As I have previously noted in an older blog post, the fate of Venezuela is more likely to bear a resemblance to Mugabe’s Zimbabwe than that of Kirchner’s Argentina. The difference between the two? An appetite for the murder of citizens.
While Argentina was pushed to the brink in late in the reign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with similar populist justifications used by Hugo Chavez and a similar dismissal of opposition politicians as anti-democratic and foreign-influenced counterrevolutionaries, Kirchner was unable to muster enough support to amend the Argentinian constitution to sit for a third term and her candidate to replace her lost the subsequent election. Even the murder of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who appeared to be poised to indict shortly before the 2015 presidential election figures in the Kirchner administration, did not culminate in a series of disappearances and arrests as many had feared. Although Kirchner did as much political and economic damage to the country as possible in the late hours before the assumption of power by her successor, the reigns of office were passed over peacefully.
In contrast, once the power in Zimbabwe passed from the Rhodesian government to the guerrilla-turned-politicians of the two succeeding Marxist fronts, the country was thoroughly co-opted by new government. Robert Mugabe even orchestrated a putsch ousting his revolutionary rivals from the government, his henchmen beating, exiling, and even murdering all that stood in his way. When the supply of white farmers and political opponents to eliminate started running a little thin, no worries. There were after all plenty of other countrymen to sacrifice to greed and ambition.
So far Maduro’s government has slaked its appetite for retribution with the arrest of politicians and the erasure of a few disgruntled citizens and rioting demonstrators each week. Maduro’s attempt to eliminate the Venezuelan constitution through a farcical (but superficially legal, at least by Chavez’s standards) election of an assembly to do his bidding is probably the last non-violent step he can take to consolidate power without resorting to wholesale murder. Venezuelans are holding their collective breadth to see what happens.
I suppose Venezuelans are still ahead, at least using Chavez and Maduro’s erstwhile ally Fidel Castro’s accounting methods. After all Castro overthrew the Cuban government by rallying his fellow citizens disgusted with Batista’s murderous tendencies, and then proceeded to murder all his opponents (and perceived opponents) by the truckload. Credible estimates figure that Castro’s regime kills over a thousand Cubans a year via executions, abuses in the prison system, combat deaths by conscripts in overseas wars, and drownings by citizens trying to escape by raft or boat north to Florida.
While it is true every nation gets the government it deserves, and Venezuelans are certainly no exception, it is hard to watch the slow motion train wreck that is the decline of the country into likely totalitarianism. Prospects for citizens are bleak, with food shortages, job shortages, and to be frank, a hope shortage. The government and its supporters are petrified, knowing that to lose their grip on power would mean a dire turning of the political tables.
I keep on hoping for divine intervention. Any why not? That’s just as likely an outcome as the sensible among all the Venezuelan antagonists burying the hatchet for the good of their country.