Coup d’état in Venezuela

The Venezuelan Supreme Court’ decision to call off the Parliament’ powers and as a result, to grant extraordinary powers to Nicolas Maduro, is an unprecedented event which constitutes a real coup d’etat. According to this undemocratic ruling, seven judges appointed by the Chavism will replace the 167 deputies elected by the Venezuela people in the elections of December 2015. In addition, the deputies are withdrawn of any parliamentary immunity.

The PM members of the National Assembly agree in qualifying the Supreme Court statement 156 as a coup which has given the regime of Nicolas Maduro to consolidate the current dictatorship. The Supreme Court of Justice is the Maduro’s legal arm dedicated to boycott all the decisions emanating from the sovereign parliament. It has issued some 46 rulings against all the legislative acts issued by these representatives of people’s sovereignty. In the meantime, those Chavistas supporters shouted in the streets a battle-cry: “And it will fall, and it will fall, this Assembly will fall!“.

Juan Miguel Matheus, representative of the party ‘Primero Justicia’, stated, “against the legal and arbitrary fiction of the Supreme Court, there are the people of Venezuela and the National Assembly as the real and only representatives of the nation.” The Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been imprisoned for several years in a farce trial, as it was confirmed by the judge who led the court which tried him, said that what happened is the formalization of the dictatorship, “Today, through an illegal and illegitimate statement, The High Court of Justice formally decreed the dictatorship in Venezuela that we have denounced since 2014.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has begun to intervene in the search for a solution which will reduce the harsh conditions for the Venezuelan people while the Chavism is in agony. Right now, many democratic governments, from the EU, USA, Argentina and Peru, that has even withdrawn its ambassador in Caracas, have condemned the self-coup which constitutes another step of the authoritarian drift that has turned Venezuela into a tyranny. The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro restated that the fact that the Supreme Court got attributed the functions of the Legislative “is a procedure that does not acknowledge of any of the most basic guarantees of a due process.” Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Maduro’s response was as always, that of attack and insult. And of course, from Cuba are supporting Maduro. Ludicrous.

Maduro’s coup against the Venezuelan parliament is a fact which marks a point of no return of the dictatorship, and requires that the Venezuelan people, the civil society, parties and, above all, the MP’s, to initiate a process of mobilization and a democratic and civic resistance, to face this coup and regain their national sovereignty. If there is no parliament, there is no people’s sovereignty and no a democratic state. Yesterday, those Supreme Court Members decreed the death of the Congress, but in recent months they have already been closing the media, universities, shops, political parties and unions.

The Chavism is living its last moments in the biggest of the tumbles, with the economy paralyzed and the institutional structure devastated by corruption. But during the agony is when a mortally wounded animal becomes more dangerous. Venezuela is a narco-dictatorship system, a criminal organization which oppresses and punishes the Venezuelan people. Its current leader is not prepared either ethically, politically or intellectually to control the reins of the once rich Latin American country. It is a matter of emergency to end with the tyranny, an indecent regime, a political farce which will lead nowhere, except the most devastating catastrophe for Venezuelan people.

What is wrong with the South European countries?

 

One of the characteristics of any politician leading over an intergovernmental body should be the ability to get along with all the country members which such a leader is representing. Something that, to the Euro Group President the Dutch Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has forgotten for the last days. Dijssembloem has an oblivion about the institutional character of his position when, with the greatest seriousness and without any irony’ hint, he pointed out during an interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, about the Southern European countries, “the Northern European countries have had enough solidarity with those countries affected by the crisis of the Euro, while those in the south were spending the money which were given in drinks and women.” Liqueur and women. A comment loaded of stereotypes and prejudices improper of a person in such a position for the Eurozone.

It is not a bad comparison for a citizen of the Netherlands, where marijuana is smoked in the well-known coffee shops and the windows of the brothels in Amsterdam are a famous tourist claim, according to their old harbour tradition. But above all, it is an expressive example of lack of solidarity which is not very appropriate for a Social-Democrat. Dijsselbloem is a member of the PvDA, the Labour Party, which has been blown up in the recent Dutch elections. He is a leftist politician. And he is also responsible for a European institution.

 Dijsselbloem compounded his mistake in the European Parliament the next day, when he refused to apologize for these insulting phrases, as some MEPs demanded. The pressure on the Dutch increased and spread, as it could not be otherwise, to all governments in southern Europe. The former Italian Prime Minister, Mateo Renzi, named his words as “stupid” and called for his immediate resignation. Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, added to the criticism and called Dijsselbloem words “racist, sexist and xenophobic. Mr. Dijssselbloem must resign of his current position.” Even his common political family, the Social-Democrats, have criticised calling him “a neoliberal Socialist, macho and racist.” The rain of insults took completely unprepared and very touched to one of the politicians with more weight and projection within the EU, an austere and rigorous moralist who since 2013, has taken the realms of the Eurozone.

In his country, The Netherlands, people are surprised by Dijsselbloem’ remarks, but also by the reactions he got. The Dutch believe that the accusations of racist and especially of macho are out of place. They defend him as a very honest person and one of the most genuine and decent politicians, who is used to tell the truth to the face. “I am sorry that anyone was offended by my comment, it was direct and can be explained by the strict Dutch Calvinist culture. I know it is not something which is always understood and appreciated throughout Europe,” he said reluctantly in a forced apology recently.

Such a message and this kind of moral superiority are not something new, surprisingly. I have listened to it and suffered myself several times. Since the beginning of the Euro crisis, the leaders of half a dozen countries, have tattooed on their DNA “The Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism” of Max Weber, making comparisons and dubious taste joking over the lazy southern neighbours while not working, are spending themselves the money of the hardworking Bavarian or Dutch savers in Fiesta. Although afterwards, these North Europeans do not hesitate to vacation in those lazy Southern countries, fascinated by their culture, art and beautiful nature, climate, their clean and blue seas, their food and way of life. And they occasionally enjoy there in a not very quiet and civilized way, even embarrassing sometimes for the local populations.

The dangerous pressure of the Populism is breaking the cohesion principle and rethinking the traditional European sense of solidarity, by understanding them as issues nowadays. Trump acting in the US with the latino immigration restrictions, and the obligation to those US companies to invest from and inside the US; The Brexit which has officially started; The populist Wilders, who was about to win the recent elections in The Netherlands, promising to the constituents to leave the EU, and redistributing the national income among their nationals of origin, nationals which must be of three or more generations. The populism has also spread to the left South European political parties thought: a false Populist far-left ideology which only admits the redistribution within the limits of its village, or the country. In Italy, Beppe Grillo wants to leave the EU, also Marine Le Pen in France. In Spain, the Catalan independentists claim that of they are tired of financing the subsidies of the Andalusian bums, idler folks, who are spending their lives in the sun and singing flamenco, in their romerias and fairs, as everyone knows.

Dijsselbloem has his current position in jeopardy already for a while, although he has held on it very good, supported by the difficult equilibrium of the ‘Brussels partitocracy‘. In this community environment, which is in fact an important ideological lobby, his mentality and approach has many supporters.  But it has not helped enough, because seventy MEPs, mainly from the European People’s Party, have sent a letter calling for his resignation due to his biased, racist and sexist comments. Dijsselbloem should not remain for another day leading the Eurogroup. He has justified his words by the “Dutch direct speech“, while those MEPs consider that of “Calvinist culture has nothing to do with disparaging other people. Unbiased and having respect for values ​​such as equality, must be the first obligation of any European leader. ” Certainly, the Dutch are very direct, but that does not mean that they are offensive. In fact, they tend to be very tolerant and politically correct, perhaps too much, and perhaps with whom they should not be ….

Venezuela: The Chavismo, or dying by killing

 

The current political regime in Venezuela, the Chavismo, is in its last stage. But while it is agonizing, it is jeopardizing the health and even the lives of many of its citizens. At the end of 2013, the Venezuelans began to experience the scarcity and the shortage of the basic products, with the consequent queuing at the supermarket’ entrances to get food. The issue has already exploded today. According to one of the main Hugo Chavez advisers in economic affairs and Chavismo’ ideologue, Heinz Dieterich Steffan, “The economic crisis has become a terminal political crisis for Maduro. In less than two years, a troika of inept and overbearing people has squandered the popular struggle’ heritage, discrediting Socialism of the 21st century’ alternative.” Dieterich was the creator this concept, ‘Socialism of the 21st century’, concept which Hugo Chávez used for his political ground.

The recent French agency AFP report is reflecting the desperation of an increasing number of Venezuelans to bring something to their mouths, having to dig in the garbage to eat. Thousands of people, assessed in 10% of the population, have found in the trash their pantry to fight hunger and misery. 81.8% of Venezuelan households live in poverty and 51.5% do so in extreme poverty, according to the findings of the National Academy of Economic Sciences, based on the surveys of several prestigious universities. Venezuela has become one he most miserable economies on the planet, according to the Bloomberg ranking. And the one of greater inflation and recession, so pronounced that of 93% of the Venezuelans can’t buy the food they need with their salaries.

The ‘Bolivarian’ bureaucrats are pointing a different view about the country: “There is more money available, it is a democratization of the consumption. That is the reason of the shortages, now people have more means to consume.” The Chavismo uses this argument, surprising and shocking many Venezuelans: the official deputy Mario Arias affirmed that the serious general shortage which the country is suffering is because “there is a greater demand, it is evident. If a person is queuing to buy is because has money in his pocket. As a result, there is more demand because there are more resources available. While there are queues in the supermarkets and in the stores, it is because people have more money and, consequently, there is an increase in demand.” Simply incredible.

Denying the situation, the Bolivarian regime of Nicolas Maduro, far from changing the situation, is aggravating it. It maintains strict price controls, the nationalization of companies and productive sectors, as well as the intervention and rationing of food, whose application is further aggravating the scarcity issues, creating hyperinflation and falling in the production. The Venezuelan administration is using this chaos to implement new measures of social control, such as the new ‘Patriotic Card’, a food supply card with which aspires to identify the population who supports the regime, as some opposition leaders have claimed. The control over the citizens, forced to buy according to their identification number, is a modern version of the famous Cuban supply card. According to Dieterich, economic affairs’ Chávez ideologue and a person well known for his leftist positions, “By forcing Venezuelan citizens to present these identity documents, undergo in biometric checks, violating their civil rights, the regime is humiliating the citizens, and exhibiting the state’ police face.”

These images of children, youth or parents digging in trash bags thrown in the streets of Caracas, looking for something to eat is what illustrates the best the economic legacy after almost two decades of the Chavista regime. The continued violation of human and civil rights in Venezuela, which I have denounced so many times, has been linked to hunger lately. It is a great drama which is already affecting to thousands of Venezuelans while the Government of Maduro tries to rest importance, and even making jokes in public about the food scarcity.

The case of Venezuela is not the only state with an immensely rich’ land by its natural resources, which has a high level of poverty and a very low per capita income. But earlier, Venezuela did not have that poverty among most of the population, in fact, the country received many immigrants. Beyond any logic, the Chavista regime has taken Venezuela to this extreme situation, in a country where there was a broad middle class. Now, the food shortage has claimed dozens of children lives so far, already this 2017 year.

Maduro’s government has tried to hide this information abroad by all means, as well as silence the press. But Venezuelan citizens while using the social networks, have been protecting those Venezuelan journalists who are trying hard to inform about it. The work they do, besides respect, deserves to be projected inside and outside the country. The joint effort of journalism’ professionals as well as that of these citizen reporters has made to the world to be aware, awake and conscious about the Venezuelan crisis.

The History judges by their facts to all the regimes. In the political arena, the imprisonment with which the Chavista regime punishes his opponents, as well as the permanent violation of Venezuelans civil rights, embodies the absence of freedom. And in the economic field, the malnutrition of children and photographs which show the famine of the population, speak for themselves. The   is a tyranny already in the terminal phase. But it is intolerable and beyond all bearing that, in its delirious going forward, the regime keeps punishing to all Venezuelan people. The world must know it.

The Netherlands, that fascist country

 

Europe is at jeopardy during this election year. A year full of electoral appointments which might alter the EU roadmap, in a key moment to decide its future. The first election will be in The Netherlands, next Wednesday, March 15th. Two days before this election, any gesture which could be interpreted by the population as a cession, would have a serious election cost for the Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Liberal Party, VVD), the only candidate who can keep the fight with the populist Geert Wilders. The Dutch parties have shown firmness against the absurd endeavour of the Turkish government to hold a series of rallies in Dutch territory, which, due to security problems between supporters and detractors of the Erdogan´ authoritarian government, the government of the Netherlands had previously denied the authorization. The Dutch government said to have asked Ankara for limiting their plans to a meeting at the Turkish consulate and their response was to threaten with sanctions. The Netherlands ruled out of any understanding and warned that it would not even allow the landing of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu´ official aircraft. The episode ended with the Turkish Minister of Family and Social Affairs, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya´ expulsion of Dutch territory.

Rutte has already in the past months shown positions of firmness and even satiety, towards those Turkish sectors which stand out for their insatiable pretensions. For a growing number of Dutch, the limits of tolerance have already been overcome on several occasions. For the Dutch PM, right now there is even more pressure from his constituents on maintaining a calming position with Turkey than the threats and blackmail coming from the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has himself self-invited to add fuel to the already delicate debate within the Dutch campaign about the national identity and over the coexistence with the immigrants which is taking place.

President Erdogan has caused a serious diplomatic incident by accusing the Dutch of Nazis and fascists. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also lashed out to the Dutch authorities for the entrance´ veto of the two Turkish ministers to campaign for Erdogan in the referendum to be held in Turkey in April, referendum which main purpose is giving Erdogan almost total power. Yildrim said “there will be heavy retaliation against the Netherlands, as this episode is a major diplomatic scandal.” The Turkish foreign minister has gone further, naming the Dutch authorities´actions “as the same as fascism.” He wrote on his Twitter account, “Fascism has awakened in Holland and has taken over the stage. All true democrats in the world must react to this, intolerable in a free world. The Dutch prime minister has become a spokesman for a dark and racist mentality that led to World War II.” Continuing the escalation, the Turkish European Affairs Minister, Omer Celik, proposes to reconsider the Migration Agreement signed between Turkey and the EU, whereby Turkey keeps migrants out of Europe.

Meanwhile, and taking advantage of the situation, the Dutch populist candidate Wilders has tried to accentuate the tension, demonstrating in front of the Turkish Consulate and asking for the ambassador of Ankara to be expelled ipso facto, due to  interference in the Dutch politics. “In these election, the debate is pointing out about the immigrants´ integration and the Dutch national identity. We want the Turkish origin’ Dutch to participate in the elections in Dutch key, and not about Turkish politics. ” For Wilders´ opinion, this crisis with an Islamist government, has come to restore his public prominence, reduced by his refusal to participate in debates and interviews during the election campaign. This crisis according to Wilders, has confirmed to the constituents his anti-Islamist and anti-migratory theories. The fact that thousands of Dutch people of Turkish origin demonstrated in Rotterdam in favour of the president of Turkey rather than in favour of the Dutch sovereignty, has given him the right to say in the end that the 400,000 Dutch-Turkish do not belong to the Dutch society.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte assured that if Ankara insists on escalating the tension, the Netherlands will respond with the appropriate measures: “We are not giving up to blackmail. I spoke eight times over the phone with my Turkish counterpart to find a common dialogue and it was impossible”, lamented Rutte. The Netherlands, invaded by the Third Reich Germany, is an extremely sensitive country about the Second World War and the Holocaust question, which remember with special great pain. This episode is not going to let it go easily.

Most of Mark Rutte’s European counterparts have also decided to show firmness against the current Turkish administration. Denmark joined the solidarity´ front with the Netherlands in the face of Erdogan’s provocations, and announced the suspension of the Turkish Prime Minister’s trip to Copenhagen. According to the Danish head of government, Lars Rasmussen, although Denmark wants to cooperate with Turkey, this is not possible at the moment given his attitude and attacks to Holland. Austria and Switzerland had adopted very similar positions to that of The Netherlands.

Merkel has had a much more appealing stance. So much that she has received serious critics, although according to polls, most the Germans prefer to avoid the frontal collision with Erdogan. In Germany, there are many politicians who also demand the strongest forcefulness for Erdogan. And although there was no reaction on the matter, it seems like in several Dutch sectors, it was displeased that France allowed to the Turkish Foreign Minister to hold a rally in the city of Metz, to have a new tribune to lash out his insults towards The Netherlands. Calling the Dutch ´Nazis Fascists´ will definitely not help Turkey in its aspirations to get the EU to grant visa exemption for its citizens.

Meanwhile, both Wilders in Holland, and Erdogan in Turkey, are trying to get electoral returns from the crisis. Wilders has not benefited greatly from PM Rutte´ position. To Erdogan, it serves to accentuate the nationalistic feeling that of all Turks have to fur of skin, to obtain his desire to become the omnipotent President of Turkey. But after all, it is inevitable that, the situation in Turkey since the continuous auto-authoritarian coup which followed the military attempt, will end up weighing also on the election temperature in the country.

The Netherlands has for centuries been an example of political freedom and civil rights within Europe and for the world, while Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan is gradually becoming an Islamist tyranny, and particularly since the so-called coup, where he has taken advantage in order to carry out an unprecedented purge in the civil, academic, police and media institutions, in the state administration, accusing thousands of people of coup plotters without providing a single proof. Erdogan is accustomed to doing his will in Turkey, but he has not the right to fulfill his wishes in the rest of the world. Erdogan government accusing the Netherlands and Europe, of being fascist and Nazi, it is an infamy and causes shame, embarrassment, opprobrium, disgrace, ignominy, and blush.

The capitalization of the discontent

 

Few terms have been more repeated for the past months within Europe and across the Atlantic. ‘Populism’ has become one of the most used terms by the citizens and the political class. Although there is no an exact definition of it, most scholars’ literature agrees in pointing out to a group of common characteristics: it is not a matter of political dichotomy among left or right wings; it offers simple solutions to complex problems; it requires a charismatic leadership; it creates a division between ‘the people ‘ or the political class; and it grows on those countries tired of the ‘political establishment’. It is precisely the political capitalization of this discontent which allows to these populist movements to obtain their electoral benefits which open to them the political institutions’ doors, during those periods when a democratic system coexists and widespread the society’ discontent for a relatively long time.

The neo-Marxist, interventionist, or simply populist postulates, have spread over the last few years. This is a very disturbing factor, because it has shaped the idea in a large percentage of the world population that of capitalism and globalization have been a serious mistake. In addition to these disenchantment, the economic decline of the middle classes, the xenophobia, the technological revolution and the welfare state’ crisis, are the triggers in this ideological boom. The growth which these ideas are globally experiencing, is a sign that the system might be failing. As a result, the support for these populist formations is growing in Europe and the US. Another factor must do with the tension generated in our western societies by the increasing migratory flows, and the economic crisis suffered in recent years. The discontent and inefficiency of the traditional actors in proposing and introducing solutions to the 2008 economic crisis, and the continuous migratory flows in Europe from Middle East during the last two years, has opened the window of opportunity for the growth of these new leadership styles.

Is Populism really the solution to the Western democracies’ crises? There are certain realities which are inherent to populism: it arises in democratic systems; it responds to the interests of a political minority; it is a global phenomenon and finds accommodation both on the right and on the left. In fact, the rhetorical strategy is a resource nowadays used by almost every political party, whatever the spectrum in which it moves, and it is used as a discursive strategy aimed at convincing and obtaining electoral revenue. It is a new form of demagoguery, and not just for those populist parties. Different issue and a tragedy for society is moving from words to facts: the creation of a proper populist regime, halfway between a democracy and an authoritarian political system.

Another characteristic which underpins the populism is the dichotomy between so-called ‘the people’ and those who are not the people. Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist, university professor and one of the greatest scholar and experts in the field, says that “populism is an ‘ideology’ that divides society into two antagonistic groups: on the one hand, ‘the pure people’ and, for another, ‘the corrupt elites”. It seems appropriate to ask the following question: Who are the people? The Populism is intolerant because it decides who the people are and who does not: For example, for the National Front in France, the people are the French born in France, nobody else.

Another feature of populism is the economic protectionism which often has serious consequences and entails deep geopolitical risks. Most troubling is the nationalist and protectionist drift which underlies political discourse, as is happening right now in the US, giving the measures taken by the President Trump. For the time being, the markets have positively reacted to the lower taxes, less regulation and a huge fiscal stimulus, but let’s see the impact of those in the future. The economic protectionism has no winners only losers, lower economic growth and higher inflation are some of its deadly consequences in the medium term.

When last June the United Kingdom voted in favour of “Brexit” although with a slight difference of votes, something staggered in the Old Continent. Although many polls pointed to a victory of “Stay”, finally 52% of voters chose to leave the ‘Community Club’. The common project seemed to begin to break. Matteo Renzi’s failed referendum in Italy, or the escalation in polls of these populist parties in France, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, are for many analysts the first effects of this nationalist and anti-establishment sentiment which begins to settle throughout all the western countries.

Some yet argue that the emergence of these policy options could be beneficial. For Mudde, a point in favour of Populism is “It could serve as an incentive to include in the political agenda issues which are of interest for the electorate, but often dodged due to their controversial character, such as immigration or austerity plans.” According to Mudde research: “Populism could allow the participation of people who were previously excluded and had no voice,” citing the example of indigenous people in Latin America. “It can also serve for the re-moralization of public life.

Populism has an old tradition which comes back in a cyclical way, although it never reached the present extended magnitude. One of the greatest difficulties to combat it, is its appealing to the most exacerbated instincts of the human beings, the tribal spirit, distrust and fear of the other, to that of different race, language or religion, xenophobia, and ignorance, as it has pointed out the Spanish-Peruvian literature Nobel award Mario Vargas-Llosa. When we wake up to the reality, we will see the failure of those irresponsible policies, which will not have solved any of the social and economic issues of the unsuspecting countries that surrendered to the populist’ spell.