The Future Of Venezuela…

March 14, 2013


Got you with the title, no?

But now that I have your attention, let me tell you, I have no clue…

Because I think it is hard to predict even the next month, barely thirty days, leading up to the April 14th. election. Yes, logic says Maduro should win, sentimentality and all. But…

Maduro has turned out to be such a lightweight, that despite the short time, anything might happen. In fact, if he is dumb enough (he is!) to accept a debate, he may lose, simply for the fact that all TV stations will carry it and Capriles will say:

“Nicolas, you are no Chávez”

Beyond that, I am getting a little bit sick and tired of the Peron-Chavez analogy. Everyone seems to argue that Chavismo without Chávez will be like Peronismo after Perón.

Sorry, Perón is to Chávez like Salazar is to Chávez.

Really, because the Peronismo analogy is simply a terrible one. First of all, Perón had Evita, Chávez did not. Second, and more importantly, Perón was overthrown, Chávez was not. The Government after Perón persecuted Peronistas, which only helped the legend grow. By the time sixteen years had gone by, Perón was a legend, a mystical figure. When he came back , over 3 million people were there to meet him.

Chávez died and his followers will not be persecuted and his successor has turned out to be a light weight, that were it not for the short time, could be defeated.

Unlikely, yes, but if Capriles convinces the 6.7 million that voted for him to go back and vote and Chavsimo abstains, it could happen.

But let’s assume Capriles loses and Maduro wins. Maduro ain´t Chávez. Look at history. Tell me one successor of an autocrat that managed to hold on to power by maintaining the status quo. So, either Maduro shakes up the boat, or he is toast.

And by shaking up the boat, I mean to change course and try to fix what is wrong with Venezuela’s economy. Unless he changes his attitude after being elected, but it simply does not look like he will.

Which implies that Maduro will be in trouble in a very short time. Let me give you some examples of what bother me:

Corruption: Maduro is likely to get rid of Jorge Giordani in the Ministry of Planning and Finance and indications are that this will happen. (Like Giordani nowhere to be seen in all these announcements)

Well, this is a case of good news, bad news. The good news is any reasonable rational economist will be better than Giordani. The bad news is that Giordani managed to stop some of the corruption or “guisos” by detecting them (which he wasn’t too sharp at) and going to the big boss and stopping them.

Except that the big boss is gone and so will Jorgito the way it looks today.

Which means anything goes. Think arbitrage on steroids. Think raping and pillaging of whatever is left. You will be right whatever your guess may be. The only two “checks” and “balances” left, Hugo and Giordani will now be gone.

Anything goes…

-Stability: So, Maduro is elected, but everyone will be going after him. Maduro is trapped. If he becomes more moderate, he may find resistance form the true revolutionaries like his new Vice-President, Chávez’ Marxist son in law. Or Diosdado Cabello, who is likely to prefer to stay at the National Assembly, so that he can set his own course.

So, Maduro is in a tough position, he is not popular or even simpatico, but he better get results, or else..

He is also not very competent, as  to when he said that April 14th. was resurrection day, except it isn’t and you would not want to have an election on that day that everyone is traveling in Venezuela. And the resurrection analogy is a bad one, it could be Venezuela that will rise from the ashes.

So, be careful what you wish for.

And in contrast with Argentina,  Maduro’s problem is that he can stay in power forever, which means he will have no friends among likely contenders. I mean, Maduro could aspire to repeat in 2018 and why not? 2024

Which does not please his buddies.

And why you may be thinking of the obvious candidates, many aspire to replace Maduro and they will not skip a beat if Maduro fails them.

And when I say that, I think a very left wing military may try something, or a more moderate one could try something to, what Chavismo will call “right wing” and may also try something. But neither will survive long. Because I don’t think any of the sides in Venezuela is ready to accept any form of a military Government.

So, we may have lots of instability. Lots of changes between here and 2018.

Anything goes…

So, can Maduro survive six years if he wins?

Well, I doubt it. I don’t think the various Chavista factions will allow it. Each and everyone of them is likely to undermine Maduro. Each and everyone of them is likely to challenge any attempt by Maduro to change the course.

Including the Cubans.

So, things look bleak, even if you think you know what will happen at every turn.

Which in the end is bad for the future of Venezuela, because the path is likely to be full of instability and unpredictability.

In fact, I contend that we will not be able to recognize Venezuela’s political landscape in 2018. For Chavismo, the best likely outcome is to have Capriles deal with the economy. For Capriles, the best likely outcome is to have Maduro beat him, which may be the best outcome for the opposition, but not necessarily for Capriles.

Which only goes to show how uncertain the future is for Venezuela.

Unless oil goes to US$ 200 per barrel, which is possible, but unlikely.

42 Responses to “The Future Of Venezuela…”

  1. zygor guides Says:

    Excellent blog! Do you have any tips and hints for
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  2. Mick Says:

    Wouldn’t reruns highlight all the broken promises of the past?

  3. Gerrardo Jose Says:

    The more air time Maduro gets the more citizens will realize that all they hear is “mi commandante el presidente Chavez” ad infinitum. With a few “patria patria patria patria” spaced in between. This does not put food on the table, security on the street, or electricity into houses. It sounds like Maduro wants everyone to sacrifice for him. Won’t happen.

  4. bothebuilder Says:

    Best attempt I’ve seen so far at trying to predict the unpredictable.

  5. firepigette Says:

    Oil at 200 dollars is not that unlikely if we get into a war with Iran and as things stand now, that’s the direction we seem to be heading.The Iranian bomb might have been delayed but it’s still on track.

  6. L. Adler Says:

    Did Capriles try to pre-empt move to bury Chavez at La Grita? Figured they would bury him here after those visits last year.

  7. L. Adler Says:

    What about external factors? Cannot help but think the musical chairs with Iran keep the Empire’s eye off the ball. Don’t see the international community coming to Venezuela’s help if the U.S. is bombing Iran within a year (Obama just said one year). Oppo is not assuming power before this and the Cubans well know it

  8. Kepler Says:

    I agree with Ow it is completely stupid to focus on “Maduro is not Chávez”.

    If that is the strategy our group has, it is really more concerned with its next voyage to Miami than anything else.

    I was perplexed to see messages such as “Maduro es un usurpador”
    and “Maduro has destroyed the economy in 4 months” and even “if Chávez knew”.

    Yes, Maduro doesn’t have the charisma, he cannot speak (neither can Capriles very well if he needs to do it without writing, and sometimes, sometimes one does).


    It is very very very stupid to think they will believe us after we have been opposed to Chávez all the time, after they know the hatred Chávez had against us.

    This really shows how little the part of the opposition leading us – those in Eastern Caracas – know Venezuela.

    We should actually have talked about Chávez’s nepotism from the very beginning, asked about the resources used by his whole clan, for years. We should have criticized the personality cult mentioning it like what it is, personality cult. Perhaps we couldn’t because our people also wanted their little personality cult, being Venezuelans who, like Chávez, didn’t want to change anything but the person ruling on top.

    And we should be talking about what we really mean.

    Now, on the other hand: Ow is talking about accomplishments from Maduro?

    That is preposterous. Ow hasn’t yet got a clue about the way Chavismo has destroyed an already dysfunctional Venezuela.

    I disliked AD all the time. And yet if you know a tiny bit of Venezuelan history you will realise the most “revolutionary” governments that existed in Venezuela of the XX and XXI centuries were the first government of AD, perhaps the second.

    Chavismo? Everything others did when oil was high, but with even much higher oil prices…and relatively to oil prices, much less of the good (admittedly, much more than in the last 15 years prior to Chavez).

    And what we have now is a level of violence we didn’t have before…and children wasting their time studying crap, and, hard to imagine in the past, more corruption.

    • L. Adler Says:

      I hear you Kep but HCF was a sick pup when he came into power and turned a sick country sicker. You have a guy who was basically undiagnosed and unhinged with a mix of personality disorders which few realize or understand. We have this problem in the Empire too. Germans I believe are very familiar with this problem.

  9. Roy Says:

    Finally! In the article in the link, which comes from AP, the reporter “gets it”.

    Where were these guys five years ago? They were acting as a propagandists for Chavez and his “revolution”.

    • Jeffry house Says:

      I think we should be glad they’ve learned to understand Venezuela better, rather than berating them for taking longer than we did.

  10. expat Says:

    >>> … Which only goes to show how uncertain the future is for Venezuela.

    Unless oil goes to US$ 200 per barrel, which is possible, but unlikely.

    Waffle no more – the Beatles said it all ->

    Life is very short, and there’s no time
    For fussing and fighting, my friend.
    I have always thought that it’s a crime,
    So i will ask you once again.
    Try to see it MY way,
    Only time will tell if i am right or i am wrong.
    While you see it your way
    There’s a chance that we may fall apart before too long.
    We can work it out,
    We can work it out.

  11. OW Says:

    Maduro will win easily. Do you really think saying “You’re no Chavez” will sway voters when it comes from the mouth of a steadfast opponent of Chavez?!?! It didn’t work for Dan Quayle with Kennedy and it certainly won’t work for Capriles with Chavez.
    Once in office Maduro doesn’t face an immediate economic crisis. Yes the currency is way overvalued and yes that creates significant problems but he just devalued once so they won’t have to devalue again for another 12 to 18 months. And while I want them to devalue much more, and soon, it probably wouldn’t be wise to do so as your first act once in office.
    But oil is holding steady at $100 a barrel (thank you Ben Bernanke), the Faja projects are coming on line which will boost cash flow to the government, and there are easy things Maduro could cut if there really was a pinch such as aid to other countries, PetroCaribe, don’t make any significant military purchases etc. He won’t face any tough economic decisions for at least the first year unless he decides he wants to deal with them up front. But seeing as the solutions all involve high political costs he will probably defer on economic matters until he solidifies support through some other sort of accomplishments.
    I think the perfect problem for him to take on is crime. Its something that is effecting everyone, is a source of serious discontent, and that with the right policies can give results even in short periods of time like a year or two.
    Now, if he uses strong methods of dealing with crime he may lose the support of some on the left. But that doesn’t matter as a) he won’t have to face any elections for quite some time and b) even if he loses some on the left if he does significantly reduce crime he can win back former Chavistas who defected to the opposition or who abstain.
    So I think Maduro will win this election easily and then in a short period of time after that (less than 6 months) we will see what he is made of and what he intends to do.

    • moctavio Says:

      I agree that Maduro will likely win, but dont agree with the “easily” part for two reasons: 1) Abstention is the wild card that will determine the difference. Whenever Chavez was involved abstention was low, which favored Chavismo. In October we had the lowest abstention ever. Move abstention to 30% or more and the difference will collapse 2) Maduro is not that well known to the people of Venezuela. I know this makes no difference to the hardcore Chavista, but it does to the ones that liked Chavez but were not too keen on those around him. Thus, the fact that Chavez annointed him is less relevant to them. Again, they may decide not to vote.

      As for the economy, I also disagree. They have to devalue this year again or sell dollars at a much higher rate for some goods to get more Bolivars and reduce demand. There are holes everywhere in the public and the private sector. CADIVI owes money to all sectors of the economy at 4.3 , which are unlikely to be paid at that rate. Until they get paid, there will be no more imports and thus shortages. The food and pharmaceutical sectors are the leading sectors in this delay to make matters worse. Then, there is the public sector. Briquette companies are not producing anything, Steel and aluminum companies have reduced their output significantly. Add to all this that salaries will have to be increased significantly in May and the numbers simply don’t add up. There are too many Bolivars in the economy.

      So far, I get the feeling Maduro is the least experienced running things. Suprised Chavez chose him actually.

    • Dr. Faustus Says:

      According to Haitlibre…….

      “Responding to the criticisms of Senator Privert, Marie Carmelle Jean Marie, Minister of Economy recalled that since the program’s inception [in 2007], Haiti had received so far, 1 billion 363 million dollars, of this program (whose 395 million were canceled in June 2010 by the Government of Venezuela) and that 75% of amounts disbursed, have been invested in the road infrastructure sector by the administrations Préval and Martelly. Deploring these criticisms, the Minister held to stress that Petrocaribe funds, are voted by the parliamentarians in the budget and all projects are approved by the Board of Directors of the Office of Monetization and the Council of Ministers responsible for managing the fund.

      By comparison, Venezuela is the largest creditor of the Dominican Republic, which, under the Petrocaribe agreement, accumulated an oil debt of more than 3.5 billion.”

      So, who in Haiti is gonna pay back almost 1 billion dollars owed to the Venezuelan people? What about the Dominican Republic? And we haven’t even begun discussing Cuba. It goes on and on.

    • L. Adler Says:

      a very interesting assessment. You want this, you want that and now you’re economic advisor to the regime. Thank you Dan Burnett you have it all figured out.

    • L. Adler Says:

      OW, didn’t you drive the whole family from New York to Boston to see Maduro? I remember now… you where front row (or was it Juan Barreto)?

    • Boludo Tejano Says:

      Do you really think saying “You’re no Chavez” will sway voters when it comes from the mouth of a steadfast opponent of Chavez?!?! It didn’t work for Dan Quayle with Kennedy and it certainly won’t work for Capriles with Chavez.

      You need to get your facts straight before pontificating and using false analogies. In the debate between 1988 Vice Presidential candidates Republican Dan Quayle and Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle was comparing his experience in the Senate and House of Representatives to that of JFK. Both Quayle and JFK had served in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Bentsen replied to Quayle,You’re no Jack Kennedy. It certainly worked for Bentsen, who as a Democrat, was not an opponent of JFK.

      Ignoramus sos.

    • bothebuilder Says:

      Interesting take on crime being a useful focus. Chavez made it a lot worse so why should the chosen one change tack? I imagine with such an established proliferation of crime there has to be some very influential people benefitting – the last thing a weak leader needs.

  12. Roy Says:

    Whether the Peronism analogy holds or not, I believe that Venezuela cannot begin its road to recovery until Chavismo has been completely discredited. So long as people say, “Ah, if only Chavez had lived…”, then they will be vulnerable to the next caudillo that comes along, always looking for the leader that promises them something for nothing. If it will take a complete collapse of the economy and law and order in order get Chavez out of the nation’s psyche, than that is what it will take. So be it.

    Some children believe their mother when they say the stove will burn their hand. Others have to get burned in order to learn.

    Miguel is right about the unpredictability. Let us hope that with Chavez dead, maybe the spell he had over the lumpen will be broken. Let us hope that with Maduro spouting incoherent nonsense in a manner that makes watching the grass grow seem interesting, that Capriles will capture the imagination of the Chavista masses.

    But “hope” is all I have. Not only do I not know, I couldn’t even begin to calculate the probabilities.

    • Deanna Says:

      Roy, I don’t have that much optimism about some Chavez followers changing their mind about Chavismo when they hear Maduro “spouting incoherent nonsense”. I know this for a fact, because I have a nephew who believes fervently that a good Chavista should follow the “lineamientos que dejo el Comandante” to vote for Maduro in the next election. This he reiterated to me despite the fact that I told him he should use his “noggin” to make his voting decision, instead of following the orders of a dead man to vote for a stupid one!!!

      • Roy Says:


        Here is the way to look at it: Those who voted for Capriles in the last election are not going to change their minds for this one. However, Chavista loyalty to a dead man is not so certain.

  13. Rafael Vicente Says:

    Diablo, only this comment, in my opinion the government sympathizers starts Derse account, that Mr. Nikolay has nothing to offer, lacks: charisma, slavia and emotion, so afraid of losing porder, Capriles can become a Black Swan, or said in Creole the bump or surprise the 14/4.

  14. Jeffry house Says:

    I use the Chavez-Peron analogy, loosely, in North America where I live. It has the benefit of reminding people that the enthusiasm of the poor is compatible with the far right as well as the far left. The same can be said for Peronist anti-imperialism, which made Peron sympathetic to escaping Nazis, as Chavez’ anti-imperialism made him sympathetic to Ghaddafi, Assad, and others who find little support these days.

    The Chavez-Peron analogy forces people to doubt the Sermon-on-the-Mount categories in which they habitually think about far-away revolutions.

    Of course the analogy can be pushed too far, and I think the comment about postt-Peronian repression as a factor in his legend, is extremely important.

  15. Ira Says:

    Totally OT:

    You HAVE to watch this fascinating appearance by Yoani Sanchez yesterday at Columbia University:

    It’s long, but worth every second.

    • CarlosElio Says:

      Thank you for the link. I watched it and it is pretty good. Why is it that all “revolutionary” governments are so afraid of dissent? While they were the opposition, screamed against the oppression of the established regime, but once in power take oppression to new heights. In a universe of uncertainty, in the universe of Gödel and Heisenberg, as this happens to be, the idea that one side knows the truth is absurd and will lead to absurd results.

      She is a truly remarkable human being. Easy to like.

  16. Bruni Says:

    Miguel, Chávez was no Perón.

    Chávez was Evita.

    It changes everything in your reasoning.

    • moctavio Says:

      It was not called Evitismo, but peronismo and there was Peron way before Evita became what she became.

      But more importantly, there will be no persecution of Chavistas and add that Peronismo held together because rules were created on how they would structure the party and how succession would take place. Here if Maduro succeeds, he can rule forever!

  17. Joe McEvoy Says:

    Hello Miguel,
    This is your old mentor, Joe McEvoy writing from London where I live. I often think of you and Kathy, the two brightest stars from Clark U. I have joined your blog – which is amazing – but would like to be able to exchange eMails with you directly. Is that possible? Let me know.

    • Mike Says:

      Have been reading the blog for years and never knew until now that Miguel went to Clark U in Worcester MA?

      If so what year?

      Clark Alum 1989

      • moctavio Says:

        Jeje, indeed, Got my Bachelors in Physics there in 1973. I am extremely happy that Prof. Joe McEvoy found me, he directed my undergraduate thesis and I worked in his lab for three years at Clark, before going to Harvard. Had lost track of him after he moved to London. I actually had looked for him.

        Mike: What was your Major? Met my wife there too.She is the Kathy, Joe refers to. Sent him an email, haven’t heard from him yet.

      • Charlie Says:

        Went to nearby WPI. Class of ’79

  18. captainccs Says:

    Yesterday there was coffee and chicken to be had at the abasto but still ley seca, damnit!

    Depths of catacombs? What bullshit! Venezuelans simply can’t stop talking about politics like Londoners about the weather. There is more to life that these assholes on TV.

    Let the beer flow. Death to Ley Seca!

  19. Tom ODonnell Says:

    Yes, Moctavo, it is important to see the differences between Chavismo and Peronism. However, this does not mean that Chavismo in many forms will not persist for decades in Venezuela, and likely take on new forms.

    However, what I see as really devastating for both the near- and long-term in Venezuela is the institutional weakness (and often dysfunction) of the bureaucracy and also civil society. And, this is not merely a product of chavismo’s organizational incapacity … this was legendary already throughout the 1990’s.

    No matter who becomes president, no matter how expert his/her top team, it is not possible to follow any nuanced reform policy as the bureaucracy cannot implement it without being itself painstakingly rebuilt. Add to this the corrosive political polarization, and outright antagonism between the social-political camps and, well, ….

    Indeed, I find it interesting that academic colleagues of mine in Venezuela who are liberal-progressives (but not with Chavez) and life-long champions of democracy speak of the need of a ‘strong hand’ to keep things in order and make some progress. Of course, this has intrinsic difficulties, esp. if it is a strong-handed president who is not dedicated to building a pluralistic, progressive, inclusive democracy. Who would it be?

    For the present, the opposition,as well as realistic chavistas, that want to really move Venezuela forward, should take a lesson from Lula´s years of painstaking party building before taking power. The Venezuelan opposition (and/or serious chavistas who have the nation´s interests at heart), need an ideologically united and similarly disciplined democratic party organization, with ties to all sectors of civil society (students, woman´s organizations, unions, churches, barrio groups, …),

    In a state with absolute chaos in the institutions, only a party that comes to power with a disciplined core, united on its program, can bring some order and begin to rebuild a capable civil service to develop the nation economically and socially. (IMHO)

    • Noel Says:

      I am not so sure that Lula is a good example. First, because before the PT became an political party there was a strong union structure, and one can argue as to where the union structure ended and where the political one began.

      Second, because the PT developed in such an insular way that once in power this led to widespread excesses and frauds.

      Third, because had commodity prices not been so buyant, Lula’s achievements would have been far more modest, as he enjoyed the fruits of FH Cardoso’s heavy lifting and reforms (even undoing some of the most important).

      I think that it is more likely that a democratic opposition will develop more easily around a leader (think of de Gaulle) which may then, once in office, serve as the building blocks for a new generation of politcal leaders and technocrats.

      Or we can get a military transition, although it may be late; I imagine that Chileans looking at Venezuela must be thinking that they could be in the same boat had history not diverged at some point.

  20. CarlosElio Says:

    Maybe a little bit of Levy Strauss and the other scholars of mythology can help us read the tea leaves of Venezuela’s future. Chavez was the escalator that allowed poor Venezuelans to climb from the depths of the social-democratic cave to a new world of meaning and purpose. Hitler did the same for defeated and bankrupt Germans.

    Give it a whirl. What was there for the poor of Venezuela before Chavez? How did these people create their own meaning and find a purpose in life? You either stay there in your little wold of “cerveza, terminales y cuadros del 5y6” or get out. An you can get out the easy way or the right way.

    Paulo Freire believed that the right way to emerge from the catacombs of magical thinking and find meaning in life was through critical thinking, “problematizacion de la realidad” he called it. No escalator needed here, just hard, critical thinking. During his first presidency, Caldera tried it, sort of. But it floundered. The efforts of the people working with Teolinda Bolivar and her group of “facilitadores de la concientizacion” were too little and had too many constraints.

    The right way is also the hard way. It is a lot easier when you can outsource it. The Messiahs, the secret code, the jack pot, save you the effort. Chavez was the Mosses that would lead them out of the dessert of poverty and marginalization where they were lost all their lives. And the faithful never disobeys. The faithful eat shit if Mosses so commands.

    Now Mosses is gone and the dessert is still there. Who is left in his stead is a clumsy bus driver incapable of inspiring any faith of his own. Soon, millions of people would feel lost and lonely. It is not going to be pretty. And it may be too late for Freire’s pedagogy.

  21. Roger Says:

    I don’t discount the Army as at least a major power broker in all this even if they don’t take direct control and just work in the back round with guys like Deo. The chosen ones at this point act more like Bolivians rather than Bolivarians and unless they can can find Three Wise men and a Virgin, they are not going to last long.
    I think that in the end the solution will be a coalition government as we see in Brazil and other countries that are making progress.We know that most students at places like UCV have taken interest in Marxist thought for years now but, they are the most visible protesters against the administration. Almost all such Alumni in the government know that this ain’t working and unless their making big Bs. being corrupt, are very concerned about their future.

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