“After nearly a month of anti-government protests and street clashes, the one figure who may be capable of guiding Venezuela out of its crisis is a bearded, disheveled 24-year-old who lives with his parents,” Nick Miroff writes for The Washington Post:
Juan Requesens, a student leader, has leapt in recent weeks from campus politics to the swirling center of Venezuela’s worst unrest in a decade. A talent for public speaking has driven his rise, but perhaps just as appealing: He is not one of the well-established opposition politicians Venezuelans already know.
“A strategy of escalating confrontation will just give the government the chance to discredit us, and continue with more repression,” he told Miroff:
He and the other student leaders around him also fear that provocateurs may try to infiltrate their marches to spark violence and scare away the ordinary Venezuelans they need to join them.
In tone and strategy, Requesens is aligned with opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost the presidential election to Chavez in November 2012 and was narrowly defeated by Maduro in last April’s special election following Chavez’s death. They are the moderate branch of the anti-government opposition, in contrast to the more hardline wing led by congresswoman Maria Corina Machado and former Caracas municipal mayor Leopoldo Lopez, who has been jailed at a military prison since the government arrested him February 18, accusing him of inciting violence.
Requesens and his allies see Lopez and Machado’s call for Maduro to resign or be removed as a dead end.
“Yet the riots do not portend a Venezuelan Spring,” says one observer. “For the government they are a welcome deflection of public attention from a faltering economy and rising crime. They may even invigorate this flaccid dictatorship,” author and journalist Rafael Osío Cabrices writes for The New York Times:
Beyond the students who started the protests, there are two main strands within the opposition. One is a group of hard-liners led by María Corina Machado, a congresswoman from an opposition stronghold in Caracas, and Leopoldo López, a former mayor of the anti-Chavista neighborhood of Chacao. They want the government to fall; their crowd is active in the streets and spews insults on Twitter at Chavistas and moderate anti-Chavistas alike. (Mr. López has been in military custody since Feb. 18 on charges of inciting violence.) Another opposition force is trying to keep alive the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Roundtable), an umbrella group of anti-Chávez parties that believes in institutional politics.
“There is no group backing Venezuela’s protesters like the Muslim Brotherhood, with a platform, a network and the logistics to overthrow the current government,” Cabrices argues:
Despite what the Chavistas in power claim, repeating the tired leftist line about American meddling, these rallies and riots are not a conspiracy to topple an elected government. The hard-liners in the opposition who want regime change cannot drive Mr. Maduro from office, much less replace the sprawling Chavista establishment. The military remains firmly aligned with Mr. Chávez’s heirs.
“For the communicational hegemon, it’s easy to disappear the large, day-time protests and paint the entire movement as the outcome of a tiny, violent guarimbero clique,” says Francisco Toro, a Venezuelan journalist and co-author of Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era.
The cabin fever of the guarimba has given the protest movement a blinkered, inward looking, tribal flavor that guarantees its failure. The radical fringe that runs it is entirely indifferent to the need to reach out to the politically unaffiliated people the opposition needs to win over to really challenge the government. …
With its image increasingly defined by its least appealing members, it’s little surprise that the protest movement has failed to build meaningful alliances outside the opposition base. People in working class neighborhoods, whether urbanizaciones populares or barrios, see the protest movement as something alien, different, not about them, not by people like them and certainly not for people like them.
As protests continue in Venezuela, the country’s economy remains stagnant with inflation above 50 percent and companies struggle with increased regulation and currency controls. Join a group of experts as they discuss the prospects for the country’s economy and its oil sector amid political unrest.
Javier Corrales, Professor of Political Science, Amherst College
Alejandro Grisanti, Head of Research and Strategy for Latin America, Barclays Capital Inc.
Luisa Palacios, Head of Latin America Macro and Energy Research, Medley Global Advisors
Christopher Sabatini, Senior Director of Policy; Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly; Americas Society/Council of the Americas (Moderator)
Registration Fee: This event is complimentary for all registrants. Prior registration is required. Registration is NOT required to view the webcast.
Event Information: Guillermo Zubilllaga | email@example.com | 1-212-277-8362