You may recall roughly a week ago when we discussed a group of protesters who had torn down a statue of former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez, smashing it and setting fire to it in the streets. It was a relatively small but symbolic measure which seemed to demonstrate how fed up some of the starving citizens are with the failure of socialism in their country. If you pulled off a stunt like that in the United States you might face some sort of misdemeanor charges in court and possibly a fine to pay for the damages. In Venezuela, however, it lands you in a military tribunal on your way to disappearing into one of President Nicolas Maduro’s dungeons. (New York Times)
But when the authorities rounded up suspects for the vandalism, they were not taken to an ordinary court. Instead, they were hauled off to a military base, where they faced the judges of a military tribunal this past week.
President Nicolás Maduro, beleaguered by a second month of protests against his rule, has prosecuted political rivals under terrorism laws and expanded his powers by emergency decrees. His backers on the Supreme Court have even tried to dissolve the national legislature, which is led by the political opposition.
Now, the president is turning to military courts to tighten his grip further, prosecuting demonstrators and other civilians in tribunals that the government closely controls.
Maduro is following the playbook of other tyrants facing the collapse of socialism page by page. The anger in the streets against his failed regime is so intense that protesters might not be convicted in a jury trial handled through the regular order of civilian law enforcement. So instead, the troublemakers are being rounded up and taken off to face a court martial in an environment which the government can closely control. This has already happened to protesters who also have nothing to do with the military, including students, farmers and shopkeepers. One leader of a legal group representing some of the protesters described it as civil jurisdiction being put in the hands of the military, “like we are in a war.”
It’s an apt description because the citizens are effectively in a state of war with their own government. As we previously saw, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was seized and put before one of those military tribunals in 2014 and sent to a heavily fortified prison. After refusing to come out and pitch the government line this year, decrying the protests and calling for peace, Lopez was reportedly beaten badly and simply disappeared. His family hasn’t seen him in over a month and some reports claim that he’s dead.
Meanwhile. the desperate citizens are gamely continuing the protests. In at least some cases this had included elderly pensioners facing down Maduro’s militias in confrontations which quickly turned violent. (Reuters)
Elderly Venezuelan protesters on Friday threw punches and yelled curses at riot police blocking the latest in six weeks of demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
Riot police with helmets and shields used pepper gas several times to control the crowd as hundreds of pensioners jostled against security lines to attempt a march from a Caracas square.
“Respect the elderly you sons of bitches!” shouted one bearded man, throwing a punch at an officer on the front line.
The fact that these were gray haired retirees made no difference whatsoever. The militias hit them with tear gas and beat them down all the same. The chaos continues in Venezuela and it’s getting worse rather than better. We’re not yet at the point of calling this a full blown revolution and there may still be hope for elections and a somewhat peaceful resolution, but those hopes are growing fainter by the week. If it goes to a worst case scenario it still shouldn’t come as any great surprise. This is how socialism ends and everyone should continue to watch this closely if we’re to learn any lessons for the future.