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Deepening Authoritarianism in Venezuela

From the BBC last week:  Venezuela’s President Maduro moves nearer to decree powers

Venezuela’s National Assembly has paved the way to granting special powers for President Nicolas Maduro.

Under the measures the leader would be able to govern by decree for 12 months.

The bill still needs to be revised by a special commission and debated for a second time, but correspondents do not expect significant changes to be made.

Mr Maduro says he will use it to tackle corruption and the economic crisis. However, critics fear he may use it to silence the opposition.

[...]

President Nicolas Maduro first asked parliament in October to grant him special powers to fight corruption and what he called "economic sabotage".

The country is facing shortages of food and essential goods, power cuts and around 54% annual inflation.

The government recently seized many high street shops selling its merchandise at reduced prices, because they were allegedly overcharging consumers.

At the same time, via Reuters:  Venezuela Arrests 100 ‘Bourgeois’ Businessmen In Crackdown, Maduro Says

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that authorities had arrested more than 100 "bourgeois" businessmen in a crackdown on alleged price-gouging since the weekend.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    I’m sure that many observers thought that with Hugo Chavez out, we could see Venezuela take a different, more liberal and democratic course. Unfortunately for that notion, the world does not often work that simply.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Showing President Obama the progressive way forward ???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: a different, more liberal and democratic course.

    In one sense, that is a sentiment no one could dispute.

    However, run through American political filters, one could argue that Maduro is acting in very “liberal” and “Democratic” ways already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  4. @Jenos Idanian #13: This is an utterly ignorant statement.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    However, run through American political filters, one could argue that Maduro is acting in very “liberal” and “Democratic” ways already

    Yes, in the same way that most people see a lot of Ted Cruz, Reps. Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Blake Farenthold (Texas), David Roe (R-Tenn.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Roger Williams (Texas), Ted Yoho (Fla.) Louie Gohmert (Texas), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Bill Flores (Texas), Mark Amodei (Nev.), Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Steve Stockman (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) – in Maduro and Venezuela’s governing style these days. Please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. grumpy realist says:

    As much of a bully as Chavez was, the populace adored him and was willing to put up with the economic messes. Not so much for Chavez’s successor–which is why he’s trying to grab as much power as quickly as possible. Everyone has lost patience with Maduro and his economic ideas (the poor people because of the inflation and because they’re not getting the goodies they used to, the business sector because Maduro’s ideas are just plain nuts from a business viewpoint.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist:

    because they’re not getting the goodies they used to,

    Yes, like that extra special toilet paper they can’t get anymore.

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  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Could you please cite examples of any of those named worthies supporting moves anything like this move?

    The single biggest problem Venezuela faces is Really Bad Politics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @11B40: @Jenos Idanian #13:

    If you two could demonstrate your absolute ignorance any more clearly, I don’t know how.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: If you two could demonstrate your absolute ignorance any more clearly, I don’t know how.

    Well, we could admit that we actually believed Obama’s lies, that would seal the deal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I was thinking more of the subsidies for gas and food. Because Venezuela hasn’t been putting money into infrastructure, the amount of oil they can produce has dropped, with a knock-on effect on the cash the government has available otherwise.

    Plus there’s a wide gap between the official rate and the black market rate when it comes to dollar exchange. That’s never a good indication.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @al-Ameda: Could you please cite examples of any of those named worthies supporting moves anything like this move?

    The single biggest problem Venezuela faces is Really Bad Politics.

    Two points:

    (1) The ones I named are not “worthies” and, those I named are not interested in good governance, they’re interested in tearing down our system, they supported default to advance their goals, and they advocate impeachment to advance their cause.

    (2) I agree, Venezuela is in descent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Right. Let’s not talk about the substance of your allegations, let’s get all hung up on a pronoun. Because if we talk about what you actually said, you might have to admit you were demonstrating that you were… let’s see… what’s the term… “utterly ignorant.”

    Can’t have that, can we?

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  14. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @al-Ameda: Right. Let’s not talk about the substance of your allegations, let’s get all hung up on a pronoun. Because if we talk about what you actually said, you might have to admit you were demonstrating that you were… let’s see… what’s the term… “utterly ignorant.”

    “Utterly ignorant”?
    I certainly would use that term to describe the group of Republicans – the aforementioned – Reps. Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Blake Farenthold (Texas), David Roe (R-Tenn.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Roger Williams (Texas), Ted Yoho (Fla.) Louie Gohmert (Texas), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Bill Flores (Texas), Mark Amodei (Nev.), Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Duncan Hunter (Calif.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Steve Stockman (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) – who clearly favored the used of default to advance their anti-government goals. It was a very Third World type of tactic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Here’s a hint: repeating Stupid doesn’t make Stupid less Stupid.

    I specifically asked what those Representatives (you cool with that word?) had done or endorsed that came anywhere near the most recent specific action of authoritarianism carried out in Venezuela.

    And just for added irony, you can explain how a party who controls one-half of one-third of the government can be authoritarian. Yeah, they can keep things from happening, but positive assertions of authority? Nope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Of course, instead of getting all high and mighty that al-Ameda doesn’t worship the idiots you worship, how about you put your money where your mouth is and back up your own ridiculous claims with data.

    Keep in mind data are not antecdotes, political essays, or copying talking points from Jim Treacher. Data are verifiable statistics that shows Maduro is acting in a factually similar way to American liberalism.*

    *Known everywhere else as “political moderates.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Of course, instead of getting all high and mighty that al-Ameda doesn’t worship the idiots you worship, how about you put your money where your mouth is and back up your own ridiculous claims with data.

    I didn’t say they were heroes. Hell, I don’t know who half of them are. I just asked Al to back up his assertions. That you’re now defending his failure to do so says you don’t have any comparisons, either.

    Here, I’ll help: I’ll toss out a few examples of authoritarianism: President Obama deciding what laws mean, and what laws apply and what don’t.

    1) The postponement of the employer mandate of Obamacare past the legal date.
    2) The extension of the grandfathering past the legal date.
    3) The declaration that the War Powers Act only applies when the president says it does.
    4) Telling government contractors to ignore the requirements of the WARN Act when it came to the sequester, even offering to pay any of their legal bills for violating the law.

    “The law means what the government wants it to mean at that time” is a hallmark of authoritarian governments. And that’s also a hallmark of the Obama administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @al-Ameda: Here’s a hint: repeating Stupid doesn’t make Stupid less Stupid.
    I specifically asked what those Representatives (you cool with that word?) had done or endorsed that came anywhere near the most recent specific action of authoritarianism carried out in Venezuela.

    Look, I’m aware that in your world, supporting tactics that leverage an anti-government agenda into a possible downgrade in America’s bond rating, and a default on American debt securities is not a serious action, however to the rest of us it was dangerously irresponsible.

    Also, let’s not forget the “Stupid” stuff that prompted my response:

    However, run through American political filters, one could argue that Maduro is acting in very “liberal” and “Democratic” ways already.

    You seemed to be cool with that, right? Frankly, that’s no less “Stupid” upon review, than it was up above. You implied that the authoritarian actions implemented by a non-liberal, non-Democratic despot were “liberal” and “Democratic.” So, yes, you’re right, repeating “Stupid” certainly did not render it any less “Stupid.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Hey there are plenty of right-wing dictators around the world. You don’t need to try to slough off the hard-leftist dictators on the right, too.

    Chavez was a hero to a lot of people. Here in the US, nearly all those who thought he was heroic were quite firmly on the left. And this guy is trying to continue in Chavez’ image.

    Your notion of “anything bad must be right-wing” is laughably simplistic. Maduro is taking on the Greedy Capitalists and liberating their goods in the name of The People. He’s the Occupy movement writ large.

    And a lot of Democrats supported the Occupy movement.

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  20. walt moffett says:

    Another worrisome sign would be what looks like a cult around Chavez complete with miracles and divine guidance. Be interesting to see their history books in about 20 years or so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Your notion of “anything bad must be right-wing” is laughably simplistic. Maduro is taking on the Greedy Capitalists and liberating their goods in the name of The People. He’s the Occupy movement writ large.

    And a lot of Democrats supported the Occupy movement.

    LOL! So many Democrats supported the Occupy Movement that, how many? Zero were elected to Congress. Yes, it was a huge movement. I remember all those ‘Free Hugo’ rallies, and the “Maduro is next, deal with it” fundraisers that were very inspirational.

    Look, if you want to equate Maduro with American Liberals then well, go for it, that is your prerogative.

    It is also your prerogative to support the politicians who 2 years ago forced a downgrade in America’s bond rating, and 2 months ago were willing to leverage their objectives into a government shutdown and a second down grade and a possible default. To my knowledge I did not link those Republican idiots with a rant concerning the so-called evils of capitalism. I did however correctly pointed out that those Republican morons were willing to play games with America’s credit rating, and were also willing to cause a default to get what they wanted – that alone is anti-capitalist behavior.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. An Interested Party says:

    However, run through American political filters, one could argue that Maduro is acting in very “liberal” and “Democratic” ways already.

    That is about as accurate as arguing that Pinochet in Chile acted in very “conservative” and “Republican” ways…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @An Interested Party: That is about as accurate as arguing that Pinochet in Chile acted in very “conservative” and “Republican” ways…

    Yet that’s been argued many a time. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the Regular Gang Of Idiots (TM Mad Magazine) here had made it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yet that’s been argued many a time. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the Regular Gang Of Idiots (TM Mad Magazine) here had made it.

    Well we know one thing with certainty, one regular gang of idiots equated Maduro with acting in “liberal” and “Democratic” ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. @al-Ameda: One need not find commenters who saw Pinochet as a manifestation of certain conservative ideals. Unfortunately all one has to do is turn to any number of conservative commentators who commented on Pinochet’s death (for example, a bit of roundup here).

    I had some other examples at PoliBlog, that have , alas, been lost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    @al-Ameda: One need not find commenters who saw Pinochet as a manifestation of certain conservative ideals. Unfortunately all one has to do is turn to any number of conservative commentators who commented on Pinochet’s death (for example, a bit of roundup here).
    I had some other examples at PoliBlog, that have , alas, been lost

    I hear you Steven.
    To me it’s a lot like the overuse (inappropriate use) of Hitler Analogies when it comes to comparing what goes on in America to the actions and deeds of Hitler himself. We need to give it a rest, the original Hitler was bad enough.

    Finally, neither Hugo Chavez nor Maduro have an American equivalent, and “no” (all joking aside) North Korea is not a conservative Sunbelt paradise.

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  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Finally, neither Hugo Chavez nor Maduro have an American equivalent, and “no” (all joking aside) North Korea is not a conservative Sunbelt paradise.

    However, I’ve lost count of how many times on this very site I’ve read that Somalia is the libertarian ideal brought to life.

    And I feel I should point out that I used weasel words initially — I didn’t explicitly say Maduro is not that much different, just that it can be argued. And I opened with an agreement with the initial comment.

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  28. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    However, I’ve lost count of how many times on this very site I’ve read that Somalia is the libertarian ideal brought to life.

    Yes, by some libertarians, in fact. Just Google “Von Mises Somalia.”

    Indeed: I think you missed my point above: it isn’t that liberals point to Pinochet as an example of conservatism, it is that many conservatives claim Pinochet’s policies as their own.

    (I don’t, btw, see a lot of mainstream American liberals claiming Chavez or Maduro).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    However, I’ve lost count of how many times on this very site I’ve read that Somalia is the libertarian ideal brought to life.

    Well, it – Somalia – is certainly a Second Amendment Paradise
    (darn, there I go again!)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0