I have been avoiding it, but it is time to think about what these last weeks mean for Venezuela. Whether we like it, political tectonics are at work and January announces itself as a very difficult month, though January may start before December 31. To try to simplify this a little bit let's start with what apparently not even tectonic forces can change.
The premise of the political crisis is that a group of gangsters have taken over the country and there is no way they are going to forgo control because they know that any improvement in governance means that they will end up in jail. It is that simple, it explains it all. It even explains why the outside world is not doing much because they know that gangsters can only be disposed off through violence. After all, the democratic West did nothing for Aleppo, why should we assume they would do something for Caracas? I am looking at you Obama, by the way.
The other factor that is not changing and makes the above one the worse is the economic crisis. The nature of this one at this point is such that only a change of personnel at Miraflores Palace can offer a faint hope of improvement. What happened in December with state sponsored confiscations, reaction looting and currency debacle should carve that in.
Thus we can discuss the options for each side.
Chavismo has a Maduro problem. His erratic behavior and his absolute incompetence keeps making the crisis worse by the day. Until now he had the legitimacy that Chavez gave him which was replaced fast by the need for a figure head to preside over the country while corrupts, gangs, Cubans and the like fought it out over controlling Venezuela. This will not do anymore.
Maduro (or the people he spoke for) have made two grievous mistakes. The first one was to pass a budget without it being voted as a law by the National Assembly. That unconstitutional fiat was bad enough, as no one would lend money without a legal process of state guarantee. But it got worse for would be lenders, if any. The stupendous crass management of the banknote change early this month has killed any credit or authority he may have had inside chavismo. That is, deciding that the 100 banknote was illegal, then shortening the time for exchange and deposit the notes, and THEN offer a spectacular neck breaking U-turn once rioting started is the kind of political mistake that will kill the love of your most ardent supporters. While making sure that no one will lend you a penny. Not a slight petty problem for a bankrupt country.
Maduro is done, he cannot rule anymore. In any country with a semblant of normal he would have resigned by now, or asked to do so by his own party. Nobody will willingly obey him anymore. For Maduro and chavismo there are only two paths ahead, either go the massive repression way as of right now, or resign mid January to let a newly named vice president, likely a general, to deal with the last two years of the presidential term. I am going on record that by March first 2017 we will either have a new president or hundreds of new political prisoners with possibly hundreds of killed folks. Though the two are not exclusive, unfortunately....
On the opposition side the ability to resit and offer solutions seems gone to naught. The dialogue forced upon it by Obama though Thomas Shannon has proven its undoing. It should not have been so but it has. We have reached the point were the leadership of the opposition is admitting that they underestimated the resolve of the regime. Clearly, they would have benefited from reading this blog.
The reason for such paralysis is that some inside the opposition alliance will not agree on any hard measure of active resistance unless the result ensures them to be on top. If that is not possible then these people have no major problem in helping the regime survive until the time comes for them to be on top. How extensive is this inside the opposition leadership I do not know. But it is clear now that the local political Zulia group, UNT, whose national hopes have failed, will satisfy itself with its leader, Rosales, back in the streets and the new governor of Zulia from its ranks. UNT is the first clear suspect but I am afraid it is not the lone one.
The debacle of the new Electoral Board election was the main evidence for that more than duplicitous role of UNT. In the end it does not matter who is directing the Electoral Board CNE since there is no election in sight. But the point of UNT dealing behind the opposition back was painfully put forward. That was way worse than who ever is sitting at the CNE.
How can the opposition alliance MUD recover from these recent setbacks escapes me. They had a 2/3 majority seats and, well, they could do nothing about it. But that I can still understand, considering that they are dealing with gangsters. In fact I even made excuses for them through the year. What I cannot understand is that a year passed and there has been no red line left uncrossed, no Little Big Horn moment, nothing to show. And I suspect that even the little bit of international good will harvested in the first 6 months of 2016 has been wasted. With Trump election and a shifting of foreign paradigms I wonder if anyone will care much about Venezuela's fate anymore. As far as I can see it, Trump administration is not only willing to revive the Cuban embargo but will have no qualms including in it Venezuela letting Colombia and Brazil deal with the millions of refugees. Venezuela, the next refugee crisis? See if Trump cares a shit. A country full of Machados.....
So now what?