Sunday 6 August, 2017 Update: Who Orchestrated Sunday’s Events in Venezuela?

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Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro are making headlines once more. Early on Sunday morning armed men in military uniforms released a video calling for Venezuelans to rebel against President Maduro and his party. A short time later, a military base near Caracas was attacked. According to the government the attack was repelled and the assault force suffered casualties. It was also revealed that the surviving attackers made off with some weapons. Judging from news reports, and information from independent sources, an attack did take place. Who the attackers were affiliated with is another question entirely. The same is true for the motivations and affiliations of the men on the video. Post-referendum news coming out of the country has to be taken with a grain of salt.

The situation in Venezuela is quite fluid at the moment and Maduro and his government have an agenda to promote. Altering the political narrative to place the opposition in a villainous light would be beneficial. Some of the facts coming out of Caracas seem to back the theory that Maduro’s government is behind this morning’s events. The attack on the military base does not appear to have come as a surprise. It was defeated quickly and with relative ease. The Venezuelan defense minister has stated that the men captured this morning during the attack have already confessed to being under contract by ‘right wing Venezuelan activists who are connected to foreign governments. Powerful members of the ruling socialist party were very quick to put out statements denouncing the attack and affirming their support for Maduro. The release of these statements appears to have been coordinated for maximum effect.

The timing of the attack on the military base and the video release raise even more questions. For the duration of the Venezuelan crisis the opposition has been hobbled by disorganization, and a consistent lack of initiative. It has not lacked passion though. The emergence of an anti-Maduro movement in the military would’ve likely come before last week’s referendum. Acting now, after the assembly has been formed, is essentially locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

The timing of these events is extremely beneficial for the government and ruling party. The video conveniently paints a belligerent challenge to the government. The failed attack underscores a need for swift, decisive action to nip the ‘threat’ in the bud. The constituent assembly has justification to provide the tools needed for Maduro to expand the arrests of opposition members, and infringe on the constitutional rights of Venezuelans in the name of national security.

What’s happening in Venezuela is a text book example of a ruling party consolidating its hold on the government with no intention of relinquishing control anytime soon. Sunday’s actions did not stem from a desperate attempt to jump start the opposition and invigorate them It stemmed directly from Maduro’s desire to tighten his grip on power. His fingerprints are all over Sunday’s events, not the opposition’s.

Democracy is all but dead in Venezuela.

Thursday 29 December, 2016 Update: Syrian Ceasefire Deal Signed

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According to the Russian and Turkish governments, the Syrian government and opposition rebels have agreed to the ground rules for a ceasefire in the conflict. Both sides have also agreed to peace talks that could potentially bring an end to the almost six year long civil war. The truce does not include ISIS or a host of other terrorist groups now operating inside of Syria. Efforts against ISIS will continue, and a joint US-Russian effort against Islamic Militants is expected to begin sometime after the inauguration of Donald Trump in late January. Turkey and Russia will be the guarantors of the ceasefire, effectively cutting out the United States and other nations that oppose Assad from having influence over what postwar Syria will look like. The US played no part in the negotiations which led to the ceasefire. Turkey itself is staunchly opposed to Bashir al-Assad remaining in power. However, for the time being it appears that Ankara is willing to live with him remaining in Damascus.

The fall of eastern Aleppo made it clear to opposition rebels that their political and military options were now severely limited. The rebels no longer had a strong presence in any of Syria’s largest cities, and the incoming US president will not be resupplying them or supporting their efforts to remove al-Assad any further. Faced with these new realities, the rebels became more pragmatic and sat down with the Syrian government to compromise.

Whether the truce holds and leads to more formal peace talks remains to be seen. Quite honestly, ceasefires in Syria seem to have a history of being made simply to be broken. But this time around, a ceasefire benefits all parties involved, at least for the moment.