Posts tagged venezuela
Posts tagged venezuela
The violent protests that have rocked Venezuela this month provide the central theme this week on Latin Pulse. The program analyzes the politics of both the opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro. In reflection, the program also looks at the legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez who died almost a year ago. The news segment of the program covers the latest in the Drug War in Mexico with the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. The program also includes a commentary about telenovelas and machismo.
The program includes in-depth interviews with:
David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the University of Georgia; and
Julia Buxton of Central European University.
Over the past few weeks, US and Venezuelan government officials have voiced openness to normalizing relations. However, the US State Department’s reaction to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ (CELAC) final declaration at their recent summit has resulted in a critical response from the Venezuelan government, illustrating how complicated restoring their relationship will be.
Since September 2008, Venezuela and the US have not had official diplomatic relations. Attempts to repair relations in June broke down when Samantha Power characterized Venezuela as a “repressive regime” during her Senate confirmation hearings to become US ambassador the United Nations (UN).
The CELAC held a two-day summit in Havana, Cuba, on January 28-29 that included government leaders from 33 Latin American and Caribbeans nations included in the CELAC as well as observers from several international organizations, including José Miguel Insulza, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, and Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN. The summit ended with Cuban President Raúl Castro reading a 16-page declaration that described the region as a “zone of peace” and covered issues ranging from the eradication of poverty and hunger to criticism of the US economic embargo against Cuba and its inclusion of Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
In response to the declaration, a US State Department spokesman speaking under anonymity referred to the organization’s final declaration as “particularly inexplicable” and stated that the US is “disappointed that the CELAC, in its final declaration, betrayed the region’s outspoken commitment to democratic principles, as it endorsed the single-party system in Cuba.”
On Cuban television, President Nicolás Maduro responded to the US, stating that the ”bitterness in the declaration of the State Department, who insolently tells a continent that we are” traitors,” they should swallow their statement, because Latin America will continue its course in peace, with tranquility, and in diversity and a unified way.”
On Friday January 31, representatives from over 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) submitted a bill for the Law of Equal Civil Marriage in Venezuela to the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN). The bill aims to legalize marriage between two individuals regardless of their sex and/or gender identity, allowing them to receive the rights that heterosexual marriages receive. The bill has received over 20,000 signatures and has been endorsed by several AN deputies, including Tania Díaz, Eduardo Piñate, Carlos Sierra, and Eduardo Lima, and several governors, including Adán Chávez, the governor of Barinas and former President Hugo Chávez’s brother.
Currently, Article 44 in the Venezuelan Civil Code establishes that the state recognizes marriages only between one man and one woman. Due to pressure from within the hierarchy of Venezuela’s Catholic Church, the Venezuelan Constitution also does not specifically mention the rights of citizens on the basis of sexual orientation, but states that all “types of discrimination because of political reasons, age, race, creed, sex or any other characteristic is prohibited.”
In defense of the bill, activists, however, have referenced several international and national documents. Giovanni Permettei, the president of Equal Venezuela, an umbrella group representing more than 40 NGOs that also designed the bill, has underscored how Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”
In this story by NPR’s John Otis, WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde comments on public sentiment toward Venezuela’s Department of Happiness.
Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
Venezuelans will go to the polls this Sunday to elect 337 mayors and 2389 representatives to municipal councils. The last municipal elections were held in November 2008, an election that also included state-level offices. In 2008, pro-government candidates won 265 of 326 municipalities, and they received roughly a million votes more than the opposition. However, that was with Chávez as president and this time the opposition hopes to gain ground. In the presidential elections held in April, Nicolas Maduro (50.61%) was elected by a small margin (223,599 votes) over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles (49.12%).
Based on the numbers from the presidential elections, political scientist Francisco Pérez Gómez argues that if the government increases its votes by 5%, it will win roughly 254 or 76% of the municipalities. If the opposition were to increase its votes by 5%, it could win 116 or 35% of the municipalities. In the unlikely event of a 10% increase in pro-government vote, it would win 266 or 79% of the municipalities, and, in the equally unlikely event of the opposition gaining 10% more votes, it would win 131 or 39% of the municipalities.
Since government support is stronger in less densely populated rural areas where most municipalities are located, and the opposition is stronger in the urban areas, no matter what the result is in the national tally, the government will most certainly claim victory in the total number of municipalities. Given this, the opposition has argued that the most indicative numbers to look at will be those of the major cities and the national totals. The opposition is hoping for a slight increase in its share of votes from April in order to claim it has a national majority over pro-government supporters.
A survey from polling firm Datanalisis from August showed that 31% of voters intend to vote for the Mesa de la Unidad (MUD) compared with 34% for the pro-government Gran Polo Patriótico (GPP) with 35% undecided or not responding. A Datanálisis poll from the beginning of October showed the MUD and GPP tied at 37% with 25% still undecided or not responding. In October pro-government numbers continued to slide. However, in November Maduro initiated his "war against speculation" which likely turned this slide around.
Interview on WBEZ’s Worldview
In recent weeks Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has ordered that prices on appliances, such as refrigerators and televisions, be cut in half. It is part of his attempt to battle the country’s rising inflation rates, which have been at 54 percent. The National Assembly is also considering granting Maduro further power to regulate the economy. David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, explains how Maduro’s economic policies are impacting people in Venezuela.
(Photo: A.P./ Miraflores Press Office)
On October 2, the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) created a special commission to investigate foreign financing of groups that “aim to generate social commotion and coup plans against the national government.” Three congressmen, including William Fariñas (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela [PSUV] – Nueva Esparta), the head of the Standing Commission for Security and Defense; Juan Carlos Alemán (PSUV – Distrito Capital) and Yul Jabour (Partido Comunista de Venezuela [PCV] – Cojedes) were designated members.
Fariñas stated that the special commission would first investigate funding provided by the US Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for funding political organizations within the country, suggesting that these groups historically have supported and trained opposition parties such as Primero Justicia and Un Nuevo Tiempo.
On October 22, Alemán announced he had initiated an investigation into foreign financing for two institutions: the Metropolitan University and Súmate, an NGO that focuses on electoral institutions.
Hugo Pérez Hernáiz
On September 30, at a military commemoration for a battle for the war of independence, President Maduro used a presidential decree to create the Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Fatherland (CESPPA), which will be headed by Major General Gustavo González López, the former Secretary of the Intelligence and Security Unit of the Electric System. Maduro explained that the new intelligence agency will “coordinate, organize, and elevate our capacity to recognize and overcome, before it happens, any plan against the country.”
At this stage, very little is known about the functions and reach of the CESPPA. What is known however is that it will centralize intelligence information, respond directly to the Presidency, and replace the Centro de Estudio Situacional de la Nación (CESNA) created by Chávez.
Local organization and analysts have reacted critically to the creation of CESPPA. In the weekly online edition of SIC, a magazine published by the Jesuit Centro Gumilla, Laura Weffer wrote that several aspects of the promulgation decree were particularly troublesome. Article 3 of the decree states that CESPPA will answer to the requirements of the “Political-Military Direction of the Bolivarian Revolution,” a political organ that does not figure in the Venezuelan Constitution. Furthermore, Weffer points to the fact that the same article speaks of “internal and external” enemies, without defining who they might be, and that Article 9 states that the President of CESPPA has the right to censure any information provided by the agency.
Hugo Pérez Hernaíz and David Smilde
In January of this year, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) selected April 7 as the date when they would choose candidates through internal primaries for the municipal elections. After the death of President Chávez in March, the PSUV decided to hold primaries in May, but again postponed the event as they waited for the National Electoral Council (CNE) to set a new date for the municipal elections.
In June, after discussion within the PSUV and between the PSUV and other pro-government parties, the PSUV discarded primaries in favor of a “unitary method” of candidate selection. As a justification, Diosdado Cabello argued that in the aftermath of Chávez’s death, the PSUV had to avoid splintering: “There are a lot of conspiracies and we now lack the direction of the Comandante Chávez.”
President Maduro explained that “primaries would have left chavismo torn in pieces,” because of the “individualist passions” of some potential candidates that could have been supported “by suspicious powers.” He argued that even though primaries are the selection process stated in the internal rules of the PSUV, and Chávez left clear instructions that they were to be the preferred method, they could not be held within the PSUV until the “carnival democracy of bourgeois culture” is overcome by a “socialist ethics.”
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.”