Three weeks ago I was commenting how dire the situation was as the fateful date of January 10 approached. Today things are clearing up and we may get surprises.
First, a brief recall.
1) An illegally elected Maduro on May 20 needs to be sworn in by the National Assembly.
2) the NA powers have been voided by the high court TSJ in an illegal way. No law passed by the NA is valid. Yet the swearing in itself is not a law and thus there is no way to annul the NA on that prerogative. 3) Maduro will not go to the AN for swearing in because not only he cannot do so legally but he cannot appear to be caving in to the NA legitimate demands. You could talk about the Mexico wall deadlock, but you ain't seen no nothing compared to the deadlock here since 2015.
4) The NA cannot compromise with Maduro because his election was outside of the constitutional requirements, both in date and organization. If a fraction of the opposition would break away to make a new majority pact with chavismo representatives (absent since late 2015) it still would be illegal and that portion of the opposition would have no chance ever to get votes in future elections.
A constitutional crisis, thus, but one without good solution because it is a rogue narco-corrupt regime. They play by gang land rules, not by civilized rules.
But in the last weeks a few interesting developments have taken place. In no particular order.
- the NA did his constitutionally mandated duty of restarting its annual period by electing the new chair on January 5. Two things to note here 1) the rumored opposition split did not take place and the new threesome of the direction was elected unanimously (1-0 opposition). 2) Juan Guaido of Voluntad Popular is the new chair. A youthful representative (34) from the most persecuted political party (most of its leaders are in jail or exile). So they all rallied around VP in spite of many rumors (2-0 opposition).
- Juan Guaido inaugural speech was a frontal challenge to the regime, even invoking the military to do their constitutional duty and force Maduro to recognize the need of new legal elections. Such a speech, remember that the chair of the NA speaks for all the opposition, not for him alone, indicate a new willingness by the opposition to challenge the regime, in an unexpected united way (3-0 opposition).
- Back overseas things heat up. At the election of Juan Guaido, many countries sent their ambassadors (even Mexico and Uruguay who do not support the Lima group, as narrated below). Among them the French ambassador ratified that the European Union does not recognize the election of Maduro and thus will not attend any sham ceremony he may hold elsewhere. The German ambassador spoke along those lines, I have not checked others. A renewed challenge by the EU when the regime had hopes that the EU front could be showing cracks. Little do they understand how the EU works (4-0 opposition).
- At Lima some newfound resolve was found. All but Mexico signed a declaration that not only condemned Maduro not recognizing his election but asking finally for firm sanctions against public servants that would recognize Maduro election and serve him. And more. That is, even day to day work between Venezuela and the continent would become quickly impossible, to the disadvantage of Venezuela who economically counts for nothing now (5-0 opposition). I could have granted a point for the regime score with Mexico withdrawing but the fact that Mexico's ambassador attended Guaido inaugural.... The message from Uruguay and Mexico is clear: "we are going to help you as much as we can but there are limits. Please, do not force us into chosing". The US also chimed in but that does not count in the scores pro or against since it is totally expected.
- I will add an unexpected point here and that in Venezuela nobody seems to quite understand. In item 9 the Lima group defends Guyana against Venezuela. Here from Maria Corina Machado to most politicians defended the navy when they intercepted an oil prospecting ship in waters that Venezuela claims against Guyana. Of course, not doing so would allow the regime to call you a traitor. But silence would have been golden for many.
The problem is as follow: 1) inaction and errors of Chavez and Maduro have almost lost any chance for Venezuela to recover the Essequibo region, but probably also voided to gain at least some economic compensation. 2) Guyana has gone to the international courts to solve that issue once and for all, and Venezuela was woefully unprepared to stop that since an absolute final decision would favor greatly Guyana. 3) Venezuela is in turmoil and for cheap political points decided to chase that poor ship. That indicates that Venezuela is not serious about any discussion with Guyana and this is an agressive perturbation that cannot be accepted nowadays. 4) And yet this is even worse than what you think: when you do such an operation you make sure you have at least a good working order destroyer and support ships to take to the sea if necessary. That is not the case, it was a surprise and rather cowardly attack. In short, seen from outside Venezuela, it was a ridiculous peace perturbing action.
The message here is to the Venezuelan army, NOT to attempt a stupid maneuver like the Argentine military did against the Falklands to compensate for their woes at home. Times have changed. Venezuela is in such dire straits that having such an operation, even knowing that it would be a stringent defeat, could be used by the regime to victimize itself and crack down on the Venezuelan opposition.
I do note that apparently I am the lone one writing on this here. In this rarefied and radicalized Venezuela such thought process seems impossible... I may be wrong but please, do correct me.
At any rate this week the score in favor of the opposition is 6 to 0. And if I start describing the meek to hysterical counter arguments from the regime, well, I would be tempted to make it 7-0.
Meanwhile the hyperinflation runs unabated and the Venezuela currency is losing at least 20% of its value monthly. Food protests are growing. And others too. We are a tinder box.
Thus, what will happen on January 10? Maduro will swear in at the TSJ. The regime will HAVE TO dissolve the NA because this one has the nuclear option. Already since 2015 the NA has warned the world that lending money to Maduro was at their own risks of never recovering it since the NA not having voted on new debt this one is not valid. Now it gets worse, since Maduro is not the recognized president, his signature will have no validity for any act. ANY.
I suppose the new strength and unity of the opposition comes from recognizing all these facts. The lone option for Maduro is to enter in full dictatorial regime by having a new Constitution voted WITHOUT referendum. At least he will sort of rule inside. But outside it will be a tough sell as the economy finishes to collapse. In the long term that will be of little help because there is another factor that makes the Maduro regime unacceptable: the number of Venezuela refugees could reach anywhere between 6 and 8 millions making this the biggest humanitarian world crisis in 2019.
It is January 11 that things become truly interesting. We can have anything, from the NA naming a new government and calling for election with Guaido as interim president (if he is not arrested before) to Maduro accepting a real negotiation that can only lead to an organized exit of the regime of a quarter at most.
As the Chinese curse goes, may you live interesting times.