A detailed breakdown from the Attorney General's Office, which has recently been increasingly at odds with the government of President Maduro, shows that of the 73 people that died, 11 were the responsibility of state security forces, 21 of them has been attributed to the opposition, 13 due to looting, and two due to government civilian protests, and 26 are still under investigation. One of the victims of the protests was Orlando Figuera, who was burned alive last month when opposition demonstrators accused him of being a thief or a Chavista. He died from his wounds last Monday.
Empire Files host Abby Martin just returned from Venezuela where she saw first hand how violent opposition protesters attempt to intimidate reporters and thereby give a false impression of what is happening. Martin spoke to Sharmini Peries and The Real News about her experience.
Martin described the brutality of the right-wing protesters against journalists who want only to transfer an objective picture of what's going on in the country. She describes the unprecedented violence by these protesters against Chavistas and journalists, even from Reuters.
She also describes how these anti-government protesters are painted as peaceful, democracy-loving freedom fighters, something that we saw in Ukraine, Syria, and elsewhere by the same US-funded organizations with the assistance of the Western mainstream media propaganda.
Martin also referred to Orlando Figuera, another Afro-Venezuelan who was burned alive last month when opposition demonstrators accused him of being a thief or a Chavista. He died from his wounds last Monday.
The Western media mouthpieces are doing their job, which is propaganda as usual. The recipe is known. You present the half truth, with a big overdose of exaggeration. The establishment parrots are demonizing Socialism, but they won't ever tell you about the money that the US is spending, feeding the Right-Wing groups and opposition to proceed in provocative operations, in order to create instability. They won't tell you about the financial war conducted through the oil prices, manipulated by the Saudis, the close US ally.
Martin's key points:
I was going there as a fiercely independent, investigative journalist with the show produced completely independently from teleSUR, to tell exactly the reality that I was seeing, and I even told teleSUR management that I was going to report exactly what the truth was that I uncovered. So when we went there, I was very surprised to see that the reality was vastly different than what we are being told. I mean, you hear all these horrific stories from on the ground, amidst these protests, and you keep hearing 60 dead, Maduro kills 60 protestors, Maduro's forces. And what you realize when you get there is, the country is pretty much split in two. It's heavily divided between Chavistas and the opposition, and of course, amidst such economic, such a horrible economic crisis, people are going to have really strong opinions, but there are certainly huge marches on the ground on both sides.
Tens of thousands of people marching for the government, for the opposition, and these are peaceful marches, jubilant atmosphere. Things are very calm, and then what you realize is, when you see these violent statistics and casualties and the death toll that's rising, and the harsh quote unquote "repression" from government forces, it's not happening at these marches. It's happening at something called guarimbas. It's a sustained blockade that a small contingent of protestors create to provoke a response from government officials, so we actually followed one of these guarimbas one night. We were almost attacked just simply for being there. We got accosted by a hyped-up group of protestors who were saying, "What are you? Who are you with?", demanding to see our press credentials, and I was scared for my life, knowing that if we admitted that we were from teleSUR, we could have gotten lynched, burned alive, beaten to death by the mobs that you see happening all too often, so we, of course, said that we were independent journalists, that we were from America, and then they immediately said, "Okay, great. We can use you, essentially, for propaganda." They said, "Do not film anything that we do. Just film what the government does to us."
It's not as easy as that when you have hundreds of death threats coming and you have to take it seriously, especially when these people do act on it there, and there are teleSUR journalists risking their lives to still be on the ground at these protests, and now have a target on their back. It started off on Twitter, of course, Instagram, Facebook, which are all manageable until it translates into real life. So you see this actually being translated into real life, where now we're getting harassed in person by the same people who are inciting people to lynch us, so we have to have security now.
We're talking about these protestors that have attacked hospitals, burned down government buildings. They burned down the Housing Ministry, which has provided 1.6 million homes for poor people over the last decade. Political assassinations, directly assassinating Chavistas, attacking communes. We visited one building that was, all the windows were broken. It was just simply an art commune that gave out free dance lessons and music lessons to local kids. It's kind of sick when you see on the front lines what is being attacked and why, what is the political motivation behind these lynch mobs.
Before I get into the story that happened to us and what's going on to journalists, you mentioned that young man, Orlando Figuera, that was burned alive. This is the third Afro-Venezuelan who has been lynched, attacked by a mob during these protests, black, and the clip with his family being interviewed, and even him before he tragically died from his severe burns. He said that they said, "Hey, black guy, are you a Chavista?" And they threw a Molotov cocktail on him.
They have pulled bus drivers out of the buses and torched the buses. They, throwing explosives at people, so it is just quite astounding not only is that happening, but then when you look at what happens to journalists there. Before we went, of course, we heard even Reuters journalists had been attacked by these people, but we know how dangerous it is to be a state-run journalist there, which is why we didn't say that we were openly with teleSUR.
But we didn't know how bad it was until after we were there on the ground reporting, because once the photos came out that we were there and started circulating and tying us back to teleSUR, then things got really, really bad. A complete fake propaganda campaign, we basically became the center of a fake news viral campaign in Venezuela started and fomented by major opposition leaders, and the media, major academics there, that were propagating a theory that Mike and I were actually spies infiltrating the protest to collect intelligence for the GNB, the Venezuelan intelligence services, based on absolutely nothing, based on me doing my job as a journalist going there and actually trying to get the truth, to cover all sides. I mean, I put my life on the line. We all put our lives on the line to get this story from these people creating these barricades, and the peaceful marches on all sides, average Venezuelan from the streets.
The clear assault on the press is from the opposition who doesn't want you to report the truth. They put up free press as this beacon, but they don't want you to report anything that contradicts their narrative, even when it's completely proven by the Attorney General herself, who was even at odds with Maduro, as you mentioned.
So when we dare to bring up the fact that the opposition was responsible for half the deaths, because half of the story's been omitted by the Western media and these human rights watch organizations, we became subjected to a lynch mob. Not only was this fake news perpetrated around about us, but it incited hundreds of death threats, actual lynch threats. I've never been subjected to actual lynch threats before, and it was just all the same thing. "Lynch them. Lynch them. Burn them. Throw Molotov cocktails on them. We know what to do to infiltrators. Do to them what we've done to the other infiltrators," saying like, "Burn them alive." If we were still there, we would have a target on our back, and we've seen that play out in the wake of us leaving, where a teleSUR journalist actually just got attacked with Molotov cocktails, nails, and shot in the back by opposition protestors when she was clearly marked press and standing with cameramen. This is not the first time journalists have been attacked. Someone else from Globovisión was doused with gasoline and luckily escaped before they were burned alive.
If this was happening to journalists in any other part of the world, there would be a huge outcry from international watchdogs, but unfortunately, because it's Venezuela, and because the U.S. empire wants regime change there, this is completely obfuscated, and in fact, these people are painted as peaceful, democracy-loving freedom fighters, and it makes me sick, because I see the same thing played out in Ukraine, Syria, time and again, and I was there. We risked our lives and were getting a lynch mob incited against us, and there's not a peep from these people. Instead, you see Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch actually calling for a violent coup and has the audacity to just completely marginalize the real situation.