Posts tagged Nicolas Maduro
Posts tagged Nicolas Maduro
In today’s Latin America Advisor, David Smilde and other experts respond to questions about the ongoing protests in Venezuela. To read the article in its original context, please click here.
Latin America Advisor: Deadly protests, the largest since President Nicolás Maduro’s election last year, have wracked Venezuela in recent weeks. The demonstrations were punctuated on Feb. 18 by the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo López, who had been organizing the protests. Why did these protests erupt now, and why did they turn deadly this time? Does the situation pose a threat to Maduro’s government? How will López’s jailing affect the opposition?
David Smilde: Like any protest wave, the sources are multiple. The basic motor of these protests has been students, protesting against the criminalization of protest and in favor of freedom of expression. The movement was latched on to and fueled by radical elements of the opposition who were not in agreement with their coalition’s more moderate line aimed at growing the opposition coalition and negotiating with the government. Leopoldo López and others pushed forward with street protests seeking Maduro’s resignation. In a couple of the protests, larger swaths of the opposition base have hit the streets to raise their voices as well. Protests in Venezuela frequently involve violence. Protestors themselves engage in (usually non-lethal) violence. The National Guard, which works to control the protests, has inconsistent professional standards. Mix that in with pro-government but semi-autonomous armed collectives, and it is a perfect recipe for violence. I doubt it was ordered from the top, but suggestions made by Maduro and Chavista governors about the defense of the revolution can easily be interpreted by followers as a green light for violence. The government could control it by sending crystal-clear messages to its followers and making sure that security forces work protests without lethal weaponry. The protests seem to be dying down and are focusing on ‘guarimba’ tactics in which small groups of people block off streets to disrupt daily life. They likely will not end as long as the government and government supporters continue to repress them. At the present the protest movement is really leading the actions of opposition politicians rather than the other way around.
Venezuela: Opposition Protests Continue, President Maduro Supporters Come Out
From WBEZ Chicago’s WorldView: Protests continued on Monday in Caracas, with opposition members blocking off parts of Caracas and erecting barriers on major roads. Over the weekend hundreds of thousands of people also came out in support of the government of Nicolas Maduro. We’ll examine the demands of both sides with David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America.
Hugo Pérez Hernáiz and David Smilde
Having successfully passed the political hurdle of the December 2013 municipal elections, Maduro has increasingly cemented his role as leader of the Bolivarian Revolution. The elections pushed to the discursive margins questions of his legitimacy and increased his political capital within his own political coalition.
Most concretely, the predicted struggle between him and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has not been played out yet. Cabello has become a major power broker in his position as President of the National Assembly and First Vice-President of the PSUV (The “eternal President” of the PSUV is Chávez), but has not contested Maduro’s leadership. However, political analyst Argelia Rios argues that during the campaign for the December elections “Diosdado Cabello emerged as a relevant party boss, so much so that it has become impossible for Maduro to ignore him.”
Perhaps the most salient change in direction during Maduro’s first nine months in office has been the increased the military presence in the government. Maduro has sought to strengthen what he calls the “civic-military” union. Given the small margin of victory at the polls in April, and ambivalent backing he has received from leftist social movements, it makes sense for Maduro to see the military as his most important pillar of support.
David Smilde and Rebecca Hanson
The fact that President Maduro went on national television and directly addressed the tragic murders of actress Monica Spear and her husband should be welcomed, as it is all too easy for the government to ignore the issue of security in the country. Many Venezuelans do not see crime as a public policy issue and therefore do not blame the government for it. This creates incentives for leaders to avoid the issue because once they begin to address it, they risk “owning it” in people’s eyes and then could suffer political consequences if their initiatives seem to fail. Thus it is tempting for leaders to simply ignore the problem and allow people to continue blaming it on a decline in values and the family. Thus, Maduro deserves credit for confronting the issue directly.
Nevertheless, the actual content of Maduro’s announcements are consistent with his policies over the past eight months and should cause concern as they represent a new stage in the militarization of citizen security.
Perhaps the most important announcements were the replacement of Soraya El Achkar as Rector of the National Security University (UNES) with Ronald Blanco la Cruz, a retired army general and former governor of Tachira, and the replacement of civilian police official Luis Karabin as director of the National Police (PNB) with retired army general Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta.
Listen to NPR’s John Otis as he discusses the elections in Venezuela. WOLA’s David Smilde provides analysis.
On Saturday I did an interview on Aljazeera English regarding Nicolas Maduro’s first six months in office. Here I will quickly summarize my notes.
Maduro’s first six months as elected president (he was sworn in on April 19) have been rocky with no honeymoon. A contested election in April transitioned into food shortages in May, into an electricity crisis in July, into undeniable economic deterioration in the past couple of months. With inflation closing in on 50%, and a parallel exchange rate that is seven times higher than the official rate, economic distortions are becoming epic.
The baseline causes of these problems, of course, were inherited from Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez Frias. Serious shortages first appeared in early 2008. Electricity blackouts were one of the reasons that the government lost ground in the 2010 legislative elections. And foreign exchange distortions have been a mainstay over the past five or six years. In 2012 Chávez covered over this waning sustainability with $30 billion in loans from China against future oil sales.
Now Maduro is presiding over a distorted economy with limited alternatives. Venezuela’s bonds have descended into junk territory, and China does not seem willing to hand over big cash infusions as in the past. Devaluing the currency and pushing forward a structural adjustment would send the economy into recession and be political suicide.
David Smilde and Timothy Gill
On Tuesday, World Politics Review published our Strategic Posture Review of Venezuela. In it we examine Venezuela’s foreign policy and some of the Venezuelan government’s most important bilateral relationships; the Venezuelan military; and, finally, some of the Maduro Administration’s strategic priorities.
We argue that “the Venezuelan government has promoted a Third World-ist ideology that encourages the development of a multipolar world and an ‘anti-imperial’ axis of countries … [that includes] relations with Latin American countries—especially leftist regional allies, including Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua—as well as with several authoritarian countries.” We detail the government’s relations with 10 countries, including the United States, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, China, Russia, Iran, and Belarus.
In the report, we discuss the politicization of the military during the Chávez administration and its the current capabilities. In addition, we discuss the frequent conflation of the National Militia and colectivos as well as the issue of military participation in drug-trafficking and their relations with the FARC.
Finally, we conclude by discussing several challenges facing the Maduro administration, including political instability, citizen security, inflation and shortages, corruption, and deteriorating infrastructure. We argue that the December 2013 elections “will be not only a referendum on Chavismo without Chávez, but on an opposition without Chávez.”
Venezuela’s leading polling firm Datanalisis just released numbers from mid-June polling that show President Nicolas is holding his slim advantage in public opinion. Maduro’s job performance is evaluated positively by 48.8% of the population, basically the same as on election day. However, his negative perceptions have increased to 47.8% from roughly 40.0% before. The gap between him and his mentor, only continues to increase with Hugo Chávez now receiving a staggering 71.4% positive evaluation.
Many indicators have returned to approximately where they were in 2010 when the opposition made big gains in the National Assembly. “Situation of the country” has 57.6% negative compared to 41.6% positive. 68% of respondents evaluate their “personal situation” positively, which is actually low for Venezuela. 58.1% say the “economic situation” is negative. 72.8% negatively evaluate the availability of basic consumer goods.
All of this would be good news for Henrique Capriles if his numbers had seen a corresponding improvement. But they have actually slightly deteriorated. His net job performance numbers are negative. 43.0% evaluate his job performance positively, 48.1% negatively. In May his job evaluation numbers were roughly even; in March they were net positive.
The trust deficit that dogged Capriles during the 2012 elections is still present. Maduro has a 12 point deficit in trust; 41% say they trust him, while 54.3% say they do not. However, Capriles has an almost 20 point gap; 37.6% say they trust him while 57.1% say they do not.
David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
There are no untouchables here; no one is untouchable. We will fight corruption with all our strength. It doesn’t matter if corruption wears a red beret or if it is part of the yellow fascist bourgeoisie. Nicolas Maduro, July 8, 2013
In recent weeks President Nicolas Maduro has taken on corruption with the announcement of arrests of a number of mid-level government officials. These include multiple officials from both tax collection agency SENIAT and consumer protection agency INDEPABIS, the ex-President of Ferrominera (state mining company), an inspector from the Ministry of Health, and five officials involved in a multi-million dollar scam involving the China Fund. (A list compiled by Hinterlaces of government officials arrested so far can be read here)
Addressing corruption is a challenge for any government since it ipso facto highlights its own failures. But this is especially true for a socialist, revolutionary governments whose discourse associates social ills, especially those having to do with greed and dishonesty, with capitalism. Maduro has addressed this by suggesting that “corruption is an anti-socialist and anti-revolutionary act.”
If Monday’s release of a recording of pro-government talk show host Mario Silva detailing corruption and conspiracies in the government simply made public what was long an open secret, the response in the following days has provided a window into the balance of power within and dilemmas confronting Chavismo.
What at the moment looked like it could be a power play from the left of the coalition, in which Maduro, Silva and their Cuban advisors might be moving to marginalize National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello, quickly turned into a scramble for cover. Immediately after the release, Silva tweeted that a Zionist conspiracy was in the works. Later he read a statement on his program saying the recording was a montage created by international foes of the revolution but that he was going to take a break from his television show to seek medical treatment in Cuba. The next day Silva posted a reflection which included more denials and a folksy story about his long, warm relationship with Cabello.
Maduro restricted his responses to ad hominem attacks on those who released the video, suggesting it was an attempt to divide the revolution. The next day almost everyone alluded to in the recording went to Orchila Island with the manifest purpose of watching military maneuvers but clearly with the goal of addressing the fallout from the recording.
In all of this the main object of accusations in the recording, Diosdado Cabello, remained eerily cool and unphased. Cabello refused discussion of the recording in the AN and calmly suggested hat he had weathered many storms over the years.