Skip to main content

Most neighbors silent as Venezuela reels

updated 6:31 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
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
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT