3 de marzo de 2014

Para entender Venezuela vs. Venezuela y anexos

Cuando los ricos protestan
Por Luis Britto García. Caracas, Venezuela - Cubadebate, 3 de marzo, 2014

1. Decía el novelista colombiano William Ospina que en todo el mundo los ricos celebran y los pobres protestan, mientras que en Venezuela los pobres celebran y los ricos protestan. Nuestros privilegiados se sublevan contra todo el que gana elecciones: en catorce años el bolivarianismo triunfó en 18 de 19 consultas inobjetables. La oposición las desconoció todas, salvo un referendo donde obtuvo pírrica victoria, o aislados triunfos en elecciones locales. En los comicios del 8 de diciembre de 2013 los bolivarianos ganaron 240 de 337 alcaldías: no es raro que los disturbios se concentraran primero en 18, luego en 8, finalmente en 6 alcaldías opositoras de población de clase media. No es gran hazaña bloquear a los vecinos acomodados con barreras de basura incendiada bajo la solícita protección de autoridades y policías locales. Algunos sicarios abalean a sus propios manifestantes por la espalda o abaten bolivarianos desde edificios. Incendian medio centenar de metrobuses y varias centrales eléctricas. Caen víctimas de ambos bandos: lo que interesa al sicariato es la víctima, materia prima para las transnacionales de la desinformación. Adoradores de la muerte ahorcan muñecos como los que anuncian las atrocidades del Cartel de Sinaloa.

2. Comenta sagazmente Alejandro Fierro que “De ser cierto el relato de los medios internacionales sobre el hartazgo de la juventud, hace tiempo que el chavismo tendría que haber sido derrotado en las urnas, puesto que el 60% de la población venezolana tiene menos de 30 años”(Other News, 20-2-2014). Reciente encuesta de GIS XXI aporta datos esclarecedores: 79% de los jóvenes entre 14 y 24 años estudia; 67% de ellos en instituciones públicas y gratuitas. 90% considera que los estudios le aportan muchas o bastantes oportunidades. 73% aprecia que el mejor sistema es la bolivariana democracia participativa; 6%, la democracia representativa, 6% la dictadura. 60% piensa que el mejor sistema económico es el socialista; 21% el capitalista. Añadamos que nueve millones y medio de venezolanos -uno de cada tres- estudia, y uno de cada diez en Educación Superior. Si la mayoría del estudiantado apoyara la protesta, el gobierno caería en horas bajo el empuje de la tercera parte de la población. Pero según el Guinnes World Book Records 2008, somos para ese año el país más feliz del mundo. De acuerdo con la Encuesta Gallup 2010, somos el quinto país más próspero del mundo. Conforme al Happy Planet Index, Venezuela presenta para 2010 una marca de Bienestar Experimentado de 7.5 sobre 10, lo cual la empata con Suiza y lo coloca apenas por un decimal por debajo de Noruega. En una década hemos disminuido la pobreza en más de treinta puntos; somos el país con menor desigualdad social de la Latinoamérica capitalista. No es un cuadro de frustración o falta de expectativas. Masivas manifestaciones de mujeres, estudiantes y campesinos bolivarianos recorren el país sin que las agencias internacionales las registren. En Venezuela alborota una minoritaria combinación de lumpen violento con clase media que sólo respeta elecciones cuando las gana.

3. Encuesta publicada el 24 de febrero por Hinterlaces arroja todavía más luz. 42% de los consultados opina que Maduro debe concluir su mandato; 29% considera que sólo podría salir por referendo revocatorio; apenas 23% elige la opción de “salir a la calle”: una mayoría de 71% apoya por tanto la institucionalidad. Sobre la economía del país, 35% reclama “mano dura contra los acaparadores y especuladores”; 29% “una alianza entre gobierno nacional y empresa privada”; de nuevo apenas un minoritario 22% se pronuncia por la “salida ya” del Presidente.

4. La dirigencia de cuarentones que promueve disturbios no sólo no representa a la juventud ni a la mayoría del país: ni siquiera representa la mayoría de la oposición. Leopoldo López, quien desencadena la violencia el 12 de febrero azuzando una multitud para que destruya el edificio de la Fiscalía y luego desaparece, llegó de tercero en las elecciones primarias para candidaturas presidenciales. María Corina Machado, febril partidaria de la línea incendiaria, no obtuvo ni 2% de la votación en ellas. Ambos compiten en riña de protagonismo para arrebatarle el liderazgo de la ultraderecha a Capriles, quien declaró que el gobierno no se conquista con disturbios de calle, luego de haber convocado uno que dejó una docena de muertos. No respetan la democracia ni siquiera entre ellos.

5. En 2002 el gremio patronal Fedecámaras impuso por golpe de Estado a su Presidente como dictador por 72 horas; intentó quebrar al país con un cierre de empresas o lock out de más de dos meses y cortó la distribución de alimentos. La actual oleada de violencia arranca después de que el empresariado desvanece en importaciones fantasmas 50.000 millones de dólares que el gobierno les otorga con tasa de cambio privilegiada; luego de que los negociantes inician una guerra económica con desabastecimientos estratégicos y sobreprecios usurarios, y en cuanto el gobierno la contrarresta con una Ley de Precios Justos que fija tope de 30% al beneficio comercial ¿Las protestas reclaman otros 60.000 millones de dólares vaporizables? ¿Legalizar beneficios de 1.500%? ¿Una nueva dictadura?

6. ¿O son desesperado llamamiento al Golpe de Estado o la intervención extranjera? El último y más violento foco de disturbios se concentra en algunos municipios del fronterizo estado Trujillo, puentes de una prolongada infiltración paramilitar ¿Excusa una invasión que secesione el rico Occidente de Venezuela? ¿La recolonización de la Patria de Bolívar? Todo se puede esperar de quien cree tener derecho a todo sin contar con el voto de nadie.

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Venezuela: In search of a solution
By John Paul Rathbone, Andres Schipani and Marc Frank, Financial Times, March 2, 2014

Until this month, Angel Vivas was a little-known figure who had retired from Venezuela’s armed forces seven years ago after he refused orders from Hugo Chávez, the then president, to swear the Cuban-inspired oath: “Fatherland, Socialism or Death”.
Today the 57-year-old former general is a hero to many anti-government protesters. He regularly berates the Venezuelan government on Twitter for being a Cuban satrapy and supplying Havana with billions of dollars of subsidised oil.
Last month, President Nicolás Maduro ordered his arrest on national television because he had advised protesters to stretch wire across the streets to stop pro-government motorcycle gangs. With a semi-automatic rifle and pistol and wearing a flak jacket, Mr Vivas had climbed on to the roof of his Caracas house.
“I’m never going to surrender,” he shouted down to supporters who quickly saw off the “Cuban and Venezuelan henchmen”, as Mr Vivas described the security detail sent to arrest him. More than a week later, protesters maintain a protective vigil around his home and the number of Mr Vivas’s Twitter followers has soared to 240,000.
The stand-off encapsulates much of the drama that has engulfed Venezuela. At least 17 people have died in the most serious challenge to Mr Maduro’s government since he won presidential elections by a whisker last April following the death of Chávez, his charismatic predecessor.
More than anything, Mr Vivas’s moment has highlighted communist Cuba’s close ties with socialist Venezuela – often taken as a symbol by the opposition, and many in the US, of everything that is most wrong with modern Venezuela.
Urged on by the example of Ukraine, students and the more radical wing of the anti-government opposition have taken to the streets. Their complaints centre on government repression, media censorship and the chronically mismanaged economy bequeathed to Mr Maduro by Chávez.
Although Venezuela sits on the largest energy reserves in the world, lack of investment has seen oil production fall by almost a fifth over the past decade to 2.5m barrels a day, according to Bloomberg. Prices are rising at the almost hyperinflationary rate of 56 per cent a year. One in four basic goods is missing from supermarket shelves, while rationing cards – another Cuban reminder – are in use in some government shops.
Yet the value of the Venezuelan relationship to Cuba, whose centrally planned economy is kept afloat by Venezuelan oil, means that Havana has the most at stake in helping find a peaceful solution to a crisis that has brought parts of the country to a standstill.
“No other country is so well placed to mediate in Venezuela, except perhaps Brazil . . . and no other country has more to gain than Cuba,” says Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue think-tank.
Furthermore, mediation could enhance Cuba’s regional standing just as Venezuelan volatility prompts Havana to seek new allies – even to the extent of trying to mend fences with Washington. Such moves could radically redraw the region’s often divisive left-versus-right politics.
It may also be Venezuela’s best hope. Mr Maduro, a former bus driver, cuts a charmless profile in public and has struggled to resolve the bitter factional infighting of the ruling socialist party. He has so far rebuffed other countries’ attempts at mediation, in part as it would be seen as a sign of weakness.
US efforts were taken as examples of imperial interference and prompted Venezuela to expel three American diplomats, although Caracas said it still wanted to maintain “high level relations with the US”.
Chile and Colombia, both US allies, have urged dialogue, but even their mild remarks received an angry response. Regional groups such as the Union of South American Nations have issued only tepid declarations on the need for both sides to find a non-violent solution. Pope Francis and Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, have called for an end to violence.
Nonetheless, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president, was in Cuba last week touring Brazilian investments on the island and holding talks with Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president, with the Venezuelan crisis high on the agenda. As Stratfor, the risk consultancy, said in note to clients on Thursday, this “diplomatic initiative bears close attention”.
Potentially at stake for both Cuba and Venezuela is a relationship so close that Chávez, an ardent admirer of Fidel Castro, once suggested the two countries be renamed “Venecuba”. Western security officials add that Mr Maduro also fell under the Cubans’ spell when he travelled to the island as a teenager for training in union organization.
The commercial importance of the relationship to Cuba is such that the oil-for-doctors programme, under which Caracas sends 115,000b/d to Havana in return for 30,000 doctors, accounts for 40 per cent of total Cuban trade. It provides Havana with an implicit subsidy worth $2.7bn a year, according to a recent paper by Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban central bank official now at Javeriana University in Cali, Colombia.
Its loss could shrink the Cuban economy by up to 8 per cent, calculates Mr Vidal. Although a fraction of the 35 per cent fall Cuba suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban economy is far weaker now. State salaries are worth a third of their levels in 1989, so the pain will be felt more keenly.
“After the sickness and subsequent death of President Hugo Chávez, the risks and consequences of a possible collapse in relations have to be put on the table,” wrote Mr Pavel.
At risk for Venezuela is a medical programme in the slums led by Cuban doctors – imported, like so much else in Venezuela – that helps maintain the government’s popularity. Cuban officials also provide security and intelligence to an administration better known for incompetence and corruption. “The Cubans are different,” says Professor John Kirk, a Cuban health expert at Dalhousie University in Canada. “The manner in which they treat their patients . . . the austere conditions under which they live . . . are all very different from their Venezuelan counterparts.”
The importance that both countries attach to this mutual relationship was on show last month when Mr Castro closed a speech with stirring words about Cuba’s continued support for Venezuela. Two days earlier, Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s oil and economy minister, pledged continued mutual support. “Our ties are only going to get closer,” he said.
. . .
Increasingly, however, that does not seem to be the case, which is another reason why it is in Cuba’s interest to play a constructive role. Venezuela’s economic pro­blems, now making themselves ap­parent as the black market exchange rate soars to 14 times the official rate, have prompted Cuba to seek new markets for its medical diplomacy.
For some analysts, this opens the possibility of driving a wedge between Caracas and Havana, which could reshape regional geopolitics. Cuba is already playing an important role facilitating peace talks in Havana between the Colombian government and Farc guerrillas.
“The Cubans have always known Venezuela would be a reckless partner . . . they are already seeking new partners,” says Christopher Sabatini, senior policy analyst at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
Brazil hired 6,000 Cuban medics in 2013 with another 4,000 expected this year. As usual, Brasília pays the Cuban government for the services, which pays the doctors a smaller sum and pockets the difference.
In recent agreements with Ecuador and some African states such as Angola, Cuba has found employment for around 12,000 medics, about a third of the number in Venezuela. Simultaneously, Venezuela’s sagging oil output appears to have prompted cutbacks. Last month, Mr Ramirez told reporters that exports to Cuba had dropped to 70,000b/d.
Venezuela’s problems are “precisely why Cuba has tried – in its own prickly, nationalistic way – to open the door to the US, and why the US needs to move forward rapidly with its rapprochement [to Cuba]”, argues Mr Sabatini. “If the US can ease the sense of insecurity that’s guiding Cuban actions in Venezuela, they will be in a better place to cool the Venezuelan situation and to play a constructive role in the processes of change in Cuba, too.”
. . .
The prospect of Cuba helping to deliver a peaceful solution in a Venezuela that is split between pro and anti-government forces seems improbable, especially as Havana is better know for suppressing dissent than fostering dialogue. On Tuesday a group of protesters marched on the Cuban embassy in Caracas chanting “I don’t want a dictatorship like Cuba’s”.
Both sides stress the need for dialogue and peaceful protest, yet still see each other as adversaries to be pummeled into the ground rather than opponents to be reasoned with. When government supporters, for example, say the opposition is trying to provoke a coup, and denounce the protesters as “unconstitutional”, the opposition points out that the government celebrates Chávez’s own coup attempt in 1992.
Nonetheless, the incentives for a negotiated solution are there. There is little sign that the government is about to fall. It still enjoys solid support among the poor, controls the oil industry, the judiciary, the army and much of the media. But it is not invulnerable. There are schisms within its ranks, and the deteriorating economy drains popular support.
Mr Hakim suggests that in a negotiated settlement the government will need to disband armed militia groups, release those imprisoned for taking part in street protests, loosen restrictions on the media and allow greater measures of free political activity. What it would gain in return is an “end to turmoil in the streets and the opportunity to govern”.
The opposition would have to give up any aspirations of ousting Mr Maduro and wait two years for a recall referendum. In return, it would “gain greater security and some of the room it needs to carry out its political activities”, says Mr Hakim.
General disorder further complicates the possibility of fruitful dialogue. Neither the government nor the more moderate figures in the opposition, such as Henrique Capriles, the former presidential candidate, fully control their more radical wings.
Still, Cuba has a strong incentive to push the government to try. That is especially so as Cuban medics train Venezuelan doctors to take their place, and the oil-for-doctors programme runs down, forcing Havana to find new sources of revenue and curry new friends.
As Mr Maduro commented ruefully at a gradation ceremony for 6,000 Venezuelan doctors last March: “In about six years, our Cuban brothers will begin to go.”