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Freedom by the Numbers: Venezuela and the Significance of 1
There’s no denying that the numbers out of Venezuela are bad all around these days. If there’s any room for hope, it’s this diminutive digit: 1.
That is the percentage of verified voter signatures that Venezuela’s beleaguered democratic opposition has needed to push forward a recall referendum on socialist President Nicholas Maduro.
In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that “Marxist Socialism is not yet buried but its epitaph can now be written. It impoverished and murdered nations. It promoted lies and mediocrity. It persecuted faith and talent. It will not be missed.”
Unfortunately, socialism’s failures in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not deter Venezuela’s leftists, buoyed by once-high oil prices, from taking a shot. For more than 15 years citizens have suffered from the failed socialist experiments of the late President Hugo Chavez and his hand-picked successor Maduro.
Shortages of food and basic goods are now widespread. Riots and looting are on the rise, along with inflation. Expropriations of business and private property are now commonplace, as is a two-day work week for public employees due to rolling electricity blackouts. Meanwhile, fundamental political rights and civil liberties have been eroded significantly.
As Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States, put it just last week, “Venezuela should be one of the most prosperous and influential countries in the region. Instead, it is a state mired in corruption, poverty and violence.”
Despite government resistance, proponents of the recall referendum declared a first-round victory last Friday when they announced that they had met — and indeed exceeded — the 1 percent mark. Nearly 200,000 signatures were needed. More than 400,000, they claimed, had been verified.
The road for Venezuela’s opposition is still long and uphill. Getting to 1 percent only opens the door to a second signature drive requiring 20 percent of eligible voters, or nearly four million people, to get a recall on the ballot.
Nevertheless, you have to admire the determination to use the few levers of democracy they have left to push back against an increasingly authoritarian regime. I hope they succeed.
Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
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Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner died this week. His death holds a message for Americans and for China.
Release of Chinese Political Prisoner a Timely Reminder to Support Freedom Advocates Abroad
More than half the world’s population still lives in countries where basic political rights and civil liberties are only partly respected, if at all.
Bringing Freedom to the Forefront of 21st Century Politics
Is the global liberal democratic order in danger? Purposefully constructed in the aftermath of World War II, this order -- and the American leadership that is central to its success --has contributed to securing peace and expanding prosperity in the United States and around the world. Today, that order appears to be dissolving. This crisis is not new or sudden; it has been mounting for several years. Global challenges like authoritarian capitalism, violent extremism, demographic pressures, and displaced populations have placed global freedom in decline. Fraying traditional alliances united by core values of freedom are increasingly weak to respond. It is alarming that the downdraft in democratic resilience over the past decade or more includes countries that have long been part of the consolidated democratic West. This is democratic deconsolidation. In much of the Western world, we see a rise in demagogic populism, illiberalism, nationalism, protectionism, and waning conf
The Importance of Speaking Truth to Tyrants
What the president of the United States says matters. Even during the realpolitik policies of détente under Richard Nixon, it was still clear that American policy was based on a set of core values. Nixon’s practical goals of reaching deals with America’s adversaries was never based on the “great chemistry” with himself or praising the Soviet or Communist Chinese leadership doing a “fantastic job.” When the president aligns himself with the autocrats and dictators, he aligns America with their oppression. He sends a message that corruption and brutality are not our concern. Contrast that with how Ronald Reagan defied much of world opinion in calling out the brutality of the Soviet system. Natan Sharansky, then a refusenik imprisoned in a Soviet gulag, later wrote for the Weekly Standard of his thoughts on Reagan’s pronouncement that the USSR was an evil empire: “It was the great, brilliant moment whe