Venezuela is not Ukraine, except when it is

The social unrest events in Venezuela is very different than what happened in Ukraine.  Ukraine went on for a longer time but showed an amazing amount of organization and determination that continues to amaze me as I learn more about it.  But what I understand about its underlying complaints seem very foreign to me: the issues appear to be very local grievances of long term historical, ethnic, and culture concerns that just happen to coincide with a perception of there being a tyrant.

I have just as little information about Venezuela.  In fact I have even less information because it is not widely reported.  In either case I’m more likely to be mistaken.  However, I see something Venezuela as more directly about government instead of some underlying conflict.  If there is an underlying division it is more economic class division than a cultural or ethnic one.  I don’t dismiss cultural and ethnic divisions as Venezuela is a large and diverse country.  It is just that what I’ve seen so far, it seems the question is less of using the conflict with government as a proxy for a different kind of conflict.

Venezuela holds my attention more than Ukraine.

But there is something in common with both as well with other popular protests such as recently in several countries (what the news media called the Arab spring).  In most of these cases, there is a form of government that has some claim to being democratic.  There is a ratified constitution.  The officers are elected through popular elections won often by decisive majorities of voters.  The offices were good for several years according to long standing traditions.   It is in this context of democratic tradition that the protests occur.

From a democratic perspective, it is hard to tell if the protests represent a majority opinion or would win an election.  Even when the protests fill entire streets as far as the eye can see, it is not clear that a democratic election would be decided in their favor (even in the absence of fraud).   However, the protests are significant and at least in the case of Ukraine led to a rejection of their leadership.

A lesson I see is that there is something more fundamental than democracy (majority rule, or majority-selected representation).  In order to accept the will of the majority, there need to be a super-majority consent to the government.  It is sufficient for a sufficient minority to veto a democratic government by withdrawing their consent to be governed.  

This super-majority consent must be maintained or regained through competent statesmanship, being able to compromise with the minority (the losers of the democratic contests), to listen and to accommodate the concerns and interests of the minority.  The alternative is to obtain that consent through overwhelming force and oppression.

The legitimacy of a democratic government depends on consent by a super majority that encompasses all of the competing ideals that are tested periodically through elections.


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