Geopolitics

Is Venezuela Behind Latin America's Surge In Civil Unrest?

South American states like Chile and Ecuador suspect Venezuela's socialist regime of fanning rioting in their countries.

Protests earlier this month in Quito, Ecuador
Protests earlier this month in Quito, Ecuador
Luis Carlos Vélez

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — "What's happening in Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Honduras is just the first breeze," said the Speaker of Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. "A Bolivarian hurricane is coming."

The apparent threats a few days ago, following a series of popular uprisings in other Latin American states, are disconcerting, coming from this regime stalwart and crony of President Nicolás Maduro, also known for his rhetorical bluster. We should take note, as they state clearly his regime's intentions in the region. It was always evident that its founder, Venezuela's late president Hugo Chávez, wanted to export his tragic model across all of Latin America. Yet many of us imagine that Maduro's weakness and the international censure to which he is subjected will have dissuaded him from his late mentor's ambitions. We know today the plan is very much alive.

How is he doing it? By three ways: infiltration, social networks and exploiting local anger. The infiltrators: authorities in Colombia and elsewhere have been able to identify professional instigators from Venezuela in protests registered in the country. There are multiple reports on the presence of supposed members of Caracas' intelligence agency in the protests in Ecuador, while the government of Sebastián Piñera in Chile has indicators of some form of Venezuelan involvement in the excesses of recent street protests.

Secondly, online networking: For this I would recommend reading Antisocial, an extraordinary book by the journalist Andrew Marantz, in which he describes how online extremists hijacked the political debate in the United States and how easily the procedure is replicated worldwide. Our region has yet to talk about it, but we need to start this conversation or face the dissemination of more fake news that dupes the public and exposes it to manipulation by radicals. The tech giants meanwhile make millions in profits on the back of the carefree and the destruction of democracy as we know it. Facebook and Google are enriching themselves by acting as the engines of populists, and it is time now for them to take responsibility for their actions, or rather inaction.

There is a common element in Chile, Ecuador and Colombia: no desire to negotiate.

Thirdly: manipulating local disaffection. There is a common element in the case of Chile, Ecuador and Colombia, namely acting or provoking faits accomplis, without regard for dialogue or a desire to negotiate. In Chile, it was an increase in the price of public transport tickets, in Ecuador the removal of fuel subsidies and in Colombia, mainly, demands for more money for education. Protesters came onto the streets in droves before the conversation had really taken place, and forced back those measures by bringing their governments to their knees. Is throwing stones the new way of public discussion or voting?

To be clear, I am not saying all demonstrators are revolutionaries or that every act of protest is encouraged by the Venezuelan regime. I would affirm however that local problems and public anger are definitely being exploited using technology and its lack of oversight, and that Maduro-backed infiltrators are exacerbating the protests and pressuring democracies in Latin America. It is an explosive cocktail that, if we are not attentive, could blow up in our face.

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Society

A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.


Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?


The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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