Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Venezuela and Cuba - Partners in repression

Venezuela and Cuba: Partners in repression
By Editorial Board February 23 at 7:30 PM

LAST WEEK, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro paid a visit to Havana
and met with Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have been his patrons and who
helped to install him in power after the death of Hugo Chávez.
Mr. Maduro's political situation is desperate: As Venezuelans suffer
severe shortages of staple goods and soaring inflation, his approval
rating has dropped to 22 percent — and that's before the full impact of
falling oil prices hits a country dependent on petroleum for 96 percent
of its hard-currency revenue.

On his return from Havana, Mr. Maduro turned to a familiar tactic.
Intelligence agents stormed the residence of the elected opposition
mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and took him away to a military
prison. Mr. Maduro then delivered a three-hour rant on television in
which he accused the opposition leader of plotting a coup against him
with the help of the Obama administration. Needless to say, he had no
evidence to support this ludicrous charge.

If this sounds like a script borrowed from the Castro regime, that's
because it is. With Havana's encouragement, Mr. Maduro is trying to
shore up his crumbling support by concocting supposed threats from the
United States and using them to illegally imprison his leading
opponents. Mr. Ledezma follows several other mayors into captivity. With
him at the Ramo Verde prison is Leopoldo López, the opposition leader
who has been in military custody for more than a year.

The Castros, whose own crumbling economy depends heavily on supplies of
discounted Venezuelan oil, are simultaneously trying to sustain their
Caracas cash cow and line up new flows of dollars from the United States
by restoring diplomatic relations. Intent on carrying out a policy of
detente with Cuba that aides say was part of the ideological agenda he
brought to office six years ago, President Obama ignores this double game.

To be sure, the White House spoke out sharply against the arrest of
Mr. Ledezma and called the coup plot claims "baseless and false."
Following a mandate from Congress, the administration has sanctioned
several dozen Venezuelan leaders for involvement in drug trafficking and
human rights crimes and says it is considering additional steps.
However, the core U.S. policy toward the unfolding disaster in a country
that remains a major U.S. oil supplier has been to call on other Latin
American countries to do something.

Predictably, they haven't. Quick to pounce on right-wing governments
that violate democratic norms, Brazil, Mexico and Chile have
scrupulously avoided crossing the left-wing populist regime created by
Chávez. A delegation of ministers from the regional group Unasur, which
tilts toward Venezuela, is talking of returning to the country to
promote a "dialogue" but has yet to call for Mr. Ledezma's release.

The country with the most influence in Caracas is Cuba. U.S. officials
ought to tell the Castros that they need to choose between Mr. Maduro's
anti-American-themed repression and the new relationship with Washington
they say they want. As for Venezuela's president, U.S. officials ought
to seek his formal sanction under the Inter-American charter prohibiting
violations of democracy — and challenge Venezuela's neighbors to show
where they stand.

Source: Venezuela and Cuba: Partners in repression - The Washington Post

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