What in the world: A 'line crossed' in Venezuela
- 20 February 2014
A review of the best commentary on and around the world...
Although the clashes between protesters and government forces in Kiev are attracting a great deal of the world's attention, the capital of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities have also seen fierce battles, as police confront protesters calling for the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro.
"A grave line has been crossed," writes Audrey M Dacosta in the blog Caracas Chronicles. "Real, physical violence is finally catching up with the huge reserve of pent-up rhetorical violence we've suffered through since 1999. We've spent 15 years fearing this. Now we're living it."
Mr Maduro showed his dictatorial nature when he ordered the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, argues the Daily Beast's Michael Moynihan.
"If you doubted that Maduro was presiding over a rotting Potemkin democracy - kangaroo courts packed with loyalists, a neutered media, violent street gangs beholden to the government - witness his Mussolini-on-the-piazza performance yesterday, when he announced Lopez's arrest in front of a crowd of regime loyalists," he writes.
Manuel Sutherland of the Center for Education Workers of Venezuela, counters that the anti-Maduro protesters are the ones who are misguided:
While none of the protesters know what socialism is, many were protesting against a "Castro-communist" dictatorship they blamed for all shortages, from toilet paper, to soap to food etc. Their solution seems simply to return to the "good old days" of cheap and plentiful products, under the private sector's unfettered sway. Their ignorance has made them forget episodes of rampant inflation in past years, as they naively insist the government is plotting to pummel our noble businessmen with regulations.
One more thing worth noting: as the conflict between government and opposition spills into social media, it's important to remember that not all the shocking photographs are what they seem. BBC Trending's Cordelia hebblethwaite looks at some examples:
Pussy Riot on the Olympics' "deceptive face" - Maria Alyokhina, member of the Russia protest band Pussy Riot, writes in the New York Times that President Vladimir Putin is trying to use the Olympics to become a "pharaoh or emperor". She argues that the story of Russian authoritarianism is bigger than the Olympics, however. It's about silencing dissidence and "deadening of the intellect".
Things could still get worse for protesters - Yale Prof Timothy Snyder tells Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych could decide to "double down" on violence.
Wendy Doniger's critique of Hinduism should be published - A lawsuit by a religious group in India alleged that Doniger's The Hindus: An Alternative History "hurts the feelings of Hindus", and Penguin Books India has decided to cease publishing the work. That's wrong, writes Swati Sharma in the Washington Post. "It's easy to publish books that are safe. It's for the ones that challenge us that the concept of free speech exists."
Demilitarise the police - Vanessa Barbara writes that the militarised component of the Brazilian police, responsible for "maintaining order and preventing crimes", is a relic of the nation's dictatorship years. Policing is not an easy job, she writes, and removing officers from "a military code of conduct and discipline that often involves humiliation and training infused with a war mentality" would be good for morale and help create "a legitimate police force where officers deal with the civilians not as their enemies but as fellow citizens".
A humane stance on dying children - It may make Americans "squeamish", but Belgium's decision to allow euthanasia for children with terminal diseases was the right one, writes the Los Angeles Times's Meghan Daum. "Though the slippery-slope crowd will claim that the mere existence of such laws contributes to a laissez-faire attitude that could lead to death for the sake of convenience or financial reasons, the evidence has never borne out such concerns," she writes.
Shuttering media conglomerate in the name of "free speech" - Although the Argentine government says it is fighting against corporate monopolies when it ordered the breakup of the nation's largest media group, Clarin, the reality is quite different, writes Walter Russell Mead in the American Interest. "If you believe any of that, we have some Argentine government securities we can sell you at a very attractive price," he says. The real reason is that the conglomerate has been critical of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Tied up by absurd laws - The "ridiculous" mess of overregulation in Australia is what you get when you measure the success of government by the number of laws it passes, writes the Sydney Daily Telegraph's Simon Benson. Although it may be ironic, he says that Australia needs to pass "legislation to scrap legislation".
BBC Monitoring's quote of the day
Suicide bombings in Lebanon: "We have no doubt that this government will not stop the bombings because they are linked with Hezbollah's involvement in Syria. The bombings will not stop unless Hezbollah completely gets out of the Syrian fire." - Ali Hamadah in Lebanon's Al-Nahar
One more thing…
Whatapp's anti-corporate ethos - Lost in all the talk about the huge price tag for Facebook's $19bn (£11.4bn) purchase of the WhatsApp message service is the strong stand against advertising that the company's two founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, have taken.
"These days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads," they write on their website.
Mother Jones's David Corn wonders whether the two newly minted WhatsApp billionaires can keep their "culture-jamming ethos" as part of Facebook, whose lifeblood is advertising.
"Will they continue to spread their anti-consumerism, tech-is-for-the-people gospel?" he asks. "Will they change Facebook, or will Facebook change them?"
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