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CLARIN

Twitter 1 - Chavez 0: Social Networks Liberate The Public Debate

When Twitter made its debut in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez did his best to co-opt the social network and flood it with official statements. But now the social network is used by those undermining the twitterer-in-chief.

A faux twitter feed from Simon Bolivar for the bicentennial of Venezuelan independence.
A faux twitter feed from Simon Bolivar for the bicentennial of Venezuelan independence.
Marcelo Cantelmi


CARACAS - It's really quite simple: since the usual forums for public debate and controversy have been muffled by Chavez's regime, Venezuelans have returned to the oral tradition and to writing on the walls. The difference is that now the walls are electronic: Twitter has become these rebels' favorite tool.

This shows that people aren't willing to be gagged into submission. But it also shows how people will always strive to get past limitations. Venezuelans who don't follow the government's model are looking for ways to play hide-and-seek with the censure, in the same way that they try to break other government-imposed boundaries, like the limits on the purchase of dollars.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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