Venezuela’s Unexpected Transition

"Isaac Berlin taught his pupils that planning a given policy or political outcome was rather challenging given that human beings tend to love unpredictability. Venezuela seems to provide the perfect case study for Sir Isaac," points out former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel.

Isaac Berlin taught his pupils that planning a given policy or political outcome was rather challenging given that human beings tend to love unpredictability. Venezuela seems to provide the perfect case study for Sir Isaac.

Twenty years ago the country was showcased as the society that had overcome authoritarianism to create a free and thriving democratic society. Eighteen years ago the ascent of a former paratrooper and failed coup leader was heralded as the arrival of the great democratic healer.

Democracy in Venezuela had failed to include the poor. As a result, 40% of the population felt disfranchised while corruption had become the greatest stumbling block to development.

A leader with no ties to corrupt elites and who would truly represent the best interests of the poor was necessary.

And this democratic Messiah was embodied in one Hugo Chavez Frias.

Eighteen years thereafter the country finds itself immersed in abject poverty with a destroyed institutional framework, organized crime reigning supreme on the streets, record breaking corruption and a productive platform mired in total paralysis given that economic policies were designed to yield bankruptcy.

More recently it was the expectation that the clear rejection by the population in an election which was lost by the government in a 10-2 proportion would open a period of democratic revival.

Surely, the Assembly led by the opposition with the Executive in hands of the Bolivarian regime would rebuild the nation’s democratic fabric. Both powers were to balance each other so as to begin the long and complex process of rebuilding rule of law in Venezuela.

With this in mind, the international community gasped and decreed a period of democratic rebuilding for Venezuela.

By the end of the first quarter of this year it was quite clear that the regime was not about to lose its hard won totalitarian status.

All decisions by the Assembly have been declared unconstitutional by a crony packed Supreme Court. Political prisoners were subject to renewed mistreatment. Students have been harassed and persecuted. The request to organize the constitutional provision of a recall referendum has been frozen in spite of the surrender by opposition forces of 3 times the number of signatures needed to petition the provision.

At that point the Inter American community decided to step in. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro not only wrote a report recording all democratic deviations of the Venezuelan regime but also Human Rights abuses and corruption.

And while Almagro’s report has had the virtue of revealing the totalitarian nature and proceedings of the Venezuelan Government, lacking any teeth to the OAS compliance tools, it most probably will fail to remedy the situation.

Cornered by the weight of external debt, lack of foreign exchange, rampant crime, drug trafficking and pervasive lack of food and medicines, the government of Venezuela has now chosen yet another means to keep power.

The Minister of Defense, Mr Padrino has been the joyful recipient of all executive powers while Mr Maduro and his Vice-President Mr Isturiz become decorative characters good enough to attend rallies and stage press conferences.

It is the expectation by Mr Maduro that Minister Padrino will not only secure the completion of his mandate but could become an effective successor should the international community insist on the deployment of the recall referendum.

Indeed, should the Electoral Council fail to set the recall referendum this year, its occurrence next year would result in the effective termination of Maduro’s mandate given his award winning unpopularity.

But it will also mean that the Vice President would take over — and nobody better than Padrino to take up such role.

Mr Padrino would have had eight months to prepare for the presidency. But it could also mean that Padrino is the transitional leader that everyone was searching for and could not find in government, the opposition or abroad among the diaspora leaders.

Mr. Padrino could indeed be well suited for such a role, as he could at the very least achieve two goals. First by ending decade-long organized crime takeover of the streets of Venezuela. He could also reign in drug lords, a move that could lead the U.S. to losing the seal of the alleged indictment against Padrino.

Second, he could do an economic adjustment. But should he do both perhaps he could become the next elected leader. This would codify Venezuela’s status as the land of the unexpected.

Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

Published by Latin American Herald Tribune on July 17th, 2016