The Sidewalk?

For Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.

As Brazil’s radical left threatens radical action to cripple any government other than Dilma’s or Lula’s, and as Ecuador’s Constitutional Court approves the request for a referendum to allow Rafael Correa to run for president again in 2017; in Venezuela, the minister of Defense and head of the Operational Strategic Command, Vladimir Padrino López, speaks about a “developing coup d’état” and about “political paramilitarism.” Most people’s attention drifted to the former. I’m much more concerned about the latter.

Speaking about political paramilitarism is declaring war against everything this partisan and partial Army considers a threat. He says this just a few days after ordering the delivery of weapons and strategies to the milicias bolivarianas, shock troop uniformed with badges with el finado’s crossed eyes. The minister warns about paramilitary groups as the government continues to give away weapons nobody will keep track of, that no one knows where they will end up. It doesn’t take powers of clairvoyance to guess they’ll end in the country’s already alarmingly well stocked market for illegal military-style weapons, one of the variables behind our out of control violence.

Democracy’s unconstitutional

But violence isn’t just homicide rates, it’s practiced in many ways. For one, the Supreme Tribunal is doing all it can, through the Constitutional Chamber, to invalidate any measure aimed at recovering democratic institutions. A decision was issued this Monday ruling out any constitutional amendment that seeks to reduce the presidential period from six to four years. The decision, made out by Arcadio Delgado Rosales, determined that any amendment to the Constitution can’t be retroactively or immediately applied, because that would mean an unquestionable violation of our sovereignty; so much for the respect to absolute non-retroactivity.

The National Assembly’s Speaker, Henry Ramos Allup, warned on Twitter about the decision – issued even before reading the definitive text – saying what’s partly necessary: “they deny the possibility of a constitutional, peaceful and electoral regime end.” If they block all democratic avenues while they denounce coups d’etat in development and get armed militias ready, it’s very clear who wants to increase Venezuela’s homicide rates under the excuse of protecting a “legitimate” government with 15% popularity.

And so, the Democratic Charter

Venezuelan deputies in the South American Parliament showed protest signs during the meeting in Uruguay with messages about the Recall Referendum and political prisoners. Calling this a protest is an exaggeration. But the bigger story is that a delegation from the National Assembly is travelling to Washington next April 28 to meet with the Organization of American States’ secretary general, Luis Almagro, to talk about the mechanisms contemplated by the OAS to protect Venezuelan democracy. The OAS, formed by 34 countries, demands the approval of 18 states to convene the Permanent Council and introduce a resolution on Venezuela’s situation, and the approval of 24 states could allow the application of the Democratic Charter. This is a matter of lobbying and influence.

Electoral cynicism

This Sunday the National Electoral Council issued a statement that shows the extent of cynicism and shamelessness the PSUV officials are capable of. The protest by opposition deputies who physically chained themselves to apply pressure to obtain the signature collection forms to call for the Referendum, was labeled by the CNE as an illegal use of constitutional privileges, also saying that they’d evaluate legal actions against the deputies. They condemn the violence “that’s been let loose against them” as they praise the Army for violently kicking out protesters and journalists covering the event.

So this Monday, Carlos Correa, head of the NGO Espacio Público, reminded the authorities that it’s the obligation of the government’s security forces to isolate individuals who promote violence, to guarantee the legitimate right for peaceful protest; Marco Ruíz from the National Press Workers’ Union, indicated the government that union workers are not part of the conflict, that they’re doing their job and feel unprotected and vulnerable.

Everyone’s vulnerable

A march was called for Wednesday the 27th to demand that the CNE – at several of its regional offices countrywide – provide the form to activate the Recall Referendum. Governor Henrique Capriles issued a statement on the matter, guaranteeing that Nicolás will be the first president to be revoked in the country’s history, obstinately repeating that the solution to the crisis is not social unrest or a coup, but the recall referendum.

That’s why I don’t buy his suggestion that we should “march on the sidewalks” if necessary. After a month and a half waiting for the procedure to start, it’s going to do no good to march on the sidewalks. Peaceful protest is a right and must be exercised. With all the risks involved in facing partisan Armed Forces that favor chavismo shock troops by inaction. CNE’s statement is yet another threat, it’s a warning that protesters will be met with more officers and enabled savages.

Maybe Nicolás stays until 2019, but many Venezuelans won’t: due to lack of medicine or food, crime rates, being opposition supporters, the combined probabilities of these variables, and chavismo’s obduracy in denying what’s necessary: a constitutional end for a corrupt and inefficient government.

No, we can’t march along the sidewalks.

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