What a couple of weeks these have been for an already rattled Venezuela. Government officials have been slapped with sanctions. Foreign assets have been seized. Corruption scandals have been unveiled. The economy is in free fall, the black market dollar is outpacing the official SIMADI one, and
the country the Revolution has granted Nicolás Maduro new special but not-so-special powers to forestall those darned-pretentious invading gringos.
As a consequence, international players have taken quite an interest in what’s unfolding. Suddenly, the rest of the world has become a major player in our little not-so-domestic drama. In recent days, three paramount developments have taken place abroad, all of which heavily impact the Venezuelan game.
Of gringos and schools: Yes, we already know that the fatherland is in great peril from our eternal nemesis, the empire.
In response to this “arrogant” transgression of our “sovereignty” – declaring our country a “threat to national security” – Venezuela has instructed schools to force students to decry the US Government and President Obama. The Education Ministry has ordered all schools in the country to force students to write letters to President Obama asking him to stop meddling. Apparently, some of them are even fingerprinting pre-schoolers who cannot yet write.
On March 18th, the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere and Global Narcotics Affairs of the US Senate conducted a hearing on Venezuela to learn the views of several guests regarding the latest developments.
Chris Sabatini, former editor of Americas Quarterly magazine, stated that Venezuela could become a failed State in the region, and raised concerns on Venezuela being a safe haven in the narcotics trade. He also highlighted the disgraceful silence in Latin America regarding the instability in Venezuela, and asserted that the country constitutes more of a threat to national security for Latin America than to the US (heard that UNASUR, CELAC?).
Russ Dallen, editor in chief of the Latin American Herald Tribune recommended several courses of actions that the US could entertain, including rallying regional allies, highlighting the corruption of the regime, and using the OAS to neutralize chavismo.
Of neighbours and regional Bodies: Yesterday, the underwhelming OAS picked a successor to the infamous Jose Miguel Insulza. The new Secretary General is former Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Almagro, who served under the Mujica administration.
Do not expect swift change in leadership from this crumbling institution, for during his tenure Almagro developed close ties with the region’s leftist Governments, including of course Venezuela. The silence regarding Venezuela’s undemocratic demeanor in the OAS floor will continue.
Let’s recall that while Pepe Mujica became a media darling thanks to his simple lifestyle, he was more than affable to the Revolution, always speaking his mind, something that he recently did regarding the current upheaval in Venezuela.
Of “Pepe“: By the end of February, Pepe alerted the world that a leftist coup could be in order in Venezuela.
After hearing Pepe’s comments on youtube, I felt leery as to why would a brand new former Head of State would make such reckless statements. Openly speaking about coups is no way to try to alleviate tensions in Venezuela, even if you declare yourself as a de-facto honest broker. But aside from the gestures from the world’s humblest President, what I believe Mujica tried to accomplish was to warn those within the armed forces that replacing Nicolas Maduro through a coup would not be welcomed by the region, and its legitimacy will come into question. Mujica clearly stated that Venezuela’s armed forces are Chavista, and he specified that the machination for this alleged coup was coming from the left.
Mujica’s statement reflects not just leery assumptions, but a prescient mindset combined with deleterious speculation on what may lie ahead.
Whether it’s in Washington or Montevideo – and we haven’t even mentioned the Cubans – the case of Venezuela continues to stir the waters of Hemispheric affairs. This particular stew is likely to get messier by the day.