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realclearworld

Reports from Cuba’s Venezuela: Was the government ‘strengthened’ after the protests?

Juan Cristobal Nagel in Caracas Chronicles:

Was the government “strengthened” after the protests?

#LasSalidas

People who put all blame for the opposition’s current woes on the #LaSalida protests – we need a hashtag for them, can we call them the #2019 folks? – say that the street protests enden up “strengthening the government.” (Re. Masó, Fausto, last Sunday’s El Nacional).

Now, we can argue all we want about the wisdom of the #LaSalida movement, but it seems to me that claiming the government was strengthened would require showing, first off, that the government is strong. This line of thinking is having a very difficult time surpassing a little something called reality.

Case in point: the latest Datanalisis poll, published by well-known journalist and sometimes CC-nemesis Puzkas, among others. A sizeable majority of Venezuelans – 83% of us – think the country is in bad shape. The radicals, those of us who think the country is in really bad shape, are 43.5% of the population. And who do they / we blame for this? A majority blames the government. The same government the #2019 folks think came out “strengthened” by the street protests.

The numbers in the rest of the poll are equally damning. A majority of Venezuelans want Maduro to either resign or for a recall referendum to be called in 2016. And while only a very small portion believe a Constitutional Assembly is the way to go, the fact that a full 32.4% of Venezuelans want Maduro to resign speaks volumes about the proposals of the “radical fringe.”

The main cause of these dismal figures is the economic crisis. Most people now perceive their purchasing power has diminshed substantially. Scarcity and crime remain the two big issues on the agenda, and only chavista believers appear to give the government the benefit of the doubt. The government has lost both the opposition and the independents, and that’s a good two thirds of the population right there.

Look, we’re no fans of #LaSalida, but we also think putting the blame of our current woes on poor Sairam Rivas is an apalling lack of basic empathy. Leopoldo López may be many things, but he is not the reason why Maduro is still in power. People who keep repeating this are basically playing politics in favor of the opposition’s third-most popular leader. As many in the opposition think that we need to go out and convince people, my question is: convince them of what? That this is a terrible government? It seems as though we’re a bit late for that.

If the protests “strengthened the government,” tell us #2019 folks, what would Maduro’s numbers look like had the protests not happened? What, exactly, is your counter-factual?

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