Alea iacta est – by José Toro Hardy

In Venezuela the die is cast. There is no force capable of containing a people that is determined to attain liberty and justice.  Today I wish to refer to some cases that took place after WWII with very particular features: the struggle through peaceful demonstrations.

The case of Gandhi immediately comes to mind.  The Mahatma (“Great Soul”) –honorific title that he received from the Bengali poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore- took upon himself the cyclopean task of freeing his homeland, India, from one of the most powerful empires known by humanity: the British Empire.

Mahatma’s feat was characterized for resorting to non-violent combat means, although he promoted civil disobedience as a means to resist the British rule.  He led the Salt March, a protest against the taxes applied to this product.  It was a 300-kilometer march in order to gather salt, infringing the laws of the colony’s government. More than 60,000 Indians followed his example, marching from Karachi to Bombay.

Being powerless against those popular demonstrations, Great Britain finally was forced to grant India its freedom.  Morally, there was no justification for violence against those who protested without violence. 

We see another example of the success of peaceful struggle in the U.S.A. with Martin Luther King Jr. His objective was to put an end to racial segregation through non-violent methods, claiming basic civil rights for colored people.  The March on Washington, where he gathered more than 250,000 people and gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech, captured the world’s imagination.  He was finally murdered in Memphis, but his goals were attained.  We can also cite the example of Mandela defeating Apartheid in South Africa.

In addition, we should recall the events of Eastern Europe, in the so-called Autumn of the Nations that caused the fall of the Berlin Wall built by Khrushchev, and the collapse of the Iron Curtain set up by Stalin, without a single gunshot.  The cases of Solidarity, with Lech Walesa, in Poland, and Václav Havel, in Czechoslovakia, are also part of that set of events.

These cases, which put an end to Communism, have a common denominator:  They were transcendental changes involving peaceful demonstrators.  The military of those countries, hard-core Communists, refused to fire against peaceful citizens.  The only case in which a dictator of Eastern Europe ordered to shoot protesters was Rumania.  Ceausescu ended up executed by a firing squad together with his wife. 

In the Arab Spring, the popular demonstrations caused profound political changes and put an end to many old Arab dictatorships.  The fall of Mubarak in Egypt was preceded by 18 days of popular protests.  In the case of Libya, Gaddafi resorted to the air force to repress the protesters, and the NATO reacted with an air attack to stop him.  Overthrown, Gaddafi fled, but was caught and executed.  His destiny ended up being the same as that of Ceausescu.

Today, Venezuela is witnessing another historical wonder.  The people have poured out into the streets.  The protests are more numerous than those gathered by Gandhi in the March of Salt, Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia or Lech Walesa in Poland. They are also more numerous than those gathered by Yeltsin at Moscow’s Red Square, which resulted in the end of Communism and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union in 1991.  The protests have persevered as much as those of the Orange Revolution, when the Ukrainians massively went out on the streets in 2005 to demand the ousting of the president and did not go back home until they achieved their goal.

If someone would order shooting those demonstrators, they undoubtedly would end up at The Hague Tribunal, for Venezuela is a signatory to the Treaty of Rome.

The die is cast.  The regime is isolated from an international standpoint and has earned world repudiation.   Now, backed by a sharp minority of supporters, it announces it will no longer be part of the OAS. It is also part of a minority in UNASUR and even in the CELAC. It is facing problems at the UN and the European Union harshly condemns it.

I insist.  It is essential to promote a peaceful way out through a transition government that reduces the cost of leaving power for some, while giving others guaranties that the country can recover its governability. Only then, with a clear path and independent government branches, will we truly be able to hold an election process whose results will be respected.

Note: This article was originally published in in Spanish. The author is Venezuelan economist, prominent oil expert, and a collaborator of VALC.