Monday, July 3

Venezuela: Chavez Revolution turned out to be bread and mirrors

A headline today from Bloomberg: Venezuela’s Poor Rebel, Roiling Maduro’s Socialist Strongholds. 
I thought Chavism was supposed to end poverty in Venezuela.  Obviously it didn't, although from a Bloomberg headline on June 23, Key Chavistas Abandon Maduro as Crisis Intensifies, defenders of the revolution are blaming Maduro so they don't have to blame themselves.

The crisis will come to a head on July 30, when voting begins for representatives to rewrite the country's constitution. From the June 23 report:
Yet rather than yield to mounting pressure to hold elections, Maduro has called for a constituent assembly that would rewrite the constitution—considered one of the greatest legacies of the late Hugo Chávez—stoking fears that the embattled president seeks do away with elections entirely.
Ruling socialists have endured previous waves of criticism, broken ranks—even coup attempts—since Chávez rose to power almost two decades ago. But never in recent memory has a president been so unpopular and the state of the country so grim.
Now, according to the latest Bloomberg report, the country's rich and poor have joined forces:
Residents in [poor] neighborhoods like La Candelaria, blocks from the presidential Miraflores Palace, erect barricades and yell slogans against Maduro’s government, banging pots and pans from inside their homes. They’re increasingly demanding a change in government, infuriated by mismanagement and Maduro’s proposed constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution -- and perhaps seize total control.
“Everyone protests, without differences, because the hunger of the stomach and the hunger for democracy have been united,” said Carlos Julio Rojas, a La Candelaria activist who has been menaced by pro-government militants called colectivos.
He said that opposition activists have been joined at protests by government supporters, public employees, housewives and the unemployed.
The spread of unrest across the nation’s capital [Caracas] poses a new and heightened threat to a regime under siege. Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets of Caracas and other major cities for three months denouncing Maduro for wrecking the economy and establishing what they call a dictatorship. Almost 80 people have died in near-daily clashes between protesters and security forces.
Venezuelans last mounted extended anti-government protests in 2014, demanding Maduro’s ouster, yet ultimately they fizzled with nothing to show. This time, the opposition has gained significant international support.
And inside the nation key defections from the ruling party and the west-side unrest show that Maduro may be losing elements of the base that has sustained the socialist ideology in the face of poverty and condemnation.
For Maduro, it’s a worrisome trend. Even as the overall popularity of his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez sank in the final years of his life, the country’s poor largely remained fervently loyal to him. Yet Maduro is even falling out of favor with that base as infrastructure fails and the oil-rich economy plunges into chaos.


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