By Anthony L Hall
Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaido, has announced his intention of returning to his homeland [today] from Ecuador, a move that would likely result in his arrest by Venezuelan authorities. …
Last weekend, Guaido coordinated a failed effort to bring aid from Colombia and Brazil into Venezuela, where security forces loyal to [President Nicolás] Maduro blocked the supplies [this, despite fear of starvation forcing millions to emigrate, and causing millions more to scavenge at home, for food].
Maduro has described Guaido’s gambit as part of a US-backed plot to overthrow him.
(Deutsche Welle, March 3, 2019)
Truth be told, I have no more tears to shed. This, because I have decried the way Venezuela was weaving itself into the basket case it has become in far too many commentaries.
Besides, my world view is such that I was simultaneously decrying the way other countries were doing the same, notably Haiti, Myanmar, Ukraine, North Korea, Yemen, the DR Congo, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan. A simple name search on my weblog will attest to this.
Not to mention that the dysfunctional, violence-riven, hunger-stricken mess leaders have made of those countries makes the mess Venezuela’s leaders have made of this country seem like little more than spilled milk.
Therefore, I see no point in joining johnnies-come-lately in shedding #tears over events unfolding in Venezuela today. As heart-rending as conditions are, they are the inexorable result of events I’ve been writing about for years. This is why I shall suffice to share excerpts from just two of my many commentaries.
This first one is from “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015. It gives an overview of the primrose path Hugo Chávez led Venezuela down to arrive at this purgatory:
My socialist affinities are such that I used to be a big fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. … However, it did not take long before I began denouncing him as just another tin-pot dictator betraying the very socialist causes he championed. I did so in commentaries like ‘Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than a One-Man, Three-Ring Circus,’ September 7, 2006. …
It was hardly surprising that poor Venezuelans were protesting against chronic privation within a year of his death in March 2013. …
Few Venezuelans appreciated that Chávez was a bigger crook than any drug lord who ever menaced South America. Yet he earned his rightful place in the rogue’s gallery of dead kleptomaniacs, which includes everyone from François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire/DR Congo, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Crime bosses like Al Capone and drug lords like Pablo Escobar had nothing on political dictators like these. …
His family and cronies have nothing to fear, so long as the man to whom he bequeathed the presidency, his crony-in-chief Nicolás Maduro, remains in office. But all bets are off — with respect to their ill-gotten fortunes, and even their freedom — the minute any opposition leader assumes power.
Given the above, many hailed it as a tipping point six weeks ago when Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido assumed power and declared Maduro illegitimate. No doubt it boded well that Guaido got the United States and nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere to support him. Never mind that his move triggered the looming prospect of civil war.
More to the point, though, Guaido seems destined to end up like Morgan Tsvangirai. He was the duly elected president of Zimbabwe who had the kind of US-led support Guaido has today.
Yet Tsvangirai spent most of his presidency living in exile or under house arrest at the behest of that country’s strongman, Robert Mugabe. The latter even included an embarrassing and self-abnegating stint as Mugabe’s prime-ministerial puppet.
Which brings me to this second excerpt from “Venezuela Assassinates ‘Rambo’ Coup Leader,” January 25, 2018. It gives an overview of the current state of affairs:
Venezuela might not be a ‘shithole country,’ but it’s certainly a basket case — so much so that it’s making Zimbabwe look like a paragon of political stability and economic sustainability…
Apropos of President Maduro remaining in office, I argued — in “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017 — that there’s no way he can win a free and fair election. Further, that his fate depends on the military supporting his dictatorship the way it supported Chávez’s.
I advised — in “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Nightmare,” December 9, 2015 — that he would be wise to negotiate blanket immunity (for himself and his family) in exchange for his immediate resignation. Further, that he should let Chávez’s family and cronies suffer come what may.
But Maduro seems determined to emulate not just Chavez’s 11 years in power, but Mugabe’s 37. …
Still, no matter his sham talks, rigged election, or Trumpian delusion, Maduro must know his days are numbered. After all, his fate rests upon the favor of Venezuela’s military leaders. Except that they remained so loyal to Chávez because he rose from among their ranks. Maduro did not. Indeed, they probably see him as nothing more than a leftist ‘militant dreamer’ — who is to Chavismo what Steve Bannon is to Trumpism (Got that?).
These military leaders must also know that, as long as Maduro remains in office, Venezuela’s economic death spiral will continue. He clearly enjoys ruling over a basket case. I doubt they enjoy serving in one.
Therefore, instead of continuing feckless talks with him, opposition leaders should appeal to their nationalist/Chavismo pride to get them to ensure a free and fair presidential election, which would surely see Maduro ousted in a landslide.
By the same token, instead of gambling with Venezuela’s fate, Maduro would do well to secure his own.
We cry for you, Venezuela
The truth is, he never loved you
He broke his promise
Please find your senses.
Significantly, hundreds of soldiers have reportedly deserted or defected. But you can infer from this second excerpt that I am surprised and dismayed military leaders remain so loyal to Maduro. For he will have no reason to go, as long as they do.
Meanwhile, Trump is offering Guaido little more than trademark bluster with his saber-rattling rhetoric. He clearly does not have the cojones to launch military intervention to remove Maduro; you know, like the ones former President George H.W. Bush showed when he removed Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.
Then again, there’s this curious thing: Maduro might be the only dictator on the world stage with whom Trump does not want to tango. This might be because Maduro did not get the dictator’s handbook for dealing with Trump, titled With Trump, Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.
Unfortunately, far too many Venezuelans have yet to come to their senses. In fact, I fear half of the population would take up arms in a civil war to defend Maduro, whereas you’d think they would join opposition forces in a revolutionary war to oust him.
After all, their dire circumstances are such that millions of them are scavenging for food — as I duly protested in “Trump Threatens Venezuela’s Dying Economy with Economic Sanctions,” July 19, 2017.
So cry, this beleaguered country …
That said, many are wondering why Venezuela’s putative patron China is not doing more to help. Here is how Matt Ferchen, a scholar with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, bemoaned China’s salutary neglect:
There’s a sense that China actually believes and wants others to believe that… as a developing country, China understands and cares about the concerns of other developing countries.
And here it watched as its developing-country partner, with which it had built up a special relationship, faced political, economic, and humanitarian crisis — and China’s done nothing.
(Agence France-Presse, February 14, 2019)
But here is how I presaged this neglect in “‘All the World Is at War’ Hardly Means World War III,” November 30, 2015:
You can be forgiven for wondering about China’s conspicuous absence from this fight [in Syria].
The reason is that China has so cultivated its self-serving and self-preserving policy of non-interference, it would not lift a finger to stop ISIS from conquering every country in the Middle East. This, so long as ISIS did not impinge on its sovereignty and was willing to supply its demand for oil.
In other words, if China (instead of the United States) were the only world power capable of stopping the Nazis during WWII, Hitler would have realized his dream of turning all of Europe into a fascist paradise (e.g., free of Jews, blacks, and gays).
This informs my abiding admonition about weak/poor countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, heralding China as a more worthy superpower patron than the United States.
* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Monday, March 3 – hours before Guaido returned. Despite international fears, Maduro has, so far, shown the good sense to avoid making a revolutionary martyr of him. By the same token, though, Guaido seems no closer to ousting Maduro than he was on the day he assumed power in January. #Stalemate (which clearly favors Maduro).