Friday, March 31, 2017

Autogolpe in Venezuela

There has been an autogolpe, or self-coup, in Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled that it would govern in the place of the National Assembly, and would feel free to prosecute members of the legislature. Horizontal accountability, already barely there, is now gone entirely. Unlike Peru in 1992 and Guatemala in 1993, the judicial system was part of it, not a target. But the basic idea is the same. In the language of all dictatorships, the government argues that democracy must be attacked in order to be preserved.

I had a lengthy Twitter discussion with Quico Toro yesterday, as he (like others) called on the military to do something. He argued that all other avenues had been exhausted. I argued that hope lay in pushing the splits between hardliners and softliners. Henry Ramos Allsup has said he thinks there plenty of people in the military and in the government who believe this is undemocratic and want elections.

Empowering chavista democrats is the challenge. My own opinion--for now, at least!--is that the best way to do this is for Latin America to close ranks. As I've made clear, I don't think Latin American unity is on the horizon. Maybe the autogolpe changes that. Maybe someone like Rafael Correa, who accepts elections and term limits, says something privately. Something along those lines could give life to the softliners. Peru recalled its ambassador but for now the response is not too strong.

If Latin America abdicates its responsibility, then the situation is more dire. At some point there will be large protests, and those protests will be repressed. Perhaps, as in 1989, a chunk of the military will resent being forced to do the repressing, and push back. Or perhaps a lot of people die and not much changes.

I suppose it's also possible that nothing happens, and everyone waits to see whether a presidential election is held in 2018. Meanwhile, Venezuela becomes more and more like Zimbabwe.

As they say, it's developing.


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