Maduro’s Political Theater

José Cárdenas calls the peace talks that began in Venezuela late last week a “scam” and warns the US not to fall for it:

What observers need to be aware of is that the opposition representatives arrayed around the negotiating table and those protesting in the streets are not one and the same. As I have written before, the protests began as spontaneous, organic eruptions of student discontent over street crime and economic hardship under chavismo. They were neither called for nor led by the organized opposition forces. As such, the latter does not have the power to turn them on or off depending on which crumbs the government decides to dole out.

All of this means that negotiations will not end Venezuela’s crisis — only real reforms will. Effective reforms would arrest the economic freefall wrought by the hare-brained statist policies of Maduro and his Cuban advisors, and re-establish credible institutions to channel discontent and foster real debate about the future of the country. The problem with that scenario is that to Maduro, all opposition is illegitimate and deserves no voice in the country’s affairs.

Javier Corrales analyzes the class politics of Venezuela’s crisis, disputing the government’s claim that the protesters are too bourgeois to represent the general population:

The claim that the protesters are “too middle class” implies a double criticism. The first is about values: The protesters are imputed to be embracing values that are somewhat elitist, or at least, unpopular among the bulk of Venezuelans, the so-called popular classes. The second is about politics: The protesters have failed to expand their political coalition. They remain circumscribed to a mere quarter of the population.

These criticisms deserve closer scrutiny. Venezuela has been classified as an “upper middle-income” country for decades. Furthermore, the government claims that the country has seen an expansion in the size of the middle class since 2004. In that case, observing that the protests are too middle class seems unworthy of note: What else would one expect from such a country? If there were going to be discontent, especially about governance issues, it would come from the middle classes.

Previous Dish on the Venezuelan crisis here and here.