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Inicio arrow Análisis arrow Latinoamérica arrow Political Situation in Latin America: February 2014

Political Situation in Latin America: February 2014 PDF Imprimir E-Mail
Mar-01-14 - by Rosendo Fraga

1. The Venezuelan political crisis has prolonged for two weeks now and the visit of Lula in Havana seeks to coordinate actions by Cuba and Brazil to contain it. The Former Brazilian President makes a visit to the island that began Monday 24th and continues until Thursday, February 27th, during which he will meet with Raúl Castro and eventually will see his brother Fidel. The interest of Cuba in which preventing Maduro’s fall is unclear: no cessation of oil supply, which key to keep the Cuban economy running Brazil is also interested that Maduro does not fall but for a different reason: Venezuelan President who forced step down as has happened in the last few days with the Ukrainian President (Yanukovich) due to the protests in the streets, can fuel the protests in Brazil that appear as the only risk for the re-election of Dilma, which according to polls, would take place if the election was today. She said that "if there were a coup in Venezuela," the country would be excluded from the Mercosur, as happened with Paraguay. Both influences would be behind the decision of Maduro made public on Saturday, Feb 22, to convene a "national peace conference". At the same time, he decided to anticipate the start of Carnival for contributing to the climate of détente, the next day he decided to reconsider the decision to expel the CNN from the country for making a "war propaganda" and on Monday he announced the creation of a "Truth Commission" to investigate the deaths. But the change in attitude occurs in a contradictory context given that the same day that he announced the Conference he told supporters "if I am no longer President when I wake up, I authorize you to take to the streets to gain the Nation back".

2. The call for dialogue seems to have come too late -after Maduro has largely radicalized the situation. In two weeks, the deaths from protests reach 13 and the bullet wounded are about 150, having been reported dozens of cases of torture. Most of them have been victims of the so-called "collective chavistas", which are groups of armed activists that act as para-police forces. In particular the group called "motorized", who shoot from motorcycles, is the one that has caused more victims. February 12 may be described as the start of the crisis, when Maduro reported he was the victim of "an attempted coup". An Army officer identified two pro-Chavez supporters who had opened fire against students that same day. Six days later, on February 18, the crisis escalated, when opposition leader Leopoldo López gave up and a former beauty queen who was demonstrating (Genesis Carmona) was shot to death by pro-Chavez activists. Maduro hardens repression, militarizes the state of Tachira, where the protests began, threatens to leave states where demonstrations take place deprived of gasoline, calls a women’s counter-demonstration, orders the capture of two opposition leaders, threatens to expel CNN and calls upon the National Guard - militarized police- and Chavez's supporters groups to be harder in the repression, insisting that his Government is a victim of an attempted coup directed by the US. 

3. The opposition has refused to participate in the dialogue, putting the Government of Maduro in a difficult situation. Enrique Capriles, former presidential candidate for the opposition, questioned within it due to his closeness to the Government, called for dialogue and disarmament of para-police groups on Feb 20, and on the same day Leopoldo López from jail requested his followers not to "no surrender". Two days later, a great opposition march took place, unifying the radical and moderate wings and Capriles hardens his stance defying the Government and saying that the opposition will continue on the streets. On Sunday 23 he says that dialogue could not be reached because the Government continued repression, reporting 500 cases of "brutal repression". Finally, the first day of this week, he refused to meet with Maduro saying "No Nicolas, you are not going to use, you won't use me to save this dying Government". On the same day, student leaders said dialogue is not possible with "murderers" and "Cuban Communists". An anti-Chávez priest (Palmar), who acquired notoriety for being hard hit in the crackdown, called for the resignation of Maduro and that a constitutional assembly be convened. At the same time, signs of decomposition start emerging. The pro-Chavez Governor of the state of Tachira (Mora) where the protests began, called for an end of repression and said "I do not agree with keeping political prisoners". A retired General, accused of advising opposition demonstrations (Vivas), resisted up in arms the detention attempt, reporting via twitter that he was being besieged by Cuban agents and "Venezuelan accomplices". The deaf criticism against Maduro is increasing within the Chavism. 

4. If Maduro was forced to leave power, there would be political consequences in the region. The effects on Cuba and Brazil were already mentioned. In the case of Argentina, whose President is who has defended Maduro the most in the region, the combination of economic crisis and discontent on the streets due to the crisis in Venezuela, appears as a menace. Also, the Ecuadorian President (Correa) may be affected after his defeat in the elections of Sunday 23 in the major cities, suffering his first electoral defeat since he came to power, after winning seven successive elections. The opposition in Nicaragua can be activated, when it seemed to have no ability to oppose President Ortega’s bill to impose indefinite re-election. But the Venezuelan crisis does not seem to have a chance of influencing Bolivia, where Evo Morales leads by over 40 points ahead of the candidate who follows presidential elections carried out end of the year. If Maduro falls, Iran and Syria, which have had a strong ally in South America on Chavism, would lose it. For the United States, Maduro’s exit would mean the end of an agitation factor in the region, but it is also true that the energy self-sufficiency that it has achieved has reduced the strategic interest in Venezuela. 

5. To conclude:

a) The Venezuelan crisis has gone on for two weeks now, and Lula’s visit to Havana represents an attempt to coordinate the actions by Cuba and Brazil to curtail it.

b) However, the détente suggested by both countries to Maduro, which he tried to implement –although controversially- seems to have arrived too late.

c) The united opposition has rejected the call for dialogue raised by the Venezuelan president while evidencing symptoms of deterioration in his Government.

d) Maduro’s eventual fall on various grounds is felt as a threat by the ALBA countries, Brazil, Argentina and countries outside the region, such as Syria and Iran.  

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