The 10 people reportedly killed in election violence in Venezuela, at the time of publication, are unlikely to be the last, given the schisms in this once prosperous and peaceful country. President Maduro’s so-called constituent assembly which is being “elected” now is little more than the kind of rigged exercise that is the familiar device of all modern dictators (no doubt a pre-ordained referendum result will follow).
Faced with even the modest safeguards presented by the existing constitution, Mr Maduro’s easiest path to guaranteed survival is a one-party state, and this is what he is now intent upon. That the protests have not turned more violent is perhaps the surprising thing. The opposition has successfully boycotted the election, and the world is alive to what is going on. Yet the state socialist regime of Mr Maduro, picking up from where the late Hugo Chavez left off, looks secure, at least in the short term. What Mr Chavez could swing by charisma, the plodding Mr Maduro can only achieve with a cruder helping of brute force. For now, that will be sufficient.
It is a strange position for this oil-rich nation to find itself in. At a time when even Cuba is moving away from the kind of planned “socialist” economy that succeeded in making everyone (apart from a political clique) equally poor and disenfranchised, the Venezuelan government, presumably to save its own skin, is travelling headlong in the opposite direction. It takes a special kind of genius to transform a huge oil exporter with a fertile landscape, thriving factories and an educated, lively people into just about the poorest and most oppressed place in all the Americas – yet that is precisely what the Chavez-Maduro years achieved. Of course, South American republics have long been infamous for obscene inequalities in wealth and privilege, and habitual corruption – see Brazil and the sad demise of Lula’s reputation for another light that failed – but Venezuela’s decline eclipses anything witnessed in decades.
The socialist experiment in nationalisation, worker management, expelling foreign capitalists and inflating the currency has been a spectacularly counterproductive failure, with a shameless exploitation of founding “Bolivarian” values adding to its abject intellectual poverty.
Opposition protesters clash with security forces in Venezuela
President Maduro, we may be sure, will take little notice of diplomatic protests, political speeches or…