So it is with Venezuela and this blog, which basically always has been a part-time hobby back when spare time was in surplus to write about Venezuela-related stuff my real-world editors aren’t interested in.
But I put Gringo to sleep for a year because writing about Venezuela had become by the start of 2013 about as interesting as kicking a long-dead horse, then revived it briefly last February when the student protests started.
Couldn’t help myself, got caught up in the general excitement over the outside chance that perhaps, maybe, possibly after 15 interminable years there might still be a bit of Bravo Pueblo somewhere deep inside the collective soul of the Venezuelan people.
But I have too much work, too little time and I’ve been too long engaged in Venezuela, since 1973 or almost 41 years now, which makes me substantially older than over half of today’s Venezuelan population and skeptical about superficial appearances.
As one reader noted recently, in Venezuela there are never any coincidences, only arrangements… indeed, “una sociedad de complices,” as Jose Antonio Gil Yepes put it way back when he was still teaching at IESA.
So I paused again to watch things take their course as Venezuela burned from Carnival to Holy Week. But some 84 days after the protests started, their daily intensity and associated violence appear to have eased somewhat.
After 84 days the anti-government protests and simmering conflict between the regime and the growing numbers of Venezuelans who want to be rid of Maduro and hope/pray that their country will rebound quickly après Maduro is very old/stale news even if the Venezuela-centric social media continues to boil.
A “dialogue” of sorts is under way between some opposition figures and the regime. The dialogue isn’t going anywhere, but it does buy more time for Nicolas Maduro’s regime and lends credence to his lying claim that he only wants peace while his goons continue to gas, beat and detain the regime’s critics.
The opposition MUD coalition figures at the “dialogue” are definitely more knowledgeable and coherent in their arguments than the regime’s goons. That much was clear from the televised public dialogue that the regime now wants to continue in private. But Maduro isn’t making any concessions and has made it clear the MUD can leave the “dialogue” whenever it wishes because the regime won’t make even millimetric concessions.
It’s also clear the MUD is fractured. The fracture fault lines can be perceived by comparing the MUD’s united membership in 2012 before the presidential elections that year to the list of oppo figures presently participating (or not) in the so-called “dialogue” with the regime.
What’s the purpose of the regime-MUD “dialogue” anyway?
Polls show a majority of Venezuelans oppose violent protests and repression and want to be rid of Maduro democratically, which won’t happen until April 2019 at the earliest because it’s guaranteed the Supreme Court and CNE will make it so.
Forget about a presidential recall referendum. The Maduro regime will cheat successfully to guarantee his continuity in power. It happened in August 2004 with Chavez and it will happen again.
So for now there’s a “dialogue” – or at least there is the outward appearance of a dialogue between mortal enemies. The regime’s mouthpieces talk about “deepening successful models” and the oppo is demanding (fruitlessly so far) a political amnesty law to free all political prisoners.
But Maduro refuses to make any concessions/reforms whatsoever and the MUD “leaders” at the table do NOT remotely represent the full spectrum of the groups, sectors, institutions, organizations and individuals that oppose the regime.
The “students,” a mass of rightfully furious youth, aren’t led by anyone in the MUD and more/less spontaneously have become a potentially potent political force in their own right – hence the regime’s vicious repression tactics at hundreds of protests over the past 84 days that have taken some 42-43 lives and injured hundreds more.
But while the “dialogue” lasts it gives Maduro political cover, making his assurances of only seeking peace more credible to a world that doesn’t give a hoot about Venezuela anyway. It also could buy more time for the Maduro regime to contain and eventually snuff out the protests; while the “dialogue” lasts it diffuses public opinion in the camps opposed to Chavez. Most Venezuelans do not support violence, so let’s give the “dialogue” some time, and maybe something good will come of it.
The Maduro regime will make sure the “dialogue” drags on indefinitely, never going anywhere while the business of “consolidating the revolution” deepens quickly – witness the new education curricula aimed at brainwashing “Bolivarian revolution” into the minds of innocent children. And when the MUD finally walks out, Maduro will immediately accuse the “fascist” opposition of continuing to plot coups, wage economic war and provoke violent street clashes.
The “international community” won’t do anything to help Venezuela. Forget Washington, Brussels, OAS, UN, Unasur or whatever. US President Barack Obama has no time for Venezuela, what with bowing to robots as Russia prepares to seize all of Ukraine, snapping selfies and playing golf. It’s good to be king, yea?
But Beijing and Moscow meanwhile are quietly doubling down on their support for the Maduro regime and preserving the political status quo in Venezuela.
Putin was a tad peeved with the Venezuelan regime’s penchant for not paying its debts on time, but his annexation of the Crimea restored Venezuela’s importance to Moscow as a global strategic ally.
The importance Beijing assigns to Venezuela’s current regime likely will be confirmed soon when China’s President Xi Jinping visits Caracas during his second official tour of Latin America. PdV’s recent lease of storage and deepwater terminals facilities at nearby St Eustatius confirms the failure of PdV’s Orinoco expansion plans (fodder for another post), but also hints at potential new oil-backed loans from Beijing that PdV supposedly would pay with increased oil shipments to China.
Supposedly…because PdV desperately needs to boost its oil production and hard currency revenues very quickly, but it doesn’t have sufficient cash to invest more in raising oil production in traditional areas it has neglected deliberately for the past 15 years. Venezuela’s dollar drought since 2012 is the clearest symptom that PdV no longer generates the dollars the country needs.
A second key factor in the disappearance of Venezuela’s dollar supply was the regime’s deliberate destruction of the non-oil economy at all levels, which made the country dependent on imports for about 60-70pc of its basic needs, though some say it could be 80pc or even higher now that supplies of food and everything else are steadily disappearing.
The “dialogue’s” days are counted, but it doesn’t really matter. Venezuela is sliding deeper into a slump unlike anything its people have experienced in recent memory. The Maduro regime can’t halt the economy’s stagflation, lacking both the will and intellectual capacity to address the crisis anyway. But it’s clear that Maduro and gang will not relinquish any political power or reverse expanding efforts to control everything and everyone.