“Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro”, Caracas, Venezuela, photo by Fernando Llano (via hungeree.com)

MIAMI — In September of 2009, thousands across the country and world gathered, took to the streets in an effort to exercise their voice. Several hundred South Florida residents, similarly, left work early and made their way to Downtown Miami, where the local No Mas Chávez rally was taking place. Rain fell heavily as peaceful protesters, armed with flags and colorful proclamations, filled the streets outside the Torch of Friendship. Cars passed, honking and shouting as they zipped by. The purpose of the gathering was to stand in opposition to what many say has become Venezuela’s totalitarian revolution, lead by President Hugo Chávez. “Sí a la libertad, No a la violencia!” the people yelled. “Yes to freedom, no to violence!”

Guerrilla Communication´s street art with the image of the Latin American Liberator, Simon Bolivar. (via en.comunicas.org)

The local march, primarily made up of Colombian’s and Venezuelan’s living in Miami-Dade and Broward county, was, as one protester put it, “a call to freedom from tyranny and left wing propaganda. “For years”, Miami resident Luis Guzman told me, “Venezuela has been dealing with the repercussions that come from the abuse of power in government. Oppression,” he continued, “rising poverty, mind control, and the extreme censorship taking hold of all media outlets, from news publications to radio stations. That is why we are here.”

In May of 2007, RCTV (Radio Caracas Television) was taken off the air, leading to widespread controversy and calling into question the role government should be allowed to play in journalism. Ustream coverage of the September demonstration I attended, which was organized by the same group who put together the successful No Más FARC rally in 2008, was broadcast all over the world.

Now, years later, there is much anticipation as to what the future of Venezuela might look like. Speculations run high over the health of Chávez (he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of colon cancer last year). Chávez will celebrate his 58th birthday on July 28 and claims to be faring better, declaring himself reborn and preparing to run for another six-year term, his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski, the centrist governor of Miranda.

“No Imperialismo” photo by Sean Malone (via blog.travelpod.com)

Venezuela’s economy, however, continues to bare the burden of Chávez’s unpredictable health. The nation of over 29 million suffers from severe unemployment, high crime rates and food shortages. Yet and still, Venezuela has the largest oil reserve in the world (prices have fallen roughly 20% in the past two and a half months), causing many to question Chávez’ ability to govern any longer. Only time will tell what this all means for Venezuela’s 2012 elections taking place on October 7th.

“Chaves el el Pueblo” – No Photo Source (via southamericanpostcard.com)

The journalist, Nelson Bocaranda, Venezuela’s unofficial information provider, is one of the few who has not been silenced. Over the years he has become a must-read for politicians and voters interested in Venezuela and its developments. His website, runrun.es and Twitter accounts (@NelsonBocaranda, @RunRunesWeb) remain active despite the goverment’s control over so many of the country’s other media outlets.

The movement of pro-Chávez street art has steadily grown over the last several years. And while there are many artists painting and speaking out against the current regime, the voice of those in favor of the president and his policies seems to be more visible and thunderous. Though the question begs to be asked: with the government having such a strong influence on what is communicated to the public, could many of these pro-Chávez works/murals actually be sanctioned? Who is to say which of them are grassroots and which have been commissioned by the government as a tool to further their agenda? It certainly would not be far-fetched to argue that many of them might be just that; tools.

As election time approaches tensions will only rise, giving way to new forms of expression (or propaganda) and, as is true to Venezuela, a deepening of the revolutionary spirit.

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Juan Vidal

Juan Vidal is a writer and member of national recording artists Rhema Soul. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale, travels a lot, and writes regularly on literature, art, film and other cultural concern.

5 replies on “Censorship, Street Art, Oil and the Future of Venezuela”

  1. Juan, just how the fuck are you “reporting” on Venezuela from Miami? The only thing I learned from this piece (of shit) is that Hyperallergic has taken a bold stand against fact-checking. Disgusting.

    1. Hello Mr. Sunshine, he wrote the post in Miami (it’s called a dateline, if you care to google it) but he was in Venezuela, and the post also discusses a protest in Miami related to Venezuelan expat politics. So, what exactly is the inaccurate “fact” or is your comment simply about name calling.

      1. Are you insinuating I don’t know what a dateline is while simultaneously accusing me of name-calling? I guess I could have called him Mr. Sunshine instead of JUAN.

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