Chávez came to power with the promise to remove all vestiges associated with democratic institutions. First, he had tried through a military insurrection, that ended with a balance of dozens of deaths. After this military failure, he opted for the electoral route and finally reached victory.
In the proclamations of the attempted coup of the 4F (1992), criticism of democracy was the base for the military rebellion. The coup plotters questioned the system, the actors (parties), and the meritocratic system of the Armed Forces.
The rise to power of Chávez was produced by the conjunction of several crises. 1) The exhaustion of the bipartisan model, 2) The crisis of representativeness, and 3) The institutional crisis. The political parties exhausted their capacity for representation, and the middle class sought a way out. The thesis based on the popular support of Chávez (1998), contrasts with the evidence of atypical electoral behavior in upper-middle-class groups: bit.ly/2SnxDLd
After the call to a National Constituent Assembly (1999), Chavismo began to expand its base in further elections (2000). In 2002, it began to show signs of exhaustion, going through a period of crisis with a coup d’état, and a recall referendum with which it overcame the threat.
It is precisely then when Cuba starts to have a critical role in the domestic politics of Venezuela, (2003). The political conflict leads Chávez to incorporate the social policies recommended by the Castro regime, becoming a control device.
The parallel State that Chávez built was aimed at guaranteeing control of the most vulnerable sectors, through social assistance programs, allowing him to maintain that relationship for electoral purposes.
To the extent that when the Opposition used constitutional mechanisms to oppose Chávez (institutionally), the regime created obstacles, undermining democratic mechanisms: the government was defeated in the Consultative Referendum (2007), then went on to violate the decision in 2009.
The parallel State continued to grow, and with it came the Communal Power. In theory, the communal councils would be spaces of participation and protagonism (CRBV). In practice, they became clientelism mechanisms of deepening social control.
In addition, they have been the spaces of communal power where the General Comptroller’s Office of the Republic found vices that could not be hidden, even by them. This is a key feature in the spaces of popular power: corruption.
So we have a regime that has consolidated its political base on corruption, from the highest levels, such as Ramirez or Andrade, through the Chávez family, to the president of the communal council who bought a van with resources from the communal bank, for example.
Chavismo used the CRBV at their convenience, but when the Opposition tried to assert its democratic principles, the regime managed to twist its letter. An example, in the parliamentary elections (2010) the electoral circuits were manipulated bit.ly/2XlazRe
The manipulation of the Constitution was evident after the death of Chávez. The way in which the succession was handled made it clear that for chavismo the forms are not important. Contrary to the CRBV, Maduro assumed the transition to postchavism.
The evidence of electoral irregularities did not succeed in stopping the Opposition, and despite all the disadvantages and aggressions, the electoral results (2013) did not cast doubt on the Chavismo representation crisis.
The fragility of Maduro’s electoral triumph, the divisions of the Opposition, and the increasing economic crisis were the causes of one of the most violent periods in Venezuela’s recent history. The ‘Exit’ left a balance of 43 dead and hundreds injured and detained.
In 2015 there is a truce among Opposition, they participate in the parliamentary elections, reaching the supermajority. Chavismo, unable to manage his minority status, again violates the CRBV, by using the Supreme Court (TSJ) to strip the new Congress of the qualified majority.
In 2016 the Opposition begins to explore the constitutional paths for the removal of Maduro from the presidency. Far from the experience of 2002, where sectors of the Opposition supported the military coup, the sectors grouped in the MUD opted for an electoral solution.
Finally, the Opposition reaches an agreement and decides in favor of the Recall Referendum, after having considered the Constitutional Amendment, among other options. The government, through the National Electoral Council (CNE), suspends the process arguing technicalities, in October (2016).
In 2017 the Opposition participates again in a process of dialogue with the government. Looking back at the recall to Chávez (2004), it was possible thanks to the participation of the Opposition in the Roundtable of Negotiation and Agreements between 2002-2003: bit.ly/2SnGvR1
The dialogue was resumed after a failed attempt to mediate brokered by the Vatican (2016) and the installation of a new National Constituent Assembly (2017) in the purpose of dissolving the National Assembly.
In this process of dialogue, sponsored by UNASUR, the former president of the Spanish government, Rodríguez Zapatero, participated as a facilitator. The attrition of the mechanism is due to 1) Failure to comply with the Maduro government with the conditions set by the Opposition with respect to political prisoners. 2) Guarantees of the electoral process; 3) Restoration of the functions of the National Assembly; 4) Emergency Economic Policy; 5) Truth Commission, and 6) Monitoring Commission. The Maduro government refused to subscribe to the Opposition proposal.
The government proposal consisted in 1) Solve the problem regarding sanctions; 2) Organization of Elections; 3) Political Coexistence Commission; 4) Economic Commission; 5) Truth Commission, and 6) Monitoring Commission.
The Opposition decided to withdraw from the talks, alluding that the Maduro government used the mechanism to neutralize the Opposition. In 2018, expectations were placed on the presidential elections, however, the government decided to play in advanced.
Beginning 2018, Maduro advances the elections, scheduled for December. Initially, he announced it would be before April 30th, to later set them for May 20th. Immediately, voices were raised, inside and outside Venezuela, about the risks of that decision.
The Opposition was, again, suffering from serious divisions; fractured by the positions in favor and against the electoral participation. Finally, the majority decided in favor of abstention, while Henri Falcón broke with the MUD to run solo.
The results were predictable, Maduro ‘won’, but immediately concerns were raised alleging voter fraud, by Falcon campaign, reminding the claims made by Smartmatic, responsible for the electronic voting system, about the manipulation of at least 1 million votes in the National Constituent Assembly (2017): https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-40804551
The Maduro government [since the sanctions began in 2015] has used as an excuse for the economic crisis, the measures against its government officials. It is not difficult to link the deterioration of the oil industry (low production/prices) with falling imports.
Chavismo’s narrative has been aimed at diverting its responsibility from the crisis, maintaining the economic policies that led to this situation. The government has dodged the control function of the National Assembly, indebted the country, ignoring the voters.
It goes without saying that, not only the Opposition but also experts in constitutional, economic and human rights, have been warning – for years – that the situation of the country was going to generate a crisis of extraordinary dimensions.
Chavismo has used the Constitution, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Electoral Council, among others, to guarantee its control over power, thanks to the military support that Chávez secured with the purge policy initiated back in 2002.
The Venezuelan State, completely, has mutated into a corporation sustained by corruption, perks, and clientelism. The rights were replaced by militancy, but it’s not ideology, it’s only power.
We are looking at the entrails of the monster that was engendered by the unexpected alliance between the defeated left and the failed military. This is not a civil war, nor a right/left conflict.
In Venezuela, a struggle is being fought between a criminal state and defenseless people.