Friday, December 15, 2017

Venezuela: Maduro gets his retaliation in first...

I’ve written here before about Venezuela, a potentially wealthy country brought to its knees by first corruption, then quasi-imperial overreach and finally rampant paranoia. And I return to the subject following the news that President Maduro, a man ill-equipped to run a bath, let alone a country, has decided that, following a widespread boycott of recent municipal elections, those Opposition parties who chose to join the boycott will be barred from contesting next year's Presidential election.

It should come as no real surprise, given his nonchalant disregard for the democratic process. He has, after all, subverted Parliament by creating a Constituent Assembly in his own image to override it, removed an uncompliant Chief Prosecutor (who, by the way, is in The Hague trying to bring a case against him in the International Criminal Court) and done everything possible to paralyse the Opposition in the country.

All of this, remember, against a backdrop of a collapsing economy, with inflation at 650% and expected to reach 2,300% next year, the country said to be in selective default of its debts and with the average Venezuelan thought to have lost 9 kilos in weight in the past year - Venezuela imports much of its foodstuff.

The Maduro Administration still has some friends - the Russians have deferred $3 billion in debts over ten years - but with $140 billion in debts, just $9.6 billion in reserves and an income stream heavily dependent on oil sales to the United States, it is only a matter of time before the wheels fall off completely.

This has been a slow motion train wreck, in plain sight of the world, in a supposedly developed country, and yet there appears to be no will to do very much. One can see why, perhaps. There is no grounds for military intervention, as Venezuela is no real threat to anyone, and the Government is clearly immune to persuasion. Aid is difficult as the chances of it reaching ordinary Venezuelans is remote, unless they support the Government. And a boycott of Venezuelan oil is likely to put prices up - an unpopular notion - and cause even greater hardship amongst the people.

What remains is to continue to condemn the Maduro administration both as individual states and as collections of states, explaining to the Government that their behaviour is unacceptable, and that assistance is conditional, hoping that desperation leads them back to democracy.

It’s a long game, and the Venezuelan people are likely to suffer more before it reaches a conclusion. One can only hope that, should they be driven to revolution, that it be quick and relatively merciful and that the outside world stays out of it - Latin America has seen enough outside interference over the past two hundred years and needs no more.

May God have mercy on the Venezuelan people - they need all of the help that they can get...

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