by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz
“He who tires, loses.”
Venezuela is at a crossroads.
The protests accompany inflation officially at 56% (but likely much, much higher); the third-highest murder rate of any country in the world; and, according to an official index, scarce supplies of one out of four staple items needed in every home, such as cooking oil, corn flour, and toilet paper.
Nationalization and expropriation of private businesses, price controls, huge corruption, government printing money to finance itself (including having to pay bond yields higher than all 55 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg) are all part and parcel of a ruined economy. The scarce benefits that may have accrued under Chavez are being eaten away fast by the crisis.
One of the causes for the rampant criminality is due to the multiple times when, urging his “Bolivarian Revolution,” Hugo Chavez encouraged the poor to steal while he created a favored class, instead of directing his regime towards the rule of law. Chavez armed gangs that repressed opposition demonstrations (and, make no mistake, they’re on the attack now). He named to his cabinet men who were designated as “Tier II Kingpins” by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. To worsen things, as part of his “war of all the peoples”, Chavez forged close ties with Iran and Hezbollah.
Add to how socialism has destroyed Venezuela, the regime’s suppression of the media:
- international networks have been blocked from cable and satellite TV,
- TV and radio stations had their licenses revoked,
- newspapers are denied the hard currency they need to buy paper,
- news websites are taken down,
- the government blocked Twitter images and digital walkie-talkie apps like Zello.
- president Maduro calls CNN “fascists”, throws them out of the country, and them changes his mind, allowing them to stay if they toe the line,
- all while the government continues to assert that Venezuela is a free democracy.
YouTube, Twitter and other social media carry the opposition’s message as the international media has ignored until this week the Venezuela story. Worryingly,
influential news outlets have started describing students protests in the country as the domain of “conservative” kids (here’s looking at you BBC). To those who discovered Venezuela only a couple of weeks ago, and are bent on projecting racial and cultural prejudices on the situation, let me just leave with this little factoid to ponder on: chavismo has never won a general election in Venezuelan universities. Ever. Since 1998. In other words, where the voting is manual (rather than with Smartmatic / official electoral body), chavismo is yet to win one election, of either authorities or students bodies in universities across Venezuela.
Much to their credit, CNN en Español sent correspondent Fernando del Rincón to interview retired Brigadier General Ángel Vivas, who had armed and barricaded himself in his home when the National Guard came to seize him for denouncing that Cuba’s giving the orders to the military.
There’s even a photo claiming to show Cuban General Leopoldo Cinta dictating his orders to the Venezuelan army.
Senator Marco Rubio explained Cuba’s influence on Venezuelan affairs:
Like its Cuban overlords, the Venezuelan regime’s human rights violations are egregious:
the human rights abuses taking place every day with government oversight. In the past 14 days, Venezuelan protesters, comprised mostly of students and the middle class, have been shot; tear-gassed, beaten and arrested by National Police. Fifteen people have died as a result of the protests, seven of them were shot in the head. In addition, two local human rights organizations, Provea and the Venezuelan Penal Forum, have also called for investigations on the ongoing torture of detainees.
Here are two tragic (and very graphic) stories that haven’t made their way into American headlines: Geraldine Moreno, a student, died this past Saturday after troops shot numerous plastic bullets at her eyes. Juan Manuel Carrasco, 21, y Jorge Luis León, 25 – two male students detained in the city of Valencia – were allegedly raped with long guns by military troops and handcuffed for 48 hours. There is has been no word of an official investigation, and the two are only being helped by an NGO, Venezuelan Penal Forum.
Today there’s a women’s demonstration taking place. Tomorrow the Organization of American States will be meeting on Venezuela – I doubt they will denounce the regime’s abuses. Jimmy Carter wants to go to Venezuela, Next week Carnival celebrations are scheduled but the opposition has already said no to the Carnival.
Venezuela’s opposition, in order to be effective, must continue its struggle. Their motto, so far, is “He who tires, loses.” As Jay Nordlinger said,
The Castros and the Chávezes and the Maduros and their apologists never tire — ever. Their opponents must not either, if they can possibly help it.
Let this be their anthem, then:
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes at Fausta’s blog on Latin American and US politics and culture.