www.PSUV.Org.Ve – About a month since the presidential glimpse by Nicolás Maduro, he appears to have mostly backfired, which left him poorer. The dynamics behind the crisis of long years have not changed substantially, but the deepening impact on the oil industry of the economic implosion poses a threat to key government interest and the stability of the regime. Crisis management in Maduro should undergo another significant stress check.
Such a broad mandate was constrained by only the government’s questionable voter turnout estimates-of 46 percent-which are too small to provide democratic legitimacy. The government opposed the attempts made by the polling stations to allow voters to provide bread, medication and other necessities. All but a few loyal world friends were unwilling to congratulate Maduro.
The voting counts were accepted by China and Russia but Beijing seemed cooler than it used to be, whereas Ecuador and Uruguay made statements to depolarize the situation. However, the Dominican Republic ‘s rejection of its previous support for Maduro must have been a blow by the OAS General Assembly, with 24 votes lacking to invite the Inter-American Democratic Charter to revoke Venezuela ‘s participation in the regional body.
The victory of Maduro is further overshadowed by the fact that 85% of the votes for a government went to Diosdado Cabello Party, which led a rival group under a PSUV flag, while Maduro’s Somos Movements Venezuela received just 5%. Long-term observers argue that Maduro and Cabello are in a fight, the original Chávez 4F movement member who went astray in 1992. On 28 July – Chávez’s birthday – the PSUV is organizing a Party Congress that pursues Cabello’s leadership ambitions to serve.
The weakness of Maduro seems to have led him to do a number of things since the election. Most analysts agree he led a sequence of releases to boost his messy picture, peace and set the stage for discussion. He was expected to restructure the cabinet to create cohesion, but he was obviously hampered briefly by internal political difficulties.
He also released Joshua Holt, a U.S. citizen who had been under investigation for espionage and attempting to overthrow the constitution since 2016. The objective of Maduro might have been to disarm US criticism and to open a communication line, but he also expelled the US the day after the election. Responsible for Business and his deputy. After the publication of the US State Department, two Venezuelan ambassadors were withdrawn and later underlined that Venezuela ‘s stance remained unchanged as a consequence of the review of Holt.”
It that enforce further US penalties, but Maduro’s self-destructive law hurts far more his country. Increased hyperinflation and a potential record fall in oil production month-to – month between May and June indicate rapidly deteriorating economies. Press reports suggest that the state-owned oil company PDVSA soon announces that it is unable, with its several key partners, to honor its monthly production obligations – a major blow against a 95% government dependent on oil.
The mainstream opposition called for boycott on voting on May 20, but this did not give them the victory they wanted to regain popular confidence and a widespread presumption that the majority of voters stayed at home. Time and again, bland predictions generate fear that the military is going to move in. It’s not that fast, though. Informal networks and personalized hierarchies appear to serve more military forces to create divisions which make it difficult for groups to act credibly for the armed forces.
To date, senior officials appear to have determined that loyalties to a dysfunctional regime do not yet threaten business and institutional interests sufficiently for them to act.
Venezuela: Can Trump’s Coercive Diplomacy Help?
A.S. President Trump’s recent rhetorical attacks and financial sanctions against the Venezuelan government indicate a turn towards aggressive diplomacy aimed at achieving regime change, but in the conflict-ridden region, US power faces severe limits. Trump called President Maduro a tyrant at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and said “this situation is totally intolerable and we cannot stand by and watch it.”
The Washington approach emphasizes sticks – sanctions against President Maduro, senior advisors and threatened action against the oil sector – over carrots, while also expressing support for the opening of new face-to – face mediated talks between Maduro and the opposition. A contact group of six Latin American and four European countries promotes talks with the support of the UN Secretary-General and the Vatican to help avoid the worst open conflict scenario.
Past attempts to organize a multilateral coalition that simultaneously maintains pressure on the government while opening negotiating avenues have failed – and agreeing on a roadmap is even more complicated given the creation of a Constituent Assembly that stripped the elected, opposition-controlled National Assembly of its competences.
Trump’s latest Executive Order guides financial sanctions which are close to targeting Maduro ‘s critical supports directly. It forbids Caracas from issuing new debt in the United States and prevents the repatriation of dividends to Caracas by U.S.-based CITGO-a wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company. These measures will impose austerity on Maduro (who claims that he will still make future debt payments) and will likely seek to undermine the economic foundations of the government.
Besides installing the Constituent Assembly, Maduro appears to be pursuing a new regime-survival strategy in which he plays a non-vengeful victim role. Maduro condemned Trump’s sanctions and dubbed him the “new Hitler” after Tuesday’s UN address, but he also provided donations in Houston to support post-Harvey recovery efforts and referenced John Lennon in a New York Times ad earlier this month in a call for “giving peace a chance.” To recover a certain degree of legitimacy, Maduro will probably consider making elections for Governors scheduled for 15 October competitive, but it is uncertain if he has the political capital with his base to make greater political or economic moves.
He may look to create a new institutional equilibrium with dual legislatures, although it would focus on eliminating the threat with retaliation against the opposition through the so-called “Truth Commission” of the Constituent Assembly. He may also seek to address major fiscal imbalances by changing the multi-tiered exchange rate, although this would be difficult as the subsidized dollars of the system help to underwrite.
Although the U.S., Europeans, and Latin Americans work in loose structure – with Washington putting up leverage while everybody else scrambles for deals – China and Russia stick to their strategic game. They are betting talks, as Maduro ‘s main financial backers, can stabilize the situation bit by bit. If and when Maduro restores some stability by holding peaceful regional elections, engaging in dialog and making major debt payments, they can kick in some more financial assistance.
But while there is some basis for the Beijing and Moscow geopolitical schadenfreude that makes it harder for Washington in Caracas, there are also signs that both have the remorse of buyer. Although they choose Maduro to remain afloat, they do not seem willing to expand loans that help unconditionally stabilize the economy.
Neither of the piecemeal measures that Maduro evidently contemplates will defuse the financial and social turmoil, but a mixture of initiatives will help to allow China and Russia to remain in the game. Despite Trump’s assertion that he “would not rule out a military solution” in Venezuela, the administration is obviously open to a repressive diplomatic approach that requires sincere support for talks.
Trump attacked his predecessor for “leading from behind,” but just that might be needed to figure out how to sequence sticks and carrots in coordination with Latin American and European countries. The bottom line is that the likelihood of a compromise on the key problems – the political path map and requirements for voter participation – remains small, while any progress into the center from both sides appears possible. Despite the actions of outside actors, the situation is likely to remain on a knife edge – without either the catharsis of peace or change of regime.
Venezuela: Stalemate in a War of Attrition?
Throughout Venezuela, the rate of provocation and counter-provocation has hit a new level, and there appears to be no stabilizing factor that can cause a de-escalation. It’s uncertain if the political dynamic of the nation is undergoing a fresh period in its multi-year conflict, or if two months of unrest signals the beginning of a downward trend which would plunge the world into much deeper turmoil. Neither the government nor the opposition remains past the point of fatigue which would lead productive attempts toward a lasting mediated settlement. Moreover, an analysis of their goals paints an image of an intractable dispute.
President Nicolás Maduro is in a raw mode of survival – perhaps driven by fear of disgrace as the man who lost the Chávez legacy entrusted to him – and is forcing a rewrite of the Constitution as he lurks toward purely dictatorial rule. He is profoundly resentful that the opposition has never accepted the validity of his victory, and has recently been shocked when he was jeered and egged at a public rally. He has condoned aggression by vigilantes from his party and the Guardia Nacional, but he almost definitely grasps the political expense, both inside the government and the army. He probably sees no incentive to negotiate his denouement in the face of a certain prospect of persecution by an opposition-dominated government.
The opposition remains heterogeneous, and is almost entirely rooted in the fervent conviction that Maduro is undermining the nation by evil and ignorance. State violence and its own casualties also precluded the creation of advanced strategic planning capabilities. While the preferred option of opponents is to remove Maduro in the ballot box, some also seem to believe that the escalation of violence will force the military – reluctant to intervene – to lean on Maduro to leave.
During the Chávez-Maduro period, senior military ranks, corrupted by corruption and narco-trafficking, display no signs of wavering, however dissatisfaction among National Command field officers – who would have to work under a successor government – that become tangible during the military promotion season that officially ends July 5th. The armed forces want to stay off the streets as long as possible as the Guardia Nacional soils its reputation. There’s no sign of opposition sympathy; their main interest is to stop being part of the bloodshed. It is unclear whether the military will orchestrate a post-Maduro period.
Economic and financial problems in the world have destroyed oil production, stopping Maduro from pumping his way out of the recession and growing his dependence on foreign resources. The government purchased some time by offering $2.8 billion in bonds to Goldman Sachs-via a counterparty-for $865 million in currency.
The famous sectors are quite angry, but lack leadership. The working class has largely fallen into poverty, now estimated at 80% nationally, and neighbourhoods that had previously been home to the chavismo base have shown tolerance for the opposition and utter disdain for the ruling coalition, including the abolition of Hugo Chávez statues.
Neither the government nor the opposition has yet showed fear that their money and energies are approaching depletion – and so far, the military appears unable to advise either or the other to give up the war. Moreover, as long as both parties believe they can smash the other, the chances for a political change or negotiated solution appear impossible and it is hard to foresee a stabilizing power developing that will reduce confrontation. External powers can seek to make resolution easier but are unlikely to succeed.
Brazil’s graft scandals have eliminated it as a player; UNASUR ‘s shortcomings have made it irrelevant; and Maduro has pre-empted any possible repression of the OAS by declaring the organization’s removal (although his foreign minister will be attending its General Assembly this month). Washington continues to rely on sanctions – most recently freezing the assets of eight Venezuelan Supreme Court members – but appears reluctant to become more involved, and given the turmoil that characterizes the Trump administration, it may in any case be unable to do so.
Without a viable formula to overcome the costly stalemate in Venezuela, the war of attrition between regime and opposition will likely continue without meaningful involvement of outside actors.
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