An oil-rich country with a destroyed economy faces a full-scale crisis after protests against its long-time ruler turn into battles with thousands dead and no end in sight. The complex governability crisis now fills every space of the once charming nation, forcing people to flee their scorched homeland in perplexed horror.

This could be one of the endless scenarios that political junkies around the world predict for Venezuela, but it’s in fact a compressed summary of what just happened in Libya, a country way, way different from ours, but filled with lessons and warnings.

Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya from 1969 until his death in 2011. In 1977, he transformed the former Libyan Arab Republic into the Libyan Jamahiriya (government of the masses), a socialist “democracy” without political parties in which people “ruled themselves” through local committees similar to Venezuelan comunas.

Officially, his role inside the Libyan State was entirely symbolic, but as the “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” their version of the Galactic Commander , he guided the government in a confrontational stance against Western powers and several Arab neighbours, isolating the nation from the rest of the world. During his 42-year rule, Libya dramatically increased its oil production, reaching higher development standards than most African countries. They eradicated illiteracy while creating a free health care and education program.

Oil also propelled massive corruption and Gaddafi’s eccentric lifestyle. Human rights violations became pervasive, too. Even though the Jamahiriya’s gender equality was celebrated around the world, political dissent was punished by public execution. Social control was enforced by commune-like organizations, the Revolutionary Committees, with informants in all sectors of Libyan society. Gaddafi had colectivos long before Maduro even grew a mustache.

On October 20th, Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed. Libya was allegedly free, but problems were only starting.

In many ways, Muammar Gaddafi was a role model for Hugo Chávez, so no wonder he got a replica of Bolivar’s sword. Up to this point, similarities with 21st-century Venezuela are clearly visible…

And then it all changed.

After four decades under absolute power, in January 2011 a small protest denouncing delays of housing units ignited a widespread, social network-based call for freedom in Libya. The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition, a radical cousin of MUD, stepped in and called for a Day of Rage for February 17th. Massive riots took place as public buildings were raided.

Gaddafi’s response was violence unlike anything we’ve experienced in Venezuela.

The government used snipers and anti-aircraft artillery to take down protesters, tagged asterrorists. In Tripoli, Revolutionary Committees patrolled the streets, shooting protesters on sight. According to Human Rights agencies, wounded protesters were denied blood transfusions and access to hospitals, and bodies were taken from morgues so they couldn’t be counted. The International Crime Court estimates that between 500 to 700 protesters were killed in the second half of February 2011. Gaddafi denied these accusations, imposing strict censorship on all media.

The overly violent response prompted defections from high-ranking civilian and military officers who joined the opposition. Libyan ambassadors all over the world resigned their positions and requested asylum. A civil war erupted and an international intervention through NATO took place, with Tripoli falling into rebel hands seven months later. The National Transitional Council (NTC), the political face of the rebels, was recognized as the legitimate Libyan Government by most administrations, including Russia and China, and excluding Venezuela.

On October 20th, Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed. Libya was allegedly free, but problems were only starting.

The NTC formed a transition government but with oil production halted the economy sank. In August 2012, power was handed over to the recently elected General National Congress (GNC), with the promise of full democracy in 18 months. The GNC then enforced a witch hunt targeting Gaddafi’s people, suppressed long established women’s rights, and finally refused to call the promised elections.

Gaddafi had colectivos long before Maduro even grew a mustache.

It took another military offensive (headed by Khalifa Haftar, a former Gaddafi supporter) for the GNC to hold elections in june 2014. They lost power, which now went to the internationally-backed House of Representatives (HoR). Tensions grew after militias who fought against Gaddafi refused to disarm, hardline islamists took Tripoli and a refounded, more radical GNC, appointed themselves as the new legitimate government of Libya.

In the blink of an eye, two opposite groups claimed to be the legitimate government, while rejecting each other’s existence.

Sound familiar?

Let’s get back to Venezuela. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court handpicked a new Vice-prosecutor, paving the way for Luisa Ortega’s ousting and the rejection of the candidate approved by the National Assembly. A massive unofficial election took place without the involvement of the CNE, and some activists called to disavow the authority of timed-out Governors. Last Friday, the National Assembly named new Supreme Court magistrates, a decision ignored by the government, which already jailed one this weekend.

The Venezuelan State is splitting in two.

Parallel states are organizations with similar structures and functions to legitimate State institutions, but are not officially recognised. The inability to achieve a negotiated transition in Libya lead to The Second Libyan Civil War, which erupted in 2014, less than three years after the country’s “liberation”. Things over there are now even worse than before. The birth of a parallel state in Venezuela would mean an unavoidable escalation in the conflict, and if the current clique is not willing to negotiate key points (say, calling off the Constituent Assembly, Maduro’s resignation from office and full recognition of the National Assembly), creating one may be the only road available for the Venezuelan opposition, if it wants to remain relevant in the power game.

Negotiated transitions might feel unsatisfactory compared to nebulous ways to end this mess quickly, and Nicolas Maduro’s government, although official, is in desperate need of legitimacy. The problem Chavismo has is that the “fake negotiation” card can only be played once; after the 2016 fiasco, the opposition, both political and “civilian”, was scarred for life. The only acceptable talks now are to discuss the terms of a transition.

You might think both countries are not comparable, and you’re sort of right, but some common key elements are there. We sure feel uncomfortable about the pace and tone of negotiations, but they’re necessary —and Libya is a perfect example of what happens when they fail.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Completely agree that learning from history is a must, the challenge is to put things in context though.
    The Lybian situation seem to be more complex and there are aspects that don’t apply here.
    Probably the only good thing about the Chavizmo lasting this long has been to allow it erode and collapse on its own.
    Thanks to that we have almost all Venezuelans against the regime now and that is HUGE!!

    The biggest problem I see is how to disband the armed forces and restore them to make sure they will be defending Democracy.
    And for that we could draw from the Irak experience since that is what they had to do switching from a corrupt dictatorship to a free democracy.

    Fortunately we don’t have the Islam component here but the task ahead remains a huge challenge.
    Ousting Maduro would prove to be the easier part.

    Perhaps the MUD would need to remain united long past the regime fall.

      • Coping with catastrophe
        How to deal with Venezuela

        Sanctions should target officials, not the country

        Print edition | Leaders
        Jul 29th 2017
        VENEZUELA claims to have more oil than Saudi Arabia, yet its citizens are hungry. An astonishing 93% of them say they cannot afford the food they need, and three-quarters have lost weight in the past year. The regime that caused this preventable tragedy professes great love for the poor. Yet its officials have embezzled billions, making Venezuela the most corrupt country in Latin America, as well as the most ineptly governed. It is a textbook example of why democracy matters: people with bad governments should be able to throw the bums out. That is perhaps why President Nicolás Maduro is so eager to smother what little is left of democracy in Venezuela.

        On July 30th, barring a last-minute change of mind, Mr Maduro will hold a rigged election to rubber-stamp the creation of a hand-picked constituent assembly whose aim is to perpetuate his unpopular state-socialist regime (see article). It will complete the destruction of the powers of parliament, now controlled by the opposition, and wreck the integrity of a presidential election due next year, which, if it were free and fair, Mr Maduro would surely lose. Opponents say the assembly will install Cuban-style communism. At the very least, its creation will provoke more violence in a country where the streets are already choked with tear gas and littered with buckshot from police shotguns. In almost four months of protests, more than 100 people have died; hundreds more have been locked up for political reasons. All this infuriates Venezuelans. It should alarm the outside world, too.

        The clueless caudillo of Caracas
        By the end of this year Venezuela’s economic collapse since 2012 will be the steepest in modern Latin American history. Income per person is now back where it was in the 1950s. The main cause of this calamity is ideological. Following the lead of his late mentor, Hugo Chávez, Mr Maduro spends public money lavishly, especially on his supporters. Weak oil prices and inept management mean he cannot pay his bills. So he prints money and blames speculators for the resulting inflation, which is expected to exceed 1,000% this year. The black-market price for US dollars is now about 900 times the official rate. Price controls and the expropriation of private firms have led to shortages of food and medicine. With hospitals bare of supplies, the maternal mortality rate jumped by 66% last year. Officials flagrantly profiteer from their access to hard currency and basic goods. Venezuela has become a favoured route for drug-trafficking and is awash with arms.

        Some left-wingers, such as Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, imagine that Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution” is a promising experiment in social justice. Tell that to the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled to neighbouring countries. As the crisis worsens, their number will rise. That makes Venezuela’s government a threat to the region as well as its own people.

        What can be done? The best solution would be a negotiated transition. Mr Maduro would finish his term but would respect the constitution and parliament, free political prisoners and guarantee that overdue regional elections, and the presidential contest next year, take place fairly. However, an attempt at such a negotiation failed last year, and there is no sign that Mr Maduro and his cronies will voluntarily surrender power.

        Those who want to save Venezuela have limited influence, but they are not helpless. The opposition, a variegated alliance long on personal ambition and short of cohesion, needs to do far more to become a credible alternative government. That includes agreeing on a single leader. Some in the opposition think all that is needed to trigger the regime’s collapse is to ramp up the protests. That looks fanciful. Mr Maduro can still count on the army, with which he co-governs. In Venezuela’s command economy he controls such money as there is, and retains the backing of a quarter of Venezuelans—enough to put his own people on the streets. And he has the advice of Cuba’s security officials, who are experts in selective repression.

        Aim at the regime, not its victims
        Latin America has at last woken up to the threat. Venezuela is far more isolated than it was, having been suspended from the Mercosur trade group. But it was able to avoid a similar suspension from the Organisation of American States (OAS) last month with the backing of its ideological allies and some Caribbean island-states to which it offers cheap oil. The United States should have applied more diplomatic muscle to sway the vote at the OAS. President Donald Trump is now considering broad sanctions such as barring the import of Venezuelan oil, or banning American companies from working in Venezuela’s oil industry. That would be a mistake: Mr Maduro would find new buyers for his oil within months. In the meantime, ordinary people would suffer more than the regime’s loyalists. And broad sanctions might strengthen the regime, because Mr Maduro’s empty claim that he faces “economic warfare” from “imperial” America would at last have some substance.

        More promisingly, on July 26th the Trump administration announced individual sanctions on a further 13 Venezuelan officials involved in the constituent assembly, or suspected of corruption or abusing human rights. These officials have had visas withdrawn, and American banks and firms are barred from doing business with them. This effort could be intensified by pressing banks to disclose embarrassing information about officials who have stashed stolen public funds abroad. The European Union and Latin America should join this effort.

        It will not, in itself, force the regime to change. But the stick of individual sanctions should be combined with the offer of negotiations, brokered by foreign governments. Any final deal may have to include legal immunity for senior Venezuelan officials. That is distasteful, but may be necessary to achieve a peaceful transition back to democracy.

        The alternative could be a slide into generalised violence, for which Mr Maduro would be squarely responsible. Already there are signs of anarchy, with radicals on both sides slipping loose from their leaders’ control. Rather than a second Cuba or a tropical China, chavista Venezuela, with its corruption, gangs and ineptitude, risks becoming something much worse.

        This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Venezuela’s agony”

        • The sanctions are targeting specific cronies, the whole “they’re targetng the country” is only chavista propaganda.

  2. The only negociation chavismo has always wanted is one where all those who aren’t chavistas shut the fuck up, and go back to their lines to buy from the chavista bachaqueros.

    The negociation that the dissident chavistas are looking for, is the Nicaraguan scenario, where they let the opposition to take one or two terms in miraflores completely devoid of any meaningful political and economic power so they would end utterly destroyed and then step in as the saviors against the evuls of mean ol’ capitalism.

    It’s false that the libyan dictatorship brought free education of healthcare to people, it’s also false that they actually put in practice the gender equality, those were simply fabrications of the regime’s propaganda machine.

    The conflict in Libya escalated to those proportions because the rebels ended tethering themselves to actual terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and daesh, which would be equal to have the opposition in Venezuela bringing help from the ELN, FBL or Farc to fight the dictatorship (Which is also the opposite, as chavismo has those groups in their payroll)

    There were foreign interests that wanted to oust the regime in Libya too, France was basically fed up with cagaffi’s threats that were much like those blabbered by the daesh these days about “invading Europe using the wombs of our women”, it was also a known fact that cagaffi’s regime financed several terrorist groups that constantly attacked other countries in the area

    Those are two key differences between Venezuela and Libya, no power is interested in kicking chavismo out of power as chavismo is the most entreguista of all the factions in Venezuela, and there’s no armed group interested in helping the opposition either.

    So no, Venezuela won’t end like Libya.

    • Yes, Libya is definitely very different than Venezuela, but as I say in the text some similarities are there, especially the fragmentation of the State. We should learn from that, chavismo is irresponsibly ignoring the danger of refusing to accept key points for a fair negotiation.

      However, I think the scenario of an Armed conflict like the one currently ongoing in Libya is unlikely too.

      I do hope you’re right Ulamog.

      • Reading the article once again I see that Venezuela is going to become more and more like cagaffi’s Libya, when you said that that auhoritarian state where people was executed publicly for their political position it looks very much to what the most radical chavistas want to accomplish using the prostituyente, as they already have covered most of the points that cagaffi’s regime had.

        The violent conflict that has already started, chavismo has already slaughtered more than a hundred people in the protests, and they’re starting to use more live ammo than any improvised shrapnel to attack the protesters, it’s a matter of time before they attempt something like “alcabalas de paz” where they simply ask anyone on the street if they’re chavistas and killing them on the spot if the colectivos deem them to be not worthy to live (Valentín Santana’s promise for the prostituyente)

        The conflict is in the first stage, where chavismo is attacking, harrassing and slaughtering at their leisure, so the opposition doesn’t need to fear for worse, the ones that should be fearing for things to become worse are the chavistas themselves, as the conflict might escalate to an opposition that would become actually violent in an effort to simply survive the attacks from the regime.

        I would be right, for the time being, simply as lots of people are, trying to slip by unnoticed, but the walls are closing more and more, there are no medicines, no food, and money’s becoming worthless by the hour.

    • Just to interject: I did my MA thesis on Libya and I can say that Qadhafi was initially able to provide free quality health care, education and housing. This was really not that difficult when you consider how small Libya’s population is (2 million in 1969) and the size of its oil reserves. However, after about a decade or so, and especially after the publication of the Green Book, this all started to deteriorate and they became inefficient. By the 1990s, education and health care were so poor in quality not sure how anyone could claim they were an achievement.

      When it came to Qadhafi’s ousting, you have to take into account both the regional and international context. Saudi, UAE, Qatar, and Turkey (beacons of “freedom”) threw their full weight behind Libyan rebels and terrorists. What countries in Latin America are going to pledge hundreds of millions in dollars to the Venezuelan opposition?! None. You knew Qadhafi was screwed when Iran was basically saying he should step down. Plus, the NATO imposed no-fly zone had legal backing in the UN, but would Russia and China to abstain in Venezuela? Of course not, they’d vote ‘no’ after witnessing NATO’s participation in Libya’s civil war. Plus, the only country in the Americas that has the material resources to remove Maduro are the gringos. I don’t think the region has much of an appetite for that.

      Furthermore, Libya is a much more tribalistic society than Venezuela. Groups discriminated against by Qadhafi (the Amazigh and Tebu, for example) were natural allies for the NTC. Indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan groups have generally been supportive the Bolivarian project.

      I just think this is an overall bad comparison. It’s an easy one to make. You have two petrostates with charasmatic leaders (excluding Maduro, of course) that were suspicious of representative democracies, who established institutions of direct democracy that were interesting political projects that generated their own dynamics and had small local impacts, but were ultimately co-opted by the central government and/or wielded no real power.

      But the differences are stark. Qadhafi had no real popular support in the last twenty years (meanwhile there are still people in Venezuela suspicious of the MUD, and there are more ideologically committed supporters in Venezuela than in Libya); there were no organized opposition parties in Libya (Venezuela has opposition parties though this may change in a few days); Qadhafi didn’t even have a modern army and instead relied on militias and mercenaries; there is no Islamist or transnational religious-based movement in Venezuela that other states are willing to support financially, militarily, and/or logistically; there’s no tribalism in Venezuela; there’s no real regional or international appetite for foreign intervention (Venezuela has way more allies than Libya did); Venezuelan repression, with regards to its brutality, is nothing compared to Qadhafi’s; and I feel like Venezuela can draw on more support from the international left who can pressure their governments than Libya.

      • The world is also awash in oil. Technological advances have made $40 oil profitable or at least break even for US drillers. The Cold war resistance to Cuban Communism is not at the same fever pitch that it was when Cuba was a Soviet satellite.
        I don’t expect direct US military intervention.
        Afghanistan, North Korea, Iraq, and others are taking precedence.

      • Thanks for all your data, it’s pretty explicative. As I said, I also consider Libya and Venezuela extremely different. But I think we could learn a couple things from it, especially how important is to negotiate, as long as you are willing to defend your position.

  3. Venezuela has an opposition movement that apparently is now able to mobilize most of the country’s productive forces against the regime, as well as -if not a majority- a vast number of voters in a self run plebiscite. It has managed so far without significant foreign intervention. Venezuela has a lengthy history of democracy and a well forged national identity.

    I confess over the last few months Syria and Libya have come to mind but recent events suggest that what we are seeing is more like successful democratic transitions that have ocurred, rather than a prelude to total chaos. The remarkable thing we are seeing is a people uniting and mobilizing successfully and largely without the use of violence.

    • Right on the money Canucklehead. I pray you are right. I pray Gloria Bravo Pueblo wins out and we throw out the tyrants. Now is not the time to have doubts. Now is the time to march forward for a free Venezuela.

  4. Moments of truth, define everything. A picture is worth a thousand words. Today’s movies/pics from Av. Bolivar clearly show that the regime has been left alone. Their celing of 3 – 3.5M voters (based on public employees) might actually be less than half.

    Regardless of the Smartmatic algorithms, there is NO way that the CNE can come up with anything remotely close to what they need.

    Also encouraging are the central syndicate position: General strike with no end in sight. Their position, which also involves syndicates in the public sector is worth paying attention to.

    Masburro has been suggesting conversations before the ANC. Me says that he is asking for cacao. We might be closer that we think to expel them .

    Everybody should be out in the street, we shouldn’t leave it only to the very young. Millions on the street and Masburro & Co are history.

    Fuerza y Pa’lante!

  5. It’s been a month or two since I wrote something but I keep reading sooooo much wishful thinking here on CC that I need to say something. Maduro isn’t even close packing his bags because his master in Havana hasn’t told him to do so. Furthermore, the top narcos like Aissami, Diosdado, Reverol and company aren’t nearly ready to rot away in a US prison and with the amount of green bags they have at hand they’ll be around for many years to come. The international community still doesn’t give a fuck about Venezuela, except for Spain most countries don’t report on anything of what’s happening. Last but Not Least, there aren’t millions of Venezuelans in the streets all day every day!!!!! The vast majority of “el bravo pueblo” is still doing NOTHING, it seems that things aren’t bad enough still for them to stand up and fight. And that boys and girls is why Chavismo was, is and will continue to win this war. Cubazuela is just days away from being established and a hand full of rojo rojito cunts will be celebrating in the streets having won the war this coming Sunday.

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