A man walks by a portrait of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the media center of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela, on September 15, 2016. Chavez’s Socialist United party has upended the country. Scores of people are calling for their leadership to resign as the country faces its worst political crisis in a generation.
El Chupacabra is a never-before-seen creature that’s like one part vampire, one part wild dog. It sucks the life out of small mammals. Goats (cabra) are its preferred meal. From Texas to Latin America, the creature is a rural myth, a story for the locals. The ruling Socialists United Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is the chupacabra of Caracas. It has sucked the lifeblood out of Venezuelan democracy. It’s leader, the late Hugo Chavez, is also a mythical creature. He modeled his politics on Simon Bolivar, a 19th-century leader who wanted to unite the indigenous populations of northern South America against their Spanish colonial masters. Chavismo became the same thing: it was PSUV, their adherents, and the demigod of Chavez against the new colonials — meaning any foreign company, preferably one from the United States. Chavez, like PSUV today, made it a point to become friends with any nation-state perceived as an enemy of Washington. Chavez loved one thing more than being Bolivar, and that was being rogue. What he really loved was his own story. And this is where that story has now taken us…
The Venezuelan death watch continues.
It is no surprise that the Venezuelan government says it will leave the 69-year-old Organization of American States, the oldest pro-democracy institution in the Americas, unless they pull their support of opposition protests against PSUV and Chavez’s hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro. Protests erupted in Venezuela in September. People were calling for a referendum vote for early elections. PSUV blocked the recall through the judiciary branch, all in bed with the Chavistas. Protests erupted again two weeks ago. Some 32 people have died, including police officers. Over 500 have been arrested. Maduro calls it a coup.
“If these intrusive, arbitrary, illicit, misdirected and rude actions were to persist against the sovereignty of our country, we would immediately proceed to denounce the letter of OAS and to initiate the definite withdrawal of Venezuela form this regional organization,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told state television on Wednesday. The government said it would deliver its notice to leave the OAS today.
Back-to-back weeks of mass protests increase the risk of a sudden regime change in Venezuela. Not the U.S. kind, however. It will be more like a self-coup, where PSUV sacrifices Maduro on the alter of Chavismo, preserving it for a day when the odds are better. For now, Maduro’s support, where polls exist, is roughly 20%, Caracas-based Reuters correspondent Alexandra Ulmer wrote in November.
The only reason why it is not zero percent is because of Chavez, the legend in PSUV’s collective mind. After 18 years of PSUV rule, Chavismo dogma has infiltrated the entire military and across all institutions, with radical left-wing factions willing to resist with might and the more pragmatic (if not realist) PSUV politicians more concerned about their fate if they were ever booted from office.
So far, the PSUV loyal military has been easy on protesters. El Chupacabra does not want to bare its fangs too much; the beast is best kept hidden in the shadows out of fear it is revealed to be too much of a monster. This could lead to U.S. sanctions against the PSUV establishment and military, some of whom have assets in this country.
There has been consistent and more frequent use of tear gas shells fired into crowds to get them off major Caracas freeways, but you won’t see security forces cracking heads with batons. Arrests are up, of course. Foro Penal reports 538 arrests as of April 16. Further participation among the poor in classic Chavista neighborhoods is low because of so-called “collectives,” armed militias working with the government on scare tactics designed to keep PSUV’s base in check.
As the economy gets further destroyed, the opposition is gaining confidence. So far, the only way for them to get their point across has been to take it to the streets as PSUV has yet to throw the Democratic Unity Roundtable, aka the MUD coalition, any bones in the National Assembly. Maduro has talked about increased dialogue with the opposition and mentioned early elections, but without any timetable and with many opposition A-listers in jail, elections in Venezuela are unlikely to occur until October 2018.
Here is the government’s view from TeleSur:
One key indicator of regime change is PdVSA. This is the piggy bank for PSUV. But its central bank is running out of money to pay interest on PdVSA bonds. So far, they have been drawing water from a stone. If this well runs dry, Maduro could be asked to leave. Chupacabra gives up a bone.
“There is not the same causality between economics and politics under an autocratic regime; however politics are not immune to economic crisis,” says Siobhan Morden, a managing director at Nomura Securities in New York and arguably one of the closest watchers of the Venezuela crisis in the market. Inflation is rising 18.32% month-over-month on average since January and 20% year over year on average. Twelve-month rolling inflation is triple digits. Venezuelan businesses are in trouble, with low production and a market in turmoil. General Motors recently saw one of its plants expropriated. The major oil firms there, StatOil and Repsol, are sending their expat staffers home due to security risks. This is the failed state of the Americas, bar none.
The opposition is not backing down. Protesters are planning another big rally on May 1.