World View: Violence Feared in Venezuela After Probable Socialist Loss on Sunday

Nicolas Maduro
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Venezuela likely to end 16 years of Socialist parliamentary government on Sunday
  • Venezuelans fear violence or political chaos if Socialists lose

Venezuela likely to end 16 years of Socialist parliamentary government on Sunday

People walk past a billboard with Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) logo and an image of “Chávez’s Eyes” in Caracas (Reuters)
People walk past a billboard with Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) logo and an image of “Chávez’s Eyes” in Caracas (Reuters)

Nicolás Maduro, the Socialist president of Venezuela and successor to the Sainted Socialist God, the dead Hugo Chávez, is expected to lose his majority in the National Assembly in elections on Sunday. This will be the first time in 16 years that the ruling United Socialist Party have not been in power.

Oil is the main export of Venezuela and provides most of the country’s foreign currency. Venezuela should be one of the richest countries in the world, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves controlled by nationalized Venezuelan oil companies. For years, Chávez, and then Maduro, took advantage of high international oil prices to buy votes by creating huge socialist spending programs, with large welfare payments and heavily subsidized and price controlled food, gasoline, and other goods.

However, the price of oil has plunged by 60%, and the economy is a wreck, with severe shortages, and inflation running over 30% per month. The government-run oil companies are drenched in corruption. Shoppers have been breaking into supermarkets to see scarce consumer staples including milk, rice, flour, ketchup, diapers, and toilet paper. Crime and violence are becoming rampant. And the fall into hell has been rapid — 75% of Venezuelan homes now live in poverty, compared to 27% just two years ago.

Although the Socialists’ vote-buying programs have made them wildly popular in past years, the Socialists’ supporters have been turned off by the governments almost unbelievable stupidity and incompetence.

Opinion polls indicate almost certain victory by the opposition parties. The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, leads the ruling United Socialist Party and its allies by as much as 35 percentage points. Maduro’s own popularity has been hovering around 20 percent. Miami Herald and The Atlantic

Venezuelans fear violence or political chaos if Socialists lose

It is a recurring theme in history that many leaders are willing to use torture, violence and even violence to stay in power. We have seen this in recent times with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and in the last century in Germany’s Adolf Hitler and Russia’s Josef Stalin.

So many people are fearing the worst – that Maduro will join the ranks of al-Assad, Putin, Mugabe, Stalin and Hitler, and use violence to stay in power if he loses his parliamentary majority in Sunday’s election.

Maduro has signaled that he would not hesitate to use violence if his wishes were n0t followed:

Imagine if they dominated the National Assembly. I wouldn’t allow it, I swear, I wouldn’t let my hands be tied by anyone. I’d take to the street with the people.

Last month, Maduro said he was activating an “anti-coup plan” in case he lost the elections. “This revolution will not be betrayed nor surrendered,” he said, warning that rightist forces at home and abroad (i.e., Americans) are planning a “counter-revolutionary coup.”

Maduro has already exhibited his willingness to use abuse and violence during the campaign. Opposition figures have been jailed, and one was gunned down in the street. Non-government controlled news agencies, including foreign news agencies, are being severely restricted.

If the Socialists lose on Sunday, Maduro will still be president, and will still have the army, security forces and all state institutions under his control. Maduro will simply find ways to bypass the National Assembly, to ignore any laws it passes, or to bring retaliation and retribution to any legislator he doesn’t like.

Still, the opposition is excited by the possibility of having a majority, although the size of the majority will dictate what they are able to do. With a simple majority, the opposition can pass amnesty laws to try to free incarcerated politicians, embarrass the government with investigations, and wield budget approval; with a three-fifths majority, it could theoretically fire ministers after a censure vote.

According to one opposition leader:

If the result is close, the government could be tempted to sort of barricade the new National Assembly, to use the control it has over the Supreme Court, the state prosecutor, the ombudsman’s office, to try to block it off.

Despite the vast lead the opposition has in opinion polls, Maduro still has control of the polling places and vote-counting processes, and so Maduro could still win on Sunday. Reuters and Fox News and Guardian (London)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chávez, United Socialist Party, PSUV
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