Venezuela was supposed to be a template for socialist success; however its complete reliance on its crude oil and gas resources coupled with erroneous administrative policies led to a system that was on the brink of a disaster.
By Aparaajita Pandey
Venezuela has been caught in a downward spiral for the better part of the last decade. An economy that suffers from complete devastation, people who suffer from acute shortages of food and other essentials, an army and political machinery that has been proven as corrupt and decrepit, sanctions that target the only viable resource Venezuela has, the mass exodus of people, a President who refuses to step down, and now a saviour who has failed; it is safe to say Venezuela has been hitting rock bottom for a long time.
Venezuela was supposed to be a template for socialist success; however its complete reliance on its crude oil and gas resources coupled with erroneous administrative policies led to a system that was on the brink of a disaster. The decline in crude oil prices soon started a chain reaction in Venezuela that led to one catastrophe after another.
The world has watched as the country has found itself a politic-socio-economic decline. Amidst these emerged Juan Gerardo Guaido Marquez. Often described as a ‘charismatic 35 years old politician’; Guaido was an engineer who soon discovered his passion for politics and started his career in the field as a political activist. Most of the western media saw in Guaido salvation for Venezuela. The man was relatively unknown and his rise to popularity could easily be termed as overnight. As the Venezuelan opposition took control of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido was declared the interim president by the opposition. Such a declaration carried no meaning for Maduro or for the Venezuelans who continue to recognise Maduro as the President.
The story of Juan Guaido started off as it does for many politicians who are supported by other world leaders but has not had the same trajectory as it has had for many. The template for regime change has not worked in Venezuela even though the degeneration of the country and the suffering of its people is unequivocal.
Juan Guaido started becoming an important name in Venezuelan politics soon after he gained the American’s favour. Donald Trump saw in Guaido a proverbial ‘man for the job’ when it came to regime change in Venezuela. The support and recognition from the Americans soon developed into support and recognition from the British and then grew exponentially. Presently including the US and UK, fifty other nations have recognised Guaido as the acting President of Venezuela. At the beginning of 2019, Guaido was supposed to be the next leader of the country who would rip apart its socialist foundations, banish Maduro into oblivion and rebuild the country. As the world sits right in the middle of 2020, we see Guaido as a failed man who is steadily losing followers, support, and opportunities of meetings with Trump.
The process of regime change has certain discernible characteristics- a charismatic leader, a rapid climb to popularity among the people, a possible coup, a victorious election and finally a new regime. One can check most of the boxes in the Venezuelan case; however they failed to have the desired effect in the end. There have been some overlooked facets of Venezuelan politics and Latin American politics in general when it comes to Juan Guaido.
The western media had found their golden boy in Juan Guadio when it came to Venezuela however, their perception was based on the faith that the world leaders had so generously showered upon him. Venezuela’s future seemed to be tied to Guaido, however, his perception among the people of Venezuela was completely overlooked. It is true that he had a reasonable share of supporters among the populace but he could never win the trust of a people who are deeply suspicious of the Americans and those with American support. Guaido was not seen as a welcome option for the opposition, people were unfamiliar with his work and he was not perceived as a serious politician who could become the President. The consequence of this paucity of faith in Guaido led to a limited rise in his popularity among the people of Venezuela and a for a politician trying to replace a man like Maduro, half-hearted support of the people is just not enough.
The recent coup in Venezuela was a failure of abysmal proportions; it was termed as ‘ridiculous’ a term not often used to describe coups against tyrant Presidents. The coup based itself on two-pronged approach; the capture of the port – town of Maracaibo, and the capture of President Maduro as well as his immediate transfer to the US where he was supposed to be tried for his crimes of Narco- Trafficking. The coup failed on both accounts miserably. The failed coup not only cemented the perception of Maduro’s power among people, it also led to the showcasing of the immense military support that Maduro still enjoys.
There was also, a gross underestimation of the great power politics that could be played on the Venezuelan soil. The Russian support for Venezuelan oil and its tactics to avoid sanctions have given Maduro much needed support to continue as the President.
Finally as Guaido was not allowed in the Assembly and Maduro supported Luis Parra was elected as the speaker of the National Assembly in the recent elections, the possibility of change in the Venezuelan regime has started to look unlikely. The international support that Guaido once enjoyed has also been waning for sometime now, with Trump refusing a meeting with him previously in the Davos summit and recently in the past week, it seems like the future for Guaido is uncertain. It is also symptomatic that while Maduro may have some more time left as the President, his opposition would have to emerge from within the Venezuela, independent of external support.
(The author is an Asst. Professor and Amity University, Noida and Doctoral Candidate at Centre for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Views are personal.)