Manipulated protests

In earlier posts, I described the need of governments to maintain a super-majority that consents to the rule of the majority.   There is a need to adjust policies to build sufficient numbers who commit to consent of government that any protest of the remainder can be tolerated and managed.  

Protests will be self-limiting if they do not have sufficient support or if they see that the government has overwhelming support.

If there is any attempt to measure a protest group, it is by a specific issue.   Often the issues are isolate: the people who feel strongly about one protest cause have no interest in another.  Often these issues are so fragmented that no one issues seems threatening.  The risk of ignoring the aggregate of all groups who may withhold their consent to government is that they can provide additional fuel to an ongoing protest.

If a particular group’s protest is intense enough it will begin to affect lives.  

In Venezuela, the protests may have started due to shortages of a limited number of commodities.  The protests interfered with commerce so that the shortages became more widespread an severe.   Recent stories tell of stores with only empty shelves.  The protests impact the lives of more people than who started the original protests.   These newcomers either added shortages to their grievances or saw an opportunity to join in a protest that was being so effective.   The protests grows and the problems get worse.

It seems to me that the protests have met the limits.  The groups supporting and opposing government are geographically and economically separated.  The territory dominated by government supporters is not experiencing the negative consequences as the territory of the protesters.  The supporters may not have super-majority support, they have sufficient majority support to not condemn exceeding usual limitations on government power.  Although the two groups have different territories (poor and middle class neighborhoods) the two are intermingled throughout the country.  For any area of protest there is sufficient nearby supporters to counter the protests.   I don’t see the protests making much progress from this point and will likely diminish as the needs for restoring regular commerce becomes more urgent.

This is in contrast to Ukraine where the difference is more geographic than economic.   There is widespread support for an independent Ukraine in the west, and widespread support in the east for a closer relationship with Russia.   Despite the longer duration of the crisis in Ukraine, the conflict appears likely to worsen.  Direct military-on-military conflict of a civil war appears likely.

Ukraine appesars much more at risk in the short term to become a serious problem.  However, I still see signs that the two sides are being rational.  Despite the preparations for conflict, there seems to be dialog and caution.  There appear to be competent leaders on both sides so that even if there are hostilities there remains a possibility of some type of compromise.

I continue to worry more about Venezuela.  In the near term, the protests are not as much at risk of toppling the government.  But I don’t see much evidence of any lasting resolution.  I can fault the government for not addressing the grievances or even ignoring the grievances entirely.  But compared to Ukraine, the Venezuela protesters have been denied access to strong leaders who can negotiate with the government.  The government has successfully silenced some leaders and other leaders have not emerged.  The protests may decline but the instability will continue to burden the government’s ability to reverse the economic decline of the country.  A failed Venezuela will affect most of south and central america.

I have a hard time to come to a conclusion as to what our country should do about it.  Venezuela simply is not getting much attention by the government or the journalists so there is very little information available.   Ukraine has a lot more attention and more likely to involve our participation.  I don’t see a reason to favor one side or the other.

The primary story being presented to us is that the groups on the streets during the Euromaiden protests are common people who demand a democracy that is being denied them.  But the protests seem to be highly organized with elaborate logistics support.  The protests were enabled by people with political parties who just happen to be out of power at the moment.

I learned a lesson in observing the popular protests in Egypt that led to the resignation of Mubarak.  The people behind the protests did not have political power to implement the changes they seemed to be asking for.  Instead, another group took over government that aggravated the protesters goals more than if they had not protested before.

My concern with Ukraine is that the protests, as respectable as they may be, are actually pawns of a power struggle of existing powers that do not share the same goals as the protesters on the street.  In Ukraine, I get the feeling that the leaders of these powers are skilled at strategic politics and part of that strategy is to manipulate the international community.  I don’t trust the information we are getting is sufficient to justify any action even the limited actions proposed so far such as loan guarantees to Ukraine.  Both sides are escalating the threat of hostilities but it is unclear is this with intent of military victory with the intent of manipulating international opinion.  I think it is the latter.


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