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Carta abierta al pueblo de Venezuela / Open Letter to the People of Venezuela

12 May

 

 

12 de mayo de 2017

Al pueblo de Venezuela,

En los últimos años, cientos de venezolanos me han contactado, pidiendo consejos sobre la actual crisis que vive su país. He leído cada sentida nota personalmente. Debido a mis múltiples compromisos, no me es posible responder a cada una de estas desgarradoras solicitudes de ayuda de manera individual.

Siguiendo el ejemplo de mis mentores, no acostumbro ofrecer consejos o guía a personas involucradas en conflictos en curso fuera de mi país – particularmente en países en los que no tengo ningún antecedente o experticia. Y a pesar de los muchos ejemplos históricos de resistencia civil que podemos ver alrededor del mundo, debo admitir con humildad que yo no poseo las respuestas.

Si ofreciera cualquier consejo directo o asistencia, su gobierno seguramente lo utilizaría en su contra como evidencia de intromisión extranjera. Sería antiético (y tal vez contraproducente) para mí aconsejarles, particularmente dado que yo no tengo que lidiar con ninguno de los costos y riesgos asociados a cualquier consejo que pueda ofrecer.

Sin embargo, escribo esta carta abierta en mi condición personal de ciudadana del mundo, comprometida con la paz, la justicia y la dignidad para todas las personas. Deseo decirles que si están luchando de manera no violenta por una solución a la crisis actual en Venezuela, no están solos. Hay millones de personas en todo el mundo que están con ustedes en solidaridad, luchando a su lado desde donde viven. Aunque sus circunstancias varían, ellos están luchando por las mismas metas de justicia, responsabilidad, libertad, paz y dignidad. Muchos de ellos ven victorias –algunas pequeñas y algunas grandes – en sus luchas. Aunque no hay garantías, su uso de métodos de lucha no violenta significa que llevan adelante su lucha a través de una técnica que ha tenido mucho más éxito que la violencia en el último siglo.

Quiero decirles que si están lidiando con una situación aparentemente imposible, los entiendo. Leo sobre sus episodios llenos de valentía todos los días. He escuchado sobre la escasez de comida en Venezuela, la brutalidad empleada contra los manifestantes, la concentración de poder del gobierno, el miedo por la seguridad ciudadana, y el temor por el futuro del país. El hecho de que tantos venezolanos hayan respondido a estas condiciones con métodos predominantemente no violentos es notable. No puedo imaginar el coraje que hace falta para eso. Si ustedes están enfrentando la crisis actual a través del empleo de métodos pacíficos para luchar por derechos, seguridad y acceso a comida, sepan que su valentía y persistencia nos inspiran, a mí y a muchos otros que están observando.

Me gustaría poder ofrecerles más que mis ojos de testigo o mis palabras como expresiones de solidaridad. Sin embargo, hay muchos recursos para personas que buscan conectarse con otros activistas provenientes de distintos contextos. Ellos pueden compartir sus experiencias con ustedes – un compendio de recursos mucho mayor a cualquiera que pudiese yo ofrecer. También existen recursos que pueden descargar en línea, en español. Mientras tanto, por favor acepten esta humilde expresión de buena voluntad, solidaridad y gratitud por su poderosa demostración de acción no violenta en la cara de la adversidad.

Su amiga en la paz y la humanidad,

Erica Chenoweth

(Traducción por Daniel Fermín, activista y académico venezolano)

 

May 12, 2017

To the people of Venezuela –

Over the past several years, hundreds of Venezuelans have reached out to me for advice regarding the current crisis there. I have read each heartfelt note personally. Due to my many commitments, I am unable to answer each of these heartbreaking requests for help individually.

Following the examples of my mentors, it is my practice not to offer advice or guidance to people involved in ongoing conflicts outside of my own country – particularly countries in which I have no background or expertise. And despite the many historical examples of civil resistance we can look to around the world, I must admit with humility that I do not have the answers. If I did offer any direct advice or assistance, your government would likely use this against you as evidence of foreign meddling. It would be unethical (and maybe counterproductive) for me to advise you, particularly since I do not have to bear any of the costs and risks associated with any advice I could offer.

However, I write this open letter in my personal capacity as a citizen of the world who is committed to peace, justice, and dignity for all people.

I wish to tell you that if you are struggling nonviolently for a solution to the current crisis in Venezuela, you are not alone. There are millions of people around the world who are with you in solidarity, struggling alongside you where they live. Although their situations vary, they are struggling for the same goals of justice, accountability, freedom, peace, and dignity. Many of them see victories – some small and some large – in their struggles. Although there are no guarantees, their use of nonviolent methods means they are waging struggle with a technique that has succeeded far more often than violence during the past century.

I wish to tell you that if you are dealing with a seemingly impossible situation, I see you. I read about your courageous stories every day. I have heard about the lack of food in Venezuela, the brutality used against demonstrators, the concentration of power in the government, the fear for public safety, and the fear for the future of the country itself. Many people around the world know about these injustices in your country. The fact that many Venezuelans have met these conditions with predominantly nonviolent methods is remarkable. I cannot imagine the courage this takes. If you are facing the current crisis by using peaceful methods to struggle for rights, security, and access to food, know that your bravery and persistence inspire me and the countless others who are watching.

I wish that I could offer you more than my eyes as witness or my words as expressions of solidarity. However, there are many resources for people wishing to connect with other activists from many different contexts. They may be able to share their own experiences with you – a stock of resources much greater than anything I could offer. There are also resources you can download online in Spanish.

In the meantime, please accept this humble expression of goodwill, solidarity, and gratitude for your powerful demonstration of nonviolent action in the face of adversity.

Your friend in peace and humanity,

Erica Chenoweth

(translation by Daniel Fermín, Venezuelan activist and scholar)

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Teach-In Resources

13 Feb

Today I was part of a panel at a teach-in on resistance. During my remarks I mentioned a number of resources and additional readings worth checking out. Here they are.

Reads

Stephen Haggard & Robert Kaufman. 2016. Dictators and Democrats: Masses, Elites, and Regime Change. Princeton University Press.

Rebecca Solnit. 2016. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, updated edition. Haymarket Books.

Community Groups and Resources

Lots discussed here: Joshua Holland. 2017. Your Guide to the Sprawling New Anti-Trump Resistance Movement. The Nation (February 6). 

Resistance Manual

Committee to Protect Journalists

Warm Cookies of the Revolution

NationalPopularVote.com

Black Lives Matter 5280

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Denver

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Campaign Nonviolence

Waging Nonviolence

Albert Einstein Institution

Nonviolent Discipline and Violent Flanks

14 Jun

Last week I had the honor of attending the 2015 Fletcher Summer Institute. I gave a couple of talks, one of which related to the topic of how violent flanks impact the success rates of otherwise nonviolent movements. The talk is up at YouTube:

(Note: During the talk, the questions and comments come from other participants at FSI, many of whom were activists, organizers, NGO types, and academics in related fields from around the world).

I blogged about this topic in 2011 with specific reference to the appearance of the Free Syrian Army that summer. The field has come a long way since then, and I reference a lot of the recent research innovations in the talk. Let me know what you think.

Take a Survey on Nonviolent & Violent Resistance

26 Apr

Do you have 5 minutes to take a survey (that includes a short film) on nonviolent and violent resistance? This is part of a research project funded by the University of Denver’s Public Good Fund, which supports collaborative research with community partners. In this case, the survey is part of a collaboration between me and Picture Alternatives, an LA-based film production nonprofit that creates films and visuals to promote alternatives to violence.

The survey is here (but it’s not a mobile-friendly link, unfortunately).

Your help would be appreciated very much! Looking forward to seeing the responses.

Thanks!

A Plea to White Americans

25 Nov

Dear white friends,

If you find yourself genuinely puzzled by all that’s happening related to Ferguson — and especially if you find yourself angry at the protestors — I beg you to find the willingness to question what you think you know about race.

I beg you to open your mind to the lived experience of so many people in our country, to lay aside your own reasoning, and to consider that you may have it totally wrong.

I beg you to open your ears to the pain and suffering of others, to deeply consider whether you’ve ever been part of the problem, and to consider how you might make amends going forward.

If you discover nothing, then you have lost nothing. But if you discover that you have been misguided in the past, then you will have gained something incredibly valuable.

If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend the 90-minute documentary “The Color of Fear,” which is 20 years old but still relevant today. It might help to shed some light on all that you do not yet see.

Be courageous.

Look at yourself.

Our human family is in desperate need of healing; I beg you to be part of the solution.

Schaehrer Lecture at Colgate University

27 Aug

Last spring I delivered a lecture at Colgate University with an overview of various work on civil resistance, including my own stuff with Maria Stephan. The lecture video has been published, and it’s a fairly decent overview of what I think is up with nonviolent resistance these days (or, at least through last spring).

The talk begins at about 13:10.

Incidentally, Colgate University is the alma mater of some other folks who have studied nonviolent action seriously, including Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall.

 

People Power against Armed (Non-State) Groups

15 May

 

Image

It happens. From today’s New York Times:

Thousands of steelworkers fanned out on Thursday through the city of Mariupol, establishing control over the streets and banishing the pro-Kremlin militants who until recently had seemed to be consolidating their grip on power….The workers, who were wearing only their protective clothing and hard hats, said they were “outside politics” and were just trying to establish order. Faced with waves of steelworkers joined by the police, the pro-Russian protesters melted away, along with signs of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and its representatives. Backhoes and dump trucks from the steelworkers’ factory dismantled the barricades that separatists had erected.

Well then.

It’s not clear whether this development will “restore calm” to Eastern Ukraine as the NYT suggests, but it follows a pattern of unarmed civilians re-establishing (or at least contesting) control over political space occupied by armed non-state actors during civil conflicts. Other recent examples include episodes in NigeriaLibya, MexicoSyria, and many others.

As I mentioned in a previous post, nonviolent action against armed non-state actors may be especially tricky because it’s often difficult to identify armed groups’ pillars of support. Moreover, in the context of widespread civil strife, where violence is often committed with total impunity, it can be difficult to determine exactly where the

It’s difficult, but not impossible. Check out recent work by Oliver Kaplan (here and here) to read more about how civilian movements have done this in several civil war contexts. And stay tuned for work by Cassy Dorff, whose dissertation-in-progress catalogues ways that civilians maintain control of their own destinies during armed conflict.