On 7/3/2017 4:10 AM, jat wrote: part of the story as usual. His aim is
to mislead, not to inform.
The B-movie playing out in Venezuela could have a tragic twist
Fears are growing for the anarchic South American state after a bizarre
turn of events
Venezuela is reversing the usual order. History there is playing out
first as farce, then as tragedy.
The barely credible latest from the crisis-wracked country is a plot
twist barely worthy of a B-movie. On Tuesday a rogue police commander
supposedly hijacked a helicopter, proclaimed rebellion, dropped grenades
on the supreme court, fired bullets at the interior ministry and
disappeared. Nobody was hurt.
Oscar Pérez, the attacker, has even starred in a B-movie, the 2015
action flick Suspended Death. A video posted before the attack on his
Instagram account – which also shows scenes of him shooting over his
shoulder using a mirror, and scuba-diving with a machine gun – shows him
calling for an overthrow of the government.
Nicolás Maduro, the president, called the flight "a terrorist attack"
that aimed to destabilise the government. "The person who took that
aircraft launched a coup and took up arms," he said on state television.
"This is the kind of escalation I have been warning about."
But few believe his version of events in a country that proclaims the
merits of socialism but where 82 per cent of households live in poverty,
according to the 2016 Encovi survey of living conditions.
One source of doubt is that Venezuela's air force never mobilised,
despite its new Russian air-defence system. "It's inexplicable, given
the incredible sums spent on armed systems . . . over the past 12
years," Rocío San Miguel, a defence specialist, said.
Rather, many suspect the bizarre incident, which comes after three
months of anti-government protests that have left almost 80 dead, was a
clumsy show to divert attention. Earlier that day, the
opposition-controlled National Assembly, the sole state branch not
controlled by Mr Maduro's government, was over-run by National Guards.
The attorney-general, Luisa Ortega, a former government ally turned
fierce critic, was also stripped of some of her powers. Ms Ortega
accused Mr Maduro of "state terrorism" and said she would not recognise
the rulings. On Wednesday her bank account was frozen and she was barred
from leaving the country.
Excuse to repress
Whatever actually happened, one thing is clear: Mr Maduro, nearly half
of whose cabinet members are generals, now has an excuse to repress more.
The former trade union leader has vowed to take up arms if his regime is
removed. "We would never surrender . . . We would liberate our country
with arms," he said again this week.
Mr Maduro now seeks to cement control at a July 30th convention that
will rewrite the constitution, probably cancel scheduled elections and
over-ride all organs of state, including the democratically elected
The result would be a Cuban-style dictatorship in a country that is a
major drug-trafficking route and has the world's largest energy
reserves, all within a short flight to the US.
Given the chance, three-quarters of Venezuelans would vote down a new
constitution, polls show. Indeed, anarchy – which includes triple-digit
inflation and one of the world's highest homicide rates – is likely to
accelerate as July 30th approaches. In Maracay, west of Caracas, 200
people were arrested after violent looting on Monday.
The international community is largely at a loss as to what to do.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is worried. Peru's president warns
of a "bloodbath". Even allies, such as Rafael Correa, Ecuador's former
leftist president, believe the solution is free elections.
But a recent meeting of the Organisation of American States failed to
get the consensus needed to condemn the constitutional rewrite after
several Caribbean island states, which have benefited from past
Venezuelan oil largesse, voted against the measure.
The best solution may be targeted financial sanctions against officials
who have profited from state-sanctioned corruption. As much as $300
billion has been stolen since 2000, former ministers estimate.
Meanwhile, Venezuela's farce-turned-tragedy unfolds. "Violence . . .
will increase," warned Raul Gallegos, an analyst at Control Risks and
author of Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela. "The security
forces will continue to abuse their power, even killing.