VENEZUELA; DRAWING THE CURTAINS ON MADURO AND CHAVISMO

chavismo

“Chavismo” a political and ideological machination of late Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez was a movement that somewhat ruffled the West’s capitalism status quo in a region that had the history of being a hotbed of ideological slugfest with Socialism.

Chavismo was a new left-wing order that sort of mimicked a cold-war style ideological rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union. It was a new movement that sought relevance and success within Venezuela and the continent. A movement meant to dislodge and dismantle the influence of Washington in Venezuela and by extension, South America.

Venezuela, an oil state, flushed with excess cash from lake Maracaibo, Chavez was armed with a powerful tool in plowing and sowing this political and economic brainchild of his to Venezuelans. It was an ideological masterpiece that further enhanced his reputation making him look like ‘the savior of the masses’; a kind of ‘robin-hood’ cult figure.

The late President flushed the less privileged neighbourhood and rural Venezuela with basic necessities and amenities from oil cash. For the first time, ordinary Venezuelans felt a new lease of life thanks to Hugo Chavez’s robust social policy while on the other side, elites, far-rights agents and foreign businesses came under his heavy hammer as he accused them of being agents of capitalism and Washington.

His disdain for capitalism and the US was not hidden. Chavez decided to seek new friendships in China, Iran, and most importantly in Cuba and in late Fidel Castro. It was a bold foreign policy that redefined Caracas diplomatic landscape.

However, on the sidelines was Nicholas Maduro, Vice President, watching, observing and understudying his boss. In the face of failing health and battle against Cancer, the Bolivarian advocate had anointed the 57 year old as his successor.  Maduro was seen as the man to consolidate and carry on with his policies.

So when Chavez eventually succumbed to death in 2013, Maduro undisputedly took reins of the government and Chavez’s political party, the United Socialist Party.

It was a change in the political guard that was accompanied by dramatic changes on the country’s socio-economic front.

The relative tranquility and social harmony that Venezuela enjoyed during Chavez’s time was now being threatened. Awash with monies from oil, Chavismo thrived and won Chavez more supporters than oppositions but, the honeymoon would come to an end. Like every other monolithic and oil-driven economy, the shocks in the oil market shook and left a big hole in Venezuela’s purse.

The instability accompanied by drop in oil demands took its toll on the economy and consequently ruptured the social policies implemented by Chavez’s Chavismo.

Maduro struggled to maintain the glowing heights of Chavismo under his former boss. The man charged with the responsibility of keeping the flag flying was now finding it difficult to keep hoisting the flag in the face of a terrible recession and stormy financial weather.

The once happy and smiling faces were now replaced by sad and gloomy ones. The cheerful and animated voices replaced by grumblings and grumpy ones. It was only a matter of time before Maduro’s popularity waned in the country amid a gathering storm of anti-Maduro chants calling for his resignation.

His failure to sustain the dreams and aspirations of Chavismo and Chavistas (the followers) have somewhat eroded his popularity and divided the country. The present economic turmoil has opened the door for infiltrations into his fan base and what we have are the troubling scenes of violent protests between the opposition and government supporters that have rocked the country in the last three weeks.

The problem is that Nicholas Maduro is not ready to throw in the towel. The 57 year old has accused the opposition of trying to topple his legitimacy and being on the payrolls of Washington. And in a bid to swing the pendulum to his side, he recently added another opposition leader to his long list of political blacklist.

Henrique Capriles, a former governor of Miranda state was formally banned for 15 years from public office. He joins three other politicians to be put out of action by Maduro.

And to further prove to the international community that he is not going to succumb easily to the protesters, he warned South America’s regional organization, ….not to pressurize him too much or else he would pull out of the nine-nation member community.

It is a terrible situation that many fear could get messier.

Nicholas Maduro has insisted he won’t step down until the election period thereby dismissing Capriles’ recall referendum while the opposition has also vowed to continue with the protests.

It is a stand-off that has grounded Venezuela to a halt and seems to be wearing out ordinary Venezuelans caught up in the cross-fire.

Long queues of people waiting for hours to buy bread and other staples that are in short supply is now a mundane lifestyle that Venezuelans have come to accept. And for those who can’t stand the rigours, Cucuta, a Colombian border town is now their shopping destination. And from the look of things, respite or solution still seems far-off.

In a battle of supremacy with both sides refusing to back off while bodies-casualties of the violent protests-keep counting as the protest intensifies, Venezuelans should brace up for more torrid times.

For Maduro, protecting his legitimacy and ensuring political power still resides within Chavez’s party is of utmost importance. However, the means of achieving it is questionable.

Stifling opposition and using the state security apparatus to clamp down on dissent contradicts what Chavismo stands for. It would be relevant to point to the president that Chavistas-whom he aligns with-believe Chavismo recognizes and accepts that power should be vested in the people. As such, the recent opprobrium fuelled by popular protest that has thrown Caracas and other major cities into chaos share semblance with Chavismo ideals.

Embedded in Venezuela’s crisis is another miniature crisis; a silent but violent one that seeks to win the hearts of the people. It is a slugfest between Maduro and Chavistas and the oppositions who seek to draw the curtains down on Chavismo and Chavez’s PSUV party led by Maduro.

Having controlled the country’s political landscape for 19 years through the ballot box, PSUV ( Maduro’S ruling party) must be willing and ready to test his popularity via the same ballot box in order to get the pulse of a divided nation.

His unwillingness to call for referendum reeks of cowardice. The fear of defeat and probably watching Chavismo drown in a sinking ship that he is trying to keep afloat is unbearable.

But for how long can he stay afloat to keep Chavismo alive? Bet is only a matter of time. With the walls closing in on him, it seems Venezuelans are ready for a change and a chance to finally bid farewell to him and Chavismo.

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