“Chavismo” is a left-wing political ideology created by Hugo Chavez that can be described as social populism, with a hatred towards private enterprise and a deep anti-American sentiment. Chavismo has managed to turn the richest country of the region, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, into the single largest economic collapse in a country with no war. Venezuela is suffering from an inflation rate of 10 million percent, GDP has decreased by 62 percent since 2013, food shortages, lack of medical resources and constant electricity blackouts have plagued the country.
Venezuela’s economic problems have also brought security issues. The country is a safe haven for Colombian illegal armed groups such as FARC dissidence and ELN. The crisis has also turned it into a paradise for drug trafficking, illegal mining and organized crime. Maduro’s government is not only unable to provide security in its territory, but it is also accused of being involved in illegal activities, including the funding of paramilitary groups loyal to the government.
Maduro has been in power since the death of Chavez in 2013. In January 2019, Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly – which had accused Maduro of irregularities in his latest election and of human rights violations – declared himself interim president of Venezuela. Since then, discussion has focused on the best way to bring Maduro’s regime to an end. Guaido has called for the international community to rally behind him and his effort to create a popular uprising that will force Maduro out of office. Stronger economic sanctions towards the government and regime sympathizers where thus implemented by the US.
These options have failed and will keep failing. Historically, economic sanctions have almost never led to a regime change and international pressure and popular uprisings do little against a government that has the backing of the army, Russia, China, Cuba and Turkey. As such, the only viable option is a negotiated transition in which both sides will have to compromise more than what they have been willing to so far.
The opposition must accept that Chavismo is now part of Venezuelan politics and that there cannot be a solution without regime sympathizers in a post-Maduro government. On the other hand, the current government must understand that their undemocratic regime is unsustainable and that in the long run a negotiated transition is their only way out.
The international community should be involved: Colombia, as they share a border, security concerns and is the biggest recipient of Venezuelan migrants; Russia and China, for their economic interests in Venezuela, and their seat at the UN Security council; and the US as the main geopolitical player in the region. UN’s involvement is also necessary in order to provide legitimacy, security and humanitarian aid in a post-Maduro Venezuela.
The future of Venezuela is uncertain and until the government and the opposition accept the political cost that comes with compromise, the future of what was once the richest country of the region looks dark.