The democratic world should help Venezuela to get rid of the Maduro regime, but not by such methods as the American “hawks” suggest, the Economist believes.
If the President can be overthrown with only the protests, Nicolas Maduro would have been sitting on the plane heading to Cuba. January 23 across the country took to the streets at least a million Venezuelans demanding the resignation of Maduro. It was a response to the call of Juan, Guido, who last week declared himself the legitimate head of state. Guide was supported by the majority of countries in Latin America, USA and Europe. Scheduled for 2 February, the protests promised to be even bigger. But on the side of Maduro army, as well as Russia, China and Turkey. At the time of the issue of the newspaper with this article, he still holds on to power.
There’s a lot at stake. The most important thing is the fate of 32 million Venezuelans, exhausted by six years of Maduro’s rule. Polls show that 80% of them are disgusted with him. Other countries also suffer from the Venezuelan catastrophe. South America has to deal with the Exodus of more than 3 million Venezuelans fleeing hunger, repression and the socialist dystopia created by the late Hugo Chavez. Europe and the US suffer from pervasive corruption in Venezuela, which has made the country an important channel for drug trafficking. And when some world leaders stand up for Maduro and others stand up against him, it is a struggle for an important idea that has recently become out of fashion: if a leader robs his state, oppresses his people and destroys the rule of law, it is everyone’s business.
The scale of the disaster to which Maduro brought Venezuela, hardly fit in the head. Over the past five years, GDP has halved. Annual inflation is 1,700,000 per cent (the government has stopped publishing official figures), which means that the savings in bolivars, which at the beginning of the year amounted to $10,000, will turn into 59 cents by the end of the year. Venezuela has huge reserves of oil and gas, but the state oil company was looted and put under the control of one of the two thousand Venezuelan generals, in which production fell to 1.1 million barrels per day. People are malnourished, they do not have simple medicines, including antibiotics. Due to lack of energy and equipment, hospitals have become deadly traps. Most of the offers of humanitarian aid Maduro rejected, and all his troubles blames the conspiracies of foreigners.
But despite the long list of suffering, many marginal politicians, especially those on the left, argue that the world must leave Venezuelans alone to sort out their differences. Some agree with Maduro that claim Guido for President, immediately recognized by the USA, is actually a coup. It is reported that Russia, which is doing everything possible to discredit the idea that Western intervention in any way can be beneficial or constructive, sent 400 fighters to Venezuela of a private military company, also seen in Syria, Ukraine and some African countries, to protect either the regime or Russian assets.
It would be wrong to leave Venezuela at the mercy of the villainous Maduro regime. If anyone did the coup, it was him. On 10 January, he was sworn in for a second presidential term after last year’s rigged elections. In his first term, which was elected in 2013 as a result of another questionable vote, he undermined democracy by gagging critical media and gutting the Constitution. He staffed the electoral Commission and the Supreme court with his puppets and curtailed the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Guido claim to legitimacy, by contrast, is well-founded. As head of the National Assembly, he must serve as President if the position is vacant — and that is because Maduro is not a legitimate President.
The question is not whether the world is to help Guido, but how to do it. This week, the United States remains the main trading partner of Venezuela, has imposed sanctions against the export of oil and import of diluents required for heavy oil production. Giving instruction to the payments for Venezuelan oil were transferred to the Bank accounts reserved for the government of Guido, the US is trying to strangle the regime in the hope that the armed forces will move to the side, Guido.
At the same time, one of the dangers is that Maduro, trying to resist, ordered the security forces and collectivos — organized gangs of thugs in the service of the regime — to start terror. The other is that the US overestimates its capabilities. Now they are working with the Lima group, which unites a number of States in the region. But American sanctions can do more harm to the people than to the regime. If the United States, seeking to change the regime, will act thoughtlessly, in Latin America they will again be perceived as an imperialist force trying to assert its power. Russia presents the us intervention as an attempt to dominate its “backyard,” and its media already write that Vladimir Putin’s interest in Ukraine is no different from this. The situation was a test for President Donald trump and his foreign policy team, including the famous “hawk” — national security adviser John Bolton. This week Bolton hinted at the use of American troops. Such a decision would be a mistake and could only be justified by state violence against American citizens.
There are ways to help the supporters of Guido, without resorting to force or dubious tricks. They fall into two categories. The first is the incentives that will encourage Venezuelans to demand change, the army to give up support for the regime, and Maduro to leave. Now that Guido recognized as interim President, he in the event of a change of government will get control of billions of dollars of foreign assets in Venezuela. The national Assembly has adopted a law on the Amnesty of military and civilian persons who will be involved in the restoration of democracy. Maduro promised to leave the country.
The second way to help is to give the Venezuelans to understand that the world is ready for the arrival of Guido to power. The lesson of the Arab spring is that even a leader who starts with the overthrow of a tyrant must quickly improve, otherwise he risks losing support. The immediate priorities of Venezuela’s new leadership will be food and health. The very fact of a new government will help stop hyperinflation, but Venezuela will also need real money from abroad; international lenders, including the IMF, must be generous. The list of cases is long: Venezuela will have to give up control over prices and other economic distortions, as well as create a system of social protection. It will have to restart the oil industry, which will entail attracting foreign investment. Its debt will require restructuring, including debt to Russia and China, which must be paid by oil. And amid all this, the provisional government, Guido it will be necessary to hold elections.
Just one generation ago, Venezuela was a fully functioning state. She could be him again. It has oil and fertile land. It has an educated population-both at home and in other countries where Venezuelans fled the regime. Finally, there seems to be a leader, able to unite fragmented opposition — Juan, Guido. But first of all, the country must get rid of Maduro.