Every single one of the twelve years of this blog, I have wished my readers a Happy New Year. It was always a personal wish, hoping that every reader would have the best year they can hope for, for themselves and their families. Since we are all personally involved with Venezuela, this wish is very interconnected to the country and its future. Whether they are there or not, whatever happens in Venezuela in 2015 will have an undue influence on how good a year it is for each and all of us. Thus, when last night I sat down to wish you the best for the New Year, I just could not find a simple message. This is my more complete post about what I wish for all of you and for myself and my family. And why I think the word “happy” will be hard to apply to all of us in 2015.
Unfortunately, I fear that 2015 will not be a good year for anyone connected to Venezuela. In fact, I expect 2015 to be THE annus horriblis for Venezuela. My only concern at this time, is that the slow pace of change in policies by the Maduro Government may extend the pain well into 2016 or even 2107, turning it into many anni horriblis, inflicting immeasurable pain on the Venezuelan people.
Because the delay in new decisions will only exacerbate the effects of bad policies which will now be magnified by the sharp drop in oil prices, that will only intensify the effects of the upcoming crisis. And we all know and think about the first order effects of the upcoming crisis, like inflation, shortages, increased poverty and the like, but the second order effects are even scarier. Years of neglect have deteriorated the country’s infrastructure and the problems with electric power and water supply will take years to be solved. Quality of life will deteriorate, as people will suffer blackouts and brownouts for years and water rationing will become the norm. Crime will only increase and protests and unrest will become the norm.
Unfortunately, in thinking about whether there was a possibility of having a “good” 2015 in Venezuela, the answer is that the panorama is quite fuzzy. As decisions are delayed, things will get worse, but they will not necessarily make a resolution to the problems be closer to reality. On the contrary, I believe the path that Chavismo will follow is to replace Maduro with someone else once his popularity reaches single digits, which will certainly occur in 2015. The fights within Chavismo will only intensify and Nicolas will be the loser, as most groups will realize a new face is the only possible way out for the Bolivarian revolution to survive. This, of course, is not a solution in the end, but a necessary step before real change can take place.
A new face in the Presidency will give Chavismo some fresh air, but the ideological trap will snare whichever group takes over: If they change the course, they will be repudiated, it they stay the course, the crisis will simply get worse and an already fragile Government will keep stumbling along, without any real possibility of improvement (unless oil prices hit US$ 200 per barrel, the only possible way out of the current crisis)
But real change will not take place until Chavismo’s groups are atomized and its popularity, not that of its leaders, falls to levels similar to those of the opposition.
And that, unfortunately, could take quite a while to take place.
My best guess is that it will take at east two or three years for the country to reach that stage. There are no easy solutions in my mind. For change to take place there has to be a process, not an event. And with Chavismo’s resources and controls today, the process will be long and drawn out.
And that is why it is hard to wish you a Happy New Year. My crystal ball suggests it will be anything but happy for Venezuelans, or those that care about the country, in 2015 and 2016.
Thus, the best I can wish you is that I am wrong. However, I may be wrong about the details, Venezuela may have a Black Swan, but the path will certainly look similar to what I am depicting. And it will not be pretty, let alone happy.