I used to be upset when people in the US were surprised that I did not like spicy food. For them, we in Lat Am ate all Mexican spicy hot. Venezuela has actually a rather bland cooking, and hot is preferred by few for a few only.
I am reminded of that because as I am watching the Trump transition I am starting to get cold shivers. I am afraid that those Trump will put at National Security and State are going to see everything South of the Rio Grande as, well, the same thing. Just make a big wall and the US will be juuuust fine.
But this weekend I have been getting truly cold sweats as I am listening to Obama's farewell tour and his unseemly plaintive speeches as to the values of the West, as to wait and see on Trump even if Obama's eyes and tone say something else totally. Trying to pass the baton to Merkel was a sad moment. What we are witnessing is a man that realizes that not only his 8 years have been lost but his complacency may have greater consequences.
He has only himself to blame for that. I am not going to go into how he was slapped for the economy when he should have been thanked. Nor am I going to speak about his turning US foreign policy towards Asia so that in the end China may benefit more than the US. This one, after all, may have been unavoidable and the only thing any US president could do is to work out the time timetables and the distribution of bitter pills. But I am going to speak with property on the mess that Obama is leaving Venezuela in.
The grand scheme of Obama was the opening to Cuba that he would start and Hillary would complete. One of the condition for the success of that policy was for Venezuela not to blow up. One reason was that Venezuelan money was needed to pay for Cuba transition. Another one was to allow Santos in Colombia to do whatever wicked game he had in mind. Yet another one was that the US did not care much about a country that would so willingly inflict so much damage on itself (can't blame the US for that!).
Unfortunately for Obama the old guard reared its ugly head in Cuba and decided that as long as the Fidel colleagues were alive no change would come. Maybe when enough of them were dead or gaga then, and only then, the dictatorship could start to evolve. Sometime in the next decade. And then oil prices bottomed out for the long run and Venezuela went broke, dragging Cuba down but repression up.
Thus Obama decided to wait and see, to let Hillary get elected and let her finish his legacy. Now he is not only getting neither, but his delays are going to make everything worse for the whole subcontinent.
In Venezuela Obama's last act was to defuse a break down just before election day. When tensions were rising he dispatched Shannon to browbeat everyone in the opposition. As it has always been the case, whenever Shannon intervenes, the democratic opposition of Venezuela suffers a set back. This time was not going to be different. Within days Trump was elected president and instantly Obama lost any capacity of pressure against the Venezuelan regime. This one slowly but surely has started to rise again as the opposition concession of a truce at the bequest of Obama and the Pope has caused a rift inside. This rift threatens the dissolution of the front, with catastrophic consequences for the country.
In short, if Obama and the Pope wanted to avoid civil war in Venezuela they may have actually increased the chances of this happening. May? Actually I am almost certain. I am actually surprised at some of the bold recent moves that show that the regime is not even concerned by the OAS. Our fate is strictly with MERCOSUR and whatever the Pope may decide to wriggle through its mediation efforts (though for all appearances one even wonders about the Pope listening to the Venezuelan church). Peanuts, in the end.
In short for Venezuela there will be no recall election, there will be no liberalization of the electoral system, there may no be any type of election for at least a year, there will be more repression even though a handful of political prisoners have been released, etc. You see the picture. Only the deepening fo the economic crisis can force the regime to negotiate in fear of an outright hunger revolt of the chavista masses themselves. I am not saying that Obama could have solved any of that, but now I can say that he made it all worse. In the end, with Hillary out, what good did the Kelly-Maduro short meeting do a few weeks ago? Does it matter that Maduro's nephews are now in jail? They were dumb and got caught. Tough shit!
What is left to do? Well, for the good news. The odds that we will never see Shannon involved in Venezuela matters rise by the day. The bad news indicate that Trump will be no improvement. Of all the candidates for State, none so far seems to have any interest for LatAm that I know of. At least we shall be grateful is the new Secretary is not openly pro Russian.
Our best hope? Since Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen have been reelected let's hope that Trump will farm out to them the matters on Cuba and Venezuela. At least they can place the countries on the map and know that in Cuba they do not eat spicy hot. If the regime stays in office Marco an Ileana would make sure they they cannot step out of the country least they get caught by Interpol.