Four small explosive devices were detonated on Tuesday in Caracas, three at a shopping mall and another near the Venezuelan National Assembly building. No injuries or major damage have been reported. The blasts come at a time of heightened political tensions, however, as the opposition-controlled legislature and the socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, face off over the future direction of the country.
One early report out of the capital described the bombs as “homemade,” and said they threw pamphlets into the air upon detonation. The tracts were purportedly issued by a group calling itself the Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL).
In the pamphlets, the group proclaimed its loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution inaugurated by Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chávez but also apparently criticized Maduro’s government for supposedly not being true to the late president’s vision. The pamphlets accused Maduro of not carrying forward Chavez’s work and called for an armed offensive against the opposition. This all comes on heels of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) loss in the legislative elections in December last year.
In its call for guerilla war, the FBL declared, “It is time for the revolution’s base to take the government… Social conflict is what guarantees the continuity of the process of change launched by Comandante Chávez.” The language in the pamphlets is out of sync with the political line taken by the PSUV government since the elections. So far the Maduro government has publicly remained committed to democratic procedure and the rule of law, despite destabilization attempts by its political opponents.
The tactic of bombing civilian areas, calling for a revolution within the revolution, and the vague appeal for increasing social conflict all raise questions about the FBL’s credentials as a left-wing group. The effect of its anti-democratic tactics, so far, is to bolster those opposing the government’s socialist agenda.
For several years the right-wing opposition has been engaged in attempts to reverse the advances that the Chávez government made in areas such as healthcare, education, and economic reform. In 2002, it acted in conjunction with the Bush Administration to overthrow the elected government. It was only after Venezuelans in their tens of thousands poured into the streets that the coup was defeated and Chávezwas returned to power.
The campaign of destabilization by the opposition and external forces, however, did not ease up after the coup. It has continued up to the present, with the National Assembly, now under right-wing control for the first time in years, becoming the new center of anti-government activity.
In such an atmosphere of tension, the FBL bombings bear all the hallmarks of ultra-left adventurism and political provocation. Opposition politicians are wasting no time as they move to capitalize on the bombings for their own purposes.
One of their leaders, Julio Borges, immediately sought to pin blame for the bombings on the Maduro government. He told the press that the attacks were the work of “people close to the government or with the complicity of those in power who want to create…panic to drown out discussion on important issues.”
Borges is a close associate of Henrique Capriles, who lost presidential elections toChávezin 2012 and Maduro in 2013. He is also affiliated with Leopoldo López, the opposition leader who currently sits in jail for inciting riots in February 2014.
As tensions soar and accusations fly back and forth between the government and the opposition, the political situation in Venezuela only deteriorates further. Just last week, a prominent journalist working for the state media, Ricardo Durán was assassinated. The army has declared its loyalty to the elected government, but the right-wing leaders of the National Assembly appear determined to utilize their new-found position of power to chip away at Maduro’s base of support.
Tuesday’s bombings by the FBL play right into their hands.
Photo: A pedestrian walks in front of the administrative offices of the Venezuela National Assembly in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. | Fernando Llano/AP