Guest Speaker discusses crisis in Venezuela

Student outrage at Steve Ellner's talk on Venezuela sparks controversy

Last Monday, Steve Ellner arrived at Thompson Rivers University to give a talk about Venezuela. Ellner is the author of books such as Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict and the Chávez Phenomenon in addition to previously teaching at a major Venezuelan university for close to 30 years.

Since 2003, Ellner has travelled around North America giving talks discussing the framing of the Venezuelan government. Ellner was partnered with Fire This Time, a left-wing advocacy group based in Vancouver.

What is really happening in Venezuela was the title of the lecture and the content was focused around the government and the foreign sanctions placed on the country. The first half of the discussion was relatively innocuous compared to the latter half which resulted in a controversy between Ellner and a student that wishes to remain anonymous.

“I’m not really for the opposition or the government, I’m just a simple Venezuelan who lived in Venezuela and seen the horrors of the crime,” the student said to the Omega. “I find this professor to be very biased. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he was getting some type of compensation for coming and speaking on behalf of government, which it sounded like he was doing.”

“This is the Fire This Time Venezuela solidarity campaign and we work with the campaign to end U.S. and Canadian sanctions on Venezuela,” the Fire this Time employee told The Omega as to what her organization does. “As the newspaper we support the government of Venezuela.”

“The Venezuelan government has been demonized. I personally believe that the Venezuelan government has committed errors,” Ellner told The Omega. “But in addition to those errors, there are also some positive aspects that the media are ignoring completely.”

“I’m not saying that this is all black and white. My point is that it’s complex,” Ellner responded when asked about if he was minimizing the violence committed by the Venezuelan government directed towards students.

Ellner maintains that he is simply exposing the falsehoods that unfairly reflect on the Venezuelan government, while bringing the issue of U.S. and Canadian sanctions to light.

“I almost cried, that’s how pissed off I was. I couldn’t say half the stuff I wanted to say because I was so choked up. To me it was super insulting,” the student told the Omega.