Commentary  Letter: Response to “Hands Off Venezuela”

As a former contributor and editor at The McGill Daily, I share the disappointment many Venezuelans who are part of the McGill community have expressed in response to the “Hands Off Venezuela” commentary article that was published on February 18, 2019. The Daily is no stranger to controversy as it has long provided a platform to discuss taboo issues while accurately depicting power relations, even while facing backlash from student government and the administration. For example, it covered reproductive rights, the Vietnam War, and racism in the 1970’s. However, by publishing this article the Daily potentially violated its own Statement of Principles and has generated controversy for all the wrong reasons.

Firstly, there are no Venezuelan voices featured in the piece – the writers should have at least reached out to the local Venezuelan community at McGill or in Montreal for their insight. Instead, several third-party, including one-sided (pro-regime) and dubious, sources were used. All in an effort to make the point that the Venezuela uprising is nothing but a product of Western powers trying to overthrow a “legitimate” Latin American government.  As a result, the article comes across as a propaganda piece expressing solidarity for a brutal and corrupt regime that is torturing its own populace through hunger and keeping it hostage through a self-imposed siege.

Shockingly, nearly one-third of the sources in the article are directly from Venezuelanalysis.com, founded by Gregory Wilpert who has been described as “perhaps the most prominent Chavista.” The Maduro regime supporters refer themselves as Chavistas. The site features articles written by anonymous authors “various” and the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current – CRBZ, an activist branch and strong supporter of Maduro’s United Socialist Party (PSUV). The Daily is not alone in following the Maduro narrative that the uprising is the culmination of foreign powers orchestrating a coup:  The Guardian, PBS, and Al Jazeera have also subscribed to the same disproportionately one-sided narrative. In Venezuela information flow is sparse given the regime’s strong influence over all types of media. In support of the uprising, Venezuelans who live abroad are fighting back by taking to social media to call out false-narratives being shared online, arguably by Maduro sympathizers – as is the case with this article published by the Daily.

Finally, while the article proposes several lengthy theories to explain the “illegal right-wing coup” it fails to mention the conditions and reasons that led to the grass-roots uprising. Not to mention the numerous human rights violations by Maduro’s regime that have been meticulously documented and published by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

The Daily owes an apology to the Venezuelan community and to its readers for publishing this easily-debunkable falsehood. We have come to expect more from The McGill Daily, an icon of journalism on campus, than propaganda.