Sunday, October 30, 2016

Not this shit again

Julian Assange and James Comey have delivered all the October surprises that we did not need.  It didn't matter to me; I was done with my ballot last weekend, and signed, sealed, and delivered it last Monday.  If everything goes well, on the evening of November 8th, the world will breathe a sigh of relief that the US dodged electing the guy who could be the greatest recruiting poster for all the disaffected crazies in the troubled Islamic countries.

The American elections have been one heck of a reality TV show around the world.  But, there are far more compelling human dramas unfolding in real time.  Tragedies, with no end in sight.  No, this post is not about Syria. Nor about the migrants. Nor about Yemen. Nor about ...

It is about Venezuela:
a relatively large, relatively sophisticated major oil producer just three hours’ flying time from the United States has just become the second all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.
The courts have suspended what would have been a referendum to recall the "loathed authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro."

A referendum that Maduro would have lost; there were eight voters lined up against him for every supporter, according to surveys.  Given such intense opposition,
how does Maduro retain enough support going forward to hang on to power? Where is his genuine source of support at this point?
You want a nanosecond to think about it?
People with guns. That includes the military of course, which has been given enormous privileges during the last 18 years. [It has] been put in charge of mining businesses, been part of the oil industry, and smuggling, and cocaine, and a lot of other things.
"Includes the military" because it is not merely the military:
It’s the paramilitarization of the ruling party. So [the] PSUV, or Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, has what are called colectivos. [These are] sort of grassroots supporter civilians who are armed and organized. What they are is paramilitaries. They are armed civilian groups that support the government. The degree of tactical cooperation between the armed security forces and these paramilitary groups is shocking now and really, they’re not trying to hide it. And these days there’s Twitter—you can’t hide things even if you want to. 
So, ... what next?  If life in Venezuela has already gone from bad to worse to worst, ...?
We are in deeply uncharted territory here, so to try to forecast it now is really, really dicey. There’s a sense in the opposition now of learned helplessness. [A sense of,] “we’ve done a lot, we’ve done a lot to try to get rid of these guys and they’ve worn us out every time, and we’ve failed every time and the country has gotten worse and worse and worse.” So in a way, that’s the hardest thing to get over. Part of the reason that people reacted to the offer of the Vatican mediation the way they did is precisely that: Not this shit again.  
"Not this shit again" can equally apply to the presidential campaign here in the US too.


Ramesh said...

I wish the extreme left , which is all dewy eyed with Sanders, Warren , etc consider the parallels with their own prescription for the US. Granted that they are not as extreme as Chavez, but their fundamental principles are the same.

Its economic malaise that is at the heart of Venezuela's problems, not Maduro's authoritarianism. And that has at its roots, the fundamental impossibility of utopian socialism.

By the way, Venezuelan voters repeatedly chose Chavez at their elections , leading to where they are today. Just goes to show how easy it is for a nut case to become a leader. Duterte in the Philippines is a beautiful example today (how come you haven't blogged about him ?). And your country is on the precipice of joining this illustrious list.

A fundamental principle of democracy has often been lost sight of. Voting is not a right. Its a major responsibility.

Sriram Khé said...

The Venezuela story has plenty of lessons for populists of the Dem and Rep stripes--not merely the Sanders/Warren kind.
Adolf Trump's rhetoric voices something that Sanders worked through his megaphone: The elite are out of touch with the regular people and their problems.
That same rhetoric was how Hugo Chavez won elections in Venezuela. Whether it is the DMK/ADMK folks in Tamil Nadu, or Chavez, or Hitler er Trump, or Sanders, or Duterte, whipping up the populist emotions and winning elections in a democracy often ends up with all kinds of problems.
(The Economist noted months ago that practically every democracy has elected a nutcase demagogue to the highest office, and that there is no reason to believe that the US will be an exception. I have not ruled out a President Trump--we get the elected officials we deserve!)

BTW, this NY Times opinion piece is very much along the lines of what we are talking about:

Anne in Salem said...

People vote too often with their pocketbooks and their emotions and are somehow surprised when their choices are disastrous. Voters should be logical, but alas, we are not rational, right.

Duterte worries me.

Sriram Khé said...

We voters are far from being rational. Yes.
Duterte is but the latest ... the longest serving of them all is still in power--Mugabe!!!! :( :(

Most read this past month