Venezuela's legislature literally moves into a political theater

Venezuela's legislature literally moves into a political theater

A few weeks ago we looked at the fact that Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaido and his supporters in the National Assembly were blocked from entering the legislative chambers by allies of Nicolas Maduro. This resulted in the Socialist Party assembly members holding a clearly illegitimate election of new legislative leaders loyal to Maduro, with the opposition being physically locked out of the government.

Guaido and his allies tried again the following week but were once again blocked from entry by Maduro’s security forces. Now things have truly reached a point of desperation for the opposition party legislators. Unable to take their seats at the usual chambers, they have moved into a theater in the town of El Hatillo on the outskirts of the capital. I’ve heard of political theater before, but I’ve never seen the concept taken so literally. (Associated Press)

Venezuelan opposition lawmakers are expected in the coming days to make their third attempt to get inside the legislative chamber in downtown Caracas, after twice this month being blocked by forces loyal to President Nicolás Maduro.

The losing turf battle recently drove the lawmakers to a covered amphitheater in El Hatillo, a normally quiet community in the hilly outskirts of the capital that’s popular for its souvenir shops, restaurants and visitors strolling around the colonial square.

It’s unclear whether the National Assembly led by U.S.-backed Juan Guaidó will be forced on Tuesday to retreat again to El Hatillo, or perhaps the office of The Nation newspaper — where they also met in early January — or scramble for yet another safe meeting place.

This is actually an inappropriate topic for making jokes about “political theater” but the sad reality is that the situation in Venezuela has long since deteriorated to the point where if you don’t laugh you’ll probably cry. Their constitution has been gutted by the Socialist Party with nearly all power having been stripped from the elected members of the National Assembly. And if the recent “elections” I mentioned above are somehow allowed to stand, Juan Guaido loses his only legitimate constitutional claim to the role of interim president.

There also appears to be little hope of finding anyone to declare the election illegitimate. The country’s dictator has packed the Supreme Court with his own henchmen and flunkies who do his bidding with scant attention paid to the formerly robust constitution. Nicolas Maduro is currently holding all the cards and unless his own military rises up against him, that’s unlikely to change. And as long as he maintains both the military and financial support of Russia and China, the army is unlikely to find the will to turn against him.

Speaking of Maduro, he must be feeling on much more solid ground these days than he was a month or two ago. He recently released a statement saying that he’s ready for direct talks with the United States and other world leaders so everyone can put all of this unpleasantness behind them and return things to the old version of “normal.” (WaPo)

President Nicolás Maduro cast himself as the wily survivor of a dramatic, year-long struggle by the opposition at home and its allies in Washington to unseat him, and said it’s now time for direct negotiations with the United States to end the political stalemate that has crippled this nation of some 30 million.

In an exclusive, extensive interview with The Washington Post — his first with a major U.S. media outlet since he abruptly pulled the plug on a Univision taping last February and ejected its journalists from the country — an exuberant Maduro said he had outfoxed his opponents in Caracas and Washington, was comfortably in charge and is ready to talk.

Maduro would like President Trump to “push the reset button” on the relationship between our two nations. He further suggests that a “bonanza” in oil revenue could be awaiting U.S. oil companies if sanctions are lifted and our diplomatic relations are normalized.

Both of these statements are dubious at best, however, even if Trump was willing to consider such an offer. (Unlikely in the extreme given his previous anger at Maduro.) First of all, the tyrant isn’t much of a political historian if he doesn’t realize what a loaded phrase “push the reset button” has been ever since then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing trip to Moscow.

More to the point, Venezuela’s oil reserves are no longer Maduro’s to offer up, or at least not all of them. He’s run up so much debt for his nation, particularly while all of the sanctions have been in place, that he’s had to sell off a majority interest in the national oil company to the Russians. And without constant injections of money from China, he can’t even receive or load the oil tankers to transport any oil they do manage to produce. That oil is mostly Vladimir Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s now.

I still don’t see an exit ramp from this situation that ends well for the people of Venezuela or brings any hope for a return to democratic rule. That doesn’t mean that the United States or any other western nations should simply bow to Maduro’s demands and pretend none of this ever happened, but Guaido’s bid for power appears to be over and Venezuela is firmly in the growing Axis of Bad Guys, comprised of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and (increasingly) Turkey. The entire situation stinks on ice, but absent some form of military intervention (which nobody wants), there doesn’t appear to be much that can be done.

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