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Venezuela: A Case of The Pink Tide Turning

Venezuela’s socialist regime seems to be losing power. The country is part of a broader movement of left-wing politics sweeping across the region of Latin America. This movement, recently coined the “Pink Tide” by political analysts, has been led by Cuba. But with changing politics in Cuba and the diminishing popularity of Maduro, it would seem that the “pink tide” is changing directions, and that the progressive governments can no longer satisfy the public’s demands. 

After the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 5th 2013, the economic situation of the country was already faltering. Oil production had been cut in half and refiners were losing interest in Venezuelan oil due to the growing social unrest.  Upon his death, Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, was elected as president with such a narrow win that opposition charged him with fraudulent elections. He swore into presidency with the promise of keeping “Chavismo” alive and continuing his socialist policies.

With Maduro in power, public discontent continued to grow, especially after he claimed “decree powers” to issue laws without Parliamentary approval in November 2013. The opposition movement truly gained momentum in January 2014 under the leadership of a Harvard-educated economist, Leopoldo Lopez. Under Lopez, protests officially began on February 4th in a country where inflation and murder rates hit an all-time high. Through their campaign of “La Salida” (The Exit), protesters oppose the government censorship, the shortage of primary products, the propagation of false images of Venezuela on the media, and the general insecurity of the country. Their request is simple: Maduro’s resignation in the name of a true democracy.

Currently in Venezuela, ongoing anti-Maduro protests have led to violent clashes with security forces that only seem to be getting worse. Since the beginning of the clashes, 18 people have been killed and over 260 were injured. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez surrendered to the troops on February 18th under the charges of fomenting deadly protests. In a speech given minutes before his arrest, he justified his capitulation to the unjust system by his promotion of change through non-violent means. While the governments original aim was to quell the opposition, they actually ended up providing a platform to mobilize and a martyred hero. Thus, as the opposition grows in size and momentum, it also seems to be fracturing, having no specific leader and a wide array of ideological views. The government has long underestimated the protesters’ determination and discontent, but the fact that the masses have continued despite their lack Xanax Online of leadership goes to show that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Wednesday March 5th 2014 marked the first national commemoration for the anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death, and was attended by all renowned left-wing leaders such as Raul Castro of Cuba, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Evo Morales of Bolivia. The commemoration truly highlighted the supporters of the regime with the army, the police and paramilitary forces marching for the ceremony.  While certain opposition figures tried to contain the protests during this time of mourning, the protesters took no pity and proceeded to set up barricades, demonstrations, and marches, all of which were met with violence by security forces.

The government has attempted in vain to calm the unrest through the devaluation of the currency, the announcement of a new exchange market, the opening of a national dialogue, and even by pointing fingers at the U.S. In addition to the expulsion of three American diplomats, Maduro announced he would freeze economic and diplomatic relations with Panama, which he designated as “slave” to the United States during the commemoration. Just like his counterpart president Viktor Ianoukovitch of Ukraine, Maduro has also resorted to the same unsuccessful rhetoric of naming the opposition as “fascist”.

It would seem that the government has not learned from past mistakes, and that history is yet again repeating itself. In 2002, the anti-Chavez protesters took over the oil sector of Venezuela, costing America a large amount of oil supplies. While Chavez was able to overcome the 2002 crisis and remain in presidency for another 11 years, he had already built up the necessary support from the masses in order to do so. Conversely, Maduro has been highly unpopular among Venezuelans since the beginning, despite his attempt to mirror Chavismo and populist politics. The few policies he has enacted to fix the current economic crisis – one of the main drivers of the unrest – seem to have had little impact on the public’s response.

So what is to ensue in Venezuela? The government’s accusations against other countries, the use of repression, the strengthening alliance with Cuba, and the international pressure for restraint in violence are all creating a blurred mess under which the issues that started these protests cannot be addressed. Hugo Chavez envisioned his socialist policies and regime to last for decades. But in this time of crisis, even his closest supporters seem to be losing faith less than a year after his death.

-Ines Lecland


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