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Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge.

As the daily street protests grow bloodier and bloodier, Venezuelan President Maduro has escalated his comments today, exclaiming that he “won’t be bullied,” and warning “prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” if protesters don’t “go home within hours.”

  • *VENEZUELAN PROTESTERS HAVE ‘HOURS’ TO CLEAR BARRICADES: MADURO
  • *MADURO SAYS HE’LL SEND ARMED FORCES TO ‘LIBERATE’ PROTEST AREAS

With 28 dead in the last month of protests, things are very serious but as we warned previously, Maduro still enjoying the support of the poor – as EuroNews reports, it appears he is not going anywhere soonJohn Kerry also came under fire as the foreign minister called him “a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests.

As Bloomberg reports,

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says he will send armed forces to clear barricaded areas if “protesters don’t go home within hours.”

“Prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” Maduro tells soldiers at army event in Caracas

Plaza Altamira in eastern Caracas, the center of the protests, first to be “liberated,” Maduro says

As tensions with the US continue to rise:

The United States on Friday brushed aside “absurd” accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that it was meddling in the country’s internal affairs by intervening in anti-government protests.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua had earlier called top US diplomat John Kerry a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests that have killed 28 people in five weeks.

“The solution to Venezuela’s problems lies in democratic dialogue among Venezuelans, not in repression or in hurling verbal brickbats at the United States,” a state department official said on condition of anonymity.

“Venezuela’s government needs to focus on solving its growing economic and social problems, not on making absurd allegations against the United States.”

Maduro, however, charged that “the desperate government interventionism of the United States is clear.”

“There’s a slew of statements, threats of sanctions, threats of intervention. There has been lobbying by the highest officials in the US government,” he said.

As Stratfor notesthese protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quoPerhaps things could be changing for Maduro…

Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

Perhaps it is the use of armed forces directly and aggressively that will roil the “poor”‘s perspective – we will see

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters "We Are Coming For You"; Calls John Kerry A "Murderer" | Zero Hedge

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge.

As the daily street protests grow bloodier and bloodier, Venezuelan President Maduro has escalated his comments today, exclaiming that he “won’t be bullied,” and warning “prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” if protesters don’t “go home within hours.”

  • *VENEZUELAN PROTESTERS HAVE ‘HOURS’ TO CLEAR BARRICADES: MADURO
  • *MADURO SAYS HE’LL SEND ARMED FORCES TO ‘LIBERATE’ PROTEST AREAS

With 28 dead in the last month of protests, things are very serious but as we warned previously, Maduro still enjoying the support of the poor – as EuroNews reports, it appears he is not going anywhere soonJohn Kerry also came under fire as the foreign minister called him “a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests.

As Bloomberg reports,

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says he will send armed forces to clear barricaded areas if “protesters don’t go home within hours.”

“Prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” Maduro tells soldiers at army event in Caracas

Plaza Altamira in eastern Caracas, the center of the protests, first to be “liberated,” Maduro says

As tensions with the US continue to rise:

The United States on Friday brushed aside “absurd” accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that it was meddling in the country’s internal affairs by intervening in anti-government protests.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua had earlier called top US diplomat John Kerry a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests that have killed 28 people in five weeks.

“The solution to Venezuela’s problems lies in democratic dialogue among Venezuelans, not in repression or in hurling verbal brickbats at the United States,” a state department official said on condition of anonymity.

“Venezuela’s government needs to focus on solving its growing economic and social problems, not on making absurd allegations against the United States.”

Maduro, however, charged that “the desperate government interventionism of the United States is clear.”

“There’s a slew of statements, threats of sanctions, threats of intervention. There has been lobbying by the highest officials in the US government,” he said.

As Stratfor notesthese protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quoPerhaps things could be changing for Maduro…

Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

Perhaps it is the use of armed forces directly and aggressively that will roil the “poor”‘s perspective – we will see

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org.

Dear Readers, now that US Secretary of State John Kerry has issued an ultimatum to Russia, telling Putin that he has until Monday to follow Washington’s orders or else,
hopefully everyone can see the repeat of the March of Folly that produced World War 1.
In my last column, “Merkel Whores For Washington,” I mistakenly attributed to Khrushchev all transfers of Russian territory to Ukraine. The first gifts of Russian territories to Ukraine were made by Lenin, and the last was Sevastopol in the early 1990s. I have posted today Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s account of how Russian territory was given to Ukraine. In the meantime, Washington’s puppet regime in Kiev has sent in thugs to commit violence against protesting Russians who want nothing to do with Washington’s stooges in Kiev, prompting Russia to issue another warning that the Russian military will protect Russians. Clearly, Washington is doing everything it can to provoke Putin into sending the Russian Army into eastern Ukraine. Now that Merkel has sold out Europe, the course of Ukrainian events seems clear, which provides an opportunity for me to address Washington’s coup-in-the-making against Venezuela.

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington

Paul Craig Roberts

The Washington orchestrated coup in Ukraine has kept Venezuela out of the headlines.
A confrontation with nuclear armed Russia is more dangerous than with Venezuela. But the violence that Washington has unleashed on Venezuela almost simultaneously with Ukraine is testimony to Washington’s stark criminality.

South America has always consisted of a tiny Spanish elite with all the money and power ruling over large majority populations of indigenous peoples who have not had political representation. In Venezuela, Chavez broke this pattern. An indigenous president was elected who represented the people and worked in their behalf instead of looting the country. Chavez became a role model, and indigenous presidents were elected in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Chavez was hated by Washington and demonized by American presstitutes. When Chavez died of cancer, Washington celebrated.

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, was inclined in favor of granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Consequently, Washington ordered its European puppet states to deny overflight permission to President Morales’ airplane on its return to Bolivia from Russia. Morales’ airplane, in violation of every diplomatic protocol, was forced down and searched. Morales has since suffered other indignities at the hands of the Washington criminals.

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, made himself a target of Washington by granting political asylum to Julian Assange. On Washington’s orders, Washington’s British puppet state has refused to grant free passage to Assange, and Assange is spending his life in the London Embassy of Ecuador, just as Cardinal Mindszenty spent his life in the US Embassy in Communist Hungary.

With Chavez’s death, indigenous Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro became president. Maduro does not have Chavez’s charisma, which makes him an easier target for the tiny Spanish elite that owns the media.

Washington began the attack on Maduro by attacking the Venezuelan currency and driving down its value in currency markets. Then university students, many of whom are the children of the rich Spanish elites, were sent out to protest. The falling Venezuelan currency raised prices and spread dissatisfaction among Maduro’s poor indigenous base. To put down the rioting, property damage, and unrest that Washington is using to launch a coup, Maduro had to turn to the police. Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled the government’s effort to reestablish public order and forestall a coup a “terror campaign against its own citizens.”

Having orchestrated the protests and plotted a coup, Kerry blamed Maduro for the violence that Kerry unleashed and called on Maduro “to respect human rights.”

For Washington, it is always the same script. Commit a crime and blame the victim.

If Washington can overthrow Maduro, the next target will be Correa. If Washington can get rid of Correa and re-empower a puppet government of rich Spanish elites, Washington can have the Ecuadoran government revoke the political asylum that Correa granted to Julian Assange. The Ecuadoran Embassy in London will be ordered to kick Assange out into the waiting arms of the British police who will send him to Sweden who will send him to Washington to be tortured until he confesses to whatever Washington demands.

The poor gullible dupes demonstrating in Venezuelan streets have no more idea of the damage they are doing to themselves and others than their counterparts in Ukraine had. Venezuelans have already forgot what life for them was like under the rule of the Spanish elites. It appears that Venezuelans are determined to help Washington to return them to their servitude.

If Washington reconquers Venezuela and Ecuador, Bolivia will be next. Then Brazil. Washington has its sights on Brazil, because the country is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), and Washington intends to destroy this organization before the countries can establish a trading bloc that does not use the US
dollar.

Not long ago a US official said that as soon as we (Washington) get Russia in a bind, we will deal with the upstarts in South America.

The program is on schedule.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |.

March 6, 2014 | Author 

Happy Death of Chavez Day

Venezuela  commemorated the late ‘Commandante’ Hugo Chavez on Wednesday – as is so often the case, the fact that the dear leader of the revolution is no longer among the quick probably helped with a good bit of nostalgic transmogrification.

One feels reminded of the many crying babushkas in the streets of Moscow when news of Stalin’s departure from this earthly plane hit, even while his former colleagues in the party probably got ready for a week of vodka-drenched partying to celebrate the psychopathic tyrant’s demise. No longer did they have to worry about who was going to be purged next.

Chavez was of course no Stalin (not by a long shot), we merely want to highlight that no matter how bad a ruler, once he goes to his eternal reward, many of those left behind begin to see him in a better light than he probably deserves. Chavez did of course shower some of Venezuela’s oil riches on the poor, and they loved him for it. However, he incidentally ran the country’s oil industry into the ground, so it was a decidedly mixed blessing, by dint of being completely unsustainable and leaving everybody poorer in the end.

Anyway, there may be a subtle subconscious message in the fact that the rulers of Venezuela have decided to commemorate Chavez’s death rather than his birth. Just saying.

As it happens, the timing was fortuitous from president Maduro’s perspective, as he has an ongoing counter-revolution problem on his hands. He used the opportunity to try to imitate the dear departed “Commandante” by declaring Panama a lapdog of the capitalist enemy deserving to be banned from polite socialist company. Chavez’ cousin meanwhile spontaneously dispensed some valuable advice to Maduro.

Reuters reports:

“Followers of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez flooded the streets of Venezuela on Wednesday for the anniversary of his death, an emotional but welcome distraction for his successor from violent protests raging for the last month.

A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, his self-proclaimed “son,” President Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his rule from an explosion of anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February.

Though the protests do not appear likely to topple Maduro, neither do they seem to be going away. A hard core of students are determined to maintain street barricades and militant opposition leaders organize daily rallies around Venezuela. Wednesday’s military parade and other events to honor “El Comandante” gave Maduro, 51, an opportunity to reclaim the streets and show that he too can mobilize his supporters.

“This anniversary is enormously sad. There’s not a single day I don’t remember Hugo,” Chavez’s cousin, Guillermo Frias, 60, said from Los Rastrojos village in rural Barinas state, where the pair used to play baseball as kids.

“He changed Venezuela forever, and we cannot go back. Maduro also is a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand,” he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands of red-clad “Chavistas” gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere in honor of Chavez, whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela’s poorest, while alienating the middle and upper classes. Cannon-shots marked the precise time of his death, 4:25 p.m.

Maduro used the occasion to announce the breaking of diplomatic and commercial ties with Panama, whose conservative government he accused of joining the United States in “open conspiracy” against him.

“We’re not going to let anyone get away with interfering with our fatherland, you despicable lackey, president of Panama,” Maduro said in fiery language reminiscent of Chavez.”

(emphasis added)

Poor Maduro just ‘needs a stronger hand’. Doesn’t every good leader? Well, he sure showed that ‘despicable lackey’, the president of Panama. We have no idea what the latter actually did to become the target of such opprobrium. However, Panama reportedly has a great deal more economic freedom than either Venezuela or the US. You may therefore regard us as part of the despicable lackey’s fan club.

Meanwhile, although there seems to be widespread agreement that Maduro cannot be toppled by the protests, the demonstrations actually seem bigger than those seen in Kiev recently (judging just from a quick glance at the pictures, mind). The Kiev protests were probably only more visually arresting due to the constant Molotov cocktail throwing. Here is a picture from an anti-government march in Caracas last Saturday:

Venezuela Protests

A tiny handful of counter-revolutionary malcontents disturbs traffic in Caracas last Saturday. Yes,  Maduro may need a ‘stronger hand’.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

Elsewhere, currency traders on the black market seemed to celebrate Chavez’ death day as well, by temporarily pushing the bolivar’s true exchange rate higher:

black market bolivar

The ‘parallel’ bolivar strengthens to 79,50 to the dollar from its recent record low of about 90.

We have little doubt it is a selling opportunity, given that Maduro is demonstrably utterly clueless about matters economic.

For all its faults, Venezuela still has a stock market though, which gives those with assets to protect a chance to escape the effects of the inflation of the currency. Recently, the index was subject of a cosmetic 1000:1 split (an index value of 2,700 looks more credible than one of 2,700,000):


 

caracas, decade, log

A bubbly decade on the Caracas Stock Exchange. A similar stock market boom occurred in Zimbabwe, in spite of the economy imploding completely, with formal economy unemployment reportedly soaring to 80%. As Kyle Bass remarked about that particular boom: ‘In the end, you could buy three eggs with your gains’ – click to enlarge.


El Commandante Didn’t Die – He ‘Multiplied’

The celebrations were apparently not exactly lacking in unintentional comedy either:

“Maduro presided over a parade in the capital before leading crowds up to the hilltop military museum where Chavez led a 1992 coup attempt that launched his political career. His remains have been laid to rest in a marble sarcophagus there.

“Hugo Chavez passed into history as the redeemer of the poor,” the president said, comparing his mentor to both Jesus and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Prominent leftist allies including Cuban President Raul Castro joined the lavish ceremonies in Caracas.

[…]

State media have rolled out round-the-clock hagiographical coverage of the late president. Some Chavez loyalists seem barely able to use the word “death,” preferring euphemisms such as his “physical disappearance” or “sowing in the sky.”

“Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied!” said state TV.

(emphasis added)

Well, if he is comparable to Jesus, then it is presumably no wonder that he ‘multiplied’. Look at it as a kind of Chavista selfie version of the luxury miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

What is less funny is that so far, 18 people have died in the protests. The government meanwhile tried to take the edge off the demonstrations by declaring a 6 day-long carnival holiday. As one protester remarked:

“A long six-day national holiday for Carnival and now the anniversary of Chavez’s death have taken some wind out of the protests, but a rump of demonstrators stay out daily.

“Various presidents are here and we want to show them that Venezuela is sick,” said Silvana Lezama, a 20-year-old student, standing in front of a Venezuelan flag as she stood guard at a barricade in the upscale El Cafetal district of Caracas.

“We’re not insulting Chavez, but when he died last year there was a week of mourning. Now we have 18 people dead from protests and they declared five days of Carnival holiday.”

(emphasis added)

Evidently, not everybody feels like there is a good reason for celebrations at this time.

A Chicken in Every Pot Becomes a Plasma TV in Every Home

One wonders what the malcontents are complaining about. After all, Maduro promises the provision of endless material delights, the establishment of the long promised socialist Land of Cockaigne in our lifetime:

In order to combat the country’s massive inflation of over 50 percent, Maduro has introduced price controls. Shops that demand prices that he believes are too high are simply occupied. “We will guarantee everyone has a plasma television,” the president has said, and has forced stores to sell them cheaply.

“It is plundering under the aegis of the state,” says Diego Arriaformerly Venezuela’s UN ambassador. “Maduro is destroying the private sector.”

Many shops are empty, with even corn flour, milk and toilet paper subject to shortages. Lines like those seen in Cuba have become common and people are desperately trying to get their hands on dollars. “A perfect storm is brewing in Venezuela,” says Arria.

The government has been having difficulties supplying even the basics in the slums of Caracas. In the vast quarter of “23 de enero,” people stand in long lines in front of the state-run supermarket; they are issued numbers on strips of cardboard. Chavistas control entry to the store and glorify Maduro and the revolution to shoppers. Most of those waiting remain silent. Every three days, they mumble quietly when the guards aren’t paying attention, their food coupons will get them chicken from Brazil and two kilograms of flour, but nothing more.

(emphasis added)

No wonder Arria is a ‘former’ ambassador, he obviously doesn’t properly grasp the  wisdom of supplying everybody with a Plasma TV with a wave of the presidential magic wand (but not, apparently, with toilet paper and other staples). Those silent shoppers who only “mumble quietly when their guards aren’t paying attention” would make us nervous if we were a guard…

Here is a recent photograph of a store in Maracaibo:

store-empty-shelves

Maracaibo, Super Lider store. Image via @orlandobuesomir: Empty shelves in a PDVAL store in Venezuela.


Maracaibo! In the early days of personal computing we regularly conquered its fortress as one of the freebooters in Sid Meyer’s ‘Pirates’ game. Don’t worry, it was all legal, we had a letter of marque. Moreover, we managed to win the hand of the governor’s daughter after convincing her of our dancing prowess (it was a simple, but really funny game).

For some reason not all Venezuelans seem equipped with Plasma TVs yet, so something has apparently gone wrong. Could it be the fault of global warming? After all, it was just identified as being responsible for the budding ‘guacamole crisis‘, among approximately 5,000 other things it is held to be the cause of. So why not the appalling lack of Plasma TV saturation in Venezuela? Makes more sense than the old ‘socialism just doesn’t work’ canard, right?

We can however confidently state that Maduro is not completely without cunning. He sure knows whom he needs to keep on his side, even it that is allegedly not really working out the way it was supposed to either:

“Venezuela’s military has more power under Maduro, a civilian, than it did under the former officer Chávez. Maduro has handed out senior jobs to some 2,000 soldiers and the military now occupies key positions in business and controls entire companies. Late last week, Maduro sent a parachute battalion to Táchira to curtail the protests there.

But even in the military, dissatisfaction is spreading. “The soldiers just haven’t yet had the courage to open their mouths,” says one administrative employee who works in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base on the outskirts of Caracas.

Even Chávez had begun to realize that the enemy was within. He had officers and a former defense minister who had been critical of him arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption. Some of them remain locked up in the Ramo Verde military prison not far from Caracas — just a few cells away from Leopoldo López.”

(emphasis added)

Still, buying off the military by handing its leaders ‘senior jobs’ and letting them occupy key positions in business is a strategy that has e.g. worked extremely well in Egypt, where the military controls 40% of the economy and in spite of a temporary setback continues to rule as if Mubarak had never gone away.

venezuela-0218-horizontal-galleryPolicemen during protests in Caracas. So far, they are being hit with stuff that looks a lot more harmless than the Molotov cocktails thrown in Kiev.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

As one Chavista told reporters (also dispensing advice to the hapless Maduro, so that he may ‘find his own voice’ one day):

Maduro’s had it tough. He has to find his own path, his own ideas, his own speech. He’s not Chavez. The commander is gone; we can’t mourn him permanently. There’s so much work to do, errors to correct,” said Marisol Aponte, a diehard “Chavista” and community activist from a poor zone of west Caracas.

She urged Maduro to purge his cabinet and modernize Chavez-era social programs.”

(emphasis added)

There you go! A good, old-fashioned purge! Even if Chavez failed at this task,  Maduro has an opportunity to one-up him that he only needs to firmly grasp, by ruthlessly employing that ‘strong hand’ Chavez’ cousin is pining for. Can he perhaps become like Stalin?

Naah. Not with that attire:

 


 

maduro-bird-hat

Nicolas Maduro, wearing a landing pad for errant birds.

(Photo via Reuters)

 


 

 

Charts by: BigCharts, dolares.eu

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |.

March 6, 2014 | Author 

Happy Death of Chavez Day

Venezuela  commemorated the late ‘Commandante’ Hugo Chavez on Wednesday – as is so often the case, the fact that the dear leader of the revolution is no longer among the quick probably helped with a good bit of nostalgic transmogrification.

One feels reminded of the many crying babushkas in the streets of Moscow when news of Stalin’s departure from this earthly plane hit, even while his former colleagues in the party probably got ready for a week of vodka-drenched partying to celebrate the psychopathic tyrant’s demise. No longer did they have to worry about who was going to be purged next.

Chavez was of course no Stalin (not by a long shot), we merely want to highlight that no matter how bad a ruler, once he goes to his eternal reward, many of those left behind begin to see him in a better light than he probably deserves. Chavez did of course shower some of Venezuela’s oil riches on the poor, and they loved him for it. However, he incidentally ran the country’s oil industry into the ground, so it was a decidedly mixed blessing, by dint of being completely unsustainable and leaving everybody poorer in the end.

Anyway, there may be a subtle subconscious message in the fact that the rulers of Venezuela have decided to commemorate Chavez’s death rather than his birth. Just saying.

As it happens, the timing was fortuitous from president Maduro’s perspective, as he has an ongoing counter-revolution problem on his hands. He used the opportunity to try to imitate the dear departed “Commandante” by declaring Panama a lapdog of the capitalist enemy deserving to be banned from polite socialist company. Chavez’ cousin meanwhile spontaneously dispensed some valuable advice to Maduro.

Reuters reports:

“Followers of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez flooded the streets of Venezuela on Wednesday for the anniversary of his death, an emotional but welcome distraction for his successor from violent protests raging for the last month.

A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, his self-proclaimed “son,” President Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his rule from an explosion of anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February.

Though the protests do not appear likely to topple Maduro, neither do they seem to be going away. A hard core of students are determined to maintain street barricades and militant opposition leaders organize daily rallies around Venezuela. Wednesday’s military parade and other events to honor “El Comandante” gave Maduro, 51, an opportunity to reclaim the streets and show that he too can mobilize his supporters.

“This anniversary is enormously sad. There’s not a single day I don’t remember Hugo,” Chavez’s cousin, Guillermo Frias, 60, said from Los Rastrojos village in rural Barinas state, where the pair used to play baseball as kids.

“He changed Venezuela forever, and we cannot go back. Maduro also is a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand,” he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands of red-clad “Chavistas” gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere in honor of Chavez, whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela’s poorest, while alienating the middle and upper classes. Cannon-shots marked the precise time of his death, 4:25 p.m.

Maduro used the occasion to announce the breaking of diplomatic and commercial ties with Panama, whose conservative government he accused of joining the United States in “open conspiracy” against him.

“We’re not going to let anyone get away with interfering with our fatherland, you despicable lackey, president of Panama,” Maduro said in fiery language reminiscent of Chavez.”

(emphasis added)

Poor Maduro just ‘needs a stronger hand’. Doesn’t every good leader? Well, he sure showed that ‘despicable lackey’, the president of Panama. We have no idea what the latter actually did to become the target of such opprobrium. However, Panama reportedly has a great deal more economic freedom than either Venezuela or the US. You may therefore regard us as part of the despicable lackey’s fan club.

Meanwhile, although there seems to be widespread agreement that Maduro cannot be toppled by the protests, the demonstrations actually seem bigger than those seen in Kiev recently (judging just from a quick glance at the pictures, mind). The Kiev protests were probably only more visually arresting due to the constant Molotov cocktail throwing. Here is a picture from an anti-government march in Caracas last Saturday:

Venezuela Protests

A tiny handful of counter-revolutionary malcontents disturbs traffic in Caracas last Saturday. Yes,  Maduro may need a ‘stronger hand’.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

Elsewhere, currency traders on the black market seemed to celebrate Chavez’ death day as well, by temporarily pushing the bolivar’s true exchange rate higher:

black market bolivar

The ‘parallel’ bolivar strengthens to 79,50 to the dollar from its recent record low of about 90.

We have little doubt it is a selling opportunity, given that Maduro is demonstrably utterly clueless about matters economic.

For all its faults, Venezuela still has a stock market though, which gives those with assets to protect a chance to escape the effects of the inflation of the currency. Recently, the index was subject of a cosmetic 1000:1 split (an index value of 2,700 looks more credible than one of 2,700,000):


 

caracas, decade, log

A bubbly decade on the Caracas Stock Exchange. A similar stock market boom occurred in Zimbabwe, in spite of the economy imploding completely, with formal economy unemployment reportedly soaring to 80%. As Kyle Bass remarked about that particular boom: ‘In the end, you could buy three eggs with your gains’ – click to enlarge.


El Commandante Didn’t Die – He ‘Multiplied’

The celebrations were apparently not exactly lacking in unintentional comedy either:

“Maduro presided over a parade in the capital before leading crowds up to the hilltop military museum where Chavez led a 1992 coup attempt that launched his political career. His remains have been laid to rest in a marble sarcophagus there.

“Hugo Chavez passed into history as the redeemer of the poor,” the president said, comparing his mentor to both Jesus and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Prominent leftist allies including Cuban President Raul Castro joined the lavish ceremonies in Caracas.

[…]

State media have rolled out round-the-clock hagiographical coverage of the late president. Some Chavez loyalists seem barely able to use the word “death,” preferring euphemisms such as his “physical disappearance” or “sowing in the sky.”

“Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied!” said state TV.

(emphasis added)

Well, if he is comparable to Jesus, then it is presumably no wonder that he ‘multiplied’. Look at it as a kind of Chavista selfie version of the luxury miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

What is less funny is that so far, 18 people have died in the protests. The government meanwhile tried to take the edge off the demonstrations by declaring a 6 day-long carnival holiday. As one protester remarked:

“A long six-day national holiday for Carnival and now the anniversary of Chavez’s death have taken some wind out of the protests, but a rump of demonstrators stay out daily.

“Various presidents are here and we want to show them that Venezuela is sick,” said Silvana Lezama, a 20-year-old student, standing in front of a Venezuelan flag as she stood guard at a barricade in the upscale El Cafetal district of Caracas.

“We’re not insulting Chavez, but when he died last year there was a week of mourning. Now we have 18 people dead from protests and they declared five days of Carnival holiday.”

(emphasis added)

Evidently, not everybody feels like there is a good reason for celebrations at this time.

A Chicken in Every Pot Becomes a Plasma TV in Every Home

One wonders what the malcontents are complaining about. After all, Maduro promises the provision of endless material delights, the establishment of the long promised socialist Land of Cockaigne in our lifetime:

In order to combat the country’s massive inflation of over 50 percent, Maduro has introduced price controls. Shops that demand prices that he believes are too high are simply occupied. “We will guarantee everyone has a plasma television,” the president has said, and has forced stores to sell them cheaply.

“It is plundering under the aegis of the state,” says Diego Arriaformerly Venezuela’s UN ambassador. “Maduro is destroying the private sector.”

Many shops are empty, with even corn flour, milk and toilet paper subject to shortages. Lines like those seen in Cuba have become common and people are desperately trying to get their hands on dollars. “A perfect storm is brewing in Venezuela,” says Arria.

The government has been having difficulties supplying even the basics in the slums of Caracas. In the vast quarter of “23 de enero,” people stand in long lines in front of the state-run supermarket; they are issued numbers on strips of cardboard. Chavistas control entry to the store and glorify Maduro and the revolution to shoppers. Most of those waiting remain silent. Every three days, they mumble quietly when the guards aren’t paying attention, their food coupons will get them chicken from Brazil and two kilograms of flour, but nothing more.

(emphasis added)

No wonder Arria is a ‘former’ ambassador, he obviously doesn’t properly grasp the  wisdom of supplying everybody with a Plasma TV with a wave of the presidential magic wand (but not, apparently, with toilet paper and other staples). Those silent shoppers who only “mumble quietly when their guards aren’t paying attention” would make us nervous if we were a guard…

Here is a recent photograph of a store in Maracaibo:

store-empty-shelves

Maracaibo, Super Lider store. Image via @orlandobuesomir: Empty shelves in a PDVAL store in Venezuela.


Maracaibo! In the early days of personal computing we regularly conquered its fortress as one of the freebooters in Sid Meyer’s ‘Pirates’ game. Don’t worry, it was all legal, we had a letter of marque. Moreover, we managed to win the hand of the governor’s daughter after convincing her of our dancing prowess (it was a simple, but really funny game).

For some reason not all Venezuelans seem equipped with Plasma TVs yet, so something has apparently gone wrong. Could it be the fault of global warming? After all, it was just identified as being responsible for the budding ‘guacamole crisis‘, among approximately 5,000 other things it is held to be the cause of. So why not the appalling lack of Plasma TV saturation in Venezuela? Makes more sense than the old ‘socialism just doesn’t work’ canard, right?

We can however confidently state that Maduro is not completely without cunning. He sure knows whom he needs to keep on his side, even it that is allegedly not really working out the way it was supposed to either:

“Venezuela’s military has more power under Maduro, a civilian, than it did under the former officer Chávez. Maduro has handed out senior jobs to some 2,000 soldiers and the military now occupies key positions in business and controls entire companies. Late last week, Maduro sent a parachute battalion to Táchira to curtail the protests there.

But even in the military, dissatisfaction is spreading. “The soldiers just haven’t yet had the courage to open their mouths,” says one administrative employee who works in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base on the outskirts of Caracas.

Even Chávez had begun to realize that the enemy was within. He had officers and a former defense minister who had been critical of him arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption. Some of them remain locked up in the Ramo Verde military prison not far from Caracas — just a few cells away from Leopoldo López.”

(emphasis added)

Still, buying off the military by handing its leaders ‘senior jobs’ and letting them occupy key positions in business is a strategy that has e.g. worked extremely well in Egypt, where the military controls 40% of the economy and in spite of a temporary setback continues to rule as if Mubarak had never gone away.

venezuela-0218-horizontal-galleryPolicemen during protests in Caracas. So far, they are being hit with stuff that looks a lot more harmless than the Molotov cocktails thrown in Kiev.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

As one Chavista told reporters (also dispensing advice to the hapless Maduro, so that he may ‘find his own voice’ one day):

Maduro’s had it tough. He has to find his own path, his own ideas, his own speech. He’s not Chavez. The commander is gone; we can’t mourn him permanently. There’s so much work to do, errors to correct,” said Marisol Aponte, a diehard “Chavista” and community activist from a poor zone of west Caracas.

She urged Maduro to purge his cabinet and modernize Chavez-era social programs.”

(emphasis added)

There you go! A good, old-fashioned purge! Even if Chavez failed at this task,  Maduro has an opportunity to one-up him that he only needs to firmly grasp, by ruthlessly employing that ‘strong hand’ Chavez’ cousin is pining for. Can he perhaps become like Stalin?

Naah. Not with that attire:

 


 

maduro-bird-hat

Nicolas Maduro, wearing a landing pad for errant birds.

(Photo via Reuters)

 


 

 

Charts by: BigCharts, dolares.eu

Venezuelan activists urge more protests – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Venezuelan activists urge more protests – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Call for nationwide rallies comes after dozens are arrested in street battles between government forces and protesters.

Last updated: 01 Mar 2014 18:13
Venezuelan activists have called for nationwide protests after 41 people were arrested in street battles between government forces and protesters.Leaders of the activist wing of the opposition, legislator Maria Corina Machado and members of the Popular Will party, led by jailed ex-mayor Leopoldo Lopez, called on people to rally on Saturday against what they called “repression, torture and persecution.”

This comes as eight foreigners were arrested during a rally in Caracas on charges of “international terrorism,” state VTV television said.

Venezuela’s barricades are symbol of protest

Popular Will said that an arrest warrant was issued for Carlos Vecchio, the party’s national political coordinator, accused of crimes linked to the protests that include arson and criminal damage.

On Friday, hooded protesters set up barricades and responded with a steady barrage of Molotov cocktails against the National Guard, as they were fired on with water and tear gas canisters in an attempt to break up the crowd in Caracas’ wealthy district of Chacao.

Journalists under fire

Venezuela’s journalist association SNTP has said that one of the foreigners arrested was US freelance reporter Andrew Rosati, from the Miami Herald.

Rosati was detained for half an hour and released after being “struck in the face and his abdomen” by security forces, the SNTP, said on Twitter.

Also detained and released was a team of journalists from the Associated Press, the SNTP said.

The SNTP also said that Italian photographer Francesca Commissari, who works for the local daily El Nacional, was being held.

In the past week, the Venezuelan government threatened to expel CNN if it did not “rectify” its coverage of the unrest.

Government officials released no details on the arrest of foreigners.

Escalating violence

Angry at the policies of the country’s leftist government, three weeks of violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government have left 18 dead, with the crisis showing little sign of abating.

Protest organiser Alfredo Romero, president of the Venezuelan Penal Forum, said 33 cases of “cruel and inhuman treatment or torture” have been reported to the public ombudsman.

The Venezuelan government said it was investigating 27 cases of human rights abuses, though it provided no details of possible wrongdoing.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said that the death toll linked to the protests stood at 18, while of the 1,044 that had been detained, 72 remain behind bars.

Some of the deaths have been attributed to violent clashes with police, but other victims have been shot by unidentified gunmen.

The government has denied all links to such killings.

US urges dialogue

With no sign of a breakthrough, Washington urged Maduro to talk to the protesters.

“They need to reach out and have a dialogue, and bring people together and resolve their problems,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in Washington Friday, urging against “arrests and violence in the streets.”

Kerry said the United States was working with Colombia and other countries to bolster mediation efforts.

Maduro has labelled the protests that began on February 4 a Washington-backed attempted “coup.”

He claims that radical opposition leaders have joined students angered by high inflation and goods shortage in plotting to topple his nearly year-old government.

Death toll rises in Venezuela amid roadblocks – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Death toll rises in Venezuela amid roadblocks – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Consensus and dialogue rare in divided nation as barricades are enforced and fires smoulder around Caracas.

 Last updated: 25 Feb 2014 05:27

Demonstrators say they will not remove roadblocks until public safety improves [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]
Caracas, Venezuela – Opposition activists have erected roadblocks across parts of the capital Caracas, halting transportation in an attempt to escalate the ongoing political standoff.

Demonstrators manning barricades in a suburb in eastern Caracas said on Monday they would not end the blockade until safety improved in one of the most violent countries in Latin America.

“We are protecting ourselves from the military and [armed pro-government] collectives who might try and come here,” said a student covering his face beside piles of rubbish and logs at a blocked intersection.

“I have been robbed many times.”

He spoke to Al Jazeera requesting anonymity.

The death toll from the unrest beginning in early February rose to 13, the government announced on Monday.

In Caracas’s business district, more than 1,000 pro-government motorcycle drivers massed outside the presidential palace, criticising what they consider an opposition plot to destabilise the country and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“The opposition are the ones who are causing problems, not us,” Gusmarly Morillo, the wife of a motorcycle taxi driver, told Al Jazeera as she waited to enter the grounds of Miraflores Palace.

“They [opposition partisans] think we are criminals just because we are poor and live in a slum.”

Lighting rod for anger

Motorcycles are the vehicle of choice for members of pro-government collectives – groups which sometimes use force in what they consider defence of the socialist revolution.

The collectives have become a lightening rod for opposition anger recently.

They are dubbed “shock troops” or “paramilitaries” by government critics who accuse them of attacking student protesters and terrorising middle class areas at the government’s behest.

But Katiuska Aponte, vice president of the Bolivarian Motorcycle Association, said those accusations are unfounded.

“The motorcyclists aren’t all collective members; they’re just workers trying to make a living to feed their families,” she told Al Jazeera.

For members of pro-government collectives, motorcycles are the vehicle of choice [Chris Arsenault/Al Jazeera]

“Part of the question of insecurity is coming from groups bent on destabilising the country. They are trying to delegitimise our government. We are here protesting on two wheels in favour of our elected president and in favour of peace.”

Poor communities on the hills around Caracas form the backbone of government support in the capital.

Opposition politicians, including defeated presidential contender Henrique Capriles, have pledged to do more to appeal to lower-class voters.

They want to shake the opposition’s image as representatives of a privileged elites.

But supermarket staff in upscale eastern Caracas did not seem impressed by the roadblocks.

“For us, people who work here but don’t live here, the blockades are a big problem because we can’t get to work easily,” Franklin Moran told Al Jazeera as he and a group of supermarket employees in uniforms watched students guard a barricade.

“If the protests were more symbolic and less disruptive, we would be more likely to support them.”

Students at another blockade nearby claimed they understood the concerns of Caracas’ poor.

“The opposition doesn’t want to take away the missions [centres providing social services] from the poor,” Brian Rubeiro, an opposition protester manning a barricade, told Al Jazeera.

“We want the social programmes, but there needs to be accountability and less corruption.”

Question of collectives

Oil prices rose ten-fold during the socialist period, and the opposition believes much of the massive cash infusion into South America’s largest oil exporter has been squandered.

“In the end, we are all Venezuelans and we want a prosperous future and peace,” Rubeiro said.

Maduro called for a peace dialogue to take place on Wednesday, but students said that could not solve the crisis unless the government starts disarming collectives as a show of good faith.

Capriles refuses to attend talks until Leopoldo Lopez, another opposition politician, is released from jail and the “repression” ends.

There was at least one rare moment of consensus in the deeply divided country on Monday.

Protesters blocking the road near Altamira Square in Caracas let through a group of motorcycle drivers heading to a pro-government rally after the two sides had a discussion.

“Forty Chavistas on motorbikes came through on the way to the demonstration,” Gustavo Ortega, a marketing student and demonstrator, told Al Jazeera.

“We negotiated and let them pass through; it’s the first time I have seen something like this.”

Moments of consensus and dialogue are rare, however, as barricades are enforced and fires smoulder around the city.

Venezuelan Authorities Detain Anti-Government Protest Leader – Live Feed | Zero Hedge

Venezuelan Authorities Detain Anti-Government Protest Leader – Live Feed | Zero Hedge.

As was expected, President Maduro’s forces have detained Leopoldo Lopez – the leader of the anti-government protesters. Having earlier stated, “I present myself here, willing for my arrest to wake up Venezuelans,” it appears Venezuelan authorities have stepped in…

  • *VENEZUELA’S LOPEZ SAYS HE HAS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID ABOUT
  • *VENEZUELA’S LOPEZ DETAINED BY NATIONAL GUARD IN CHACAITO

Despite the ongoing proclamations of “absolute calm” the streets (below) appear anything but with hundreds of thousands on the streets… and protesters are blocking the National Guard van that holds Lopez.

 

 

 

 

Lopez added…

“In Venezuela, there is no justice. This fight is for the students, for those jailed, for the people suffering scarcity, for those without a job, for the youth without a future.”

 

Live Feed

 

The van holding Lopez is being held back by protesters…

Venezuela Expels 3 US Diplomats For “Promoting Instability” | Zero Hedge

Venezuela Expels 3 US Diplomats For “Promoting Instability” | Zero Hedge.

Having been ‘busted’ for their manipulation of events in Ukraine (and exposing their views of the European Union), it seems US diplomats have been up to their old tricks once again… this time in Venezuela. “Go Conspire In Washington,” was the clear message sent to the US as President Maduro expelled three US diplomats from his country, accusing them of plotting with anti-government protesters in an attempt to topple his socialist government. This is the second time Maduro has kicked out US diplomats (3 more were expelled in September for ‘conspiring with government opponents’) as he blasted comments by John Kerry as “yet another maneuver” by Washington to “legitimize attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan democracy unleashed by violent groups in recent days.”

An anti-government student holds a sign reading “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way. Venezuela wake up!” during a protest in Caracas.

 

Via Yahoo

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Washington of plotting with anti-government protesters and expelled three US diplomats in retaliation.

The oil-rich country is mired in a deep economic crisis that critics blame on policies that Maduro largely inherited from Chavez.

Strict controls on currency and prices have created huge bottlenecks that have fueled inflation and emptied store shelves.

“I have ordered the foreign ministry to proceed with declaring those three consular officials persona non grata and expelling them from the country. Let them go conspire in Washington!” Maduro said in a nationally broadcast address

Maduro said the US diplomats, who have not been named, had met with students involved in anti-government protests under the pretense of offering them “visas to the United States.”

In late September Maduro kicked out three other US diplomats, including the charge d’affairs Kelly Keiderling, on accusations of conspiring with government opponents. The two countries have had no ambassadors since 2010.

A foreign ministry statement also said that Maduro’s government “flatly rejects” remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday voicing alarm at the violence during the marches and criticizing the arrest of protesters.

Kerry’s statement is “yet another maneuver” by Washington to “legitimize attempts to destabilize the Venezuelan democracy unleashed by violent groups in recent days,” the ministry said.

Of course, it makes sense for Maduro to pitch blame on to the Americans (whether they are to blame or not) as he faces a growing tension among the working Venezuelans that the status quo is not working and a common enemy is required…

As we noted previously (via Stratfor):

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

In the meantime, protest leader Leopoldo Lopez said he’ll surrender on Feb 18th –

“If anyone has decided to illegally arrest and jail me, you know I will be there,” he said. “I have nothing to fear; I have not done anything illegal.”

as plain clothes policeman were in the back of a pick-up outside the home of the father of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Reports said the government wants to arrest him in connection with deadly street protests in recent days. “I have committed no crime,” said Lopez. “I have been a Venezuelan committed to our country, our people, and our future.” Earlier, Lopez called Maduro a coward on Twitter. “You won’t make either me or my family bow to you,” he added.

What’s Going On In Venezuela (In A Nutshell) | Zero Hedge

What’s Going On In Venezuela (In A Nutshell) | Zero Hedge.

Protests in Venezuela continue (despite President Maduro’s proclamation that the nation is in “absolute calm”), with both the government and the opposition holding rallies, leaving several streets and subway stations in Caracas closed. 10 students who were arrested amid violent protests last week have been released, though 6 students remain in custody. Demonstrators do not yet have the numbers or support base to unseat President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, but as Stratfor notesthese protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo.

What’s going in Venezuela (in a nutshell)

And as Stratfor notesthings could be changing for Maduro…

Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

 

Venezuela certainly does not appear the “absolute calm” the President described it as…

 

 

 

 

 

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