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By Global Public Square staff
The protests in Ukraine - and Russia's response to them - have monopolized headlines…but there is one other uprising that could have a big, global fallout. We are talking about Venezuela, where for weeks now, demonstrations against the government have been met with violent and sometimes deadly force. Keep an eye on that country because what happens there could have consequences across the continent - and all the way to Cuba.
We were surprised to read that one of the guiding lights of these protests is actually not on the ground in Caracas, but more than a thousand miles away…in Miami, Florida. Reinaldo dos Santos is a self-proclaimed "prophet" from Brazil…and he claims that Venezuela's president will soon be out of a job. For whatever reason, his prophesies have resonated with his 1.3 million Twitter followers as he emboldened them to fight the good fight. (A fun fact - Venezuela has the 5th highest Twitter penetration in the world, according to ComScore.)
It's a bizarre, kooky sideshow to what is actually a very serious situation - not only for Venezuelans, but for the global economy. Remember, Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, and it is the 4th largest exporter of oil to the United States.
Despite those riches, Venezuela is a basket case. There's hyperinflation, food shortages, an energy crisis, violent crime, and unfettered corruption. Venezuelans have a number of reasons to protest. But the protesters don't really have a clear sense of direction – that’s why they're following tweets from a Brazilian a thousand miles away. And it's unclear whom they represent.
On the one hand you have a moderate wing of protesters, a group whose leader narrowly lost out in the last elections. These protesters are looking for minor concessions from the government, as they bide their time for the next national vote. But a more vocal, even radical, wing of protesters has emerged in recent months, which have been calling for the overthrow of the President Nicholas Maduro. These calls have, of course, been the perfect excuse for a brutal government crackdown.
The background to all of this is Venezuela's silent and suffering majority. In an essay in The New Republic, the Mexican intellectual Enrique Krauze points out that the protesters on the streets are comprised mostly of the middle and upper classes. Krauze points out the far greater threat to the Maduro government could come from the poor, if they rise up. For years, Maduro's predecessor, the populist, America-bashing Hugo Chavez, cultivated lower income voters with a mix of subsidies and handouts. But as the economy has collapsed, even they have suffered greatly. If those silent poor rise up, we could see greater turmoil. You see, Maduro represents the policies of Chavez…but he does so without the late president's charisma and populist touch. If serious cracks in his government develop, perhaps even the army could question its loyalty.
As always with oil economies, if prices fall, all bets are off on the survival of the regime. And if Venezuela implodes, it would trigger a massive regional crisis. Cuba, which is essentially bankrolled by Venezuelan largesse, would probably collapse. Other populist regimes, like those in Ecuador and Bolivia, would also suffer a loss of aid. If, under pressure, Venezuela somehow moves toward real democracy, that too would have ripple effects across the region - and in Cuba.
So while you watch the crisis in Ukraine, think about the protestors in Venezuela, who are demanding the very same things as those brave souls in the Maidan.
Here we go again with those right-wing fanatics getting us involved in yet another conflict. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the C.I.A. managed to sabotage the Venezuelan economy. They already tried that in Chile some time ago.
You would make a good chavista.
If by Chavista, you mean someone who's capable of critical thought?
The CIA does not have enough resources to meddle in the internal affairs of a Venezuela that contributed millions to the Obama Campaign. Now we are looking at the quagmire that the enemies of the USA have caused. To Putin and his henchmen together with the Castro's and Madumoron the Cold War was never over. The US became too cozy and sure of herself after the Gulf War. Falling asleep has its price.
You have no idea what you're talking about Joe.
It's not the CIA that damages the economy, that's not their job. The IMF, World Bank, and Bank of International Settlements handles the economic sabotage.
No, it is not the CIA who damages the economy. It's Maduro wanting to keep the people poor so he can better control them, like they do in Cuba. Not happening in Venezuela.... That's why the people are revolting in the streets. All Maduro's fault.
Wow! There are really people who believe this kind if crap?! How does it feel to he a usedul idiot? You have bought into the communist propaganda hook, line & sinker. Sounds like you Ben swallowed the rod & reel too.
I have several Venezuelan friends with family in that country. They understand what you and other leftists do not: the difference between communist oppression and phony communist BS propaganda. Sadly, there are too many leftists in this country who are apologists for brutal dictators. Sadly, it's not limited to Hollywood morons like Sean Penn, Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.
Since when have the Chavanistsa (or anyone for that matter) stated that they are "Communists"?! Never. Private property is still alive and well. Indeed the nationalizations that have occurred are less thorough than what still exists in many democracies. The capitalist economy may be having trouble now (for various reasons), but on average it has done very well since Chavez took over as The Guardian explained.
no people left ... there are blind and people who want to live off the government demagoguery.
@Brit You are wrong here. After 2006, Chavez began openly quoting Marxist theory, and while he claimed something called "Bolivarian Socialism," it's tenets were more and more that of pure Communism. No, he did not get around to expropriating ALL private businesses so it didn't go all the way toward Communism, but was certainly put on that path. And the economic result of that mis-management was clear, nearly immediate, and not at all unexpected. Read Rory Carroll's excellent book on the "Commandante" to get a pretty clear-eyed picture of what went wrong with Chavismo. Back in 2001-2002, he had a chance to develop something like a Scandanavian capitalist/socialist hybrid. But for various cultural reasons and due to Chavez's own abysmal management skills, it fell apart. After the premature and aborted coup, Chavez turned inward and was never the same. His transformation into an "elected dictator" really started then.
"Indeed, Venezuela has been facing political and social turmoil in the past month, in which legitimate citizen concerns about security and inflation have been co-opted by violent extreme elements of the opposition whose only goal is regime change, leaving a tragic toll of 30 deaths. Statements by the US government portray all protesters as peaceful and hold the government responsible for all deaths, ignoring the violent nature of many of the protests that 75% of Venezuelans reject.
They also ignore the fact that well over half of the deaths are related to the barricades themselves, including the gruesome beheading of a motorcyclist from razor wire strung by protesters, the deaths of four National Guard and other citizens who were shot for clearing away barricades." Z net
You are blinded by the official propaganda. Here is a short video that explains the type of Government Maduro is running: http://bcove.me/bdiwm99u
Not very democratic. If you think different than the official party, you are persecuted. The economy is in shambles despite handling the highest prizes in oil in Venezuelan history. Debt, inflation are highest in Latin America. Devaluation despite a corrupt exchange control. The Crime and assassination levels are the highest in the world for a nation not in a belic war. There are no provisions. people stand in lines for 3 house to buy a liter of cooking oil and some sugar. There is no toilet paper. The markets are empty. These are the reasons the students are protesting – peacefully, but getting slaughtered by the tyrant.
Compare Chile and Venezuela. Chile is much, much better than Venezuela. One of the most advanced countries in South America.
Also I can't understand how you fail to grasp the fact that there is a chance Maduro is not good as a president. Have you even heard of any of his speeches about how dead Chavez spoke to him in his dreams?
Where have you been under a rock?
I'm sure there will be a way to blame the US
Or Russia/Cuba it depends on how far you want to go back. And who's position you want to take. Meddlers, meddlers everywhere blame the US it's always them I swear. X
Good luck Venezuela, however things turn out.
if there is trouble in any country in south america that is resisting u.s. control i KNOW the c.i.a. is involved... the people that are protesting are a VERY small number and they are nearly ALL of the 'buena gente' type ( ie. the wealthy ) the vast MAJORITY of the population in venezuela are better off than they have ever been since simon bolivar rebelled against the rule of spain and they agree with the present leadership... only the economic pirates want to destabilize the government of venezuela !
Yes I believe they have been living under a rock! The same old letany and CIA conspiracy theory!, "US control", the "right wing", "the wealthy". It is not the wealthy, it is everybody at every level of the population!. It is a dictatorship my friends, and the CIA has nothing to do with it. Cuba is in control. Look at the photographs of the students! Do they look like if the CIA gave them equipment to fight the brutality of the nazi-onal guard? The country is in ruins!, the powers have been confiscated by the so called Socialist party that is nothing but a Communist organization with a new class of super millionaires with fortunes in Europe and the US. And for the one who said that the country was an economic disaster since Bolivar. Informe yourself, it was the envy of Latin America.The only causes of it all are a corrupt government and the Cuban invasion. Same as Putin. History will prove it.
The idea that the "Venezuelan people" are better off than any time since Bolivar is a fallacy that could only be spoken by someone who hasn't visited. I have . . . multiple times every year since 1996. What you are saying is simply untrue.
Hubieran hecho esto en los años 90 cuando los pobres comian alimento para perros (Perrarina) y la clase media no existia gracias a los creditos indexados y las cuotas balon. Chavez los regreso a la vida y le dio voz a los q nunca tuvieron voz.
Si claro me imagino,, que al menos conseguias la comida de perro y lo comias con la leche escolar y lactovisoy que nunca existieron!!... actualmente aqui no se encuentra papel higienico!!
"a basket case"... please!!! Did you know that this "basket case" country is actually in the top five in the world in terms of improvements in total human development as measured by the UN (taking into account gains in education, health care, poverty, women's rights, etc.). Venezuela now has the highest GDP per capital in all of South America. Their poverty rate has been cut by more than 70% since Chavez came to power. Finally housing, health care and education are available to all.
I don't know where you are getting your "facts", but this is totally wrong and misleading. In the last 15 years, in spite of the price of oil going from $10/bbl to $100/bbl, Venezuela is lagging far behind the rest of Latin America in social and economic progress. The government is a mechanism that allows its loyalists to steal money on a scale never before seen.
Go, Venezuela go!!!
You (Venezuela) and Cuba will fall together, and that will be the end of Socialism on Earth.
Oops, I forget, ONE still will be left: the US.
Hey how ya doing, Jones?
To all you who say the "vast majority" of the protesters are from middle/upper class, do you even know what you're talking about? While I currently live in the US, most of my family is still in Venezuela and I can guarantee you noone is wealthy or middle class. Everyone is protesting. All social media in Venezuela clearly shows the protests have tens of thousands of people, yet "pro-government protests" have hundreds, if that. Chavistas have control of the media and spit out this image that the world supports them, and sadly many from the outside are bewitched. Please do not comment if you don't know the facts.
To support JP: I am here in Venezuela, and I am telling you that the protesters are from ALL classes of people. The vast majority of the public is simply fed up with the lies, incompetence, and corruption of this government.
Yes, and to limit the people who go to the marches are usually PEOPLE WORKING ON OR PUBLIC AGENCIES RECEIVING government handouts "TEAM OF DEATH"
Another I.M.F. takedown of a democratic country. Brought to you by the neo-cons at the CIA, NED, and USAID.
Who pays you to be such a jalabola?
You do not know what you are talking about. Venezuela has no loans from the IMF (although they may soon need them).
Gracias chamo, pero hay pocos van entenderte... jajaja
It's soooo easy to blame capitalism for your own incompetence. It's sooo easy to believe in conspiracy theories rather than accepting that a ideology you sympathize with has failed, again. It's soo easy to blame others instead of accepting "I've been wrong, there are better ways to run an economy and a country"
It's easy to forget about what's going on in Venezuela WHEN YOU GUYS NEVER REPORT ABOUT IT!!! How about devoting some time to the topic instead of continuing to beat the missing airplane story to friggin' death?!
Thank you for the interest in Venezuela and for making known the abuses of the dictator now in power, however it is a shame that you sight a Brasilian prophet as the leader of the uprising. Very short sided.... very short sided. get your facts right Sir.
I would like to thank you for this post. Though born there, I've lived outside of Venezuela for some years now due to many of the problems people are currently protesting about. It is hard to explain or even make people understand the magnitude of the issues the country is going through. To me it often feels frustratingly hard to bring any light to the issues you wrote about, particularly while there are so many other problems and protests in the world... Not to mention the speed in which news come and go nowadays, it feels like people get easily bored of the difficulties others struggle with.
However the fact that someone can speak up to others and ask them to please remember my country, remember that just because its already been mentioned doesn't mean its not important, well that's truly encouraging. Thank you.
CNN needs to take its own advice! For every story about Venezuela, there are 5,842 stories about a missing airplane. Give it a rest already! There are obviously other things happening in the world!
Brit, you comment its absolutely untrue. Do you live in Venezuela? Have you spent 1-2-3 months here. Do you speak Spanish? Of course, they called it "socialismo" like in Europe but is communism like in Cuba and the the Castro rule the country because we have oil and we support their country, Bolivia Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina and give free oil to caribbean islands. This regime is a dictatorship (same as Cuba) and we are fighting for our freedom. Students are dying every day shot by the police. Come and see for yourself and stay in one of the "barrios" and then I will listen to you. Otherwise shutup.
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The US Corporate interests and the shadowy world of the CIA NSA etc tried to overthrow Chavez. The tactics in the shortages are reminiscent of the artificial shortages induced in Chile to overthrow Alliende and replace him with the fascist Pinochet. However calling the Maduro Government a regime is highly propagandist. We call governments regimes when they do not have elected governments, or popular governments. The Maduro ADMINISTRATION was elected in elections with much better verification mechanisms than our own countries! And Google Greg Palast Venezuela, he will tell you a thing or two. I think the article is not entirely unfair, but it dwells in generalities with a few facts thrown in. No real exertion here to dig into the situation. It also does not recognize, that there are paralels to Kiev, many police have been shot dead by rightist snipers. So the article is unbalanced, not particularly informative, and seems to relish the prospect of the collapse of socialism and its replacement with a more "reasonable" government – that is one with capitalist support. In short I am sure the writers will be promoted! What did I learn from this article? About a Brazilian prophet in Miami, no doubt cavorting with aging Cubans! (I make a joke)
You do really believe what you wrote, don't you? Let me say you ignore what is the reality in Venezuela..Chavez expropriated lands and created missions that were going to be in charge of the agriculture in sorts of "socialist comunas" and the popular food markets...do you know what happened? After the circus and the televised unforgettable words of Chavez pointing to places, buildings saying "expropiese" that astonished everyone for its unlawfulness and clear abuse of power against private property, then those missions failed...there are pics of how the families that were given the lands abandoned them, lands that before were active producing now were brought to nothing, the truth is that Chavez wanted people to work the land and at the same time gave them incentives for not working , to have children , got paid to go to his political meetings, so we didn't produce anymore. The state agency AVN informed that Chavez expropriated by 2011 3.6 million of hectares of land from traditional big and small landowners. The saddest case happened in Ciudad Bolivar, to Franklin Brito, a small farmer whose piece of land was invaded and he died after nine hunger strikes and having used all the legal instances he didn't succeed. In some way he became a symbol of Chavez' abuses against private property. So there my friend lies the reason why there are shortages of food in Venezuela, from being independent food producers we became food dependents from abroad, with all the vulnerability that this brings, it is serious business, so stop blaming the USA for Chavez wrongdoings.
This piece from The Guardian provides observations from the ground in Venezuala. Is it worth referencing Thailand on this one as well?
For all of guys who believes Venezuela regime is the best ever, I encourage you to plan your next vacations to Venezuela along with your family of course just to double check if you have the right perception or not. Go please, and instead of still writing bull sheets about Venezuela go by yourself and then give us your feedback.
I agree with you, Jose. There are many out there that dare state their opinion on a topic they hardly know anything about. True, taking a trip to Caracas, or San Cristobal, for example, would be very enlightening!
Here we go again with the Venezuelan regime's favorite words that for 15 years have tried to Fool and bully the world: right-wing fascist, paid by CIA opposition, media propaganda, false campaign, how US Corporate interests CIA and NSA conspire for a coup. They have copied and pasted the same words on every news piece I have read.
Can you imagine the CIA and Corporate US paying for the minority group protesting and all this?
Do you see any US foreign forces inherence on these images?
Indeed I see foreign forces inherence, but only Cuban
I can't believe that you said that the Venezuelans follow the words of Reimaldo Dos Santos. That is an atrocity !!!!
After what Patricia Janiot experienced directly in Caracas, the brutality of a military dictatorship under the mask od democracy CNN airs this ambigous crap. Be serious
Please let us not conflate the problems of Venezuela and those of Ukraine! Eegads! They have nearly zero in common. The only thing that is the same is that these are are both exceedingly complex problems that have been simplified by the media into some sort of goofy simplicity.
Please stop for a second . The nature of the protests is rooted in years of discontent and frustration. Venezuelan people once gave Chavez their vote because he sold the idea of "the socialism of the 21st century" which basically functioned as a democracy with reorganization of the way the government aided the poor, by creation missions for this or that, education, housing, food,health, etc with collaboration from personnel from Cuba in exchange of oil. In theory and at the beginning the system seemed to be good and most of the poor felt that finally a government was taking them seriously. At the same time Chavez allowed the Armed Military Forces to be political, to vote and to be indoctrinated into the Socialism Castrense, by the Castro brothers. Chavez ascended to Generals as many as 1600 during his presidency and gave most military personnel great benefits, cars, money....he made them rich, he bought their pledge to defend Venezuelans and safeguard the democracy, the one that truly exercises freedom of press, freedom of thought, right to protest, right to have a fair trial, the right to life... the one that dignifies the man ...that is why military armed forces in Venezuela are so messed up and rather than defend and respect the citizens they are suppressing their efforts to protest against the scarcity of food and essential goods, the insecurity- Fareed, last year 24,000 people died in the hands of criminals!! If the government would have taken the National Guard out the way they have against the students(I didn't hear you mentioned them...they are the ones who started the protests and they still carry them on as the fuel power they naturally posses as they see no future in Venezuela for them) then the crime would have been controlled by then. The real truth is that these are not protests from the Middle upper class, look at pics from March 22 protests from these fed up majority nowadays , Non Chavistas and Chavistas, in opposition to the "marcha" of the government and followers. Chavez got corrupted by power and once he realized and with the mentoring of the Castros, that he could use PDVSA and it's oil to finance other presidential campaigns in the continent to try to spread his anti-imperialist discourse of his Socialism of the 21st century,then he became a delusional melagomano.He allowed his closed circle of supporters to benefit from the feast so the new term "boliburgueses" was born, those individuals who overnight passed from having nothing to have everything: the most corrupted government ever, so much waste and bad use of the main económic resource of the country that after 15 years all macroeconomic data yells "bankruptcy"....one of the countries with the highest oil reserves in the world! More than 40 billion in debt with the Chinese... I suggest you find more interesting data with Datanalisis, I believe it's probably the most trustful source of information in this matter. Chavez left us a disastrous state of things in Venezuela: the guerrilla FARC and drug traffickers wander freely throughout the country, it has become their paradise...I truly associate the decrease of guerrilla presence in Colombia in other words , the peace efforts in Colombia, to the increase of their presence in Venezuela and the violent crime statistics, remember we are neighbors, Chavez praised FARC publicly many times...his association and friendship with the governments declared enemies of the USA was very public too, that is the case of Sadam Hussein and Ahmadinejad. Chavez ruined our economy and left a Metrobus driver in charge of this BIG MESS.... For those who like to likes to include CIA or the USA in this let me just say don't. Chavez did it all. He is the main responsible for this mess. Venezuela has not invested for many years in its oil industry. We export to the USA despite all the stupid things "the regime" say about the empire....and we import the refined gasoline and other derivates from the USA...crazy, right.? That is the incompetence of tha regime who might have misled 80% of Venezuelan population in the beginning talking about Democracy, but nowadays is just another vulgar dictatorship manipulated by old sleepless communists in a tiny island in the Caribbean, who got the luck of the Irish.
So disappointed in Fareed, who is usually more thoughtful. Reinaldo dos Santos!? Do you really believe that this has anything to do with the unrest and repression? Please, be serious. And re Cuba, it is not "Venezuelan largesse" that is at work here. Cuba has essentially invaded a sovereign country, and now has deep ties to the Maduro's security apparatus and armed forces. The decisions about the subsidies to Cuba and the methods used to crush the uprising (which is not a middle class phenomenon, Enrique Krauze's caricature notwithstanding), are being made in Cuba. Maduro is simply a puppet of the Castro regime; even a significant portion of the Chavistas realizes how flawed Maduro is, but he is first and foremost Castro's Man in Caracas. Venezuela is a deeply divided country. Maduro "won" the last election with a 1.5% margin of victory and had the Chavista hand-picked electoral council declare the results of the election "irreversible" after an initial "audit". In spite of the narrow margin of "victory", Maduro and the rest of Chavista government have done nothing to change the autocratic nature of the regime, choosing instead to use the same tactics the Castro's have used in Cuba for 50+ years. Let's assume the opposition "only" received nearly 50% of the votes. Does Enrique Krauze expect us to believe that the Venezuelan unrest is a middle class phenomenon? Please, use some common sense...
Fareed, completed missed the mark with your take on Dos Santos influence on Venezuela's unrest. Clairvoyants provide not much more than entertainment value for most people in Venezuela. It has been more than 15 years of lies, insults, abuses of power, food shortages, rampant crime, electricity shortages, injustice, and simply the loss of respect for democratic and human rights, these are the drivers. I'm surprised to see this take on a countrywide crisis from a journalist and medium of this caliber.
As someone who is married to a Venezuelan (and have spent months there on 8 separate trips), I hear everyday from her family about the worsening conditions facing them there. The government is extremely corrupt, and does nothing to solve problems such as lack of safety, food, energy. The people are fed up with their incompetence and lies and I support them completely in ridding their country of this "elected" dictatorial regime.
It is not normal that a person fears for their life due to the extreme violence (even before the protests) every time they leave their house to go and stand in line for hours so that they can take home enough food to maybe last them until the next day.
It is also not normal that a country that has one of the largest oil reserves has scheduled and non-scheduled power outages almost daily in every part of the country, accept Caracas of course cause that is all the foreign media sees.
The current regime has run Venezuela, a beautiful and potentially well to do country, right into the ground. The people should rise up and take back their country, and I for one support them.
What a shallow analysis. 'the protestors in Venezuela, who are demanding the very same things as those brave souls in the Maidan.' The very same thing? really? And what about the government investigating 60 human rights abuses, can you imagine that happening in the good ole USA? The gov. of Venezuela has been calling for peace and dialog for weeks. Many protestors extremely violent, and disrupting the economy even further. Cuba collapse if Venezuela changes, huh? They didn't collapse when they lost soviet support. The author of above article is hallucinating.
So you say that the government is serious about peace? You are so naive. A husband who has been reported by wife and her family as a domestic abuser asks to make peace with her using a stick in one hand, a gun in the other, keeping family away, etc and you really think he is honest? He might have been the chosen by her for marriage but he he is a domestic abuser, who is not asking for forgiveness or accepting that he has done any wrong with his violent ways. Sad is that their neighbors are silent even though they've seen and heard a lot. The protesters that you may be referring to are the students who don't carry guns, only a sign, a voice, a shirt covering nose and mouth because of the gases. Maybe you've seen courage, frustration and rage in their eyes because they are been suppressed of the right to do the only thing they can to express their discontent to a disastrous regime who are uncapable of running this complex country and are tired of seen their moms haviing to do long lines for long hours in a sidewalk under the sun just to get bread and the only existing brand left of fruit jam. True story. And Cuba did collapse when lost soviet support. When you visit Cuba, don't just go to the area alledgedly for tourists....
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