“The day after, now what?” this Gringo asked a Venezuelan friend with vast experience in banking, oil and global geopolitics, and a keen multi-generational understanding of Venezuela’s complex politics.
“Pray,” he skyped back.
Here’s this Gringo’s perception of Venezuela’s current situation.
Nicolas Maduro and gang will not back down. Maduro is trapped by the country’s economic crisis and very rigid internal constraints imposed by different factions battling for power inside the regime.
Maduro won’t embrace real economic reforms to end the current crisis, partly because he is abysmally ignorant about economics, running a business or anything that doesn’t involve stealing money. Also, there are radical elements in the regime that never would accept such reforms anyway.
Maduro continues to blame everyone else but himself and the regime for Venezuela’s escalating political tensions, the daily protests, the out-of-control violence, brutal repression, worsening food shortages, electricity outages, etc.
Maduro insists that the chaos has been caused by “rightwing fascists…President (Barack) Obama…the US government…(former Colombian) President Alvaro Uribe Velez…CNN, Fox News, NBC, Univision, Telemundo…”
This rant is meant to incite more conflict and violence, deliberately. Maduro and gang are trying to increase the levels of violence in order to justify more repression. Maduro’s masters think they can terrorize the populace into submission and silence, although so far it isn’t working in their favor.
Maduro’s wild claims also are being parroted by the likes of National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, vice president Jorge Arreaza, and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez.
But in the past couple of days this gringo has noticed that when Maduro speaks publicly the usual suspects – Cabello, Jaua, Arreaza – have not appeared on the dais near the president. Distancing themselves, perhaps, from the blast radius that will result when the lid finally blows off the Venezuelan pressure cooker?
Maduro in the past couple days also made remarks that confirm he fears that elements inside the regime are conspiring to get rid of him. You betcha! Diosdado Cabello and Miguel Rodriguez Torres are eyeing the presidency, and so is Rafael Ramirez (with Havana’s endorsement, should the opportunity present itself).
Maduro on 22 February also threatened Venezuela with a civil war if he is toppled or disappears, bizarrely while addressing a Bolivarian women’s march for peace. If Hugo Chavez had called on the people to take the streets, it’s likely that large numbers of people would have turned out.
It’s unlikely that Maduro could exert the same influence on the people, given that even hardcore chavistas now standing countless hours in line in a desperate quest for dwindling food supplies appear to think he’s an incompetent Cuban puppet who is dumber than a sack of hair.
But some groups like the “colectivos,” numbering thousands of heavily armed gunmen who profit from crime and are explicitly used by the regime to terrorize the general populace and attack its critics with deadly force, don’t need the excuse of Maduro being forced from the presidency to launch attacks against the people.
A small digression: Gringo has seen commentary in the past week or two arguing that if Chavez were alive none of the current violence would have occurred because Chavez always managed these conflicts effectively. Bullshit.
Chavez always encouraged and provoked violence when it served his purposes. Judge Afiuni and April 11, 2002 come to mind. Chavez at the outset of his reign said it was fine to steal and he fostered the regime’s alliances and material/financial support and protection for the “colectivos.”
No one controls the “colectivos,” not Maduro, Cabello, Rodriguez Torres or anyone else. However, the past several weeks of escalating joint National Guard, PNB, Sebin and “collective” attacks against unarmed civilians clearly have been coordinated by senior regime figures, particularly Cabello.
Positions on both sides are hardening quickly. This Gringo anticipates more repression from the Maduro regime, and already in the opposition some are expanding their demands to include Maduro’s resignation and a new constitutional assembly.
Maduro insists that he is the victim of “economic war,” but major fuel for the escalating protests are worsening food shortages and inflation now accelerating towards 100pc per annum.
Daniel has a very sobering analysis of the horrific food shortages just a few weeks in the future. Less/No food means much higher prices, and likely more street violence escalating to looting.
Venezuelans battling against the tyranny of Maduro’s illegitimate, corrupt regime had best not expect any outside help or real support – especially from my fellow gringos, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Save few exceptions, the international news media – which this gringo sees as led mainly by mainstream US news media and wire agencies – tends to be rather clueless, shamelessly superficial and too frequently biased towards the left when covering Venezuela.
The US government doesn’t care either. A colleague this week e-mailed that everyone he met with recently in Washington, DC expressed interest in Venezuela’s problems.
But the reality is that US President Obama doesn’t care; he’d rather work on his golf game than address the world’s multiple foreign policy crises including Venezuela.
The US government under Obama particularly is focused increasingly on expanding its control over the population and the 50 states.
The US Congress doesn’t care either. As Thomas “Tip” O’Neill is credited with saying: “All politics is local,” and Venezuela isn’t local.
The Washington, DC-based intelligentsia – i.e. foreign policy wonks and the ideas industry – also comes up short on Venezuela. The entrenched Latin American “thinking” community in DC always seem to have difficulty thinking out of the box…digo yo.
We already know that all of Latin America’s current leadership – except the heads of Panama, Chile and Colombia – have their heads collectively stuffed way up where the sun never shines.
Will the OAS take any action? Mercosur and the multiplicity of other Latin American “integration” groups certainly won’t do anything.
Venezuelans right now are alone in this struggle.
Thoughts on military, security, “colectivo” and Cuban matters shelved for a future post this week.