Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

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Venezuela Receives Support, China Consolidates Interests

Timothy Gill

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro concluded their XIII China-Venezuela Joint Commission of High-Level meetings in Caracas on Monday. During President Xi’s two-day visit, China and Venezuela fortified existing relations and established 38 new agreements.

Relations between the two countries have greatly accelerated since former President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999 and sought to reduce dependency on the US. Yet, despite receiving $50 billion worth of loans from China, some analysts have argued that Chinese government leaders have grown frustrated with Venezuela’s alleged mismanagement of loans and unwillingness to close large oil deals. These new agreements, however, show that China continues to find Venezuela stable enough to invest in and, of course, secure oil from.

On July 20, President Xi arrived in Caracas and stated that he was “looking forward to charting the future course of bilateral ties together with President Maduro and communicating extensively with the Venezuelan people from all walks of life, so as to promote friendship, cooperation and development and lift the China-Venezuela relations to a new height.”

 

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Datanálisis Releases Polling Data on Venezuelan’s Perceptions of U.S. Sanctions

On July 8, 2014, WOLA hosted a panel discussion on the likely impacts that targeted U.S. sanctions would have in Venezuela. The discussion featured a presentation by Venezuela’s leading pollster, Luis Vicente León of Datanálisis.

Mr. Leon’s data show that a majority of Venezuelans reject the idea of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

Filed under venezuela datanalisis Luis Vicente Leon Venezuela Sanctions

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Live event broadcast will be begin July 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The street protests that erupted in Venezuela in February generated tensions and violence. The response of Venezuelan security forces has led to credible allegations of excessive use of force and violations of the human rights of demonstrators. The protests have largely subsided for the moment, but Venezuelan politics remain turbulent, and the talks between the government and opposition sectors that began in April—with support from UNASUR and the Vatican—have been frozen since May.

In the meantime, the U.S. Congress has taken up legislation that would impose U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan officials deemed to be responsible for human right abuses committed against protesters. In May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a targeted sanctions bill and the full House of Representatives passed a similar measure later the same month. Sponsors of the Senate measure have vowed to press for floor debate and a vote in the coming weeks. The Obama administration has opposed the sanctions bills, maintaining that legislation mandating U.S. sanctions would be counterproductive.

What impact would the approval of targeted sanctions legislation have in Venezuela? Please join us for a timely discussion on the likely impacts of U.S.-imposed sanctions, with insights from Marino Alvarado of PROVEA, Venezuela’s premier human rights organization; Datanálisis’ Luis Vicente León, one of Venezuela’s foremost pollsters; and David Smilde, who moderates WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog. 

  • Marino Alvarado Betancourt is General Coordinator of the Venezuelan Program for Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), Venezuela’s leading human rights organization, and a columnist for Venezuelan daily Tal Cual. 
  • Luis Vicente León is President of Datanálisis, Venezuela’s most trusted polling firm. He is a professor at the Universidad Católica Ándres Bello and at the Instituto de Educación Superior en Administración.
  • David Smilde is a Senior Fellow at WOLA and the Charles A. and Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations at Tulane University. In May, he published a Washington Post Op-Ed arguing against U.S. sanctions.

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Venezuelan Revolution: What Happened?

Protests in Venezuela led to the country’s government responding with force. In a period of just a few months, more than 40 people were killed and 800 injured. Most of the casualties were civilians. Some lawmakers in the United States floated a bill to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials.

However, almost as quickly as it began, the revolution fizzled out. CCTV’s John Holman explains what happened.

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Comparing the Ukrainian and Venezuelan Protest Cycles

Timothy Gill

The recent issue of Trajectories, the American Sociological Association’s Comparative and Historical Sociology section’s newsletter, features a brief comparative analysis I wrote on the origins and trajectories of the Ukrainian and Venezuelan protests.

I argue that while “the Ukrainian crisis responds to geopolitical struggle and conflicting nationalist sentiments, the Venezuelan conflict is more clearly about class issues.” I also suggest the Yanukovych government fell apart after receiving widespread international and domestic criticism and experiencing defections from several high-ranking members. By contrast, the Maduro government has received support from regional partners and institutions, has not experienced any serious defections, and remains in power.

You can read the piece in its entirety here.

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Carter Center Issues Final Report on 2013 Presidential Election

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

The Carter Center released its final report on the 2013 Venezuelan presidential election. The report describes the conditions surrounding the election and provides several recommendations for improvement.

The report states that Venezuelans have a high degree of trust in the integrity of results generated by the automated voting machines. It also shows that the full audit of the paper receipts vs. machine tallies demonstrates that the automated electoral system worked according to expectations.

The Carter Center states that there is no consensus on the “quality of the conditions” under which actual voting took place and devotes attention to incumbent advantage (ventajismo), as previously described in its preliminary July 2013 report.

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Venezuela Strengthens Relations with China

Timothy Gill

Yesterday I published a new piece in World Politics Review comparing Chinese-Venezuelan and US-Venezuelan relations.

Since the election of former President Chávez, the Venezuelan government has diversified its political-economic relations and sought to reduce its dependence on the US. In recent years, no country has become more important in this strategy than China.

During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent visit to Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro pledged to soon send a million barrels of oil per day to China. If this happens, China will surpass the US as Venezuela’s largest consumer of oil. However, political instability or an opposition victory in a future presidential recall referendum could jeopardize Chinese investments and access to Venezuelan oil reserves.

The US remains Venezuela’s largest trading partner. However, US political influence has diminished. Venezuela has prioritized regional bodies that exclude the US, has not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, and has expelled a number of US diplomats from the country.

I conclude that a fragile equilibrium exists, but political winds may shake the balance if the Maduro government cannot solve Venezuela’s economic problems.

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“New Game:” The Opposition’s Opportunities and Constraints

Michael McCarthy

Leopoldo López’s #lasalida campaign has changed the game in Venezuelan politics by opening a window for sectors strongly opposed to the Maduro government to take their politics to the street. What implications does this street-based strategy hold for the “opposition” as an organized group of parties and social groups that once stood united behind Henrique Capriles?

Chilean analyst Fernando Mires argues that the Venezuelan opposition is now composed of three political groupings: one behind López, one behind Capriles, and the student movement, which has one prominent leader, Juan Requesens, but multiple currents running through it. Mires’ article does more splitting than lumping but, in fact, it may not do justice to the severity of the opposition’s new unity problems.

With absurd disputes breaking out between the head of the opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD) and the director of human rights NGO, El Foro Penal, the portrait of a tripartite opposition may not capture how frayed ties are between groups self-identified as parts of the opposition. The spat reflects animosity toward MUD Secretary General Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, who has received strident criticism for participating in dialogue with the government.

It may seem counter-intuitive that the opposition would be so divided while dialogue takes place, but a closer look reveals why.

 

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Who is Policing the Protests? A Perspective from Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Police

Rebecca Hanson

“It is better to think of the police as providing support to the National Guard in the protests [as opposed to the other way around].  The National Guard has more experience and more training…and they aren’t restricted [in their use of force] like us…We can’t even defend ourselves.”

—National Police officer-in-training

 [A previous version of this article was first published on http://anthropoliteia.net.  See original article here]

Since protests exploded in Venezuela in February the National Bolivarian Police (Policía Nacional Bolivariana, PNB) here have been intensely critiqued for using excessive force against protestors. And the excessive use of coercion employed in some sectors has been largely attributed to the government’s sanctioning and encouragement of that coercion.

However, the notion that the Chavista governments have encouraged the police to use force (or extreme amounts of it) would actually make little sense to National Police officers. This is because there is a widespread perception—among both police officers and the lower-class citizens where I work—that the force National Bolivarian Police officers can use is heavily, if not overly, regulated by the state.

Indeed, officers identify the sweeping police reform that was implemented by the Chávez government in 2008 as the catalyst of the “extreme regulations” on their use of force. [1] This reform both denounced heavy-handed police tactics and implemented mechanisms to limit officers’ use of coercion. But according to officers, in its zeal to limit police coercion, the reform has overly restricted their actions, making them weak and impotent in the face of violence.

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Who Will Lead the Opposition?

Hugo Pérez Hernáiz

On March 19, Carlos Ocariz, mayor of Caracas’ Sucre Municipality, launched an association of 76 opposition mayors called “Association of Mayors for Venezuela.” The group includes other prominent national and regional opposition figures such as Gerardo Blyde, Mayor of Baruta; Alfredo Barrios, Mayor of Irribaren; David Smolansky, Mayor of El Hatillo; and Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas.

According to the coalition of opposition parties Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) press release, the new association seems to have specific aims related to the current political juncture: “citizen security, violations of human rights, and criminalization of protests.” However, the fact that the announcement was made by Carlos Ocariz could be significant for future leadership struggles within the opposition. Ocariz belongs to Primero Justicia, the political party headed Henrique Capriles, the 2012 and 2013 opposition presidential candidate. Through grassroots community work in the poor barrios of Sucre, Ocariz has successfully countered the image of middle class lawyers so often attached to his party. Ocariz has remained a popular local leader and has not yet made the jump to national politics. Becoming the spokesperson of this new mayors’ association could provide him with a platform for national leadership.

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