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2/13/14

The reason why Venezuela 2014 is not Venezuela 2002

There are side issues, such as the way yesterday's anti-government protest marches were organized in advance and coincided with both Venezuela's traditional Student's Day and therefore the pro-government marches set for that day. Also, back when the Chávez government so nearly fell in 2002 the next day saw more people on the streets and the day after more again, which is unlikely this time around (best guess: we'll see some action today/tonight, but lower level). But the major factor is simple:

The Maduro Government Is Not Sufficiently Unpopular

Note that I didn't write Maduro, but the Maduro government. It goes without saying that on a charisma scale Nicolás Maduro isn't a patch on the president that came before him. However, Venezuela 2002 saw Chávez and his government at a low point in popularity, the grand majority being against where he was taking the country. Here in 2014 Venezuela is arguably and roughly split down the middle, 50/50 (or 40/40 and 20 don't care if you prefer) and although I'd be the first to agree that it's by no means a healthy situation, it's not one that forments the toppling of a government. True for Venezuela, true for world history.

We're seeing a decent dose of wishful thinking from the media coverage of yesterday, but the fact (not speculation but fact) that a large chunk of the Venezuelan population supports the current government is given very short shrift; we only get to hear from those who "want change" (that very 21st century euphemism for something much darker). We're also seeing bad things from the Maduro government, such as the censorship of TV stations that covered the violence and the calls to arrest the supposed ringleader Leopoldo López. As I mentioned yesterday to a twitterfriend, no one is innocent. Longer term there's a decadence in Venezuela that its government must address to remain stable, but near-term don't expect the big changes that are currently getting hyped to you.

UPDATE: For those readers versed in Spanish, this post written by a university professor in Venezuela who was in the anti-Maduro march yesterday is well worth your time. Your author agrees with her.

UPDATE 2: Greg Weeks picked up on the same 'Update 1' post over at his blog and explains its main points in English, here.