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Highlighting Citizen Disarmament – The ‘Venezuelan Way’ and problems that require an armed society..

2016/10/30

How Much Longer Can Venezuela Go on Like This?

Large numbers of citizens want to oust President Nicolas Maduro. But he commands the loyalty of many men with guns.

When Nicolas Maduro won a much-contested election to become president of Venezuela in 2013, he sought to ape his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. Perhaps by channeling Chavez’s pugnacious, anti-American spirit, and his vision of so-called Bolivarian socialism, Maduro could reassert the former president’s vision of an oil-rich Venezuela poised to lead a resurgent Latin America. “This is Chavez’s place. Chavez continues as an example for us!” Maduro bellowed in a speech in 2013. “I am ensuring the legacy of my commander, Chavez, the eternal father.”

But Maduro’s version of chavismo has brought chaos to the country and turned voters against him. In last December’s National Assembly elections, Venezuelans issued a clear rebuke to the president, handing the opposition a supermajority. The opposition bloc, led by Henry Ramos, led an attempt to organize a recall referendum—a process enshrined in the constitution—to remove Maduro. That effort suffered repeated delays courtesy of the government, but was moving forward slowly until a court abruptly suspended it altogether last week, defying the wishes of the roughly 80 percent of Venezuelans that want to see Maduro removed from power.

In response, Venezuelans in places like Merida and Maracaibo took the streets, much as they’ve done in the past to protest both the Maduro and Chavez governments. But security forces and people sympathetic to the government have pushed back violently. So far, a police officer has been killed, with at least 120 people reportedly injured and 147 arrested. The Vatican has gotten involved to try to mediate the dispute. Opposition leaders have pledged to march on the presidential palace next week if referendum negotiations don’t resume. A 12-hour opposition-led strike in Caracas and several other cities managed to close down some stores and discouraged students from attending classes on Friday, but it fizzled out with little other effect.

Still, the people who have had it with Maduro are willing to take great risks to resume the recall referendum. Since Chavez’s death, global oil prices have collapsed, decimating Venezuela’s export earnings—95 percent of which came from oil in December 2014. The country’s long-time comrade in the global Communist struggle, Cuba, is now in a period of full-on détente with capitalist Washington, while the leftist Worker’s Party in Brazil is in tatters. Party officials have been implicated in corruption and narcotics trafficking. The once-fractured political opposition, meanwhile, has begun to coalesce, as extreme shortages of basic foodstuffs and medicines have metastasized desperation into rage.

This week, I spoke with as Francisco Toro, a columnist for The Washington Post and executive editor of Caracas Chronicles, a Venezuela-focused news and analysis site. Toro has long predicted that, if the government failed to handle the referendum process shrewdly, the people would respond. And they have. So is the end nearing for Maduro? A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation follows.

[Excerpt (edited)]

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[Byline Siddhartha Mahanta]

29 October 2016
The Atlantic

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