[News] Venezuela - Dialogue or Coups
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 19 19:00:16 EST 2014
Dialogue or Coups
February 19th 2014
The main question in Venezuela isn't about any lack of democracy in this
country, nor restrictions on freedom of expression.
Regarding the supposed "democratic deficit of the Venezuelan regime",
the facts speak for themselves. Since 1998 there have been four national
plebiscites, four presidential elections, and eleven parliamentary,
regional, and municipal elections. Venezuela is the Latin American
country with the highest number of elections and it also has an
automatic electoral system (much more modern than Chile's one),
by Jimmy Carter, who has observed 92 elections in all continents, as
"the best system in the world".
Then on the second argument that is being constantly repeated, the
supposed lack of freedom of expression and press in Venezuela, once
again the numbers speak for themselves. 80% of the media is private. The
three national newspapers (El Universal, El Nacional and Ultimos
Noticias) are opposed to the government, especially the first two, and
they bring together 90% of the readership. Of the four television
channels with national coverage, three of them (Venevision, Globovision,
and Televen) are opposition, and likewise bring together 90% of the
audience, according to information provided by the company AGB. In that
sense, and according to the criteria of the United Nations, freedom of
information in Venezuela is, without a doubt, greater and better than in
Chile, as in the Caribbean country the diversity of property, the
diversity of types of media (public, commercial, community) and of
discourse -- which are the three main criteria that UNESCO measures --
is superior to Chile. Anyone who objectively compares, that is, with
data (indicators, measurements, scales, etc), the Chilean media reality
with the Venezuelan one, will see that our country [Chile] is in a much
more precarious situation and not very democratic.
What is currently at stake is the type of opposition that the Venezuelan
right wing (grouped into the MUD) will be over the next few years. What
relation the MUD have with the government of President Maduro after the
elections in December, is not at all clear yet, and that has provoked
internal tensions that explain, largely, the violent mobilisations over
the last few days.
To understand the current situation it's important to remember that ten
weeks ago (8 December), /Chavismo/ achieved a strong electoral victory
in the municipal elections. Despite a voluntary vote and the historical
tendency of abstention in local elections, there was 60% participation.
Chavismo got 10 percentage points more votes than the MUD and won 242
mayoralties, while the right got 75 mayoralties. These unexpected
results for the opposition meant the failure of their strategy that
begun in April 2013, of not recognising the legitimacy of President
The MUD didn't manage to dispute electoral hegemony, or even question
the legitimacy of the government, as they had made this event a
plebiscite and they clearly lost it.
Shortly after this election President Maduro convoked all the mayors of
the opposition to a dialogue in the presidential palace, two times. Even
the right wing leader, Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state,
showed up at the second meeting, and he and Maduro shook hands and the
photo was passed around the whole world. This handshake symbolised a
mutual recognition of each other, in that way ending the strategy of
questioning legitimacy of the president, a strategy that Capriles
himself had promoted and lead in 2013.
The possibility of starting a new and unprecedented phase of
opposition-government dialogue remained. Actually, the majority of
opposition mayors and governors had begun dialogue, participating in,
for example, the mission for citizen security, or coordinating
activities with the internal affairs minister, involving themselves in
quadrants as part of the Secure Homeland Plan. All this mutual effort of
dialogue and coming together provoked tensions with the far right wing
of the MUD that isn't open to dialogue, nor to accepting the fact that
the Venezuelan people vote in their majority, again and again, in favour
of a government which questions the capitalist model.
It's about a similar situation that the Christian Democratic Party faced
during the government of Salvador Allende. On the inside, the positions
in favour of dialogue with president Allende (lead by Tomic and
Leigthon) clashed with those who openly supported a coup style exit
(lead by Aylwin and Frei).
In that sense, what we are seeing today is largely the manifestation of
an internal problem of the Venezuelan opposition whose most extreme
wing, with the clear support of the United States and the media chains,
is trying to make any attempt to build a new relationship between the
opposition and the government fail. Because in a year like this, which,
unusually, is a year without elections, the scenario for this new
relationship was very favourable.
/Pedro Santander is the head of the Communication Observatory,
Pontificial Catholic University of Valparaiso, Chile./
/Translated for Venezuelanalysis by Tamara Pearson./
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