Venezuela and its narrow path to democracy

The likelihood of a democratic transition in Venezuela continues to be tenuous, despite the indisputable public show of support from the Trump administration, and their efforts to force an electoral pledge from the Maduro regime. During the past year, the interim president of Venezuela, MP Juan Guaidó, has carried upon his shoulders the weight of a significant show of support, both domestically and abroad, in the hope for a return to a dignified living in Venezuela. The staggering number of Venezuelans leaving the country (which is expected to reach 6.5 million by the end of 2020), despite reports of exiles returning home, has prompted neighboring nations to limit their entry, adding to the excruciating conditions they face as migrants. This is a humanitarian crisis by all standards.

The situation in the country is critical, with the most vulnerable populations, children and elderly, suffering from the lack of access to health care, medicines, and food. The United States of America and the European Union have allocated funds to be disbursed by host countries taking care of Venezuelan refugees (Colombia and Brazil), with some resources distributed through local NGO’s with a limited capacity to satisfy the increasing needs of support, with the population in general excluded from assistance due to the regime’s blockade of foreign aid. The current inflation rate is at 65%, with an interannual rate of 4.140% in an economy progressively unofficially adopting the U.S. dollar as its main transactional currency, contributing to intensifying the social and economic gap between half of the country with access to dollars, and the other half excluded. The alarming levels of malnourishment are hitting infants and children in school-age at a fast pace, the school attendance has significantly dropped, and in many cases is tied to the provision of meager lunches. The constant interruption of power and water services has subdued the country to the extent that those privileged enough to have power plants and individual water tanks are seen as part of a social divide that is deepening the resentment between the capital, Caracas, and the province.

The unsettling efforts by elites to adjust to a lifestyle that is leaving more than half of the country struggling to survive is showing that even with the effects of sanctions falling over the regime’s financial situation, there’s no intention to concede. The military has no confidence in a scenario where the opposition is in control of the country, therefore, they continue to support Maduro’s agenda to remain in power. Consequently, the options are not quite clear even with Guaidó courting the top brass, there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place, other than insisting on sanctions. The results are not just intensifying the harsh living conditions for those less fortunate, it is also facilitating a wide-ranging portfolio of criminal activities from drug to gold smuggling in the country with the suspicion that if not involved, it certainly has the consent of the highest-ranking military. The criticism regarding the sanctions has one camp arguing about the consequences falling upon the most vulnerable population, and the other claiming the regime has had resources and yet fails to provide healthcare, medicines or food to those most needing it, instead, directing those funds to the armed forces’ equipment, such as the most recent military display, showing where the regime’s priorities are at.

Remarkably, what gets little track on social media discussions is what will really take to force a negotiation with the regime, and more specifically, with the military: cohabitation and concessions. This would be enough to be the subject of the most ferocious cyberbullying one can imagine. The problem is that a not very representative splinter of the opposition pretends to carry on that task while sidestepping the majority of the political parties. The distrust is not lost on those claiming from the other side the obscure motives behind the move. The immense possibilities for foreign investment, and the forecast of an even more ambitious plan Marshall-like reconstruction effort, are enough incentives for some elites to align themselves in a first-come, first-served strategy. What’s missing here is the people and their wellbeing. The opposition needs to be as forthright as possible, because this is one, among many other factors, preventing the country from finding a way out of the current deadlock.

There will have to be a deal with Maduro, his immediate circle and the military. There is no other way to pretend an agreement to fair and free elections if there is nothing to their benefit. Therefore, to make it possible, some conditions need to be met and that is for the regime to negotiate a way out. Under the current circumstances, there is no indication that the regime is willing to go in that direction, they have support from Cuba, Russia, China, Turkey, among others, making it clear they are in it for the long run. What is left for the Venezuelan people is to show strength and unity, because once the current Legislative period is over, Maduro will finally shut down any possibility of a democratic restoration. Time is running out for Venezuelan democracy, and the Trump administration’s deadline is November 2020, once the election is over, win or lose, Venezuela will be forgotten.



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