23 December, 2005

Nonviolent resistance under Chávez

Just over one week ago, Carlos Ortega, former leader of Venezuela´s largest labor union, the CTV, was sentenced to 16 years in prision for "civil rebellion, treason, inciting illegal acts, and possession of false document." Yes, he called for death to the "tyrant," though this was after he had fled the country (ie, during the final days of the strike). He also led much of the nation in an act of "nonviolent", or "civil" resistance in 2002-2003 when he spearheaded a nation-wide effort to shutdown the economy. He and everyone else involved sought to effect the president's resignation. So should he have gotten 16 years in prision? He did threaten the president's life, however indirectly. He also entered the country with illegal papers after the strike. However, contrary to his nonviolent form of resistance, the tyrant he challenged was implicit in a violent act of resistance, or "rebellion," in 1992. Indeed, a more important question might be why did Chavez get out of jail so early in 1996? After all, he led a "military rebellion", or coup, against the then government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, an act which carries prison terms of 25 to 30 years. Chavez served maybe 2-3 years. Yet another question is why Caldera, the president that signed for Chavez´s release from jail, did not restrict that citizen's right to run for president, especially after he had taken aim at the presidency.

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