The tyranny of distance

The current crisis and violence in Venezuela – protests against President Hugo Chavez and his constitutional reforms – have received a lot of coverage in the West. But what is the real story there? A good friend and Latin American expert emails:

Regarding the current crisis in Venezuela, I think the political right knows there will be a lot of media attention around the referendum to change the constitution. They are milking it for all its worth and worse, I suspect are killing their own kind just to blame it on Chávez. This has happened before as was the case when roughly a dozen Salvadorian mercenaries where bought into the country to shoot at anti-Chávez protesters. This was then used as a pretext to carry out the 36 hour coup, which then saw some 100 Chávistas killed and the big H himself kidnapped.

While some Chávistas have certainly used violence, this is mostly done by the opposition and there are other examples like the above – in fact, it is a tactic often used in Latin America by the hard core political right.

Chávez, as Gregory Wilpert though points out in his excellent new book, is centralising power in the executive. Paradoxically, power is also being de-centralised through the community councils. As Wilpert argues, time will tell if Venezuela under Chávez will transform itself into something new, or look somewhat like the old Soviet states.

According to this article, Venezuelan Jews are worried about the current situation.

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