Turmoil and repression increase in Venezuela

The ill-fated talks between befuddled opposition leaders and the Chavista regime have collapsed and the repression of protesters has increased.

“Dialogue” with Chavistas

The Chavista regime has not engaged in meaningful dialogue with the opposition and will continue to evade it. The regime has also increased its attacks on those who demonstrate against its repression. According to The Devil’s Excrement, Venezuela’s Dictatorship No Longer Cares About Appearances.


For two and a half months, the Venezuelan Government had been extremely careful with the students and their protests. While it was aggressive and repressive at attacking those protesting in the streets, it had been respectful of the student camps set up in various parts of Caracas and other cities. The strategy by the students had been clever, they could not be accused of being violent, while camping near where many of the protests were taking place, allowing them to “feed” into the protests and retreat back to the camps when required. Moreover, the camps were in front of the United Nations in one case and near the OAS in the other. It seemed improbable that a Government involved in an internationally mediated dialogue would attack the camps. It would simply damage the image of the Government and tell the world what an outlaw Government Maduro’s has become.

Except it did not work out that way. Instead, the Government or someone decided to attack and raid the student’s camps. And the raids had many surprises:

-It was a military operation led by the Minister of the Interior Rodriguez Torres.

-It was an illegal raid, as the Prosecutors office was not only not informed, but had no representatives present at the raid, as required by law.

-The military raid arrested everyone in the camps, those sleeping on the streets and/or the sidewalks, with no legal justification for those that were simply protesting, without blocking the way, as guaranteed by the Constitution.

-Students were held incommunicado for longer than twenty four hours, without the Government releasing their names, allowing them calls or legal representation while they were mostly accused as a group, without being individually charged.

-The students were all subjected to drug tests, without any legal reason for it. In fact, only a small number were found to have traces of drugs.

-Minister Rodriguez Torres, who acted as prosecutor, policeman, investigator and judge in the operation, accused the students of being armed, despite them not using weapons once, including the night of the raid. Contrast this with the paramilitary groups who support the Government are usually seen publicly with their weapons.

-Most students were eventually released, those that were kept in prison were simply accused of “leading” the protests via intelligence evidence gathered prior to the raid. There is nothing illegal about being a leader of a protest.

While all of this is going on, Maduro keeps trying to talk dialogue, while Diosdado Cabello makes wild accusations against opposition figures, many of which are members of human rights ONG’s or are involved in the dialogue process.

On May 15th Daniel Duquenal, one of the few remaining English language bloggers in Venezuela, posted an article titled I am afraid there is no peaceful outcome for Venezuela anymore. It begins,

The opposition political umbrella, MUD, decided to walk out of the dialogue table, a decision based on the regime intensifying repression, a decision based on the clear plain fact that the regime is not interested in any compromise, in any dialogue, in any power sharing, ANY. Actually, with the abusive repression of yesterday where even kids distributing flyers were arrested we can safely assume that at no point the regime saw the dialogue meetings as anything but a device to gain some time. That the first public hearing was a first time eye opener for many chavistas about the rottenness of the regime was enough to sink the dialogue if there was anyone in the regime serious about it.

We are thus entering the heart of the crisis.

The article then focuses on Venezuela’s miserable regime-imposed economic condition, Chavista political fraud, Venezuela’s status as a Cuban colony and the refusal of the international community to help end the repression. It concludes,

It is too late for the regime, it is in automatic beast mode which will devour itself.  The opposition has still a slight chance to make a difference if it can unify for one last willful democratic challenge. If they don’t, both sides will irremediably sink as only the violent fringes will have what it takes for the long years of trouble ahead.

Caracas Gringo, another of the few remaining English language bloggers in Venezuela, said of the “dialogue,”

The reduced handful of traditional parties clustered around the MUD finally did something sensible. They walked out of the Maduro regime’s dog-and-pony show.

The MUD has suspended its month-old “dialogue” with the Maduro regime because the regime is acting in bad faith, MUD’s executive secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo announced.

Aveledo listed all the regime’s acts of bad faith and ill will during the month-long circus. But in fact, the “dialogue” was a farce before it started.

Students and organized labor were excluded, and the MUD figures at the dialogue really only represented the shrunken world of the auld AD/Copei combines and their respective spinoffs. No new blood there.

The international brokers of the dead “dialogue” – Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil – were never impartial. Colombia’s Santos, Ecuador’s Correa and Brazil’s Rousseff all carry water for Havana, and always are biased in favor of the Maduro regime.

The MUD never should have accepted the choice of arbitrators to begin with. If there weren’t other options because the Maduro regime forbade it, then the MUD should have embraced the student-led movement in Venezuela’s streets instead of engaging in irrelevant Bolivarian Kabuki.

Screw dialogue. It’s never been an option, but it certainly has been a useful month-long stage prop for a dictatorial criminal regime to pretend it only wants peace.

The majority of the country opposed to the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres criminal tyranny obviously hopes for peaceful democratic change. But let’s face it: that doesn’t appear to be a viable option considering the regime’s proven determination to stay in power at any cost.

The student street protests are continuing, and the regime’s violent repression is escalating. I think the students aren’t going to stop. They’re legitimately enraged, their cause is righteous and just, and everything the regime has attempted only strengthens their determination to continue protesting.

. . . .

The majority of the country opposed to the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres criminal tyranny obviously hopes for peaceful democratic change. But let’s face it: that doesn’t appear to be a viable option considering the regime’s proven determination to stay in power at any cost.

The student street protests are continuing, and the regime’s violent repression is escalating. I think the students aren’t going to stop. They’re legitimately enraged, their cause is righteous and just, and everything the regime has attempted only strengthens their determination to continue protesting.

Real opposition leaders

Recently I posted an article at my blog about the phony RINO opposition in the U.S. and asked what and whom have they opposed. In may ways, they resemble Venezuela’s MUD. However, there are a few U.S. opposition members who oppose President Obama’s badly oriented domestic and foreign policies and do it well. There are a few Venezuelan opposition leaders who oppose the Chavista regime’s excesses and incompetence and are very good at it.

An interview with María Corina Machado, one of the few real opposition leaders not yet in jail, was posted at The Prince Arthur Herald on May 15th.

Maria corina

The article begins with this background information:

From 1999-2013, Hugo Chavez ruled Venezuela through autocratic means. Crime rates became the highest in the world, hundreds of thousands escaped into exile, and upper-mobility was virtually extinguished. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, convoked elections in which the Venezuelan opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, was defrauded. In Maduro’s first year of illegitimate rule, inflation hit 56%, 30,000 people were lost to gun violence, and state-sanctioned looting occurred in stores across the country. Student-led democracy protests erupted in January, and have been met with brutality, with over 40 students murdered, over 2000 imprisoned, and 140 tortured and raped. Due to the power that Venezuelan oil has on much of the Western Hemisphere, only about half of the region’s governments have condemned the violence. Canada, the United States, Colombia, and Panama have been the harshest critics, but talk has been matched with little action.

María Corina Machado, a persecuted congresswoman and prominent leader of the Venezuelan opposition (MUD – Mesa de la Unidad Democrática), visited Canada as a part of a series of trips to garner international support for the Venezuelan movement for democracy. I sat down with her in the Canadian Senate on May 7th, 2014, to discuss the crisis and how it can be resolved.

Al Jazeera posted a YouTube video of an interview — in nearly flawless English — with Ms. Machado in March. For reasons I do not understand, it could not then be viewed in the United States and probably still cannot be. Here it is anyway for those able to watch it. The interviewer asked excellent questions and Ms. Machado gave excellent answers.

Here are highlights of the questions asked and her answers during the more recent May 7th interview in Canada:

Q: Apart from individual sanctions, what can Canada do to damage the Chavista-Madurista regime? Bilateral trade between Canada and Venezuela surpassed 1.4 billion dollars in 2010… do you propose completely breaking diplomatic and economic links, as our government has done with Iran, for instance?

A: Firstly, we want the democratic governments of the world to support the Venezuelan people, while being coherent and firm in defense of democratic principles. It is not about being against a regime or a government. It is about being in favor of democratic values, while also respecting mutual agreements, because Canada, like Venezuela, is a signatory of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. All we ask for is coherence, for the will to speak the truth and call things as they are. We ask for solidarity with a people that are being subjected to massive and systematic aggression, proven by the recent report released by Human Rights Watch.

Q: If the Canadian government and other governments that sympathize with the movement for democracy in Venezuela impose sweeping economic sanctions, would the Venezuelan government’s rhetoric and armed thugs simply be inflamed?

A: We have never proposed sanctions against Venezuela. The Venezuelan people are living in economic chaos and social disaster. All Venezuelans are suffering, and the MUD is by no means in favour of any sanctions that will further harm our citizens. Now, there needs to be judicial action taken within and beyond Venezuela against those who have committed severe violations of human rights and acts of corruption. [Emphasis added.]

. . . .

Q: It would be easy to get the 20% support necessary for a national recall election to be called in 2015. Do you think that the government will allow one to occur? Or do you think that the Chavistas are capable of changing the constitution in the next 18 months to evade it?

A: Firstly, I insist that there needs to be caution taken when gauging public opinion in Venezuela. I have a question: If an ambassador is scared to meet with me, because I am a persecuted congressperson, what can you ask from a housewife who is totally dependent on state-allocated welfare, or a soldier’s family? Why do I ask this? Because the polls incorporate this element of fear, but even so, over 60% of Venezuelans today openly state that they are in favor of a change in government as early as possible through a constitutional route. [Emphasis added.]

Q: However, is it beneficial for the Venezuelan opposition when far-right news sources support your cause, like Fox News and Sun News, and when important representatives of the Venezuelan opposition, like yourself, meet with figures like President Bush?

A: I think what is going on in Venezuela has been distorted regarding the idea of a left and right axis. This is about democracy or dictatorship. We are speaking to all the world’s democrats, regardless of their political preference. I feel profoundly grateful when some of my parliamentary colleagues, who have leftist ideas or at one point even supported Hugo Chavez, have the courage to denounce the destruction of democracy and human rights. I speak to whoever wants to listen, to all the world’s democrats, because we need them all. [Emphasis added.]

Q: Why do you think that the violence in Iran and Ukraine has received more attention and action from the Canadian government than the atrocities in Venezuela? Why is Venezuelan blood worth less than Eastern European or Middle Eastern blood?

A: I am asked this by the mothers of assassinated students, by political prisoners, by farmers and businesspeople who have had their property expropriated. Why? What needs to happen in Venezuela for democrats to react? There are economic answers, like the powerful interests in countries that have a stake in whether Venezuela prospers or stagnates. Additionally, there are geopolitical and ideological reasons that hinder action. But this has changed. Venezuela is a different country today from the one that it was in January. The images of young people being shot, assaulted and tortured have broken the resistance that inhibits the revelation of truth. Maduro crossed a red line, and that is why I am here today because, although I have been impeded from entering the Venezuelan Parliament, the parliaments of the world have opened their doors to me. [Emphasis added.]

Another socialist dictatorship has implanted itself within our hemisphere; killing its people and depriving them of their rights. All the while, it extends its reach into countries like Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, becoming an enabler of failed economics and autocracy. If bloodstained narratives are not countered, if a hand is not extended to the champions of freedom so close to home, if we continue to look across oceans instead of down south, the potential of this hemisphere will never be fully unleashed. We can do more to ensure that every Venezuelan has the right to peace, justice and prosperity. We can do more so that their children can live with dignity and security, in a world that embraces them and does not let them down. [Emphasis added.]

In my view, sanctions of the ordinary sort as applied — for example to Iran — might well do more harm than good because they could inflame public opinion — including that of protesters — in favor of Venezuela’s Chavista government. Caracas Gringo comments on sanctions as follows:

Many Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general become furious whenever the gringos interfere in their sovereign business. Yeah, I know, gringos do have a long history of interventionism regionally with horrific results for democracy and human rights.

The US definitely should avoid blanket sanctions in Venezuela, but not because they don’t work. Instead, the US should avoid tangling with the Bolivarian regime because the history of Washington-Caracas relations is an endless succession of wrong calls and bad moves since John Maisto’s “Watch what Chavez does and not what he says” policy (aka Move the Goal Posts Continually) back in the late ‘90s.

. . . .

But sanctions against individual Venezuelans aren’t necessarily counterproductive. The problem with these sanctions is they’re being applied against individuals who mostly won’t come to the US anyway. Lots of better places to hide stolen wealth than the US, and even if they’re banned from entering the US the mere threat of impending sanctions against specific individuals likely already has spurred them to withdraw their assets from the US or take other steps to insulate those assets against seizure.

There is at least one other highly competent opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez.

Lopez telling wife goodbye

Today [April 29, 2014], after soon three month in jail and no trial in sight, Leopoldo Lopez, political prisoner of the regime has his birthday. With the added bonus that his wife has been banned for visit for a while because the regime did not like an interview she gave to ABC in Spain.

. . . .

What Leopoldo unleashed February 12 and etched a few days later when he surrendered to the regime was a double whammy: an international acknowledgment that the Maduro regime is a crass dictatorship and that the Venezuelan opposition was duplicitous. That is why, that is the real reason why Leopoldo Lopez is in jail awaiting a trial that is not coming: too many people from both sides want him in. I do not mean to make some in the opposition sound that cynical, none really want Lopez to rot in jail there forever, but some are not adverse at him remaining in jail for a few months while they secure some form of deal with the regime, a deal where if possible they would figure as the benefactors that managed the release of Lopez. [Emphasis added.]

Of course the regime want Lopez, and many other, to rot forever in jail, or dead if they could get away with it. The main reason for that hatred with Lopez is that represents all that they are not, educated individuals, rational, sensible, not seeking revenge for real or imaginary hurts, even good looking. That in addition he made it clear to the world that the regime is a dictatorship managed by thugs is, of course, unforgivable. [Emphasis added.]

What can the United States and other nations that profess to adore democracy coupled with freedom do? To the extent that U.S. relations with Islamic nations in the Middle East are suggestive, the United States of Obama won’t do much. Were it possible to make Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu shut up, that might well happen. It hasn’t, and he is given frequent U.S. press coverage; although the left-wing press does not share his views it nevertheless airs and tries to counter them, albeit with little success beyond its left leaning audiences.

U.S. media — left, right and middle — should interview Ms. Machado and Mr. Lopez (if he is ever released from jail or, he is not, perhaps his wife) and other level-headed, articulate (in English, as Ms. Machado and Mr. Lopez are) and highly competent opposition leaders. That would be a move in the right direction.

UPDATE, May 17th:

A left-oriented article at Yahoo News urges the Venezuelan opposition to resume talks with the Chavista regime.

“We don’t accept blackmail from anyone,” Maduro said during a ceremony with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Caracas.

“They (the MUD) say they want immediate results. The dialogue itself is a positive result. What are they looking for? In private, they’ve said things that are impossible.”

The opposition is particularly pressing for the release of former Caracas police commissioner Ivan Simonovis, who is serving a 30-year prison term for his involvement in a 2002 coup that briefly ousted Hugo Chavez.

Foreign ministers from Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia, who have been mediating the talks, were due to return on Sunday, but may now find themselves shuttling between the two sides.

“It would be very sad if they abandon the table, but the country would carry on, no one’s going to stop working,” Maduro said. “There would, though, be national repudiation of their anti-democratic attitude … I urge sense and reflection.”

Maduro, a socialist like the late Chavez, has cast the protest movement as a U.S.-supported coup plan, while foes say months of rallies are the product of economic hardship and repression.

It has been, and if resumed will be, a series of harangues by Chavistas rather than a “dialogue.”

About danmillerinpanama

I was graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia School of law, where I was the notes editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1966. Following four years of active duty with the Army JAG Corps, with two tours in Korea, I entered private practice in Washington, D.C. specializing in communications law. I retired in 1996 to sail with my wife, Jeanie, on our sailboat Namaste to and in the Caribbean. In 2002, we settled in the Republic of Panama and live in a very rural area up in the mountains. I have contributed to Pajamas Media and Pajamas Tatler. In addition to my own blog, Dan Miller in Panama, I an an editor of Warsclerotic and contribute to China Daily Mail when I have something to write about North Korea.
This entry was posted in Abuse of Power, Caracas, Chavez, Conservatives, Cuba, Cuban, Democracy, Foreign policy, Free Press, Freedom, Government reliance, Inflation, Israel, Law and Order, Leopoldo Lopez, Libruls, Maduro, Media, Nanny state, Netanyahu, Obama, Obama's America, Power, RINOs, Sanctions, United States of Obama, Venezuela and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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