Photo of Yadira at recent anti US intervention in Venezuela rally in downtown Miami along side Nicaraguan-American activist/veteran Camilo Mejia
Ms. Escobar is Cuban-American, and has come out against US meddling in Venezuela, I (Al R Suarez) interviewed her exclusively on the Venezuelan question, I should mention not all her views are mine, the last election did have international observers, I know one of them personally and been in contact with the other, nor do I know what Chavista in Miami who is corrupt she is referring to:
Suarez: What do you say about claims the so-called humanitarian aid from the US via Colombia is a Trojan horse?
Escobar: Poverty and crime levels are high but Venezuela does not have a humanitarian crisis at the moment. Even if food from the private sector gets ridiculously expensive, if the subsidized breadbasket staples from the government run out or lack premium quality, if toilet paper gets hoarded and even if street crime escalates…it still doesn’t qualify as a humanitarian crisis. Besides, there’s hypocrisy in hitting Venezuela’s core economy with crippling sanctions that have cost the country billions of dollars in loses, and then acting like a concerned savior. Countries should help each other out in times of hardship and there is much suffering in Venezuela but the same hand that strikes you can’t be the one that feeds you. These are attempts to influence public opinion, give Guaido—the parallel president who our government has chosen to support—bits of power, just how $1.2bn worth of gold is being retained by the Bank of England so Guaido can act the part and already start doing presidential things.
Suarez: Why is the US obsessed with overthrowing Maduro?
Escobar: A private newspaper in the US recently stated we shouldn’t say it or else we become “Maduro Allies” but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Venezuela happens to own the largest reserves of crude oil in the world. However, it’s not only about natural resources—although that plays a huge part—it’s also a necessary geopolitical move. Our government has political and strategic interests that overlook just how easy these natural and engineered conditions in Venezuela can lead to civil war. Right now the Trump administration is really trying to give the regime-change obsession a makeover by focusing on a new McCarthy-style crusade against communism. It attacks the homegrown opposition led by the Democrats while justifying their intrusion the way George W. Bush did with the War on Terrorism. It doesn’t make any sense to frame this endorsement of a potential coup in Venezuela as a fight against socialism since most of the opposition is in fact affiliated with the Socialist International and even if some use fascist street-fighting tactics or xenophobic rhetoric, they are still considered part of the Left.
Suarez: Who is Juan Guaido?
Escobar: Although the current political atmosphere i(n)s Venezuela is not my definition of ideal governing, if the Maduro regime was as tyrannical as some say, Guaido would not have had the guts to proclaim himself president without the support of the military—regardless of what Mike Pence said over the phone before he did it. In fact, conspiring with foreign governments to topple the regime would undoubtedly land him in prison anywhere else yet he freely gives interviews and takes street selfies without fearing for his life. Juan Guaido is right now the self-proclaimed Interim President who the opposition and a handful of powerful governments want in the Miraflores palace. Constitutionally Guaido doesn’t have the legal excuse to promote himself, even if Donald Trump recognizes him with a tweet or if the economic situation in Venezuela worsens. Whether Guaido has an appealing centrist agenda inside a leftist party, is young and loved by the media is beside the point. Most of the criticism isn’t personal; those who don’t recognize him worry about the flagrant disregard for international laws and authoritarian trampling of sovereignty. Leopoldo Lopez is still trying to be president of Venezuela and Juan Guaido is merely the face he has chosen to represent the transition that will allow him to run but with all the media coverage, Guaido might just supplant his creators.
Suarez: What is comprised of the Venezuelan opposition?
Escobar: To sum it up, I’d say that the opposition runs on an anti-Chavismo fervor. They condemn Maduro so passionately that many of their right-wing supporters abroad don’t know that Voluntad Popular—Guaido’s Party—describes itself as Progressive. The Popular Will party was founded by Leopoldo Lopez (the ambitious Harvard graduate held responsible for dozens of people killed when he incited violent protests) and is widely seen as the man behind Juan Guaido, who enjoys a cleaner record. Currently under house arrest but with internet access, Leopoldo and his wife (who Marco Rubio presented to Trump) have been plotting with foreign governments; further dividing the country dangerously close to a civil war. Hugo Chavez was loved and admired by millions. Many in the opposition still hold respect for the Chavez policies that expanded home ownership, education and healthcare. Then there are elite politicians who are even adopting social-democratic messages to attract the general public and keep their wealthy families comfortable. There are Chavistas and independent Venezuelans who can’t forgive the shameless theft of millions of dollars that have ended up in Miami by corrupt insiders but don’t want to hand over the country to the opposition for fear of fierce privatizations that will eliminate every last social program and allow the plundering of Venezuela’s natural resources.
Suarez: How is the electoral process in Venezuela?
Escobar: First of all, let’s not forget that the same elections that made Juan Guaido president of the National Assembly Elections gave Maduro an electoral victory over other opposition candidates. President Jimmy Carter applauds the transparent elections in Venezuela but the opposition also claims that dead people vote in Venezuela. It’s a very heated topic, as is in many countries since we can’t deny that many activists and politicians denounce the undeniable influence of big money in our own western democracies. Ignoring the constant attempts to persuade the public with private and state propaganda, I think the best guarantee to fair and clean elections is having impartial, international observers next time. We must respect whatever the Venezuelans decide to do to overcome the difficulties caused by an avalanche of unfortunate problems which are not all political like catastrophic droughts and a sharp drop in oil prices. There are those who are implicitly involved in the Bolivarian Revolution yet hope to turn things around by joining the opposition to propose an amnesty that would allow even the military to transition into a new government with peace of mind. Again, they must decide by themselves but when the opposition told its followers not to participate in the last election so they could claim it was illegitimate and asked the UN not to send international observers, I worry that a peaceful dialogue is becoming impossible to achieve.
Suarez: Why did you show and be vocal in the protest in Miami against US intervention in Venezuela?
Escobar: Through collective experience we’ve come to believe that signing petitions, attending rallies or knocking on doors makes no difference at all in the political process. Big money is more powerful than avenues full of furious voters—all of that sad defeatism is true but it only stays true if we continue to bitterly believe it. Speaking out against an injustice sets an example for those who are afraid to voice a different opinion and there are countless examples of strong ideals forcing the course of history to change down a more humane path. As a religious person, I know that we have to start respecting one another or this continuous abuse against the weak will degenerate our civilization beyond the saving point.
Suarez: How was the turn out?
Escobar: As with every single protest I’ve ever attended, the turn out could have been a lot better. It’s the nature of all citizen marches, especially one that hasn’t joined a bigger, national coalition. When you express a more centrist message that isn’t positioned in either the left or right, you filter out the radicals who claim that Chavismo is a disease while also turning down socialists that recognize Maduro as the only political continuity that will keep financing all those expensive social advances that helped millions of impoverished Venezuelans. Violent counter-protestors showed up to yell racial slurs, xenophobic slogans and believe it or not, even homophobic offenses. Miami is a hotspot for South American right-wingers but those people that showed up uninvited were too militant in their intolerance. We were after all a very small group with just a few drivers honking their horns in support.
Suarez: Will this keep up?
Escobar: Participation in these peace protests to denounce the very likely military intervention in Venezuela will only grow if the hostility intensifies. At this point not everyone knows for sure what’s going on, but if the media lets the American public know this is another regime change war, more indignant citizens will take to the streets and call their representatives to voice opposition. However, I’m inclined to think that the general opinion right now favors an aggressive stand against Cuba and Venezuela. Our local communities will respond yet many will be more than happy to hear that the brutal, corrupt dictator has been taken down and a thriving democracy has been established thanks to the wonderful work of our fine troops. War-time stories sell; it’s a beautiful narrative but the real world is messier than that.
Suarez: Will the US invade Venezuela?
Escobar: A US intervention is very probable and it might even happen in Cuba as well. Sensing the increase in aggressive rhetoric against the “communist” threat among other tell-tale signs, I’ve been alerting my Cuban listeners and readers to take the necessary precautions and prepare, at least emotionally so nothing—no matter how shocking—catches them off their guard. The same goes for Venezuela. If Elliot Abrams has been recycled yet again by the current administration, a man who under Reagan was involved in horrible massacres in Guatemala and John Bolton, our National Security Advisor, threatens to send the Venezuelan president to Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, we should expect military action to backup those words.
Suarez: Are you an activist, if so, what drove you to be?
Escobar: To watch an established politician, professional pundit or venerated millionaire lie through his teeth is deeply upsetting because words shape our reality and it’s incredibly easy to warp reality with propaganda. We need to alter the course of this sinking ship by first and foremost beginning to acknowledge how corrupt, dishonest and dysfunctional our society has gotten. When getting high on heroin can cost less than a gallon of milk and working families end up living in cars, you know that voting alone won’t get rid of the symptoms. People need to get more involved if they want their children to inherit a country worth living in.
Suarez: Are you Cuban, if so, what gives you a perspective as a young Cuban in Miami the situation in Venezuela?
Escobar: As an American citizen I am naturally very much interested in how my government behaves with its neighbors. Just how poor, young Appalachian men were sent to Vietnam and how our military spent billions of dollar in Afghanistan and Iraq alone—enough to perhaps indebt our future beyond the saying point—a meddlesome adventure in Venezuela will tarnish our image in a region that already has enough justified prejudice thanks to previous interventions. My Cuban side laments the abuse of power because we have endured as a nation an economic and financial embargo as punishment for deciding to go rogue and it pains me to see another sovereign country subjected to that kind of pragmatic hostility. In Miami we have mainly right-wing Venezuelans and formerly leftist ones who through corruption also managed to end up here, where they join forces with traditional Cuban exiles and together control much of the general public opinion thanks to the local media. There are of course, exceptions.
Suarez: What do you think about stereotypes of Latin people in Miami?
Escobar: They say in Miami that people from South America are responsible for our terrible traffic—one of the worst in America—you know, passing someone without signaling, road rage, taking out weapons to fight over parking spots and perhaps an unhealthy dose of authoritarianism also washes up. It’s not a coincidence that Miami has a long and vulgar history of political corruption. Arbitrary public works cost billions of dollars yet recently a new bridge collapsed. Our excessive tolls on the road remind me of medieval Europe but beyond the money laundering or drug trafficking, you learn from everyone. Besides the proliferation of delicious Hispanic restaurants, so many experiences mingle down here that any casual encounter between Latinos can produce groundbreaking results if we chose to learn from one another. I’ve politely listened to Chileans praising Pinochet, Dominicans rejecting Trujillo, Spaniards missing Franco, and Colombians worrying about hidden fascists in their own homes. You can’t learn if you don’t listen.
Suarez: How do you think the media in the US and Venezuela operates generally?
Escobar: As a trusting kid you tend to think that every authorized adult on TV recounting the news is telling the factual truth and that’s how it should be. Eventually you learn how the media functions and although some professionals dedicate their lives to honest journalism, others have a rigid editorial trench line. When they compete amongst themselves, we the consumers benefit from that contest for our viewership or ideological alliance because we can patch up the pieces to create our own cohesive picture. On Venezuela, most of the conservative and liberal media in the US supports the overthrow of Maduro and naturally, state-owned Venezuelan news outlets accuse the current administration of illegally plotting with their opposition to carry forth an undemocratic coup. The liberal, sometimes leftist media in the US is American, no matter how much Trump bashes them as otherwise and they will respond to American interests which is perfectly understandable.
Suarez: Where do you get your news sources?
Escobar: Where you get your news matters more than ever now that we can get trapped inside echo chambers. I never stick to just one side because I understand just how limited our access is to the whole truth and it’s important to know what every side takes for granted…even if it’s false. I still hear complaints about media censorship and while it can be infuriating considering their reach, we can stay informed (within what’s humanly possible) even if corporations or governments silence their opponents thanks to internet proxies. It is sad how we’ve never had it so easy yet millions of voters are still being manipulated. Of course, regardless of our online search results (increasingly biased thanks to mischievous algorithms) nothing beats talking to real people so whenever you’re face to face to someone, try to hear their perspective—even if you catch traces of fake news in their narrative. Empathy is known to distort even our own recollections of past events but listen to enough accounts and the puzzle will take shape.
Escobar: My pleasure 😉