Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Poor and Protests in Venezuela

Really good story from Frank Bajak on Venezuelan students finally trying to enter poor neighborhoods and forge connections. It's taken weeks for them to get there, as the elite leadership of the opposition, such as Leopoldo López, have ignored the poor while illogically also claiming majority status.

One message in the story is fear. The students are afraid to enter poor neighborhoods, their parents don't want them to do so, and they will not do so after dark. Meanwhile, some in lower income areas do support protests but fear retaliation. This makes dialogue all the more difficult for both sides.

An even larger point is the failure of the opposition to articulate political goals that resonate with the poor. They do not want Nicolás Maduro forced out. They do not care so much about media fairness, whether López remains in jail, etc. They do care about the subsidies that have improved their lives and want reassurance that they will not be cut.

The widespread shortages, crime, and high inflation--not to mention a stream of unhinged comments from the president--are all potential sources of agreement but after five weeks of protest there has been precious little connection. Overcoming mutual fear is no easy thing but certainly essential if the opposition is going to be anything more than just an irritant.


Omar 4:29 PM  

Very good article indeed. This leads to a greater question. How many of the poor are pro-government because of increased consumption/anti-poverty measures and how many are actually committed to the ideals of socialism or even "radical revolution" (in the words of George Cicciarello-Maher)? Important question, in my opinion.

From my observations, Latin America is a continent where the people who deliver goods and services win elections. The opposition need to speak the language of equality and social justice and deliver on it. And to build a constituency, they need this type of grassroots activism.

There also needs to be more study on the colectivos, imo. Are they really intimidating people or are they playing the boogeyman role?

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