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Putin, Trump, Netanyahu: When Pure Narcissism Triggers Global Catastrophe

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on June 12, 2023

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Was it better before when dictatorships didn’t claim to be anything other than a dictatorship — or are we better off now when they pretend to be democracies? Who knows which is worse, but it’s a real question worth considering.

The new crypto dictatorships must, necessarily, limit their abuses and validate themselves with elections, though their faux lawfulness also makes it more difficult to fight them. We might call these revamped thug regimes “degraded” democracies, and cite Venezuela as a perfect example today.

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There, President Nicolás Maduro insists every day that he is no dictator, and the problem is with people like Rocío San Miguel — a lawyer and activist recently detained — who act as traitors, subversives and terrorists.

You are not just being asked to believe the tale of yet another plot underway against the Venezuelan state, but may even become an offender if you refuse to do so. Others recently arrested alongside San Miguel include soldiers, which does indicate that there is discontent among the military. Now, whether it is big or small, static or swelling, is also hard to say.

For reasons that are not yet clear, the dictatorship has not yet moved to arrest the country’s de facto opposition chief, María Corina Machado, whom the regime has accused of being the leading plotter. San Miguel is not as well known as Machado, which meant the international reactions to her arrest were subdued.

Any poll could produce an avalanche of anti-regime votes.

There is a problem for the rulers in any degraded democracy: the need to eventually hold elections, even if they will be a brazen sham. Take Cuba: they have elections all the time, which in times past were inevitably won by one or the other of the Castro brothers. You might say oppression is easy on an island, whereas today in Venezuela elections may prove risky and unpredictable.

The situation has evolved to the point where any poll could produce an avalanche of anti-regime votes, in spite of the restricted options and removal of the best known opposition names and candidates. So, if Corina Machado (currently banned) were to urge Venezuelans to vote for some unknown person, that candidate would romp to victory.

Social and every other type of media would help spread the word, even if the dictator will do all to stifle it and declare himself victor. In other words, while the country’s last ruler, the late Hugo Chávez was able to win himself votes, Maduro is not.

With the expulsion of UN human rights observers, one wonders, is more repression in the offing? It seems like it. For some reason people claim the regime is keen to hold elections “soon” even if no date has yet been given.

He could just say “No” to the whole thing.

Does the regime stand to gain anything from hastening elections? That is unlikely, and in any case, both the timing and holding of elections depend on Maduro’s whims. He could just say “No” to the whole thing. The other option is for him to take a path similar to the one taken by his compadre, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, meaning a full-blown clampdown. That would entail problems for the regime, which has already lost much of the foreign support it enjoyed.

One of the continent’s best respected socialist figures, the former Uruguayan president José Mujica, no longer has qualms about calling Maduro a dictator. Or as one Chilean journalist, Julio Salviat, has said, that plot Maduro denounces as “intended to oust him from power is called: holding free elections.”

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