Freedom, Justice, Democracy & Reconciliation
As an artist, a political analyst and a social media influencer, I have spent my life defending human rights, freedom of expression and democracy.
I left Venezuela with my family in 1993 for political reasons. Since then, I have been working along the Venezuelans who struggle to recover freedom, justice and democracy from the Chavista revolution. In the country and abroad, on the front and back scenes, I have relentlessly pushed for the end of the status quo, with empathy and a global vision.
In 2014, I created pieces of art that became cultural icons. As events were unfolding in Venezuela, I painted in real-time and communicated my images online. This innovative approach, coupled with political commentaries, gave me significant popular reach, and I became a symbolic reference : an artist with social leadership, a politologist able to influence opinions.
Like Picasso with “Guernica” and Delacroix with “Marianne”, I used my artistic skills to document history. My painting “Bravo Pueblo” which represents the undergoing struggle of the Venezuelan people victims of human rights violations under the repression of the chavista regime, is a significant exemple of what I do. Exposing my artwork in social media networks served not only to draw attention to the injustices and human right violations faced by all Venezuelans, but also to counter the regime propaganda and rhetoric they were trying to sell, inside and outside the country. As such, my art pieces participated in creating a sense of a shared identity among Venezuelans.
As my notoriety was growing, I became a public and popular figure. This allowed me to built relationships with people from different backgrounds and became part of a variety of networks : formal associations, student organisations, public officials in Venezuela and abroad, and various informal civil groups of all political provenances. My interpersonal reach ranges from anarchists and Anonymous members to communists of Bandera Roja ; from Christian nationalists like some of the people of Oscar Perez, to ex chavistas and chavistas that no longer support Nicolas Maduro, to social democrats from the ranks of the MUD (Mesa de la Unidad) ; from people within international think tanks and intelligence agencies, to human rights foundations and NGOs.
I pursue the idea of building bridges between different actors and organisations because I have found that there is a “supraordinate goal”. The common denominator being to take down the totalitarian chavista regime in order to reestablish the republic, the state of law, the needed re-institutionalisation of the country and ultimately the re-establishing of fair-elections and real democracy, to achieve justice and freedom.
My paintings uphold my opinion reach, and vice versa. This dynamic, added to my group building capacities, make me a credible, legitimate and sincere political actor for Venezuela. People from different political ideologies trust me and appreciate my transparency, as an actor seeking the wellbeing of the individual and the society as a whole in a non-mutually exclusive way. As an artist, I am perceived as an "outsider" as opposed to being labeled a “politician” and thus I never aligned myself with any of the perceived ideologies in conflict, but rather as one seeking to establish clear and fair rules of interaction.
My vision and objective is to re-establish a common "country project”, where the different sides represented in the conflict can find a common ground to relate, be agents of change, and move forward without violence, in a co-opted way. For me, to achieve a "national reconciliation”, cooptation of people, social organisations and institutional (and non institutional) political parties is essential.
However, I personally come from a “radical” background. A line of ”resistance" in the opposition that has an inelastic position and a strong view about not conceding any space to criminals. While accepting people who think differently because they have a common goal to re-instate democracy after the authoritarian and totalitarian episode still unfolding in Venezuela today, these co-opted actors must NOT have participated in corruption, narco-traffic, human rights violations and wrong-doings to the society as a whole, or to individuals in particular. Any actor - including former chavistas who are not criminals - have the right (and must be encouraged) to participate in the process of reconstructing Venezuela. The common denominator must be to comply with this aim and share the vision that the dynamic is a collective one. This platform is what I am trying to accomplish with the support of those who have already acknowledged my legitimacy.
I am also the by-product of an irreversible contemporary reality : the self-empowerment of civil society. We have achieved results with soft power. But to a certain degree, we lack formalization and institutionalization. It is also an objective for me and the people I'm representing to make this consortium more formalized, inclusive and able to evolve and act in formal spaces of power. Active individuals and self-empowered groups that have emerged from civil society have to be co-opted into institutional power structures in order to better represent our changing society. To achieve this, the constitutional state, with its democratic institutional praxis, has to be secured.
I consider Venezuela a sort of "case study” that will be significant for the world for decades to come. It is very important to understand past events and take action in order to build a more inclusive, democratic and human world for the future. Progress is the horizon. Progress in all forms : economic, social and cultural. By defending democratic and transparent standards, establishing a methodology of co-optation and a clear course of action, we can put an end to the suffering, injustices, and profound crisis that the current authoritarian regime in Venezuela has created.
As Venezuela’s future also depends on geopolitical maneuvers and international trends, the neo-populist winds in the world also have to be taken into account in the equation. The "winds of the times" determine the way to sail the road and get to the objective. The end-game being to avoid pendulum movements from one extreme to the other. In Venezuela's case : from castro-chavism to an extreme right nationalism. Let’s search a new equilibrium in Democracy.
By Rodrigo Figueredo