Sliding into civil war? Venezuela’s ‘drama threatens to turn from farce to tragedy’



Venezuela’s government hunted on Wednesday for rogue policemen who attacked key installations by helicopter, but critics of President Nicolas Maduro suspected the raid may have been staged to justify repression, Reuters reports. The incident has added to fears that country may be sliding into civil war.

“My sense is what happened yesterday was so bizarre that most Venezuelans don’t know what to make of it or know who to blame,” said David Smilde, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group. “Venezuelans in general don’t respond positively to military coups,” he told The New York Times:

Recent history has offered examples. In 1992, Hugo Chávez, then an army lieutenant, joined fellow officers in an uprising that was crushed by other military forces, and Mr. Chávez was jailed. Six years later, he turned to democratic means to gain power, winning the presidency. In 2002, members of the military who opposed Mr. Chávez’s changes deposed him for a brief period and a new president was installed. But Venezuelans who supported Mr. Chávez took to the streets, and he was quickly reinstalled.

“In the current context, most Venezuelans prefer an electoral solution to the crisis,” Mr. Smilde said.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s farce-turned-tragedy unfolds, The FT adds. “Violence . . . will increase,” warned Raul Gallegos, an analyst at Control Risks and author of Crude Nation: how oil riches ruined Venezuela. “The security forces will continue to abuse their power, even killing.

OAS general secretary Luis Almagro (right) has become more outspoken, even pledging to resign if Venezuela scrapped the [projected regime-friendly] constituent assembly, freed political prisoners and held free elections. Almagro is not alone. Twenty nations backed the motion urging Maduro to scrap the constituent assembly, or just three votes short of the two-thirds majority required, Bloomberg adds.

“This was the largest number of countries ever to align against Venezuela, and it included nations that until now were quite favorable to the regime or unwilling to confront it, like Mexico and Brazil,” said Javier Corrales, a political scientist at Amherst College. “The trend against Venezuela is favorable.

The OAS has sought to promote dialogue to end the impasse in Venezuela, but an “insincere” process failed, Almagro told the National Endowment for Democracy, “instead only serving to perpetuate the conditions.”

Venezuela has become the Zimbabwe of the Americas, a shameless alliance of corrupt politicians and the military acquiescent to the dictates of Cuba, says Enrique Krauze, the author of “Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America.” But the pressure toward totalitarianism by the Maduro government has been met by heroic resistance, recalling the Solidarity movement in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia but with much greater spilling of blood, he writes for The Times:

And yet, in solidarity with the courageous Venezuelan people, Europe and the major countries of Latin America could support a quarantine — diplomatic, financial, commercial and political — of the outlaw regime of Mr. Maduro. They might persuade the first Latin American pope to take a stronger stand and together pressure Raúl Castro to accept a democratic solution: a halt to the repression, immediate elections, the re-establishment of civil liberties, respect for democratic institutions and the release of political prisoners.

Corruption helps the government maintain political control. And no tool has been more effective than exchange controls, initially adopted by Mr. Chávez in 2002 during a national strike to control capital flight, The Wall Street Journal adds:

Fifteen years later, they have reshaped Venezuela’s economy and given the government enormous power to pick who gets dollars from the country’s oil wealth—often at absurdly low rates. For instance, firms and others who import food get dollars at the official rate of 10 bolivars. But they can turn around and sell those dollars on the black market for 8,300 bolivars.

“This is the last battle for democracy in Venezuela,” says Smilde, a Venezuela expert at Tulane University.

The Venezuelan government, other judicial and legislative authorities and the different sectors of the opposition should give priority to dialogue with a view to a peaceful solution to the crisis, said the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (REDLAD), an official member of the Civil Society Forum of the Organization of American States (OAS), and Regional Chapter Of the World Movement for Democracy (WMD).

The Americas Society/Council of the Americas will convene Venezuelan civil society leaders who will provide a unique and domestic perspective on the ongoing crisis and the humanitarian situation on the ground.


  • Marianela Balbi, Executive Director, IPYS @NelaBalbi
  • Nathan Crooks, Venezuela Bureau Chief, Bloomberg News @nmcrooks
  • Mercedes de Freitas, Director, Transparencia Venezuela @soymerchy
  • José Domingo Mujica, National Coordinator, Red de Observación Electoral de la Asamblea de Educación
  • Juan Manuel Raffalli Arismendi, Professor, UCAB, UMA, and IESA @juanraffalli
  • Susana Raffalli, Humanitarian Expert, Advisor to Caritas de Venezuela @susanaraffalli
  • Raúl Stolk, Lawyer/Writer – Chairman, Caracas Chronicles @raulstolk
  • Rafael Uzcátegui, General Manager, Provea @fanzinero

*Additional speakers to be confirmed

This event is free of charge. Prior registration is required.

July 13, 2017

Hotel Colonnade Coral Gables

180 Aragon Avenue

Miami, FL


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