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Venezuela’s Moment of Truth Has Arrived

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Feb 17, 2014, 5:05 pm

EspañolVenezuela is living through a defining moment in history. Tired of enduring the hardships of inflation, food shortages, and dictatorship, Venezuelans have finally taken to the streets to protest against a government that blatantly exercises power without restriction.

Beginning with students from cities within the interior of the country, and now joined by citizens from all walks of life, they stand united against the puppet government of Cuban communists and the brutal repression they have imposed.

The troubles endured by Venezuelans, in place thanks to the Chávez brand of socialism, are now all well on display: an inflation rate that far exceeds the official figure of 56 percent; shortages of most everyday consumer goods; stifled modes of communication; and a flawed electoral system in which public authorities are merely extensions of the ruling elite and victory for the ruling party is always assured, even if by the smallest of margins.

The government’s strong response to the opposition is understandable, given what the future holds for those who have looted the country and imposed commands without regard for civilized order and discourse. Less understandable is the slow and cautious response of much of the opposition which, in my opinion, may be losing sight of key elements that could mean the difference between victory and defeat: non-violence, the legal system, and elections.

Starting down the path of violence would be a mistake — it’s dangerous, and perhaps even suicidal. Violent struggle leads to an abyss from which escape is very difficult, as these societal wounds heal very slowly. Further, under current conditions, enormous casualties would be lost, and it would almost certainly lead to defeat. Maduro’s government is armed to the teeth and gives no moral pause to lying and murdering without mercy.

To go through the legal system is not the right way either. To petition obedient public officials or a completely biased judiciary would be to legitimize a government that exercises power through totalitarian rule. The same holds true for the electoral process. Tested now dozens of times, it is always a fruitless venture — one plagued by various forms of fraud and tainted by the conditioning of Chávez for over a decade.

Is there then no alternative and all is lost for Venezuelans? Of course not. We can always confront a dictatorial government without resorting to violence. A steady, determined, and imaginative presence in the streets can defeat any kind of dictator in this world. This was demonstrated more than two decades ago by the Czechs, Hungarians, and the Poles. More recently, this occurred in several Arab countries like Tunisia and Egypt with the Arab Spring — and it is happening again now in the Ukraine.

This is not about resorting to the raising of arms. Between an armed struggle, and the submission to an electoral process run by a dictatorial government, there exists a wide margin where the key to winning this battle will be found and that holds the country’s destiny. Make no mistake, if these demonstrations fail, Venezuela surely faces many more long years of impoverishment and an oppressive government that increasingly resembles the Cuban dictatorship.

The problem is most of the opposition had not yet understood that you cannot wait patiently and submissively until the next election. It is a lost cause. It is also not worth making hollow appeals to non-violence. We don’t need to extinguish the flame of protest, but rather engage in effective leadership, recognize individual rights without asking for permission, reject anything the regime imposes, denounce the socialism that brought this misery down on Venezuelans, and return to the values of the republic.

Will the opposition do it? Will leaders emerge to shake off the lethargy and traditions of the old party? It may be too early to tell, though there is hope. Some leaders appear to realize that in these days upon us, there is no doubt that the future of Venezuela will be shaped.

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324