Venezuela: A rancid military dictatorship like in the 1970s

The autocrat Maduro and his clique have betrayed the ideals of the Chavista revolution. His mismanagement and concentration on the commodities trade keep people in poverty.


Comment by Sebastian Schoepp

In 2002, when the military in Venezuela struck the then head of state, Hugo Chávez, this uprising lasted only one day. Large sections of the population protested strongly against Chávez's arrest, resulting in violent clashes with many deaths – and the result that Chávez was released from the military prison. After that, he was stuck in the saddle than ever.

Chávez's successor and admirer Nicolás Maduro was now in the reverse direction. When his toughest opponent, Parliament President Juan Guaidó, denied him the post of head of state, large sections of the population sided with the challenger. There were mass protests against Maduro, only the partisanship of the military could temporarily hold the controversial president in office.

Chavism in Venezuela is about to end. Little or nothing remains of what Hugo Chávez once wanted to establish there: Venezuela is by no means a leftist or socialist project under his pupil Maduro, even though some left-wing politicians, including those in Europe, cling to this illusion. Venezuela is a rancid military dictatorship from the 1970s, a coterie and clientele system that can not even provide its people with the urgent needs of everyday necessities despite gushing oil revenues.

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The country is ruled by a clique of power that has driven hundreds of thousands into emigration and put many opposition figures behind bars. If you're looking for a prime example of a regime that has survived itself that betrayed its ideals, then it's Nicolás Maduro's. He and his clique have created a rubble landscape from the "Bolivarian Revolution", with which Chávez once wanted to change all of Latin America.

The failure of this project has a lot to do with the oil wealth of Venezuela, even if at first glance it may seem like a contradiction. Resources only make a small elite rich, which is not just Venezuela's problem, but that of the vast majority of commodity countries. Hugo Chávez was once set to change that: he promised to distribute the raw material revenues more equitably, winning the election in 1998 by an overwhelming majority. After decades of corrupt governments, this prospect did not only seem promising to the people in the slums, but Chávez was also able to unite the middle class and many intellectuals.

The "Bolivarian Revolution", which promised nothing less than the "socialism of the 21st century", rapidly gained supporters, survived a coup attempt and several referendums. Throughout Latin America and many European leftists, the Chavist project was celebrated in response to the victory of shark capitalism. But one Chávez never managed – and his weak successor Maduro certainly not: to transform Venezuela with oil money into a modern productive and educational society, and thus get away from the total dependence on the monoculture commodity sales.

Instead, Miami has become the main port for Venezuelan petrodollars. Boli bourgeoisie is called the clique of those who recognize the SUV and the bank account in Florida or Panama. She has a firm grip on the country and uses it as she pleases. Their purely selfish Klüngelei is the source of all evil in Venezuela. This clique originated already in Chavez's time, who like all autocrats succumbed to the temptation to surround themselves with yes-sayers, compliant officers and courtiers, as well as a former bus driver named Nicolás Maduro. Before Chávez died of cancer, he established Maduro as his successor. With that he buried, without knowing it, his already weak project.

Maduro's regime is at the mercy of the oil price and the military dependent, the mismanagement stinks to heaven. The president has not even tried to maintain the appearance of legality, his re-election in 2018 is internationally controversial, he has deposed the parliament and imprisoned his opponents. Only the benefice of the barracks, financed with benefices, has kept him in power – and the ever-nurtured narrative that the US has been trying to push him away. Drones and alleged plans of attack provided the arguments, Maduro learned from the Cuban Fidel Castro, who survived half a century politically with reference to a pending US aggression. With the hasty recognition of opponent Juan Guaidó as President Donald Trump therefore provided the stubborn Venezuelan once more propaganda ammunition.

One thing is for sure: the power struggle in Caracas will win those who most credibly assure the military in Venezuela that it will retain its oil benefices. This is a damning result for a state that once claimed to be the avant-garde in Latin America.

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The autocrat in Venezuela should be chased out of office. But it would make more sense to increase the pressure of sanctions instead of allowing Maduro to stylize himself as the protector of national sovereignty.Comment by Benedikt Peters


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