Tag | the opposition
I never meant to imply that Toro is the worst person in the world, or anything close to that. There are probably hundreds of journalists (writing on the topic of Venezuelan politics) who are worse than he is. Really, to be honest, I still harbor a grudge from the way he mistreated me in those blog comments. It was clear (and made almost explicit to me) that, at least at that moment in his life, he was far more interested in pushing a hyper-partisan agenda, than in having honest discussion about complex issues. (It frustrates me that those who read him may not know how politically motivated–and selective in their reporting of the facts–his writings are.) I have no problem discussing the failures of the Chavez government, but I believe that it’s only fair to recognize its accomplishments too, so we can start envisioning a plan for the future of the country.
Where do I begin? Toro runs the anti-chavez site caracaschronicles.com, once described by venezuelanalysis.com as “perhaps the most sophisticated and intelligent anti-Chavez commentary by Venezuelan expatriate Francisco Toro”. I’m afraid the words “sophisticated and intelligent” no longer apply. To give you a sense of what the community on that site is like, I was once chased out of the comments section for questioning the claim that “The [Chavez] government has insisted to attempt controlling all aspects of everyday life in Venezuela. [So] it’s not surprising that they’re trying to control life… after death” too. This was a bit too much for me; on other occasions whenever I disagreed, ever so slightly with the rabid anti-Chavez consensus in the nicest way possible, I was treated in a similarly hostile manner. (I self-identified as someone sympathetic to the Bolivarian revolution, but not blind to the existing problems under the Chavez administration, hoping to find common ground….) Frustrated, I even appealed to Toro himself, pleading with him to encourage more tolerance on the site for those who are not entirely in lock-step with the opposition’s thinking all of the time. In response to my thoughtful, carefully worded letter, he basically told me to fuck off.
So this is someone who is taken seriously by the New York Times, the Guardian, etc. who has absolutely zero interest in having civil debates with fellow academics such as myself. He even said that, while he used to do this, he doesn’t anymore. Instead he uses his platform to spin the news coming out of Venezuela in a one-sided way. Even worse, he does give a platform to despicable, detestible creatures like Alek Boyd: who for years has called for a “Venezuelan Pinochet”–writing in 2005 that General Pinochet should “come out of retirement and become a [fascist] dictator of Venezuela”. No joke. Boyd has consistently promoted terrorism against the democratically elected government of Venezuela and its supporters. In 2005, he declared: “Re: advocating for violence yes I have mentioned in many occasions that in my view that is the only solution left for dealing with Chávez.” Most bizarre of all, he wrote in March 2004:
“I wish I was the Khan [Genghis Khan] an order my hordes to capture them [Hugo Chavez and followers] and pour melted silver into their eyes … I wish I could decapitate in public plazas Lina Ron and Diosdado Cabello [two Venezuelan politicians]. I wish I could torture for the rest of his remaining existence Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel … I wish I could fly over Caracas slums throwing the dead bodies of the criminals that have destroyed my country … Only barbaric practices will neutralize them, much the same way the Khan did. I wish I was him.” [The Guardian]
So these is someone whose perspectives Toro respects and trusts. I said Toro was a dishonest journalist (because, for example, he is selective in his reporting of events, so as to advance what is clearly a thinly veiled political agenda). I am reluctant to cite his articles because I do not want to drive up his pageviews. But read the comments I made in response to these articles of his, posted on the NYTimes blog, Latitude: here, here, and here. You can find other takedowns, criticisms, and exchanges with Toro here:
Francisco Toro is a dishonest journalist. That is all I have to say. I would be more than happy to elaborate if anyone is interested.
the opposition tried a ridiculous strategy of not voting as a way of protest to chavez’ regime in that election and it certainly did not work well at all. he “filled it up” because basically only chavez supporters took part in the vote.
I am familiar with what happened. The opposition-aligned political parties boycotted the 2005 parliamentary election because even the most trusted polls showed that their candidates would have been lost badly, and they didn’t want to suffer the embarassment of losing by another landslide, or give Chavez the privilege of seeing that the people really support him.
this is not my biased, pro-Chavez interpretation, it is widely accepted fact. from wikipedia:
“In the lead-up to the December 2005 election, observers predicted that the opposition would struggle to win one-third of the seats in the Assembly and that the pro-Chávez parties would win a two-thirds majority control of the legislature.”
i think it’s clear by now what your opinion of chavez is. my own position is complicated. but i have no problem with you voting for capriles. (even if you refuse to tell me what specific policy proposals of his you believe will lead the country in a better diretion.) we’ll find out what the majority thinks soon enough. let’s hope the election is fair, and that the results are respected (no matter their outcome).
If you listen to the opposition, they’re quickly becoming very pessimistic about the October election. For example, Francisco Toro, the owner of Caracas Chronicles, the most prominent English-language anti-Chavez blog, is taking the latest polls (which show Chavez with a comfortable lead) very seriously. He is saying that their best and only hope for October would be Chavez’s untimely demise (i.e. from cancer), and strongly implying that a turn of the electoral tide is unlikely and that the opposition isn’t capable of defeating Chavez this year.
In the comments section, some members of the opposition are already giving up, saying things like:
I have always said that if Chavez is alive, he will win. Hands downs. In fact, if he’s still alive, I’ve even considered cancelling my return home to vote, as it will be a wasted effort. Sad reality, folks.
[RCTV's] “crime” was reporting events from a more or less impartial POV and airing both sides of the event
That is not at all an accurate description of RCTV’s coverage of the 2002 coup attempt. Even the Wikipedia article on RCTV, which you cited above, contradicts your description.
Re: Alleged Impartiality of RCTV
RCTV reported these actions [the illegal coup against a popular, democratically elected government] as a victory for democracy and conducted friendly interviews with leaders of the movement. […]
Footage from the Irish documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised appeared to show a coup leader *thanking RCTV* and Venevisión for their assistance, **calling the media “[our] secret weapon”**. […]
RCTV *encouraged pro-coup protests*, *celebrated* when Chávez was temporarily removed from power, and **broadcast false reports that Chávez had renounced his presidency**. […]
Re: “Airing both sides of the event”
Subsequently the new government rapidly unraveled, after Carmona issued a decree that established a transitional government, dissolving the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, and suspending several Chávez appointees. While his own coalition wavered, large sectors of the armed forces moved into the Chávez camp, linked up with a mass popular uprising from the barrios, and restored Chávez to office. RCTV DECLINED TO REPORT ANY OF THESE EVENTS, preferring to broadcast reruns of looney tunes and the film Pretty Woman.
According to the Chicago Tribune, RCTV and other broadcasters supported the failed coup “by directing marchers and then failing to inform the public that the coup had failed”. […]
In addition, when Chávez returned to power, RCTV did not report the news but rather broadcast entertainment programs such as the movie Pretty Woman. […]
This is all on the Wikipedia article you cited as support for your claims.
I don’t consider a democracy a regime in which one of the conditions to get a broadcasting license is supporting the government. The problem was not that RCTV did not ‘support the (Chavez) government’, but that RCTV did not even support democracy, the process or the system by which that government came to be elected by the Venezuelan people!
A democracy, by definition, must allow an opposition to exist.
You must be very uninformed if you think that an opposition is not allowed to exist in Venezuela. The opposition currently holds nearly 40% of the seats in the National Assembly (65 out of 165)! Although he is still lagging behind in the polls, the opposition candidate Capriles believes he can defeat Chavez in this year’s presidential election. The truth is that, when they weren’t conspiring to overthrow democracy, the Venezuelan opposition has participated in every election (there have been many) except for the one they boycotted: if the opposition lacked political power the reason is simply because they have been defeated in free and fair elections.
Everyone: this is the attitude of the small opposition. He or she has nothing but contempt for the Venezuelan people. If it were up to him or her, they would have no say in who governs them. Because he or she doesn’t like who the people elect, Port-au-prince condemns the whole country. It is shameful!
a lot of the opposition he stifled was openly calling for his assassination,
What? Do you have a source for this? Who openly called for Chavez’s assassination, and how were they “stifled”? I may have missed this news story, because I wasn’t aware Chavez has “stifled” “a lot of the opposition”, or even just the worst of them. In fact, those involved in illegal political action often see no consequences at all.
For example, how did the Chavez government deal with the reactionary business leaders and military officials who briefly ousted Chavez from office in the failed coup attempt of 2002? The punishment for treason is execution, right? But Venezuela abolished the death penalty for all crimes (in 1863), and Chavez has made no exception. Pedro Carmona, the apparent leader of the 2002 coup (who dissolved the Venezuelan constitution, suspended the National Assembly, and eliminated other democratic institutions of government, etc.), faced rebellion and conspiracy charges; but rather than face justice, Carmona “escaped house arrest, fled to Colombia, and later surfaced in Miami, Florida”. Venezuela requested that the U.S. extradite him, so far without any result.
It is the Chavez government that has been “stifled” in its pursuit of justice! For example, Danilo Anderson was the state prosecutor who led the investigation of others implicated in the coup attempt; in November 2004, Danilo was assassinated while driving home when two charges of C4 plastic explosives fixed to his car detoned remotely. In a recent comment about political violence in Venezuela, I cited an ICG report showing that “the vast majority of people killed in political violence since 1999 have been Chavez supporters”.
In addition to Danilo Anderson, many hundreds of Venezuelan peasants have been murdered–by gunmen and right wing paramilitaries, hired by the country’s wealthy landowners–for attempting to implement the Chavez government’s new land reform policies, and hundreds more have been threatened with similar violence. Moreover, despite being popularly elected, President Chavez has been under constant threat of assassination by the CIA and others, and miraculously survived a coup attempt in 2002. There have been countless other assassination attempts made against other Chavez-aligned public officials, campesino and trade union leaders, party members, etc, and many of these have been successful. (I’m essentially building on your comment, not arguing or refuting it.)
undemocratic in the stifles political opposition
President Chavez does not “stifle” the political opposition in Venezuela. To “stifle” is to prevent or constrain, to make (one) unable to breathe freely. By this definition, Chavez has done far too little to “stifle” his political opponents, esp. considering that they want to return elite rule to the country! If there is a word to describe these bourgeois opponents, they are surely “unconstrained”. With their enormous wealth and full control over the private media, Venezuelan elites use every resource available to them to undermine the people’s will, and little “prevents” them from conspiring to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic. If these ‘undemocratic’ plots to dispose their elected leader and popular government are thwarted, it is not by Chavez but by el pueblo Bolivariano themselves.
My response to you is too long, so I’m posting it in two comments.
Oh no–it’s Ven28, my old friend and arch-nemesis! I have to say, though, this is really one of the most disappointing comments that I’ve ever read from you. In the past, you have been able to make fairly reasonable arguments in defense of your political positions; I regret to say that that’s not the case here.
[the 350th article of the 1999 Constitution] says something like the people, faithful to its democratic tradition, will not acknowledge any power that violates the democratic process, violates human rights, etc..
I’ve looked up article 350 (which is just one sentence long) and see it does indeed state that “the people of Venezuela”–true to their republic tradition and their struggle for independence, peace, and freedom–shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees, or encroaches upon human rights. Find it here: español or english.
I personally hate the article, although I’m not even close to being a lawyer, I think that it’s just empty rhetoric bullshit. The terms used by it are so subjective that there’s no way for it to be applicable for anything…
I share your view that “there’s no way for [the article] to be applicable for anything”; but, precisely for this reason, I find it difficult to accept your argument that the article somehow offers justification for the 2002 coup attempt. It seems to me that even if we were to assume that the article could be applicable in some situations, the 2002 coup attempt would almost certainly not one of them.
First, the article recognizes the “people of Venezuela” as the entity possessing the right to disown any ‘anti-democratic’ power, etc.; it does not concede this right to business executives, media tycoons, the military, CTV, Fedecámaras, or those oligarchs who’ve traditionally ruled the country. Moreover, the “right-wing conspirators” who led the 2002 coup attempt were not in any way representative of the “Venezuelan people”–especially when Venezuela’s elections are a far better representation of the people’s will, and when President Chavez has demonstrated that he has the people’s support in election after election (both before and after the coup attempt).
Second, if article 350 affirms the right of the people not to “acknowledge any power that violates the democratic process, violates human rights, etc.” then perhaps you would care to explain why the 2002 coup attempt was not itself in violation of the democratic process, but the democratically elected government of President Chavez supposedly was. (If this is not your position, would you clarify what your position is, how it differs from this?)
Believe me when I tell you that I would be very sympathetic to this type of argument (if it had any merit). One of my favorite academic articles, for example, found that many Venezuelans saw no inconsistency between their (A) commitment to democracy and (b) support for military coups in certain situations; Venezuelans who supported democracy opposed the 1973 Chilean coup that ousted Allende, but supported the failed 1992 coup led by Chavez.
I had a section here that I’ve removed because it was too long and not exactly on the point, but I’ll say this, there are significant differences between 1992 coup attempt (led by Chavez) and the 2002 coup attempt (against him). I would maintain that whereas in 1992 there was good reason to believe that the political system itself (and the constitution–the “legal-political embodiment of puntofijoismo”) was too corrupt to be reformed by electoral means–that is, by anything less than armed struggle or a military coup, there was less reason to believe this in 2002.
Allow me to pre-empt a counter-argument by suggesting that it was not until Chavez’s failed coup, in 1992, and the enormous popularity that he gained even in defeat, that an electoral path to victory became possible; to demonstrate a nuanced grasp of Venezuelan politics, I’ll note that Rafael Caldera preceded Chavez in realizing this possibility, when in 1993, Caldera was the first to win a presidential election without the support of either of the two parties (after campaigning on the promise to pardon Lt. Col. Chavez and other military figures involved in the 1999 coup attempts). But actually, regardless of whether or not Chavez’s government would have had any claim to democratic legitimacy, had he taken power in 1992 by means of a coup, Chavez’s actual government was formed as a result of winning democratic elections–1998, and again in 2000, under the new 1999 constitution.
Another pre-emption of a possible counter-argument: It’s true that CAP’s government was also democratically elected, but, by 1992 (after the Caracazo, etc.), CAP had already clearly lost the support of the Venezuelan people (he was impeached in 1993, and sentenced to prison in 1996)–which is why Chavez was seen by many as a national hero and later pardoned by President Caldera in 1994. By contrast, in 2002, Chavez may have been unpopular among Venezuela’s elites, but he retained popular support, as demonstrated by (among other things) Chavez’s victory in the 2004 national presidential recall referendum. You see, under the new Constitution, the democratic process in Venezuela was fully functional; only the opposition parties had refused to make use of it; in 2005, the opposition chose to boycott elections rather than face near certain defeat.
I do have love for Chavez, and this news does suck. I wish him well, but he does need to plan for a successor.
*More*: I should say that, while I would support Chavez if he were healthy enough to run against Capriles (the leading opposition candidate) in the election, my support for his successor is by no means already-decided. My support would depend, of course, on whom Chavez were to choose, and on what his plans for Venezuela were. I’ve already suggested elsewhere that Chavez could do worse than throwing his support to Capriles himself–this would guarantee Capriles a far greater amount of support from amongst the Venezuelan poor, which he could use to advance his proposed center-left agenda and make good on his campaign promises–to maintain and even build of Chavez’s popular social welfare programs, while gradually dismantling only the most controversial government policies (i.e. namely, the price and currency controls and some nationalizations). If he is elected without that Chavista support (narrowly, I presume), my concern is that Capriles (who I believe is well intentioned) would be far more likely to respond to pressure from right-wing elements in the current political ‘opposition’ (who may not be exerting much pressure now, for strategic reasons, described below); if he feels his support base is comprised of disproportionately right-wing (upper-class and elitist) elements–who may be willing to support a ‘center-left’ candidate only now because the opposition parties have agreed that the best chance to remove Chavez from office, in light of the failures of all other strategies (which include coup attempts, a recall referendum, etc.), was to rally support around a single candidate–and that he cannot afford to risk weakening his anti-Chavez coalition, Capriles would be less capable of governing truly as a center-left politician and making good on his promises.
If you could show me a transcript or a specific example of something that the President has said that you believe is “very, very wrong”, I would give it serious attention; but as far as I’m concerned, every government in the world engages in ideological proselytism, and the only difference here is that President Chavez is not espousing the virtues of capitalism. This is not an abuse of power because you happen to disagree with his ideology!
With all due respect, I strongly object to the suggestion that the Venezuelan government is somehow infringing on the “freedom of political thought” by allegedly “demoniz[ing] the very act of organizing an opposition”. As you know, President Chavez has defeated the opposition again and again, winning 13 elections in the country over the past ten years; these were elections monitored by international organizations and were determined to be free and fair.
In the last elections for the National Assembly, held in 2010, the opposition parties nearly split the popular vote with the President’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela! Chavez did not object to the outcome, but rather welcomed the new legislators, asking them to “maintain dialogue and respect with the people” despite their disagreements.
But the truth is the opposition has not always accepted to play by democracy’s rules. It is true that the PSUV had previously dominated the National Assembly, but this wasn’t because the government crushed opposition parties, but because those parties foolishly boycotted the 2005 elections! Three years earlier the organized opposition tried to capture political power by staging an illegal coup attempt against Chavez’s democratically elected government!
Why should the President not criticize an opposition that refused to recognize the popularly ratified Constitution, or tried to violently overthrow a democratic government? It’s not as if the Venezuelan government had made ILLEGAL “the act of organizing an opposition”; it simply denounced the ILLEGAL tactics the opposition had organized!
By the way, the private media which you (for some unpersuasive reason) portray as a purveyor of government propaganda actually played a significant role in aiding an illegal coup attempt in 2002. The response on the part of the government was not as harsh one might expect from an allegedly oppressive regime; the government chose not to renew RCTV’s license when it expired and came up for renewal, but the opposition made a fuss anyway!
In sum, Chavez has welcomed the new members of the opposition in the last elections who agreed to play fairly and accept the outcome of the democratic process; there is nothing to suggest otherwise. But he has not, nor should he, tolerate freedom of the people’s enemies to overthrow democratic government and reinstate oligarchic rule!
I love it when the opposition calls “**the average venezuelan people … very politically immature**” for having supported Chavez in election after election, as though it would have been a sign of ‘maturity’ if they had instead handed over power to the former ruling elite who *alone could handle the responsibility of governing the country*. I love it because it reveals the opposition’s truly-difficult–to-conceal *disdain* both for the principles of democracy (as embodied by the Bolivarian Revolution) and for the Venezuelan people, whom they desire to dominate and control.
I am actually afraid for Capriles if he does get elected.
The former ruling elites still behind the opposition have been anxiously waiting for the chance to regain control of the country for the past thirteen years, and they want nothing more than to reverse all developments of Venezuelan society since Chavez was first elected in 1998.
However, after failing every conceivable effort to re-assert control, the opposition has cleverly decided to conceal its reactionary agenda for the time being, and to pursue a wholly cynical strategy to retake power by riding in on the coattails of a promising young ‘left-of-center’ candidate.
They will tolerate his populist campaign promises as long as it secures him a victory in the election; but he’s in for quite a surprise if he thinks those elites backing him will ever allow him to govern in the way he is promising!
If he tries to make good on his promises and follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, they’ll turn on him immediately but unlike Chavez, Capriles will lack the power to stop them, and his rule will be short-lived.
If he swings to the right to please his new masters–as President Carlos Andrés Pérez did in 1989–the people, following precedent, will cry bloody murder and rise up in righteous indignation.
The opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tried everything to end his long rule: huge protests, a coup and an oil strike.
NPR forgot to mention the Venezuelan opposition’s referendum (conducted August 15, 2004) to determine whether Hugo Chávez, the current President of Venezuela, should be recalled from office.
The result of the referendum was NOT to recall Chavez (59% to 41%).
What else has the opposition tried? Let’s see… Death threats and assassination plots… From Wikipedia:
[In 2004], from his exile in Miami, disgraced former President Carlos Andrés Pérez declared “I am working to overthrow Chávez. Violence will allow us to take him out. Chávez must die like a dog.” […] There were echoes of the 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt in Pérez’s claims that all Chavista institutions (such as the Supreme Court and National Assembly) would need to be dismantled under a junta governing for a “transition period” of 2 or 3 years.
[Look up the Wikipedia article for the sources.]
They’re just lucky that he happened to get cancer (assuming they’re not the reason he’s got it).
The wealthy are in for quite a surprise if they expect to be able to return Venezuela to the country it was before the Bolivarian revolution led by President Chavez. Because Chavez did not just emerge out of nothing; after 40 years of ‘democracy’ under the control of corrupt party elites, Venezuelans were right to demand a more participatory role in governing their country.
What’s so inspiring about the documentary “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” (watch here) is that it features the people in their role as the ‘defenders of liberty’ in the newly founded Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In the 2002 coup attempt, after President Chavez had been taken prisoner, it was the poor from the peripheral barrios who returned Chavez to power, by turning out by the hundreds of thousands in a massive popular uprising.
It would appear, from pledges like the one mentioned above, that Chavez deserves some credit for averting a nearly inevitable civil war by successfully institutionalizing class tension in the new Republic–such that this tension can find outlet or expression in the ordinary politics under the new Constitution. If the opposition elites regain power, and attempt to undo the last decade of changes, they would be foolish to think Venezuelans would go along with it.