Venezuela’s dictator loves dollars but lashes out at democracy

Photo: Vahid Salemi – AP

 

Nothing is normal in Venezuela. In 2023 the dictatorship has not stopped its repression for a single day and is now threatening to break its parody of dialogue with the opposition.

By The Hill – Arturo McFields Yescas

Jan 22, 2023

This week thousands of teachers marched in different regions of Venezuela, demonstrating that they do not believe the claims of an “economic miracle” announced by the regime. The average salary of a teacher in Venezuela does not exceed $10 USD a month so educators have taken to the streets, even at the risk of their own lives.

Teachers are tired of the words of a dictator who repeatedly promises peace, security and window-dressing economic growth. These rallies, without political leaders, took Nicolás Maduro’s mask off and reveal to the world that hunger and repression are still alive.

The church denounces false normalization

Nicolás Maduro, who until recently celebrated the self-pulverization of the opposition, discovered that there is a social discontent that does not go away and does not disappear. A discomfort that is not afraid and is not for sale.

Archbishop of Barquisimeto Monsignor Víctor Hugo Basabe said, “I invite you to put our wounded, mistreated, betrayed and looted Venezuela at the heart of our prayers.”

Basabe insisted that “There is no miracle economy in Venezuela. It is time to stop the bubbles of economic falsehood that try to hide from the world the precarious situation in which Venezuelans are immersed. The regime tries to promote a false normality to confuse and sell to the world that Venezuela has fixed itself.”

Oil business on the rise

Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA has reportedly assigned a third shipment of crude to Chevron. The operation takes place within the framework of the relaxation of sanctions after the resuming of talks with an opposition faction.

On the other hand, ConocoPhillips, which had left Venezuela in 2007, is reportedly advancing to recover almost $10 billion in resources owed by the regime. The firm is apparently in conversations with PDVSA to sell Venezuelan oil in the United States and recover the money it lost in the country.

Less democracy and more police agents

The regime also seems to continues to bet on repression as the only weapon of dialogue. Maduro has announced a police reform that reportedly seeks, among other things, to double the number of police officers and therefore increase repression. The number of agents would increase from 44,000 to more than 100,000 in 2024.

Strangling the voices of NGOs

Another sign that things are not normal in Venezuela is the new legislation against civil society organizations. The number two of the dictatorship, Diosdado Cabello, reportedly warned that he will present a law to order the financing and operation of advocacy organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). A measure similar to that applied in Nicaragua by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Arrest warrant for opponents

While Maduro pretends to talk and calls for an end to all sanctions, the dictatorship has issued an arrest warrant against the new board of directors of the opposition National Assembly of 2015, reportedly on charges of usurpation of functions, treason and corruption among others. As if this were not enough, he has requested a red alert from INTERPOL against political adversaries.

Ugly dictatorship promotes “beauty washing”

Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas, considers that the dictatorship uses all available resources to wash is brutal image. “One could say that the ugliness of the regime is obscured by the beauty of the people. Just like Qatar used the World Cup for sportswashing, #Venezuela uses #MissUniverse for #beautywashing,” he tweeted. “I’ve long argued that sanctions against the brutal #Venezuela Maduro regime should include #MissUniverse2022. The regime benefits from such unmerited PR.”

Argentina and Colombia offer red carpet to the dictator

Argentina has invited Maduro to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit on Jan. 24. The call ignores the $15 million reward issued by the United States since 2020 for information leading to the detention on charges of narcoterrorism.

On the other hand, Colombia and Venezuela are moving quickly to strengthen cooperation in sectors such as energy and gas. Human rights and democracy are not part of the agenda.

The brutality of the regime

The latest report by Human Rights Watch states that “Agents of the Special Action Forces (FAES) and other police and military units have killed and tortured with impunity in low-income communities, including during security raids called ‘Operations To Liberate the People.’”  HRW also noted that the regime has jailed political opponents and disqualified them from running for office. As of October, the Penal Forum, a network of pro-bono defense lawyers, reported 245 political prisoners. At least 114 political prisoners have spent more than three years in pretrial detention, despite time limits included in a recent Criminal Code reform.

The road ahead

The way forward in Venezuela, as in the dictatorships of Nicaragua and Cuba, must be consistent with a firm and clear policy of zero tolerance for human rights violations. The immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and the holding of free, fair and transparent elections comes first.

Another key step is to ensure that the 7 million Venezuelans abroad have the right to vote in upcoming elections. Support the holding of primaries so that the people choose an opposition candidate to represent them. Supervise that the dictatorship does not receive a penny until it shows concrete signs of respect and restoring democracy and human rights.

We cannot resign or retrocede on these key principles. This week the teachers of Venezuela have given us a beautiful lesson on courage and commitment. We are called to listen to them.

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