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PanAm Post: It’s High Time We Called Nicolás Maduro a Dictator

By: PanAm Post Staff - Oct 25, 2016, 1:42 pm
Venezuela has been suffering the rule of a dictatorship with a semblance of democracy, they have now ruined that last semblance (RUNRUN.es)
Venezuela has been suffering under a dictatorship that has now lost even the thinnest veil of democracy. (RUNRUN.es)

EspañolFor years we have insisted that in Venezuela there are no remains of democracy to be found. To many members of the Venezuelan opposition, this was an extreme position. According to them, to change the course of Venezuelan history it was necessary to have a dialogue with the current administration. The overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections held December 2015 seemed to have given the country such an opportunity.

Control of two-thirds of the seats in Parliament granted constitutional powers to the opposition to take drastic measures which could have resulted in an inevitable fall of the Maduro regime. Unfortunately, the opposition chose the long and complicated recall referendum process as its route to a democratic solution.

The events of last week have completely changed things. The opposition was about to collect the necessary 20 percent of signatures needed for an electoral census to revoke President Maduro. Faced with certain recall, the regime decided to suspend the last electoral, democratic, and peaceful mechanism that remained.

The Chavista regime decided to extinguish any possibility of revoking President Nicolas Maduro through any of the civil and democratic means provided by the constitution of 1999.

On Sunday, October 22, the National Assembly held an extraordinary session. The meeting was called to declare the constitutional rule broken and officially brand Maduro’s actions a “coup”. They were interrupted by a horde of armed pro-government thugs, led by the chavista mayor Jorge Rodriguez, who rules over the Central Caracas municipality.

They stormed the Parliament to prevent deputies from legislating. This has been compared to the infamous 1848 attack on the Venezuelan  Congress led by President Jose Tadeo Monagas. The event became the spark that ignited the long civil war known in Venezuela as the “Federal War.”

Hugo Chavez took power by leveraging the repudiation of party politics from a majority of Venezuelans amidst a severe recession. From that moment forward, a model was established in Venezuela that consolidated authoritarian rule. The Constitution of 1999, promoted by Chavez,was the preamble to a dictatorial project that  dominates Venezuela today.

The bloody events of April 2002, when the army briefly took Chavez out, as officers were horrified by the massacre of unarmed civilians during an anti-government demonstration. Chavez returned to power a few hours later strengthened in a similar  fashion, years before, as Turkey’s Erdogan.

Then the expropriations began —  confiscations characterized by opposition leader Maria Corina Machado as “theft” — and attacks against freedom of expression, including the closure of one of the oldest television networks in the Americas, Radio Caracas Television in 2007.

In 2013, the NGO Reporters Without Borders placed Venezuela 117th of 179 for freedom of expression. This year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said that the Latin American country there is “a restrictive climate that continues to inhibit the free exercise of freedom of expression.”

 

Violations of human rights in Venezuela under Chavismo seem almost uncountable. In 2014, more than 40 government opponents of Nicolas Maduro were killed by different officials and armed pro-government gangs during  demonstrations. There are also hundreds of cases of severe torture and harassment, as well as a considerable number of political prisoners. According to the NGO Awareness Venezuela, by the end of 2015 there were 99, including opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Daniel Ceballos.

The 2015 report of the IACHR cataloged the Venezuelan government as a violator of human rights. Also, the Electoral Power, i.e. the National Electoral Council (CNE), has been branded as an “appendix” of the executive.

In short, the annulment of freedoms in Venezuela is evident. The lack of freedom of speech, economic freedom, political freedom and individual liberty are evidence that in Venezuela liberal democracy has ceased to exist. Following the cancellation of the recall referendum against Maduro, the prestigious Venezuelan Program of Education-Action in Human Rights (PROVEA) issued a statement stating that due to “the illegal suspension of the implementation of the (recall), confirms the separation of powers in the country no longer exists. The Government of Nicolas Maduro is to be classified as a dictatorship. ”

Thus, we at the PanAm Post have decided that, from now on we will call the Venezuelan regime using the appropriate defintion: in Venezuela there is no democracy, but a dangerous dictatorship that lashes out daily against its citizens for trying to exercise their rights.

This journal will no longer give Nicolas Maduro the title of “President”, for he has become the dictator of a country that once stood as a beacon of freedom in South America.

Bolivia’s Mining Industry Puts President Morales Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By: David Unsworth - @LatinAmerUpdate - Oct 25, 2016, 12:10 pm
Bolivia's mining industry

On August 25, 2016, the world was shocked by reports that striking miners in Bolivia had brutally tortured and murdered Bolivian Vice Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Illanes. Sent by President Evo Morales to negotiate with the mining cooperatives in the southern city of Panduro, it was suggested that Illanes knew his assailants personally. What caused members of Bolivia’s mining cooperatives, historically ardent supporters of Morales, to commit such a heinous act? Across the world, commodities-dependent economies have fallen on hard times. Nowhere has this been more problematic than in South America, where extractive industries such as gas, oil and mining have accounted for large shares of exports, GDP and state revenues and budgets. In recent years, the mining industry has been a thorn in the side of Evo Morales and his ruling MAS (Movement to Socialism) government, and as prices for tin, silver, zinc and lead have fallen, the Bolivian mining community has grown increasingly restless. Lower salaries for miners lead to increased potential for political disturbance or even outright opposition to Morales’ government. Read More: The World Needs More Tax Havens, Not Less It’s been observed that when it comes to the rhetoric of Evo Morales, his bark is often worse than his bite. He takes a very hardline left-wing approach in his public discourse, railing against capitalism and neoliberalism. He has even gone so far as to state that capitalism “is the worst enemy of humanity.” He has pursued a series of widely publicized nationalizations of the nation’s oil, gas, and mining sectors. Even close ally Lula da Silva was enraged by Morales’ insistence on privatizing oil and gas investments made by Brazilian giant Petrobras in 2007. But now, his administration’s strategy has changed, to the point that at a recent industry summit in the UK, Hector Arce, Bolivia’s Attorney General, declared that “the era of nationalization is over in Bolivia.” Message to foreign investors and multinational corporations: “You have nothing to worry about. Now would be an excellent time to invest in the potentially lucrative but widely under-developed mining sector.” Investors have good reason to be fearful of placing large bets in Bolivia; a country with a history of political instability, commodities boom and bust cycles, nationalizations, inadequate transportation and infrastructure and labor unrest. While Morales has not tacked as hard to the left as close allies Cuba and Venezuela, he has also not exactly been the poster boy for investor confidence. After beginning with a year-long nationalization of the hydrocarbon sector in 2006, 2007 marked a disastrous year for foreign mining companies in Bolivia in which tax rates skyrocketed, mining concessions and licenses were revoked or unfavorably altered, and many valuable properties were summarily expropriated. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); But an analysis of Bolivia’s mining sector reveals that Morales’ administration may not be as antithetical to the tenets of capitalism as one might think. For example, while Morales has privatized several large scale mining operations, the state’s involvement in the mining sector is actually rather small. In 2013, for example, the state-owned mining sector accounted for just 8.6 percent of total mining output (approximately $292 million) and just 5.8 percent of the mining workforce (or around 7,900 workers). Contrast that to the private sector that accounted for 62 percent of output (approximately $2.1 billion) and just six percent of the workforce (around 8,100 workers). The private sector output would undoubtedly be much higher were it not for the extremely high tax burdens placed on the sector: rates which typically reach 60 percent to 70 percent. Yet, in addition to the private and public sectors, Bolivia also has a powerful miners’ cooperative, called the Corporacion Minera de Bolivia, or Comibol. It accounts for roughly 29 percent of mining output ($982 million), but a whopping 85.2 percent of the workforce. In other words, Bolivia’s private mining cooperatives, which have been a key support base for Morales, outnumber their state-employed counterparts by nearly 15:1. The torture and murder of Illanes was a brutal and ill-advised move that has galvanized public opinion against the mining cooperative, and played directly into Morales’ hands. Mining cooperatives have a long list of grievances against the government. They want relaxed environmental regulation, greater access to mine locations and technology, increased state support, and are concerned about government plans to allow unionization within the cooperatives. Additionally, they have demanded the right to work together with private corporations. As of now the Bolivian government mandates strict separation of private companies and cooperatives. Read More: Bolivian Minister Fires Officials to Avoid Blame for Purchasing Blunder Evo Morales and his left-wing administration have become increasingly concerned over the economic stratification within the cooperatives, derisively referring to it as encroaching capitalism, and have suggested that the cooperatives have strayed from their original mission of providing equal opportunities and wages for their members. Yet, clearly, there is a structural problem when the private sector is astoundingly more productive than the state and cooperative sectors. Morales, along with many other pink tide leaders, is between a rock and a hard place. A nation such as Bolivia has limited prospects with international lenders, so it must maintain a relative degree of fiscal austerity and self-reliance. Morales knows that the oil, gas, and mining sectors are of crucial importance to GDP, exports, and government revenues. Without them he does not have sufficient funds to invest in his social, political, and economic development programs. But at the same time, he is wary of alienating indigenous and rural communities who expect him to maintain strict environmental regulations, regardless of the negative impact on extractive industries. Further complicating the matter, is the reality that his western neighbors Peru and Chile have long had a more business-friendly and equally rich mining landscape, offering a more lucrative proposition for potential foreign investors. In his remaining three years, more out of necessity than conviction, Morales is likely to liberalize the mining environment, and incentivize foreign investment in the sector. However, his challenge will be to keep the state and cooperative sectors happy, while dealing with the potential backlash from the Bolivian hard left.  

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