Skip to main content

Most neighbors silent as Venezuela reels

February 24, 2014 -- Updated 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)
A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials. A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials.
HIDE CAPTION
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
Protests erupt in Venezuela
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ukraine and Venezuela experience deadly uprisings against authoritarian regimes
  • David Frum: Ukraine's neighbors support the activists, but many of Venezuela's don't
  • Chile and Colombia condemn regime, he says, but they're right wing and thus suspect
  • Frum: Brazil could play a big role in supporting democratic change in Venezuela

Editor's note: David Frum, a CNN contributor, is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast. He is the author of eight books, including a new novel, "Patriots," and a post-election e-book, "Why Romney Lost." Frum was a special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002.

(CNN) -- Location, location, location: It matters greatly to the success of democracy.

Last week, for the second time in a decade, a popular uprising in Ukraine chased away a corrupt, authoritarian leader. (The same leader both times, as it happens.) The Orange Revolution of 2005 ended badly -- and the same adverse conditions overshadow Ukraine's hopes today.

David Frum
David Frum

Yet in Ukraine, neighbors Poland and Germany have supported and defended that nation's dissidents and democrats. But Ukraine is not the only authoritarian regime facing protests. And it's not the only nation where democratic neighbors could make a positive difference. Unfortunately, in the other case -- Venezuela -- too many of those neighbors are silent.

Except only for brief punctuations by rebellions and invasions, Russia ruled Ukraine as a province from the late 17th century until 1991. Vladimir Putin seems to regard the state of affairs since 1991 as merely another of those punctuations. Under Putin, Russia has subverted Ukrainian institutions and manipulated the Ukrainian economy. The goal has been to subordinate Ukraine as a dependent, compliant and nondemocratic subject state.

Putin succeeded in that goal after 2005. He'll surely try again after 2014. Whether he succeeds again or is thwarted will depend greatly on the efforts of Poland and Germany above all. Those neighbors exemplify the transition to democracy and a normally functioning economy.

The Polish foreign minister was in Kiev during the crucial hours before the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych. Germany has offered aid to cover Ukraine's energy debt to Russia and has warned Russia against any tampering with Ukraine's territorial integrity.

In Venezuela, at least eight people are dead and dozens wounded in protests. Many of the casualties have been inflicted by semicriminal motorcycle gangs known as colectivos, loyal to the Bolivarian regime, so-called because Hugo Chavez helped change the official name of the country to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Rivals protesting in Venezuela's streets
Is this the gaudiest palace ever?
Protests continue in Venezuela
Arrest warrant out for Yanukovych

The Internet has been turned off in cities sympathetic to the opposition, both to stop information arriving -- and, maybe even more, to prevent photos and videos of regime brutality from exiting.

Colombia's cable news network has been dropped from Venezuelan cable systems. CNN has been threatened with the same fate unless it alters its coverage more to the authorities' liking. CNN has not complied, and thus far the Venezuelan government has not executed its threat. Cuba has sent troops to reinforce the government.

In this dangerous situation, the presidents of Chile and Colombia have urged the Venezuelan government to permit peaceful protest and eschew violence. These statements carry impressive moral weight.

Chile is South America's outstanding democratic paragon. Since the end of the dictatorship in 1989, power has alternated from democratic right to democratic left and back again. Outstanding economic management has led Chile to the highest per-capita income in South America, catching up to Estonia and Lithuania, and ahead of Poland.

Colombia has made impressive progress subduing a decades-long insurgency and inviting former rebels to join the political progress under the new and more liberal constitution of 1990. It has suppressed drug trafficking: Aerial surveys indicate Colombia's coca acreage has been reduced by three-fourths since 2000.

President Barack Obama has hailed Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as "bold and brave" in his work for peace and security inside Colombia -- a task made more complex and difficult by the late Hugo Chavez's military and financial support for the drug-trafficking remnants of the Colombian insurgency.

Because the presidents of Chile and Colombia are identified with the political right, however, their condemnation is easier for the Venezuelan government to shrug off than would be condemnations from democratic presidents associated with Latin America's democratic left.

Brazil's Dilma Rousseff could play an especially important part here. Herself once a left-wing guerrilla against Brazil's former military regime, Rousseff embraced democratic politics in the 1970s and 1980s and was chief of staff to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former trade unionist and Brazil's first president of working-class origins.

Lula da Silva was everything that Chavez pretended to be, a leader who promoted social welfare policies while also respecting basic freedoms and civil rights. Unlike Chavez, who started his political career with a failed coup, Lula da Silva always followed constitutional rules. Again, unlike Chavez who repeatedly rewrote Venezuela's laws to extend his hold on power, he left by the constitutional timetable.

As Lula da Silva's successor, Rousseff inherits much of his prestige. Yet that moral voice keeps silent as Venezuela's goon government exerts ever more censorship, corruption and violence to extend its grip on power.

The authoritarian governments of Latin America -- not only Venezuela but also Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua -- form almost a trade union of shared ugly interests.

Where is the unity of the continent's democracies? For very understandable historical reasons, Latin American governments worry about overbearing American action. Yet many won't act, even when their most important interests and most cherished values come under violent attack.

The leaders of Germany and Poland have learned from history that embattled democrats, when left alone, may die alone. The lessons apply as well in the Western Hemisphere as in the East -- the lessons and the responsibility.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT