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Monday, April 10, 2017

To Our Leftist Friends, This Is What A Dictatorship Looks Like! Far From Anything We See In The US

Venezuela Socialists' election 

strategy? Block adversaries

People participate in an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela, April 8, 2017. The banner reads: 'S.O.S Elections right now!'.REUTERS/Marco Bello

By Brian Ellsworth | CARACAS
Venezuela's move to bar two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles from
public office for 15 years looked like an unusually brazen blow at the opposition
but is just the logical extension of a strategy that has emerged as the last, best hope
 of President Nicolas Maduro's Socialists for maintaining power.
A nearly identical maneuver was used ten years ago to halt the rise of former mayor
 Leopoldo Lopez, who in polls remains one of the most influential opposition
 leaders despite being jailed three years ago for his role in anti-government protests.
The situation suggests the Socialists may continue to lean on Comptroller
 Manuel Galindo, accused by the opposition of being a government puppet, to
 clear the playing field of potential challengers. The election, still unscheduled,
 must be held by the end of 2018.

Maduro is struggling under low approval ratings and Soviet-style product
 shortages, but so far the opposition has failed to find a way around the
 Socialists' domination of the top court and other state institutions that have
 found one excuse after another to sideline them.
Capriles, responding to the ban in the company of other opposition leaders,
signaled as much.
"My dear friends - Henry, Freddy, all of you who are here - today it's me, but
 tomorrow they'll come for you," he said, in reference to high-profile legislator
 Henry Ramos and deputy congress chief Freddy Guevara.
Other Maduro challengers include Julio Borges, a lawyer and long-time politician
who is currently the head of congress, and Henry Falcon, the governor of the
central state of Lara who defected from the Socialist Party.
None of the other opposition leaders have the profile or influence of Capriles
 or Lopez, and all could be subject to disqualification.
The government maintains that Capriles and Lopez are dangerous activists
 seeking to rile up crowds to prepare the ground for a foreign intervention
in Venezuela, home to the world's largest crude reserves.
    Some Latin American governments, the United States and international
 organisms harshly criticized the ban on Capriles, though they may lack
 leverage to get Venezuela to reverse it.
"(This move) is typical of a dictatorship that violates civil and political
rights," said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of
American States, who has called for sanctions against Venezuela if it
 does not hold elections.
Venezuelan authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
The move against Capriles may further radicalize opposition street protests,
which increasingly appear to be the only option available as they see
 themselves at growing risk of being sidelined.
But demonstrations have done little to dent Maduro's grip on state institutions
 including the armed forces and the Supreme Court, which briefly assumed
the powers of the opposition-led Congress in March before backtracking
 in the face of international condemnation.
Venezuelans struggle to make ends meet under triple-digit inflation,
ubiquitous supermarket lines and constant scrambles to find food and
medicine. Few economists expect a short-term improvement to the situation
because Maduro's government has repeatedly avoided reform measures such
as lifting the exchange controls that could bring back economic stability.
The elections council in recent months has required
opposition parties to "revalidate" themselves through
 petition drives in which they must collect a minimum
number of signatures or be dissolved.
The main parties say they collected the necessary
signatures to remain on the rolls, but they could still
be eliminated if the council in the coming months
 discards significant numbers of signatures as it has
in past petition drives.
Powerful Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello has also called for
the dissolution of the opposition's Democratic Unity coalition, which could
 leave Maduro's adversaries without a party platform in the 2018 vote.
The elections council, which has repeatedly favored Maduro's government,
 has not set a date for state governors' elections that were supposed to take place
last year.
Most believe the council will hold the presidential election, but many wonder
 aloud who will be able to run in it.
"This is a butcher shop and each of us has been given a number: some of us
 will be exiled, some of us will be detained, some of us will be disqualified,"
said Guevara, the legislator, in a recent press conference.
(Additional reporting by Girish Gupta; Editing by Christian Plumb and Mary