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​While no threat to power, Venezuelan protests could score PR victory for opposition

Published time: February 18, 2014 02:26

Students take part in an anti-government protest in Caracas on February 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Leo Ramirez)

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Anti-government protests in Venezuela represent more of a public relations threat to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro than a real challenge to his administration, author and Venezuelan analyst Gregory Wilpert told RT in an interview.

Wilpert said that though the recent opposition protests in Venezuela to highlight economic ills are unlikely to last much longer, the demonstrations may work to show the Maduro government in an unfavorable light abroad as it stifles dissent.

“Internationally, there's been a tremendous amount of success in portraying the government as having cracked down on opposition demonstrators and making the government look bad in that sense,” said Wilpert, author of “Changing Venezuela by Taking Power.”

Wilpert added that the expulsion of American diplomats from the US embassy in Caracas should be seen, at least at this early juncture, in the context “of US history and its interference throughout Latin American countries over the past century.”

RT: Why are Venezuelans now showing anger with Maduro though he has been in power for nearly a year?

Gregory Wilpert: The opposition in Venezuela is trying to take advantage of some of the economic problems that have become more acute in the past year. Mainly, I'm speaking about the inflation and shortages that exist in the economy, and they see this as a good time. Also, because there are no elections coming up for a while, and there's a lot of internal division within the opposition. The more radical sector of the opposition has taken this opportunity to overthrow the Maduro government, which I don't think they'll achieve at all, of course.

RT: Venezuela is accusing the US of sponsoring these anti-government demonstrations. How justified are these accusations?

GW: One has to see those accusations in the context of US history and its interference throughout Latin American countries over the past century. There's a long series of interventions, and that makes left governments of Latin America very suspicious of US government intentions. Combine that also with revelations that have come out through Wikileaks about the US embassy's activities in Venezuela, one can see a clear pattern that the US government has been working very closely with opposition organizations. And not only that, it has funded many opposition groups. Now, if these most recent accusations, what's exactly behind them we don't know, we haven't seen the proof yet, but it certainly has to be seen in the context of both those revelations and that history which has made the government extremely suspicious of the US.

RT: How far do you think these demonstrations will go? How much more violence could we see?

GW: It has already been dying down, so I don't think that it will get any worse. My guess is that it's going to be limited to the middle- to upper-middle class neighborhoods. Today, the only disturbances were reported in precisely those neighborhoods, and it will become smaller and smaller until it finally disappears. It's mainly because these protests do not enjoy the support of neither the majority of the population nor even the majority of the opposition. So it's unlikely that they will continue.

RT: How much are these protests a challenge to Maduro's administration?

GW: They represent more of a challenge to his public relations, I think, than an actual challenge to his power, because if they die down, they won't really do much. However, internationally, there's been a tremendous amount of success in portraying the government as having cracked down on opposition demonstrators and making the government look bad in that sense. So in that sense, it's a public relations success for the opposition and could further damage the Maduro government's appearance in the international media and with regard to other governments outside of Latin America.