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Venezuela is a full-blown dictatorship

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All this year, as they trudged through an unprecedented economic implosion, Venezuelans have been gearing up for what was meant to be the defining political event of the year: a referendum on whether to recall our increasingly loathed authoritarian president, Nicolás Maduro. The tense buildup suddenly ended Thursday as five separate (and supposedly independent, but c’mon now) lower courts approved injunctions to suspend the recall, closing down Venezuela’s last best hope for a peaceful solution to its long-running political crisis.

Even for battle-hardened Venezuelans, it all came as quite a shock. A major signature-gathering drive to officially activate the recall vote was scheduled for next week. Opposition activists were busy preparing their plans to get out their voters to sign. No one, not even the military, seemed to have been expecting this.

Today has been a day of sober reckoning in Caracas, as Venezuelans process the death of the recall process and its implications. It’s easy to overdramatize these things, I realize, but it’s also important not to lose the forest for the trees: a relatively large, relatively sophisticated major oil producer just three hours’ flying time from the United States has just become the second all-out, no-more-elections dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.

This is serious. A turning point.

See, for 17 years, political scientists have been casting about for a suitable way of describing the strange in-between political system Hugo Chávez invented for Venezuela. It wasn’t quite democracy in the usual sense, clearly, but it also wasn’t a normal dictatorship. The government might not have had much time for the fine print of constitutional rule, but in broad terms people were basically free to associate, speak and vote. What do you call that? Competitive authoritarianism? A hybrid regime? An illiberal democracy? None of the labels seemed to stick; what did stick was the lasting impression of in-betweenness, of Venezuela as not-quite-a-dictatorship.

For Venezuela’s pro-democracy activists, fighting a regime that has instituted dictatorship by tiny increments has been an exhausting ordeal. Which is why today, mixed with the genuine anger at the subversion of our constitutional right to a recall, you can detect just a hint of gratitude for the clarity this brings.

We’re rid of the adjectives. We are finally through with the academic circumlocutions.

There’s no need to hyphenate it anymore. Venezuela is just a dictatorship.


18 Comments on "Venezuela is a full-blown dictatorship"

  1. Anonymous on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 7:19 pm 

    There’s no need to hyphenate it anymore. amerika is just a dictatorship.

    There, fixed it fer ya washpo….

    Fact-checked and corrected, no charge.

  2. makati1 on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 7:59 pm 

    Anon, you are correct, but the US ‘dictator’ is a puppet of the Deep State. The real power is safe in the background.

    America is Number one in many things: Arrogance, greed, finger pointing, hypocrisy, waste, world wide murder, genocide, and on and on.

  3. Northwest Resident on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 8:09 pm 

    “China signals return to strongman rule”. An article on Bloomberg today. Putin personifies strongman rule. There are lots and lots of strongmen ruling in the world today. Democracies such as they are understood (but not fully practiced) will also devolve into strongman rulerships when things start breaking down. The history of human civilization is strongman rule — one strongman for every little geographical piece of planet earth where people exist. When economic and civilizational collapse really gets underway, you’ll either be a strongman, a strongman’s lackey or a strongman’s property, maybe. There will be a chance to rebuild, each of us who continues on in our own local area. Maybe some of us will find a way to live without the strongman. But history is pretty solid on the subject of strongmen ruling. Poor Venezuela. They just made it to the finish line before us and others, but we aren’t far behind.

  4. JuanP on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 9:47 pm 

    Washington Post! LOL! I would never waste my time reading the crap they publish. All they write is bullshit and propaganda.

  5. makati1 on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 10:22 pm 

    WaPo, NYT, WSJ, etc. ALL propaganda and bullshit. There is not one USMSM site that is not owned by 6 men and they dictate what is “truth”.

  6. joe on Thu, 27th Oct 2016 10:59 pm 

    When ever I see the phrase pro-democracy protestor, all I can think is CIA and eventual violence. I believe this revolution will be yellow. Dont have much sympathy for Maduro, but the alternative people waiting to get into power wouldnt even permit property rights for citizens. South America is so unbalanced politically and legally. The Chavez revolution brought in genuine popular reform, and it has of course been totally undermined by internal forces asking for outside help. Now though is the time for Chavezs legacy to be a peaceful handover of power. Venezuelan people must feel that power wasn’t held unduly. If the revolutionarys can do that then the people will always be their ally, especially when the counter revolutionary elements try to undo the reforms gained. The propaganda forces arrayed against the revolutionarys are too strong for this struggling oil dependent government to resist and violent struggle is not somthing the mothers and children desire. Sadly there is no scope for compromise. A genuine social contract is not in the interest of forces outside Venezuela. Pray for them.

  7. Hello on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 4:05 am 

    Where did Arthur go? I miss his comments.

  8. Cloud9 on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 6:05 am 

    While the big players strut and fret their hour upon the stage, the people starve. Politics is not a solution to systemic collapse. Blame whomever you will. Watch how this unwinds. Learn from it. It is coming to all of us.

  9. penury on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 11:15 am 

    The trend in leaders world=wide appears to be towards the strongman approach to leadership. In times of stress in the economy the “sheeple” appear to prefer a strong leader rather than an accomedative one. It looks like interesting times indeed

  10. Victor Matos on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 11:45 am 

    Copycat of the Cuban criminal dictatorship.For the last 17 years all the powers Judicial,Electoral,the Armed Forces The National Guard and the Congress or National Assembly are seized by the narco chavista government.Things changed in December 6 when the people of Venezuela elected by majority 112 of the 168 congressmen(2/3).The majority were from the opposition. Maduro has put obstacles to this Congress since then, The corrupt armed forces lead by general Vladimir Padrino support this dictatorship.All of these chavistas dictators control the power and know if they loose all of them end in jail for Violation of Human Rights,for torture political prisoners,crimes and to have put Venezuela in bankrupt and steal all the money of the Venezuelans.

  11. Plantagenet on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 12:36 pm 

    Victor Matos is 100% right.

    Cuba used to be a prosperous country until the Socialists took over.

    Venezuela is an oil-rich country, but just like Cuba the socialists have driven it into poverty and even famine.


  12. fred on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 2:59 pm 

    Will the revised World Atlas now show.. Cubazuela ?

  13. HARM on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 3:43 pm 

    See, when it’s a pro-America brutal regime/dictator, it’s “democracy”. But when they don’t play well with our oligrachs, that’s just unacceptable! They must be demonized, undermined and overthrown.

  14. Truth Has A Liberal Bias on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 4:26 pm 

    Who cares?! Most of the world is in full blown dictatorship. And that part that isn’t has a voter turn out rate of about 50% so obviously nobody gives a fuck.

  15. Apneaman on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 5:54 pm 

    Funny how so many insecure little mericans need to weigh in and pile on every time there is a piece about Venezuela. Let me tell y’all, that don’t make your pathetic shithole country’s troubles go away or change the fact that y’all are lost and just waiting for your turn. I guess it makes ya feel better for 5 seconds. Previous generations of Americans could brag about a new medical breakthrough (polio) or putting men on the moon or some shit that was real. You know the end is near when the only thing left to brag about is that the other guy is worse off than you……who you are only 3 steps behind. “Oh yeah Venezuela, at least our growing homeless population has dumpsters full of food to dive……….so there”

  16. HARM on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 6:39 pm 

    “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
    –FDR, 1939

    American leaders have been highly selective about which dictators get condemned and which get our generous support from the MID and CIA. Ditto when it comes to the right of self-determination (the people’s right to choose what form of government they want).

  17. HARM on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 6:43 pm 

    Supports American (and western) banking cartel and other big industry interests = “fledgling democracy” and “most favored nation”.

    Democratically elected socialist government = totalitarian monster/Orwellian nightmare that must be bombed & embargoed into oblivion.

  18. onlooker on Fri, 28th Oct 2016 6:43 pm 

    Yea, welcome to planet Earth, where the oligarchs and few have the power and dictate and run things for their own convenience and greed and power lust with all us just pawns in their little power games. Meantime, all of us masses just obey their immoral laws and even worse just blame each other and what not. I can just hear the elites laughing in the background. Too bad we never stood up for anything except our right to eat and have a little trivial entertainment. Seems like the more things change the more they stay the same. Wasn’t it Rome who just gave them bread and circus to appease the masses. Few are the ones who ever stood for anything other than their own petty selfish needs and wants. So is it then surprising we have the world we have.

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