My good friend Paul Esqueda, a very distinguished Venezuelan, with a career in science and science and education management, asked me if I could publish here his article expressing his concerns about where Venezuela is headed. I do so with great pleasure.
Who is in control in Venezuela?
The recent events in Venezuela suggest a very concerning trend. The Government seems to control the centers of power (the Military, Congress, the Supreme Court, the National Elections Board and most of the governors and city mayors). However, a critical piece such as the economy is completely out of control. Inflation is at an all times high (55%), the parallel market rate of exchange of the national currency is ten times that of the official rate fueled by an obvious shortage of US dollars, and the supply chain of consumer goods is completely disrupted with the consequent shortages of vital consumer goods in the supermarket shelves. There seems to be a mix of improvisation and ignorance with the end result of very poor management of the economy. In addition, oil production seems to be declining, which is the most important source of revenue of foreign currency. Furthermore, the Government has not be able to honor the debts to most suppliers from neighboring countries and the international airlines. These are just some of the serious imbalances of the economy that may lead Venezuela to be a failed state.
Since Chavez came to power he began the creation of a “militia force” to defend the revolution. At the time, most public figures warned that this type of paramilitary forces presented a huge potential danger for our society. They have no clear chain of command, they are not trained to apply the rule of law, and most important they could get out of control at any time with their fire power. This is actually happening as I write these lines.
The Movement of Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, MUD) gathers most of the opposition groups. They have made every effort to turn things around by pointing out the economic imbalances with very little success. As a very democratic movement, the MUD is a heterogeneous group with many critical thinkers and very strong intellectual power. The MUD has promoted peaceful protests with rallies that have had massive attendance. However, things are getting out of control because the protests have taken root in many neighborhoods in Caracas and in most large cities in Venezuela setting up barricades (guarimbas) and progressively paralyzing the economy. The student movement, mostly from higher education institutions, are leading the guraimbas together with the local residents in each neighborhood. By the way, the MUD has very little control over the student movement. The MUD has constantly called for peaceful protests and have condemned the guarimbas as a violent and improper approach. The Indeed, one of Venezuela’s most important political analysts and economist, Luis Vicente Leon, referred to the guarimbas as a “path to a cliff.” Most importantly he claims that there is a “lack of leadership” and no clear way to funnel the powerful street protests.
The Government has opted to exercise all its power to crush the guarimbas by massive repression and shear use of military and paramilitary power. The consequences are evident, blatant violation of human right and a fake approach to power. Nicolas Maduro would call for a peace conference and dialogue only to turn around a few minutes later and order his militias to “wipe out” all protesters. Words definitely do not follow action, a clear lack of integrity that does not contribute to generating trust.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has been called to intervene by invoking the “Democratic Letter.” This is an agreement signed by all OAS members with a commitment to enforce democratic principles such as respect for the diversity of ideas and freedom of speech as we understand it today. OAS is moving at a snail pace arguing that Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected and that Venezuelans should resolve their issues among themselves. On the other hand, Nicolas Maduro argues that the protesters are a minority that only represent the upper class in Venezuela. Nothing further from the truth, the protest and barricades have taken root in all neighborhoods. Those low income neighborhood that stay quiet are under the rule of the militia thugs that violently repress any sign of dissent. Two important conclusions: the guarimbas need leadership badly since they are out of control and democracy is extremely lacking in Venezuela.
The whole argument of this article is that the Government is not in control of the economy (the main source of the problem as admitted by Chavista Governor of Tachira State, Jose Vielma Mora) , the militias are out of control, and the guarimbas are out of control. So who is in control in Venezuela? Is Venezuela at the verge of becoming a failed state? Is chaos going to reign in Venezuela? That is why the help of OAS is badly need in Venezuela. The human rights and freedom of speech pieces are pale next to the real challenges that Venezuela faces.