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.

18 COMMENTS

  1. The Bello team did not discover the hot water. Please keep posting, this helps raise global awareness to the disaster.
    There are many reasons to be optimistic. Just think what were our chances for regime change were at the end of 2016.
    At the same time, we can look at the glass empty. How would the regime want you to feel?

  2. Prof. Ellis of the U.S. War College said that the problem in righting Venezuela is that it is being run by a Criminal Regime (Communists/Narcos/Corrupt Military), and that normal ways of dealing democratically (international pressure/diplomacy) with rogue regimes don’t work in this unique case, leaving only the measure of violating Venezuela’s “sovereignty”….

  3. To mediate conflict you must choose reason or simply impose your will. Chavismo has long ago acepted imposition which always ends in violence.

    This doesn’t mean the will win, but only a violent actor will dislodge them. The only motivator for the uber violent men to abandon Chavismo is when they don’t get paid.

    • The problem in the unique Venezuelan case, adding to my comment above, is, as a petroleum exporter, Venezuela has a steady stream of income to at least pay their repressive forces.

      • Trump is the greatest thing to happen for Venezuela, Keystone XL will reduce Venezuelas oil income by replacing it with Canadian heavy oil and provide the chance of starving these criminals out.

  4. Carlos, that was a great report you did on the self-help that is going on in Ciudad Guayana that was posted yesterday. There were a number of facts from that piece that struck me as being particularly significant: (a) the guarimbistas did not have any discernible political organization and they were not organized or affiliated in any meaningful sense beyond their own neighbourhood, (b) they had no apparent plan beyond doing what they were doing, which was battling security forces on their street which was of itself, of no economic or other larger significance.

    While I think a number of readers applauded these actions, and that was my first instinct too, I think this sort of thing is evidence in support of Team Screwed. Burning a bus and closing off a residential street is absolutely futile. I don’t see yet that Mangoistan is some kind of representative trend, but it is not a good sign because it is a sign that people see the best outlet for their anger and frustration to be the violent and futile gesture.

    • You are making the mistake of thinking something like that is the only plan forward. Of course the kids manning those guarimbas dont have any particular idea of a detailed exit from Chavismo.

      What they are doing is keeping the pressure. They know they want a change, and that they are not going to get it till the cost of staying as it is is lower for many people (the PNB, GNB, Army…)

      By all means, it cant not be the only plan, and leadership has to put forward clear objectives and coordination, but again, they are doing what they can to avoid getting into “business as usual, Maduro gets what he wants”.

    • And that said as somebody that doesnt like the idea of burning buses, and having “mortar” duels with the colectivos, but well, is not my ass that is on the line.

  5. I guess I also ( still ) belong to the Optimist team, I read this Bello twice, and with The Economist whenever time is short I read the last paragraph only, in this case as you rightly pointed out they expect more blood be spilled before this tragedy ends; so far 80+, the majority below age 30, but then keep in mind that those of us opposing this regime understand that when it all began in February ’92 it was meant to be bloody and it would have been even worse in the November follow up, we Venezuelans did not quite understand what we were getting into when Chavez was elected, now we are learning how costly is going to be to revert this situation. Hopefully we will not forget

  6. Of course there’s more violence coming with the constituyente, unless one believes the likes of Godgiven Hair, Iris Valera, Celia Flores, and a host of other alta-chavists are suddenly going to embrace meaningful dialogue once the body is covened.

    Their first move is likely to put Capriles, Guevara, Machado, Falcon and numerous others in jail to completely neuter the opposition. We’re on the verge of all-out war or complete capitulation.

  7. “Low oil prices and mismanagement have exacted a heavy toll.”
    Funny, the Economist never mentions Venezolanos’ cultural tolerance of official corruption and a deep disregard for the rights of others as causing problems. Neither do they mention the crimes of establishment leftists. The Economist has always been a marxist mouthpiece.

  8. 85% of the population is against the regime, The Attorney General is against the regime, the National Assembly is acting against the regime, the majority of the OAS is against the regime,, the U.S. gvt. is increasing pressure against the regime, popular discontent is increasing by leaps and bounds, finances are crumbling, oil production is collapsing.
    I would say this is not a good moment for Hernandez to jump the fence (saltar la talanquera).
    I would go further. People who are losing faith should keep mum, instead of revealing his lack of hope because that gives the regime a psychological boost.

  9. 99% were the odds that maduro had to stay in power until 2019. That was four months ago.

    45% are the odds that Luis Vicente León gives to 2019 to a difficult one right now.

    After the Attorney General stepped up against the tsj, things are no getting better. And then la constituyente (eran muchos y parió la abuela).

    A govt in despair for a break, now has la constituyente encima. And indeed it will open another crack in a ship already sinking. All different factions in dispute will put their own pawns in the constituyente. A clear message: miedo hasta de su propias sombras. The one who controls the constituyente could eventually become president. No more sleeping like a baby. We are approaching to la gota que derrama el vaso.

    Just a reminder: who expected Luisa Ortega Díaz to jump the ship? VTV was broacasting her when it suddenly happened. What about el gordo rosendo in 2002. How many of these sleepers are waiting in the army?

    Odds looks slimmer each day. Months, weeks or even days?. If maduro had been smart, he would’ve put in place the constituyente in 2019 and at least he would have remained until then. Now, it’s too late. Tic toc.

    BTW. The only one making profit with the constituyente stuff is escarrá. A este lo alimenta no una bolsa sino un container clap.

    • Constitutions, like diamonds, are supposed to last. But that is not the view of Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver chosen by a dying Chávez to replace him as president in 2013. He has ordered a new constituent assembly, to be chosen on July 30th. Everything about the process is different from 1999. In violation of Chávez’s constitution, it has been called by presidential decree rather than by referendum.
      Mr Maduro says its purpose is to defeat the opposition’s “fascism”. Yet it will be chosen under a system that might have been devised by Mussolini. Each of the 340 municipalities will elect one assembly member, regardless of size (only state capitals will get two), meaning the opposition-supporting cities are under-represented. A further 181 members will be chosen from communal and occupational groups controlled by the regime.
      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. The opposition won a big majority in a legislative election in 2015. Since then Mr Maduro has ruled by decree and through the puppet supreme court. In almost daily opposition protests since April, 75 people have been killed, many shot by the National Guard or pro-regime armed gangs.
      Mr Maduro’s lurch to dictatorship has opened cracks in his political base. Luisa Ortega, the attorney-general and long a chavista, has become an outspoken critic. The constituent assembly will “complete the definitive dismantling of democracy”, she told a Peruvian newspaper this week. Its apparent purpose is to turn Venezuela into a dictatorship along Cuban lines. Already Mr Maduro has instituted a Cuban-style rationing system with food parcels delivered by the armed forces. The assembly, officials say, will assume sovereign power—and sack Ms Ortega.
      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, as Mr Maduro’s diplomats won over wavering Caribbean mini-states with threats to cut off cheap oil. The outcome, says a Latin American diplomat, depended on how much pressure the United States was prepared to put on the Caribbean. Not enough: Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, stayed away to deal with Qatar. Though Venezuela is more isolated than ever in its region, Mr Maduro could claim a kind of victory.
      Even had the motion passed, it might have changed little. The only potential obstacles to Mr Maduro’s gambit are on his own side. Many chavistas oppose the constituent assembly. “Democratic chavismo is significant in terms of popular sentiment,” says David Smilde, a Venezuela specialist at Tulane University. “But it’s completely disorganised.” 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.
      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. On June 20th the president stripped the defence minister, General Vladimiro Padrino, of the powerful post of the operational commander of the armed forces. To some analysts, this looked like an expression of mistrust.
      Tension is rising. On June 27th a police officer in a helicopter buzzed the supreme court and interior ministry. A pro-government mob attacked the parliament, and large-scale looting took place in Maracay, west of Caracas.
      Mr Maduro and his circle lack the aura of heroism that originally surrounded Fidel Castro. “If chavista Venezuela was a caricature of the Cuban revolution, Maduro is a caricature of the caricature,” says the Latin American diplomat. There is no revolution in Venezuela, just squalid abuse of power. More blood may be spilled before this tragedy ends.

  10. The economic hole is so deep and so wide it will never be refilled by more-of-the-same. The situation only gets worse. The Great Default is coming and when it happens somehow the situation is going to get worse–which seems hard to believe at the moment. All that oil in the ground isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans when the buzzards come and strip everything clean. All that oil being pumped out of the ground today and possibly for the next 10 or 20 years is already spent. The future was already sold by this regime.

    Venezuela will never recover on its own.

    The only way other nations are going to contribute to rebuilding this nation is when the current one is decidedly overthrown and a free economy is allowed to flourish without corruption at all levels. A new constitution is in order but one that is written by the people for the people.

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