viernes, 5 de mayo de 2017

Venezuela’s military will determine how long Maduro’s regime can last | MercatorNet | May 5, 2017 |

Venezuela’s military will determine how long Maduro’s regime can last

| MercatorNet | May 5, 2017 |

Venezuela’s military will determine how long Maduro’s regime can last

At some point, following orders could prove costlier than disobedience for the country's soldiers
Benigno Alarcón | May 5 2017 | comment 

“The mother of all protests” – that’s what Venezuela’s opposition movement called an enormous march last week, in which over a million citizens took to the streets to “defend the homeland” against President Nicolás Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian regime. The Conversation
Protests alone rarely spur regime change. But without them – in Venezuela, as in many countries – political transition is impossible. And it is now evident that the wave of protests that has seized the country in recent weeks has had a significant impact on the evolution of Venezuela’s political situation, even though some might wish to deny this.
The pro-democracy parties and movements that oppose the Maduro government have managed to shift the battleground for their political fight. They have taken it out of state institutions where their only support is in the legislature, which has long been neutered by administration-controlled institutions, such as the Supreme Court, and onto the streets.
The immense public show of anger was unexpected, and it has made for a more symmetrical conflict between the government and its opposition. But will the current demonstrations end differently than the 2014 protest movement or last year’s failed attempt to remove the president via referendum?
The answer to this question largely depends on what position the Venezuelan military now takes.
Loosening grip
For many years, Venezuela’s authoritarian regime had two advantages: Hugo Chávez’s charismatic leadership and abundant oil income, which allowed the government to finance clientelistic relations and foster support with vested interests.
Together, they enabled Chávez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela to triumph in almost every election from 1998 to 2012. But Maduro, his chosen successor, has neither going for him. And he is now facing the collapse of the Chávez model and the impossibility of reestablishing his government’s legitimacy electorally.
Ever since his party was defeated in legislative elections in December 2015, the president has relied on a complicit Supreme Court and National Election Council to avoid being removed via an opposition-supported recall referendum.
Those government bodies have also enabled him to indefinitely postpone gubernatorial elections that, constitutionally speaking, should have taken place last year (polls indicated that ruling party candidates would roundly lose).
Venezuela’s situation is not unprecedented. Eventually, every authoritarian regime that has used elections to maintain power (Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional is another Latin American example), reaches the point where, having lost political support, it has two choices: try to negotiate the consequences of an electoral defeat or seek to stay in power through the use of brute force.
If it chooses the latter, the government must depend principally on cooperation from the military. And this is the uncomfortable position in which Maduro now finds himself.
The generals in their labyrinth
But Venezuela’s armed forces are facing their own dilemma: either maintain a neutral institutional role or support the regime in repressing its own people.
Authoritarian regimes that stay in power using violence are well aware of their dependency on the military, so they try to find ways to gain its commitment, including by incorporating the military into the government itself.
The practice of appointing generals into positions of power existed under Chávez, but it has increased markedly since Maduro’s dubious election in 2013, which called into question the legitimacy of his government. And it’s now difficult to distinguish between government and the military as a significant number of Maduro’s cabinet members are active in the armed forces.
The military’s commitment to its government can also be facilitated by incentivising or planning confrontations in which soldiers become personally responsible for violating the human rights of citizens. This tactic turns the army into a hostage of the status quo.
This quandary is the greatest asset of those who seek regime change in Venezuela today. The ongoing mass protests have actually shifted the balance of power toward the opposition, at least temporarily, because continuing to repress demonstrators will have an increasingly high cost for both the government and the military.
Protests aren’t cost-free for the opposition, of course. Since this wave of demonstrations began in late March, 29 people have been killed, along with a large (but undefined) number who have been wounded and arrested.
The main worry is not that this wave of protests will flicker out without producing yearned-for political change. It’s that if it does fail, it will leave the battlefield negatively balanced, setting the opposition back and again reinforcing Maduro’s power.
The challenge for Venezuela’s generals at this point is to find a way out of this labyrinth that allows them to protect both their personal and professional interests, which do not always overlap.
Soldiers are accustomed to obeying orders but there’s no guarantee that they will help implement illegitimate decisions, such as cracking down ever harder on protesters. And if commanders and troops refuse to pay the price for human rights violations by personally and absolutely implicating themselves in the status quo, then the military’s bottom-heavy pyramid structure may well collapse along with the government.
At this point, following orders could prove costlier than disobedience for those in the army.
Playing with time
All this means continued demonstrations could actually spur political change in Venezuela.
Generally speaking, time works against protest movements. But repression works against governments because it creates a vicious cycle. When the government uses force against protesters it loses credibility. And the more credibility it loses, the more it relies on the use of force, which, in turn, spurs protesters to keep on marching.
The fact is that the Maduro regime’s survival depends almost exclusively on whether the armed forces are willing to violently repress the Venezuelan people. And that decision depends on the cost-benefit analysis up and down the military chain of command as generals and soldiers alike weigh the pros and cons of their current dilemma.
They have to decide whether to maintain the status quo by using force or step back and allow change to happen in a less traumatic way. That is, after all, how democracy works.
Benigno Alarcón, Director of the Centre for Political Studies, Andres Bello Catholic University (UCAB). This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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May 5, 2017

In our lead article today Michael Cook does some thought experiments about euthanasia and shows how meaningless “autonomy” has become. He also brings a famous philosopher to the stand to testify against the linking of autonomy and suicide – good ammunition against highbrow assaults on the sanctity of life. A great read.
I also recommend you take a look at the article about the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a US federal agency) and consider signing the petition for a correction to its information about fertility awareness based methods of natural family planning. It seems like a mass movement is the only thing that will make them change a fake statistic.

Carolyn Moynihan
Deputy Editor,

Autonomy: what a useless idea!
By Michael Cook
Autonomy has become a slogan justifying almost everything. And like most slogans, it is almost meaningless.
Read the full article
Why does the CDC insist on alternative facts about natural family planning?
By Carolyn Moynihan
Sign a petition to get evidence based effectiveness information.
Read the full article
Trading on the female body: surrogacy, exploitation, and the US Government
By Kathleen Sloan
Commercial surrogacy commodifies women and children.
Read the full article
Young People in the USA
By Marcus Roberts
Prefer to stay at home.
Read the full article
Forging mother-daughter bonds
By Helena Adeloju
Surprise outings and sharing friends are recommended.
Read the full article
WHO do they think they are helping?
By Jonathan Abbamonte
The World Health Organisation half-heartedly acknowledges Depo-HIV risk.
Read the full article
Religious liberty restored?
By Sheila Liaugminas
Executive order signed Thursday.
Read the full article
After 100 years, there is still life in the Communist nightmare
By Marion Smith
Incredibly, people are forgetting how monstrous Lenin's machine became -- and still is, in some countries
Read the full article
Do passages in the Bible justify cutting down forests?
By Matthew Hall
Christian eco-theology interprets the command of Genesis as stewardship rather than dominion.
Read the full article

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