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Venezuelan Protests: Is the US backing right wing groups again?

In Venezuela, at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. The latest casualty was a local beauty queen who died of a gunshot wound.

The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president Nicolás Maduro.

Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest last week, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes.

Amy Goodman & Juan González published in Democracy Now this Feb. 20, 2014

Venezuelan Protests: Another Attempt by U.S.-Backed Right-Wing Groups to Oust Elected Government?

On Monday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of 3 U.S. consular officials while claiming the United States has sided with the opposition.

Our guest, George Ciccariello-Maher, looks at the recent history of the U.S. role in Venezuela opposing both the Chávez and Maduro governments. He is author of “We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution” and teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Venezuela, where at least six people have died in recent days during a series of anti-government protests. On Wednesday, a local beauty queen died of a gunshot wound.

The protests come less than a year after the death of Hugo Chávez and present the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s new president, Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, right-wing opposition leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the National Guard after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of inciting deadly clashes.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, to find out more, we go to Philadelphia to speak with George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution. He teaches political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, previously taught at the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas.

What is happening in Venezuela today?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Well, there’s a great deal happening, and I think you’ve got your finger on the fact that this is a crucial test for the Maduro government.

And I think it’s our obligation to put it in its broad historical context to understand who’s acting.

And I think there’s a tendency—there’s an unfortunate tendency, if you follow Twitter or if you’re on the Internet, that, you know, in this sort of post-Occupy moment and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, every time we see—every time we see protesters in the streets, we start retweeting it, and we start to sort of, you know, feel sympathetic, without necessarily knowing what the back story is.

And I think we’re obligated to do that here. And once we look into this back story, what we see is yet another attempt in a long string of attempts of the Venezuelan opposition to oust a democratically elected government, this time taking advantage of student mobilizations against—you know, ostensibly against insecurity and against economic difficulties to do that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, George Ciccariello, who is Leopoldo López? The Washington Postdescribes him as a 42-year-old, Harvard-educated, left-leaning moderate. What do you know about his history?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Left-leaning moderate would be quite a stretch. Leopoldo López represents the far right of the Venezuelan political spectrum. In terms of his personal and political history, here’s someone who was educated in the United States from prep school through graduate school at the Harvard Kennedy School.

He’s descended from the first president of Venezuela, purportedly even from Simón Bolívar. In other words, he’s a representative of this traditional political class that was displaced when the Bolivarian revolution came to power.

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