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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

jueves, 20 de febrero de 2014

Venezuela: nuevas técnicas de confrontación.

 

 

 

Venezuelan Opposition Tries New Strategy of Confrontation

By Frida Ghitis, on        
        
 
The Venezuelan opposition has shifted gears and is steering down a new path, carrying a message that the country is crumbling and there is no time to wait for change.

The decision to take a much more confrontational approach comes in an environment of growing popular discontent, with an accelerating downward economic spiral and increasingly harsh living conditions under the rule of the late Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro.

The move by the opposition is a calculated gamble. It could provoke a much harsher crackdown from the regime, creating an even deeper chasm between the two sides of Venezuela’s already profound political divide. It could trigger a wave of violence that would be difficult to control. And it could also lead to a splintering of the opposition. But it might just have a chance of bringing an end to Maduro’s presidency.

The call to take the fight to the streets came from the charismatic and photogenic hard-liner Leopoldo Lopez, a Harvard-educated local mayor who is now under arrest after leading massive anti-government protests.

In the 2012 election, Lopez stepped aside to make room for Henrique Capriles, whose most significant achievement remains uniting anti-Chavez forces into a solid bloc that could work together and become a threat to the regime. Until Capriles rose to the top, the opposition was divided and ineffectual.

But competing on a sharply uneven playing field, Capriles’ impressive but insufficient showing at the polls achieved little more than giving democratic credibility to the regime.

He remains governor of the large state of Miranda, and technically still head of the opposition.

When Lopez started calling for street protests, Capriles said he would not participate, saying, “We don’t believe in violent ways or coups.” But Lopez and his Popular Will party gathered force. Eventually, Capriles, too, joined in the mobilization led by Lopez and Maria Corina Machado, an allied deputy.

The conditions of daily life in Venezuela are making the situation untenable and ripe for continuing mass demonstrations. The economy is deteriorating so rapidly that Lopez’s tactics may manage to peel away enough support from the left to tilt the balance, especially now that Chavez is no longer on the scene and his successor enjoys less popular affection and inspires less awe among powerful Chavistas in government.

Economic mismanagement and ad hoc socialist policies are unraveling the economy of oil-rich Venezuela. Yearly inflation is approaching 60 percent. Foreign investment has dried up in the face of the government’s capricious confiscation of private businesses.

Currency controls have stoked a red-hot black market for hard currency, with the illegal dollar rate now at 13 times the official exchange rate. Venezuelans who can afford it are buying dollars and taking them out of the country to preserve what they can of their assets. Hard currency shortages are destroying manufacturing by making it virtually impossible for businesses to buy raw materials.

Newspapers are shutting down because they cannot find enough foreign exchange to buy newsprint. Car manufacturers are stopping assembly lines, and staples of daily life are disappearing from the shelves amid chronic shortages of basic consumer goods. The government’s response has been to blame the shortages on speculators and saboteurs.

In addition to the economic crisis, the level of crime continues to increase, affecting people of all socio-economic strata. The government has simply stopped keeping crime statistics.

By raising the stakes amid enormous popular frustration, the opposition could unleash a wave of national protests with the potential to bring down Maduro, who is much less canny than his mentor. A number of scenarios come to mind, from continuing protests and nonviolent strikes to more ominous and bloody ones.

If Maduro is perceived within Chavista circles as failing to handle the challenge, it is quite conceivable that he could lose power to another popular figure on the left. When Chavez was ailing, there was widespread speculation that National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello would be his heir. Cabello may see a national crisis as the moment to shove Maduro aside, perhaps with the support of members of the military or other powerful figures.

So far, the tally of the protests has been four dead in unclear circumstances. After last week’s first wave of street demonstrations, the government arrested scores of protesters. The U.S. expressed concern about the detentions, and Maduro responded by expelling three American diplomats, accusing them of conspiring against his government, a page from Chavez’s playbook.

Then the government blamed Lopez for the violence. They issued a warrant for his arrest, and security forces raided his parents’ home. Lopez defiantly tweeted, “You’re not going to force me or my family to bow down.” And he posted a YouTube video calling on the people to take to the streets, wearing white as a sign of their peaceful intent, and pledging to turn himself in. “I have committed no crime,” he said, “If they want to arrest me, I will be there.”

On Tuesday, thousands of anti-government supporters took to the streets wearing white, and thousands more came out for a rival pro-government demonstration wearing red.

Maduro told his backers that the opposition is a “fascist infection” in Venezuela.

As expected, Lopez was arrested by national guard troops on Tuesday. In a message on his Twitter account, he said he was headed to a military prison and told his supporters to keep pushing for change.

Just how far the new wave of opposition protests will go with its new leader behind bars is impossible to predict. But there is no denying that Venezuela is moving along a very shaky path. As long as economic conditions continue to deteriorate, it is a path that inevitably will lead to more instability and violence.

Frida Ghitis is an independent commentator on world affairs and a World Politics Review contributing editor. Her weekly column, World Citizen, appears every Thursday.