In Venezuelan history books, when the real ones will be written, it is possible that 2014 will be qualified as the year as all changed and yet nothing changed. 2014 will be framed between 2013 the year chavismo became an outright dictatorship and 2015 the year when all went to hell.
I suppose that a long time blogger must cave in to the routine of writing a year in review post. So might as well get over with it, even before writing a Merry Xmas post. And yet 2014 may still be full of surprise in Venezuela like the regime shutting out the opposition from any of the administrative post it deserves in a normal democracy (1). But the essential has been done: short of a major earthquake, tsunami or meteor crash, the deed that matters is done for Venezuela for 2014.
The year started after the infamous "dakazo" of November 2013, where allowing "legal" looting the regime ensured a municipal electoral victory the following December. The stage was set for a regime ready for any trickery to flatter the bulk of a populace just out to grab anything regardless of the consequences. The first consequence was that the regime entered paralysis in doing anything that was not a give away, without cash for it. The second consequence was a division inside the opposition, between those that were not going to keep taking abuse from the regime and those who, well, may be talked into tolerating such abuses.
January woke up with empty shelves in all electronic, hardware, furniture stores and the like. These shelves never got replenished. Some stores on occasion got some shipments that usually were tightly controlled by the Nazional Guard, if anything for them to have first pick. Thus started the constant item of this year, random scarcity of goods. Paper toilet did come back on a regular basis but never did milk while toiletries and laundry detergent are now treasure troves.
February, as it is often the case in Venezuelan history, saw a new popular protest. Unfortunately for this one, even though polls reflected discontent inside chavista strongholds, these ones left the students to hang out high and dry, preferring to stand in line for food, I suppose assuming that the absence of people protesting will shorten the waiting lines. But in all earnest, a significant chunk of the opposition did not accompany those who protested. Yet, possibly a million people attended the surrender of Leopoldo Lopez and that was bad news for him. From then on Primero Justicia and AD would slowly but surely for all practical purposes withdraw their support.
March was full of protests and full of growing repression from the regime. The pictorial record of violence from the regime is flabbergasting. The torture in jails have been duly documented for almost 200 cases. But thousand of "incidents" are still floating in the air.
As April rolled in and as chavista areas remained quiet, the regime could brag of some success. But what the regime did not quite realize was that its image was shot for good. Perhaps if Chavez had done that repression many people would have been willing to look the other way, just as so many are looking the other way at the crimes of Fidel Castro now that Obama is playing nice with Cuba. But neither Maduro nor Cabello can coattail Chavez. It certainly did not help that a feeble "dialogue" temptation between regime and opposition went nowhere fast, considering the clear intransigence of the regime.
In May it became clearer why Maduro and Cabello were being rejected more than expected: once the tear gas dissolved some we could cry over the deteriorating Venezuelan economy. Of course, people in the know were aware that since 2012 Venezuela is in dire need to adjust its spending, liberalize its economy, take measures to promote local production. Meanwhile May started with a 30% increase of the minimum wage while the inflation was already calculated at 60%. It seemed that rationality was not an option for the regime.
June brought the only glimmer of hope that the regime would start doing something about the economy after 2 years of paralysis. Giordani, the architect of the current disaster, was finally dismissed after a decade and a half in office. But Ramirez put in place could not do anything, assuming he actually wanted to do something, and assuming that what he proposed made sense. Within months he would be pushed away from the state wallet to foreign relations where he has had no success that I can think of.
July was the month where consequences of the previous year started to come home. Divisions started becoming more apparent within chavismo with the vocal raise of "Marea Socialista", a loony fringe left à la PODEMOS in Spain. The opposition did not fare better as its chair was forced out and some speakers started betraying their real agenda, like being pleased with the continuous arrest of Lopez. More ominously the last newspaper with the means to do investigative reporting, with an independent and critical voice went to the dark side as it got new owners STILL not officially identified to date. Since July there are only TWO national newspaper left to criticize the regime. And no network. But the worst of the months was perhaps the international recognition of Venezuela as a narco pariah state with the arrest and release of Carvajal in Aruba. If anyone had doubts about the thuggish nature of the regime, thug as in mafia, the pressure put on the Netherlands and Aruba for the release of Carvajal, our most notorious narco general, was there to enlighten them.
Through August we got a better sense of how adrift the regime was, of its total inability to change anything in good or in bad. The trial of Lopez became an international joke and started gathering condemnations from each quarter, even from the UN. Maduro went once again to Cuba but it started looking more and more as if he were merely receiving orders. We know why now. What was more worrisome is that the regime started discussing official forms of rationing and revealed its inability to control borders by displaying a gigantic army operation to try to stem smuggling to Colombia. We all wonder what percentage of that smuggling is back into place today... But the worst of all was the start of the selling of CITGO, the jewel in the crown, the final acknowledgement that the regime was bankrupt. And yet the price of oil had not started its precipitous fall, though people in the know knew that prices were destined to go down to 80$, at the very least.
September got us more bad news and more hints that the regime was going nowhere. Even though the economic writing on the wall was now for all to see, the regime backed down from any measures, not even a slight increase in gas prices which would have helped if anything to meet bureaucratic payrolls. Instead, diversion tactics were employed going as low as creating a Chavez religion.
More decomposition was seen in October where a high ranking chavista was murdered by his body guards. Or even worse, Chavez daughter became our ambassador to the UN just because she is Chavez daughter, and she likes her shopping. And that was the month when the oil barrel reached 75 and this blogger announced that Venezuela was officially broke. (2)
November was all and nothing. All the themes from previous months were retaken according to circumstances: the mock trial of Lopez and his dreadful incarceration; an international appeal for his freedom by some of the major political figures of Latin America; more economic problems; more inaction and idiocies.
But all of this has become irrelevant this December when the Castros made a backhanded deal with Obama that sent packing a long set of negotiations with the European Union who demanded in exchange for economic help a clear improvement on human rights in the island. More damming for Venezuela was that clearly Maduro had not been consulted on that matter, left alone on his own to shout idiotic ant US slogans that he probably will soon be the only one in the planet shouting them.
It has been a totally wasted year for Venezuela. The regime has embarked on the road of repression and more sectarianism, if possible. And yet there is nothing in exchange, not the faintest hint at some economic change, economic improvement. In fact, two years of inaction have made the situation much, much worse to the point that now were are faced with the need of a complete a painful overhaul dictated from outside, from those who may be willing to give us some money so we do not starve. In 2015 the regime will have only one option: become a hash tyranny or collapse if it fails to do so. I am afraid that reviewing this year I can see a dramatic autism inside the regime (and among many of the opposition). I think dialogue and negotiation and shared responsibilities are not possible anymore unless imposed from outside. And with the rather likely complete abandonment of the regime by Cuba now that there is nothing left to leech from at 55$ a barrel, I even doubt that the regime may be that good at repression. Bloody and messy and maybe with some results, I can see that, but ineffective for the long term where you need a careful and ideological core base to be a successful oppressor. With the end of cash, chavismo does not have what it takes, no matter how many "colectivos" are willing to work for free or power.
I am afraid that once more I must come back to a post written in 2007 on why I thought the revolution had died that year. Not that it makes me feel better to be proven right, but I was right.
Whatever ideology and hope existed in Chavez earlier years these ended when he closed RCTV and started the first massive student protest. No revolution can succeed if the intellectuals do not accompany it. That year he tried a referendum to consolidate an authoritarian model and he failed because the students were the singing voice and because the economy had its first burst of scarcity. The signs were there, clear. Chavez could have reviewed "his" revolution but instead he decided unknowingly to nail the coffin himself by imposing the failed referendum anyway, by killing democracy, by killing freedom of thought. Since 2007 it has been a slow but steady march toward state destruction in order to transform Venezuela into a safe cave where narcovermin and thugs can hide. 2014 has been the last year of that process, reaching the final paralysis before the final paroxysm.
2015 will be the new Venezuela, a concentration camp or the beginning of a recovery.
1) constitutionally high courts justices, electoral board and some other spots must be replaced at the end of their term by people duly picked through a citizens process and voted in by a 2/3 majority of the National Assembly. But the current Nazional Assembly cannot take the faintest risk and is hell bent on violating any constitutional provision to get ALL posts, leaving, perhaps, a single one at the CNE to make believe that the electoral board is "impartial". The big question here is that the political opposition is not being very vocal about it, letting even appear that some may not mind voting for the regime if the opposition "token" representative comes from among X or Y party.
2) this entry is all based on the posts of this year. Plenty of details fro you if you go to the archive section at the bottom at click at the corresponding month.