If Google has become the bellwether of our society, here’s an interesting tidbit. When I Googled the famous historical question, “What is to be done?” the first listing was “Philosophy – what is to be done?” and the second was, “What is to be done in Venezuela?”
A good and ever-more-pressing question.
In Venezuela last week, escalations of civil conflict were rising sharply.
The regime of President Nicolas Maduro has long used armed gangs called “colectivos” to threaten and beat up opposition protesters, but on Wednesday, a “colectivo” armed with iron bars and wooden staves rushed into the National Parliament building, and as Government security forces stood passively by, savagely beat and bloodied several opposition legislators. When they were finally escorted out of the building they laid siege to the Parliament for 7 hours keeping lawmakers and journalists trapped inside.
This came on Venezuela’s National Independence Day and followed an uninvited visit to the National Assembly by Vice President Tareck El Aissami and a group of top government and military officials. They came to denounce a plan by Maduro’s political opposition, which has an overwhelming majority in the Venezuelan Congress, to derails Maduro’s plan to change the Constitution before the next scheduled Presidential elections in 2018.
Maduro wants to elect on July 30, a Citizens’ Assembly to re-write the Constitution, but the Legislature voted to schedule a flash referendum on July 16 that would allow citizens to reject the President’s plan.
A nice encapsulation of the Maduro clique’s devotion to real democracy and civility came last week from Diosdado Cabello, once a top aide to Maduro’s predecessor and idol Hugo Chavez, and still a power in Venezuela’s Socialist Party, who dismissed the idea that a big vote in the referendum might mean a very small vote for Maduro’s revised Constitution. “Even if only one, two or three Venezuelans vote,” Cabello said, “it’s still an election and the opposition will be left there squealing.”
On the other hand, there’s this from Cliver Alcala, a retired general and well-known former supporter of Hugo Chavez: “The country is unhappy with the situation right now, and the armed forces are no exception. The military has traditionally been on the right side of history here. If they turn, it’s all over for Maduro.”
And then?…what is to be done about Venezuela?
Joshua Goodman is the Associated Press (AP) Bureau Chief for northern South America, based in Bogota. His responsibilities have him frequently in Caracas, where he has covered Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic crisis.