Opinions »

Regarding Joaquín Pérez Becerra

By Iván Maiza

(Published Telesur)

Translation: Machetera

The capacity of the Latin American left to go straight ahead without looking to either side, without long term plans, without observing the world in which it lives, never ceases to amaze me. Without taking into account whose life is at stake in matters that are not strategic, nor even tactical, what matters is always the sacrifice, proving that one is not betraying the highest revolutionary values, “never bowing one’s head” like that person in the story by Osvaldo Soriano, “A sus plantas rendido un León” [A defeated lion at their feet].*

It’s sad that the Bolivarian government was forced to deport comrade Joaquín Pérez Becerra, a comrade from the Bolivarian movement in greater Colombia.  It’s sad and regrettable, it’s painful and shameful, but I don’t blame the [Venezuelan] Bolivarian Government in the least, rather I sympathize, I feel solidarity with my comrades who had to carry out this abominable act, and above all with our comrade the Comandante, who must have suffered greatly.

The fact is that Joaquín was not in Maicao being chased by a pack from the AUC [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia] and forced to cross the border, nor was he in hiding, nor even terribly upset.  He was in Sweden putting together his publication, in peace.  So then, he hops on a plane, comes to Venezuela and all of a sudden lands at Maiquetía. And before he arrives, there’s a call from Santos to Chávez, “Hey pal, how’s it going? Somebody I’ve been looking for is headed there, get him for me and send him over, ok? You’re not going to wreck our new friendship, are you?”

Joaquín, in mid-air, was already sentenced, and so was the Bolivarian Government. It’s worth mentioning, for all the obtuse comrades that can only see straight ahead, that until the moment in which Joaquín took to the skies, and Santos picked up the phone to call Chávez, the Bolivarian Government had absolutely nothing to do with the subject.  After Santos’s call, there were two options remaining.

1. Arrest him.

2. Don’t arrest him.

You don’t have to be a genius to realize that both were shitty options. If he were arrested, the entire left staring straight ahead would be sure to pile on, and if he weren’t, you’d be screwing with a thuggish, bellicose neighbor with backup. If you do it you’re fucked. If you don’t do it you’re fucked. If you do it you’re a piece of shit, if you don’t do it, you’re a piece of shit, depending on who’s doing the judging, whether they’re your brothers or semi-peaceful neighbors.

It was a strategy that put Venezuela in a lose-lose situation, and the Colombian rightwing in a win-win. When Joaquín got on the plane, the Colombian rightwing won. When Joaquín got on the plane and Santos picked up the phone, the Comandante was already a prisoner, not Joaquín. It was Comandante Chávez who was made prisoner of a decision that he ought never have had put before him.

Now the question is, how did they manage to put Chávez in such a tight spot?  And of course to answer that we must first answer the first question: Who told Pérez Becerra to get on that plane?  Who told him that everything was ok?  Who gave him assurances that everything was in order?  I’m sure that if someone told him that the Venezuelan government was not apprised and not prepared to defend him, and that Santos would be riled, he’d never have come.  I’m sure he must have asked several times about his security and someone told him, “everything’s ok buddy, we’re waiting for you here.”

The timing was ideal. Negotiations in Cartegena between Lobo and Zelaya, a reopening of trade and relations between Venezuela and Colombia, and the expected extradition of Makled. It was just the moment to make Chávez choose between his leftist friends on the continent, or return to the days of closed borders, of the accusations that his government is an outlaw government that defends terrorists, a return to militarization at the border states of Zulia, Táchira and Apure.

One day after the Joaquín Pérez Becerra affair, that asshole who still thinks he’s the Spanish president, Zapatero, denied a report that the most wanted member of the ETA was on his way to Venezuela. Coincidence? Part of the plan?  Maybe yes, maybe no. What’s certain is that whoever put Joaquín on that plane would seem to be working for that side, along with Zapatero, and it would appear that they didn’t expect the response from Chávez and so Zapatero was left without a part to play in the movie.

I believe that Joaquín understands all of this; that he knows that you don’t put a strategic operation at risk for anything in the entire world, and that if a militant loses his bearings and makes things too easy for his opponent, putting the entire operation at risk, one will suffer the consequences.  He knows perfectly well that there is a set order and line of command, a compartmentalization of information, and that the information is divulged when the conditions are right, and that unity among revolutionary forces is what guarantees victory.

He knows all that, I’m sure, and I want to believe that he was not the one who violated the basic norms of militancy.  Believe me, I wouldn’t say the same if this were a case of displaced persons being forced to return to a place where AUC commandos awaited them; the Colombian people deserve a defense that has been lacking on this side, but….this man was in Sweden!  That’s why I ask these questions, that’s why it seems to me like foul play, a trick put together with the consent of someone here, and that’s why I denounce it as a setup, because it was unnecessary, avoidable, and stupidly unjustifiable.

We are going to elections in a year.  The Bolivarian Revolution should be confirmed once again for President Chávez’ last and most important presidential term, and for that we’re looking at two basic fronts in the struggle, both with the premise of granting a better life to the majority of the people. For the people who seek to consolidate their definitive independence, these fronts are housing and food sovereignty, which would allow for increased happiness for the people, guarantee a good life for the country’s children, allow us to prove that socialism is more productive than capitalism and consolidate a new model of development and production in the region. All that implies:

1. Not being at war.

2. Not being forced to increase military spending.

3. Not having a closed border (just try to win an election without sanitary napkins or diapers).

4. Stopping the murder for hire of popular leaders in agricultural zones.

5. Being able to rely on construction materials to build housing.

The main task is to guarantee that the objectives set for the election in 2012 are met, that homes, buildings, and communities can be built and that crops be planted, and in that we’ve decided to bet on the continuity of the revolutionary process, giving our best day to day, so that later in 2013 and 2019 when we face the need to consolidate the revolution beyond a particular leader, the revolution can walk on its own two feet, socialism will be consolidated and the bourgeois state will be transformed into the people’s power.

The times in which we live are not our best moments, the world continues moving toward imperial wars, the rightwing is recovering lost ground, those who’ve been able to avoid aggression have remained with their arms folded, and it’s also true that our Venezuelan society has not moved toward socialism as quickly as desired, the economy based on extraction of raw materials has refused to stop existing, and although we’ve achieved important things, the time to move to the next level is upon us. We ought to be more capable than ever, more careful than ever, and in order to do that, strategic pathways must be established.

Where is the part in the strategy in which we fight with Santos because a comrade cheerfully decided to come and set off a diplomatic scuffle?  Where’s the part where we’ve said that this is the time for a confrontation with the Colombian oligarchy that has so damaged us?  Hasn’t it been clear for several months that we are at another stage in the strategy?  Once more, who put Joaquín on that plane at this particular moment? Who sold him out to put the Bolivarian Revolution at risk of losing its general strategy?

The truth, comrades, is that we’ve learned, and have had to learn to move offensively as well as regressively, to conceal ourselves in order to return again and fight propitiously. The Bolivarian Revolution has learned to be agile, to take one step forward and two back, yet still move ahead, learning to wait and deliver precise blows without a fatiguing exchange that leads to exhaustion. We’ve learned to figure out the rightwing’s tricks and all of this we’ve come to learn day to day with our strategically minded President. Could it be that the forever forward-focused left doesn’t want us to be agile against a rightwing that is always astute and cunning?  Are they bothered by the rightwing or is it just that they don’t understand it? Or could it be….that there are sectors within the revolutionary left who are taking orders from the DAS [Colombian security]?

And what if it’s not even necessary for the DAS to infiltrate the popular movement?

Well then, we’d be facing a scenario in which certain “comrades” or some “revolutionary parties” have ventured plans to sabotage the strategies put forth by the Comandante – even going so far as to entrap comrades in the struggle? – comrades who cannot accept that the Comandante has made the decision to get closer to Santos and who’ll do anything to “break the trust” between Chávez and his people, between Chávez and the people of the continent. Comrades who are willing to set the agenda of the Bolivarian government even if it means sabotage.  Is it possible? Like when comrades sold out el Ché or sabotaged the M-26?  I’d prefer to think that it was the DAS.

The other option is that some cocky Venezuelan militant might have said “a revolutionary can invite someone else to his revolution whenever he wants,” without bothering to look sideways, without observing what’s going on in the world, without reading his surroundings, without calculating the risks, without thinking about possible scenarios, putting so many things at risk, skimming over so many others, always forward, forward, forward….right up to the precipice.

Another day will dawn, and we’ll see.

*Translator’s note: My translation for the Spanish language wikipedia entry for “A sus planta rendido un león” follows:

“A sus plantas rendido un león” is a novel by the Argentine writer Osvaldo Soriano.  As the author explains in a preface, the title is a verse from the old version of the Argentine national anthem. While that verse referred to Spain, defeated in the independence struggles, in this novel, the lion that ought to be defeated is the U.K., the victor in the Guerra de las Malvinas [referred to in Anglo media as the Falklands war], during which a socialist revolution is set off in the African country of Bongwutsi. Summary: The Guerra de Malvinas (1982) begins and, in Bongwutsi, a remote African country, a forgotten Argentine consul starts his own battle against England.  At the same time, in Europe, a conspiracy is hatched to turn Bongwutsi into a socialist republic. Another Argentine is a participant and both Argentines, along with unforgettable revolutionaries, come together in the delirious and moving plot.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity.This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.