My friend Ed Morrissey asks, is Venezuela on the edge of collapse?
He’s asking for good reason: Rioting, three dead, people starting to disappear.
Jorge Luis LeóN disappeared at last night’s Trigal, Valencia, protests. HELP US if you know something.
Jorge Luis LeóN desaparecido anoche en protestas del Trigal, Valencia. Si sabes algo AYUDANOS pic.twitter.com/2L0kKx5FxQ
— HeudesGarbi (@Heudes_Garbi) February 14, 2014
First, the headlines:
Telegraph: Army sent in to Venezuelan cities as unrest prompts coup warning
President Nicolás Maduro claims ‘fascist’ opponents orchestrated protest violence that claimed three lives as part of plan to overthrow government
Under the slogan “The Exit”, meaning the departure of Mr Maduro from power, hardline opposition groups have for the last fortnight been staging protests over the country’s searing crime, corruption, rampant inflation and shortages of basic goods.
But Leopoldo López, the opposition leader now in hiding from an arrest warrant on charges of homicide and conspiracy, said the government had instigated the bloodshed in order to discredit his peaceful movement.
The opposition blames armed pro-government militant groups known as “colectivos” for attacking their marches. Several times during Wednesday’s rally the cry went up: “The colectivos are coming!”, sending some demonstrators running for safety. One of those killed was a well-known colectivo leader from “January 23”, an impoverished hillside barrio in Caracas that is a key revolutionary stronghold.
WSJ: Venezuela Moves to Quell Protests
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s administration deployed security forces and demanded that demonstrators seek permission before protesting.
WaPo: Venezuelan officials order arrest of opposition leader
Leopoldo López faces murder and terrorism charges after protests that left three people dead Wednesday.
NYT: Prominent Opposition Leader in Venezuela Is Blamed for Unrest
El Universal: Venezuelan president: Taking NTN24 off the air was a State decision
Miami Herald: Opposition fears witch hunt as Venezuelan government vows to crack down on protest leaders
And CSM makes a point (emphasis added): Venezuela: Could protesters’ deaths hurt fractured opposition? (+video)
Thousands of protesters came out nationwide yesterday to call for Venezuela’s President Maduro to step down, but the death of at least two people could give the government the upper hand.
Despite both political camps trading blame, observers warn that the recent antigovernment push to take to the streets could backfire on the fractured opposition. The unrest could offer the Maduro administration a welcome diversion from the slew of problems plaguing Venezuela.
“The government is in the best position to take advantage of the situation,” says political analyst Luis Vicente Leon, head of the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis. “The violence provides a scapegoat for the crises at hand.”
Back to Ed’s question, is Venezuela on the edge of collapse?
Venezuela “collapsed” into a Communist state guided by Castro’s Cubans years ago. For years after Hugo Chavez declared himself a Marxist, I have documented the corruption and chaos, the expropriations of private property, the Chavista takeover of the media, and their control of all Venezuelan institutions: the military, the judiciary, the legislative, and the state governments, not just the presidency.
While Venezuela’s oil production has severely declined over the years, oil is still hovering the $100/barrel magical number. Yes, Venezuelan oil is heavier, etc, etc. The fact remains that Venezuela still is an oil producer, and the USA’s misguided energy policies add to Venezuela’s coffers.
Venezuela’s also an ally of Iran, another oil producer that has managed to retain a repressive totalitarian regime, even in spite of UN sanctions.
The Cuban puppet masters are the most effective propaganda masters in the history of the Western world. They will make the revolting students (all puns intended) the bad guys.
But the fact remains that the students are going it alone: Not one country in our hemisphere, let alone the world, has publicly expressed support. Most importantly, no one in Venezuela’s military appears to be behind them.
So, to answer Ed’s question, no, Venezuela is not collapsing. It is well down the road to repression. The current regime will continue for many years to come, be it with Maduro, or Cabello, or someone else at the presidency.
And I pray to God I’m wrong.
Cuba Moves In for the Kill