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Violent Protests in Venezuela Fit a Pattern

By Dan Beeton | CEPR | February 19, 2014

Venezuela’s latest round of violent protests appears to fit a pattern, and represents the tug-and-pull nature of the country’s divided opposition. Several times over the past 15 years since the late, former president Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, the political opposition has launched violent protests aimed at forcing the current president out of office. Most notably, such protests were a part of the April 2002 coup that temporarily deposed Chávez, and then accompanied the 2002/2003 oil strike. In February of 2004, a particularly radical sector of the opposition unleashed the “Guarimba”: violent riots by small groups who paralyzed much of the east of Caracas for several days with the declared goal of creating a state of chaos.  As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has explained, then – as now – the strategy is clear: a sector of the opposition seeks to overturn the results of democratic elections. An important difference this time of course is that Venezuela has its first post-Chávez president, and a key part of the opposition’s strategy overall has been to depict Nicolás Maduro as a pale imitation of his predecessor and a president ill-equipped to deal with the country’s problems (many of which are exaggerated in the Venezuelan private media, which is still largely opposition-owned, as well as the international media).

Following Maduro’s electoral victory in April last year (with much of the opposition crying “fraud” despite there being no reasonable doubts about the validity of the results), the opposition looked to the December municipal elections as a referendum on Maduro’s government, vowing to defeat governing party PSUV and allied candidates. The outcome, which left the pro-Maduro parties with a 10 point margin of victory, was a stunning defeat for the opposition, and this time they did not even bother claiming the elections were rigged. According to the opposition’s own pre-election analysis, support for Maduro had apparently grown over the months preceding the election. As we have pointed out, this may be due in part to the large reduction in poverty in 2012 and other economic and social gains that preceded the more recent economic problems.

Defeated at the polls, the anti-democratic faction of the opposition prepared for a new attempt at destabilizing the elected government, and promoted relatively small, but often violent student protests in early February.  They then called for a massive protest on February 12, Venezuela’s Youth Day in the center of Caracas.  The demonstrations have been accompanied by a social media campaign that has spread misinformation in an attempt to depict the Maduro administration as a violent dictatorship instead of a popular elected government. Images of police violence from other countries and past protests – some several years old – have been presented on social media as having occurred in recent days in Venezuela. A YouTube video that has been watched by almost 2 million viewers presents a one-sided portrayal of the situation and falsely states that the Venezuelan government controls all radio and television in the country, among other distortions. Similar disinformation occurred in April 2002 and in other past incidents in Venezuela, most notably when manipulated video footage was used to provide political justification for the coup d’etat.

While some in Washington foreign policy circles may attempt to portray the leaders of this new wave of protests as persecuted pro-democracy heroes, they in fact have histories of supporting anti-democratic and unconstitutional efforts to oust the government. Both Leopoldo López and Maria Corina Machado supported the 2002 coup; in López’s case he participated in it by supervising the arrest of then-Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, when López was mayor of Chacao. Police dragged Rodríguez Chacín out of the building where he had sought refuge into an angry mob, who physically attacked him. Corina Machado notably was present when the coup government of Pedro Carmona was sworn in, and signed the infamous “Carmona decree” dissolving the congress, the constitution and the Supreme Court. The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday:

the opposition has a touchy protest history in Venezuela. Early on in former President Hugo Chavez’s administration, the opposition was consistently on the streets calling for an end to his presidency. In 2002, they organized a coup that briefly unseated the president. Though the opposition leadership is not calling for a coup, the reputation the group made for itself barely a decade ago may be haunting it as it vocally pushes back against Maduro’s administration.

Venezuela’s opposition receives funding from U.S. “democracy promotion” groups including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and core grantees such as the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NED, which the Washington Post noted was set up to conduct activities “much of” which “[t]he CIA used to fund covertly” has made a number of grants directed at empowering youth and students in Venezuela in recent years, and USAID has also given money to IRI, NDI and other groups for Venezuela programs. These organizations have a history of destabilizing elected governments and working to unify and strengthen political opposition to left-wing parties and governments. IRI notably played a key role in destabilizing Haiti ahead of the 2004 coup there, and also has engaged in activities aimed at weakening Brazil’s governing Workers’ Party, to name a few. In Venezuela, they funded groups involved in the 2002 coup, and IRI spokespersons infamously praised the coup after it happened.

The Haiti example is instructive. The parallels are numerous: notably, a key part of the strategy was to exaggerate and fabricate killings and other human rights abuses, which were blamed on the elected government (while truly horrific atrocities committed by the armed wing of the opposition were generally ignored). Researchers – including some from the U.N. — have since debunked the most widely-circulated accounts of rights violations, but of course the democratically-elected president (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) had long since been forced from office by then.

The U.S.-funded destabilization of Haiti in the early 2000s also offers lessons as to the endgame of this strategy. As the New York Times reported and as scholars such as Peter Hallward and Jeb Sprague have documented, the IRI counseled its Haitian partners not to accept any compromises from the Aristide government (which made many concessions, including agreeing to a power-sharing arrangement), but to continue to press further.

But the Maduro government is of course in a much stronger position than Haiti’s government ten years ago. A key factor is that while Aristide was relatively isolated politically, Latin American governments, through UNASUR and MERCOSUR, have condemned the violent protests and the opposition’s calls for Maduro to leave office and have expressed support for the Venezuelan government. In this case, when the Obama administration continues to signal that it sides with the violent protests, it is an outlier in the region.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 50.66 Percent of the Vote

Maracaibo – Nicolas Maduro has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Maduro gave a victory speech immediately after, while Capriles initially refused to recognize the results.

The “first bulletin” results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, at around 11:20 p.m. Venezuelan time, with 99.12 percent of the votes totaled, enough to give Maduro an irreversible victory.

Nicolas Maduro received a total of 7,505,338 votes, against 7,270,403 for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a difference of 234,935 votes. Total turnout was 78.71 percent of the electorate.

Given the closeness of the vote, Maduro’s speech focused mostly on assuring the validity of his victory, and the reliability of the electoral body.

“If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body,” he said from outside the presidential palace.

“We have the only electoral body in the world in which 54 percent of the total votes are audited,” he added.

Maduro also noted that in other countries presidents often win by slim margins, and that it is recognized as a victory, and said to opposition sectors that “this is no reason to create violence”.

CNE Rector Vicente Díaz immediately requested that 100 percent of the electoral results be audited in order to make the results more transparent.

“This tight result has lead me to request that the CNE conduct a citizens’ audit of 100 percent of the ballot boxes. The country needs it,” he said.

Maduro immediately accepted the request, and assured there was no problem in doing a complete audit.

“Let’s do it! No problem. Perhaps they will find that my victory will be larger,” he said.

Maduro supporters had gathered at the presidential palace to await the results, and remained to celebrate the victory after Maduro’s speech.

Meanwhile, opposition supporters awaited in the Caracas neighborhood of Bello Monte to hear their candidate’s concession speech.

Initial comments from various opposition leaders appeared to indicate that they were confident they had won, and that they would not accept defeat.

Capriles wrote on his Twitter account hours before the official results were released that the government was planning to “change the results”.

“We warn the country and the world that there is the intention to change the will [of the people],” he wrote.

Upon the release of the official results, Capriles held a press conference in which he claimed that the victory was “illegitimate” and refused to recognize Maduro’s victory until all ballots are audited.

“I don’t make pacts with those who are corrupt or illegitimate,” said Capriles, assuring he would not agree to accept the results.

“The one who has been defeated is you and everything you represent,” he said referring to Nicolas Maduro.

Capriles claimed that the results are not truly representative of the Venezuelan population, and assured that the Maduro government was “completely illegitimate”.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Comments Off on Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 50.66 Percent of the Vote

Venezuela’s Maduro leads latest poll before election

Xinhua – April 1, 2013

CARACAS — With the presidential election less than two weeks away, Venezuelan Acting President Nicolas Maduro led opposition leader Henrique Capriles by 20 percent in latest polls.

According to results released Monday by local pollster company Hinterlaces, Maduro, late President Hugo Chavez’s political heir, would get 55 percent of the vote against 35 percent for Capriles, who was defeated by Chavez in last year’s election.

Asked about their projection of the two candidates’ winning chances, 61 percent people chose Maduro and only 22 percent opted for Capriles.

The survey, conducted in March among 1,100 people across the country, has a 3-percent margin of error, the company said.

The official pollster GIS XXI on Monday released a similar poll result, predicting that Maduro would win the election with 55.3 percent of the vote.

Another survey, also conducted by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis in March, showed that 53.8 percent of the 1,200 respondents would vote for Maduro, compared with 30.8 percent for Capriles.

The presidential election campaign will officially begin on Tuesday.

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Comments Off on Venezuela’s Maduro leads latest poll before election

Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | March 19, 2013

Merida  – Private poll company Datanalisis has found that interim president Nicolas Maduro has a 14% lead over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, with 16% of respondents still undecided, or intending to vote for other candidates.

NicolAs-Maduro-300x193Yesterday Barclays/Datanalisis released a report in which 65% of respondents believe that pro-Chavez candidate Nicolas Maduro will win the 14 April presidential elections.

Barclays is a British multinational financial services company, and Datanalisis is a private Venezuelan company, whose poll results generally favour the opposition, but also tend to be closer to final election outcomes than some other private polling companies.

According to their poll, 49.2% of respondents intend to vote for Maduro, while 34.8% said they will vote for opposition contender Henrique Capriles, giving Maduro a prospective lead of 14.4%. Datanalisis conducted the poll from 11 March to 13 March; the days following the candidates’ registrations to run in the elections.

Only 15% of respondents believed Capriles would win the upcoming elections. Barclays identified this as a “risk” for the opposition, as a “lack of enthusiasm could lead to the abstention of voters”.

“In that sense, Capriles’s reaction has been an aggressive campaign to try to revitalize opposition voters. He is presenting the election in terms of a battle against adverse and unfair conditions, in which a significant portion of the country (roughly half of it) deserves to be heard,” the financial company’s report concluded.

The results also show that the passing of President Hugo Chavez only had a minor impact on voting intentions. Results from the same company, from a poll conducted on 20 February, show the voting intention for Maduro at 46.4%, just 2.8% less than the more recent poll. The voting intention for Capriles was 34.3%, 0.5% less than the recent poll.

The results suggest a high percentage of undecided votes, abstentions or intentions to vote for other candidates, at 16%.

Barclays argued, “Considering the short period for campaigning, the sympathy effect just after the death of Chavez, restrictions on the press, and the demobilisation of the opposition following two defeats last year, Maduro is still a favourite for the 14 of April presidential elections”.

It is not clear what “restrictions on the press” Barclays refers to. The National Electoral Council has increased the amount of electoral advertising time allowed by television and radio, given the short campaigning time. Television advertisements can last a maximum of four minutes, and radio advertisements five minutes. Official campaigning is allowed from 2 to 11 April.

“Maduro is still the favourite… however his popularity is volatile and relies on the emotional support that Chavez transferred to him,” Barclays stated in its report.

The financial transnational also concluded that the market is assuming Maduro’s victory, and that Venezuela still offers an “interesting asymmetric trade opportunity in the case of a black swan event”. A black swan event is an unexpected event with high impact, and the Barclay’s report says it sees an opposition win in this light.

Andres Izarra, a member of the team heading up the campaign ‘Hugo Chavez’ for Nicolas Maduro, criticised national and international “right wing media” for “ignoring” the poll results. He noted that at the time of speaking, yesterday, of Venezuelan media only newspaper Ultimas Noticias had reported the results.

As of today, newspaper El Universal and news website Noticias24 have also published the results, but TV channel Globovision and conservative paper El Nacional haven’t.

Today, another private, pro-opposition poll company, Hinterlaces also released its poll results. Based on a survey of 1,100 homes around the country, conducted on 16 March, 53% of respondents would vote for Maduro and 35% for Capriles, for a difference of 18 percentage points.

The poll also showed that 61% of Venezuelans think that Maduro will win the elections.

In October last year, Hugo Chavez won the presidential elections with 55.4% of the vote, to 45% by Capriles, with 81% participation. The September poll by Datanalisis gave Chavez a 13% lead.

March 19, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Polls Show Maduro Leading Capriles for Venezuelan Presidential Elections

Venezuela to probe Chavez cancer death conspiracy

RT | March 12, 2013

Venezuela is to formally investigate suspicions late President Hugo Chavez’s was afflicted with cancer after being poisoned by foreign enemies, the government said.

Acting President Nicolas Maduro vowed to set up an inquiry into the allegation, which was first leveled by Chavez after being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Foreign scientists will also be invited to join a government commission to investigate the claim.

“We will seek the truth,” Reuters cites Maduro as telling regional TV network Telesur late on Monday. “We have the intuition that our commander, Chavez, was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way.”

Maduro said it was too early to determine the exact root of the cancer which was discovered in Chavez’s pelvic region in June 2011, but charged that the United States had laboratories which were experienced in manufacturing diseases.

“He had a cancer that broke all norms,” the agency cites Maduro as saying. “Everything seems to indicate that they affected his health using the most advanced techniques … He had that intuition from the beginning.”

Chavez reportedly underwent four surgeries in Cuba, before dying of respiratory failure after the cancer metastasized in in his lungs.

Maduro compared the conspiracy surrounding Chavez’s death to allegations that Israeli agents poisoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to death in 2004.

In December 2011, Chavez speculated that the United States could be infecting the regions leaders with cancer after Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“I don’t want to make any reckless accusations,” Chavez said before asking:

“Would it be strange if [the United States] had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to know it?” Maduro repeated the accusation last week on the eve of Chavez’s death.

“Behind all of [the plots] are the enemies of the fatherland,” he said on state television before announcing the expulsion of two US Air Force officials for spying on the military and plotting to destabilize the country.

Venezuela’s opposition has lambasted the claim as another Chavez-style conspiracy theory intended to distract people from real issues gripping the country in the run up to the snap presidential election called for April 14.

As Tuesday marked the last day of official mourning for Chavez, ceremonies are likely to continue, fueling claims by the opposition that the government is exploiting Chavez’s death to hold onto power.

While launching his candidacy on Monday, Maduro began his speech with a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem, sending many of his supporters into tears.

The pro-business state governor Henrique Capriles, who is running for the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition, was quick to remind both his supporters and detractors that the charismatic socialist reformer Chavez was not his opponent.

“[Maduro] is not Chávez and you all know it,” The Christian Science Monitor quotes him as saying while announcing his candidacy on Sunday.

“President Chávez is no longer here.” Maduro, a former bus driver and Chavez’s handpicked successor, has attempted to deflect criticism that he lacks the former president’s rhetorical flair by painting himself as a working class hero.

“I’m a man of the street. … I’m not Chávez,” he said Sunday.

“I’m interim president, commander of the armed forces and presidential candidate because this is what Chávez decided and I’m following his orders.” Polls taken before Chavez’s death gave Maduro a 10 point lead over Capriles, who lost to Chavez in last October’s presidential poll.

March 13, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Venezuela to probe Chavez cancer death conspiracy

Will the U.S. Government, Media Seek to Improve Relations with Venezuela?

By Dan Beeton | CEPR Americas Blog | March 5, 2013

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro’s announced today that President Hugo Chávez had died at 4:25pm. According to Venezuela’s constitution [PDF], new presidential elections are supposed to be held within 30 days.

The news could prevent an opportunity for an improvement in U.S.-Venezuelan relations, but that is unlikely. Earlier in the day, Maduro announced that the Venezuelan government would expel the U.S. military attaché for unsanctioned meetings with certain Venezuelan military officers. While this is of course a significant development in U.S.-Venezuela relations that marks yet further deterioration, unfortunately it seems safe to say that most U.S. media outlets will not provide the crucial context necessary in order to understand current relations and why they are so tense.

Maduro mentioned the April 2002 coup d’etat in his press conference today. Declassified C.I.A. and other government documents reveal the U.S. role in that coup against Hugo Chávez. As Scott Wilson, former foreign editor at the Washington Post has explained:

Yes, the United States was hosting people involved in the coup before it happened. There was involvement of U.S.-sponsored NGOs in training some of the people that were involved in the coup. And in the immediate aftermath of the coup, the United States government said that it was a resignation, not a coup, effectively recognizing the government that took office very briefly until President Chavez returned.

I think that there was U.S. involvement, yes.

(Video clip here. This information has however never been reported this fully in the pages of the Washington Post itself.)

The coup was overturned two days later, but before it was the coup regime headed by businessman Pedro Carmona demonstrated its feelings about democratic institutions by dissolving the congress, the supreme court, and the constitution. The New York Times editorial board applauded the coup, writing, “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator.” The IMF explained that “We stand ready to assist the new administration in whatever manner they find suitable.” After the coup was overturned by Venezuelans in the streets and soldiers loyal to the elected government, and Chávez returned to Caracas from the island where his golpista kidnappers had taken him, the New York Times offered a sheepish apology for its previous applause. The U.S. government and the IMF, however, never apologized for their support for the coup.

It is also important to note that U.S. government interference in Venezuela did not stop there. The U.S. has continued to fund various groups in Venezuela opposed to the government – including political parties and media outlets. The U.S. State Department and entities such as the National Endowment for Democracy also have not disclosed who all of these recipients are, in Venezuela nor in other countries such as Bolivia, where the government has also expelled U.S. diplomats, and where the U.S. media has also done a poor job in providing context behind the deteriorating relations.

More recently, last month U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland referred to “how the transition is going to take place” in Venezuela. Not surprisingly, the Venezuelan government also took this to be a form of meddling. Talk of a “transition” was premature, and Nuland’s statement was “nothing less than the open meddling into issues that are for Venezuelans to resolve,” according to Eleazar Diaz-Rangel, editor in chief of Venezuela’s most-widely read – and probably most objective – newspaper Últimas Noticias.

It is hard to imagine U.S. government officials making similar statements if the leader of an ally country such as the U.K. or Israel were fighting for her/his life. But when it comes to Venezuela the behavior fits a pattern of ongoing efforts to undermine the elected government.

It will also be interesting to see how the international community and the media will receive Maduro, should he become Venezuela’s next president. Chávez called on Venezuelans to support Maduro should new elections be necessary, and polls show Maduro would likely win over an Henrique Capriles or another opposition candidate. Both U.S. media outlets and U.S. government officials have often sought to blame poor relations between the U.S. and Venezuela on Chávez’s “fiery” personality; will they do the same with Maduro? Earlier media reports today indicate that the answer is probably yes. Media – and many other observers –also focused much on Chávez’s military background, something that Maduro does not have.

For his part, Maduro got an early taste of U.S. hospitality in 2006 when he was unceremoniously searched at the airport prior to departure back to Venezuela in his first U.S. trip as Venezuela’s Foreign Minister. It was an unfortunate first impression to make on the man who will probably be Venezuela’s next president.

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Embassy Officials Expelled from Venezuela, Government Warns of “Conspiracy Plans”

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | March 5th 2013

Merida – Vice-president Nicolas Maduro today denounced destabilisation plans by the international and Venezuelan right wing, announcing the expulsion of two US officials for threatening military security. He also implied that Chavez’s cancer was “caused by enemies of Venezuela”.

Right-wing destabilisation plans

Maduro made the announcement today just after midday, following a meeting this morning with Venezuela’s political military leadership.

Maduro pronounced the expulsion of diplomat David del Monaco, and Air Attaché Deblin Costal of the US embassy in Caracas for being implicated in “conspiracy plans”.

“They have 24 hours to pack their bags and leave,” Maduro said.

He explained that Monaco had, for the last few weeks, been contacting members of the Venezuelan military in order to bring about a destabilisation plan in Venezuela.

“This official has been given the task of looking for active military members in Venezuela in order to propose destabilisation projects to the Armed Forces.”

“We want to denounce that we have certain clues of elements that make up this poisonous picture, which seek to disrupt the social life of our country and give it a beating,” he added.

“The enemies of the country, who aim to destroy democracy, have decided to go ahead with plans to destabilise Venezuela and damage the crux of a democracy…they have intensified the attacks against the economy and against goods and services,”  Maduro said, referring to the scarcity of certain food and hygiene products that the country is currently experiencing.

Maduro argued that the “national and international right wing” were taking advantage of the “difficult circumstances” Venezuela is going through as a result of the “delicate state of health of President Chavez”.

Doubt over the cause of Chavez’s cancer

Further, he said, “We don’t have any doubts that the historical enemies of the country have searched for a way to damage the health of President Chavez… that he was attacked with this illness,” alluding to the possibility of a “scientific attack”.

“Just like what happened to Yasser Arafat… Eventually there will be a scientific investigation into President Chavez’s illness,” he said.

There are different theories as to the cause of the former President of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004. Last July Al Jazeera reported that traces of polonium-210, a rare and highly radioactive element, were found on Arafat’s belongings.

Other experts however claimed that polonium’s half life means it would be impossible to discover it now if it had been used for poisoning eight years ago, and that it must have been planted later. In 2005 the Palestinian ambassador to Sri Lanka, Attalah Quiba also alleged that Arafat had been poisoned by “high technology” such as a “high-tech laser”.

Continue fighting and working

Maduro concluded his public announcement by saying, “Men and women loyal to Chavez, we’re going to continue with our duties, so that no single program for the people is held back”.

“Venezuela’s political and military leadership is united, we call on the people to close ranks, to unite forces, and to pray for our comandante,” he said.

Referring to mainstream media lies and distortions about Chavez’s health and the situation in Venezuela, Maduro also expressed his appreciation to Venezuela for its “strength that there has been to face the psychological and dirty war against our people”.

The vice-president called for “respect for Chavez, for his family in these difficult times, respect for the pain and worry of our people”.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on US Embassy Officials Expelled from Venezuela, Government Warns of “Conspiracy Plans”