Saturday, May 13, 2017

Human Rights Watch is promoting this myth that Venezuela is authoritarian rule (while Saudi Arabia and Jordan are not)

Best assessment of Venezuela that you will read:  "The idea that Venezuela is authoritarian has been repeated ad nauseam for nearly the entire eighteen-year period of Chavista rule, which began when Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998. Until recently, it has been relatively easy to refute this claim, which ignores the fact that Venezuela’s ruling party has been repeatedly affirmed at the polls, winning 12 of 15 major elections between 1998 and 2015, and conceding on the three occasions when it lost (December 2007, September 2010, and December 2015). On the five occasions Chávez stood for office between 1998-2012 he won by substantial margins (his lowest margin was 55-44% in 2012, and his highest was 63-37% in 2006). Venezuela’s current president, Nicolás Maduro, was also democratically elected. Regularly repeated charges of electoral fraud are baseless, as fraud is all but impossible in Venezuela’s electoral system, which Jimmy Carter has called “the best in the world.”Yet, while previous claims of Venezuela’s authoritarianism have had little merit, this is no longer the case. A series of government actions since early 2016 has made it increasingly difficult to challenge claims that Venezuela is moving in an authoritarian direction. First, throughout 2016 the Supreme Court, which is clearly and even openly subordinate to the executive branch, blocked the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which won the legislative majority in December 2015, from passing any major legislation. In some cases, the legislature was attempting to act beyond its authority, for example, in seeking to grant amnesty to prisoners like Leopoldo López. Yet the Supreme Court’s systematic blockage of the National Assembly effectively rendered the opposition’s newly-captured legislative majority—and thus the December 2015 election results—null. Second, after months of dragging it feet, the government cancelled a constitutionally allowed recall referendum process in October 2016. Third, the government indefinitely postponed municipal and regional elections that should have occurred in 2016, according to the constitution (although Maduro recently moved to set a date for the elections). Fourth, as noted, the Supreme Court issued a ruling dissolving the National Assembly in March, before partially reversing itself days later, after Maduro asked the Supreme Court to review its decision. Maduro was spurred to action when his own attorney general, Luisa Ortega, took the unprecedented step of publicly condemning the Supreme Court decision as “a rupture in the constitutional order.” Fifth, in April 2017 Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition figure and two-time former presidential candidate (in 2012 and 2013), was banned from participating in politics for fifteen years, on highly dubious grounds.  By cancelling the recall referendum, suspending elections, and inhibiting opposition politicians from standing for office, the Venezuelan government is systematically blocking the ability of the Venezuelan people to express themselves through electoral means. It is hard to see what to call this other than creeping authoritarianism. But it is also hard to agree with characterizations of Venezuela as a full-scale authoritarian regime, given the opposition’s significant access to traditional and social media and substantial ability to engage in anti-government protest, notwithstanding certain restrictions (some if not all of which appear justified; such as limiting protesters’ access to parts of Caracas appear reasonable in light of repeated episodes of destruction of government property)." (source). (thanks Ben)