Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Becoming a failed state (3): reversible?

We seem to agree that Venezuela is either already a failed state, or about to become one. It has a rather wretched populace. It has loss of institutions. It is unable to agree on anything. It is pretty much bankrupt, bankrupt as in getting out of the hole will take a generation or more.

The question is thus the way out of a failed state. From the reasons discussed before it seems unlikely that there is an easy way out of the dire straits we are in. And the prospect for things to get worse is not a prospect, it is a reality. Why?

The people in charge, for lack of a better word, have no intention of fixing up the situation. A narco-cleptocracy, its only political sustain is to make enough of the populace depending on hand outs that the thought of a revolution will not cross its mind. As such the road to communism has been strengthened in recent weeks. There is an absolute resolve not to have elections as long as somehow the result, fraudulent of not, ensures that the reality of power will rest in the hands of the regime. It may be a dictatorship of a new style but it a dictatorship. Period.

In front we have an opposition that has been blown to pieces courtesy of international pressure. In September the regime seemed on the verge of collapse. But the US did not want to be troubled by a major crisis at its door step a few weeks from an election. Arm twisting with the unhappy collaboration of the Vatican resulted in a fraudulent dialogue that, as expected, collapsed. But the problem is not that the dialogue collapsed, it is that the opposition unity collapsed with, and along the way the will to resist as was seen in the massive demonstrations of last fall. For all practical purposes it seems that the regime has gained a new lease on life that shall propel it without any election all the way through 2018 at the very least. This is courtesy of biased “mediators”, of the departing Obama administration, of a Europe unwilling to put pressure, of a Vatican state surprisingly adrift to the point of being in contradiction with the local church, and skillful manipulation and repressions coordinated by Cuban agents.

In short the only way out of this nightmare is through a change of regime. As long as the heirs of Chavez remain in office there will be no way to change the political game, no way to restore a semblant of institutional functions, no way to improve the economy. It is not going to happen as long as the Maduro associates remain in charge. And the opposition for all what I know seems to have given up, at least a big chunk of it. The sector that is still fighting has already half of its leadership in jail. So that is that.

Clearly the solution is not coming from within. People are unable to do something about it and the military are already mostly in charge so a coup is not going to solve anything. It has thus to come from outside. Can it happen? Must we become some kind of new XXI century colony/protectorate to solve our problems?

Let’s first examine the countries that have no interest in pushing for a regime change.

Cuba is a part of the tragedy so we should not even consider it. More surprising there is Santos’s Colombia. Santos has forced a treaty with the FARC guerrilla that was rejected in a referendum. In fact the Santos administration is starting to look as a nascent “regime”. It is in Santos interest that Maduro/chavismo remain in office to ensure that the FARC feel safe enough with secure behind the lines hide out bases. Supposedly so they can disarm progressively and become a political party inside Colombia. I am not discussing the wisdom of that strategy from a reckless Santos. What I point out is that as long as Santos or his allies rule in Bogota Colombia will not support any strong measure against Venezuela.

Brazil is a more complex case. The government there is in trouble and thus cannot make any strong move. Kicking out Venezuela from Mercosur is as much as they can do. And the debt of Venezuela toward Brazil make it difficult for the government to antagonize frontally the Maduro regime without a clear commitment from the Venezuelan opposition to pay that debt. Something the opposition cannot commit to because of the corrupt ways in which that debt was contracted, but also because Venezuela cannot pay. In the end Brazil will come down against the Maduro regime but it will not lead. Then again the regime offers a helping hand by mistreating Brazilian journalists investigating the extensive Odebrecht corruption in Venezuela, since the regime will not. Public opinion at home may demand more from president Temer.

Argentina has been a big disappointment. For all the words of Macri before his election, nothing has come of it. The guy has been in office for a year now. On this respect, Argentina has always been Argentina, mercurial and wishy-washy.

Finally the last country that could still have a said is Mexico but with Trump election, well, they have more pressing matters at home. Like Brazil, they will be content to punish Maduro’s regime, but they will not lead.

Who is left? Of course the US, but let’s look at its potential allies.

Canada would probably follow. Peru would be a cheer leader. Elections are due in Ecuador and Chile and these countries could become more vocal, but sometime AFTER the election if there is a change.
The European Union could play a bigger role but its current problems basically void what would be a weak action in normal times. Even Spain has been silent lately as there is no stable government while the opposition reorganizes there. Without Spain leading the charge against Venezuela I cannot see who else in Europe would care enough about Venezuela.

And so there is Trump. And Rex Tillerson finally confirmed and who has a business drudge against Chavismo. But it is also a business like decision system now. That is, if chavismo concedes enough secure material advantages to US industry, the US may not mind letting Maduro in office. I do genuinely think that there are enough republicans, even Trump supporters, who would like a regime change in Venezuela, as long as this does not become a source of additional immigrants to the US. I also think that Trump is smarter on Latin America than what he wants us to think. Do not make fun of him promoting Miss Universe pageants, but through them you meet people, you know… Inasmuch as I dislike Trump I will concede that he will have a better outlook on what to do with Venezuela than Obama did, notably ineffective and/or clueless on Latin America. If Trump decides to care about the subject, that is.

What could the Trump administration do?

There is obvious and widely rumored deal with Putin: I will give you Crimea and a chunk of Ukraine and in exchange you give me Cuba and Venezuela. Unfortunately for that idea I suspect that there are enough Republicans and Democrats allied against that.

And there would still be the need to eject a narco dictatorship that will do anything, ANYTHING to stay in place considering that jail is their lone option.

Fortunately Trump is not bound by considerations that hamper more traditional leaders. He could for example make a deal with Cabello and the narcomilitary along the lines of “you give up power, you return to Venezuela a good chunk of what you stole, you serve 5 years jail, you renounce any political activity and then you can go enjoy the few millions that you still will have left”.

Or as it just did, the DEA puts nothing less than the vice-president of Venezuela in their narco black list......

Now, this last one will have some explaining to do. Heck, how  can a country have a vice president that is accused of narco terrorism travel for state business? Who will have their picture taken with out boy Tareck?


  1. When are you and your bf going to wise up and return to France?

  2. Here in Brazil nobody really cares about Venezuela. Temer has plenty of internal issues to deal with. Venezuela has become the looney guy who is better left alone with minimal contact.

  3. Other countries have their own problems and other priorities than Venezuela. When it had oil, and it was scarce in other countries, Venezuela was somewhat visible. That's over, and the country produces nothing else, nothing to offer for export. No one wants to deal with a mess of a place, which is heavily in debt, and is almost begging for other countries to work, produce, and give out freebies and food and medicine. We have become a country of beggars, drug trafficking, theft and corruption. And on top of that, Chavistas are arrogant, instead of humble.. a veritable mess no one wants a part of.

  4. Anonymous8:24 PM

    1st problem VZ has is that the majority of the educated productive population has gone Galt and moved to Galt's Gulch (AKA South Florida).
    2nd problem is that no good deed goes unpunished, if some General or the US were to overthrow your government, they would suffer 100 years of criticism for their actions as it would be claimed that the old regime was not so bad, and the new one worse. (See Allende/Pinochet, Cuba etc.)

    Sadly it appears that VZ along with Cuba will be a living example of "what not to do"

  5. Venezuela's hopes lie with two groups. Students who gave their lives to end pretty much every dictatorship in Venezuela in the past. When I met my wife one trip to Venezuela and I did not know Spanish I found an English book to read there it was on the history of governments in Venezuela. Is amazing how Venezuela has repeated history many times and with every disastrous dictatorship there was a student uprising where they took to the streets willing to give up their lives until the rest of the country had no choice but to join them or lose their children. This could repeat it self, almost did when Chavez was alive until Lopez and that girl turned the students protests into their political marches which lost the support of the populous.
    The second group is big oil, right now with prices low and excess supply they have softened on Venezuela's low return oil but this will change. Oil always goes up and at some point big oil will want Venezuela's oil fields. USA and European governments don't care about Venezuela or even a whole lot about their people but they all listen to big oil. When big oil wants these oil fields enough they will have all these governments doing anything and everything to gain them access.

    1. "Oil always goes up"
      Maybe not anymore. There is a huge shift to solar and wind going on. There are a number of forecasts saying we have reached (or will soon) peak oil consumption.

  6. We hear the same thing Dave everytime oil goes down. Everytime farm commodities go up we hear how the world pop growth means we will always have high grain prices but they always come down. These price are not truly reflective of supply and demand but of paper trading making the rich richer at the expense of us who listen to the so called world experts.

    1. "There is obvious and widely rumored deal with Putin: I will give you Crimea and a chunk of Ukraine and in exchange you give me Cuba and Venezuela. Unfortunately for that idea I suspect that there are enough Republicans and Democrats allied against that. "

      The US has gone beyond where such deals are conceivable and not gone far enough where they become conceivable again if they do.

      The country that wants to take over Venezuela is China. China does not care very much about Cuba. If the US didn't have a huge Navy and a policy of not allowing such attacks, then China would probably already have taken over Venezuela.

      The United States does not want Cuba. If we took it over, we would end up having to rebuild the entire country into something more modern, build schools, infrastructure and add millions of people to existing social programs. No one wants to do it. If Cuba asked to become part of the US, The Republicans would say no, and probably after some time, the Democrats would decide also no.

      What the US would like though is for Venezuela to get a new government that will respect business deals and the rule of law. In other words, once a deal is made, both sides live up to the terms of the deal. The reason for that is that Venezuela has huge amounts of hydrocarbons. Our businesses would love to make deals to develop that oil. US businesses are not alone. Others around the world would like to do the same. The Chavistas tore up old deals. Then they made new ones. Then they didn't live up to the terms of those deals and changed them several times. Then they stopped paying for stuff. Chavez wanted Venezuela to be the majority party on oil deals in Venezuela. The problem, Venezuela stopped paying their portion of costs when it was time to invest per agreements that they made. In some cases, they would not pay the businesses their portion of the profit per the agreements that were made. And those are agreements which Chavez agreed to and signed off on. Therefore, in Venezuela, there is very little investment in the oil sector despite Venezuela having the largest oil reserves in the world.

      Right now, the infrastructure for oil production in Venezuela is outdated, and has not been maintained for years. Therefore, there are a lot of oil and gas leaks, and equipment that is falling apart. Oil wells need work from time to time using what is called "work over rigs". There are very few of those in Venezuela that are in working condition given Venezuela stopped paying the bills when they were used. Many wells are years behind getting maintenance. Which means that Venezuela will see continued declines in oil production.


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