During a protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.
During a protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.
Jorge Eduardo Espinosa

-OpEd-

Frustration is the lifeblood of dictatorship. Just look at what's happening in Venezuela.

President Nicolas Maduro recently declared that he had readied a decree to revoke the institutional immunity from criminal prosecution of "all public positions," including members of parliament of course. As you may recall, since the last elections in January, the majority in the Venezuelan Parliament are now members of the opposition coalition MUD (Table of Democratic Unity).

Much like in other countries, Venezuela's constitution decrees that only the Supreme Court can order parliamentarians detained and prosecuted; and then, only with the support of the majority of the Parliament.

That means that for Venezuelan law courts to deprive a legislator of his or her immunity, they would currently need the votes of the MUD. Clearly irked by the absence of a loyal majority in Parliament, Maduro's intention now seems to be to first deprive opponents of their immunity, then fabricate charges and evidence to have them jailed, come what may. These are the actions of an autocrat.

Dangerous descent

Maduro has argued that opposition lawmakers are abusing their immunity to commit a range of offenses and abuses. And he's right: In a dictatorship like his, criticizing and acting in opposition to the existing power is an offense and an abuse. This is not Maduro's first such ploy against the opposition. Since taking their seats in parliament, he has repeatedly refused to recognize the mandate given them by millions of Venezuelans through the ballot box. Every day, it seems, he is prepared to go further.

On September 2, Maduro tried to visit Porlamar, the most densely populated district of Isla Margarita, only to be heckled and have to face the classic pan-banging protest. An online news outlet called Reporte Confidencial was the first to report the incident. Mistake. Hours later, its director Braulio Jatar was detained by SEBIN, the security police. Reports from Venezuela indicate he is being held for an "open inquiry," a euphemism for "you'll stay here until you're quiet."

Jatar's offense and abuse was to report an embarrassing incident for Maduro and his retinue. It is not the first time time this happens. Last year the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), also under government control, ordered the cancellation of the radio program "Here Between You and I," directed by the journalist Nitu Pérez Osuna. Conatel argued the program was inciting people not to recognize the country's duly constituted authorities. Does that mean that any outlet that questions the government - or "duly constituted authorities" - is to be censored? Days before being silenced Péres Osuna had interviewed Colombia's former conservative president, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, whom the Venezuelan regime despies. That was the mistake.

Still, the journalist should be thankful she is not in one of SEBIN's dank cells. There are more documented cases like these.

Now that oil is no longer bringing in the revenues it used to, and people are getting tired of what is going on, and now that the opposition has a real chance of taking power, the frustration of an incompetent man like Maduro will take him to the only place he knows: that of repression, and more repression.

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