Latin America 101: The End of Fascism in Venezuela

Foreword


Latin America 101 articles intend to deepen the reader's knowledge of the Italian situation in Venezuela throughout its history. The fundamental purpose of this series is to draw attention to the topic of Italian immigration by providing a thorough overview of the road that led Italians to the country and then evaluating the most relevant historical frames.


Latin America 101 will be mainly divided into the following chapters of content:

1. Latin America 101: Venezuela, From Promised Land to Barren Wasteland for Italians

2. Latin America 101: When The Immigration To Venezuela Began

3. Latin America 101: Turned Tables for Italian Immigration

4. Latin America 101: The End of Fascism in Venezuela

5. Latin America 101: The significance of Italians during Post War.

6. Latin America 101: The Bolivarian Republic As The End of a Dream



Latin America 101: The End of Fascism in Venezuela

The events that shook the old continent prior to and during WWII, particularly in Italy, had ramifications in Venezuela. Despite the Venezuelan administrations' best efforts to prevent the spread of strong ideas within the country, fascism had gained a foothold. However, once the war ended and order was restored, the fascist era in the world came to an end.


Venezuela on a globe [Photo] - Kevin Keith
Venezuela on a globe [Photo] - Kevin Keith

Between June 1939 and January 1942, these fascist institutions became the target of increasingly widespread attacks, not only by the press, but also by the Venezuelan government itself, following the events that marked the beginning of a certain coldness between the Venezuelan government and the presence and activity of the Fasci. It can be deduced from the Italian diplomatic representatives' reports that the people supported their government's work against these organizations. These papers stated that the local press emphasized the Venezuelan government's anti-fascist and anti-Nazi measures, following in the closure of several German and Italian schools as well as the suppression of some fascist propaganda newspapers. The Venezuelan working class cooperated with General Lopez Contreras' leadership, confirming his democratic convictions and profound desire to safeguard citizen freedom. In the same period, a note from the Italian Legation in Caracas was delivered to Rome, informing the Ministry of the introduction of a bill against foreign political activities in Venezuela, targeting several institutions: Fascio, Dopolavoro, O.G.E., UNUCI, and the National Association of Combatants. Minister Tallarigo, who succeeded Caffarelli at the Foreign Ministry, proposed that the activities of these organizations, as well as those of schools be grouped into a body called "Casa d'Italia," whose statute did not conflict with the draft law's provisions, and that this operation was carried out before the law's approval. Tallarigo's message related to a statute – that was approved on the 8th August – sanctioned the demise of fascist organizations in Venezuela, as the new regulations appeared to be far more stringent than the old foreigner laws.


The decision mirrored the Venezuelan government's desire to erase a presence that neither the political parties nor the general population, swayed by US propaganda, appeared willing to tolerate. The text of this statute was laid forth in the materials devoted to the political situation in Venezuela between 1938 and 1939, with severe considerations. The paper stated unequivocally that the broad and detailed law was going to enter into effect on the 8th August, barring foreigners from engaging in any political activity, particularly with regard to totalitarian ideas.


Telegram by President Lopez Contreras against foreign political activities in Venezuela [Photo] - •	G. Di Giura. (1984). Venezuela diplomatic news 1939 - 1946 (Italian version). Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Telegram by President Lopez Contreras against foreign political activities in Venezuela [Photo] - G. Di Giura. (1984). Venezuela diplomatic news 1939 - 1946 (Italian version). Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This law was, on the one hand, a concession to the Lima principles and, in general, to the democratic ideals that this public opinion was nourished on a daily basis. On the other hand, it was the result of pressures , exerted by all those individuals who, for personal grudges, or for political or economic interests, did not miss any opportunity to attack totalitarian nations. The law, from the point of view of the community, resulted in the disintegration of fascist groups, and the compatriots reorganized into a single organization known as the “Casa d'Italia”. The new legislation forbid the use of foreign political party emblems, uniforms, insignia, and symbols, and it also made it illegal to host political and propaganda meetings. This provision was included in the Foreigners Law of 1936, but it was only used in 1938, during the laying of the first stone of the building "Casa degli Italiani," which ceremony had been abruptly halted by the prefect Bacalao Silva.


Since this law prohibited foreigners belonging to any businesses or associations, regardless of the fact they had legal authority, it likely signalled the collapse of the most publicly visible fascist organizations. At the same time, associations, groups, clubs, and other centres of cultural activity –– and from which any political purpose was excluded –– were likely to flourish. However, under the law in question, the aforementioned cultural organizations were still required to retain a book of acts and resolutions available to Venezuelan authorities in order for their operations to be monitored.


However, Italian organizations such as the schools and the Dopolavoro were allowed to continue their work, and the construction of the “Casa degli Italiani” was completed in 1940. The Fascio's press, on the other hand, immediately ceased publication, as well as all membership and propaganda activity; including the projection of films that had been one of the most valuable tools at the Caracas Beam's disposal for the dissemination of fascist ideas and propaganda.


After secret consultations between the Italian Legation and the Chargés d'Affaires of Germany and Spain, as well as the Director of the Spanish Phalanx, and after similar measures taken by the Bolivian and Argentine governments, the solution found was to group fascist associations under the single denomination “Ente Casa d'Italia”. The associations were all housed in the headquarters of the Consulate while waiting for the construction of the building. With the sole exception of the Consulate ––which had to be identifiable –– no other buildings was to have distinguishing signs on the outside; the archives of the Fascio and the Dopolavoro would appear as a dependency in the Consulate's Archive.


The seat of the “Casa d'Italia” in Caracas, which had begun construction three years earlier, was inaugurated on 21st July 1941, resulting in the first instance of open disagreement between the local administration and the diplomatic delegation, as well as the Fascio. The “Casa d'Italia” served as the home of Italian schools and institutions until the day, when they were housed anonymously in the Consulate's building.


The building of Casa d'Italia in Caracas [Photo] - Construido en Caracas
The building of Casa d'Italia in Caracas [Photo] - Construido en Caracas

Meanwhile, the aggressive battle against the fascist organizations operating on Venezuelan soil was spreading, infiltrating ever higher social strata and putting Italian citizens, as well as the institutions, in great danger. The working and psychological conditions for Italian businessmen and regular workers were documented in a 1941 report by Minister Plenipotentiary Di Giura, who stressed that the Italians' efforts were shrouded in mistrust and hostility.


Fascist Italy had established itself as an enemy of the entire American continent; Italy was associated with fascism as a result of the regime's activities, scrutinized with a loathing fostered by the local press. All of those themes were influenced by the Anglo-Saxon countries' propaganda and economic pressures. The Minister’s telegram revealed the existence of blacklists compiled by Anglo-Americans in order to boycott the firms of enemy nations; these lists included five Italian firms, which at that point firms had not suffered significant losses as a result of credit closures and the climate of suspicion, due to the intelligent activity of fellow countrymen who had so far been able to overcome various obstacles. In such a suspicious atmosphere, which became more palpable with the implementation of the law on foreigners of 1939, fascist organizations continued to operate in secret, posing as the “Ente Casa d'Italia”. It was this institute that continued the membership: it was carried out with the utmost caution in order to avoid injury to fellow countrymen and the Legation.


As the local circumstances became more hostile to the fascist presence and its rallies, there was a growing alienation of colony members from party organizations. Many leaders of the Fasci sections had already declared themselves unable to intervene by sending telegrams of apologies to the Secretary of the Beam of Caracas. It appears that many fascists had long realized that participating in public demonstrations was no longer permissible. As previously stated, the Fascio was forced to curtail its activities and operate in secret beginning in 1939, makingoperations more difficult and dangerous. When all of the institutions moved into the building “Casa d'Italia” later, the Ente Casa d'Italia hosted cultural, recreational, and patriotic activities, including screening a Luce documentary, and listening to Italian radio transmissions.



 


References

  • Cunill Grau, P. (2000). Italian Presence in Modern Venezuela: Socioeconomic Dimension and Geo-cultural Changes. Universidad Central de Venezuela.

  • Berglund, S. (2020). Italian Immigration in Venezuela: A Story Still Untold vol.8 (Vol. 8). University Central de Venezuela.

  • Ellner, S. (1981). Factionalism in the Venezuelan Communist Movement, 1937-1948. Science & Society, 45(1), 52–70.

  • Laqueur, W. (1977). Fascism: A Reader’s Guide - Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography (1st ed.). Univ of California Pr.

  • G. Di Giura. (1984). Venezuela diplomatic news 1939 - 1946 (only Italian version). Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Image references

  • Venezuela on a globe [Photo] - Kevin Keith

  • Telegram by President Lopez Contreras against foreign political activities in Venezuela [Photo]

  • G. Di Giura. (1984). Venezuela diplomatic news 1939 - 1946 (Italian version). Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  • The building of Casa d'Italia in Caracas [Photo] - Construido en Caracas. https://construidoencaracas.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/edif-casa-de-italia/



Author Photo

Federica Panico

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