Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and the local chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation hosted independent journalist and socialist activist Gloria La Riva Friday night for a talk about the political situation in Venezuela, which has devolved rapidly since incumbent President Nicolás Maduro won a second six-year term in a May 2018 election.
Maduro’s January swearing-in has engendered further unrest in a country caught between opposing ideologies and the opposing interlocutors that defend them, resulting in Venezuela being heavily sanctioned by the United States and allies who instead support Juan Guaidó.
Amid a growing financial and humanitarian crisis, Guaidó, the leader of anti-Maduro (and anti-Chavez before him) party Voluntad Popular, who was elected leader of the country’s National Assembly in January, has declared himself interim president. He contends that his right to do so comes from an article in Venezuela’s constitution that allows the leader of the National Assembly to step up if the presidency is vacant.
La Riva came to San Antonio, in the midst of wrapping up a speaking tour that has taken her to more than 40 U.S. cities. She said that “the presidency was not and is not vacant.” In her estimation, the entire premise of Guaidó’s would-be presidency, which is backed by the U.S., is illegitimate.
The U.S. government and mainstream media, according to La Riva, are deceiving the public into seeing Guaidó as the good guy in the situation. La Riva believes the U.S. government (and the media at its behest) is, in a decidedly undemocratic move, simply lifting up the opposition to Maduro to protect its own financial concerns and flex against the spread of socialism, which it perceives as dangerous to its interests.
The New Mexico-born, San Francisco-based socialist has long decried, in her writing, speaking, documentary filmmaking, and political engagements, U.S. policies against Cuba and other socialist experiments in Latin America.
She has run for various public offices, including Mayor of San Francisco (1983), Governor of California (1994 and 1998), Congress (2010), and President (1992, 2008, 2016), representing the World Workers Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Peace and Freedom Party.
According to La Riva, informed citizens must resist being “commanded to support another military adventure” by a government and media apparatus that’s “not really interested in democracy but in dollars.”
She believes this situation is universally relevant as a litmus test for the true functioning of democracy in our hemisphere and beyond. Speaking in private before her talk, La Riva also stressed that for San Antonians and South Texans, Latin American politics are local.
La Riva most recently visited Venezuela earlier this year. What she saw there, she said, was not the crisis depicted by the U.S., but a complex situation that Venezuelans deserve to work through on their own, without interventions in the form of money, materials, sanctions, or misinformation campaigns. She cited popular enthusiasm around advancements in housing solutions, food distribution, and prison reform as evidence that Maduro has the goodwill of the populace firmly on his side.
For now, Maduro, owing to both popular and military support, is still in power, despite Guaidó’s presidency being recognized officially by the U.S. and its allies. But, the situation is tenuous to say the least, and there’s much to be done. At this point, folks on both sides see Venezuela as an important battleground.
Toward the end of her hour and a half talk, La Riva told the Esperanza crowd of about 30 people that the best thing U.S. citizens can do is to educate and inform on a grassroots level.
“Talk to people and let them know what’s really going on,” she said, “because every single U.S. media outlet seems to be going with the Pentagon’s narrative.”