Demonstrations Around the World

Headlines have focused on the turmoil in Pakistan, where lawyers and others have taken to the streets to protest against Musharraf’s suspension of constitutional rule. More or less off the radar screen, anti-government protests have broken out in Venezuela and Georgia. In Venezuela, student-led demonstrators have protested against Hugo Chavez’s plan to re-write that country’s constitution. The demonstrations have been massive:
And violent: Chavez’s forces shot several demonstrators and beat others.
Likewise in Georgia:

The president of the republic of Georgia declared a state of emergency Wednesday night, after riot police officers used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to clear thousands of demonstrators from the streets. The order immediately closed two television stations and banned public assembly in the capital, and would be in effect for at least 48 hours, a senior government official said by telephone.
The country’s principal opposition news outlet, Imedi TV, went off the air as a special forces unit, armed and wearing dark masks, entered the station’s offices. By then at least 365 people had reported to hospitals to treat their injuries, the country’s health ministry said.
It’s interesting to consider who, if anyone, are the “good guys” in these conflicts. Venezuela is the easiest; there is no possible justification for Chavez’s incipient tyranny, and the protesters seeking to maintain constitutional rule are on the side of the angels.
Georgia is a very different case. That country’s government is pro-western and progressive; it accuses Russian intelligence agencies of coordinating the protests in an effort to destabilize, and re-assert control over, Georgia. My guess is that’s probably true, and the protesters are, essentially, the bad guys.
Of the three, the hardest to judge is Pakistan. President Bush is leaning hard on Musharraf to hold elections, and that’s most likely appropriate. But I think we still don’t have a clear idea what is going on in Pakistan, and if Musharraf really is in the process of unleashing an effective attack on Islamic terrorists, he may deserve our support far more than our criticism. Or, then again, he may prove to be a Chavez without the support from Hollywood.


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