Friday, February 20, 2015

Rebutting Coup Accusations

Nicolás Maduro arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma while also accusing the United States of plotting to overthrow him. This actually prompted the State Department to issue a rebuttal.

The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government. We remain Venezuela’s largest trading partner. Venezuela’s economic and political problems are the result of the policies of the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan government should stop attempting to distract attention from the country’s economic and political problems and focus on finding real solutions through democratic dialogue among Venezuelans. The government should also consider the statements by 36 individuals and entities, including the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International, the OAS, and European Parliament, calling for the release of Leopoldo Lopez, who now is entering his second year in prison, and others held for participating in peaceful protests in 2014.

I am not entirely sure what the point of the statement is. If you believe in conspiracies, then you would think this is a lie. If you do not believe in conspiracies, then it seems obvious that the Venezuelan government is trying to distract from its own problems. It may be sparked by the recognition of the full year Leopoldo López has spent in jail.

At this point Maduro seems to be following a basic pattern of claiming coup plots, talking about and then tinkering with the currency, and blaming the opposition for the economy. Now add the next high-profile arrest. As I've argued before, I think U.S. policy at this point is to stand aside and watching.

For the most part, events in Venezuela have been in slow motion--there have been protests, but they did not spark much change. There are severe economic problems but people are not moving en masse against Maduro. Assuming Maduro keeps limping along, the next important moment will be December legislative elections. Francisco Toro speculates about whether Maduro might postpone them. Given the way things look now, the PSUV would get hit pretty hard.


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