Venezuelan Army Maintains Maduro in Power
Maduro enjoys a weak 30% of popular support as Chavistas disagree on what to do with the ongoing popular uprising.
For some sectors of the Venezuelan opposition it is a prophetic act. Dissidents want to believe that Nicolas Maduro is close to political surrender.
They maintain that, as social anger grows in the streets, Maduro will have no choice but to end the repression and accept the call for elections.
During a series of street protests last Friday in the state of Zulia, protesters knocked down a statue of Hugo Chavez and then took it down, as people did in 1989 in some Eastern European countries with some bronze figures of Vladimir Lenin.
While he appears to be relaxed in public, Maduro told the country “nothing is going” and that “everything is under control”.
Some people ask how can the government of a country with an annual inflation of 700% and bills of $13 billion be so bold. Others say that the government’s call for a Constituent Assembly is an act of cunning and false intransigence to then negotiate or otherwise political suicide that can open the door to a major confrontation.
“It’s time to listen to the people: That’s enough,” said the famous orchestra conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. Chavismo, for the moment, minimizes the force of a protest that has left 37 people dead.
“We are on the verge of subversion and armed insurrection,” Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said of the demonstrations, with words typical of the right-wing South American dictators of the 1970s.
According to surveys, Maduro barely enjoys a 30% of social support. On May 1, the president participated in a mass rally, although the opposition detracted from it considering that the attendees had been dragged by the state.
It is evident that there still exists a “hard core” of Chavismo. This movement is considered, among other things, the sons of the “Caracazo”, the social outbreak against the adjustment that former president Carlos Andrés Pérez tried to set in motion at the end of February of 1989.
Almost 300 people died during 15 days of clashes with the police that had as central protagonists the popular sectors that “descended from the barrios to reject the neoliberal turn of the economy.
So far, this “descent of the hills” has not taken place in Caracas. Nor did the opposition fully set foot in these vital territories to push for any change. Despite the pauperization, they are still on the side of the Government that gave them political identity and benefits.
Maduro counts in his favor with the state resources, the Supreme Court, the intelligence services and, above all, with the Armed Forces. The president does not point out that, in fact, his government is a kind of civic-military coalition.
Not in vain are there generals in one-third of the ministries, at the head of state enterprises and involved in smuggling, according to press reports.
Retired General Fernando Antonio Ochoa Antich, who in 1992 faced the military assault led by the then young Hugo Chavez, warns that there is some discontent among members of the armed forces.
“The military should understand that this position that has been maintained for years is completely wrong and that it might cause a rupture within the institution,” he told Tal Cual magazine.
The opposition knows otherwise that there will be no way out until the army ends its support of Maduro.
There was a time in which the Central Bank of Venezuela got up to $35 billion of reserves. About 96% of that money was the result of the export of hydrocarbons. By then, the barrel of oil was close to 90 dollars.
Part of the economic meltdown is explained by falling international prices. During 2016, the barrel got to be below $30. At the moment it is near the $45. The Government expects that at the end of year the price of crude will climb to $60.
Authorities hope that if prices continue to rise, they will again have resources to improve food distribution, purchase of medicines and improve their image.
Under these conditions, in these difficult days, Maduro would be willing to compete electorally. For the opposition, however, Venezuelans should vote without further delay.
The disagreement is explosive and the reason for the present crisis could be deactivated if the moderate sectors of Chavismo and the opposition reached a minimum level of consensus. An agreement, however, is something that, at this point, glimpses impossible and opens the doors to the worst.