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Venezuela News And Views

A blog about life under, and resisting, a dictatorship


To sanction, or not

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:36:17 PDT

So the talk is on sanctions again since the US/Trump have announced that they are considering strong sanctions if Maduro insists on electing a constitutional assembly next Sunday.What I am dismayed for is to read that some people that should know better do not want sanctions. One example is Moises Naím who is usually so right on things but who is not quite this time around (1). The argument advanced by those who oppose sanctions are that 1) they do not work 2) they hurt the population more than the regime and 3) they can boost the regime if this one can wrap itself in the flag of nationalism.Yes and no, and the more so in the case of Venezuela.  Let's try to clarify ideas as I did for the electoral fraud of next Sunday.We cannot judge Venezuelan situation on the basis of other examples because the conditions are unique. Venezuela is actually a war torn economy upon which not a single bomb has fallen. As such the population is already going through lack of food, lack of medicine, lack of basic services, and all getting worse by the day. Any of those refusing sanctions should explain to us how things can get much worse. Yes, they can, we can get outright killed but that could also happen without sanctions.Would sanctions work? It depends on two things, which type of sanction and the will to enforce them. I agree with Naim on this part: for Trump to stop Venezuelan oil imports would not do much and if anything gain sympathy for the regime. But there are other options with oil. The one I would like is to forbid the sale of gasoline and gasoline components to Venezuela. The shortages of gas would certainly affect us a lot, but would also affect the regime a lot.  It would be difficult for the regime to replace its US purchases because they would need to sell oil to the US, get paid and only then buy cash in hand from other countries since the regime has no more credit. Buying gas and condiments to the US can be a much easier swap, faster to obtain for a country who lacks of everything but gas. You know where our priorities are.......But I digress. My point is that there are different type of sanctions, some that may actually be more effective than stopping oil purchases. It could be even as simple as a 2 dollar tax per barrel on Venezuelan import to finance shale oil exploration. Venezuela financing the competition that would put it out of the market. No embargo, we can still sell oil to the US.....But would those sanctions be used effectively by the regime? At first maybe. But a little bit only. The regime has spent so much time attacking the evil empire in the North and yet nobody associates the current crisis with the United States. Well, outside of the yellow dog chavistas.  What worked for the Castros will not work as easily for chavismo. Too many inside chavismo are aware that the crisis comes from the corruption and incompetence and the "I do not give a shit" attitude of the camarilla around Maduro and the army.  On this I am not as sanguine as Moises Naim.  The regime has wrapped itself too much around the flag for 18 years. The poor thing is just worn out.Finally the "it does not work" argument. Well, it did work for South Africa. The salt boycott of India is a strategy that a determined people can use though in Venezuela people hate sacrifices of any type: pais de antojados.  It failed in Cuba because the US made it unilateral without managing to get real allies first, a mistake it did not do with Iran or Russia.I suppose that what I am trying to say is that sanctions would more likely fail because of the nature of the Venezuelan people than the sanctions themselves. We do not want to suffer even though we self inflicted our current suffering.  But it is "ours" so at some level people do not mind as much as they should.  I know, there is no logic but that is the way people are here. My house keeper speaks volumes against Maduro and food shortages. And yet she has to go to her first protest march. She has no time. She is afraid of tear gas. She does not fit in. She whatev[...]

The constituent assembly electoral fraud

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 18:42:28 PDT

After finishing a series of posts to explain how we have reached the current situation I thought that it may be good to have targeted entries as we get ready for July 30.  Let's start with the constitutional assembly to be elected on July 30th, if the regime has its way.Regardless of the legality and scope of that assembly the very electoral system to be used makes it totally unacceptable and forces the opposition to a confrontation. Here is an incomplete laundry list of all that is wrong with the constitutional assembly voting system:A: the electoral body*Not all votes are equal. If you vote in Baruta district (235.000 electors) you need at least thirteen of you to compensate for a single vote from, say, Buroz district (17.000 electors).   That is right, one vote of a Buroz denizen is equal to 13 votes of a Baruta denizen and they are both in the SAME state. No need even for an inter state comparison. Why? Because the election to the assembly is one representative per district, regardless of population.*Not even all districts are equal! All capital districts have for some unexplained reason the right to elect two representatives. Considering that capital districts voted overwhelmingly for the opposition in 2001 it is one way to limit the possible voting impact. In effect to win the two seats you need to double the votes of the other party. So the opposition, if it participated in the vote, would see that advantage neutralized in part.  But that is not all, the capital city is not necessarily the biggest district of the state.  For example in Trujillo the capital has 43.000 electors for two seats and the main city Valera 104.000 electors for a single seat.*Some people get to vote twice.  The election includes the election of people by specified constituencies based on their social composition. For example registered students get to vote for their additional representatives. Or retirees for theirs.  Which means that if you are not assigned to one of these lists then you get to vote only once and everybody else twice. Amen of the inequalities within these social groups that are impossible to measure exactly considering the paucity of information in the electoral board, CNE, web page.*The regime is the one who decides who goes where in the sectoral vote. The regime requested lists from organizations to build up the sectorial lists of electors; but as a matter of fact the only organizations that the regime recognized are those already controlled by the regime. As such many students do not get to vote, many trade union activists do not get to vote, many electors from consejos comunales do not get to vote. In the case of the consejos the regime never recognized many of them because their elected council did not yield a result that pleased the regime.It has been calculated that even if the opposition decided to participate in the election the regime would get a majority of seats with as little as 30% of the vote. Between the sectoral lists and the districts that are tightly controlled by the regime through dependency of el pueblo for basic food, 60% of the vote would not be enough for the opposition to get a majority.But the problem to begin with is that even if the opposition would have wanted to participate it couldn't have done so with fainess.B: the electoral fraud*What already existed for material fraud is still valid.  By this I refer to the material advantage of the regime. The CNE has allowed in all elections the regime to use freely the resources of the state for the electoral campaigns of the regime's candidates.  To man the meetings state vehicles are freely used, state/taxpayer is freely used, goodies are distributed, etc...*What already existed for media fraud is still valid, and then some more. In past campaigns the opposition had an extremely limited access to state media and a limited access to the remaining private media. In addition the regime abused of its cadena privilege which means that it did hours and hours of simultaneous broadcast[...]

Paro civico 2017

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 23:12:09 PDT

I have not gone into the details of what the opposition plans to do. Then again it is not quite clear, the people are upset anyway and act like crazies and thus the MUD leadership sorts of goes with the wind instead of leading it as it should. Then gain, can anyone lead the country today? Certainly not chavismo for that matter. But I digress from today's sole objective, to let you know how was this beautiful day.Stopping a country...........The opposition called today for what was in fact a general strike but under another name: paro civico nacional (national civic stop).  The old term of "paro" by itself used in 2002-2003 has been discredited, and useless today at any rate. How can you call for a general strike when the bulk of the economy is controlled by the state and when the private sector is so exsangue from years of repression and economic control that for all practical purposes it is like it were on a permanent semi strike? A nice adjective to paro will make it relevant again.But progress has been made. Since the country is so angry at the regime there is no real need to call for a general strike: you call for a civilian protest that doubled with a "trancazo" will make sure it would look like a national strike without having the name.And it worked. IT worked so well that the regime, among other things, had Maduro drive a car and filming from the inside the side walks "prove" that the strike had failed. Unfortunately the trick may have worked for those who DO NOT know Caracas but those that know were immediately into the Maduro fraud. See, downtown Caracas is plagued with "busetas", those worn out mini buses that have no qualm disembarking people anywhere at any time, on third rank if they feel like it.  Seeing streets WITHOUT busetas and the joke was on Maduro. And there were other mistakes but that one was glaring enough to sink the propaganda stunt.  While admitting that the paro civico has worked quite well.But what is one to do locked at home for a day? Go for a long walk on the deserted avenues!  Only when the avenues of El Cafetal are free of traffic can you measure how well they were designed, how adapted to humanity, until permanent traffic congestion, pollution and insecurity had wrecked their use.  So, today, with an air so clear after almost 24 hours of rain, I had one of the longest and most enjoyable walks in years. Quite often I was actually alone, ALONE in a street for perhaps 5 minutes until a bike passed or somebody walked out a building with a dog in leash. Heavens....I did take some pictures for the sake of it. Like the one above with a ridiculous barrier for trancazo, barely 20 yards ahead fo a real one....  But people are going crazy. Did I say that already?Here are two more.Of course, tomorrow drive with a lot of care as many of these storm trenches and gridsmay not have been replaced as they should. You do not want to lose a tire. Creativity with material is is an art to appreciate.But while I was locked inside El Cafetal and forced to enjoy the views and the air, elsewhere things were not rosy. Back at home I could here explosion after explosion all afternoon. At one point I even caught one of the gas clouds, when the light was good enough to allow for contrast considering the distance.  Note that all the gases thrown were drifting over the inhabitants next, babies, elderly and the sick included.  Much bigger clouds and explosions were coming from El Marques or Los RuicesTear gas Macaracuay/California Sur. On the right the Macaracuay bridge. The nazional guard is on the street up that bridge on the left. Apparently protest is up that street too. The tear gas is thrown at them. You can see the large cloud drifting over densily inhabited area!A post shared by daniel duquenal (@duquenal_at_vnv) on Jul 20, 2017 at 4:08pm PDT[...]