Is Maduro back on top in Venezuela?

We haven’t checked in on what’s been happening in the failed state of Venezuela recently, mostly because there hasn’t been much movement in the stalemate. With no dramatic breakthroughs in negotiations being hosted by other nations and no major concessions from either dictator Nicolas Maduro or self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, the imploded socialist state seems to have dropped off of the international media’s radar in large part.

But it may be that Maduro has been using this lull in the action to solidify his position. The Washington Post editorial board had a rather depressing column yesterday describing some of Maduro’s moves and how he may be playing a waiting game with the rest of the world… and winning.

FOUR MONTHS after a failed U.S.-backed putsch against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, his regime has hunkered down, betting that it can outlast its domestic and foreign opponents. For the moment, at least, it seems to have the upper hand.

Having broken off negotiations with opposition leaders over a new election last month, Mr. Maduro last Monday signed an ersatz deal with minor parties that he may use to undermine the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He has partially liberalized the economy, reducing the inflation rate from seven to six digits and causing food and other consumer goods to reappear in some stores. And he has strengthened ties with Colombian guerrilla movements and deployed 150,000 troops to the border, seeking to intimidate a country that, along with the Trump administration, has pushed hardest for regime change in Caracas.

The one thing keeping the hopes of Guaido and the opposition alive up until now has been the essentially unified front being presented by the National Assembly. Even though Maduro’s puppets managed to rewrite much of the nation’s constitution and gut the Assembly’s power, they’ve remained united against the dictator and kept on the pressure.

Now, with the battle having ground on for far too long, Maduro has started making offers of minor gifts and concessions to some of the smaller parties in the opposition coalition in exchange for their tacit support. If he can weaken that alliance and set them fighting against one another, they may collapse out of sheer exhaustion.

Meanwhile, a coalition of countries including the United States have recognized Guaido, but that doesn’t have any practical impact in Venezuela while Maduro still controls the military. He also has the support of both Cuban and Russian troops and other military assets in his nation. There is no indication that any other country – including us, thankfully – has any inclination to make a military move against him, so time appears to be on his side.

Meanwhile, he’s depleted the country’s treasury to bare bones. National oil production has cratered and much of the remaining oil they do manage to process is being given away to Russia and China for free to pay off the immense debts Maduro has incurred with them.

In other words, very little appears to be changing, but the few changes that are taking place seem to be going in Maduro’s favor. And absent anything truly dramatic happening to shake things up, he may win the waiting game, maintaining his control on power even as his citizens languish or flee for their lives. It’s a tragedy unfolding before the eyes of the world as yet another story of socialism hits the rocks and produces a humanitarian disaster.

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David Strom 3:21 PM on February 03, 2023