December 18, 2014
Vargas Llosa: LatAm ‘cowardice’ hurts Venezuela
Peruvian writer criticizes regional leaders as gov’t, opposition meet for new round of talks
CARACAS — Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa slammed Latin American countries yesterday for their “cowardice” in relation to the political crisis in Venezuela and considered that their failure to express solidarity toward the opposition is because “they don’t want to risk being attacked by their countries’ left.”
“In a lot of cases, it’s just cowardice because in reality the Venezuelan resistance has great popular support in Latin America,” the writer and one-time presidential candidate said yesterday, while visiting Caracas.
“What has happened in Venezuela during the last few weeks is an extraordinary event which has sparked great emotion and a huge feeling of solidarity” among Latin Americans, he added.
Vargas Llosa said he hopes the dialogue between the government of President Nicolás Maduro and moderate opposition leaders “is genuine and authentic, and enables the pacification of the country,” as well as “to correct the economic and political model.”
He also backed the student protesters whose demonstrations in early February led to the two-month-old political crisis, even though student federations have refused to participate in the talks and are more aligned with the more radical wing of the opposition, led by imprisoned leader Leopoldo López and his party Voluntad Popular.
Meanwhile, the country’s top court ruled yesterday that the right to demonstrate “is not an absolute right” and that protests need the authorities’ permission.
The ruling came just hours after students groups called on Venezuelans to march in Caracas on Saturday, with or without the authorization of Mayor Jorge Rodríguez.
Vargas Llosa’s comments came just hours before the beginning of a scheduled third round of talks between the government and the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD), the moderate opposition party led by Miranda governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, with the fate of so-called “political prisoners” at the centre of the debate.
MUD lawmaker Andrés Velásquez said, prior to the meeting, that the government has refused to pardon those imprisoned during the crisis but that the opposition planned to insist on the need for an amnesty.
After the talks, the opposition coalition said the two sides had agreed to create a Truth Commission to investigate the violence that took place during February and March. They have yet to agree on who would integrate such a commission.
Forty-one people have died since the beginning of the protests on February 6 and hundreds have been injured. Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Arreaza said yesterday that the government wouldn’t fall “into a trap” by signing an Amnesty Law, although ruling-party officials have said they’d be willing to look into particular cases.
Although it was students who initiated the protests, the middle-class has largely supported the demonstrations, with high inflation and shortages of some basic goods among their main concerns.
Inflation on the rise
Venezuela’s financial authorities said yesterday that March inflation reached 4.1 percent, a rate that is way over that of March 2013, which registered a rise in prices of 2.8 percent.
The Venezuelan Central Bank acknowledged that the food sector was among those in which prices increased the most, with an inflation rate of 6.1 percent.
The Bank attributed the rise in inflation to the political crisis that has affected the country during the last two months. “The fact that the protests quickly turned into violence ended up affecting the normal development of productive forces, commerce, distribution and the national economic life in general,” the communiqué said. The annualized inflation rate was not informed.
The numbers provided by the Bank yesterday show that inflation has continued to accelerate in Venezuela, despite strict price controls imposed in November by the Maduro administration. The president announced on Wednesday that controls on businesses would increase as part of a new phase of his “economic offensive.”
Herald with AP, Télam