Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
8 February 2007

Zuma still innocent – but tainted

Jacob Zuma’s lawyers will today file papers in court opposing the NPA’s request for the release of the documents from Mauritius. The documents apparently show that Zuma met with French Arms company executive Alain Thetard and Schabir Shaik in Durban on 11 March 2000.

As a legal matter, Zuma and his lawyers are of course perfectly within their rights to oppose the request because if admitted the documents could help convict Zuma and send him to jail for 15 years.

As a political matter though, I am surprised that no one is asking why Mr Zuma would want to oppose an application for a release of the documents. If he is innocent as he professes, he surely would be glad for all the relevant documents to be placed before a court because it could only prove his innocence.

By opposing this application he places himself in a politically awakward position, because it suggests that there is something to hide.

Unfortunately Mr Zuma and his supporters have so bamboozled commentators and the general public with their bleetings about being innocent until proven guilty, that few people are prepared to make a political or ethical judgment against Mr Zuma before he is actually convicted of a crime.

Plain common sense tells me that Mr Zuma might still be innocent, but that he is decidedly not untainted by the criminal investigation and his response to it.

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