The Next Chapter for VenezuelaG20G7.com
By Bailey Piazza
With each volatile move Maduro makes, the once-democratic Venezuela plummets further into political and humanitarian crisis. It is clear that Venezuela’s ruling socialist President Nicolas Maduro is extending his reach of power in order to consolidate complete political control. His suspected meddling claimed victories in last week’s mayoral elections and October’s gubernatorial elections. He also recently installed top military generals to executive positions in Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA, which generates the government’s main source of revenue. Now, President Maduro has locked eyes on 2018 elections. Planning to win by all means necessary, Maduro has banned the opposition parties from participating in next year’s presidential election. Maduro’s political agenda is not as concerned with encroaching economic failure as it is with consolidating a de jure dictatorship in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s socialism tsunami has drowned its people in hyperinflation, food shortages, skyrocketing crime rates, and a deficit of basic medical resources. Sanctions and scoldings from the international community have barely bruised Maduro’s unsettling confidence. With tensions rising and conflict looming, what comes next for Venezuela?
The violent protests that ransacked Venezuela’s city streets from 2014 to 2017 brought the possibility of civil straight to the peoples’ doorsteps. However, as the brutal suppression of riots rose in severity with the tally of deaths and disappearing pro-democracy activists, the violence subsided to those who held the guns: the government. In order for a civil war to be a remote possibility in the near future, both sides would require weapons. But with Maduro enjoying the consolidated support of the military, the protest-thwarting National Guard, and the collectivos—a terrorizing motorcycle gang turned quasi-police—guns are hard to come by if you are not on Maduro’s team. But with Venezuela’s rapidly deteriorating human rights and matching economy, reports indicate that over 80 percent of Venezuelans oppose Maduro’s reign. Maduro’s powers may be strong, but the rumble for regime change reverberates throughout the country.
Zimbabwe may be hundreds of miles away, but a military coup overthrowing a distrusted leader may be a source of inspiration to the Venezuelan people (on the off chance that the heavily censored, state-sponsored television would show such world events). Maduro has only shown favor to the highest-ranking military officials, leaving mid-ranking officers and their subordinates to suffer a similar fate as the rest of Venezuela’s impoverished civilians. Those military members who seem to be overlooked by Maduro and his favors have more reason than ever to reconsider their loyalties. It is too soon for a full-blown coup to transpire as the sentiments of the mid- and low-level ranks have yet to foment into brazen discontent. As Maduro’s grip on the reins of power continues to strengthen, his precious military may become disenchanted. Officers will turn from their posts. When ordering his armed forces to use excessive force against angry protestors, Maduro may find that his guns turn on him instead.
The ideal solution, of course, is to eliminate the threat of further violence and promote positive political negotiations between the government and opposition. However, Maduro is in no place to entertain the concept of ceding power to his adversaries. Even if President Maduro somehow did agree to negotiations, any agreement brought forth by the opposition would demand free and fair elections, meaning certain death to the unlimited power of Maduro and his henchmen. The opposition has all but given up on the prospect of peaceful negotiations. But should Maduro become desperate enough in the future to secure some semblance of popularity, he may find himself sitting across the table from his opponents once again.
In truth, it is impossible to predict a definite ending to Venezuela’s tragic tale. The international community is raising its voice, pressuring Maduro economically and politically. Millions of Venezuelans continue to defy the government’s deepening roots, making successful implementation of a strong dictatorship a daunting task. At any rate, if the tides of destructive socialism do not change soon, the next chapter for Venezuela may be reminiscent of the all-to-familiar dictatorship in Cuba.
About the author: Bailey Piazza is a Contributor to Diplomatic Courier Magazine.