Monday, June 18, 2018

A way out for Venezuela: the post Duque election effect

The time has come to discuss what could be done about the Venezuelan narko kleptokracy. And the election of Ivan Duque in Colombia today does affect the possible outcomes.

At the Colombian border, with the symbolic barrier, from left to right: ex president Pastrana,
with hat; ex president Uribe, hat in hand;  Marta Lucia Ramirez, the new vice president of
Colombia and on the Venezuelan side Maria Corina Machado.  The A+ list
of the democratic Latin American right. Piñera of Chile is in thought on that picture. May 14.

The good news is that Ivan Duque and Uribismo won (strongly supported by ex president Pastrana). The bad news is that Duque did not reach the 20% margin over Petro he needed to have a poweful mandate. He can pretty much do what he wants about Venezuela as Petro is irremediably flawed on this regard. But Duque will have a distracting opposition that will try to sabotage every thing, and already in campaign for 2022, as implied by Petro in his speech tonight.

The thing now is that 1)  Colombia has put in office for 4 years an openly declared adversary of the Maduro dictatorship 2) the flow of refugees from Venezuela can only increase now with all the political implications this can have and 3) Maria Corina Machado is the chosen. Not that it may be the wisest one since she may be articulate and all but she has failed at establishing a solid movement, even if it were small.  At any rate the regime is already floating plans to arrest her on charges of treason. That will help.....

Unfortunately for the MUD/Frente/Amplio/Falcon opposition Machado has several advantages against them, regardless of her flaws. She is the only one with a clear message. She has held it against all odds. She was punished inside the opposition for calling up their shady games. One should not be surprised that for many foreign leaders she has become the only Venezuelan with credibility (1). And Duque made his choice clear during his campaign, an unusual act in any campaign to have such a display of foreign policy.

On June 5, in campaign full swing, Duque made time to have a meeting at the border with
Maria Corina Machado. That makes TWO high publicity appearances for her.
Does Colombia has a choice? No. If the fear factor of Venezuela played a role in the Colombia election it was minor. Otherwise Petro would not have reached his score. In Colombia the fear to return to FARC wars was stronger than the fear of Maduro. They may get both anyway since they did not support massively enough Duque. But in the end, when conflict time comes, and it will come, Petro circumstantial electoral alliance will break on that matter.  He is just a nuisance on the way to conflict and will burn on it like a moth (2).

I mention conflict with all seriousness. Colombia cannot support millions of Venezuelan refugees, no matter how much money the World gives to them. It is made worse as we can be certain that drug traffic uses that flow of refugees to operate, plant agents. Colombia already has complained that in areas with many refugees Venezuelan style crime is felt.  If the regime refuses to relent, refuses to loosen up at the very least its economic grip to slow down refugees flow, a conflict will be inevitable.

How will this conflict take place? Needless to say that Colombian forces will not want to reach Caracas even if the road were to be opened wide. Needless to say that if we come to war the Colombian army will win hands down since the Venezuelan army has become a mere assortment of fat generals with starving and deserting soldiers. Risking your life to save fat Maduro? I doubt it. At least Hitler and Fidel always took care to look thin and hungry.

No, the conflict will start by an escalation of international pressure. Santos may already oblige before leaving office by sending the OAS report on crimes against the humanity to The Hague international court, thus officially activating investigation (Panama and Chile already promised to do so). That  report lists already several names, Maduro and his close surrounding, but it has the promise of dozens more to be added.  Will those ones wait to be added and allow themselves to be sacrificed to save Maduro and Diosdado whose crimes cannot be forgiven?

From then on many incidents will take place at the borders. We can have the FARC crisscrossing it. We can have horrendous human tragedies (3).  It can quickly escalate to a short and precise war whose objective would be to take only a couple of thousand square miles of Venezuelan territory, just for "security reasons".  After that either the Maduro regime falls, or those territories can be used to stock Venezuelan refugees there and let the UN pay for their upkeep.

You do not believe me?  You have a better idea? Just wait and see.

As a footnote, the Venezuelan opposition has a problem. Since Colombia will become the major player in the crisis, what will they do about the blessing of Maria Corina Machado? Will they finally come up with some credible strategy that will associate Machado (and Ledezma)?  Voluntad Popular of Lopez is probably ready to support Machado as she has been the most vocal supporter of Lopez. I will bring up this picture from February 2014, the day Leopoldo surrendered to the regime, Machado next to him with fear in her eyes at the threats by guards and police. Fear but courage which is what defines true courage, to do it in spite of your fear.


1) Lopez also has credibility but he is in jail, his party is near extinction at the hands of the regime and the discreet acquiescence of some inside the opposition. Borges has credibility also but lost it at home through opposition twitterzuela hysteria. As such he is ineffective. Ramos Allup has become like the Sphinx of Thebes.  Capriles has lost his own credibility, at home of outside.  There is no one else that currently could even pretend.

2) Keep in mind that Pastrana and Uribe led the successful NO to the referendum on the FARC "peace" agreement, against all odds.  To every one surprise outside Colombia except for us in Venezuela.  This allowed Santos dare to flout the popular will. That is the origin of the Duque victory today. That is what revived uribismo today. But the YES had a lot of votes in that referendum and those went to Petro, null, or Duque if their fear of a Venezuelan like collapse was bigger than the one of a FARC doing as it pleased under a Petro administration.  Keep that in mind as you contemplate the results in Colombia today, the victory of Duque has deep roots, the votes of Petro may be much weaker than what many think.

3) There are two major examples in history of partial invasion to deal with refugee crisis. One was Indira Gandhi making war on Pakistan to get the independence of Bangladesh, as India was overwhelmed with a wave of civil war refugees. And recently we had Erdogan taking a small chuck or Syria on the excuse of its Kurdish presence, but that will surely see the moving there of many Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.


  1. The real opposition is not within Venezuela, the one within has been all but neutered. The real opposition works in the shadows outside Venezuela, its only real face is Ortega but consists of powerful wealthy and intelligent ex patriots who tirelessly meet with politicians all over the world but focus on Latin America. They have been building a united force of pressure which stands to bring down the regime.
    Given the close ties and funding from the USA to Colombia I am not sure they would make a military move on Venezuela as risks the feeling that the USA is behind it and may then garnish a reaction from Russia and China as well as part of Latin America.

    1. 1. Russia and China can scream and condemn till they are blue in the face. But they do not have the ability to project force in this hemisphere.

      2. Colombia would not have to act unilaterally. They could do so as part of a Lima Group Coalition. Even better if Brazil acted as well, occupying a chunk in the south to locate their refugee camps.

  2. Certainly could happen that way Daniel......waiting waiting for something to change....a gale from somewhere to rearrange things.

  3. That is an interesting scenario. I had considered a Colombian military incursion on the basis of stopping the refugee crisis and going after FARC and ELN guerillas. But I had not considered a partial invasion. In such a scenario, would they go ahead and take Maracaibo, or just a big chunk of countryside?

    1. Anonymous9:30 PM

      I would think that, in this scenario, Colombia would want to be careful to avoid looking "greedy" - so taking Maracaibo (and the oil fields right above it) would not seem advisable.

  4. I cannot see a scenario where Colombia would take an action that would clearly be considered an act of war as such suggested by taking any part of Venezuela. Not going to happen, wish it would but simply will not happen. Venezuela has purchased enough military goodies to result in a high Colombian civilian casualty count. Would be political suicide for any Colombian president.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Michael

      When you write comments like the one I had to erase you put me in danger. Please, careful about what you write.

  6. Yikes...i am off the cuff at times...or all the time.....i know better than this...july ..Chacau..Altemira...ill buy you dinner for it....sorry for the trouble

  7. Boludo Tejano6:42 AM

    If the fear factor of Venezuela played a role in the Colombia election it was minor.

    A visual inspection says not as minor as you may believe. With the exception of Bogota, where Petro had been Mayor, the Departments where Petro won were on Colombia's borders. And NOT on Colombia's borders with Venezuela. Take a look at El Tiempo: Mapa: estos fueron los resultados de la segunda vuelta presidencial.

    Petro won on the Pacific coast and in the southwest. Most of the Departments that Petro won could be described as being as far away from Venezuela as possible. That is, Petro won in Departments that, by virtue of being as far away from Venezuela as possible, were the least likely to have Venezuelan refugees.

    Cucutá is the capital of Norte de Santander. This is probably the Colombian department that has been most affected by Venezuelan refugees. Petro got only 18.3% of the vote in Norte de Santander, his lowest of all Colombia's Departments.

    Petro campaigned as the "friend of the poor." The results are rather interesting on a Department basis. If you run a correlation of the percent that Petro won in a Department with the per capita income of that Department, you find that there is a moderate negative correlation of -.38 between a Department's per capita income and the percent of the vote that Department gave to Petro.

    That makes sense: The "friend of the poor" gets more votes in the poorer Departments. There is, however a big fly in the ointment. Petro won only 5 of the 10 poorest departments. If you run a correlation in the 10 poorest departments of per capita income and % vote for Petro, there is a negative correlation of -0.03, which is if effect no correlation at all.

    The "friend of the poor" didn't do that well in the 10 poorest departments. My guess is that for many of the poor who had been exposed to Venezuela's problems, their knowledge of what has happened in Venezuela made them immune to Petro's "friend of the poor" spiel.

    Guainía, for example, is the fourth-poorest Department in Colombia. But as it borders Venezuela, its citizens are quite aware of what is going on in Veneuela. Duque got a solid 57-41 win in Guainía.

    Wikipedia: List of Colombian Departments by GDP.

    1. Boludo Tejano6:47 AM

      If you run a correlation in the 10 poorest departments of per capita income and % vote for Petro, there is a negative correlation of -0.03, which is IN effect no correlation at all.

    2. Indeed. If you live on the border and you are poor and you witness first hand the incoming flow of refugees you are less likely to vote.

      What bothers me more reading foeirng press is that they foicus so much on the anti-Uribe feeling iof the Petro electorate regardless of his "resentido social" style of campaign. This is how Chavez won, nobody loved him much but everyone hated AD/COPEI more. Then of course when he started spraying people with cash bonus they loved him, but in 1998 his victory was in large part due to the anti AD vote he represented.

  8. Boludo Tejano7:55 PM

    What bothers me more reading foeirng press is that they foicus so much on the anti-Uribe feeling iof the Petro electorate regardless of his "resentido social" style of campaign.

    Omar, a pro-Petro commenter at CC linked to an article whose theme was that Petro and El Finado are quite different. Unfortunately, a perusal of the article led me to the conclusion that the two were/are quite similar. For example Petro made a statement against nationalization/expropriation. While those who know little about Venezuela would conclude that would indicate a difference between Petro and El Finado,those who know more about Venezuela recall that during the 1998 campaign, El Finado said he wasn't going to nationalize anything. Petro campaigned against corruption, as did you-know-who in 1998. So. both those examples purporting to show that "Petro is not like you-know-who" actually show the contrary.

    Another similarity between you-know-who and Petro is hypocrisy, a.k.a. standards for thee but not for me. For the former, the obvious example is denouncing the 2002 coup while celebrating every year the failed 1992 coup. Not to mention denouncing corruption in 1998 while tolerating it when in office. Petro has repeatedly waved the bloody shirt, denouncing his political opponents for various atrocities. Given the history of Colombia, I wouldn't be surprised that Petro was right. However, Petro was a member of M-19, a group that also committed political atrocities. Supreme Court in 1985 comes to mind. Petro didn't quit M-19 as a result of that atrocity, did he?

  9. Boludo Tejano8:24 PM

    What bothers me more reading foeirng press is that they foicus so much on the anti-Uribe feeling iof the Petro electorate regardless of his "resentido social" style of campaign.

    There was a Petro fan who wrote an article at CC that had a link (Colombian government link!) indicating that there were more war casualties during Uribe's term in office than in other years. Uribe the blood thirsty! That may have been the case, but all accounts that I have read indicate that Colombia was more peaceful in 2010, when Uribe left office, than when he assumed office in 2002. In addition, Colombia's murder rate went down about 40% during that time.

    Moreover, given that Colombia has had bloody politics since the assassination of Gáitan in 1948, it isn't as if Uribe invented blood and politics in Colombia. As Petro was once a member of M-19, which also mixed blood and politics, a Petro fan's condemning Uribe for bloody politics is rather hypocritical. But blame Uribe for all you can.

    The same writer condemned Uribe for wanting to rewrite the Constitution to enable more than two terms in office. I would agree that Uribe deserved that condemnation. But Petro's M-19 didn't exactly act in a lawful way, either. Supreme Court 1985, anyone?

    As I see it , a lot of the anti-Uribe rhetoric from the Petro fans was an attempt to keep the heat off Petro. Best defense is a good offense.

    1. I am glad I have not visited CC in years.....

  10. Anonymous1:40 AM

    I have not checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring,
    but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist.
    You deserve it friend :)

  11. Daniel....i read this post again..usually i breeze thru it looking for my interest
    All of these presuptions and wishes.hopes....but there are 30k Cuban soldiers...and they control the country..seriously...they arnt leaving without a fight..i totally believe that Cubans will just remove everyone....and thats over.
    They are blowing up Trumps conversation about invading....rediculous...could Venezuela be more ripe to take over than Crimea?

  12. Boludo Tejano7:51 PM

    Daniel, you had a recent tweet about economic growth.
    GDP growth, 2018.
    India: 7.3%
    China: 6.6%
    Pakistan: 5.4%
    Egypt: 5.4%
    Indonesia: 5.3%
    Turkey: 4.2%
    South Korea: 2.9%
    US: 2.8% S
    pain: 2.7%
    Netherlands: 2.6%
    Mexico: 2.3%
    Germany: 2.1%
    France: 1.9%
    Russia: 1.7%
    Brazil: 1.7%
    Italy: 1.3%
    UK: 1.3%
    Japan: 1.1%
    Saudi: 1%
    Venezuela: -16%

    While these are abysmal results for Chavista Venezuela for the years of lower oil, the economic growth rates for Chavista Venezuela with $100 oil are also poor when compared to the rest of the world. Chavez was elected in 1998, when Venezuelan oil was selling for ~#11/BBL. When Chavez died in 2013, Venezuelan oil was selling for around $100/BBL. Here is how Chavista Venezuela did with the oil revenue bonanza, compared to the rest of the world. The results are not pretty.
    World Bank: GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $).

    GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $) % increase from 1998-2013
    East Asia & Pacific (excluding high income) 191.9%
    Upper middle income 112.4%
    East Asia & Pacific 109.4%
    South Asia 103.8%
    Lower middle income 85.6%
    World 44.3%
    Sub-Saharan Africa 43.8%
    Colombia 43.8%
    Brazil 37.8%
    Low income 34.8%
    Arab World 33.0%
    Latin America & Caribbean 28.7%
    European Union 21.2%
    OECD 19.9%
    USA 18.2%
    Venezuela 15.0%

  13. Lalo Lalona4:00 AM

    This web site should be renamed "The Boludo Tejano Blog".

  14. He certainly can write more substantiated comments than yours, and he knows how to have a good argument.

  15. Boludo Tejano4:03 AM

    Daniel could forget 90% of what he knows about Venezuela, and still know more than I. My comment on per capita income was intended as a supplement to his tweet. By their very nature tweets cannot go into much detail, so there is no fault to Daniel for including only what he did in his tweet. In addition, what I added to Daniel's tweet is old news both to me and to Daniel.

    While Daniel has done a lot of number crunching in his previous electoral predictions, he doesn't do so much any more, probably out of exhaustion or disgust. My number crunching is a supplement. With the exception of the Departments bordering Venezuela, Daniel's statement that the Colombia vote was more related to the FARC settlement than as a reaction to Venezuela was correct, I believe.
    The Departments that went big for Petro that were far, far from Venezuela- did also they have more FARC war than other Departments?

    Daniel's posts give an excellent view of living in the belly of the Chavista beast.


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