Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – The situation in Venezuela is becoming more and more critical. Chavistas grouped under the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are no longer democrats (if they ever really were once, and I believe they were), and have instead become authoritarian socialists.
The regime has become a civil/military dictatorship. That’s a fact. There is almost no separation of powers, the opposition is criminalized when it is a threat to those in power at elections, and worse still, they have destroyed their economy by emulating their Cuban mentors.
Authoritarian socialism belongs to the extreme Left. It’s a radical branch within this ideology which aims to ensure social justice by force, crushing Rule of Law so that they can build an (ideal) model of justice which needs to be pushed forward by strong leaders and a lot, but a lot of voluntarism, because it goes against human nature (unfeasible).
In practice, it ends up being worse than a capitalist dictatorship. And a capitalist democracy looks like Eden on Earth after you’ve lived under a Leftist dictatorship. If anyone has any doubts, please ask one of the Cubans who have emigrated and they’ll know what I’m talking about. Many of us call this tyrannical and extreme branch “pseudo-socialism”, because if we stick to the meaning of “socialism”, it’s impossible without democracy. It’s an essential premise, the rest is just talk, “armchair opportunism”, like Marti so wisely called it.
The reality is that, in the beginning, Chavez and his Bolivarian political movement were democratic socialists. However, getting so mixed up with Cuba, Fidel and his orthodox/radical vision, they went down the one-way street to authoritarianism. This is why that process, which came at an opportune moment, was a real democratic response to the failure of neoliberalism and was lucky to have more than enough economic resources to be successful, ultimately and incredibly failed.
And, instead of developing the country, it only sunk the country in economic and social terms, like no vicious disciple of the Chicago School would ever have done. And when they say that they are socialists, they are only smearing the word “socialism”, increasing the damage.
Russia and the United Arab Emirates, who took advantage of the boom in oil prices to restructure and diversify their economies respectively (*), are examples of just how much Chavismo could have done for Venezuela. Of course, if they hadn’t concentrated their efforts on manipulative populism and the geopolitics of oil (or petropolitics). The corrupt and plutocratic capitalist democracy they followed (although just as corrupt and plutocratic as they are) would have done a lot better.
Now, Venezuela is crying out for help and an important and influential part of the world has become involved in trying to come up with a solution, thanks to oil, thanks to the danger of extremist ideologies, or for whatever reason. However, at least many countries don’t have the complaisance they have with Cuba, the widespread complicity.
The US is threatening a war, while they are placing more and more pressure, because they are very involved and fear another Leftist dictatorship within the region, which would join their enemies and affect its position as a superpower. This weighs even heavier than oil, which is also very important as a traditional safeguard of supply, not to “steal it”, like the Chavistas argue for the sake of egging on nationalism, but as a guarantee.
War is the worst solution and, luckily, it’s the last option. The situation is so critical that millions of Venezuelans, convinced that Maduro won’t open his claws to let go of his prey (power), are asking that he be removed by force. However, Trump is hesitant to do this because he must surely be afraid that this won’t be a swift victory and will affect his reelection in 2020.
This is why he is trying to resolve the problem with diplomatic and economic pressure. However, Guaido hasn’t managed to break the Army’s support for Maduro, and his rallies haven’t been big or constant enough. Meanwhile, Maduro is increasing social control, aggravating fear and nationalism; contextualizing the conflict as a fight against “Imperialism”, not with national opposition forces. There is a dangerous balance that will make war inevitable, if an intelligent solution isn’t negotiated.
In such a complex situation, radical means can’t be used if you want a peaceful solution, because otherwise one side will crush the other. Negotiations are the only way out, and negotiations imply giving way on both sides until a reasonable balance is found, which both sides can just about accept.
If they really want to fix their country, the opposition’s objective can’t be to destroy Maduro or Chavismo, but to save democracy in conditions of social peace.
If it wants to survive in politics or still dreams of a redemptive Chavismo, then Maduro’s government’s objective can’t be to wipe out the opposition or hope that they sit still while they consolidate a military dictatorship. Luckily, the conditions don’t exist for neither one of these two radical scenarios and the only way forward is to live together in peace and democracy. Which is a socio-political process, not a sudden action.
(*) Russia experienced a serious crisis in the ‘90s after the sudden, messy and neoliberal move towards a market economy, which was made worse with the financial collapse in 1998. It was a lot more critical than the Venezuelan crisis. Putin came into power in the middle of this crisis in 1999, at the same time Chavez did. Both of them were lucky with the boom in oil prices in the noughties. Russia took advantage of this, it cleared its debts and strengthened the rest of its economy, with sustained growth of 7% + for over a decade and are still acceptable today. It has consolidated itself as a solid economic power, and even though it still depends on fossil fuel exports, it only represents 5% of its GDP.
United Arab Emirates depended on oil a great deal up until the early ‘90s, accounting for 75% of its economy. Ever since then, it adopted a plan of diversifying its economy, which was pushed forward with the increase in oil prices in the first decade of the millennium. Today, it is one of the top countries in the world when it comes to quality of life and progress, and oil only represents 25% of its economy and they are producing just as much if not more.
Venezuela continues to depend on oil a great deal, accounting for 80% of its economy, which has been in decline since 2014, just like the rest of its economy. It not only failed to reinvest extra oil profits into diversifying and strengthening the rest of its economy, but oil production also fell from three million barrels per day to less than a million, in spite of the country holding the largest oil reserves in the world.