This is kind of a melancholy post. For years now I have been calling this a dictatorship. It took sometime to start seeing it expressed in the foreign press. And even as I type there are some in Venezuela or overseas (I am looking at you, Zapatero just for today's denialist) that still refuse to use the D word, expecting who knows what leniency from who knows where.
For me the D word applies since Chavez closed Radio Caracas in 2007. Or if you want a more material date you can use early 2013 when the constitutional coup of the moment allowed Maduro to become Chavez successor. And many other moments you may prefer. It really does not matter much, the dictatorial nature of the regime has been obvious from the start, from the very first social program of Chavez "Plan Bolivar 2000" that established the Venezuelan army as a discretionary manager of public money, and thus corruption.
I remember it all. Try me.
This year the dictatorship has been forced to become more frontal, more classical. Until this year the excuse that Venezuela was an autocratic regime and not a dictatorship was that the opposition did manage some electoral victories, that there were still an opposition paper here and there, albeit on trial. Etc. But all those were mere excuses. For the left there was no way that the beloved populist could have generated such a monstrously corrupt and inefficient system. For the right it was that declaring Venezuela to be a dictatorship would mean taking action for which democrats seem to have lost the taste for, and for quite a while now. The last outrage and successful international take, if I remember well, was against Fujimori who in my book is not any worse than Chavez, and certainly less calamitous for the general welfare of the people. Honduras and Paraguay were mere side shows where the changes eventually prevailed because, well, these changes had a true legal foundation.
But never was Chavez to be sternly criticized until Argentina's Macri made it to office. And yet, with more bark than bite so far.
But now things have become unacceptable and Venezuela is preparing to be suspended from Mercosur in a little bit more than a month while the OAS may suddenly decided to make a concrete Democratic Chart application. Only Erdogan receives Maduro.
Since last December the regime has proceded to the following:
*Using the judicial power to block almost all actions from the National Assembly
*Rule through a state of emergency system bypassing any legal control
*Go through a wave of arrestations and creation of political prisoners without any legal supervision, with "evidence" planted directly by the people performing the arrest
*Sue the last two remaining national daily papers
*Block any control activity that the National Assembly has in the constitution
*Suspend any election, going as far as saying that elections were not an important right
*Dispose of national assets to find fresh cash
*Decree that all remaining private companies must sell 50% of their production to the government
*Etc...... including heavy intelligence insulting propaganda to pretend that all is fine and dandy in Venezuela
But the latest was in my opinion a fatal mistake for the regime. Maduro decided that the National Budget would be approved by decree law, with the support of course of the Judicial Constitutional Court. Now, I am not going to go into the unconstitutional and illegal ways in which the regime decides taxation and how it disposes of the funds through appointed folks.Trust me, the case is clear against the regime.
Since "No taxation without representation", and we know how that ended, it has been the rule in any and every democracy that the budget must be validated by a parliament. Even if that parliament is elected under fraud, but there must be a Parliament Act. Why is such a parliamentary act a requirement? Because it is the contract symbol that the state is the guarantor of the money lent or borrowed. Failure to do such an act means simply that the only responsible party is the guy in charge and that his mere death slipping at night in the bathtub is enough to question whether his successor has any obligation in fulfilling previous commitments.
In short, if you lend money to the Venezuelan government as of today, you have zero guarantee, LEGAL guarantee, that you will ever be paid back (that we are broke and unable to pay our debt is another story, but I digress). And considering that the guy in charge, Maduro, is an ass, with a shaky hold at best, I wonder who will bail the country out...
There are two implications here.
First, obviously, that taking over discretionary disposition of all the nation's income is the most naked act of dictatorship a regime can do. Never mind that in the same ceremony where the "budget" was signed Maduro already decided that he would not give money to any opposition district which by law he is forced to do, even if he has way to deliver less than the survival requirements of such districts. Thus now we are free from having to discuss over and over the dictatorial nature of the regime. All understand money, all understand that Maduro has officially privatized the budget. Even commies understand that.
The second consideration is that we are in big trouble. If the regime has resorted to such an extreme move it is because it feels that its end is near, that too many inside the regime are about to meet their legal destiny in some court. Since it has been proven amply that the regime could not care less about the welfare of the people (starvation cases, distressing lack of heath care for which I can personally vouch for as my SO has been left without chemotherapeutic without the possibility of legally buy it overseas) then it has been easy for them to take the final decision.
By privatizing the national budget the regime grabs directly whatever is left of the country resources to use them to support Cuba and the repression machinery needed to remain in office. That is right, there is not enough money for the rest, it will all be used to sustain the repression and ensuring a minimum of popular support to be able to recruit enough of those that will do that repression. I will note that the forced sale of 50% of production (that will probably not be paid on time, if at all, and after having lost all relevant value due to inflation) represents about what the regime can physically manage in that legal robbery handling, and what it needs roughly for its CLAP distribution system (who not surprisingly in the beggarly nature of chavismo support has allowed Maduro to get back to 30% in polls). Never mind that by forcing such sale the regime acknowledges that all the expropriations made under Chavez have only yielded a cemetery of once food producing businesses.
So there it is, the regime has played its last card.
The regime could not possibly care less about what the fate of the country and its people may be. There is no other card to be played, there is no expropriation that can be done which can satisfy the needs of the people, unless looting of homes is next. Expropriation of banks is useless when inflation is scheduled to be 4 digits next year. Nothing left for populism, not even borrowing as no one will be foolish enough to lend a penny to the the regime now. All has been wasted. There is only the little bit of food produced by the private sector and a worthless budget which can at least pay for the criminals that are needed for public order.