Thursday, February 19, 2015

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.

Let's not be mistaken about it: tonight arrest of Ledezma is only comparable to arrests in the middle of the night in the darkest regimes of totalitarian nature.


This being said, what are the regime's intentions? What is next?

Clearly that show of force is a proof of weakness for the regime. This is a group of people that feel very threatened, very isolated and have an urgent need to destroy all in front in the vain hope that this will avoid what they feel, at least at a subconscious level, their own coming downfall. The question here is why now? After all this is still a regime that does have significant support even if it far from a majority now. It is a regime that has almost all power levers in hand, no critical media in front and still some oil revenues. A normal political group would make the best of the cards it still holds to try to make some amends to gain some time to regroup. But the wave of repression in recent weeks betrays a divided regime, scared as hell, cognoscenti of the true economical disaster they are trying to hide. Their only unifying factor is to become all guilty of the most absurd, uncivilized, and barbaric, repression.

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.

Again, all of these was predictable, speculated on in this blog and elsewhere. This is a dictatorial regime and the only surprise at this point is that so many people inside the opposition still try to pretend to justify democratic mechanisms that tonight we know, once and for all, are not viable with a regime that understands "dialogue" as a polite synonym to "submission".

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.

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.


  1. The regime is trying to incite resistance. They need people to hit the streets and protest in large numbers. The security forces are ready to shoot, arrest, and do whatever to make it clear they will hang on to power no matter what.

    This is a key premise you have to have in mind. THEY WILL NOT GIVE UP. The pressure, therefore, has to come from the inside. And internal pressure only arises from a national strike. However, you can´t call for a national strike openly, because that means being arrested. So the obvious solution is to stop working. And this implies you must be willing to undergo a lot of hardship now. Something I don´t see Venezuelans doing. And thus we go back to the starting point. They goad you to offer some resistance knowing they can murder you if you do resist. And you can´t resist because you lack the will power to do absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. Complete, utter passiveness. Nobody works. An impossible solution. Therefore I suggest you pack and leave. The Venezuelan people never had what it takes to stop that monster.

    1. Anonymous8:48 AM

      If people could face the truth and coming together massively to leave jobs till government falls it might work, but I don't see the people in this psychological state

      I love this post


    2. The last major strike was PDSVA - more than 20,000 people lost their jobs. The only upside to that strike is Canada, USA and other places picked up some very competent engineers from Venezuela. Venezuela just seems to go on and on and on

    3. Anonymous9:48 AM

      The problem of the strike was that is was not large enough nor long enough...patience was not the virtue of the day


    4. The PdVsa strike was ill timed, arrogant, and lacked support by many within the oil industry. PdVSA managers were so foolish they never bothered to seek support in other sectors. What I'm suggesting is a bit different. This merely involves EVERYBODY putting their hands down. Maduro lacks support within chavista ranks, and he knows it. This is what drives his current behavior. I know many of you don't believe he's mentored or given orders by Raul. But what I see is exactly what is to be expected from the old dinosaur. What Raul can't handle is the nonviolent approach. The ultimate non violence is what I propose. Do nothing. Don't do anything. Don't fix anything. Don't shop. Don't go to a restaurant. Don't go to the beach. Hard? Yes. Can venezuelans do it? I don't think so. They lack what it takes. This is why the best option is to get out.

    5. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't this Gov't still have 20% popularity amongst the stupid and those working for the gov't? Do they care about anything other then the oil industry and the army? Hence between this 20% and Cubans can they not keep the oil industry moving enough to pay for the staff and army? Ultimately at the end of the day is that not all they want, the rest of the people can go to hell for all this gov't cares.

    6. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't this Gov't still have 20% popularity amongst the stupid and those working for the gov't? Do they care about anything other then the oil industry and the army? Hence between this 20% and Cubans can they not keep the oil industry moving enough to pay for the staff and army? Ultimately at the end of the day is that not all they want, the rest of the people can go to hell for all this gov't cares.

  2. Milonga7:54 AM

    Oh, my! Reading Fernando totally distresses me.
    I believe the pressure must come from outside. Unfortunately, we are governed by crooks all over Latin America. They will not give up because they can't show how mean was their "revolution". So, they defend each other. And only powerless voices will be heard.
    So, I don´t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
    And see a lot of scapegoats. Poor guys!
    Love you, Dano. Trying my best to but a grain of sand.

    1. Pressure from outside? Why should anybody bother? I read Miguel Octavio write how much he likes Obama's sniveling for votes by getting friendly with Castro. So I got venezuelans acting happy because cuba is being sold into 50 years of slavery for a few bucks? And you expect the same people who crucified Cubans in their cross of gold to come help you?

    2. 'Obama's sniveling for votes''????? Get your facts straight, but I guess you deal in BS, not the truth.

  3. Charly7:58 AM

    Maduro confessed he spend Carnival Tuesday with the the two drooling brothers who run this country. He went to receive orders to manage the current fast deteriorating situation. Two days latter we get this new expression of democracy. Do you believe in coincidence? After all, the Castros are a pair of seasoned assassins. What beats me though is that any decision they instruct Maduro is for the sole benefit of Cuba. How does that benefit their current negotiations with the Empire? Beats me! Any suggestion anyone?

    1. One thing history has proven to the world is that the Castros do not care about human life or their people. So firstly the idea that they are negotiating with the USA in order to save their economy in the face of the Venezuela oil struggles is a laugh. Just another opportunity for them to grandstand.

  4. Anonymous11:34 AM

    I read this:

    And the first thing that I think is this is absolutely no different than Nazi Germany.

    How could someone be so sick to even write such a thing?

    "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. "

  5. Anonymous1:43 PM

    It's like when Germans dressed as Polish soldiers and attacked a radio station in Germany. That was Hitler's fabricated reason for invading Poland and starting WWII. The Chavistas have turned murderous now because they have no one to blame in reality but themselves and cannot accept this fact. It MUST be someone else's fault.

    1. Boludo Tejano10:30 PM

      Not to mention the Reichstag fire.

  6. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Weekend papers coming out and a special report in the British press.


  7. Charles Lemos9:13 PM

    The notion that Cuba is calling the shots is patently ridiculous. Cuba never had these problems even in the early 1960s. To begin with, these are far different times on so many different levels. That world was bi-polar. This world is multi-polar even though the US remains a potent power but it is not the US that intervened at will in Latin America any longer. Maduro is doing this and perhaps on Diosdado Cabello's orders (it is Cabello who has the most to lose should chavismo fall) but it's pretty obvious that the regime is blaming the US because it needs the smokescreen. I read the Venezuelan press daily, what's left of it anyway, plus I can't tell you how many hours I've spent watching Maduro speak (does he ever give a short ten minute speech?) and I've spoke to numerous Venezuelans now in exile. We're well aware of how desperate the situation is for Venezuelans. So if one can't fix the economic (they don't even recognize the problems or its root causes) then you need to invent a crisis. A distraction. A few weeks ago, the papers did cover the shortages. Now none do. It's all about the golpe and how it was miraculously prevented by the regime. No one is talking about the shortages. It's all golpe all the time.

    Another explanation for the crackdown is that the regime is in fact besieged. Not by would be coup plotters but by its own incompetence and frankly ignorance. The regimes see demons where they don't exist. Maduro can't explain why the economy is in free fall so it must be a conspiracy. How do the stupid explain what they can't understand? They just conjure up wild fantasies. And they'll fit any development wildly to fit their delusions. Take the foreign media for example. Any foreign newspaper covers Venezuela, and since these portray the situation as dire, this is seen as proof of a vast Madrid-Miami-Bogotá axis conspiring to overthrow the government.

    I wrote a paper just last year on Colombia's economic rise. Colombia is the C in CIVET, a group of nations that investment bank (the term was coined by Goldman Sachs where I used to work). These are the next round of mid-sized economies poised to achieve a rapid rise in living standards and in overall wealth as measured by GDP. Colombia is for example poised to join the OECD, the Paris based organization of advanced industrialized societies, within a decade. After spending a considerable time in Colombia and traveling around the country, I came to the conclusion that Colombia is the next South Korea. I haven't been to Venezuela, and I'm tempted to go see for myself, but I'm beginning to think that Venezuela is the world's next North Korea. I would not be surprised if Maduro is replaced by Chávez daughter. Nor would I be surprised if Venezuela suddenly announced that it wants to develop nuclear weapons. But the possibility that a Stalinist state is being created, wittingly or unwittingly, in Venezuela is I think something worth thinking about. It's clear to me that first and foremost that the regime at this point only cares about its own survival. Most governments certainly never want to lose power but in democracies alternating political forces is the norm. If a political force loses power, given time, it may regain power. The PSUV knows that this option is not open to them. For many in the upper echelons of the PSUV it's not just their lifestyles that they will lose, it may be their very lives. The specter of Manuel Noriega weighs heavily over Diosdado Cabello. Maduro is a figurehead. Cabello is the man in charge. And he's in Caracas, not Havana.

    1. Boludo Tejano10:29 PM

      The notion that Cuba is calling the shots is patently ridiculous. ....I'm beginning to think that Venezuela is the world's next North Korea.

      And what country outside the Korean peninsula most resembles North Korea? Many- or even most- observers would reply that Cuba most resembles North Korea.
      Recall what Hugo Chavez said about Fidel Castro:
      “I am only a soldier in this battle. Fidel is our president. If one had to name a president of the world with enough powers to set it right, it would be Fidel. I believe in one decade he would set the world right.” [my translation]

      Not as ridiculous as you assume.

      For your perusal, courtesy of Alek Boyd :An Overview on the Dynamics of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Terrorism and its International Supporters. Chavez has long been a fan of Fidel.

      Cuba never had these problems even in the early 1960s.
      Cuba is not now nor has ever been a Petrostate.

    2. Charles Lemos12:58 AM

      When the Soviet Union fell in the early 1990s, the two countries most affected were Cuba and North Korea losing access to industrial products, hydrocarbons and markets. Both countries experienced what is called Peak Oil. Now let's look at what happened in North Korea and Cuba. In the DPRK, a widespread famine left an estimated 2.5 to 3.7 million people dead. In Cuba, the average Cuban lost ten pounds. If you can't see the difference because you're ideologically blind to the reality that Cuba functions then that's your problem.

      Chávez, by the way, is dead. At this point, he's irrelevant. What matters is that the Cuban system, whatever its limitations and flaws, actually functions quite well. Venezuela's does not. And Bolivia and Ecuador with similar socialist governments and natural resource export oriented sectors are also not falling apart. So why is Venezuela?

    3. Charles Lemos1:24 AM

      Your comment that Venezuela is a petrostate does have merit though they are some very successful petrostates, Norway and the Gulf States. Venezuela's economic development is remarkably different than other Latin American states. In the 19th century, Venezuela stands out as the region's most autocratic state and the poorest in South America. Oil changed everything with its discovery in the 1920s. While the economic depression of the 1930s led to a period of what's know as ISI development (Import Substitution Industrialization) across the region where domestic industry was protected behind import tariffs in most of Latin America, this did not happen in Venezuela to the extent that it did elsewhere. Apart from Polar, I'm hard pressed to think of a Venezuelan industrial conglomerate. Venezuela essentially imported most of its necessities. So today, it has to import 90 percent of its medicines and 70 percent of its food. And despite the fact that PDVSA, the state oil company, was a well managed company until Chávez politicized it, Venezuela never diversified its economy. Now look at Colombia which from the 1870s on was largely dependent on coffee exports. Even as late as 1965, coffee represented 90 percent of Colombian exports. In Venezuela, oil is 95 percent of exports. So in 1968, the government of Carlos Lleras Restrepo created ProExport, a private/public entity to look at diversifying Colombia's exports. Out of this came the Colombian flower industry. From zero exports in 1970, cut flowers were a $155 million export industry in the mid-1980s. Today, Colombia's cut flower industry is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands. It is a $1.5 billion industry today. And the ancillary benefits are immense. To deliver fresh flowers daily, Colombia had to build a transport infrastructure. Result, Bogotá's airport is today the largest cargo mover in Latin America. And coffee today is, while still a large important export, only the fourth export in terms of value.

      Venezuela's problems were certainly exacerbated by chavismo but they most certainly predate the current regime.

  8. Charles Lemos9:30 PM

    Daniel, I meant to add, that yours is a very insightful blog. Thanks for these notes from within the belly of the beast.

  9. Boludo Tejano10:29 AM

    The notion that Cuba is calling the shots is patently ridiculous….Chávez, by the way, is dead. At this point, he's irrelevant.
    From Devil’s Excrement: Caracas Mayor Ledezma Arrested
    Maduro revealed that he had been in Cuba during the Carnival break, suggesting that this strategy was cooked up there.

    Note that commenter Charly also pointed out that Maduro had recently been to Cuba. Mere coincidence? I think not.

    I suggest you peruse the back postings of Venezuela News and Views, as Daniel has many times expressed his opinion that Cuba is not a passive bystander in Venezuela- both before and after the death of Hugo Chávez. I’m not the only one. I defer here to the opinions of bloggers Miguel and Daniel, who know Venezuela much better than I.
    Maduro, a Communist “ripened” in Cuba .

    If you can't see the difference [between Cuba and North Korea] because you're ideologically blind to the reality that Cuba functions then that's your problem.

    It wasn’t I who brought up the comparison to North Korea: you did. And I quote: “I'm beginning to think that Venezuela is the world's next North Korea.” So you are informing us that Venezuela is like North Korea, but Cuba is not like North Korea. That may make sense to you, but it doesn’t make sense to me.
    And Bolivia and Ecuador with similar socialist governments and natural resource export oriented sectors are also not falling apart. So why is Venezuela?
    Caracas Chronicles has covered this- more for Bolivia than Ecuador. Google it.

  10. The Regime is trying to provoke a Coup so they can declare a State of Emergency, suspend the Constitution (what is left of it) and then cancel or indefinitely postpone the coming Elections which they know they will lose..The way the govt sees it they win both ways. Either people provoke a Coup which gets condemned immediately by most of the world, or they do nothing, which is good for the Regime because they will round up the opposition, jail them and destroy whatever Leaders the Opposition has...Either way, they come out ahead...So it seems that by allowing so much to go on for so long the people are backed into a corner that will not be easy to get out from. What will happen now is anyone's guess..One thing is for sure is that the Regime and Maduro are collapsing due to their own ineptitude. And that will not change. The Regime may very well implode on its own and leave a complete power vacuum...As Chavistas run in every direction.


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