Friday, December 26, 2014

Leopoldo Lopez versus Diosdado Cabello

Two major newspapers have published letters as OpEd from the two sides of the Venezuelan spectrum. I will let you judge by yourself comparing them. I also re-publish them integrally so you do not need to seek the the links.

The first one was in the New York Times, which editorial policy seems to have changed quite a lot since it decided to help exculpate the Castro brothers, or at least to have them exculpated enough to "justify" renewing ties with Cuba. Their point man for that having been a Colombian background journalist, Londoño. The least that we can say about his texts was that even himself could not sound very convincing about his attempt at ooohs! and aaahs over Cuba today. If charitably I could try to accept the notion that the pro Castro moment was dictated by "higher state interests" of the US, the Op Ed below, supposeldy written by Diosdado Cabello, head of the Nazional Assembly is a clumsy disgrace. Read:

Hectoring Venezuela on Human Rights

CARACAS, Venezuela — IT seemed an unfortunate coincidence that just as scores of people demonstrating against police brutality were being arrested on the streets of New York and other cities, the United States Congress passed a bill to bring sanctions against members of my country’s government for alleged human rights abuses during protests earlier this year.

While Congress accused Venezuela’s government of cracking down on dissent, African-American communities across the United States expressed outrage over police killings of unarmed black men. Then, as legislators on Capitol Hill criticized Venezuelan officials for purported violations of democratic norms, a Senate report revealed the extent of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The antigovernment protests in our country that began in February resulted in the deaths of more than 40 people, many of whom were either pro-government supporters or innocent bystanders. Of those deaths, a significant number were caused by antigovernment demonstrators, who used violence to try to oust our democratically elected government. Rather than engaging in lawful and peaceful demonstrations, those protesters used barricades and burning debris to block streets. They also caused the deaths of several motorcyclists by stringing wires across roads.

Our government responded with restraint, allowing those violent demonstrations to go on for several months. Every effort was made to ensure that only protesters who directly violated laws or placed the lives of others in danger were detained. For example, those responsible for burning public buses with Molotov cocktails, or who set fire to a public university, were rightly arrested and charged — as were 17 state security agents accused of using excessive force against protesters, who are awaiting trial.

Eventually, our citizens grew tired of those protests and their incoherent tactics, which only created chaos and insecurity in our streets. The unrest subsided, and the opposition lost credibility. The leader of the opposition coalition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (the Democratic Unity Roundtable) subsequently resigned after disagreements within the organization.

After the death of my good friend, and our president, Hugo Chávez, almost two years ago, our country has experienced a series of difficulties, including economic problems. As president of the National Assembly and the vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which was founded by Mr. Chávez, I have worked with President Nicolás Maduro to find viable solutions.

To respond to the falling price of oil, which underpins our economy, we are cutting public spending by 20 percent. But we will not cut funding to our key social programs, which provide essential medical care, education and welfare to our citizens. We are also taking measures to battle the high inflation that has plagued our nation over the past two years, and we are battling to end the black-market dollar trading that sabotages our foreign exchange system.

Some months ago, Mr. Maduro extended an olive branch to the Obama administration by naming an ambassador to the United States, and inviting Washington to name an ambassador to Venezuela. Mr. Maduro also named me to lead a high-level commission to repair relations with the United States government. To date, President Obama has neither accepted our ambassador, nor offered his own in return. And there has been no sign from Washington of any intent to engage with my commission.

Imposing sanctions against a country that has caused no harm to the United States is no way to move toward a constructive relationship. Unilateral sanctions against other nations have usually failed and have been rejected by a majority of the international community.

In Cuba, a decades-long trade embargo caused great hardship but failed to realize the United States’ objective of ending the Cuban revolution. The United Nations’ many votes to lift the embargo exposed how isolated Washington had been in its policy. It would be regrettable if sanctions against Venezuela, first opposed by the White House, now became a way for the Obama administration to appease those in Congress who oppose the historic restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba.

A majority of Venezuelans, regardless of party affiliation, reject these sanctions and view them as baseless aggression. We will not be bullied by efforts to weaken or discredit our government.

We have tried to move toward improving relations with the Obama administration, but have been rebuffed. We can only wonder if the timing of these sanctions is an attempt to distract public opinion from the exposure of rights violations by United States law enforcement officers.

Diosdado Cabello is the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 18, 2014, on page A39 of the New York edition with the headline: Hectoring Venezuela on Rights.

This been done, the Wall Street Journal which along the Washington Post has been the most consistent critics of Cuba and Venezuela (with their differences but clear objectives both) has published a letter from jail, already a tad more challenging if you get my drift. It comes from Leopoldo Lopez that we can be sure has had a hand in its redaction, and in English of course, compared to the one from Diosdado that he may not have been writing himself in Spanish (I will gladly publish a picture of his manuscript first draft if he has penned it, proving me wrong: after all having blocked me on Twitter assures me that his people follow me).

Letter From a Venezuelan Jail
I am one of scores of political prisoners locked away because of our words and ideas.

By: Leopoldo López, Dec. 26, 2014

Los Teques, Venezuela – My country, Venezuela, is on the verge of social and economic collapse. This slow-motion disaster, nearly 15 years in the making, was not initiated by falling oil prices or by mounting debts. It was set in motion by the authoritarian government’s hostility toward human rights and the rule of law and the institutions that protect them.

I know this on an all-too personal level. I am writing from a military prison, where I have been held since February as a result of speaking out against the government’s actions. I am one of scores of political prisoners in my country who are locked away because of their words and ideas.

This unjust incarceration has given me a firsthand view of the pervasive abuses—legal, mental and physical—perpetrated by the ruling elite in my country. It has not been a good experience, but it has been an enlightening one.

My isolation also has given me time to think and reflect on the larger crisis facing my country. It has never been clearer to me that Venezuela’s road to ruin was paved years ago by a movement to dismantle basic human rights and freedoms in the name of an illusory vision of achieving greater good for the masses through the centralization of power.

When the current ruling party, the United Socialist Party, first took power in 1999, its supporters viewed human rights as a luxury, not a necessity. Large segments of the population were living in poverty, and in need of food, housing and security. Protecting free speech and the separation of powers seemed frivolous. In the name of expediency, these values were compromised and then dismantled entirely.

The legislature was neutered, allowing the executive to rule by decree without the checks and balances that prevent government from veering off track. The judiciary was made accountable to the ruling party, rendering the constitution and the law meaningless. In an infamous 2009 case, Judge Mary Lourdes Afiuni was imprisoned for ordering the release of a businessman and government critic who had been held for three years in pretrial detention, one year more than allowed under Venezuelan law.

Meanwhile, political leaders—myself included—were persecuted and imprisoned, stifling the competition of ideas that could have led to better decisions and policies. Independent news organizations were dismantled, seized or driven out of business. The “sunshine that disinfects,” and the scrutiny that motivates good decision-making, no longer benefit our leadership.

Venezuela’s current president, Nicolás Maduro, has taken this to a terrible new low. Rights are rationed as though they were scarce goods to be traded for other means of subsistence: You may have employment if you give away your free speech. You may have some health benefits if you give away your right to protest.

Apologists, many from other countries, including the U.S., say these sacrifices were and are for the collective good of the country. Yet the lives of Venezuelans, especially the poor, are worse by every measure. Inflation, at more than 60%, is rampant. Scarcity of basic goods has led to empty shelves and long lines. Violent crime is skyrocketing and the murder rate is the second highest in the world, behind only Honduras. The health-care system is collapsing. And many financial experts are predicting a default on the country’s debts in a matter of months.

The challenges now facing Venezuela are complex and will require years of work on many fronts. That work must begin with restoring the rights, freedoms and checks and balances that are the proper foundation of civil society.

The international community has an important role to play—especially our neighbors in Latin America. To remain silent is to be complicit in a disaster that doesn’t just impact Venezuela but could have implications across the hemisphere. Organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the South American trade bloc Mercosur must come off the sidelines. Countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Argentina must get involved.

At home, our constitution provides a way forward if we will heed its words. Our proposal is simple but powerful: All rights for all people. Not some rights for some people. No regime should have the power to decide who gets access to which rights. This idea may be taken for granted in other countries, but in my country, Venezuela, it is a dream worth fighting for.
Mr. López is the former mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas and the leader of the Popular Will opposition party.

I for one think the former to be written by a spoiled brat that wants to hold the ball during recess if the other kids do not want to play by his rules. The second letter is by a statesman. Enough said.


  1. Boludo Tejano6:16 PM

    Ah yes, the NYT giving a "balanced" approach by giving a voice to a regime that has done a fairly complete job of getting rid of oppo voices in the media.
    I have regrets whatsoever for having shorted NYT stock some years ago- a case of my politics making me some money.

  2. Island Canuck7:26 PM

    Leopoldo Lopez is making the regime really look bad internationally.
    I really don't understand the reasoning behind it other than just pure spite.

    He, on the other hand, has gained many points through his incarcelation.
    He'll come out of this as a great Venezuelan hero & patriot.

  3. The NYT is well known to play ball with the government. For example, they participated in the orchestrated deception to convince the public to support the ill conceived Iraq invasion in 2003. This was arranged by allowing articles written by Judy Miller to be published. These articles contained falsehoods which were in turn used to convince senators to back the war. The NYT seems to be playing ball with Obama to gather support among the radical left the Democratic Party will need in 2016. if we see Fox News softball opposition to Obama's soft policy towards Cuba then it's an Israel lobby move. They are selling Cubazuela for something. Why do I bring up the Israel lobby? That's the only force able to make the NYT and Fox News get on the same side. I'm sorry if I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I'm sketching my thoughts "by free hand".

  4. Sadly, the WSJ is by subscription only, limiting the circulation of Leopoldo's letter other than sources such as this blog. I wish his letter had shown up in NYT and WaPo and was picked up by AP and Rueters.


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