Friday, December 20, 2013

Getting ready for 2014 (2): chavismo today and its options

Describing chavismo today is a little bit like trying to describe a secretive dictatorship which has a lot in the open.  It is that schizophrenia of sorts that makes it difficult to see what is really going on since we can never tell what is real from the fluff sent to confuse us.  If we keep it simple we can still try get a picture of the group, essential if we want to understand its motive and guess its options for 2014.

The first thing to understand is that Venezuela has been a dictatorship since at least late 2010 when the National Assembly was neutered as a possible debating body. That is, since that date all the powers of the state are either controlled by Chavez, or unable to confront him. It may have not be quite obvious for the casual observer that can still be blinded by a mere empty exercise of elections. Chavez personal popularity could hide the electoral fraud. But for the last year, Chavez gone, the regime dictatorship nature is now obvious.

Like any true dictatorship ideology as a mere tool for control is close to irrelevant: the elites will do as they please. In the case of chavismo we have witnessed a fantastic fusion of a vocal communism "light" with the methods of a fascism less and less "light". This was made possible as chavismo has evolved into a bona fide military regime which is based upon corruption and drug trafficking.  Evidence of the road traveled since Chavez death is that this one, always the star, never required spectacles like the one below, from a tweet from three days ago when Maduro gathered all of his newly "elected" cronies in the Carabobo battlefield. Quite Nurembergy in look if you ask me.

Venezuela is reported to have today more than a thousand generals and admirals. Quite a number for a country that is not at war.  The thing was that the army was in fact the true political party of Chavez, the PSUV never going much more beyond an electoral machine, a reasonable one considering the numerical legend of the tweet, if you ignore the electoral fraud and power abuse.  Military are everywhere in the public administration, they occupy many ministries, many governor seats, a few mayor ones. They are the ones that truly run the country, assuming that you can call that running the country though we must acknowledge that military regimes are never efficient on the long term. As such the mismanagement of Venezuela is an indirect evidence of this truism.

The real power struggle thus inside chavismo goes beyond the alleged Cuban domination or the rivalry between Maduro and Cabello. This last one could be fading fast, and Maduro may bark louder but is far from transmitting the impression that he is the one truly in charge. So, who is in charge? Or rather, which army faction is in charge?

It is my belief that the Venezuelan armed forces have been effectively corrupted by the use of power Chavez gave them.  Some people claim that there is still a large majority of "institutional" guys. I do not buy it. If indeed there were military still combining power and honesty we would have way more leaks on the regime corruption than what we have.  And more serious leaks.

The civilian role today is to offer a make up to hide the military dictatorial nature of the country. Also, the civilians are used to collaborate with the diverse factions inside the army, bearing the burden of guilt when mistakes are revealed. Whoever may be the civilian in charge, right now Maduro, this one is tolerated because it allows the higher up in the army to keep getting rich without having to exert the nasty collateral of such regimes: bloody repression.  The civilian in charge are little less more than lightning rods to eventual popular discontent. The real political struggle inside chavismo is between the generals that want to remain linked with Cuba, at an increasing financial cost, the narco generals who have no other otpion but to reamin in office for their safety, and the business generals. The first two groups are not afraid to use violence, the later would rather not. And this interplay is what will dictate the responses of chavismo to the challenges of 2014.

The key here is that the military having tasted wealth and power are not willing to surrender it. But they are not willing, in this XXI century of human rights and CNN/Twitter to stain their hands with blood. They do not mind Cuban interference that much in that they have provided useful political control tools, from a populist effective message that is based on the idiotic nature of the chavista voter as ruthlessly explained by Ibsen Martinez, to direct tools like electoral fraud in the CNE. But they want Cubans only as employees, even if outrageously paid.  This apparently may be a problem as many civilians love the Castro Cuba brand and many generals also like it as a model to remain in office forever.  In the face of the economic crisis ahead what can be the response of chavismo, according to the above composition, nobody wanting to be the guilty party, nobody wanting to have the bloody hands?

They could try to establish a "dialogue" with the opposition in a way that they either share the burden of guilt with chavismo, or at least remain quiet while chavismo finds a way out of the mess it inherited from Chavez follies. The opposition, I think, would be willing to play the game but under some conditions. Political prosecution should stop. Its elected officials should be allowed to rule normally. The regime should accept to name more acceptable people at the CNE and the High Courts. Justice could not be used anymore as a tool for political prosecution. In short, the regime should accept that some day it could lose power in a democratic way. The deal would be as such: "we help you to retain office for another 3-4 years but you have to give the conditions where real elections can be held". A transition if you will.

Unfortunately as long as there is a Castro in charge that is not an acceptable solution for the civilian side and the generals that support it. And the narco generals for that matter, with or without a Castro. The test is already under way: Maduro gathered on Tuesday with the newly elected opposition officials: we will see what comes out of it.

The other option is thus to deepen the Cuban model, to control all of the economy and to try to create against all odds an "irreversible" political system.  Maybe not irreversible but at least lasting another decade so the crimes of the last decade are sort of forgotten.  Considering that in spite of all the major abuse the opposition resists and even grows there is no other option but to use increased repression and regularly, at the very least, decapitate the opposition leadership. The implication of this system is an increased pauperization of the country and a strict dependence on the state: any wealth and power is concentrated into the hands of a commie like hierarchy that learns to be discreet about it like the one in Cuba does.

Unfortunately this is unacceptable for those who struck it rich under chavismo and want to enjoy their loot, preferably in Venezuela where they are safe from international crime eradication agencies. There has been too much financial laundering, and still too fresh.  Amen of their dislike of having to eventually surrender a chunk of their riches so that the populist system can continue, which is what is already happening when friends of the regime like Daka are looted for political expediency.

And this is the challenge of the regime for 2014: how much repression? how much neo liberal measures? how many internal purges?  The objective of the regime is to retain power and manage the crazy dream of all dictatorships: to be loved by their people willingly or not. Unfortunately since the American and French revolutions this has proved be impossible.

Once we understand all of this we realize that predicting a general course of event for the regime is nearly impossible. The only thing we can be certain is that sooner or later more political repression is coming our way. Any option ends up there because it is in its inner nature, even if they try to play nice for a few months while they, say, increase the price of gas.


  1. Anonymous3:08 AM

    What should the opposition do? It does not have any other option but to wait and see!

    1. be patient, this is part 2 of a series :)

  2. Anonymous2:43 PM

    excellent article as usual. however daniel i do not agree with the coming repression. these guys dont need violence to remain in power.
    the oppo will keep tolerating the regime in order to avoid at all cost violence. they will keep defusing any spontaneous effort of disobedience in the streets.

    1. Thank you!

      The repression I have in mind is the one on economic protest that may or may not be led by opposition guys but that cannot be controlled by them. the regime has taken the measure of the opposition electorate long ago and knows that the vociferous "abstention" camp is all bark and no bite. The rest of the opposition, and disgruntled chavismo, will only hit the streets when they get hungry.

  3. charly2:55 PM

    Excellent post Daniel, especially on the military analysis. Under Chavez the military was purged so at his death, all official starting at least at the rank of major were Chavistas. Under Maduro, although still Chavistas, some declared openly being anti-Maduristas. The regime solution? Just like TV stations and newspapers, buy them. Typical case, two years of general staff course with our main creditor, with the family, accompanying, all expenses paid plus an additional USD 10,000 per month in the bank. It works like a charm.

    Season's greetings to all.


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