Six months ago today, Bloomberg’s Ethan Bronner and Andy Rosati wrote a piece in BusinessWeek that set me off. Talking utter non-sense, they argued it was senseless to say Venezuela was “on the brink”. They said the opposition was flailing without a strategy and under an irredeemable leadership. They said that regime change was nowhere on the horizon. It was moronic:
From a distance, Venezuela, with its crashing oil prices and alarming shortages, appears on the brink of political upheaval. Almost 1 million people marched in Caracas on Sept. 1 to pressure President Nicolás Maduro into allowing a referendum for his recall. The overturning of leftist populism—sweeping across commodity-dependent South America from Argentina to Brazil to Peru—seems on its way here, the country where the movement had its most elaborate flowering.
But…the levers of power […] are firmly in the hands of the president. Among analysts and Maduro’s opponents, there is a tendency to overstate how near to collapse things are, out of understandable frustration and wishful thinking. Can a government, no matter how much oil it has underground, ignore the laws of markets, make a mockery of its institutions, spin half-truths, and pay no price? A reckoning must be due, these opponents insist.
Even as the suffering increases for the country’s 30 million inhabitants, the government appears—for now—secure. Barring a successful recall before the end of this year, the president won’t face a vote until 2018. Maduro has factions to balance and appearances to maintain. He faces open criticism. This isn’t a dictatorship like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But the boundaries of candor remain purposefully vague, and those who have profited from the revolution are holding on firmly while the opposition flails, unable to grab hold of a way to restore the ruling status many of its members enjoyed before they lost power at the end of the 20th century.
Yet the opposition, despite an overwhelming legislative victory last December, hasn’t gotten a single significant law past challenges in the courts. As pale follow-up demonstrations to the Sept. 1 march revealed, it remains splintered and disorganized. Life gets harder, but there’s little reason to expect a change soon.
The nerve! Didn’t they understand the way forces were building up to a late 2016 denouement where anger on the street would become unmanageable? Where the hell do these gringos get off blithely dismissing the obvious signs of state collapse?
It made me angry. I raged at Andy on Twitter. “We’ll see how this post makes you look six months from now, Rosati!”
I even made a Rage-google-calendar-reminder! “Six Month Mark, see how Andy’s piece did!”
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