As US Media Mangles Venezuela Coverage, Maduro Calls for 'Peace Conference'

As street protests continued in Venezuela this week, President Nicolas Maduro has called for a “peace conference” on Wednesday in order to defuse the violence, though it remains unclear which, if any, representatives of his opposition will agree to attend.

Maduro has said that he supports the right of his opponents to take their message wherever they like, but said the accompanying violence—especially given repeated efforts to undermine the democratically-elected Chavista government from within, including a U.S.-backed coup attempt in 2002—would not be tolerated.

“I guarantee you the liberty to do it,” Maduro said. “But if you’re going to go out and burn and destroy, I won’t permit that.”

Provincial Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in last year’s presidential election and remains a key member of the opposition, has yet to declare whether he will accept the invitation to join talks. On Monday, however, Capriles refused to attend a larger meeting where Maduro met with the nation’s other governors to discuss the ongoing political crisis.

On Tuesday, in what seemed like retribution, the U.S State Department announced the expulsion of three Venezuelan diplomats from the country. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Venezuelan envoys First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo have 48 hours to leave the U.S.

“Venezuela needs to show seriousness for us to be able to move forward,” Psaki said referring to relations between the two countries.

“Recent actions,” she said, “including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult.”

Also on Tuesday, Maduro signaled that he was prepared to move on that idea by appointing a new envoy to the U.S., though it was not clear who that might be or whether much traction could be made under the current circumstances.

As most western media continued to the paint the situation in Venezuela as one in which President Maduro used security forces to put down a populist revolt, more cautious analysts say that though the Venezuela government is far from perfect and that the financial troubles and earnest critiques of many citizens are not to be ignored, the mainstream U.S. media coverage is no place to look for nuanced perspective.

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As Lauren Carasik, a law professor and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University, wrote at Al-Jazeera America on Tuesday:

According to Rebecca Hanson, who lives in Venezuela while studying the nation’s politics as a graduate student, one of most notable things about the protest movement is where it is not occurring. Writing on the blog  of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Hanson explains:

None of what she says, writes Hanson, “is to say that protesters do not have legitimate grievances that the government has ignored.” However, “these grievances are not ones that tend to generate support or ire” of a large portion of Venezuelans.

What’s lost in most U.S. coverage, according Carasik, is the fact that Maduro and the socialist government policies he and his party represent have won consistently at the election polls for nearly twenty years. And she concludes:


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