Maduro and Chavism will fall, not of their own weight but by the effort of their adversaries. The unequivocal symptoms are the thousands of young Venezuelans who are willing to confront the repressive forces. Venezuelans under the age of 25 know no other regime than the muddled Chavist blather. If they persist, they’ll end up victorious, as happened in Ukraine.
Totalitarian states have a critical gestation period. Revolutions cannot be made in slow motion and the Venezuelan madhouse was inaugurated in 1999, 18 years ago. The naive illusions raised at that time were gradually crushed under the weight of a nefarious managerial experience that — along with corruption, drug trafficking and idiocy — has destroyed the nation.
Time is a critical factor. When revolutions start, they have many supporters and attract the curious expectations of the entire population, but the totalitarian strongmen know that they must act swiftly because the honeymoon will be brief. Lenin assumed power in October 1917 and before two years had slammed the bolt shut. Fidel Castro took only 18 months to seize all communications media, private education and the large and midsized businesses.
Hugo Chávez probably had to follow a different timetable because of the way he took power and because he drafted a guarantor Constitution with plenty of elements of liberal democracy. He buried a “moribund” text but spawned another that talked about separation of powers and freedoms, a document that left the door open to insurrection in case the republican structure was in danger.
How does Nicolás Maduro remain upright despite the clear popular rejection to his regime?
His power is based on the regime’s repressive capacity and this, in turn, depends on the information he receives and the harm he can inflict on those who don’t obey him. Therein the importance of terror. The System plays with the illusion that it holds the hearts of the citizens, but that’s not true. The idea is to grab the subjects’ bladders; the intention is to make them piss in their pants out of fear.
As we all know, information is power. Maduro has access to the reports from Cuban intelligence, an organization devoted to exploring the life and miracles of Venezuelan personalities — opponents and Chavists — especially those who drift within the circle of power and have the potential ability to behead the government, replace it and reverse the political situation in an instant.
Then comes the repression. The Cuban services learned from the East German Stasi, mother and master of repression, that only 0.5 percent of the population is needed to manage any society where the government controls the courts with an iron hand and uses its propaganda machine to concoct stories that will let it commit any outrage.
How did the Soviets and the East Germans reach that figure? According to legend, it comes from an observation of flocks of sheep done by the Russian Czar’s efficient political police, the fearsome Okhrana. Only one fierce dog was needed to control 200 trembling sheep. The Okhrana’s basic activities were information, disinformation, the penetration and dispersal of the enemy.
In East Germany, only 80,000 people were needed to throttle 16 million terror-stricken subjects. In Cuba, the ratio is 55,000 to 11 million. In Venezuela, it would be a question of 150,000 people shackling almost 30 million.
But there’s not enough goons in Venezuela, and “the brave people” filling the boulevards and squares are proof of it. Maduro wants to arm a militia of one million paramilitaries. Why? Because he doesn’t trust the Armed Forces. He needs the militias in case someday some Army officers become tired of his incompetence and foolishness and depose him, as happened in Peru with Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado.
In Maduro’s case, however, the situation might end on a plane bound for Cuba, surrounded by his handlers from the island’s G-2, who treated him like an inept marionette who spoke to the birdies and danced the salsa while the ship of state sank.
Starvation, due to the lack of dollars to import food, is right around the corner. The catastrophe is much worse in urban societies such as Venezuela, where 78 percent of the population lacks any farming skills. Add to this the lack of medicines, insecticides and all the factors that keep disease at bay. The result is obvious: Venezuela will sink if Maduro remains entrenched in Miraflores Palace. All Venezuelans, even the Chavists, know that he has to go.
*Journalist and writer. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels.
Published in Spanish by El Blog de Montaner on Saturday April 22nd, 2017.