Francisco Toro debunks Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s NYT op-ed, focusing on his specious claim that Hugo Chávez and his movement “created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide”:
Yes, both the school system and the hospital network were overstretched, underperforming, and in need of reform by the time Chávez came to power in 1998, and yes, chavismo‘s reforms of both systems have been broadly popular. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about the successes and failures of those reforms.
But that conversation can’t happen when the government insists on a wholesale falsification of history, simply erasing the long, rich history of health and education reforms that in 1999 bequeathed Chávez the large and ambitious, albeit flawed, health and education systems that Maduro oversees today.
Maduro’s op-ed is strewn with similar whoppers, like his commitment to labor organizing rights, U.S. involvement in the 2002 coup, the vitality of Venezuelan democracy, and a call for “peace and dialogue.” None of these lines are new, either. Time and again, chavismo doesn’t so much bend the historical record as simply ignore it, and government propaganda employs words to mean the diametrical opposite of what the dictionary says they mean.
José Cárdenas calls Maduro’s professed desire for “dialogue” with protesters pointless:
Maduro doesn’t need a staged dialogue to resolve the crisis; the grievances are known to anyone who has read an article about Venezuela in the past year. Even he can figure that one out. First, he should demobilize and disarm the paramilitary groups and cease with the incendiary rhetoric against his fellow citizens. Then he could unilaterally quell the tensions by committing to credible and irreversible reforms that would restore to those who disagree with the government the institutional channels to express dissent. This would mean reforming the subservient Supreme Court, the electoral authority, the legislature, and the media, while at the same time reducing the state’s stranglehold on the private sector so it can start to replenish empty consumer shelves.
The problem is that such reforms are anathema to Maduro’s Cuban minders, who exert inordinate influence over his decisions — a dynamic that remains one of the protestors’ primary grievances. The Cubans know that they, along with the $6 billion a year in Venezuelan giveaways to the mendicant Castro brothers, are hugely unpopular and rightly see an end to such benefits, including two-thirds of the island’s oil needs, as an existential threat. To cede any ground to the opposition directly threatens the survival of the Castro regime. The violence will continue in Venezuela because the Cubans cannot have it any other way.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has turned on the government:
On Wednesday, the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, the council of the nation’s bishops that speaks for the Catholic Church, condemned the Maduro government’s implementation of an “authoritarian” agenda and questioned its “democratic profile.” In a communiqué, the bishops declared that the government “applies brutal repression on political dissidents” and seeks to attain peace by using “threats, physical or verbal violence, and repression.”
Church leaders also rejected the abusive judicial repression and persecution of opposition politicians. And, they criticized the lack of adequate public policies to address impunity, insecurity, and “attacks on domestic production,” which has led to a serious deterioration of economic conditions.