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No Room For Dissent: Democracy At Stake In Venezuela

After opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed, the Maduro government is now targeting another political nemesis, Maria Corina Machado. The world must take notice.

Machado at a public rally in June
Machado at a public rally in June
El Espectador


BOGOTA — Thanks to a malleable and compliant justice system, Venezuela's socialist regime is about to silence another and perhaps the most outspoken of its political critics: former conservative legislator María Corina Machado.

Like Leopoldo López, a party colleague jailed months before, Machado is accused of taking part in a supposed plot to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro. Everything suggests that the state appartus put in place by former President Hugo Chávez, who died last year after 14 years in power, will succeed in pushing this awkward, combative opponent out of its way — for now at least.

Venezuelan prosecutors say Machado's emails were found to contain messages linking her directly to the alleged assassination scheme. She denies all charges. Another "suspect" in the plot, a political consultant named Pedro Burelli, has already used Google documents to show what he says is blatant forgery of the prosecutors' evidence.

Burelli and other critics, including leaders in the Catholic Church, say the real source of these charges is the regime's determination to take out its active opponents, one by one. Some of those opponents have fled ahead of any possible prosecution. Examples include former Chávez challengers Henrique Salas Romer and Manuel Rosales. Another regime rival, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, spent jail time before being released and running for president, first against Chávez in 2012 and then, after the Venezuelan leader died of cancer, against Maduro last year.

Leopoldo López, a former mayor of the Chacao district in Greater Caracas, was arrested 10 months ago. He is barred from political activity, meaning he won't be allowed to compete for leadership when and if he leaves prison. López took part in February 2014 in a protest that led to several deaths, arrests and torture. The demonstration was part of a string of protests that claimed dozens more victims, many of them students.

Good timing

At the time, Machado and López were working together, promoting street action as a way to channel opposition discontent. Regime critics have plenty to complain about, starting with crime, supply shortages of consumer goods, unchecked inflation and corruption. The state accused López of instigating the protests. Nearly a year later his legal situation remains unclear. In vain, the UN and several international bodies and personalities have asked the government to release him.

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Por siempre? Photo: JokaMadruga

The government is keener instead to move against Machado. First to attack her was Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of Venezuela's unicameral parliament. Cabello lambasted Machado, a member of the parliament, for violating the institution's rules when, in March 2014, she joined a Panamanian delegation in addressing the Organization of American States. Cabello moved to have her dismissed from her seat. Machado, who had made a number of high profile trips and appearances abroad, was also barred from leaving the country.

Then came the accusation that Machado plotted to kill the president. Last week, she appeared before state prosecutors. She was later released but could very well end up in jail. There is a separation of powers in Venezuela, but events seem to follow a familiar script. The executive branch first publicly launches accusations at an opposition politician, state prosecutors then set about compiling formal charges, and the entire process is ultimately confirmed by the Supreme Court. Go figure!

The Maduro government sees this as an oportune time to prosecute Machado given how deeply divided the opposition is. One sector, led by Governor Capriles, prefers dialogue. Capriles and his allies want to avoid giving the government pretexts for a clampdown. The other group, led by López and Machado, has opted for street protests.

But with so much at stake, what's left to be done? The only path is to continue to pressure the Venezuelan government to respect due process and stop persecuting its opponents!

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

Keep reading...Show less

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