By Anthony L Hall
Alas, the oxymoronic pandemic of protesters fomenting democratic revolutions to overthrow democratic leaders has spread to Venezuela. For what began a few weeks ago in one area of the country as a demand for greater police protection has now become a national uprising aimed at overthrowing the president, Nicolas Maduro.
The discrediting irony, however, is that the protesters taking to the streets all over the country today seem more interested in confronting the police than in being protected by them. And, remarkably, getting arrested or even killed seems pursuant to their misguided political mission to undermine the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency.
Three people were shot dead at the end of marches in Caracas, and police have since arrested five suspects. The deaths have led to daily protests from the opposition, and clashes have become an almost daily occurrence.
Hundreds of people have been arrested, including high-profile opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez.
(BBC, March 3, 2014)
But how do you think the Americans championing political uprisings from Ukraine to Venezuela through the Middle East and Northern Africa would feel if similar uprisings were raging daily in the United States, with no end in sight? More to the point, how would you feel if opposition forces were fomenting street protests instead of preparing for elections as the way to replace your country’s democratically elected leader?
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com
Indeed, it is particularly noteworthy that cheering and enabling Americans make no distinction between uprisings against democratically elected leaders like Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine and those against dictators like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. They seem only interested in ensuring that the protesters, in each case, are seeking a new government that is friendlier to the United States and adheres more to American values.
You’d think these self-appointed guardians of democracy would distinguish, for example, between people protesting against a leader who is abusing their democratic freedoms and those protesting against one who is merely implementing policies that offend their political ideology. But they do not.
Yet, just imagine the civil strife if the tens of millions of Americans who think Obamacare is aimed at socializing not just healthcare but the entire federal government mounted a Ukrainian-style uprising to overthrow President Obama, instead of waiting for democratic elections to replace him. I have no doubt that, with the exception of a small number of gun-worshiping, right-wing, neo-racist wackos, Americans would deem attempts to overthrow Obama over Obamacare as much a threat to democratic governance in the United States as attempts by Southerners to secede over slavery.
What’s more, they would expect the government to use all means necessary, including deploying the National Guard, to prevent Obamacare protesters in any major city from disrupting government functions and daily life (the way protesters everywhere from Ukraine to Venezuela have done). And, given that over 600,000 Americans were killed during the Civil War, no informed and fair-minded American would lose any sleep if the police arrested hundreds and even killed some of the protesters who seemed hell-bent on provoking violence in a misguided attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.
That said, let me hasten to note that I’m on record declaring my disappointment in Hugo Chávez and his successor Maduro. Not least because their Bolivarian policies seem more about buying up political influence throughout the Americas to annoy US presidents than the sustainable development of Venezuela.
Maduro has already made clear his Chavismo intent to continue Chávez’s policies at home and abroad, and to do so with the same anti-American rhetoric -- even if without Chávez’s inimitable charisma and flair.
To signal this intent, Maduro paid tribute to Chávez’s death by expelling two American diplomats and declaring his firm belief that the cancer that killed him was ‘induced by the historical enemies of our homeland.’
(“Remembering Chávez,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 6, 2013)
But my disappointment in them pales in comparison to my disappointment in US politicians who blithely endorse coups in other countries based on nothing more than the wish of relatively few belligerent protesters to overthrow a leader they probably didn’t vote for in the first place.
Not to mention that, despite all the carping among opposition leaders about his leadership, polls indicate that Maduro retains enviable support among the “Chavistas,” the unrivaled electoral base he inherited from Chávez. In fact, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow, Maduro would probably win … again. That ten times as many people took to the streets on Wednesday to join him in “Remembering Chávez” than the number of those who have been protesting to overthrow Maduro will attest to this.
Meanwhile, is it any wonder that (pro-Aristide) Haitians are aping Venezuelan protesters by taking to the streets this week to overthrow their president, Michael Martelly, simply because they do not like the way he’s managing the country’s affairs?
Hell, if a president’s incompetent management of the economy and failure to protect citizens (not just from violent crime but also from trigger-happy riot police) were sufficient grounds to overthrow him, then surely victims of Hurricane Katrina had just cause to foment a Ukrainian-style uprising to overthrow President George W. Bush, no?
What never ceases to amaze me about these uprisings is that protesters who get their way always seem oblivious to the fact that supporters of the leaders they overthrow can do the same to the leaders they install. Nothing demonstrates this kind of naïve arrogance quite like Ukrainian protesters being shocked that, by overthrowing Yanukovych, they provided Russian President Vladimir Putin just the pretext he needed to invade their country -- in furtherance of his plainly delusional ambition of re-forming the former Soviet Union in his neo-Stalinist image.
Anyone familiar with my commentaries decrying the “Putinization of Russia” knows that I have no admiration for Putin. But as much as we rightly condemn his invasion of Crimea, we cannot deny his claim that the democratic revolution against Yanukovych amounted to “an unconstitutional coup,” which “freedom-loving people” everywhere, especially in the United States, should be condemning, not championing. In a similar vein, no matter the protesters’ legitimate claims against Maduro, we should be condemning their attempt to overthrow him.
Finally, Venezuelan protesters can be forgiven their resentment over the international media paying relatively little notice to their political antics.
But uprisings against Maduro competing for news coverage with Russians invading Ukraine is rather like Susan Boyle competing for tabloid coverage with Kim Kardashian. The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius (now aka the O.J. Simpson of South Africa) began on Monday. But even it is proving no ratings match for coverage of the drumbeats of war -- notwithstanding that news organizations themselves are the ones beating the loudest. Watching CNN, for example, you’d think World War III had already broken out between Russia and the United States and its reporters had to cover every salvo as “BREAKING NEWS.”
Frankly, the only thing more distressing than Putin invading Crimea is the way the Western media, with their warmongering coverage, have been goading Obama into retaliating with bombs … as if his manhood depended on it.