The election that is held today in Venezuela is not bringing the country at a crossroads, it is the end of a long and painful involution.
It has been a long time that Venezuela is a dictatorship (1). What the "election" of today means, as a closing chapter, is that the regime controls now avery single parcel of power. Whatever seems like an opposition hold, some states, a town hall here and there, is totally dependent to function on the good will of the regime that pretends to offer this as a proof of democracy. These near helpless souls sometimes are even assigned someone from the regime to take some of their functions, the ones the regime deems essential for its security and miscellaneous shadowy activities. But the stark reality is that the regime controls the three branches of government and the fourth one, the real one in many LatAm countries, the army. The 5th branch, the media so to speak, is also controlled by the regime outside of Facebook, Tweeter and Instagram. Though some tweeterers fool enough to reveal their positions found their way to jail.
When January 5 2021 comes all this control will become official. Does that mean the regime feels safe and secure? No.
To begin with, the economic situation is going from bad to worse and the possibility someday for a major uncontrollable upheaval still exists, no matter what silencing moves the regime has done. Venezuela is not Cuba. The island managed to have most potential rebels find their way to exile (remember Mariel?). Being an island it was easy to become a huge concentration camp for all practical purposes, getting a few scarce dollars through prostitution of its youth and sucking the blood of other countries fool enough to succumb to the charms of Fidel.
But Venezuela is not an island, it has complicated borders difficult to control so the concentration camp is not a easy option. It has managed to get rid of the bulk of potential rebels through the roads of voluntary or forced exile. Though the millions that left Venezuela on foot through Colombia may have been an internal boon for the regime but a headache in international relations since they destabilize neighbouring countries. How long, for example, will Colombia hold is a mystery.
Controlling all powers in Venezuela does not make this control legal, and even less legitimate. Forcing the take over of the National Assembly was a necessity to assuage its allies. China and Russia need some kind of legal set up to justify future investments in Venezuela. These investments by the way will be done by surrendering natural resources to these countries: Venezuela is not an interesting market anymore, too much poverty, too much hyperinflation. Russia wants Venezuela for its oil and its strategic value as a thumb in the nose to the US. Period.
The regime is fine with a take over of resources by its "allies". The higher ups have stolen enough through corruption under Chavez and their future is materially guaranteed. But they need to remain in Venezuela since laundering money is now a crime and too many of them face real prospects of jail terms outside of Venezuela. Thus the need to have Russians and Chinese managing resources to get some extra income to be able to control the populace through repression and bags of food. Not out of their pockets, of course.
It follows that Maduro has not reached a crossroads. The one considered as a louth in 2013 has outwitted everyone, from his internal enemies like Diosdado Cabello forced now to defend Maduro least he gets an orange uniform, to the opposition which through a slow agony ends today in its formal structure. True, the "opposition" to Maduro is overwhelming in any opinion poll, but through a series of mistakes, missed opportunities and ruthless criminal activities from the regime its leadership meets its official end today.
Maduro is now in charge in a way that Chavez could not even dream of. But he has neither his charisma or popular support (2). Not even his cash since the goose of the oil barrels is now dead. He presides over a bombless war ruined country. He has won but he has really nowhere to go since the road ahead is building, and of that he knows nothing.
1) as far as I am concerned Venezuela is a dictatorship since 2013 when Maduro was imposed as president in clear violation of constitutional dispositions.
2) Chavez charisma exists but I never could quite comprehend. I have despised the man before he became president and knew all along it will end in disaster. My only surprise is that it took this long.