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Interview With Abby Martin And Michael Prysner On Venezuelan Opposition & Attacks On Journalism

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Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola welcome journalists Abby Martin and Michael Prysner to the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast. They recently took a trip to Venezuela and both have faced threats from parts of the right-wing opposition in the country for their reporting.

Martin and Michael produce the weekly show, “The Empire Files.” During the interview, they highlight the make-up of the opposition in Venezuela. They share details about the violence they witnessed while on the ground.

Both talk about the left-wing Chavism movement’s ability to withstand the opposition. Martin and Prysner speak about the engagement of Venezuelans, especially lower class citizens, in participatory democracy. They outline what is truly going on with private media companies in Venezuela that are sowing chaos. They also address what they believed about the Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro prior to their trip and how their perspectives shifted.

To listen to the discussion, click the above player or go here.

Below are highlights from the inteview.

The Violence Of The Opposition

“The country is so heavily divided that really there are mass rallies on either side that are peaceful and jubilant and nonviolent at all. That’s not where these violent confrontations are happening,” Martin said. “The violent confrontations are happening with this smaller contingent called the Guarimbas, which are these huge flaming barricades that are sustained action that are going on every single day and night across different areas, usually in middle and upper class areas.”

Martin added, “The opposition does not denounce the violence, and they also incite the violence and use the violence and the deaths. It’s like this theater of cruelty,” pushed out in order to bolster international support.

Opposition activists “pulled out people from 18-wheelers, stole trucks on the highway, created giant barricades, doused the freeways in gasoline, and this is where a lot of people are dying.”

“When you look at the death toll, at least over half, well over half, were killed directly or indirectly by opposition violence. A lot of things happen at these flaming barricades where people are scrambling frantically trying to move their cars. They run people. They’ve fallen off the freeway,” Martin described.

“As soon as it got dark, I’ve never felt like my life was more in danger because we were very exposed,” Martin further recalled. “We had press jackets on, but at the same time, we knew that if we identified ourselves as Telesur journalists we could get lynched. Because that’s the climate right now.”

“They just call you an infiltrator, and then you get killed. And they deemed many other people as infiltrators. The Chavista that they said, hey, black guy are you a Chavista? And they threw a Molotov cocktail on him. They also beat to death a national guardsmen, who was retired, just for being in the vicinity, thinking he was an infiltrator.”

According to Martin, opposition figures mobbed them and gave instructions to film what the government does but not what is done by the opposition. They pressured Martin and Prysner to film what is done by the government and in return the opposition would protect them.

The Target Of A Viral Campaign Of Intimidation

Martin and Prysner were the targets of a campaign propelled by a high-profile academic in the country and a journalist aggregation account.

The lie, as Martin declared, was that Martin and Prysner were intelligence agents collecting protester photos to turn into the Venezuelan intelligence services. They said people were arrested because of the two journalists’ spying.

Martin said they became the center of a viral fake news campaign, and it was on the front page of newspapers as a result of people trying to incite a mob to lynch us.

Venezuela’s White Helmets

Both saw the “Green Cross Helmets” or the Green Helmets, which seem modeled after the White Helmets in Syria. They appeared to be “super well-funded” and consist primarily of medical students.

Martin and Prysner suspect the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding them. A pro-opposition journalist said they were receiving funding from USAID.

Later, Prysner looked up the brand of the helmet they wear. “It’s a $200 helmet,” Prysner said. “There [were] like 40 of them at this demonstration.” The cost of the matching helmets is not cheap, and the helmets are from a company in Australia. The Green Helmets’ other gear is not inexpensive either.

The Supermarket Shortage Claim: Part Of Campaign Of Humiliation

“We went into at least ten supermarkets. The shelves were fully stocked with every goddamn Nestle brand, every paper product—except toilet paper,” Martin shared. “And this is where you get into some weird territory, where there are some huge shortages of particular goods used and hoarded for propaganda purposes, to create this kind of international humiliation campaign.”

Prysner suggested it is clear it is the result of a targeted campaign because specific things are missing from shelves.

“It’s women’s tampons. It’s diapers for newborns. It’s toilet paper. It’s rice. So there are shortages of things that are basic staples,” Prysner stated. “Some of the reason for economic problems like that is the legacy of underdevelopment and colonialism.”

Matt Taibbi’s Goldman Sachs-Venezuela Story For Rolling Stone

Journalist Matt Taibbi published a story for Rolling Stone on what he described as Goldman Sachs’ “bailout” of the Maduro government.

“The real crux of that story is the Venezuelan government is really trying to solve their economic crisis through getting foreign investment,” Prysner asserted. “The opposition is using their power in government to go around and sabotage every type of deal, international investment or loan deal, that the Venezuelan government is able to get.

“If they try to get a loan, if they try to get bonds, if they try to get foreign companies to come invest Venezuela, the opposition follows right behind them and says don’t do this. Cancel this deal. So, this Goldman Sachs deal is just Venezuela trying to bring money into the country, and then the opposition is turning it into something else because they want to bankrupt the country.”

The Venezuelan opposition would like to plunge the country further into chaos, win power, and then allow financial corporations to take over.

“You can’t look at Venezuela without acknowledging the complete manipulation of the currency,” Martin contended. “The biggest problem with the economy is over 90% of the economy depend on oil. A huge problem that Chavez did was not diversify the economy enough.”

Prysner concluded, “The opposition is pretty weak in the country. They won the national assembly election recently, but they hadn’t done that ever. And it’s under the most advantageous conditions for them, an incumbent administration under a severe economic crisis. The fact that they’re pushing things so far, escalating violence to such a high level, is because they believe they have the political support of the United States.”

*For the full interview with Abby Martin and Michael Prysner, go here.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."