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Can Maduro Remain in Power As Venezuela Erupts in Protest?

By: Pedro García Otero - Sep 8, 2016, 4:00 pm

When do the events that lead to the end of an authoritarian regime begin to accelerate? Nobody can tell for sure.

In the case of Poland, for example, a trade union called “Solidarity” organized the strikes of 1980, which became the crack in the dike for communism. Meanwhile in Romania, the situation began with protests in Timisoara.

So will Villa Rosa be the Timisoara of Nicolás Maduro’s government?

After returning to Bucharest from an international tour in Iran, Nicolae Ceaușescu discovered he had lost control of his country. A few days later, he would lose his life.

It was his arrogance during his final days — refusing to see what was obvious to everyone else — and trying to repress popular protests — that accelerated his fatal end.

President Maduro has been stumbling around in Venezuela for a long time. But a breaking point seems to have been reached this last week.

On Thursday, September 1, there was a mass demonstration in Caracas that left President Nicolás Maduro dizzy from a technical knockout. The government attempted to confront it with threats, road closures and reports of an attempted coup. On Friday, Maduro himself had to flee Villa Rosa, located on Margarita Island, after several residents of the village confronted him with pots and pans.

The government’s response to these events, however, has been worse than the events themselves: they responded to the monumental but peaceful opposition protest in Caracas (proving Maduro and his people — who announced they expected violent actions from the protesters — quite wrong) by posting a fake picture of the alleged Chavista concentration on social media.

Their lie was exposed given that some buildings (built in Caracas in 2013) did not appear in the image, which forced Diosdado Cabello to issue an apology.

In the case of Villa Rosa, Minister of Communication and Information José Luis Marcano, said the cacerolazo in Margarita never happened. However, the authorities raided the buildings of the area and arrested more than 40 people (who were gradually released). Since that day, Nicolás Maduro has not been seen.

More than 72 hours later, public officials responded by marching “in solidarity with Maduro” in that same neighborhood of Margarita. It prompted a response worse than the cacerolazo.

Maduro cannot invent an international tour to cool off a bit; most likely, only Bolivia and Nicaragua would receive him. Even Cuba has announced that they asked Russia to provide oil to the island given Venezuela’s “supply difficulties.”

Economist Francisco Faraco said  to the PanAm Post that this quarter of the year “This will be the worst year in the economic history of Venezuela,” Economist Francisco Faraco said.

Maduro cannot ask Mercosur for help because Venezuela is completely isolated. China already told him he must pay his debts if he wants more money. If Maduro looks for help on the inside, he finds a country whose people find him completely revolting.

Villa Rosa demonstrates that Maduro will maintain power by all means — democratic or otherwise. That means he will continue to repress those who speak out against him.

His administration has now imprisoned journalist Braulio Jatar and accused him of carrying thousands of dollars in his car. Moreover, it’s threatening to leave Villa Rosa without any food.

By that time, the referendum may come too late for Villa Rosa. It might be too late for the entire country.

 

Pedro García Otero Pedro García Otero

Pedro García is the Spanish managing editor of the PanAm Post. He is a Venezuelan journalist with over 25 years of experience in local newspapers, radio, television, and online media. Follow him @PedroGarciaO.

Despite Setbacks, Macri Is Leading Argentina on Upward Path

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Sep 8, 2016, 3:58 pm
Mauricio Macri, Argentina's president

EspañolIn only a few months, Argentina's new government has already showed some significant results. After 12 years of Kirchner's leadership, President Mauricio Macri has managed to restore a climate of confidence in the country. The constant political confrontation that Nestor and Cristina Kirchner imposed in their styles of government has now been replaced with a calmer and less tense one. For over a decade, the Kirchners focused on increasing public spending with obvious populist purposes. It was not to invest in public works or to improve the country's deteriorated energy infrastructure, but to create more subsidies and increase the number of public employees. Many of these jobs are what Argentineans call "ñoquis" (gnocchi): people who do not actually work, but appear on the payroll of public institutions and receive a salary. With these measures, the Kirchners achieved enough political support to remain in office. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); When public revenue began to descend and the international prices of commodities had fallen, Cristina Kirchner and her ignorant economic advisors imposed exchange controls that limited people's economic freedom. It became a general subsidy for imports, with artificially low prices for local consumers. Subsidies for electricity and other services allowed the government to maintain the illusion of a standard of living that the country could not keep for more than a few years. The economic situation eventually deteriorated, voters finally turned against the corruption of their leaders, and Kirchner lost the elections late last year. Macri faced the difficult economic situation of the country and, in the early days of his term, eliminated exchange controls, which allowed the unification of the exchange price of the US dollar. Macri boldly solved the problem of creditors that had not accepted the renegotiation of the foreign debt, creating an atmosphere of trust which has encouraged domestic and foreign investment. By doing so, however, the country had to pay the consequences of having lived in an illusory world for more than a decade: prices have now risen up to market-level, triggering inflation. The latter was further increased when the government eliminated subsidies on certain public services. Therefore, Macri's administration is now facing a complicated dilemma. They must fight inflation, because such a phenomenon always creates social discontent. However, they cannot apply the appropriate solution for it because that would also generate a strong opposition from several social sectors and interest groups. To stop inflation, the government must increase cuts on state spending. If they don't do this, they will have to issue more currency, which will lead to a devaluation resulting an increase in prices. Read more: Presidential candidate Gary Johnson to appear on CNN tonight. Read more: Gary Johnson takes on “Narrow” dialogue with new team in tow. To cut costs, the government would have to eliminate thousands of public jobs as well as eliminate large subsidies to which many people are accustomed. All of this will undoubtedly generate protests from Kirchner's supporters. Faced with this dilemma, Macri has chosen to adopt a middle ground by eliminating fictitious jobs as well as some subsidies. These adjustments have been incomplete and insufficient so far. There is no doubt that Argentina can recover from this situation, and become as important as it was for the global economy in other eras. It must persist on the path that the government has undertaken to maintain its internal order, and continue to dismantle the interventionist structure that has stifled the country's growth over the past decades.

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