What do Cubans know about the Constituent Assembly elections in Venezuela?
In recent months, the official Cuban media and the Telesur network have served up one-sided reports on the demonstrations in Venezuela, in which more than 120 people have died thus far, and President Nicolás Maduro’s decision to convene a National Constituent Assembly.
With these media outlets as their sole sources of information, many Cubans believe that most Venezuelans support Maduro’s actions, and the implementation of the Constituent Assembly, and that the president’s supporters are peaceful while his opponents, in addition to violent, are paid by the US Government. They also believe that if the opposition comes to power, “they’re going to take away our oil” (which is not Cuba’s in the first place).
Most, however, did not pay much attention to the Constituent Assembly elections held on Sunday. Had they done so, they would have detected several inconsistencies in the information provided by both the National Television News (NTV) and Telesur.
Journalist Jennifer Zubizarreta Arias, with the NTV, said, for example, that “massive participation by Venezuelans prevailed.” But according to official data (not that provided by the opposition, which cited 12%), just 41.53% of voters went to vote. Can one really talk about “massive participation” when less than half of voters went to the polls?
Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino, meanwhile, stated that “there are no deceased attributable to the Bolivarian National Armed Forces,” which clashes with his own statement that the facts are still being investigated. How, then, does he how that no death can be attributed to the FANB?
Danay, a resident in Víbora, says that she has tried to keep abreast of what is happening in Venezuela, although she only knows what the NTV and Telesur have reported. “But on Wednesday 22 it seems that those at the Noticiero slipped up: they’re always saying that it is the protestors who are violent, but there was a shot in which tanks were seen going after the people.”
Gilberto, a bricklayer in Víbora, who was even a member of the Communist Party years ago, says he does not believe “those people.”
“Did you see when they claimed the opposition stole a helicopter and attacked them? Who’s going to believe that they, who have control of the Army, and have used it against the people, wouldn’t just shoot down the helicopter, which would have been justified? That’s a lie.”
Adelaida believes that Cuban-American senator Marco Rubio is making a mistake by asking US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Venezuela. “I’m sure that Maduro is shameless and inept, and that the Venezuelans have to topple him, but what Marco Rubio is doing is stupid because it gives them grounds to argue that the Americans are behind everything, and there are those who believe it.”
Niurka frequently travels and returns to the Island with items to sell. “I don’t understand much about politics, but months ago I travelled with a Venezuelan woman who was coming here. She was carrying an empty suitcase, so she could take food back there. Imagine, looking for food here. She told me that there is no ‘economic war’ there, but rather corruption and government inefficiency.”
Cubans have many questions.
Eduardo, a state worker, believes that the protesters on Venezuelan streets are paid by the opposition, because this is what Telesur has reported. However, he questions the legitimacy of a Constituent Assembly without prior popular consultation. “But they’re going to hold a plebiscite at some point, right? Because without that, the Constituent Assembly would be illegal, it seems to me.”
Antonia’s doubts are accompanied by concern. Hearing that 41.53% of Venezuelan voters had gone to the polls, she asked: “And who represents the other 59%? Because, if they avoid participating in the Constituent Assembly, the majority of the people will be subject to what the minority decides.”
Based on his own experience as a 21-year-old Cuban, Ernesto thought about the generation of Venezuelan children and adolescents who are not yet old enough to vote. “I live in the system that my grandparents chose, and am unable to change it, as the Constitution does not allow it. What Venezuelans are doing right now is depriving those children from deciding in the future.”
Most Cubans, however, seem apathetic about the results and the vote itself.
“Is the Constituent thing over with?” asked Juan Carlos.
Mayda, meanwhile, did not even watch the news on Sunday, at all. “I know there was some business about a vote, but I’m not sure what it was,” she said.
Some, although informed, refuse to worry about the fate of Venezuelans. “I don’t have time to focus on their misfortunes and the mess they are in there in Venezuela,” said Nevis, a grandmother of five children.