Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez

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President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, right, and President Xi Jinping of China at a welcoming ceremony last month in Beijing. Credit Pool photo by Andy Wong

Poor Venezuela, so far from God, so close to the People’s Republic of China. Having bid farewell to tumultuous 2016, President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled government, hit hard by low oil prices, has again bucked market expectations, muddling through without defaulting on sovereign bonds or those of the state-owned oil company PDVSA. Paying off $10 billion to Wall Street last year required many sacrifices from Venezuela: selling off or mortgaging international assets and slashing imports by nearly 50 percent for the second year running, exacerbating harrowing nationwide shortages of vital medicines and food. Without a sudden recovery of oil prices, 2017 will be even harder.…  Seguir leyendo »

El presidente Nicolás Maduro con Xi Jinping durante una visita a Pekín, en enero Andy Wong para el pool

Pobre Venezuela, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de la República Popular de China. Después de despedir a un caótico 2016, el gobierno asediado del presidente Nicolás Maduro, en la lona por los bajos precios del petróleo, ha desafiado las expectativas del mercado al honrar de manera meticulosa tanto sus bonos soberanos como los bonos de su petrolera estatal PDVSA. Pagarle 10 mil millones de dólares a Wall Street el año pasado requirió muchos sacrificios por parte de Venezuela: vender o hipotecar activos internacionales y reducir las importaciones casi el 50 por ciento por segundo año consecutivo, lo cual exacerbó la terrible escasez nacional de medicamentos esenciales y alimentos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un mural que retrata al presidente Nicolás Maduro, en Caracas Meridith Kohut para The New York Times.

Los arrestos políticos son una extraña industria que está en auge en Venezuela. Cuando Nicolás Maduro llegó a la presidencia después de la muerte de Hugo Chávez en 2013, había una docena de presos de conciencia, según el Foro Penal, una organización no gubernamental.

Hoy, la cantidad se acerca a los 100, y unas 2000 personas están sujetas a procesos judiciales por motivos políticos.

Los detenidos más recientes del gobierno son Francisco Márquez y Gabriel San Miguel, dos funcionarios públicos de la alcaldía de El Hatillo que fueron arrestados sumariamente en un puesto de control al norte de Venezuela, el 19 de junio.…  Seguir leyendo »

People walk past a mural of President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Political arrests are a rare growth industry in Venezuela. When Nicolás Maduro became president after Hugo Chávez’s death from cancer in 2013, there were about a dozen prisoners of conscience, according to Foro Penal, a local nongovernmental organization. Today, the number hovers at around 100, and some 2,000 people are the subject of politically driven judicial prosecutions.

The government’s latest targets are Francisco Márquez and Gabriel San Miguel, two civil servants working in a mayor’s office who were summarily arrested at a highway checkpoint in a remote area of northern Venezuela on June 19. Along with hundreds of other activists, they were traveling that day to help collect signatures to petition for a referendum to remove Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s an odd feeling, being silenced. On the Fourth of July, I heard that El Universal, Venezuela’s century-old newspaper, and among the oldest in Latin America, had been sold to a recently registered, anonymous Spanish corporation. Against a backdrop of fireworks bursting over Lake Michigan, I sat at my computer and started copying from its website into Word documents two years’ worth of weekly opinion columns I had written for the paper. I knew a flood was coming — I had seen it happen before. My laptop would be my pieces’ ark.

Sure enough, last week, I received the following notification by email: “Hello and good afternoon, I hope you are well.…  Seguir leyendo »

I was in Egypt on a fellowship studying the now-suspended Constitution of 2012 during the weeks before the recent revolution there. In Cairo and Alexandria, the streets were buzzing with talk of a looming showdown between the government of President Mohamed Morsi and Tamarrod, a protest movement organized by a small group of youth leaders hoping to bring him down. Witnessing the mounting frustrations of many ordinary Egyptians, I couldn’t help but notice the startling similarities between Morsi’s government and the Chávistas of my own Venezuela.

Swap Islamism for Socialism and beards for mustaches, and the two regimes start to look remarkably alike.…  Seguir leyendo »

Three years ago I was giving a ride home to the sister of my cousin’s girlfriend in Caracas, when we were violently kidnapped and held for ransom overnight.

I prefer not to dwell on the specifics of the experience: the hollow sound of an assault rifle tapping a car window, the voices of terrified loved ones negotiating my life over speakerphone. It could have been much worse.

Through a series of bizarre coincidences and lucky breaks, we emerged from the experience largely unharmed, before any money changed hands. And having since married my fellow hostage, I look forward to someday regaling our children with what is perhaps a uniquely Venezuelan “How I Met Your Mother” story.…  Seguir leyendo »