Saturday, January 27, 2018

Don't Blame the Venezuelan Opposition

A caveat to start. The pronouncements of academic organizations don't matter much in any policy sense. But the Latin American Studies Association is huge and I've been a member for almost 25 years so I pay attention to what it says. Every so often it puts up resolutions about political issues for a vote. In the past, I've noted several times how the resolutions are basically an embarrassment of ideology and poor logic (here's one of the worst).

Then last July LASA finally put a Venezuela resolution up for vote that criticized the government. You'd have thought they had a resolution endorsing Hitler for all the debate about how the opposition deserves its own hate and there was not enough historicizing.

The sucker went up for a vote, though, and was approved. But most members didn't care. Only 18% bothered to vote, perhaps mirroring the least interested portions of the U.S. electorate. A group of academics (which I would've signed had I known about it) signed on to a strongly worded letter. It was just published in LASA Forum:

This experience raises an obvious and troubling question: What is the matter with LASA? In our view, there are at least two core problems. First, the operating mantra of the association is to provide political balance, and on any position to give equal weight to all sides. This may be emotionally satisfying for some but it is not much of a guide to discovering or identifying the truth of a situation. Truth depends on evidence, not on achieving a balance of opposing views. The second and perhaps more critical element is that for a substantial faction in the Association criticism of anything that comes clothed in leftist rhetoric is unacceptable. This conflates political correctness with ideological solidarity. 

This is on point. Further:

The result of the vote on the Venezuela resolution suggests a massive indifference within LASA to the fate of the country. Although the resolution won over 70% of votes cast (1,747 Yes, 463 No, 257 Abstentions) LASA requires that for any resolution to pass, at least 20% of the total membership (13,418) must vote. In this case only 18% bothered to do so. That more than 80% of the members of the Latin American Studies Association are either indifferent to or unaware of the destruction of democracy in Venezuela and the devastation faced by Venezuelans is shocking and shameful. Something is seriously wrong and one can only hope that things change for the better. The undersigned lament this situation and protest the behavior of the previous LASA leadership and EC in the strongest possible terms.

Blaming the opposition for the government's actions is akin to blaming the victim of a police shooting. Further, in authoritarian contexts there is no "on the other hand" when you talk about human rights abuses and democracy. Supporting the Venezuelan government at this point means accepting brutality and venality as normal.


shah8 3:12 AM  

Oh, I damn well blame the opposition for their role. The people with the power has never been about anything more than coasting off racial polarization, so they don't have to make any "expensive promises". They've never even given a coherent narrative about how they'd fix things, leaving basically everyone to understand that what Venezuelans would get is virulent class warfare disguised as austerity.

An opposition that acts as a loyal opposition and engages in genuine political activities based on enticing people to join their platform would have defeated the Chavistas long ago, 2013 at the latest.

So...uh no, let's not shed any tears for them.

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