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    Hey Duncan! I’d love to have the VZLA discussion you mentioned.

    Regarding the “two relevant facts” you mentioned:

    1) “The Venezuelan government was democratically elected (although there are a lot of concerns about the legitimacy of that election).”

    The May elections in which Maduro was reelected were rejected by what’s left of the Venezuelan political opposition, several multilateral organisations (including the UN and the OAS) and a wide range of countries, including most (if not every) liberal democracy in the world.

    The elections were recognised by 14 countries. To my knowledge, most of them do not abide by traditional liberal democratic norms or systems of governance.

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_presidential_election,_2018#Recognized

    2) “There is currently an attempt underway to overthrow that government.”

    In relation to the purported drone attack: although Reuters reported yesterday that a former police chief and anti-government activist claimed to have helped organise the drone attack, it was unable to independently verify his claims.

    More generally regarding notion of organised coup attempts: Maduro claims this is the case, but has (to my knowledge) produced little evidence of a serious and systematic attempt(s) of a coup d’etat. The only domestic factions who might have the power to overthrow him – the National Guard and the Military, according to experts I’ve spoken with and reports I’ve read – remain staunch Maduro allies. (Just take a look at how many former and current armed forces personnel occupy key posts in his government.)

    Domestically, the attempts we’ve seen so far suggest more spasmodic, reactionary, and seemingly uncoordinated attempts from certain fringe factions of Venezuela’s informal opposition – the so-called “resistance” – to rally people to oppose Maduro by armed means.

    Oscar Pérez and his small band of conspirators tried to do so last year and failed. (Ironically, when they first got started, many opposition people thought it was a false flag operation).

    There was also the assault on the Paramacay barracks which the government says it got under control fairly quickly. Source: https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2017/08/06/lo-que-sabemos-hasta-ahora-de-la-sublevacion-militar-frustrada-en-venezuela/

    I’ve read reports suggesting that the lower ranks of Venezuela’s armed forces are starting to feel the effects of the economic crisis – with reports of small and scattered groups of soldiers deserting or being tried for alleged subversion – but nothing to suggest they’re actively plotting to overthrow the government.

    My experience speaking to ordinary Venezuelans is that the overwhelming majority of them oppose violent political solutions. Opposition political parties also reject violence as a means to attain political change, as far as I’m aware. As the economic and political crisis worsens, this might change. But there’s not enough evidence to support the notion that there’s an organised and coordinated ongoing attempt to topple Maduro.

    On the international front, Trump flirted with the idea of a military intervention but as was shut down by his advisers, as well as by regional governments. Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ap-trump-pressed-aides-on-venezuela-invasion-us-official-says/.

    And yes, some opposition intellectuals living abroad seem to be warming to the idea: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/venezuela-catastrophe-military-intervention-by-ricardo-hausmann-2018-01?barrier=accesspaylog

    But again, there is no hard evidence I’ve seen to suggest there is an ongoing and dedicated international effort to oust Maduro by military means.

    On the other hand, what is well-documented is that Maduro’s government has, over the past four years, resorted to increasingly authoritarian tactics and violations of human rights to assert its control over a country buckling under the weight of a serious economic crisis and mass emigration. Because the Venezuelan government stopped releasing all kinds of public information – from official inflation statistics to crime rates to health statistics – it’s very difficult to know exactly how bad the situation really is. This sort of uncertainty has historically played into the government’s hand, since there’s no official statistics with which to hold officials accountable.

    But there’s broad consensus among the political opposition, human rights groups, and multilateral organisations that Maduro takes advantage of unspecified coup claims to justify increasingly drastic political and economic measures. I strongly recommend you read the latest OHCHR June 2018 report: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/VE/VenezuelaReport2018_EN.pdf

    —–

    I’m also interested when you say that the newsmedia “seems to be operating from the assumption that I already think that a violent coup is the best or only way to resolve the difficulties that Venezuela is facing”. Is that from what you’ve been reading on WikiTribune or other places?

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      This is an useful scholarly article on Venezuela’s migration crisis: https://www.e-ir.info/2018/06/28/understanding-the-venezuelan-displacement-crises/

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        This from JLA is also good. I wasn’t aware of the interview he did with Santos in which the latter said he was aware of the existence of a number of dissident groups within the Venezuelan armed forces. But I’d still wager that these are few and far between.

        https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-assassination-attempt-by-drone-is-just-the-latest-moment-of-chaos-in-venezuela?mbid=social_twitter

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        Thanks for the link. This is exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. Just facts about what is happening.

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      Your question about my perception of the operating assumptions of the newsmedia – mostly other places. Wikitribune has not gone strongly against that grain in any way however and has not done any deeper analysis of the situation. Of course given the resources and number of people participating I certainly don’t see this as an editorial decision. I am sure there are a lot of people, yourself included, who would like to give this issue thorough and thoughtful coverage. But our resources are limited.

      With regard to the election, there are many countries that have had recent elections that are not 100% free and fair. Here is a list from wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_controversial_elections . This is a matter of great concern to me. In fact I would be hard pressed to name a country where there seems to be no reason for concern. I certainly believe in the right of the people to rise up and protest, and practice civil disobedience in order to achieve change and a more democratic system.

      Where this all breaks down for me is distinguishing what people with agendas want me to hear, from the raw facts. In general countries that support the western status quo and especially those that play ball with the US, are not covered at all when their population starts to protest or initiates action against their government. Yet the Venezuelan protest make the headlines daily. When people protest in Germany it usually doesn’t even make the German news. When it does there is never any report on the number of protesters injured by the government. Always reported is the number of police officers injured. Many of the injuries reported are not even caused by protesters such as heat stroke, or friendly fire accidents with tear gas and pepper spray. In Venezuela, despite the fact that many police officers have been killed by protesters, the coverage always reports the protesters injured and killed, and usually skips over the police.

      Don’t get me wrong, if it was consistent I would prefer it this way. Police injured on the job is less newsworthy in my opinion than government violence against citizens. What I find suspicious is the seemingly conscious choice of newsmedia organisations to portray the governments their leaders don’t like as authoritarian and their people as freedom fighters, and the governments their leaders do like as democratic, and their protesters as hooligans and terrorists. It makes me ask not ‘how can we support the Venezuelan people?’, but instead ask ‘why is the Venezuelan government being targeted in this way?’

      This is a pity because it seems Venezuela is in desperate need of political reform, and I want more than anything to support honest efforts by ordinary people to reform their governments.

      If you say the objective of the protests is not a coup, can you explain what those objectives are? My assumption that the goal was the violent overthrow of the government highlights either the lack of clear information in the media coverage of this situation, or my own inability to interpret and understand the facts I am being given. You can imagine which of those two explanations I am going with.

      I remember coverage of the Chavez administration, and especially the coup attempt in 2002. Now that the dust has settled wikipedia is a great source for finding out what happened. Wikipedia is not so great for up to the minute news however. What the mainstream news wrote then about Chavez and what they are writing now about the current situation have some remarkable parallels. This all leaves me with the feeling that my opinions and feelings are being manipulated by people with hidden agendas and I don’t like it.

      I will try to formulate a list of questions that I have about the situation, although even seeing where my knowledge is lacking is a struggle:

      Who are the interested parties? Obviously the Maduro administration and the population at large are two. Presumably the privately owned media organisations in Venezuela are also heavily involved, as they always have been in the past. Some opposition political groups? Some foreign nations?

      Which interest group(s) do the masked protesters with home made mortars represent?

      What does each of these parties want to achieve?

      What were the events that directly triggered the current crisis? I know a protest about pension reforms turned violent but that does not seem to be the whole story.

      Where can I find a deeper, impartial analysis of the Venezuelan economic and political situation in general, including the the causes of the current problems?

      What are other countries in the region saying about the current situation, especially those that were allied with or supported the Chavez administration?

      What kind of viable solutions to the current crisis can an outsider hope for or expect in the future?

      I guess that last one is the key. I have the impression that people are expecting either the government to collapse, or to regain control and rule with an iron fist. Both of these seem like a deepening of the crisis to me rather than solutions.

      Sorry to rant about this for so long, I hope something here is useful to you.

      1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        Hey Duncan. Thanks for the questions.

        Will do my best to address those I can:

        1) Interested parties/stakeholders (condensed): Government, armed forces, privately-owned media (what’s left of it – TV/radio channels were mostly nationalised under Chavez; independent (opposition, says gov’t) print media suffering massively due to shortages of paper and ink); population at large; political opposition; Russia & China (both have significant investments in VZLA); USA (security and energy interests); regional governments (security and migration concerns, mostly)

        2) “Which interest group(s) do the masked protesters with home made mortars represent?” In my experience doing on-the-ground protest reporting from Caracas, the masked protestors we saw in news reports and pictures represented themselves. They are (mostly) economically and opportunity-deprived young men who’d take to the streets to protest the government’s economic policies, and later, the repression from security forces. They didn’t really have an organised structure with chains of command etc. And hand-held mortars were very rare, as they are relatively expensive to make and dangerous to use. Molotov cocktails, slingshots, crude shields, and rocks were the weapons of choice. These were also the demonstrators who were detained en masse by the security forces, regardless of whether or not they had actually participated in protests or were simply hanging out at a nearby plaza.

        3) “What were the events that directly triggered the current crisis? I know a protest about pension reforms turned violent but that does not seem to be the whole story.” Depends on what crisis you’re talking about… There’s several going on atm.

        I’ll try to find a story/book that aptly summarises these, because there are too many reasons to fit into one post.

        4) “Where can I find a deeper, impartial analysis of the Venezuelan economic and political situation in general, including the the causes of the current problems?” Academia and political consulting/analyses firms like Stratfor (probably)

        5) “What are other countries in the region saying about the current situation, especially those that were allied with or supported the Chavez administration?”

        Lima Group: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lima_Group

        Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and a few small Caribbean nations still aligned with VZLA won’t recognise the existence of a humanitarian crisis.

        6) “What kind of viable solutions to the current crisis can an outsider hope for or expect in the future?” This is the million dollar question. Any solution(s) will take decades, sadly.

        1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

          Thanks for those answers. One thing I would like to point out though is that your comment that “TV/radio channels were mostly nationalised under Chavez” is contradicted by most of the sources I have seen. The first google result I found was this article from the BBC written 1 year before Chavez’s death.

          https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19368807

          It claims that less that 5% of tv and radio is state owned. This was one of the primary areas of misinformation during the Chavez era that I kept seeing in the media and one of the reasons I am so careful about believing claims about Venezuela without triple checking them myself. It is simply a lie that there is no media independent from the state. I have also heard from fairly reliable sources that the biggest tv stations were continuously critical of Chavez throughout his presidency with relatively few consequences.

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