Debating whether Venezuela is or isn’t screwed beyond repair is one of the country’s favorite parlour games. The Caracas Chronicles Whatsapp group is split down the middle on the issue. On one hand, there’s Team Screwed, made up of the champions of learned helplessness and guys who think the communists already won la victoria perfecta. On the other hand, there’s Team Not-Screwed, comprised mostly of wishful thinkers and folks that believe in pajaritos preañaos.
I’ve always been part of the latter, but the Economist’s Bello section – their Latin American opinion page – ran a piece last week that might just make me jump the talanquera. In unusually blunt style, they title the editorial Adiós to Venezuelan democracy and lay out the pessimists case for the coming months.
On Maduro’s inconstitutional parapeto of a Constituent Assembly, they say this:
Mr Maduro wants the assembly because he can no longer stay in power democratically. Low oil prices and mismanagement have exacted a heavy toll. Food and medicines are scarce; diseases long curbed, such as diphtheria and malaria, are killing once more.
When they start listing things that could bring down chavismo, they really get your teamscrewedness going.
A last opportunity to apply diplomatic pressure failed last month at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of American States, held in Cancún. The Mexican hosts thought they had more than the 23 votes needed (out of 34) to condemn Venezuela. They got only 20.
They don’t have much more faith in the military, either, noting that
The armed forces, which sustain Mr Maduro in power, have wavered but not bent—so far, at least. Several retired generals who were close to Chávez have criticised the idea of a new assembly. At least 14 junior officers have been arrested since the protests began.
In their view, that leaves Chavista defections as the only threat to Maduro’s grip on power:
Many chavistas oppose the constituent assembly (…) Although there have been intermittent protests in chavista areas of Caracas, usually over food shortages, the opposition has failed to link up with dissidents from the regime in a truly national protest movement.
Bello closes on a dire note. I’m not going to spoil it, but let’s just say it leaves you with the feeling that the only thing that’s certain with the constituyente is that there’s more violence coming in the days ahead.