One of the criteria for a Just War is that it be declared by “competent authority.” In the case of a nation going to war, this “competent authority” is usually defined by law or in a constitution. For instance, the United States Constitution provides that only Congress can declare war. 

In the case of rebellion/revolution/resistance, this criterion poses an interesting issue. Who has the authority to call for a revolution against an existing government? In one sense, “the people” do, since according to the Declaration of Independence, governments rule only with the “consent of the governed.” . However, “the people” is an unorganized mass. In several historical cases, governors of subordinate units (state or province) have called for revolution. Barring that, however, it is not always clear who has the authority to call the people “to arms” against a tyrannical government.  Someone may speak up, but until he obtains followers, he is not a leader. He may end up as a martyr instead. 

In both Venezuela and Ukraine, the people took the issue into their own hands, staging protests. However, these protests were largely leaderless, in the sense that no one called for them, no one really could speak for them, and no one could negotiate on their behalf. In Ukraine, the legislature has apparently stepped up to its duties, impeached the President, and is planning to hold elections. Having been elected previously, the members of parliament presumably have the authority to speak for their constituents. 

In Venezuela, the legislature is part of the problem. Who, then, can speak for the protesters? It seems that a “leader” may have appeared. Retired general Angel Vivas has, according to press reports, become a “folk hero” by defying President Maduro’s attempts to arrest him because of his backing of student protests. Vivas has threatened to die fighting if Maduro sends troops to arrest him, and the local populace have taken steps to protect Vivas. 

Whether anything will come of this is uncertain as of this writing. However, this illustrates the problem of justifying a rebellion. Someone, somehow, must ultimately become a focal point for it, gaining a following and thereby gaining the authority to speak and negotiate on behalf of “the people.” In a situation where revolution or resistance of some kind seems the only remaining option, satisfying the “competent authority” criterion must be taken into account. 

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