Yesterday’s Miami Herald editorial:
Testing Venezuela’s sincerity
OUR OPINION: Government’s actions undermine calls for mediation
If his stated interest in reconciliation were sincere, the first thing President Nicolás Maduro would do is call off the dogs — the pro-government militants who have sown terror on the streets by intimidating, beating and shooting protesters.
Instead of putting them on a leash, though, Mr. Maduro has publicly praised these thugs as defenders of the “Bolivarian revolution.” Resorting to brute force to silence critics hardly sets the stage for mediation. Targeting high-profile government adversaries, including elected officials, only makes matters worse.
Shortly after the wave of protests began, the government ordered the arrest of outspoken government critic Leopoldo Lopez for allegedly inciting violence. On Friday, an appeals court rejected his plea for bail. Far from discouraging opponents, Mr. Lopez’s imprisonment has served only to raise his profile as a leader of the hard-line opposition and fueled further protest.
Apparently unable to learn from its mistakes, the government doubled down on its dubious tactic. On March 21, authorities jailed the mayors of two cities that have seen some of the most intense unrest — Daniel Ceballos of San Cristóbal and Enzo Scarano of San Diego. They were arrested, tried and sentenced within a matter of hours on trumped-up charges of failing to prevent violence.
Then, last week, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced that a prominent opposition deputy, Maria Corina Machado, had lost her seat and parliamentary immunity and could be arrested at any time. She courageously defied the government by leading a street protest days later and remains free as of this writing. But for how long?
While Maduro says he’s open to having a “facilitator” create a dialogue with the opposition, last month he was threatening to bomb the state of Táchira:
“If I have to decree a state of exception especially for the state of Táchira, I am ready to do so. I am ready to decree it, and I will send in the tanks, the troops, the Air Force, the entire armed forces of the fatherland, because we will preserve Táchira as Venezuelan territory, as belonging to Venezuela. I am ready to do it now! I have the constitutional authority to do it, I have the clear strategic vision for it, and ultimately, I have the Enabling Law. I have the Enabling Law. I am willing to do anything for Táchira, anything.”
That was in February; this is what Táchira looked like yesterday,
— El_bicho_popular (@Elbicho_popular) April 1, 2014
The current wave of unrest started in San Cristobal on 4 February, when students took to the streets to protest against the alleged attempted rape of a university student.
When you first talk to them,there are a number of surprises. First, they are not all from Caracas. Second, they are not middle class. Finally, they are not all students, as many of them are part of radical, left wing groups 8yes! [sic], real left wing not imitation Chavistas!) which oppose the Government. So, for fools that claim that these protests are somehow motivated by the US, driven my middle class students, please come down and talk to them. You will be surprised, really surprised.
Today Maria Corina Machado will attempt to attend the scheduled National Assembly meeting, after NA president Diosdado Cabello divested her of her elected position. The Venezuelan Supreme Court rubber-stamped Cabello’s decision.
Now the question is what the opposition will do. Is it still trying to pretend dialogue is possible? Will it make a show of force and try to enter with Maria Corina Machado in Parliament even if all may risk arrest? When are we going to start calling the regime a dictatorship and deal with it accordingly?
There’s a demonstration scheduled at noon to show her support.
Queridos venezolanos,manaña nos encontramos en la calle!EnCCS en la Plaza Brión a las 12m.Por la Soberanía Popular! pic.twitter.com/fHRPA7XYWG
— María Corina Machado (@MariaCorinaYA) April 1, 2014
We’ll see how it evolves.
Elsewhere, in “one of the most democratic nations on Earth”, the government announced it will begin fingerprinting customers who use state-run grocery stores. Supposedly to prevent hoarding,
Patrons will register with their fingerprints, and the new ID card will be linked to a computer system that monitors purchases. Food Minister Felix Osorio says it will sound an alarm when it detects suspicious purchasing patterns, barring people from buying the same goods every day.
Considering the precedent of the Tascón List and the Maisanta program, this does not bode well.
Re: the new ID cards for food purchases, it’s worth keeping in mind that just 2 days ago ABC.es was reporting that Cubans manage Venezuela’s ID system, its identity cards and passports.
This just in,
Venezuelan president orders landlords to sell homes in 60 days or face fine of £24,000 in wild bid to plug housing shortage
Owners leasing for 20 years ‘must sell’, evicted if don’t pay fine in five days
Law dictates they must sell for ‘fair price’ to prevent dip in the market
Landlords must submit prospective sale prices to the government
Comes as ‘grocery ID’ scheme launched to monitor amount people buy