The fact that FAIR was writing about Toro's [Caracas Chronicles] reporting more than 10 years ago points to the fact that this is not a new story; since Hugo Chavez's first election in 1998, Venezuela's government has faced intense opposition, and despite this opposition, the government has repeatedly won elections that have been deemed free and fair (Extra!, 12/06). US journalists tend to identify with the opposition, which is generally wealthier and better educated–and not incidentally whiter–than government supporters (FAIR Blog, 2/25/13). This should be borne in mind when reading reports from Venezuela–from whatever source.
Hyperbole seems to be the rule of the day on both sides, and among the fearful exaggerations of the opposition, none looms larger than the colectivos. While officially designating the more organized radical sectors of Chavismo, here signifiers float freely in proportion to the fear they represent, with the term colectivos applied to anyone on a motorcycle, anyone wearing a red shirt, anyone too poor-looking or dark-skinned. This is nothing new, either: the 2002 equivalent was the term “terror circles,” a slanderous pejorative used to denigrate members of grassroots popular assemblies who served as the backbone of resistance to the undemocratic coup. These popular grassroots organizers constitute the most direct, organic expressions of the wretched of the Venezuelan earth, the most politicized segment of the previously discarded human mass that the opposition has never cared about for a second.
Hugo Chávez's dream world has become a nightmare of shot-down protesters, jailed oppositionists, economic meltdown and a brutal war waged against a defiant middle class
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