) - which almost justifies the feature on its own...

for those who haven't seen this:

We Are Responsible For The Toppling Of The COLONial Ex-Statue

By: Popular Bolivarian Movements & Charley Allan

Editor's Note: In the interests of providing "equal time" to this issue, this is the second and final installment of commentaries on the toppling of the Columbus Statue. The First two were actually written before Dawn Gable's piece, but people involved in the controversy asked us to post the statement in response to her commentary. Below the two statements from the "Popular Bolivarian Movements" is a response to Dawn Gable from Charley Allan, one of the main organizers of "Hands Off Venezuela," a London-based solidarity group.

We, the militants of multiple popular movements...defenders and activists of all the struggles for life taken on by the Venezuelan people...we, participants of the Bolivarian revolutionary process...defenders of ideals of freedom, justice, equality and continental liberation...we, who have been present in all forms of the struggle in defense of the government led by comandante Hugo Chavez, considering it a government loyal to the hopes for radical transformation that have been building in the Venezuelan people for years...definitely, we, who struggle absolutely in accord with the dreams of liberty of our people and all the peoples of the world...we completely assume, in all its dimensions—intellectual, organizational and executive—responsibility for the acts that occurred yesterday, October 12, 2004, that culminated in the toppling of the statue of Christopher Columbus (which until yesterday was situated in “Paseo Colon” of Plaza Venezuela) and was later dragged by hand to the doors of the Teresa Carreno Theater, and hung for a brief moment from a nearby tree until it was decided to bring it back to the ground because of the danger it presented to by-standers, until finally it was seized by the Policia Libertador during a cruel, irresponsible and repressive action that culminated in the arrests of five people in the vicinity of the theater.

This act began at about 12:00 noon, with the participation of hundreds of people, in what was named “the popular trial against Columbus,” which obviously extended to all forms, old and new, of COLONialism. This trial, after reading two public documents, concluded with a plebiscite where it was decided, by the consensus of all, to condemn, symbolically, our friend Columbus, this time petrified beneath the form of a bronze statue, to touch the ground again, only this time it would not be the marvelous land that he encountered over 500 years ago, but instead the hard ground and cement upon which we stood, the men and women who were happy to see him fall in such a noisy and humiliating manner.

For very diverse reasons, groups and persons situated in different ideological and political camps have been saying that this was the work of vandals, and with unusual judicial efficiency have opened proceedings against three companeros that were present at the action. We respond by saying that the accusations of vandalism, come from where they may, are rejected by us in an absolute manner, and we say that we feel absolutely proud of what we have done, and that we have finally destroyed—in the only manner that such icons deserve—one of the strongest and most representative symbols of what has been the exercise of genocide, exploitation, dehumanization, deculturalization, and true vandalism of all the imperialisms that have plagued this planet with misery, and in this particular case, the process of conquest and extermination of more than 70 million human beings, the original inhabitants of the continent of Abya Yala, and the death of more than 30 million inhabitants originating from Africa and brought here as slaves, from the day in which the “national hero” of Spain put his boot upon these lands.

Just as we assume complete responsibility for this totally legitimate act, so we also assume all legal reprecussions that might result from this case. A thousand times more important than our liberty as individuals is this opportunity to assist in the decolonization, once and for all, of our consciousness of our own history, our identity as people and as cultures, and our responsibility to create in the future truly free and soverign new worlds. We consider this fair and direct action of the people a pedagological and concrete example towards that end. How much indignation it gives us, that the day of October 12 has been declared a day of Indigenous Resistence by this government, and yet our children continue to learn from their school books that this day was nothing more than the marvelous “discovery” of the “american” lands, and furthermore that we continue to venerate with statues and “discovery days,” with the help of the corporate media, the hugest criminals in history!

For this same reason we consider it necessary and absolutely legitimate that we discharge against so much humilation and historical impunity our centuries of rage as people, with irreverent and rebellious actions that do not need the authorization of anyone except of our own consciousness. No people in the world need to ask permission from anyone to be free and throw off their oppressors. Possibly the only people from whom we ask permission are the indigenous communities and the communities of African descent from which the majority of us emerge—and probably the people such as those in Iraq, Palestine, Chechenia, Colombia, Bolivia, Chiapas, and all other people that today continue to suffer form the imperial beast—only that today it is from new technologies of military monstrosity that have been invented in recent times, by the only direct descendent of Colombus: the global empire of capital.

For these reasons, with the signatures below, we assume completely and proudly all of the legal responsibilities that the Venezuelan States shall apply against us, as well as the the dreams that have been erupting from our skin.





(see signatures at indymedia puerto rico, venezuela section).


Next Statues To Topple...

We knocked down the ex-statue of Columbus! ... We knocked down a face of COLONIALISM and it broke to pieces... We knocked down a bronze statue and, as it fell, it stuck its finger in the Empire’s eye... we knocked it down in the full light of the day with our young, uncovered faces, thus discovering hypocritical masks... we knocked down a “public evil” and we made a true work of art, a rebellious and collective work of art without imperial signature... we knocked down the oppressor at the rhythm of libertarian drums... we knocked down a symbolic ex-statue and we shook the bureaucratic-statue, the impunity-statue, the communication-monopoly-statue, the repressive-state-statue... the Escuálido-[anti-revolutionary]-with-a-red-beret-statue. In short, we knocked down an ex-statue and shook those who want to turn our Revolution into their hypocritical and untouchable Revolution-Statue.

The debate has been opened and so has the autonomous action of the popular movement, of the people that since February 27, 1989 came down the barrios to be a slave only to their conscience. To the surprise of us, the many people who organized and assume the responsibility for knocking down the ex-statue of Columbus, today that truly insignificant and small action has brought the internal enemy where we wanted to have it... naked and exposed. This autonomous action has become “The Battle of Santa Inés against the Escuálido State and against pseudo-revolutionary conservatism”. (Note: The Battle of Santa Inés was used by Chávez as an example of a historic battle where Zamora, a general of the people in the late XIX century, made the enemy follow him to a terrain where they could be easily defeated. Chávez called the battle for the August 15th referendum: “The Battle of Santa Inés”).

And in these we are all in agreement: that the true enemies of this Revolution are the ones that the same Empire has infiltrated in the State for a long time, and the ones that with their new positions of power, intend to expropriate the popular movements from their true participation and leading-role.

The fact is that the Empire knows that, right now, its power in Venezuela does not lie in its capacity to give coup d'Etats, since they would be starting, with their own hands, one of the most profound rebellions in history. Instead, the Empire is exercising its power through the corrupt, bourgeois State that, in spite of the doubtless good will of our comrade Hugo, continues serving as an instrument for the exploitation of our resources and of ourselves as a people. This does not mean that there are no more risks of coups or invasions, or that the government has been good for nothing, but it does mean that the most threatening risk than we run as a people is that this revolution be institutionalized and that the bureaucracy steals it from us through its demagogic discourse, while, underneath, multinational corporations keep taking away all our oil, our coal, our culture... only to leave us their trash and a land full of damned statues. At any rate, the great triumph of this government, aside from the very important social base that it is building, is precisely that we have the liberty to carry out our revolutionary conscience to action.

Because the struggle for the liberty of our 3 imprisoned comrades and the radical deepening of the Revolution is no longer the struggle of the hundreds of people that knocked down that statue of Columbus, but of all the Bolivarian people that in their daily revolutionary effort have been fighting against the damned bureaucratic statues that continue to sabotage the projects in the barrios; against the statues of impunity that continue liberating coup-leader and murderers while incarcerating comrades of struggle; against the media statues that continue exercising the monopoly of communications; against the statues that in name of progress continue devouring forests and staining rivers with oxide; against the statues that continue condemning us when we exercise popular will and rebel against the constituted power!

We will knock down each and every one of these statues and we will ask for nobody’s permission. We will knock them down in the same way we knocked down Columbus: in the full light of the day and with uncovered faces, to the full rhythm of joyous drums, with smiles from ear to ear and lips painted with poetry. But now we won’t be only hundreds, we will be thousands and millions of rebels that take the streets and assume that our liberty and our happiness as people subdue to nothing, and no-one, but our own conscious of respect towards all the human beings in this world. Our violence, in any case, is not the violence against monsters of flesh and blood as long as they don’t shoot at our dancing bodies on the streets.

And thus we will go on taking it all... Because, either we assume this Revolution as our own, realizing that only we ourselves can build a more free and more just society, or we become the slaves and servants of a Revolution-Statue that seeks nothing more than the survival of its self-appointed sculptors. Let’s assume, then, for once and for all, our own rebel action as a popular sculpture, as one with which we will build our own history. Because that popular motto of “Revolution in the Revolution” is also being turned into a statue, condemned to the pathetic world of the office-revolution. For that reason, we must carry the word to the street and give it gesture, give it a face, make it rebellious art with which, far from physically harming other human beings, we will take back what they have forever denied us: our identity.

It is not about denying history and disappearing the statue of Columbus. In any case, what should be placed on that monument is the figure of the Columbus that our resistance left destroyed, of the Columbus that we painted red as symbol of the blood spilled by the cruel sword of his old and new Empire. We propose then that the statue that is placed back is the one of the Knocked-Down-Columbus, of the Columbus that was defeated by our resistance and that, only after we transformed it, it became a true work of art, a collective work of art that speaks of our times and culture in a much more accurate way than that other figure smiling to genocide. Just like Rafael de la Cova (the sculptor) took from the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the copper and the tin, made bronze and turned it into an imperial symbol, we took the imperial symbol and turned it into a symbol of resistance. In this case, the true cultural patrimony is the one that would be destroyed if they return that figure to its posture of genocidal pride. (To prison, then, by their logic, those who dare restore it!)

And if “revolutionary authorities” are going to condemn us for having our own conscience and not following the official line in what we consider a backward attitude towards the revolutionary process, then let them imprison all of us rebels of these Bolivarian lands... Let us all go to jail!... those of us who take land, those of us who take schools and universities, those of us who take factories, those of us who re-take our culture! Those of us who will take movie theaters and museums! Those of us who will take, for once and for all, the mass media outlets so that they may serve the people! Those of us who will take the Guasare, Imitaca and the Delta to fight the destruction that multinational corporations carry out! Those of us who will take control of our own lives! Those of us who will take the golf courses of the Country Club and sow fields of yucca for all the children of the Pachamama! Those of us who, at last, will re-take the COLONial borders to abolish them forever and begin the continental rebellion, from Alaska to Patagonia and to the very last corner of this world that rises!




Comrade Chávez, we would not be as hypocritical as to thank you for your words, since they are sadly unjust and of a rather inaccurate historical analysis (that of the extreme-left, Allende and us). If it is true that there are leaders that, as you say, manipulate us, please tell us where they are because we have not found them. In terms of your insinuation of CIA-infiltration in our rebel ranks, please have the mercy of passing us the intelligence information so we may turn them into frogs or statues. But regardless of the tone and fury of your verb, we thank you for having collaborated with our main objective: to recognize the impossibility of a unique, individual responsibility for the toppling of the statue, and to facilitate, through your accusations, the collective responsibility of the action. At any rate, your comments serve us to reiterate our main demand: that a collective trial is opened, in liberty, to all of us who assume the co-responsibility of this action in the documents “We Are Responsible”, and in denouncing the fact that the three comrades in jail are being used as scape-goats. This would permit us to quickly re-open the trial started 400 years ago by Bartolomé de las Casas against the Conquest murderers and takes us to our times with the demand for the payment of the historic debt that the Imperial European States have with our people. If we turn out to be guilty of something, in any case, it would be of having opened the historic debate that still lives in the lands of the Abya Yala (“America” in tongue of the native Cunas) and in the skin of all the children of the Pachamama.

The only thing that we would add—and count on this, Mr. President—is that this trial will not only carry us backwards in our sorrows, but will serve to reveal our present struggles, particularly in the accusation of the cave of rascals and merchants of goods and contracts that have COLONized your government and are about to even rob you the richness of your word in exchange for mirrors and mirages of “revolution”. Let this serve as an opportunity to see if you can leave aside your arrogance and realize the political filth that a self-appointed leadership has imposed on us and will soon control, for their own benefit and pleasure, no less than 80% of the local and national budgets.

Finally, even if it bothers you or the court of traitors you have around, we continue supporting and defending you as a leader of OUR Revolution, that of all the Bolivarian people. But you must choose sides, Mr. President: decide whether you are on the side of those who will not think twice before selling you if you become a real threat to the Empire, or with us that will defend you with our lives if it is necessary, as long as you are serving the interests of the people.


PD: We invite you, Hugo, to come along with this band of young rebels to knock down all the other statues that we mentioned. We hope that you don’t lose your youth and that you are not manipulated by the old walls of your palace.

The next statues to knock down:

- The bureaucratic, corrupt, and parallel State that has grown again in PDVSA.

- The thieves of public finances cloistered in the Central Bank.

- The lords of the regional corporations and their plans of predatory destruction and piracy.

- Those who have given impunity to the murderers of more than 90 peasant leaders, to “government-topplers” and corrupt officers.

- The corrupt ministers traffickers of chicken, weapons, agrochemical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

- The contracts with Microsoft, Texaco, Repsol and the construction of Puertoamérica.

- Etc, etc... and let’s not forget those who want to finalize the COLONization of our Revolution.





SIGNS: “UnidenTified Front of Pachamerikan Liberation”

Response by Charley Allan to:

>Those Who Toppled Columbus Statue Must Bear Responsibility For Their Act

>Saturday, Oct 23, 2004

>By: Dawn Gable

>Based on the account of the October 12 destruction of the Columbus statue that was written and disseminated world-wide by the organizers (some of whom do not live in Venezuela) and based on the fact that this was a pre-planned theatrical show, it appears that those arguing for the amnesty of those detained are either misinformed about what took place, or do not understand the danger of the act or of the damage it has done to the Bolivarian government.

As someone who has "disseminated" (both through the world wide web and by word of mouth) accounts of the O12 Columbus-toppling, and also an organiser here in the UK of solidarity actions with Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela, I feel compelled to respond to Dawn Gable's clear, if not complete, analysis of the aftermath to the statue-toppling. However I must make it clear that in no way did I help organise the Caracas demonstration, any more than those claiming responsibility for what happened in Plaza Venezuela helped organise our solidarity demonstration outside the US Embassy in London that day.

I'd also like to mention that neither I, nor the campaign "Hands Off Venezuela" (who joint-sponsored the protests here), have ever argued for the amnesty of the O12 prisoners. Nor for that matter has anyone else I've read online (in English) including the prisoners themselves! In fact, by all accounts they (and the over 200 activists who assume collective-responsibility for the action - see their document "We are responsible") are very much looking forward to defending themselves to a jury of their peers. The reason we demonstrated outside the Venezuelan consulate last Thursday had nothing to do with amnesty; it was to support their demand for the prisoners' bail until trial.

As for not understanding the "danger" and "damage" this has caused the Venezuelan government, I fully accept that here, far away from the Caracas political heat, my personal judgement of these issues must be rather clouded, but I genuinely believe there are far greater dangers to the Bolivarian Revolution than peaceful anarchists and autonomists toppling statues, and that debates like the one generated by this action can certainly help the Movement avoid them.

>All Revolutionary activities must be done with not only with the symbolism of the act, or the motivation for the act in mind but also with the end result in mind. While it is certainly understandable to take out ones anger on a statue of the symbol of 500 years of cruelty and injustice, the fulfilling of this impulse at the expense of the only government in the history of the world to ever make any REAL attempt at returning rights to indigenous peoples is unjustifiable. Especially when, at the same moment in another area of Caracas, the mayor Freddy Bernal was signing an agreement to take down ALL of the Columbus statues in the city and replace them with statues of Chief Guaicaipuro (although Bernal admitted that the enforcement of this agreement was not solely up to him).

Chávez himself talks of the "Revolution within the Revolution". At the same time, the government line is to portray the O12 prisoners as extremists. By all accounts, this is not accurate. The statue-toppling was carried out in broad daylight, announced and unmasked. Over 200 people have claimed collective responsibility, and their names are on the internet. This was not an angry act of vandalism. It was peaceful, principled protest. Yes, it made a lot of noise. Yes, it was illegal. Yes, they should stand trial. But they should not be in jail. As for Bernal signing such an agreement, if it is true then why is he spending public money to repair the broken Columbus statue? Why not just put it back up in pieces, as the protesters have suggested? And what exactly is the "end result" of refusing these three prisoners bail?

>The participants of the action could have been satisfied with symbolism of knocking down the statue. But they were not. They were looking for response. So they dragged the statue down to the Teresa Carreño Theater where the day’s formal celebration was happening. The National Guard of course, protected this event. Bringing the statue to the theater resulted in also bringing the Metropolitan Police who are run by the opposition and who are often in conflict with the National Guard. This was a dangerous and careless thing to do. Creating a disturbance while positioned between two rival armed forces is not only irresponsible but it would have been unforgivable if an exchange between the two would have broken out.

This is probably the most worrying part of Gable's writing. It describes an atmosphere of perpetual danger, where at any moment violence can break out and soldiers could be dragged into raging gun-fights with police, as of course has happened in the past. But for this still to be the situation, where a crowd of statue-dragging, samba-playing hippies could (but didn't) trigger off some kind of civil war, is at least at odds with most of what I've read and heard recently, especially since the referendum victory in August. To blame over-zealous protesters for "creating" such a dangerous environment surely misses the point, which is that any country proud of its democracy should be able to safeguard the security of those exercising their democratic right to protest. It is unfortunately true that in many countries, like the UK and the US, and of course Italy, where Carlo Giuliani was shot dead by an inexperienced riot cop at the Genoa 2001 demonstrations, this right is sorely lacking. It is sad that Venezuela appears not to have progressed very far beyond these countries with respect to such a basic human right as this.

>Luckily this did not happen and after some discussion between the organizers, the National Guard, and the police, the statue was confiscated by the police. At this point the participants surely had made their point AND have gotten a response. But this was not enough either. The small crowd began to taunt the police who responded, as one would expect of this notoriously trigger-happy group, with tear gas and rubber bullets. In the end a hand full of participants were detained.

I believe this is simply untrue. From all the accounts I've read and heard, the Caracas Police (under Bernal's command) fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at the peaceful crowd without warning and without provocation. The protest was winding down, the point had been made, the National Guard were standing, watching, doing nothing, when the police arrived and immediately dramatically and violently escalated the situation. Arbitrary arrests were made, particular activists (such as Roland Denis) were targeted and shot at. Indeed, this might be as one would expect, but to blame the crowd for the violence by taunting the police is disingenuous, again.

>At this point it would have made sense to wait for the situation to calm and then send a few people to talk to the police who may have released the detainees. But instead this group escalated their self-made confrontation by going to the mayor’s office expecting him to intervene and get them off the hook. Here is the worst part of the whole mess.

The writer's sudden good-faith in the police may or may not be justified, however we have come to the most important issue (that Gable assiduous obscures): that the demand is not for amnesty (or getting them "off the hook"); it is for them to be treated fairly and equally under the law, which is not too much to ask from a self-proclaimed progressive government. It is a fact that in Venezuela you can topple a government and just be held under house-arrest. If you topple a statue (of a hated and divisive figure), you are refused bail. Maybe this is because Pedro Carmona is a millionaire member of the elite, while William Escalona, Freddy Tabarquino and Jorge Freites are not. In any case, the activists who went to the mayor's office went there to demand the release of the prisoners on bail or the arrest of them all, as they were jointly responsible for toppling the statue. This is the living definition of solidarity, and the writer chooses portrays it as another type of corruption.

>Regional elections are the end of this month. The last thing the government needs right now is fighting among the ranks, especially over an act that had no objective in the first place aside from the venting of a little rage. Pleading that Freddy Bernal save them from the law is not only cowardly, but is patently an expression of a fourth republic mentality. Expecting special treatment from the government for expressing a government held sentiment through illegal means is exactly the kind of favoritism and corruption of power that the Chavez government is fighting against and it is expressedly forbidden by the rules of the Fifth Republic.

"Cowardly" is not a word I'd use about the activists who went to the mayor's office and offered their liberty in solidarity with the three. And to repeat, they were not looking for Freddy Bernal to "save" them (the notion is laughable), but to treat them fairly and equally under the law. Which among other things means releasing the three or arresting everyone who claims responsibility. To accuse them of exploiting favouritism or corruption is a little like blaming the victim for the crime, something of course that people do to Chávez all the time.

>While the perpetrators continue to claim that they are willing to take responsibility for their actions they have on the other hand continually attacked Freddy Bernal’s loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution for not tossing aside the rule of law and coming to their rescue. Freddy Bernal is a strong supporter and friend of Hugo Chavez, and he is the mayor of a very important part of Caracas. The protesters have put both of these men in an impossible situation forcing them to take action against their own constituents. The turmoil that this fiasco has created within the Chavista camp must be making the opposition laugh with satisfaction and has undoubtedly left them wondering why they didn’t think of perpetrating such an event themselves. In fact, this has been so beneficial to their cause; it makes one wonder if the hands of saboteurs were not involved.

Pretty serious stuff, except for one thing: we all know Chávez is going to win these elections with a landslide, probably even more so than the last eight, and it really doesn't matter if Freddy loses a few votes because his cops are known to go off the deep end (just ask the numerous peaceful squatters who have been violently evicted by his thugs over recent months in Caracas). Just to put this in context, and I know I'm on the other side of the world from the intrigues of Miraflores, but as I understand it, there is no democratic opposition left in Venezuela. The CD have irrevocably split, AD are more hated than ever, and nobody else even merits a mention. Which, by the way, is a very dangerous position for any democracy to be in, even if it lets Chávez' chosen candidates off the hook.

Let us be clear, the reason for this "turmoil" is that these three activists are still in jail. And I'll make a prediction: the longer they stay in jail, the worse this "fiasco" is going to get. We know they're not being tortured, or going to "disappear" or anything like that, but from one particularly persuasive perspective, these are Bolivarian Venezuela's first political prisoners. The fact that the Bolivarian government seems to be making an example of these Bolivarian grass-roots activists by isolating them is a worrying development that will inevitably raise questions among Bolivarian solidarity campaigners worldwide, questions that will only be answered when they are finally released. The fact they are facing up to four years in prison, when Chávez himself only served two for leading a coup, might explain how ludicrous this all looks internationally.

>On this same day, in many countries around the world there were protests against governments that are still perpetuating the oppression and misery imported by the colonialists 500 years ago. This makes sense. Protesting against current colonial tendencies is valid. Protesting against colonialism in Venezuela at this time when the government itself is fervently fighting it, is not. However, demonstrating in favor of the current government’s steps to correct the atrocities of the past is. The day would have been better spent celebrating the advances of the indigenous cause brought about by the Chavez government. Or better yet, the organizers could have spent their organizing energy doing something constructive for the indigenous community such as volunteering in the Missions.

Putting aside the condescending tone (and what were +you+ doing that day, Dawn?) we get to the heart of the matter - whether the government really is "fervently fighting" colonialism in Venezuela. Many on the left would say this fight is rather taking the form of a courtship ritual, albeit with more dignity than before. Others would say (neo-) colonialism is just a fact of life in Venezuela and the Bolivarian Movement's most effective strategy is to work within this framework reforming it more favourably in the interests of the people. Whatever, in a democratic society, it is not up to one person, whoever they are, to determine what is a "valid" protest or not. A protest is validated by the act of someone carrying it out, and taking responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of their actions.

As to whether they were justified, politically, for destroying public property, that's really up to a jury. Was the statue artistic, political, or both? Was this action a form of "participatory democracy"? During the "Revolution within the Revolution", activists must be free to debate differences of opinion with their leaders when they disagree, without having to concern themselves as to whether their timing is embarrassing or if they're offending the wrong people. Especially now, when the Bolivarian government is more powerful than ever before, the grassroots have the greatest responsibility to keep their leaders on the right path, even if that means protesting against them, in the most respectful way possible.

>Many of the arguments both in support of and against this action have centered on the person of Columbus. This has nothing to do with Columbus. These arguments only serve to illuminate the immaturity and lack of political preparation of those arguing. The real question here is about tactics. Revolutionaries must not act out of pure emotion, but instead must weigh the utility of their actions in respect to the effect it will have on strengthening and advancing the Revolution. Any act that results in a weakening of the Revolution is unacceptable. Above all, Revolutionaries must know WHO their enemy is and must stay focused. This kind of deviation from the goal can and will destroy the Revolution.

In a sense, this issue is beyond Columbus, rather is it about the people's right to rise up and shape their environment in the manner they see fit. It is also about the right to challenge leadership when it loses touch with the grassroots. But it is also about a very divisive and provocative figure, who Chávez himself, as leader of the Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela, has described as "worse than Hitler". Well, when your leader says that about someone, while continuously invoking the people's revolutionary spirit to support him and his government, you have to expect that the people will eventually act. And they will do so without being given permission. And as long as they don't hurt anybody, they should be supported in this right. As Che said; "A true revolutionary is guided by feelings of great love." Again, we are not talking about mindless vandalism here, because, as admitted by the writer, above, a great deal of effort has been made to describe the political significance of their action by the organisers themselves, which isn't something vandals generally do.

What's most interesting is that, whether people agree with the statue-toppling or not, no-one on the left, and certainly no Bolivarian I've spoken with, believes that these people belong in jail. That they are still inside is the antithesis of what makes us Bolivarian or support the Bolivarian Movement. The real question, as Gable draws attention to here, is whether this action and its aftermath strengthens or weakens the peaceful, democratic revolution in Venezuela. And indeed that is a question of knowing WHO the allies and enemies of the revolution are, both in and outside of Venezuela. We'll all find out the answers soon enough, but it must be pointed out that Revolutions aren't destroyed by protesters toppling statues, rather they are started by them.

- Homepage:

Agent Provocateurs and the left hand of Imperialism

31.10.2004 11:10

The situation in Venezuela is extremely volatile, with the Right wing having used urban mobs to create disorder in Caracas. Chavez has made a real and important difference to the poorest people in Venezuela, and the political climate of the hemisphere as a whole. I was there myself, I saw it first hand. He has, and will continue to have my solid support.

I am very suspicious of those who chose this moment to organize conflict with Bernal and Chavez. How clever of them to find a "Left" issue-- after all who wants Columbus's statue restored? -- with which to weaken the support for Chavez. I am amazed that Indymedia's feature editors allowed themselves to be sucked in to a "revolution within the revolution" ploy which is clearly being manipulated by the enemies of the Chavez alliance.

Yes the "Bolivarian Revolution" is about 55% about symbols, and the reality of change is slow. But good things are happening. And the alternative is truly frightening: I have met and spoken with "rightist" Venezuelans, and what they want is a Chilean style bloodletting, if they come back to power they will act with enormous brutality. This -- as the elites of Argentina, Brazil, and Central America have demonstrated -- is the traditon of Latin American counterrevolutions: they will seek to restore the balance of terror to sustain the rule of the rich over the poor.

So I really have no time for this INFANTILE pseudo-leftwing posing at a time when something very delicate and precious remains vulnerable in Venezuela.


ERRR wasn't brother Bolivar a freemason ?

31.10.2004 11:19

well it seems to be pretty much a common fact that Simon Bolivar was a freemason
I read it in plenty of books and a quick search for Bolivar Freemasonary, would certainly seem
to confirm this ..

wouldn't it be a shame if all your leftie heroes turned out to be freemasons, kinda be a
feather cap to conspiracy theorists wouldn't it ?

Kings Cross


31.10.2004 16:03

Kings's Cross, your comment is juvenile.

Actually, you'll find around that period of history, a lot of the forward thinking revolutionaries were related to Freemasonry. Look at links to the French Revolution, American Revolutions ( North and South ), all over Europe. And even the Industrial Revolution. They were deeply involved in what was a Burgeoise Revolution against the Aristocracy all over the world at that period in history, and in the process of industrial and scientific evolution. And that was a good thing. Capitalism was certainly an advance from Feudalism.

Whether the Freemasons still play a progressive role in the world I think is dubious, but it is difficult to say, because they are a secret society. But they certainly continue to maintain links to mult-national corporations and the entrenched positions of power which at this period in history are regressive rather than progressive forces. The ideologies of Capitalism are causing huge destruction to the environment, fuelling wars for resources, and creating a huge divide between the rich and poor.

Whether at this period in history, Bolivar would be a Chavista, or would be a member of the ruling capitalist class, is an interesting question, but irrelevant, because we are at a different period in history, where the exploiters are the inheritors of the previous revolutions. The idea is to keep struggling for social justice, and a civilization based on brotherhood, respect for each other and the environment we live in, RATHER than one built upon Greed and War, which is what we currently have.


Bolivar was a Freemason, so was Jose Marti

31.10.2004 16:15

Hey Troll ...Pixa/Kings Cross/Pescao

There are two traditions of freemasonry. One- the French and Latin American variant - became associated in the 18th century with the French Revolution, with anticlericalism, with republicanism, with collective organization to make a better world. The other- the British and American variants - threw in their lot with monarchy, with property, with the preservation of the status quo.

Bolivar is indeed an ambivalent figure for Chavez to have fixed upon. But for other reasons .. for he was a forebear of precisely that latifundial aristocracy which today opposes social justice in Latin America.

But Bolivar, like Marti, is a symbol of emancipatory struggle, and struggle which stretches across all the boundaries of the Americas, as Marti put it in Nuestra America-- 'las islas dolorosas del mar y los naciones triumphante del continente!' Today the islands are no longer sad, and the triumph is spreading across the continent.

Viva Bolivar
Viva Marti
Viva Chavez


Get yer Butt down to your local Library Hermes

02.11.2004 15:02

That Mr Hermes feels confident enough to write
“Whether the Freemasons still play a progressive role in the world I think is dubious,”

dubiarse indeed, just go down to your local library and check out who was running things then and who is running things now. Who put up the local war memorial and what to all those funny little signs dotted round town mean. They used to have big ceremonies with bands and all the poor folk herded along for the afternoon
out, now they get local (sponsored) artists to make sculptures of their symbols and hardly any gives a fuck about the new art work stuck in the middle of town at the councils (our) expense.
Check out how come towns like Bristol are still run by the merchant venturers and Royalty and all. Check out the links to Knights of Malta, and royalty and the United Nations and Nato and
the OECD.
Then really lose the plot and check out what Tony Blair does on his holidays in the Knights templar
city of San Gimignano, on the Via Francigena , the medieval highway to Jerusalem 30 miles from Siena (MPS oldest bank in the world) and 35 from Florence a city that has the Fluer de lys as it’s symbol , Patron saint John the Baptiste and celebrates his day (Nimrods day) the 24th of June .
(Grand Lodge was founded on the 24th of June 1717)
The regione of Florence (regione toscana) has as it’s logo now a red shield (symbol of would you believe it revolution(Nimrod) (Rothschild) with a flying horse on it (pegasus)
also the symbol of Exxom Mobil, which is just another cooincidence when you think that the double cross of the house of Lorraine is used as a massonic symbol and and can be found on churches around san gimignano .
(Francis of Lorraine practically founded freemasonary in Italy circa 1739 with brit help)
Also have a house in Holland, but let's not get onto William of Orange and our old dutch masters !!!
not to mention Bilderberg and give the game away ...

I guess it’s ok to use the term “old boy networks” on this wire without being accused of being a rampant right wing anti semitic nazi ? yeah ok ?
But when “one” goes and actually checks out who and what old boy networks are
through institutions such as universities and well, the royal society is a good example
and while your at it check out the dudes who are really pulling (or holding in the case of “the purse”) the strings .. The USA was founded by and is still run by Freemasons
what the fuck do you think the Skull and Bones is ??
Italy was founded by and is still run by Freemasons , The P2 scandal was just a little hiccup ie it was discovered ..

see also the mafia and freemasons I have the book (both volumes) by the anti mafia commission.... on yer bike hermes , by the way strange choice of name ???

Queens also a bit pissed off !


02.11.2004 17:39

I don't want to get into an embroiled discussion on Freemasonry in an article about Venezuela, but I will, but I'll make it the last thing I say.

Before I respond, in order to make this post more relevant, I'd just like to say that here in Venezuela Chavez's party, MVR, has just had overwhelming victory in the regional elections, effectively hammering yet another nail into the coffin of the opposition. I think now we can have a test of how effective the Bolivarian revolution is, since previously local government had been blocking many of the reforms.

Secondly Uruguay has just elected it's first leftwing President, keeping a significant trend going in Latin America, of Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, some of the most significant countries in the region. Sadly, Colombia is completely the opposite still.

OK, about Freemasonry. My comment about 'not sure if their position is progressive or not' was probably a bit weak. I don't like to comment on things I don't know too much about, and generally my interest lies in Latin American politics, and the politics of the MiddleEast. I will go further and say the role of Freemasons is not progressive, and is extremely dodgy. Everyone knows the connections they have to big business and the seats of power, and we all know the damage these institutions are causing to the world. But sometimes I like to speak softly. Especially because so much of what people say about them is frankly, full of shit, badly researched, or simply made up.

What I do think is that at one point they played ( or a variant of them played, such as those in Europe, and in Latin America ), a progressive role, in moving us away from Feudalism and Religious Fundamentalism here in Europe. The values of the Renaissance, of scientific rationalism over blind religious faith, of hermetic philosophy ( yes, note the name ), of the Greek, Jewish and Muslim mystical thought that flooded into Europe after the Spanish reconquest, are immeasuably better and more progressive than the age of religious fundamentalism they led us out of, where thinkers and philosophers were burned at the stake, and despots ruled us with impunity in the name of God.
I think you would be hard pressed to argue the opposite.

But power corrupts, and we can see visibly the leaders of this 'New World Order', essentially the inheritors of the progressive revolutionary movements of the past, fat with the power they have, using technology and modern economics to try and fill an unquenchable greed. You have a perversion of what was originally a progressive, rational and also mystical movement. It is the same way Zionism is a perversion of Judaism. It takes the symbols and the language of what has been progressive in history, and twists them to serve greedy, narrow interests. And so therefore, in their logic, to criticise Zionism is to be antisemitic, ( although I think for zionist leaders to associate Judaism with narrow minded nationalism and racist apartheid is antisemitic ).
To criticise the way the modern world is run is to be antiprogress.

But the leaders of the modern world are in fact backwards. What can be more old fashioned than an imperial war against the 'unbelievers'. What can be more shortsighted than this ruthless exploitation of the Earth's resources until we stand on the brink of environmental catastrophe.

So it's about time we take back those symbols and those ideas that pushed the world forwards, and use them to turn the wheel forwards yet again. And actually, that takes a lot more than simply shouting abuse and throwing a tantrum.
And it takes more than simply being contrary 'Well they say they represent reason and education, so therefore we will deny reason, and treat it as a bad thing'. Does George W.Bush really represent 'Reason' and the enlightenment values he and Tony Blair are supposedly defending. It seems to me they in fact represent old fashioned religious fundamentalism and imperial greed. We need to be more reasonable than they are. We need to be me more moral than they are. We need to be more intelligent and discerning than they are. If the Freemasons are secretly using Voodoo to control the lizard people who secretly rule the world, well then we need to learn better voodoo than them. Simply reacting to everything they do is not going to change anything.

OK, that's my last post on this topic.


I love the 'it wasn't him it was us!' vibe here....

02.11.2004 21:55

...and also the Mother Goddess awareness shown here...indigenous native influence no doublt.

On the question of the freemasons...the question is difficult because we are talking about religion that is to say magic.... And of course materialism does not allow for magic. The freemasons are in fact are how christianity is made...a unbeliavably malign process that contains consciousness (and thus the perception of reality...for the reasons of profit and exploit and white supremistism rather than tribal/cosmic consciousness enlightenment)

(read the second comment down by myself here)

So you now think that I'm full of shit?

So fuck you and fuck off commy nonce.

(and so it goes on until this sick sharade collapses into environmental nightmare and breakdown).


Basically, the freemasons are the ultimate in anti Mother Goddess evil. (arr, so now it all becomes clear)



King Amdo

King Amdo

oh come off herpes that's a load of old twaddle

03.11.2004 18:12

Look your barking up the wrong Tree (not many to choose from these days I agree ) but Gorbachov was a freemason and so is that dude who is running Chelsea , (come U blues) so thats alright then . but the ruskies are a bit pissed off cos he sold off the soviet union to 'err you guessed it the Salvation Army ..
stay off the bullshit it gives you sores round your mouth ..

Kings Cross / St PunkRAS


04.11.2004 16:09

I get it, King's Cross, you're too stupid to make any intelligent comments of your own and take out your frustration at your intellectual incompetence by posting pointless responses to what other people say.

By the way, Hermes transformed into Herpes. Very clever. Did you think of that all by yourself?


Yeah right bit don't I got a great cure

06.11.2004 07:41

Yo Herpes i got you oon lock down, your real smug with your self.
Yopu think cos you can throw a few lines together and you know about
punktuation and a bit of grammer your jack the lad .
I seen a lot of your shit on the Palestinian pages ..
The problem with you educated types is propio your education that is
fucking you up. You've been conditioned into thinking that if speak proper
and look down on all the riff raff then your gonna be running things .
So you can come on as the moderate voice of fucking good sense and go on
as if you were some kind of expert on Foriegn affairs when in fact all you are
is another middle class twat who will very likely soon find herself a good job at the
bank with daddy and then it will be fuck the protest movement .
But don't worry there is a cure "a kick up the bollox" (for medicinal purposes)
to be applied at any time when your ego jumps out of the pram ...

I guess your stuck in the UK , where freemasons and other old boy networks are
running the show. I can assure that it's worse in Holland which has been pulling our
strings since William and mary and in Italy it's Propaganda 2 has changed it's name to forza
mafia, but they still keep the little triangle wid di one eye ..

Cumdown Town

Can we please delete the Troll messages

07.11.2004 12:43

The ratio of Troll messages on this strand is quite high. Perhaps the administrators might get around sometime to deleting the idiot troll (our old friend Harlequin on speed?) who wanted to change the subject to freemasonry + stupid attacks on Hermes etc. This is a Venezuela thread, and unless posts are speaking directly to the thread they should be hidden. Don't let the trolls derail the thread.

Indy Quality Control


08.11.2004 00:44

Troll comments are fairly numerous. I guess the lesson I should learn is 'Don't feed the Trolls'.

It's difficult not to respond to stupidity, though. I can't just let it go. Administrator, if you get around to deleting irrelevant posts here, you can delete my response as well, in the hope of putting this thread back on topic.

I have to respond, though, and I may even be able to bring this topic back to what is happening here in Venezuela ( not England, or Holland, by the way ).

The fact you disparage education as a bad thing makes you, effectively, pointless to talk to. The point of this website is to bring the truth to people. Education is about the search for truth, or it should be.
Education as it stands has been corrupted by the class-system. The upper-class schools teach the children 'You are going to grow up to be the elite of society', and they are provided with the tools and brain-programming to accomplish this. This is denied to the lower classes. Education should be about teaching all the people to accomplish their maximum potential, not programming people to be servile to a corrupt capitalist system.

But education is so important, as Malcolm X, or Huey Newton, would testify to, having largely educated themselves. The problem with the equation 'Upper/Middle Class children have good education, lower class people have bad education' is not the fact that some of the people are educated. It is that many of them are not.
Here in Venezuela, finally, the poorest people living in the slums of the cities are being provided with a free education system, with free meals 3 times a day, and with free transportation to the schools. There are 3 education missions, at Primary, Secondary and University level. And in these schools they are not being taught that 'you will be the elite of society', neither are they being taught to be docile servants to the upper capitalist class. I hope they will fulfill their potential, and take back and keep the power in the hands of the wealthy elite.

These things are incredibly positive, and there is so much happening in these barrios that people do not really see or understand. It is terrible people got arrested for tearing down and mutilating a statue of a brutal tyrant. But the issue is complicated, because there is much more happening and much more at stake here than a persons right to vandalise Colombus. Seriously, people are talking about how 'Pinochet was right with his actions in Chile' here. Check out this website to see just how fucked up some of the opposition are.
I mean, have some perspective, guys, seriously.

OK, that's all. Enough with the troll comments already.


nov 15th arraignment

10.11.2004 10:34

hi there hermes, very interesting to read your posts. would love to hear more your thoughts on the O12 statue-topplers, whether you support their action, think they belong in jail, stuff like that. as i understand it they are being arraigned next monday (15th) so we should know then if any (or all) of them are facing trial. there will be actions in caracas, london and elsewhere - watch this space!

personally i support toppling the statue, because it was the key symbol of colonialism (they even named the word after him) and therefore this was a perfectly revolutionary (as well as peaceful) act. the statue-topplers, all of them, should stand trial before a jury of their peers, but they must have the right to this trial in liberty, unless it can be proved they pose a danger to society (which they clearly aren't).

free the O12 prisoners!



10.11.2004 14:23

The issue is very complex. On the one hand, I completely sympathise with the statue topplers, and I thought it was great when I saw it on the news. But on the other hand, they had to prepared to be arrested for it. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela finds itself in the difficult position of being a progressive movement, and also being a government.
As a government, it has to uphold the law, and apply those laws fairly to everybody. So one of the issues is that, for a government that is fighting against corruption simply to pardon its supporters is similar to the corruption of previous governments, which would let big business off paying its taxes, and did not apply justice equally to rich and poor. This government is actually making the rich pay their taxes, which is one of the biggest reasons they denounce Chavez as authoritarian.
So to be seen as a just and fair government, the O12 have to be tried in court. But of course it is also a progressive movement, and the toppling of the Colombus statue is certainly a progressive action, in my opinion.

It is difficult, no? If I was one of the O12 statue topplers, I would have done the action, knowing that I could face legal trouble for it, and I would be prepared for the consequences without complaint. I would not be trying to make this into an issue of 'political prisoners', because I think the Chavez government is highly progressive, and has achieved much more important things than the toppling of statues. That would not even have happened if the government had not transformed 'Colombus Day' into 'Indigenous Resistance Day'.

I think it is irresponsible to try and make them into 'political prisoners'. Only in the sense that perhaps they ideologically believe in 'No Government at all', while others here believe in 'Progressive Government'. In that sense it is political.

At the end of the day, the government has to apply the laws fairly, but we should fight to make sure that the sentence is the minimum it can possibly be, like a warning or something, because the action was moral, but illegal. It will hopefully be the case that a law will be passed transforming all the Colombus statues into ones of Venezuelan Chief Guaicaipuro, who led the resistance against the Spanish. So they only needed to wait for a little while. But they wanted to express some deeply held emotion, wanted to do it RIGHT THEN, and maybe there is a price for such impatience.

The only other thing I have heard is perhaps the O12 have not been treated fairly, according to the law, but overly harshly. If that is the case, then I think that is unfair treatment. And I think that would show an authoritarian side to the current administration. I think they should be treated exactly the same as everybody else, not better and not worse. And I hope they are released with a warning only. And I hope it doesn't become too divisive a political issue. These two elements in the movement here need to understand each other. The government needs to understand why the statue was toppled, and the topplers need to understand why the government had to apply the law.

But like I said before, I think this issue is very small, compared to what is happening here in Venezuela. I don't think this is a particularly important issue, for example, for the people in the Barrios, which is where the real revolutionary actions are taking place. The toppling of Colombus is a great symbol, but it is not as revolutionary as the empowerment of the poor and dispossessed here in Venezuela. Really, the barrios are where it is all happening. To shift the focus away from that, towards this, misunderstands Venezuela, and the problems it faces.
I think if everyone put their energy into helping the poorest elements of this society, they would not be caught up in small, divisive issues. The problem is everyone wants to run things, or give their opinion. No one wants to DO anything, though. I am equally guilty, although I'm in the process of plugging myself in deeper.

I am living here in Venezuela, maybe for the forseeable future, but I am from the UK. I think the solidarity movement in the UK would do well to have a focus on the misiones and projects here, and think of constructive ways to support them. It should learn about what is happening here at the grass-roots, and think of ways of starting similar things in the UK. It is worrying that the working-class are ever more falling under the spell of the right wing, like the BNP. While here I can see what a truly organised, progressive working class is like, and it's great. I don't think it's simply the lack of 'Latin Spirit' that is preventing the same happening in the UK, although I agree that it is more difficult, because the UK practically epitomises everything about entrenched traditional power. Shit, we still have the monarchy, for Christ's sake.

OK, those are my thoughts. I hope we can have a discussion about Venezuela here now, and not about Freemasons, or herpes...


there's no excuse for them to be in jail

12.11.2004 00:08

well i'm pretty sure they were prepared to be arrested and stand trial for toppling the statue, in fact i think they're looking forward to their day in court (all 200 of them!) - the only thing we're complaining about is that the three have been refused bail. if this is an attempt by freddy bernal to isolate them in order to undercut support then it's possible they could be seen as "political" prisoners. this authoritarian tendency must be shed, (partly to get the broadest possible support, internally and internationally), and the autonomous elements of the bolivarian movement should be respected for bringing this to light. one problem i've heard of in venezuela is that when chavez was elected, all the grassroots movements moved into power, leaving a vacuum, which if anything has been filled by the right-wing. hence the need for a "revolution within the revolution" - and watch out for people talking about "maximum" leaders...

mail e-mail:
- Homepage:


12.11.2004 14:17

Yes, it's hard to understand why they have been refused bail.

I think that at the grassroots level, the movement is still incredibly strong, from what I can see in the barrios, but I think you're right about a leadership vacuum. My colleague here described the situation, when I was looking for a way to get more deeply involved in the misiones. He said there was Chavez, right up there in the government, and then there were the people, right at the grassroots level, and not many people in between.

I think even Castro has warned Chavez of becoming 'The mayor of all Venezuela'. I think now the main crisis are over, and the local elections have happened, this is a perfect opportunity for la revolucion dentro la revolucion. And I suppose that does involve, as you say, broadening the base of support.

Are you in Venezuela or England? Either way I'd like to get in contact. It's pretty important to be building up international solidarity. I'll send an e-mail to the address you posted.


Tearing down their own roots

04.05.2005 18:35

I am a venezuelan. To most people in the world that has little meaning until you realize that the great majority us people of venezuela are of as mixed origins as the nature of the society that has bred us. This is a society where racial divide has always been not only negligible but self evident in the mixed tone of the skins of the population, a country where everybody has a friend, spouse or lover to proudly call MI NEGRO, MI NEGRA. I myself have the blood of black slaves, carib indians and direct european spanish roots and I thank God for that, as it gives me a further understanding of the world and of the nature and growth given by the inevitable trans-culturization that comes with trans breeding and love. I thank God for knowing myself a richer person by the access to the various races and cultures that had brought me to be, as it allows me to see every one I see around me first on the nature of their character, instead by judging them for the color of their skin, and to consider an equal even among the most widely separated economic backgrounds.

Thanks to its oil prosperity Venezuela has been historically a country of high social mobility compared to rancid europe. In Venezuela the very poor of one day can become the very powerful of another. Ask the new ruling class when you see them driving on their new SUV ´s and Mercedes, buying new apartments while they speak about the revolution and social justice. See the new adecos: the CHAVISTAS.

We almost dont use the "Usted" here. Everyone is a "TU", no matter from which cradle you come from. If you dont know the difference between these two words, you will not understand why the idea of hate exclusively based on social status is quite a strange one, despite of the misery and poverty of the majority of its people. Now suddenly middle class is considered rich to be hated and any sign of education or prosperity is ill watched, thanks to hate preaching.

Now it has been put to fashion to insist on the existence of a racial divide in my country brought forward by populist demagogues as Hugo Chavez, someone who stirs up a racist hatred view of history, alien to my country, to justify and to create groups of guilt on which to drop the weight of the social divide of MI PATRIA. Racial divide convinient too many a fachist leader who have used hatred as a means to power. Germany saw his share of that kind of leader, blaming Jews as a race and for being better off than most other germans. History is filled with this kind of crooks.

Hatred is a powerful weapon of power. Blaming others for your disgraces is easier that accepting your own faults or mediocrity, and that is another easy weapon. Now Cristopher Columbus is another demon to be hated in support of our führer, duce or jefe. * (words that mean the same thing: leader). Filling the news with these outrages is easier than really fixing the social debt that the so called popular state has with its people. It´s easy to publicize the violent nature of government sponsored thugs on TV to install fear among the disidence...

It stirs my blood hot to see that suddenly the infinite realm of human stupidity chooses to judge and tear down the statue that represents a part of their own roots. I thank the universe to speak spanish as my rich mother toungue rather than any other language, bught to me by my spanish heritage, which came to me by the historic fact that Columbus stumped across this land of grace. I thus reject from the bottom of my soul such hateful theatrical actions to which pittifully this shameful leader has incited with his damned verve. It offends me even more to see people who from the confort of their computer terminals in europe or wherever in their fisrt world enjoy justifying exotic so-called revolutions they dont understand or will ever live just because they seem fair from the distance and because they fit their own rethorical agendas.

Edward Thomas