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By Dan Beeton
Source: Center for Economic & Policy Research
February 20, 2014
Venezuela’s latest round of violent protests appears to fit a pattern, and represents the tug-and-pull nature of the country’s divided opposition. Several times over the past 15 years since the late, former president Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, the political opposition has launched violent protests aimed at forcing the current president out of office. Most notably, such protests were a part of the April 2002 coup that temporarily deposed Chávez, and then accompanied the 2002/2003 oil strike. In February of 2004, a particularly radical sector of the opposition unleashed the “Guarimba”: violent riots by small groups who paralyzed much of the east of Caracas for several days with the declared goal of creating a state of chaos. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has explained, then – as now – the strategy is clear: a sector of the opposition seeks to overturn the results of democratic elections. An important difference this time of course is that Venezuela has its first post-Chávez president, and a key part of the opposition’s strategy overall has been to depict Nicolás Maduro as a pale imitation of his predecessor and a president ill-equipped to deal with the country’s problems (many of which are exaggerated in the Venezuelan private media, which is still largely opposition-owned, as well as the international media).
Following Maduro’s electoral victory in April last year (with much of the opposition crying “fraud” despite there being no reasonable doubts about the validity of the results), the opposition looked to the December municipal elections as a referendum on Maduro’s government, vowing to defeat governing party PSUV and allied candidates. The outcome, which left the pro-Maduro parties with a 10 point margin of victory, was a stunning defeat for the opposition, and this time they did not even bother claiming the elections were rigged. According to the opposition’s own pre-election analysis, support for Maduro had apparently grown over the months preceding the election. As we have pointed out, this may be due in part to the large reduction in poverty in 2012 and other economic and social gains that preceded the more recent economic problems.
Defeated at the polls, the anti-democratic faction of the opposition prepared for a new attempt at destabilizing the elected government, and promoted relatively small, but often violent student protests in early February. They then called for a massive protest on February 12, Venezuela’s Youth Day in the center of Caracas. The demonstrations have been accompanied by a social media campaign that has spread misinformation in an attempt to depict the Maduro administration as a violent dictatorship instead of a popular elected government. Images of police violence from other countries and past protests – some several years old – have been presented on social media as having occurred in recent days in Venezuela. A YouTube video that has been watched by almost 2 million viewers presents a one-sided portrayal of the situation and falsely states that the Venezuelan government controls all radio and television in the country, among other distortions. Similar disinformation occurred in April 2002 and in other past incidents in Venezuela, most notably when manipulated video footage was used to provide political justification for the coup d’etat.
While some in Washington foreign policy circles may attempt to portray the leaders of this new wave of protests as persecuted pro-democracy heroes, they in fact have histories of supporting anti-democratic and unconstitutional efforts to oust the government. Both Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado supported the 2002 coup; in López’s case he participated in it by supervising the arrest of then-Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, when López was mayor of Chacao. Police dragged Rodríguez Chacín out of the building where he had sought refuge into an angry mob, who physically attacked him. Corina Machado notably was present when the coup government of Pedro Carmona was sworn in, and signed the infamous “Carmona decree” dissolving the congress, the constitution and the Supreme Court. The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday:
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/violent-protests-in-venezuela-fit-a-pattern/
Posted by polly7 | Fri Feb 21, 2014, 09:11 AM (9 replies)
By Eva Golinger
Source: Postcards From the Revolution
February 21, 2014
For those of you unfamiliar with Venezuelan issues, don’t let the title of this article fool you. The revolution referred to is not what most media outlets are showing taking place today in Caracas, with protestors calling for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The revolution that is here to stay is the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was first elected president and has subsequently transformed the mega oil producing nation into a socially-focused, progressive country with a grassroots government. Demonstrations taking place over the past few days in Venezuela are attempts to undermine and destroy that transformation in order to return power to the hands of the elite who ruled the nation previously for over 40 years.
Those protesting do not represent Venezuela’s vast working class majority that struggled to overcome the oppressive exclusion they were subjected to during administrations before Chavez. The youth taking to the streets today in Caracas and other cities throughout the country, hiding their faces behind masks and balaclavas, destroying public buildings, vehicles, burning garbage, violently blocking transit and throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at security forces are being driven by extremist right-wing interests from Venezuela’s wealthiest sector. Led by hardline neoconservatives, Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles and Maria Corina Machado – who come from three of the wealthiest families in Venezuela, the 1% of the 1% – the protesters seek not to revindicate their basic fundamental rights, or gain access to free healthcare or education, all of which are guaranteed by the state, thanks to Chavez, but rather are attempting to spiral the country into a state of ungovernability that would justify an international intervention leading to regime change.
Before Chavez was elected in 1998, Venezuela was in a very dark, difficult period with a dangerously eroded democracy. During the early 1990s, poverty swelled at around 80%, the economy was in a sinkhole, the nation’s vast middle class was disappearing with millions falling into economic dispair, constitutional rights were suspended, a national curfew was imposed and corruption was rampant. Those who protested the actions of the government were brutally repressed and often killed. In fact, during the period of so-called “representative democracy” in Venezuela from 1958-1998, before the nation’s transformation into a participatory democracy under Chavez, thousands of Venezuelans were disappeared, tortured, persecuted and assassinated by state security forces. None of their rights were guaranteed and no one, except the majority excluded poor, seemed to care. International Human Rights organizations showed little interest in Venezuela during that time, despite clear and systematic violations taking place against the people.
Those in power during that period, also referred to in Venezuela as the “Fourth Republic”, represented an elite minority – families that held the nation’s wealth and profited heavily from the lucrative oil reserves. Millions of dollars from oil profits belonging to the state (oil was nationalized in Venezuela in 1976) were embezzled out of the country into the bloated bank accounts of wealthy Venezuelans and corrupt public officials who had homes in Miami, New York and the Dominican Republic and lived the high life off the backs of an impoverished majority.
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-revolution-is-here-to-stay/
Posted by polly7 | Fri Feb 21, 2014, 09:02 AM (24 replies)
Posted by polly7 | Thu Feb 20, 2014, 11:59 PM (4 replies)
Very happy for our women's hockey and curling teams today!
Posted by polly7 | Thu Feb 20, 2014, 11:28 PM (2 replies)
By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
February 20, 2014
Venezuelan automotive workers have slammed multinational car manufacturers for cutting back production in the country, while the country’s largest trade union federation has called for the nationalisation of the industry.
Accusing multinational auto companies of being “imperialist”, this week the National Workers’ Union (UNT) called on the government to place car factories under worker control.
“It’s clear and evident…that building socialism relies on the working class, indeed the workers’ control of the factories,” the UNT stated in a press release.
“Our factories are closing, ignoring benefits, forcing economic packages, disguised lay-offs,” Pereira stated, arguing the foreign companies are “part of the economic war”.
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuelan-workers-demand-nationalisation-of-auto-industry/
Posted by polly7 | Thu Feb 20, 2014, 10:12 AM (12 replies)
By Tamara Pearson
February 15, 2014
Over the past six weeks, since the opposition lost the municipal elections, and then after the Christmas and New Year period that followed, things have gotten worse here. Prices have skyrocketed, with shops charging the black market exchange rate rather than the official one, despite most of them buying products at the official rate. The usual products are scarce (hard to find, if not impossible: milk, oil, sugar, margarine, cornmeal) and a few more have been added to the list: mayonnaise, and most soaps. Metronidazol, for common gastric infections has also become scarce. There are alternatives to Metronidozal, and the reality is you can wash most things with cheap shampoo; you don’t need all the different dish and clothes soaps and so on. Most people also have most of the scarce products like sugar and margarine stocked up at home. In some barrios gas, for cooking, has been harder to get. The economic reality is a little bit tough, but what is tougher is the psychological effect all of this has on people. That feeling of insecurity, of not being sure you will be able to get the product you need, or be able to afford it. This causes people to form huge queues when a product does arrive, which in turn deepens the psychological impact. At the same time, the black market rate – not at all based on the real value of the bolivar – continues to climb, and there’s a ‘what if’ if one’s head… what if they manage hyperinflation?
On top of this, we have the media constantly lying about what is going on here and about what the government does, as well as the verbal abuse towards Chavistas on social networks. Then, over the last few weeks, in some parts of Venezuela, the most violent sectors of the opposition have been active. Here in Merida it started off with a few “students” blocking the main road; burning tires and garbage on it, and throwing rocks at anyone who tried to get close. They had no placards. From last Friday those protests escalated, both in terms of violence, people involved, and roads closed. It has been hard to get to school, work, and the hospital, and the frustration, inconvenience, and fear that comes with these sorts of actions combines with the aforementioned economic insecurity. The cacerolas (pot banging protests) that started last night in my barrio and in a few others here and in other cities also cause anxiety.
Sometimes, the extent to which these sorts of war of attrition strategies affect people depends on where you live or work. Many workplaces, for example, have access to Mercal food products. Other barrios are much calmer, and other parts of the country are peaceful.
Now, the government has made mistakes, but purchasing power has basically continuously risen until mid last year, and inflation has also been around the 15-30% mark until mid last year. The worsening of above measures since then are clearly intentional, both for their political aims and the fact that they drastically increase the wealthy sector’s profits. They came at a time when, with Chavez gone, the revolution was perceived to be more vulnerable. They are destructive measures that aim to wear people down and for collective fear and anxiety; three solid ingredients for paving the way for conservative forces. The political opposition may have lost all except one election in the last fifteen years, but the economic opposition is in a stronger position. And the hard thing about that opposition is they are less visible, and also seemingly less divided than the political opposition.
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/a-complex-psychological-war/
Posted by polly7 | Tue Feb 18, 2014, 04:09 PM (62 replies)
By Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Source: Council on Hemispheric Affairs
February 18, 2014
"Among the injured were three students of the Central University of Venezuela who were reportedly wounded by gunfire as well as 17 Bolivarian National Police personnel, two of whom were attacked with Molotov Cocktails. Among those killed in Caracas were Juan Montoya, a community activist in the pro-Chavista 23rd of January barrio and Bassil Da Costa, a marketing student. A third person was killed in the Chacao neighborhood in the Eastern part of the Venezuelan capital."
"In Venezuela, the media war and the contest over how to portray the demonstrations and violence is already at full throttle. Thabata Molina, reporting for the opposition newspaper El Universal (February 13), claimed that Montoya and one other victim were shot in the head by pro-government “collectivists” who, Molina reports, without offering evidence, were shooting at student marchers. The term “colectivos” is being used in this context to evoke a pejorative image of Chavistas who are associates of collectives. Molina’s version of events has been challenged by reports by a number of eye witnesses as well as reporters who suggest right wing extremists were taking advantage of the day of demonstrations to wreak violence and death. Also, the generally anti-government flavor of the attacks indicates that the main culprits are more likely extreme elements of the opposition. It stretches the bounds of credibility to argue that the government would seek to destabilize itself when it has come out the winner in two important elections (presidential and municipal), has made reducing violence and crime a top priority, has recently met with opposition mayors to find ground on which to cooperate, and seeks a peaceful implementation of the government’s six year plan(Plan de la Patria)."
"The practice of extreme elements of the opposition during the past week does indeed look somewhat similar to the tactics used to engineer a coup in 2002. The balance of forces, however, is not on the side of counter revolution. First, the memory of the 2002 coup has produced an alert Chavista base that is prepared to join in a civic military alliance to defend the bolivarian revolution from any threats from within or without. Second, the opposition is not of one voice, with more moderate sectors opting out of violent confrontation and seeking to shake off the stain of golpismo. Third, the opposition strategy of turning the municipal elections of December 8, 2013 into a plebiscite on the status of the Maduro administration only magnified the Chavista victory at the polls and has generally solidified Maduro’s democratic legitimacy both at home and abroad. Fourth, Maduro has galvanized the Chavista base by launching a counter offensive in the economic war and stepping up government support for the communal organizations that express grass roots constituent power. While there are indeed some divisions within Chavismo, in this moment of crisis they have apparently closed ranks when the fate of the revolution is at stake."
THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION STAYS THE COURSE
"The moderate response of Maduro to what he takes to be an attempted coup, should not be mistaken for a lack of resolve. Nor should this challenge by the extreme right sabotage the attempts by Maduro to build national unity with the more moderate opposition in the fight against crime. The current clash between revolution and counter revolution reflects an underlying dialectic between two different visions of the social and economic spheres. The Chavista counter offensive in the economic war has seriously called into question the priority of the claims of private property over the claims of human life and development for all citizens. We can expect the government counter offensive, the struggle for food sovereignty, and the building of communes to continue unabated, despite challenges, sometimes violent, from the hard liners on the right. For the formerly excluded and dispossessed, for those working towards building 21st century socialism, there is no turning back."
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuelan-government-shows-restraint/
Posted by polly7 | Tue Feb 18, 2014, 03:37 PM (18 replies)
By David Swanson
February 18, 2014
I had a heck of a time making sense of the U.S. Navy’s new motto “A Global Force for Good” until I realized that it meant “We are a global force, and wherever we go we’re never leaving.”
For three years now people in the little island nation of Bahrain have been nonviolently protesting and demanding democratic reforms.
For three years now the king of Bahrain and his royal thugs have been shooting, kidnapping, torturing, imprisoning, and terrorizing nonviolent opponents. An opponent includes anyone speaking up for human rights or even “insulting” the king or his flag, which carries a sentence of 7 years in prison and a hefty fine.
For three years now, Saudi Arabia has been aiding the King of Bahrain in his crackdown on the people of Bahrain. A U.S. police chief named John Timoney, with a reputation for brutality earned in Miami and Philadelphia, was hired to help the Bahraini government intimidate and brutalize its population.
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/do-we-care-about-people-if-they-live-in-bahrain/
Posted by polly7 | Tue Feb 18, 2014, 03:28 PM (2 replies)
By Maria Páez victor
February 17, 2014
Again, a highly organized attack is being carried out against the democratic and popular government of Venezuela. It has involved monetary manipulations, economic sabotage, international media campaign against the economy despite excellent economic indicators, defaming the state run oil company, and this last week riots on the streets that have left 3 dead and 66 injured.
The tactics are the same that the un-democratic opposition has tried for 15 years ever since the first election of President Hugo Chávez. Such tactics have been used in the so-called Rainbow Revolutions in Eastern Europe, Libya, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Ukraine. The object is to give a semblance of chaos, to provoke the forces of public order, to discredit the government through the compliant international media, to foster civil unrest, even civil war (as it successfully happened in Syria), and ultimately to promote conditions for international intervention and even occupation.
However, Venezuela is not in the Middle nor Near East and its government is a participatory democracy that enjoys a very strong majority, the backing of all key institutions under the rule of law, and the support of its regional neighbors. Furthermore, the population is linked to many organized community groupings, it is not an amorphous mass.
The stakes are high because the country has the largest known oil reserves and these are a stone’s throw from Washington.
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/venezuela-under-attack-again/
Posted by polly7 | Mon Feb 17, 2014, 08:55 PM (4 replies)
By Juan Cole
Source: Informed Comment
February 16, 2014
The Central African Republic has a population of 4.5 million, about 15 percent of them Muslim, or about 670,000 people. Those Muslims are now, according to Amnesty International, in serious danger of being ethnically cleansed.
“The group said attacks against Muslims had been committed “with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country,” with many anti-balaka fighters viewing Muslims as “‘foreigners’ who should leave the country or be killed”.
The rights group also said that the attacks against Muslims were committed with the government intending to forcibly displace the Muslims from the country.
To escape the anti-balaka’s deadly attacks, the entire Muslim populace has fled from numerous towns and villages while in others, the few who remain have taken refuge in and around churches and mosques.”
Full article: http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/car-muslims-risk-ethnic-cleansing/
Posted by polly7 | Mon Feb 17, 2014, 08:48 PM (1 replies)