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Venezuela Riots
February 19, 2014 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Venezuela opposition's Leopoldo Lopez hands himself in as police crack down on protestors. Students have been rioting on rising inflation and shortages. Pictures from Caracas. "I present myself before an unjust justice, before a corrupt justice,"
posted by zabuni (93 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
i feel like this guy has The Most Interesting Man In the World potential.

I bet he doesn't always drink beer but when he does it's not that dos equis shit.
posted by Colonel Panic at 9:14 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


The liberal and/or neoliberal Twitterati of the northern hemisphere have been getting spun, hard, by the Venezuelan right over the last week. Image fraud, which I believe includes the "Pictures from Caracas" link above, is apparently an important new part of the toolbox of political deception.

Mark Weisbrot: US support for regime change in Venezuela is a mistake
posted by RogerB at 9:34 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


I think it's pretty obvious that Maduro is nowhere near as good a politician and leader as Chavez was, and he's also something of a buffoon, but the main problem in Venezuela es that the opposition is, no matter how much they try to hide it, a bunch of antidemocratic wannabe fascists. So while it's clear that change is needed, I don't trust the opposition at all to deliver it in any constructive way.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:05 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


There's just so much convenient in this. So many perfect photos about what's supposedly happening, but a distinct shortage of anybody actually being able to explain what it is the current government is doing wrong, what the opposition would do better--such basic stuff. And so now we're getting it from such neutral sources as the notoriously pro-socialist Business Week? I don't know. I'm not assuming that the Maduro government is innocent in any of this, absolutely not, but I want more information before I get outraged.

Mostly because I keep thinking: you know, I bet you could turn out hundreds of students for a protest against government family planning funding, at any large university in the United States, get some very attractive photos, and spin it as a popular youth uprising against socialist government policies.
posted by Sequence at 10:22 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


What the government is doing wrong: pissing money away as if it were going out fashion while not doing very much useful with it. Inflation is at fifty percent, crime is high, there are shortages of basic goods; and all this in a country with bountiful natural resources and an educated population.

What the opposition would do better: I have no idea. It's not much of a hurdle, though.

Like you, I don't know many details. It's possible that the government isn't lying when it claims that opposition figures shot their own supporters to gain sympathy. None the less, the Venezualan government has been using every extra-legal trick in the book to keep the opposition out of power, and they have now arrested one of the main opposition candidates, Leopoldo López Mendoza. The opposition may not be on the side of right, but the government is definitely wrong.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:37 PM on February 19 [15 favorites]


From the Department of Not Really Helpful: President al-Assad expresses Syria's support to President Maduro's approach in running Venezuela
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:52 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Venezuela has oil but no nukes to defend itself from Uncle Sam, so it's just a matter of time now until regime change. It's a real shame Chavez couldn't get a nuke rolling.
posted by colie at 2:38 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


god damn colie, that really depressed me.

between this and kyev i'm just completely depressed about the state of the world falling to pieces in general. like, fuck, man.
posted by emptythought at 3:25 AM on February 20


Sorry about that. I realise it's a bit of a throwaway remark, but debatable still.

Often on here we have posters saying that Hiroshima was no worse than Dresden or what the Japanese might have doled out, deathwise (not something I agree with in the case of Japan, but it's the official narrative now). So there's no taboo on nukes, and if you want to defend your country, it seems like you had better get one if you possibly can.
posted by colie at 4:06 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


all this in a country with bountiful natural resources and an educated population.

you'll note that rates of childhood education took off in venezuela in 1999: percent of secondary school attendance went from 48% in 1999 to 75% now.

If Venezuela is educated it is because of Chavez.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:50 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


February 19th -- The Night Venezuela Finally Imploded
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:14 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Oh God, it's now time to cue the liberal American concern for Latin America again, when they don't give a damn generally, as well as dismissal of Venezuelans actually concerned for their country. Awesome.

In slightly less bitter words, it is possible for someone who opposes the US to still be horrifically oppressive in his home country. Even if someone's regime is against US interests, it doesn't automatically make them a god among men. There are severe human rights violations in Venezuela, just like there are/were in Nicaragua and Cuba, but god forbid we admit that because then there wouldn't be any sympathetic other countries to support violence in.
posted by corb at 7:16 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


Unfortunately, Venzuela is in a command-economy death spiral with massive inflation the government is trying to combat by decree and state-sanctioned vigilante violence. This is pretty much what sunk Zimbabwe. Also like Zimbabwe, a potent force for liberation ossified into an entrenched power structure that likes to do fun stuff like deny basic public services to political enemies.

On the other hand, the anti-populist, anti-democratic right wing is typically not where you want political change to come from. Franco vs. Mugabe, pick your poison. Hopefully the student opposition will know enough to eschew both power bases and work to build their own.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:19 AM on February 20 [7 favorites]


What's going on in Venezuela? short segment made by an American Venezuelan student. warning: bad background music
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:30 AM on February 20


The opposition are "fascists"? Where's the proof?

The chavista regime is tossing around that term the way we called everyone who disagreed with the US "terrorists," only with greater frequency and with less accuracy.

Yes, it was great when Chávez dissed W at the UN, but the domestic situation in Venezuela is catastrophic, a condition that has very little to do with the US or with so-called "fascist" coup-plotters.

Caracas is the murder capital of South America. Inflation is at 50 percent. There's a dire scarcity of staples such as corn meal for arepas, cooking oil, toliet paper, etc. There are huge cues for groceries.

The regime is criminalizing politics and suppressing the media, freedom of speech and freedom of association. Chavista mobs called "collectivos" infiltrate student demonstrations to disrupt protests. The current disturbances were sparked when students assembled to protest the detention of student protesters.

The economy is tanking, and there has been deplorable waste and corruption. The chavistas have squandered the country's oil wealth.

If opposing the continued ruin of Venezuela, my homeland, makes me a "fascist," I am proud to wear the label.
posted by ADave at 8:17 AM on February 20 [12 favorites]


I would say that the 2002 coup (of which Lopez was a member of) is pretty good proof, personally.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:53 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Using your logic, Operation Zamora proves that Chavez was a fascist. So everybody is a fascist, sure, now what.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:01 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


the domestic situation in Venezuela is catastrophic, a condition that has very little to do with the US

I seriously doubt that.

The U.S. thinks it has found a formula for regime change, beginning with destabilization from within. Venezuela’s democratically elected government has long been a target. “Over the last decade or so we have seen this strategy attempted in Zimbabwe, Libya, Iran, and Syria.
posted by colie at 10:11 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


That website is just nonsensically all over the map. Ukranian protesters are western puppets, but Pussy Riot is awesome. Ok.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:27 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Hey, is it ok if I say "Shit is fucked up, I support the idea of 21st century socialism... there are some problems right now, and things should be done to correct the issues, but that the opposition is not the people I would trust to do those things..."

We act as if destabilization of regimes are a thing of the past, and not something we currently do. Just like COINTELPRO wasn't a "thing" anymore, or that we don't spy and tap all communications.

If I had any trust that a large part of this wasn't fomented by the US/CIA/USAID, maybe I might have more trust in "the opposition".

That doesn't mean PSUV is "right" in all things. I think there needs to be internal dissent in the party and working towards moving on a better path.

Question: What does the opposition propose as solutions? More neoliberal/world bank/imf gangsterism?

As a white dude in the US I can't tell you who live or have connections in Venezuela what to think or do, I can only hope that you can find a resolution that maintains control for the people of Venezuela, that can stand up against extraterritorial powers that mostly just want to suck the lifeblood out of the economy for their continued control of the world.

Revolutions have a way of turning very bloody. If you think that if the opposition gets control they won't enact very nasty vengeance upon the socialists in a way the socialists ever did, well... I dunno. Times have changed, I'd hope we're in a more humanitarian era where right-wing oppositionists no longer round people up in stadiums to kill them, or murder nuns.

But let me ask you something... you say "we have to do something!" You had the chance to do it every single time elections came. There has been no credible claim of fraud by international institutions that I am aware of (please, send me reports to the contrary, and maybe something that's less tied to a particular nation-state like the US that has the Monroe Doctrine be its official policy), something like UN or OECD or Jimmy Carter's teams... I'm not saying it needs to be like OAS or something directly involved.

So what do you do? Is there a constitutional mechanism to call for a recall? Do it. If not? Then I dunno. Work with the co-operatives. That's what they're about. Building community. Don't sit out of that and then act like you did your job by marching, whining and voting during election time. It's not easy. It will be slow and difficult. You have to take a risk that you won't be seen as counter-revolutionary. I honestly don't know if that is the right way to do it, I'm just thinking - work in the framework you are given. Don't try to have some extra-constitutional method that might lead to greater tyranny (i.e. be suspicious of revolutions).

Why not help BUILD your community up. That's a lot more work than just going to a job and returning home. But if there's that many people out there protesting, why can't they start to work with the co-operative movements? The worker-owned factories. Why not help build that socialism to a better way?

It might be a complete sham, and maybe it is, but have you even tried? And I know that's a lot of work (trust me, I am a lazy mother fucker, so I can't blame you if you haven't tried).

I honestly wish I had a nice easy answer that magically solved all the problems, but nobody does. I just think, given the history of South America and the US involvement historically, it might be prudent to be very cautious of what you do moving forward. Maybe be a little wary and skeptical of claims to "democracy" by the right-wing
posted by symbioid at 10:33 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


As a white dude in the US I can't tell you who live or have connections in Venezuela what to think or do

You immediately follow this comment with a number of paragraphs telling Venezuelans what to do.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:37 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


Everyone is entitled to an opinion on what Venzuelans should or shouldn't do. That's what this thread is about.
posted by colie at 10:47 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


You do realize that the US actually was pretty comfortable with the "New Qadaffi" right - they were pretty content with him in power - especially given his renewed interest in allowing western oil companies in and increasing production?

And that defending the governments in Syria and Zimbabwe is pretty fucking reprehensible regardless of your views on Chavez.

Like I can see someone supporting Chavez and I can see someone supporting the Iranian Regime - really I can. But Mugabe? Assad? Really?
posted by JPD at 10:47 AM on February 20


Don't try to have some extra-constitutional method that might lead to greater tyranny (i.e. be suspicious of revolutions)....I'd hope we're in a more humanitarian era where right-wing oppositionists no longer round people up in stadiums to kill them, or murder nuns.

What the hell do you think Chavez was doing in 1992, petting kittens and building community?

You're talking about nuns being murdered, which means you're most likely not talking about Venezuela anymore. Nicaragua or El Salvador? It's hard to tell whether you're an apologist for the Sandinistas who directly murdered some of my family, or the FMLN who directly murdered other people's families. Either way, it's offensive.
posted by corb at 10:53 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Destablisation by the US will not lead to good things for the people no matter how bad the leader of the regime in question. Or perhaps the CIA wants to pet kittens and build community.
posted by colie at 10:55 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


You do realize that the US actually was pretty comfortable with the "New Qadaffi" right - they were pretty content with him in power - especially given his renewed interest in allowing western oil companies in and increasing production?

And that defending the governments in Syria and Zimbabwe is pretty fucking reprehensible regardless of your views on Chavez.

Like I can see someone supporting Chavez and I can see someone supporting the Iranian Regime - really I can. But Mugabe? Assad? Really?


You sounds as though you are addressing someone in this thread. Precisely no one here has defended Mugabe. Even in the article linked by colie, it's extremely tenuous reasoning to go from "Zimbabwe has managed to fend off the kind of attacks I am describing" to "I support Mugabe".

With this level of discourse, real discussion is impossible.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:56 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


with this level of discourse? someone just insinuated leftists have never murdered people they disagreed with.

But 1) Libya the US had no interest in de-stabilizing the regime
2) Zimbabwe was pretty fucking unstable without outside actors - been that way since at least independence.
3) Syria. Yeah.
posted by JPD at 10:59 AM on February 20


[Folks, dial it back and try to have a conversation about this without over the top overgeneralizations about other people please.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:03 AM on February 20


Brainstorming and telling people what to do are different things. Mostly, I'm asking what THEIR solutions are.

1) New Elections?
2) National Dialog?
3) Coup/Revolution?

I don't know, I really don't. I'm throwing out some ideas to ponder, asking why this or that can't be done. When I say "be wary of revolutionaries who might turn out to be worse than the disease" I am not saying "YOU VENEZUELA" I am saying historically, this is something that happens, and urging caution, but again - make your choice, do what you gotta do.

I just want to know what the proposed answers are. I'm just giving my thoughts on ways that might work within the current framework that aren't illegal (and yes, I'm aware, as I said, that yo might get targeted as counterrevolutionary, so it's not "safe", just not "illegal")
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on February 20


Come on, Corb, you know I'm talking about the overall tendency in Latin American countries to have civil wars and violence with all sides perpetrating atrocities. I'm not trying to say, for example, Sandanistas had their hands clean. I'm pointing out that the cure isn't necessarily any better than the "disease". Yes, I used Nicaragua not Venezuela, and I know the specifics are different, and we're in a different time frame (which is why I hope we can avoid these past historical atrocities in general)
posted by symbioid at 11:07 AM on February 20


I thought a lot of the points in this piece by Verónica Bayetti Flores were quite interesting, especially about the relationship between the actual situation in Venezuela and the impressions people outside the country have of it.
posted by Copronymus at 11:10 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


That's a very good piece.
posted by JPD at 11:15 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Come on, Corb, you know I'm talking about the overall tendency in Latin American countries to have civil wars and violence with all sides perpetrating atrocities

That's a really weird way to think about it, when in reality, almost all the violence was supported financially and militarily by foreign powers on both sides.
posted by empath at 11:21 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


You're talking about nuns being murdered, which means you're most likely not talking about Venezuela anymore. Nicaragua or El Salvador? It's hard to tell whether you're an apologist for the Sandinistas who directly murdered some of my family, or the FMLN who directly murdered other people's families. Either way, it's offensive.

symbioid explicity moved from Venezuela to Chile (Pinochet having people tortured and killed in stadiums) and Nicaragua (Contras killing nuns); saying that right-wing murderers were bad because they murdered people doesn't make you an apologist for left-wing murderers.

I hope we can all agree that we don't want to see Venezuela descend into political murder as Chile and Nicaragua did, which was the gist of that paragraph. I hope we can all agree it would good for the rule of law to prevail.

That said, it's perfectly coherent to believe that the Maduro government is bad and that the main opposition to it would also be bad if, one way or another, it took power. I don't know enough about Venezuela to say this view is supportable, but it's not self-contradictory.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:24 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


Also, I haven't been to Venezuela, but my experience talking to people in places like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala would indicate that, foreign influence or not, the peoples professed dissatisfaction with local politicians is genuine and well-deserved and should be respected and most-likely has to do with corruption and lack of political freedom and probably has very little to do with global geo-politics.

I am still Facebook friends with a true-blue Sandinista supporting liberal college student I met in Leon, Nicaragua and even she complains constantly about the local government -- but it's stuff like pensions for seniors, lack of respect for women's rights, etc. nothing to do with with whether they are not in the US's good or bad graces.
posted by empath at 11:29 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


I just don't see that this particular set of protests has much to do with the U.S. Certainly, the U.S. government has proven its interest in taking down the government of Venezuela, but I don't see any indication that the U.S. is actually behind this particular outburst of protests or the government's heavy-handed response. 58% inflation (and higher rates in the black market), shortages of goods, and rising crime are real problems. I don't see any indication the U.S. is doing this to Venezuela and lots of reasons to believe the economic problems stem from heavy-handed economic policies instituted by the government in Venezuela.
posted by Area Man at 12:17 PM on February 20 [6 favorites]


How many people in the US are actually satisfied with our politicians?

The reason countries like Venezuela have adopted leftist economic policies is that colonialist capitalism is the reason Latin America got stripped down and left for dead in the first place. Because it is vitally important to them to actually have some control over their own resources, and if all these things are privatized, and their countries are relatively poor, do you know who will end up owning them? Foreign-owned corporations. Who will proceed to strip them down again and move on.

There might be ways they absolutely need to do that better, but if you look at who's reporting on a lot of this, it's big business kinds of publications who are saying that they'd all have plenty of food if only they totally deregulated their markets. Like that's worked in the US, and why do we have food stamps again? I don't have a lot of faith in my politicians, but I have even less in BP and Monsanto.
posted by Sequence at 3:52 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch
posted by Evilspork at 3:58 PM on February 20


I totally agree that observers generally agree that the Venezualan opposition sucks. A large part of that has to be due to the fact that the government has practically institutionalised its own support and criminalised dissent. This means that the only opposition figures left standing are those with wealth and power bases. We've seen the same thing in other places, like Egypt: the grass roots activists have no power and no way to organise, and it comes down to a battle between thugs. If a country is very, very lucky, one of those thugs will be powerful enough to destroy all other groups and democracy may be born again in the form of a struggle within the ruling party. If it isn't lucky, it ends up with a perpetual battle between those groups, or a political dynasty in indefinite control.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:04 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


The 21st century post-Cold War dynamic: realizing there for every national struggle, there are no such things as color-coded good guys or bad guys. And that sometimes, people power ain't what it's cracked up to be.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:15 PM on February 20


I hope that Venezuelans will soon be able to cast off those incompetent oppressors who have allowed their economy and society to descend to such shambles.
posted by knoyers at 4:24 PM on February 20


The reason countries like Venezuela have adopted leftist economic policies is that colonialist capitalism is the reason Latin America got stripped down and left for dead in the first place. Because it is vitally important to them to actually have some control over their own resources, and if all these things are privatized, and their countries are relatively poor, do you know who will end up owning them? Foreign-owned corporations. Who will proceed to strip them down again and move on.

In terms of controlling resources, I think it is worth noting that Venezuela nationalized its oil industry in 1976. It is something that predates Chavez and I don't believe it is a key issue in what's happening now.

More generally, I don't think the analogies to US politicians and political issues provide much insight. Venezuela has its own history.
posted by Area Man at 5:31 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


In terms of controlling resources, I think it is worth noting that Venezuela nationalized its oil industry in 1976. It is something that predates Chavez and I don't believe it is a key issue in what's happening now.

Unless you count the fact that foreign interests would very, very much like that industry privatized? Or for that matter, local interests who would be in a position to take control of those resources if they were privatized. I mean, it's always going to be relevant to the question. If a neoliberal contingent takes over the Venezuelan government, that is going to turn into a major priority, one way or another.

It's like the USSR--certainly not being run well, but when it got taken over by people whose priority was not "fixing the broken pieces of the system" but "imposing capitalism", what happened? I am all about fixing the broken parts, but that's not what foreign interests are supporting, here.
posted by Sequence at 6:19 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


the government has practically institutionalised its own support and criminalised dissent. This means that the only opposition figures left standing are those with wealth and power bases. We've seen the same thing in other places, like Egypt: the grass roots activists have no power and no way to organise, and it comes down to a battle between thugs.

This comparison would make more sense if the wealthy and powerful Egyptian business elite had all been passionately opposed to Mubarak, while the poor majority kept voting for him in election after election. Of course that's not how it was. Under Mubarak, dissent actually was criminalized which is why the most effective opposition came from "thugs" like the MB and not the business elite.

I think the reason that the Venezuelan opposition sucks is not because the government has "criminalized dissent" for everyone except those with "wealth and power bases" (it doesn't make sense that the government would make such an exception; governments that actually criminalise dissent don't generally tolerate wealthy dissidents with power bases). It may be that since the most powerful opposition forces are being led by a wealthy traditional elite, who hail from the Latin American Right (which is one of the world's more monstrous political traditions) that a lot of Venezuelans who would otherwise be opposed to the regime end up taking its side as the lesser of two evils. In other words, the opposition is the only thing Maduro has going for him.
posted by moorooka at 6:30 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Is there any evidence of an attempt to re-privatize the oil industry? My impression was that it had stayed public through a variety of governments of different political stripes.

"not run well" is quite an understatement when discussing the USSR. I don't understand the value system that finds private business highly objectionable and a lack of democracy, gulag system, oppressive control of minority nationalities, and heavy-handed censorship only mildly objectionable.
posted by Area Man at 7:31 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


Lack of democracy and gulags, though, are not the fault of an economic system, they're the fault of a governmental system. The two are not the same. And yet replacing one was considered by the US government, among other major interests, to require replacing the other, instead of replacing the horrible parts and *fixing* the parts that were just inefficient and poorly-managed. It's fine with me if that's a totally internal decision, but it wasn't in Russia's case, and the end result has been private enterprise... with an arguable lack of democracy, oppressive control of minority nationalities, and heavy-handed censorship.
posted by Sequence at 8:34 PM on February 20


This comparison would make more sense if the wealthy and powerful Egyptian business elite had all been passionately opposed to Mubarak, while the poor majority kept voting for him in election after election.

I suppose it's hard to remember, but the revolution that brought Mubarak's predecessors to power was anti-imperialist and socialist. The "wealthy and powerful Egyptian business elite" were people who had profited from the regime. The same process is already well under way in Venezuela; give it a few decades and its opponents will be poor and virtuous, just like the Egyptians.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:35 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Elections do actually matter to a regime's legitimacy. The comparison to Nasser is less ridiculous than the comparison to Mubarak, but still silly. This is not a military dictatorship and you can't pretend that it is, based on extrapolating from a completely different country's experience (and in Egypt's case, one in which the dictatorial regime turned into a highly-valued American client state.)
posted by moorooka at 9:13 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


I was never talking about legitimacy. I said that the Venezualan government "practically institutionalised its own support and criminalised dissent". As can be seen by the fact that, e.g., it just arrested the leading opposition figure.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:50 PM on February 20


Who is Leopoldo Lopez?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:06 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


There's opposition, and there's opposition. It's really hard to tell right now, but you know, plotting to overthrow the government would get you arrested in the US, too, and Lopez does seem to be implicated in a previous coup attempt. Plotting to run against the government during the next election cycle, or plotting to attempt a recall according to methods clearly outlined in your constitution, or whatever, those are not the same thing as plotting a coup, which would be called terrorism here, too. Mitt Romney did not encourage his supporters to take to the streets and demand the ouster of Obama in the wake of losing the election, and we would not have considered it reasonable if he had. If he had outright been trying to start riots, which Lopez may have been, then we would have considered that something else entirely.
posted by Sequence at 10:25 PM on February 20


Lopez was arrested on specific charges of inciting violence - which he quite likely did - and not simply for opposing the regime, which he's been doing for years and years, going back to the coup attempt in 02.
posted by moorooka at 10:44 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


It's definitely possible that the charges aren't bogus, but:
(1) arresting opposition figures is an extraordinary action for a government that purports to be democratic;
(3) the charges against Lopez have not actually been clarified, but they sound bogus;
(2) the Venezuelan government has used the courts to stymie his political aspirations before.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:05 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


It's not that extraordinary under the circumstances - a lot of democracies would have much less forgiving of a guy that had been involved in a coup attempt, had they even had to deal with that sort of thing.

The rest of what you say reasonable, but it's still an exaggeration to say that "dissent" is and has been criminalized in Venezuela because a particular opposition leader, especially one with this guy's background, gets arrested. China's a country where it's fair to say dissent really is criminalized - maybe Venezuela will end up in a similar situation one day, but it's not actually there based on this
posted by moorooka at 12:24 AM on February 21


(Oh yes and before you mention in, I am aware of the fact that Chavez was also once involved in a coup attempt)
posted by moorooka at 12:25 AM on February 21


Lopez is a hard-right telegenic smoothie in receipt of funds from the National Endowment for Democracy, an unashamed soft power tool of US foreign policy, and I'm supposed to take him at face value as a humble human rights activist?
posted by colie at 1:11 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Carcas chronicles (mentioned above)
The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch.
Also of interest How the rest of S. America is lining up.
The Economist sees it that Maduro is the victim of events with a hardliner the thwarted presidential hopeful Diosdado Cabello pulling the strings.
posted by adamvasco at 3:57 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


I hate to be so cynical, but how many times has this song been sung now?

Charismatic leader who's family are in the oil business and linked to the CIA takes a run at his second US backed coup brought about by a left-wing government cratering the economy in an attempt to reverse the effects of capitalism using sort of capitalism.

People of Venezuela, after the coup succeeds round up the leaders of both sides and kill them. It probably won't help long-term but you may stop them looting your country for a bit while you rebuild. Also, a different tune might be successful.

Is this where I put the link to the Caracas Chronicle article?

. for the inevitable dead.
posted by fullerine at 5:25 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


it's still an exaggeration to say that "dissent" is and has been criminalized in Venezuela because a particular opposition leader, especially one with this guy's background, gets arrested.

No, I'm pretty sure arresting the opposition leader because you don't like who he was born to or how popular he is with the people is pretty much the textbook example of undemocratic activity.
posted by corb at 6:42 AM on February 21 [6 favorites]


While PDVSA was nationalized long ago, Western Oil companies have a very long track record of working in Venezuela up to and including the time of Chavez. Usually with uneconomic agreements that allowed them to earn much higher returns on investment than what should have been allowed. It wasn't a national oil company like Saudi Aramco or Pemex that locked out westerners.

Indeed if there was one thing that Chavez did that was unequivocally good its how he forced the foreign oil companies to either reprice the contracts to something more reasonable or leave.
posted by JPD at 7:22 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Indeed if there was one thing that Chavez did that was unequivocally good its how he forced the foreign oil companies to either reprice the contracts to something more reasonable or leave.

I don't disagree that was a good thing, but I always thought the dramatically increased support for poorer Venezuelans was the best thing about Chavez's regime. I don't agree with the price controls and increased state presence in the marketplace, but putting lots of government money into educating and assisting poor people seemed like a great thing.
posted by Area Man at 7:49 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


arresting the opposition leader because you don't like who he was born to

I suspect moorooka's comment about 'his background' refers to him being up to his neck in CIA money and machinations.
posted by colie at 7:55 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


I was just looking at the Caracas Chronicles and I see that the government is thretening to pull CNN out of the country, has ordered Columbian news cable channel NTN24 off of cable, and is blocking internet traffic to some sites. For all the talk above about right wing coups, it is the government that is exhibiting creepy, authoritarian behavior.
posted by Area Man at 11:29 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


If you have foreign interests actively trying to destabilize the democratic process, then the democratic process gets destabilized, then... what, you overturn the elected government in favor of the people who deliberately baited them into breaking the system and are continuing to do so? I don't know. I think it's entirely possible that Maduro's government is incompetent, but I don't know that the solution here is the one that people are demanding, is my problem. And it's hard, from a US viewpoint--we aren't actually at risk of the Tea Party seizing the government financed by Russians or something. The US government would respond differently, and has historically done so, when there seemed to be a greater risk. And sometimes has done so in ways that were definitely mistakes. Japanese internment camps--horrible mistake, not actually a reason to violently overthrow the government, were they? Or were they? Just--if this wouldn't be the right process here, I don't feel like it's the right process there, either.
posted by Sequence at 12:16 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


And it's hard, from a US viewpoint--we aren't actually at risk of the Tea Party seizing the government financed by Russians or something.

How soon we forget. It was called "The Red Scare" - it was a complete bullshit reaction to Russian meddling in internal politics.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:18 PM on February 21


If you have foreign interests actively trying to destabilize the democratic process, then the democratic process gets destabilized, then... what, you overturn the elected government in favor of the people who deliberately baited them into breaking the system and are continuing to do so? I don't know. I think it's entirely possible that Maduro's government is incompetent, but I don't know that the solution here is the one that people are demanding, is my problem.

I partially agree with you. I'm not sure the government should resign. I think a calmer, more measured response to the protests would be appropriate. They should also think about actually addressing some of the underlying problems. A 58% inflation rate and rampant crime are both legitimate problems and blaming them on the US or the opposition won't make them go away.
posted by Area Man at 2:22 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


Venezuela: 'After being promised paradise we are living in a nightmare.'
posted by homunculus at 6:24 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


For some reason I'm always surprised when I get reminded that left-wing and liberal opinion can be miles apart. The guy was arrested for being part of a demonstration. The government is now silencing journalists and blocking telecommunications. Excuses like "oh, he got money from the CIA" or "foreign interests are destablising the country" might silence the cadres, but I really don't think they actually fool anyone.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


Excuses like "oh, he got money from the CIA" or "foreign interests are destablising the country"

I don't understand your point. Both those things are factually correct and are very relevant to the situation, in that they are likely to shape what happens in Venezuela way, way beyond the next few days (during which it is also true that the state is likely to act unpredictably and brutally as it navigates rapidly shifting class alliances).

The main reason leftists will often point out that CIA money is involved and outside interests are destabilising the country is simply because those facts are systematically repressed, all the time, and they have a direct relevance to why the (obviously corrupt - come on, were we all born yesterday?) hard-right Lopez dude is/was arrested.
posted by colie at 3:42 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


If you arrest someone for murder, terrorism, and arson that should be because you have a reasonable basis for thinking he committed those crimes, not because "everyone knows" he is terribly right wing and corrupt. That's the traditional liberal, rule of law position.
posted by Area Man at 4:15 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]


It's also the common sense and TV news position, but it won't much help anyone understand what's unfolding in Venezuela and why.
posted by colie at 4:29 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Ignoring the misdeeds of the current government and pretending there aren't legitimate problems and grievances certainly won't help.

Has anyone explained out how the CIA is supposed to be causing the inflation, shortages of goods, and high murder rate?
posted by Area Man at 4:46 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]


If you arrest someone for murder, terrorism, and arson that should be because you have a reasonable basis for thinking he committed those crimes, not because "everyone knows" he is terribly right wing and corrupt. That's the traditional liberal, rule of law position.

One which even the U.S. doesn't follow any more. We kill people with out establishing guilt let alone a reasonable basis. While there are certainly problems in Venezuela I don't really think there are any Americans who should be trying to pontificate on how healthy democracies comport themselves.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:53 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


While there are certainly problems in Venezuela I don't really think there are any Americans who should be trying to pontificate on how healthy democracies comport themselves.

I think that as an American I have the right to object to what my government does, and have an opinion on how other governments treat their citizens. Leopoldo Lopez may be up to his ears in CIA money. It wasn't Lopez or the CIA that created shortages in basic necessities and rampant inflation. And when people who live in an oil-rich country no tienen ni para limpiarse el culo I think they have every right to express their dissatisfaction without being labeled "fascists."
posted by ambrosia at 7:54 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]


I think the U.S. benefits when citizens of other countries point out the injustices here and the same is true of Venezuela. I've personally heard plenty of scathing (and often accurate) critiques of the U.S. from citizens of countries whose governments do some horrible things. Russians, for example, haven't been shy about criticizing the U.S., nor should they be.

This idea that criticizing the governments of other countries is improper is quite popular with thugs and autocrats the world over.
posted by Area Man at 9:04 AM on February 22 [5 favorites]


This idea that criticizing the governments of other countries is improper is quite popular with thugs and autocrats the world over.

Yes, but to criticize the behavior of other countries you should first have a little credibility. Something the U.S. government, and Americans in general, lack in areas of human rights and healthy democratic systems. So basically if you are American you should probably check the plank in your own eye before you try and point out the speck in Venezuela's.

I think they have every right to express their dissatisfaction without being labeled "fascists."

Not if they are taking money from the CIA. I would say that's a pretty good sign that we should be very suspect about their motives and intentions.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:51 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


So basically if you are American you should probably check the plank in your own eye before you try and point out the speck in Venezuela's.

How about Venezuelans? Can they voice an opinion? Specifically, the ones in this thread?

There's got to be a term for lefty mansplaining. Is it just leftsplaining? That might do it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:32 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


How about Venezuelans? Can they voice an opinion? Specifically, the ones in this thread?

Anyone can voice an opinion. Were you under the impression I had the power and/or means to stop anyone?

But yeah, Venezuelan opinions would carry a lot more weight than ones coming from a country that has a history of overthrowing democratically elected governments(especially in Latin America) and has been on a rampage of death and destruction over the last 12 years or so.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:48 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Americans would benefit from having a fully informed opinion of the actions of the CIA and US-funded destabilization in Latin America before they started chiming in with their views on Venezuela's government. Unfortunately their own government and media assiduously deprive them of this.
posted by colie at 2:03 PM on February 22


Do you think the people commenting in this thread don't have an informed opinion of those things?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:26 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


I can only judge what anyone thinks based on what they post. The posters I've responded to in this thread seem to display a benign attitude towards Lopez, which is surprising given that he's almost certainly a CIA asset and a self-declared right winger. Everyone here is free to post their opinions and have them debated so I'm not sure what your question means.

The information that would lead to an informed opinion amongst the US public at large, however, is heavily suppressed, and that was my essential point.
posted by colie at 2:42 PM on February 22


Colie, it doesn't actually matter what Lopez is like. A regime that arrests its political opponents on trumped-up charges is abusing the nation's justice system and putting the country well on the path to one-party rule.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:12 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I've seen plenty of ignorance in this thread in some of the leftist comments. People who supported Chavez and yet are outraged that anyone would participate in a coup. Odd analogies to domestic U.S. politics. The apparent belief that state control over natural resources is an important issue in the current dispute.

Lopez may be scum of the earth, but jailing him in a military prison on trumped up charges is another step away from the rule of law. It also strikes me as being politically stupid. Is Maduro trying to make Lopez into some sort of martyr? Maybe these talks he has announced will yield something more promising.

Its also odd to read about media suppression in this thread from people who seem to supporting the present Venezuelan government which is itself trying to suppress the media.
posted by Area Man at 3:34 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]


At least they trumped up the charges.
posted by fullerine at 4:06 PM on February 22


They need to have charges if they're going to have a show trial.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:34 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


The apparent belief that state control over natural resources is an important issue in the current dispute.

It's an important issue in pretty much any mass political upheaval or revolution. It's particularly important in this one, since the state is in grave economic crisis and the government has in fact courted US imperialist interests with natural resource deals under Maduro, e.g. the $2 billion deal with Chevron last year.

Is Maduro trying to make Lopez into some sort of martyr?


I think that's what Lopez wants and has cleverly led Maduro into the trap. Hence Lopez's speech the other day: "If my imprisonment helps awaken our people, if it is good enough to finally make Venezuela wake up so that the majority of those of us who want change are able to effect that change peacefully and democratically, then this infamous imprisonment that Nicolás Maduro wants, so openly and so cowardly, then for me it will have been worth it."

Lopez has been preparing for his moment for a long time and obviously the stakes are high (he could end up dead), but he knows the prize is within sight now.
posted by colie at 2:53 AM on February 23


The fact that FAIR was writing about Toro's [Caracas Chronicles] reporting more than 10 years ago points to the fact that this is not a new story; since Hugo Chavez's first election in 1998, Venezuela's government has faced intense opposition, and despite this opposition, the government has repeatedly won elections that have been deemed free and fair (Extra!, 12/06). US journalists tend to identify with the opposition, which is generally wealthier and better educated–and not incidentally whiter–than government supporters (FAIR Blog, 2/25/13). This should be borne in mind when reading reports from Venezuela–from whatever source.
Jim Naureckas for FAIR: News From Venezuela–but Where Is It Coming From?
Hyperbole seems to be the rule of the day on both sides, and among the fearful exaggerations of the opposition, none looms larger than the colectivos. While officially designating the more organized radical sectors of Chavismo, here signifiers float freely in proportion to the fear they represent, with the term colectivos applied to anyone on a motorcycle, anyone wearing a red shirt, anyone too poor-looking or dark-skinned. This is nothing new, either: the 2002 equivalent was the term “terror circles,” a slanderous pejorative used to denigrate members of grassroots popular assemblies who served as the backbone of resistance to the undemocratic coup. These popular grassroots organizers constitute the most direct, organic expressions of the wretched of the Venezuelan earth, the most politicized segment of the previously discarded human mass that the opposition has never cared about for a second.
George Ciccariello-Maher in The Nation: #LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads
posted by RogerB at 12:04 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


You know, it is possible that the current leadership of the country is a disaster AND that the opposition leadership are CIA backed stooges. It may be that the people take to the streets again in two or three years to throw out the new guys.
posted by empath at 1:08 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


I have a US-resident Venezuelan acquaintance on FB who is posting all that fake-o image crap. Along with plenty of anguish, but not a lot of response.
posted by telstar at 1:17 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Does anyone here have a sense as to whether the current leadership of the Venezuelan military would support a coup? I had the impression that there were personnel changes made following the failed 2002 coup and that the current military leadership was more comfortable with socialism. Is that wrong?
posted by Area Man at 6:53 AM on February 24


The notoriously right-wing Guardian fails to address the important issue: what if the protests mean that Farmer Jones comes back?

Venezuela: chaos and thuggery take the place of the pretty revolution
Hugo Chávez's dream world has become a nightmare of shot-down protesters, jailed oppositionists, economic meltdown and a brutal war waged against a defiant middle class

posted by Joe in Australia at 6:34 PM on February 24


The Washington Post Uses Biased Experts to Promote Propaganda on Venezuela by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept
posted by jeffburdges at 7:29 AM on March 4


I don't watch much MSM anymore, but I get the feeling that vice.com is leaving them in the dust with their coverage from the barricades in Venezuela.
posted by telstar at 8:56 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


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