Hugo Chavez launched the “Bolivarian revolution” in 1998
The economy was good
High oil prices
There were social benefits for his constituents
He abused his electoral popularity
- Rewrote constitution in his favor
- Created paramilitary (“Bolivarian circles”)
- Stacked the courts with loyalists
- Stacked electoral council with loyalists
- Controlled state-owned oil firm
- Stifled free media
- Secured favorable loans from China
- New military equipment and energy deals from Russia
Chavez died – March 2013 with an authoritarian model well in place.
Nicolás Maduro was his hand-picked successor and he won the election barely one month later.
He consolidated power.
He ran into trouble with
- Mounting foreign debt
- Failing oil productions
- Increased sanctions
- Diplomatically isolated
- Faced with spreading humanitarian crisis
How will he react to these threats: his tactics against his opponents will harden and there will be an intensified reliance on China and Russia.
What can anyone do about this?
“It’s tricky,” says Ted Piccone, senior fellow in foreign policy at Brookings Institution, who wrote this article.
“Venezuela’s latest electoral affair only worsened the country’s slide from a relatively stable middle-income democracy to a socialist authoritarian system stricken with hyperinflation, rising poverty, declining oil production and record levels of violent crime.”
Venezuela’s path to despotism and despair went something like this:
- Increasing executive control of the country’s democratic institutions
- Gross mismanagement of the oil-dominated economy
- Worsening conditions of the 30 million citizens
- Hundreds of thousands have left the country
- Food and medicine shortages
- Lack of decent jobs
- Terrible crime and political repression
Economic decline was directly proportional to increased authoritarianism
Washington can’t help because Trump favors military interventions, but after decades of regime change that won’t work.
Mr, Piccone suggests:
Expanding the list of targeted economic sanctions.
Try to force Maduro to come to the negotiating table
Mediation with Venezuela’s moderates assisted by the UN
Deliver humanitarian assistance to malnourished and sick
Provide economic incentives if Maduro is gone
Writing in The Guardian, Reynaldo Trombetta, a Venezuelan journalist says,
“It has never been clearer that Nicolás Maduro…is a dictator.”
“We are not dealing with an authoritarian government that, like Chavez’s, still managed to loosely colour between the lines of democracy and the rule of law. This is a textbook dictatorship, with assassinations, torture, and sexual abuse of political prisoners, violent censorship of the press, and a sociopathic strategy to use the hunger of its own citizens as a tool for political control. So, in the face of all this, what can we do to help restore democracy in Venezuela?”
Give up on the idea of a popular uprising or a coup
Embrace the opposition
Avoid unilateral actions
Strengthen the ‘smart sanctions’ regime
Support international justice
Engage with China, Russia and Iran (oh, easy peasy?)
Use all this pressure to make free and fair elections possible
Cuba and Venezuela have developed some close ties but neither can help the other’s economy right now.
Photo credits: From a Google Image Search, first photo news.sky.com, second photo, Venezuela Analysis
You can also find my articles @Tremr.app