Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All eyes on Venezuela September 1st: “The Grand Taking of Caracas”

"Cuba is the sea of happiness. Towards there goes Venezuela. " - Hugo Chavez, March 8, 2000
“The Grand Taking of Caracas: Gathering Points”
 The democratic opposition in Venezuela having received an electoral mandate late last year that gave it control of the National Assembly has confronted a regime that has undermined the rule of law, allowed Cuban military and intelligence officials to call the shots in repression, and that has engaged in maneuvers to undermine the Assembly's capacity to govern. This has led to the call for a recall on the rule of Nicolas Maduro and free election for his replacement in accordance with the constitution.

Ignoring the demands of the citizenry the Maduro regime is attempting to block or delay the recall to maintain Chavista control. In response, the democratic opposition has called on the citizenry to nonviolently gather on September 1st in the capital of Caracas in order to pressure electoral boards to allow the recall vote.  This protest is called "The Grand Taking of Caracas" and has seven different gathering points across the Venezuelan capital.

The Maduro regime has responded preemptively arresting nonviolent democratic opposition activists and manufacturing false charges against them. The arrest of Yon Goicoechea, a young political leader and family man, forcibly taken by men in unmarked vehicles Monday morning is a chilling example compounded by the sinister and manufactured slanders against him by Diosdado Cabello later that same day.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights issued a press release in which it describes some of the other repressive tactics used by the Maduro regime against the democratic opposition.
At around 3AM on August 27, political leader Daniel Ceballos, who was at his home under house arrest, was transferred to the prison “26 de julio” in San Juan de los Morros. Likewise, on August 28 at 10PM SEBIN agents raided the home of political leader Lester Toledo without a warrant. 
Opposition leaders in 2016 are still being murdered in Venezuela and the international community must pay attention to this disturbing trend especially with this upcoming opposition protest on September 1st. There is every reason to fear for Yon's life as well as the lives of other prisoners of conscience.

Venezuelan activist Yon Goicoechea (center) kidnapped this past Monday
Venezuela is in the midst of a profound crisis as the Maduro regime, with the help of their Cuban advisors, transform the country into a totalitarian dictatorship. This is taking place in an international environment that over the past decade has seen a retreat both in human rights and the defense of democratic institutions. The leftist regime in Nicaragua is also becoming a dictatorship along the Chavez model.

Despite the claims made by Nicolas Maduro that the United States is behind the September 1st protest organized by Venezuela's democratic opposition and is promoting a coup d'etat against his regime the reality is that Western Democracies, including the United States have abandoned Venezuela's democrats.

In Latin America the center-right government of Macri in Argentina is blocking efforts to censure the Venezuelan regime for its anti-democratic practices in favor of backroom deals to obtain the support of Caracas at the United Nations on a key vote.

Obama with Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro  (April 2009)
The Obama administration and the Kerry State Department have abandoned democracy promotion for the pursuit of stability and maintaining the status quo, and are willing to collaborate with whoever can accomplish that realpolitik objective. It is important to remember that Secretary of State John Kerry in  August of 2015 said "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." The news today that the Chavista judge who sealed the fate of Venezuelan hunger striker Franklin Brito in 2010 now pursuing political asylum in the United States speaks volumes about the Obama administration's posture to the regime in Venezuela.

The Washington Post Editorial Page Editor in his August 28, 2016 OpEd "What the world could lose in America’s presidential election" highlighted the Obama administration's global abandonment of human rights and democracy promotion beginning in 2009:
But democracy promotion faded as a goal once Obama moved into the White House. In negotiations with China, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, human rights were never a priority. [...] How far the administration evolved from Obama’s 2007 vision can be measured in an article by Vice President Biden in the current issue of [Foreign Affairs] that barely mentions democracy or human rights. Biden sets tasks for the next administration to achieve a “more peaceful and prosperous future,” none explicitly related to freedom: deepening alliances in Asia and the Western Hemisphere, addressing climate change and terrorism, improving ties with regional powers.
What is taking place in Venezuela is the result of the decision by both Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro to impose the Cuba model on the Venezuelan people, not a U.S. conspiracy as the Venezuelan regime claims. This sham can be seen by Maduro's response to neutral third parties that could objectively document the September 1st protests: rejecting the presence of international observers, and deporting international journalists.

Leopoldo Lopez with supporters on February 18, 2014 when he turned himself in
 The future of Venezuela will be decided by Venezuelans, but sadly the forces of dictatorship have international backing that the democrats do not. This means that Venezuelan democrats have only one possible path to success and that is via a carefully though out strategy of civic nonviolent resistance. The path laid out by Leopoldo Lopez through his nonviolent example has shaken the international legitimacy of the Maduro regime, earned Leopoldo the good will of tens of millions of his countrymen in Venezuela and should be followed.

Free Venezuelans may not be able to depend on democratic governments, but people of good will can and should take action by organizing, speaking out and raising awareness. For example the The Latin American network of Youth for Democracy is denouncing the ongoing wave of repression in Venezuela.  People of good will around the world need to take to social media and follow events in that South American country.

All eyes on Venezuela!
Free Leopoldo!
Free Yon!
Free all of Venezuela's prisoners of conscience!

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