Step one in any existential crisis in a dictatorship is to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. Step two is to pretend it’s already been resolved. With both of those options precluded for Nicolas Maduro in the five-day blackout in Venezuela, his regime has gone to step 3.
That’s the “prosecute your political enemies for your own incompetence/evil” step, for those keeping score:
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab says he’s launched an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaido over suspicions he was involved in an attack on the country’s power grid.
Tarek William Saab announced the probe Tuesday, saying the electrical failure has sparked violence, robberies and looting.
Venezuela’s power grid failed Thursday evening, leaving most of the nation in the dark and with limited phone and internet service.
In socialist regimes such as Maduro’s, the mirror image of Hanlon’s Razor is often applied: Never attribute to stupidity/incompetence what can be possibly explained by malice. Stupidity and/or incompetence would be the fault of the regime, as would be failures to sustain livable conditions. Therefore, all such failures have to have their root causes in malice from the opponents of Beautiful Socialism and the Dear Leader who imposes it.
Guaidó makes for a perfect foil in this instance, even though Guaidó is himself a leftist. He opposes Dear Leader Maduro, and therefore must have ordered the sabotage that created the blackout! However, if sabotage was to blame, why hasn’t the Dear Leader’s Very Competent And Super-Caring Regime been able to restore power? They’ve now had five full days to get their hydroelectric plant and power distribution center back on line. Why hasn’t the power been restored? And why doesn’t the Maduro regime have fuel on hand for critical-use generators?
In order to keep from answering those questions, the regime seized a journalist today, whom they also claim was part of the “blackout operation”:
Venezuela’s intelligence police detained and raided the house of journalist Luis Carlos Diaz in Caracas on Monday, days after a top government official accused him of taking part in a plot to cause a nationwide blackout.
The arrest is an escalation of President Nicolas Maduro’s aggressive attempts to silence and intimidate the press, which include the recent temporary detentions of Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and U.S. freelance reporter Cody Weddle, deported last week.
Diaz was grabbed by intelligence police while biking home from the Union Radio network, according to his wife. Diosdado Cabello, a top official of Maduro’s socialist party, accused him without evidence of being part of a far-right “blackout operation” that led to power outages lasting more than four days in some areas. Hours after Diaz’s arrest, Maduro said that two people who committed a cyber attack on the electric system had been captured.
This would be step 3a from the dictator’s crisis playbook — round up the usual suspects. Soon the Maduro government will have these two on camera to broadcast their “confessions” that implicate Gauidó and other bêtes noires of the regime in order to discredit their political opponents. And it might make for an impressive show, except that most Venezuelans still don’t have any power to watch television, let alone keep their food from spoiling and health-care facilities from failing.
At some point, Maduro will run out of plays in this playbook. When that happens, let’s hope Maduro asks for three steps toward the door, due apologies to Lynyrd Skynyrd. It would be in everyone’s best interests to give Maduro an opportunity to go into exile so that humanitarian efforts can try to accomplish what Maduro and his regime clearly cannot — get the power back on and feed Venezuelans.