Arrest of the mayor of Venezuela’s largest city on charges of treason should, but probably will not, end the dictatorial reign of Chavista el Presidente Maduro.
My wife, Jeanie, and I spent periods totaling more than two years, and ranging in length from six months to a few days, in Venezuela between 1997 and 2002. During those periods, we saw much of Venezuela, from the cities to the rural mountain areas. It was a beautiful and comparatively prosperous country then. Food, most of it locally grown or raised, was plentiful, good and inexpensive. We both received excellent but inexpensive medical care. I felt safer in downtown Caracas than in most cities of comparable size elsewhere.
Now, even the murder rate is horrendous. According to a report issued in early 2014,
Last year Venezuela was branded the most dangerous country in Latin America. A 2010 UN report places it among the top four most murderous countries in the world. While the government has refused to release its own statistics for years, a recent report by an NGO, the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence, estimates that 24,000 people were murdered in 2013 alone, a 14% rise on 2012, with nine out of 10 homicides going unsolved.
In recent years Venezuela, a de facto colony of Cuba, has also become a social and economic disaster.
Annual inflation was at 69 percent in 2014, and the country’s currency has fallen more than 50 percent in value against the dollar on the black market in the last year. Shortages leave supermarket shelves across the country nearly empty and lines stretching sometimes into the thousands.
And that brings us to the February 19th arrest of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas. On February 19th Daniel Duquenal, one of the very few English language bloggers left in Venezuela, posted an article titled Worriedly nonplussed in Caracas.
I can only but be oxymoronic tonight. One one hand I am not surprised at all by the violent arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. On the other hand I cannot fail to be worried at how fast the regime has started crossing lines, maybe a line of no return tonight.
The regime tonight has crossed one of those big, sloppy, obvious, dangerous red lines tonight. The kind of crossing from where there might not be a return point. Not that I am picky on that, as far as I am concerned that red line was crossed when RCTV was closed. But I digress.
Yet, arresting the mayor of Caracas, the highest recipient of votes in the country after the presidential vote, a reelected mayor, and well reelected at that in spite of all the bias in favor of the regime’s candidate who was then named as a sabotaging shadow mayor anyway, breaking into his office with dozens of goons, some masked, breaking the window pane to enter the office, arresting, or rather, kidnapping him since there was no arrest warrant or judicial order shown, shooting live bullets in the air to disperse curious and protesters, and probably more that I am not aware of, is truly a Rubicon. [Emphasis added.]
Following the arrest of Mayor Ledezma, Maduro delivered a three hour long speech in which he claimed that Ledezma had been implicated in a plot by the United State to overthrow the government. According to the U.S. Department of State, “These latest accusations, like all the previous such accusations, are baseless.” While I generally distrust State Department statements, it seems quite unlikely that the U.S. was involved.
According to Press TV (Iranian),
The United States is targeting Venezuela because of its revolutionary democracy, economic independence as well as its vast oil reserves, an American novelist and political activist says.
According to an “analysis” at Venezuelanalyisis dot com,
Caracas, February 19th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) Venezuelan opposition Mayor and longtime rightwing politician, Antonio Ledezma, has been arrested by the country’s intelligence services, SEBIN, for his alleged role in plotting to stage a coup against the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro.
The planned coup was uncovered last week by security forces, just hours before several US backed Air Force officials had planned to partake in a bombing spree of strategic targets in the capital. They had hoped this would lead to the assassination of the country’s president and bring about regime change in the South American country.
“Antonio Ledezma who, today, by order of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, was captured and is going to be prosecuted by the Venezuelan justice system, to make him answer to all of the crimes committed against the peace and security of the country and the Constitution… We’ve had enough of conspiracies, we want to work in peace!” announced Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, amidst a chorus of cheers from onlookers.
The phrase “Venezuelan justice system” is an oxymoron.
Now, back to Daniel’s blog:
Ledezma is only one link in the chain pulled. A few students and Leopoldo Lopez have been languishing in jail or courts for the past years (not forgetting all of the political exiles and other jailed folks from years ago). The arrests of Julio Borges and Maria Corina Machado are a mere matter of days apparently. The night is rife with rumors for the oncoming arrests of the remains of the leadership of Voluntad Popular. It is unavoidable that Capriles’ own arrest nears, barely slowed down because his quality of former presidential adversary is judged too hot by the regime as long as the rest has not been arrested first. Soon in the opposition alliance MUD there will be left only the compromised, those like Ramos Allup who are thought to play double agents as evidence is piling up. But even having contacts inside chavismo will not save them in the end. [Emphasis added.]
. . . .
Thus we must understand the triggers. A normal regime would have been heartened by the modest public show of support for Lopez yesterday morning (even considering that the country is coming from the major Carnival holidays and that people prefer to stand in line for food rather than attending political activities). And yet what matters to them is the stern rebuttal of the foreign Spanish minister to the idea of blackmailing Spanish companies in Venezuela into browbeating Rajoy’s government to muzzle his press. What matters to them is that CNN was able to interview by phone Lopez without them preventing it, and that interview revealed the brutality in which Lopez is held even though he is not declared guilty yet, even through a kangaroo court. What matters to them is that in spite of all its efforts the regime cannot control information. That is just too much for them and I posit that it is what is sending them in overdrive before the real bad news on hunger riots, and narco generals indicted in real courts of justice, start crowding the screens in the whole world. [Emphasis added.]
Here is a video of a March, 2014 English language interview with Maria Corina Machado, likely soon to be arrested. When last I checked, the video was not available in the United States. It should be.
Here is the CNN en Español video including the telephonic interview of Sr. Lopez to which Daniel apparently refers. My Spanish comprehension is not adequate to permit me to understand much of what he says.
What will happen next? I don’t know, but Daniel is not optimistic.
What next? I do not know. The time of definitions have come for the opposition. Protesting in the streets is useless at this point as the regime is clearly ready to kill. Nor it is needed as 2014 enlightened enough the world on the nature of Maduro’s regime.
My modest suggestions is that the opposition becomes more vocal and direct than it is. The truth of the disaster must be spoken and the people must be told. Who cares about “not scaring Peoria” when it is clear that even a putative electoral victory will not be recognized by the regime? It is a little bit like the South African situation, demanding that countries put sanctions upon our country. If we want to be taken seriously, we must start acting seriously. The world is listening now, even Clinton tweets on us.
Unfortunately for us, in a country where people tweet in anguish more about how many dollars will be available to travel than the lack of medicine we cannot hope that ambiguous politicians like Ramos Allup or Henry Falcon will have the will to stand up when the upright ones are in jail. [Emphasis added.]
If and as the recent drop in international oil prices reverses, some in Venezuela will benefit financially despite the badly deteriorated nature of her oil infrastructure. However, recent oil price declines have little to do with the overall state of the Venezuelan economy, beyond diminishing the government’s ability to bribe its supporters. For the most part, Venezuela’s social as well as economic problems are long standing and have been created by implementation of communist economic and social principles imported from Cuba — itself a social and economic disaster. Substantial amelioration would likely require years.
Promising people that reform will come eventually, but that the process will be slow and that they will have to suffer through it, does not seem likely to be a winning political slogan. Even were it to result in an opposition electoral triumph, overly optimistic popular expectations would nevertheless appear likely to result in disappointment followed soon by demands to “throw the bastards out.”
What can be done if, as appears to be the case, none of the few (if any) reasonably honest and competent Venezuelan “opposition leaders” not now or soon to be languishing in jail refuse or are unable to lead? Venezuelans who are able to leave the country will probably continue to do so, leaving behind the nation’s poorest and least skilled — making an otherwise difficult economic recovery even more difficult if not impossible. I can’t think of any solution, and that’s why I titled this article “Venezuela’s final death throes.”
The impending death of Venezuela should serve as a frightening example of what could happen elsewhere. Few if any nations have yet deteriorated to the point that their economic and social conditions are comparable to those of Venezuela. However, if and when the citizens of a once proud and prosperous nation discover, to their dismay but too late, that they have slowly become impoverished, that the leader they once revered has usurped powers not rightfully his to accomplish it, and in the process has turned their nation into an international laughingstock or worse, there will be little if anything they can do to reverse the process. If Venezuela can teach us at least that much she will have sacrificed herself, albeit unknowingly and unintentionally, for a good purpose. Venezuela’s citizens had no comparable warnings of which I am aware. If we ignore her warning, we will have only ourselves to blame for the consequences.
I feel very sorry for the average people of Venezuela, just trying to get along in life, like everyone else.