Saturday, March 08, 2014

Are the Venezuelan protests yielding results?

On March 5 the government of Venezuela commemorated the first anniversary of the passing of Hugo Chavez with a military parade in Caracas attended by few international guests. On the other side of town and across the country protests entered their second month. Even the regular observer of Venezuelan politics is allowed to wonder what has changed that made this wave of protests so extended, so intensive.

And yet, Maduro is still in office, with shelves empty, at the grocery store or at the drug store. How come?

Classical explanations have been advanced. There has been always a militant polarization of the country. Chavez fostered it by putting his finger on a racial and social divide that a small middle class group could not accept. And thus went traditional clichés. But this time around none of these can account for a massive movement that started way outside the traditional Caracas fire starters. This time it started with the steady and hard working Andes inhabitants of San Cristobal, bringing its state in near open rebellion.

Supporters of the regime still point out that popular districts remain calm and thus supportive of president Maduro. Clichés would still apply. This is a misreading of what the Chavez system has created in the past 15 years. There is a huge dependency system that was fashioned to ensure that large segments of the population cannot consider switching allegiance. They are afraid of losing their already shrinking benefits or their menial state jobs. It must be added that through paramilitary groups called “colectivos” working hand in hand with local organizations tightly controlled by Maduro’s party, the "consejos comunales", it is hazardous to express a contrary political opinion if you plan to remain living in peace in the neighborhood. There are now interviews available of people from popular districts breaking the fear cycle and explaining why they go to middle class neighborhoods to join the protests. And small barricades have appeared in transition areas.

Protests far from dwindling may even be gathering strength. This forces us to look elsewhere for an explanation. It is in the realization that the regime may well have stolen our future. How do we know that?
There is first the economic crisis. With inflation around 60% we cannot get housing, we cannot save, we cannot make ends meet. We see that our employers cannot get raw materials, cannot maintain production, and have empty order books. We are afraid that we are going to lose our jobs and we know that there are no jobs out there for us. We do not see the government taking effective measures. In fact, we see that the few it takes are simply making things worse. This cuts across social classes, this cuts across like or dislike of chavismo. This is a fact of life for all.

We see that Venezuela has gone from being an immigration country 25 years ago to be a country with a Diaspora. This one, on February 22, was able to hold significant to surprising protest meetings in more than a hundred foreign capitals and cities. Friends and relatives are leaving. Those who remain here have odds to die a crime victim larger than areas of the world at war. And the students, the ones leading the protests know that there is nothing awaiting them once they graduate. Now this also cuts across social classes though the pain may differentiate more according to your position.

This is why we protest. Our future has been stolen and we want it back. That is the only force that could have kept us for weeks in the streets.

And yet, have we gained anything?

We have mixed arguments. Some say that the "guarimbas" have cost us support. Some say that these were unfortunately a necessary cathartic moment. Some say that we must put in sync the needs of the two halves of Venezuela. Some say that the crisis and the ethics will bring them together at some point, sooner or later.

I think it is too early to consider whether the two dozen deaths and scores of hurt, arrested and tortured have had a definitive effect. No matter what, the regime whose figurehead is Maduro has been mortally exposed and this is going to have consequences. I will remind you that in 1936, at the glory summit of Berlin Olympics nobody could have guessed how the history books would be written 20 years later. Even Churchill would have been hard pressed to advance a tenth of the horror. And yet in 1936 the German regime had already given plenty of evidence of its nature, and where it was headed for.

We can already count as wins a few items that will not change, no matter how hard the apologists of the regime work at. And they are working hard at it because the image of the "left" is threatened world wide as it had not been threatened in a long time. By "left", of course, I mean the Fidel blinded left in Latin America and the hard left in Europe, both of them having had, in the best of times, very questionable democratic credentials. The social democrats, like many genuine Liberals in the US, have long known that the regime was a charade, perhaps even before than anyone else because they benefit from a healthy allergy to all that is military and corrupt. The Venezuela crisis is starting to pry away in academic circles those who pretend to belong to that democratic left for social prestige, but who were mere fellow travelers in the worst possible sense for their hypocrisy.  The longer they defend Maduro, the lower they will fall.

The OAS meeting this week has revealed that democracy is not very solidly anchored across the continent. Only the US, Canada, and Panama who is the most recent victim of the leftist nationalist charade, have had the courage to stand up to the rest of the continent, where "left" and "right" confounded preferred to remain "neutral" as if it were possible to be neutral when Human Rights are trashed. Incidentally, many of those "leftist" have conveniently forgotten how many of them sought asylum in welcoming democratic Venezuela in the 70ies and 80ies. Shame on Latin American intelligentsia.

And we have also made gains inside Venezuela. Now the divisions inside chavismo and the opposition have become clearer.  Those inside chavismo are not obvious because too many of them depend on the survival of the regime at all cost for their own survival, so many are the crimes they have committed. But one tiny dissenting comment inside that apparatus is as telling as scores of opposition politicians battling it all over.

In the opposition we have now exposed the "accommodating" wing, mostly Primero Justicia and the leftovers of AD, COPEI... these people preferred the country to slowly sink, thinking that in December 2015 elections will hand over them power. With the brutal repression of last months few now think such a scenario to be possible. Reality is finally sinking in. But that does not mean the radical wing has made gains: their recklessness has also exposed an all of nothing attitude that can lead us to civil war. What we have gained is that the opposition has been cut open and now they need to mend fast to survive, to boot the regime away, as soon as possible. It is the greatest of ironies that Borges and Capriles who have squandered their chance in April 2013 now must direct a resetting of opposition strategies that will not benefit them.

But the best gain of all is that chavismo has lost its image for good. It is now a vulgar repressive regime, who cannot ever again use with any credibility the excessively worn out arguments of 4th republic, 2002 coup, the empire against us and what not. In the past two months their repression and the bankruptcy of the country has overtaken in magnitude and horror all what has happened before because it was unnecessary, because they had more money than anyone, because they had so much good will 15 years ago. All of that talk to end killing students brutally.

We do not know when the regime will fall, or how. But now we know it will happen and it will be a major democratic moment for our continent because with a little bit of luck we will drag into the mud the Fidel legacy.


  1. Excellent post Daniel. This one made me smile at the end. Good work.

  2. Anonymous7:46 AM

    Thank you, my friend. I'll love all Venezuelans for finally dragging down into the mud the Fidel legacy. We tried and failed, but I think you will succeed.

  3. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Daniel did anyone from Chavez family attend the Commemoration? I didn't see Adan or the daughters in the pictures?

  4. Stefan12:42 PM

    Great speech, one for the books. Will there be a Spanish version?

  5. Dr. Faustus1:03 PM

    One of your most insightful posts,.....ever. I was particularly struck by this passage: "And they are working hard at it because the image of the "left" is threatened world wide as it had not been threatened in a long time. By "left", of course, I mean the Fidel blinded left in Latin America and the hard left in Europe, both of them having had, in the best of times, very questionable democratic credentials."

  6. Anonymous1:57 PM

    God proved Chavez was temporary, Maduro proves stupidity is eternal!

  7. ABC News posted an article yesterday on the current exodus from Venezuela to Miami. It now appears to consist largely of those leaving without adequate resources to support themselves. It notes,

    "The violence and demonstrations in Venezuela over the past three weeks haven't yet provoked a new surge in migration to Miami, but there has been a slight increase in the number arriving in Florida. Some 19,800 Venezuelans arrived at Miami International Airport between Feb. 15 and 28, up from the 18,500 who arrived during the same period in 2013.

    Those who are coming reflect the shifting demographic of Venezuelans choosing to start over in a foreign country and the deteriorating conditions they are fleeing."

    Could those numbers be correct? Almost 20,000 over slightly less than two weeks? If the apparent trend continues, the Venezuelan economy seems likely to accelerate its decline. But will Venezuela eventually have insufficient middle and lower middle class to eject the Chavistas/Cubans?

    1. Anonymous4:59 PM

      For those of us outside of Venezuela, ARE THE AIRLINES FLYING? I thought they suspended flights because the government owed them billions.
      How did those 19000 get to Miami? How did they pay for their tickets, what exchange rate did they use?

      These kinds of news confuse me because I have this image that you can't get anything in Venezuela. Are the bars open? Can you still stop by and buy a cup of coffee? Where is the coffee coming from? when all you hear that the domestic production is nonexistent and it is impossible to import anything!

    2. anonymous

      no the airports have been bombed into oblivion, planes cannot land. i have no idea how those people got to miami, maybe they went to cuba first and picked up a ride with some balsero.

      bars are open and if you are willing to pay the black market rate you get booze, sex, drugs and coffee to wake in the morning and start over again.

    3. Anonymous10:09 PM

      ah ah very funny. I don't understand why you wasted your time with sarcasm. No reply would have made better use of your time.
      Besides I still don't know if the airlines are flying to Caracas. Last I heard they were all suspending their flights due to not getting paid by the government. Please no sarcasm this time, did they get paid? are they back in service to Caracas?

    4. Anonymous3:05 AM

      Anonymous 4:39. I just did a quick look on Expedia to re-confirm what I already figured was still happening, and has been for months now.

      In my search, flying out of Vancouver to Caracas is not only way more expensive than it should be - top price was $7,500 CAD (!!!) but there were no North American carriers (Air Canada, United, Delta, etc.) flying directly to Caracas. The last (and first) legs of a round trip showed only Copa (from Panama City) or Avianca (from Bogota) flying to and from Caracas.

      In other words, you can still book a flight using e.g. United but you'll have a stop in Bogota before switching to Avianca to fly the rest of the way to Caracas (and back).

      Hope this helps. Anyone, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

      Mike Nelson

    5. Anonymous7:44 AM

      Actually I should have referenced my 'sticker shock' at the *cheapest* airfare I saw - $1,800 CAD.

      That's still about $800 more than it used to cost and those flights didn't include a stop in Bogota (or wherever) before switching airlines to get to CCS.

      Mike Nelson

  8. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Daniel, I just have to say that you are a true patriot to Venezuela. This is one of the most insightful posts that I have read on any site. I start my day by reading the latest news on Venezuela, and your site is the one I go to first. You are doing yeoman's work in the name of freedom and democracy. I believe in a better future for Venezuela, as I am sure you do. The world is taking notice. This regime is doomed, the only question is when? Viva Venezuela!

    1. Agree entirely one of the best posts from a long line and fulfilling a need at the right moment.Thanks Daniel

  9. I am without power from an ice storm, and in starbucks. Without my glasses, so i will kepp it short...excellent, and perfect post..thanks...

  10. Thanks, Daniel. Very good article.

  11. Anonymous5:46 PM

    When Mel Zelaya was trying to install Chavzimo in Honduras I had a "friend",we'll call him Chico, who was working in the inner circles of Zelayas' people. Chico asked me one day who I admired most in the world and would like to meet.
    I had a hard time coming up with a name so in order to buy time I asked him who that person would be for him. He told me F*#!%#! Castro. I was taken aback by his answer because I had never heard him praise Castro or any of the heroes of the "left". I asked what the F#*! are you talking about. Chico answered "you have to admire someone who has been able to stay in power for 50 years".
    This is the reason for the "Fidel blinded left in Latin America". Chavez, Evo, Ortega, Christina, Correa and Dilma all admire Castro because he was able to stay in power and it doesn't matter HOW!

  12. Is there a "like" button anywhere? Thanks for the excellent post.

    1. No like button. I suppose I could find a way to add one but a thank you note like yours is short, sweet, to the point and infinitely gratifying.

  13. Anonymous10:44 PM

    You are the only one who speaks the truth. Venezuelanalysis just makes things up to satisfy Maduro and Chavezmongers. They accuse the world as plotting against them when no such plot is being sought. It is an openly lying news source. Their history lessons need you, Daniel, as they have many things wrong also.

  14. Anonymous12:53 AM

    There are some beautifully written passages in here - especially the portion referring to the loss of a future.

    But the rest of the post is over-confident in the extreme. There is no evidence to support your analysis, and no humility here, either -- no awareness that this is just your opinion, not The Truth.

    The protests may yet provide unhappy Chavista power-brokers with the pretext for removing Maduro...but there are no guarantees that such a change would lead to a more moderate or sane government. Why not a military junta?

    In short, you make the same mistake as Leopoldo, thinking that this cathartic expression of rage (much justified) is the same thing as progress.

    1. One has to love it when dramatically courageous anonymous dig hard to find ways to criticize and insult.

      You now something, at 7:23, normal people read blogs for opinion. If they do not want opinion they have newspapers for that. Get your media objectives straight.

    2. Anonymous1:12 AM

      Oh, this is obviously not news. I'm quite clear about that.

      I have really come to value the point of view of this blog, and the perspective it offers, especially regarding the economy.

      But lately it seems like your anger (understandable!) and emotion (and ongoing responsibilities, in a toxic atmosphere, I'm sure) are reducing your ability to offer thoughtful and carefully considered analysis and opinion. That's only MY opinion, of course...but you should know it's one from an admirer.

    3. Each way we take your comment trouble follows.

      CAREFUL analysis is only possible when one has access to actual data which in troubled historical period is impossible.

      In time of troubles correspondents are under such pressure that their analysis must suffer.

      Which one it is? Or is it both?

      Considering what I have read around whether my analysis are flawed they are at least original.

    4. If I can ever help in anyway possible so that you can get the facts out there please let me know!


  15. Anonymous3:32 AM

    While I am not in agreement with the post above, there is an element of truth in it. One blog, street barricades and protests will not bring Maduro down. There has to be a planned action in all of this and I am not seeing any plan. And while we all hope that Fidel will finally be discredited, he is like a cockroach and seems to survive and continues to be admired in Latin America.

    1. Anonymous3:27 PM

      In my humble opinion, what will bring the Maduro regime down is the economy. While the street protests , in and of themselves, won't bring down the regime, they are calling the world's attention to the horrible economy that Chavism has wrought on Venezuela. Venezuelan bonds have skyrocketed in the last few weeks. This regime has less and less money to fund what little support they have, and when the money runs out the very people that "profit" from the government will turn on them. It is socialism at its finest. The old tenet that socialism works until you run out of other people's money is alive and well in Venezuela.

  16. having watched this govt charade since 2002 and marrying a lady from caracas in 2008 I can only see two outcomes.
    a severe crackdown, Cuban style or civil war.
    I have been trying to explain this to my wife since 2004 but she is still shoked and surprised at every event.
    in the history of mankind that I have read there has not been a peaceful prosperous communist/socialist govt in history.
    someone correct me if I am wrong.
    while the US system is far from a perfect blend of capitalism/socialism it does change, sometimes slowly but it does.
    took us two wars with England and one bloody civil war to get where we are now.
    most people that don't read and try to understand history are simply going to repeat it.
    I think it was Albert Einstien that said attempting the same thing twice and expecting different results was the definition of insanity.

  17. Anonymous8:24 PM

    When Maduro states that the USA would do the same thing in repressing demonstrators, he needs to be reminded the last US President to do so was Richard Nixon...who eventually resigned.


Comments policy:

1) Comments are moderated after the sixth day of publication. It may take up to a day or two for your note to appear then.

2) Your post will appear if you follow the basic polite rules of discourse. I will be ruthless in erasing, as well as those who replied to any off rule comment.