Venezuelan elections don’t matter

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Venezuelans protest in Caracas on April 2013 the day after Nicolas Maduro was declared President. His opponent, Henrique Capriles, demanded a recount of the votes. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

In Venezuela, everything is okay. Or at least, that is what the government keeps repeating to the population. On average, 1 person is murdered every 21 minutes. The average salary is under 10 dollars a month in the black market. Hyperinflation is expected to rise up to 13,000 percent this year. But for the government, most of these numbers are created by American imperialism. Because everything is okay.

The Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez, followed by his successor Nicolas Maduro, has relied on the large resources of oil in Venezuela to maintain the country financially. However, between the corruption and the gross mismanagement, they have led the country to its worst crisis.

Yesterday, the fourth presidential elections since the creation of the 5th Republic were held in Venezuela. But you probably missed it. Whether there was a lack of coverage or a personal lack of interest, apart from Latin America, the public has not paid attention to what is happening in Venezuela. Or at least, not enough.

With the economic, humanitarian and political crisis that the country is struggling with, few participated in this year’s elections. It is not due to lack of hope, but a lack of choice. The only two potential opposition candidates, Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, are one under house arrest and the other banned from any political activity respectively. The only candidate running against the current government is considered to be Henri Falcon, a former state governor who used to be an ally of Chavez. Falcon failed to gain the trust of the members of the opposition, who believe he still profits from the current dictatorship.

Our elections are not democratic. They provide the illusion of democracy, the illusion of choice. To understand the current issues in the country, it is necessary to take a look at the past. Leading the Bolivarian Revolution, the military officer, Hugo Chavez tried a failed coup d’état in 1992. He was incarcerated and later elected democratically in 1998. He ruled until his death in 2013, in which he created the fifth Republic of Venezuela. Among the constitutional changes that were made, the presidential term upgraded from 5 to 6 years.

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Venezuelans protests in Caracas on April 2013 after Nicolas Maduro was declared President. His opponent, Henrique Capriles, demanded a recount of the votes. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

The 2013 Presidential elections

In October 2012, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles lost the presidential elections against President Hugo Chavez, who was elected for a fourth term alongside his vice-president Nicolas Maduro. A few months later, the President leaves for a “medical check-up” in Cuba before disappearing for 4 months. On March 5, 2013, Nicolas Maduro, barely known by the public then, announces the death of Hugo Chavez on national television. As expected, the former bus driver and vice-president declared himself the provisional President of Venezuela. We do not need to analyze closely to understand that all these events were unconstitutional: Hugo Chavez had clearly lied about his illness during the elections, which would have made him incapable of being considered a candidate. Similarly, he never got to attend the inauguration of his new Presidential term, and therefore Nicolas Maduro was not officially the vice-president yet. Finally, the constitution states that the speaker of the National Assembly should assume interim presidency if a president cannot be sworn in.

Seven days of mourning, a military parade, and a long ceremony later, Venezuelans were invited to see the embedded body of their Comandante, displayed for three days. New elections were held, and candidate for the second time, Henrique Capriles, is defeated again. However, he called the elections fraudulent on national television and demanded a recount of the votes. However, this never happened. Protests were held around the country and pictures of National Guards burning the voting ballots circulated on social media. But, like everything in Venezuela, the opposition got tired and no change was made.

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Students and other Venezuelans protest in Caracas in 2014 against the government mismanagement of the country. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

The protests

At the beginning of 2017, the National Assembly asked Nicolas Maduro to leave the presidency. Two days later, he announced that the Assembly had been dissolved. Seen as a coup d’état by the local population, for the public opinion, it marked the start of an official authoritarianism. Consequently, the opposition took over the streets and asked for new elections to be held. With the government in control of military power, the population demonstrated their discontent with any possible resources they had. A new trend, the puputov, are an example of what they used: a bottle filled with feces, thrown to the authorities who answered with tear gas or real bullets. Above 120 people were killed, thousands were injured and more than 5,000 were detained and often tortured.

Since Nicolas Maduro came to power, the 2017 demonstrations marked the second time the students and other Venezuelans protested against the government. In 2014, over 40 deaths and 4,000 arrests summarised a violent repression from the authorities.

Where is the opposition?

In 2014, leader of the protests and the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez, was incarcerated and sent to Ramo Verde, a military prison. During the protests in 2017, Antonio Ledezma, another leader of the opposition, was detained and sent to the same place. First, put under house arrest at the beginning of July, Lopez was arrested and sent back home again few days later while Ledezma escaped and fled out of the country. Meanwhile, in April 2017, Henrique Capriles was formally banned for 15 years from any political activity. Consequently, the 2018 Presidential elections –which were supposed to be held in October; did not have anyone to represent the opposition. According to the United States, this is considered an unfair and anti-democratic election.

Neither the elections nor the protests have been able to end the dictatorship or the daily struggle the Venezuelans are facing. This year, few participated in elections for which the winner was already suspected: Nicolas Maduro. Declared President of Venezuela for his second term yesterday, only 46.01% of participation was announced. Here again, the numbers will never be confirmed.

 

 

Isabel Bonnet is a first-year communication science student. Her columns focus on Venezuela.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

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Students gathered in the streets on February 12, 2014, to protest against the government. Two people were killed that day by the authorities. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Isabel Bonnet is a 21-year-old second-year student in communication science at UvA. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Amsterdammer. Before its creation, she worked as a photo editor at the Independent Florida Alligator and did an internship at Le Monde.

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KLM-Air France Crisis: French and Dutch Government Hold their Breath

KLM, The Netherlands’ biggest airline group, is on the verge of losing its French sister company Air France, as the French airline goes through a major organizational crisis. Together, the French and Dutch national, with its headquarters based in Paris, form the world’s third-biggest cargo airline. However, as French employees have put down their work multiple times in the past few months, trust in the French board and its CEO has been lost. 

In September 2003, Air France and KLM, after months of negotiations and paperwork, finally decided to join forces, suddenly turning the newly formed alliance into one of the biggest airlines in the world. The deal, which seemed beneficial for both parties at the time, offered large financial and logistical advantages for both airlines. Since then, the unification has however started to also show its downsides, as the Dutch specifically seem to be losing more trust in the French, and the French are having more trouble collaborating with their seemingly purely profit-driven Dutch partners.

Now, almost fifteen years into the relationship, the partnership is at an all-time low. The French unions representing both pilots, cabin crew and all staff on the ground are demanding an overall 6% general wage increase. As this demand had not been met by the French board, the French workers first started going on strike in late February of this year and have continued to show their discomfort with the current situation by putting down their work sporadically since then. Multiple times, more than thirty percent of all passenger flights had to be canceled due to these strikes, which have cost the airline group an estimated 75 million euros in the first quarter of 2018 alone, increasing their total loss in the first quarter to a devastating 118 million, as was reported by Air France and KLM.

Since then, Air France has tried to come to a compromise with their employees, proposing multiple wage increases, which were all rejected by the unions, as none of them met their strict demand of at least a 5,1% wage increase. Finally, the situation escalated the 4th of May, when the board of Air France called for a general vote amongst the employees about the general working conditions at the company. CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac put his own career at stake by announcing that he would step down if more than half of his employees would not agree to the newly improved working conditions. This decision by the CEO was a bold one, as was even mentioned by France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who called it a ‘courageous move’. However, Philippe also condemned the decision, stressing the fact that the CEO stepping down is not the best way to face the problems that the airline is dealing with, after having stated earlier that Air France would enter a very turbulent time were Janaillac to step down as CEO.

Finally, after the vote ruled against the fate of Janaillac, he chose to step down from his position as CEO within the same week. Since then, no new CEO has been announced, nor have there been many rumors regarding possible candidates. Because of this, the situation of the French-Dutch multinational remains dangerously fickle, as the French workforce is still not pleased with their working conditions and wage. In addition to this, the French side of the partnership has been receiving even more criticism from both its Dutch partners, as well as the French government, as both the Secretary of Treasure and the Secretary of Transport have shown distrust towards Air France. For KLM and The Netherlands, it is essential that this crisis is resolved as soon as possible, as the combined efforts of Air France, KLM, and all its daughter companies make up for more than thirty percent of all flights at Schiphol airport, one of The Netherlands’ largest forms of income.

Metro reporter, Spring 2018