The political negotiation is “in intensive care”admitted the Chavista regime of Nicolás Maduro that this Friday it will celebrate 25 years of Chavismo in power while its continuity is at stake in elections that it has besieged and no date has been set so that the opposition I arrived unarmed and without a chance.
Mature toan agreement was thrown overboard sealed with the opposition in Barbados, promoted by the United States, after the Court disqualified the undisputed leader of the opposition María Corina Machado for 15 years and detained several figures from her campaign. This led the US to once again apply sanctions on Venezuelan gas, gold and oil, which it had made more flexible in view of the rapprochement with the opposition ahead of this year's elections.
Now Maduro says that in the coming days a verification commission will determine who has violated the agreementswhile the parties accuse each other and the electoral scene heats up.
Chavismo has no plans to withdraw. Not a word.
“For now and forever”
“For now and forever”reads an inscription in the mausoleum of Hugo Chávez, who on February 2, 1999, 25 years ago, sworn in for the first time as president of Venezuela and opened an era that Nicolás Maduro continued after his death.
“A tragedy” for some, “a success” for others.
Nicolás Maduro speaks before the Constituent Assembly in front of a portrait of Chávez. Photo: Federico Parra / AFP
The charismatic ex-military conquered crowds with the promise of ending poverty. Today, however, the country is mired in an unprecedented economic depression, which, together with continuous political crises, led to seven million – out of a population of 30 million – to migrate.
In that panorama, Maduro seeks a third termplacing obstacles to anyone who represents a threat to the continuity of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution.
Maduro constantly repeats that faces an “unconventional war” against “imperialism” – as he calls the United States – and always attributes responsibility for the country's problems to the sanctions with which Washington sought to strip him of power in 2019.
In 2022 there was a slight economic recovery, insignificant compared to the 80% reduction that the GDP suffered in a decade. And hyperinflation of thousands of percentage points led the government, ironically, to allow informal dollarization.
The oil industry, which generates virtually all of the country's income, is also devastated: blame the sanctions, the government says; laziness, corruption and lack of qualified personnel (many fired after a strike in 2002), experts say. The production was 3 million barrels per day (bd) with Chávez in power succumbed to about 300,000 before rebounding to today's 900,000.
Chavismo, “a tragedy”
“Chavismo has represented a major tragedy for the country“, Benigno Alarcón, political scientist and professor at the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), tells AFP. “A government that, having had at first the largest income that any government has had in Venezuela and having had the opportunity to make Venezuela a modern country (…), he wasted money on patronage to stay in power“.
Maduro delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Judicial Year. Photo: Xinhua
“There was no investment (…), there were no economic improvementsin the infrastructure, in the productive capacity of the country,” he added, highlighting how “they ended up killing the goose that laid the golden eggs“, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which became one of the most important in the world.
There are no official poverty figures, normal in this country that rarely reports uncomfortable economic indicators. A UCAB study placed it at 90% between 2018 and 2021, and 81.5% in 2022.
“It is one of the highest in the world,” highlights Alarcón. “The logic to maintain power, regardless of Chávez or Maduro, is the same (…): They sustain themselves on the misery of the people“.
“If you want to live, if you want to have medicine, if you want to survive in the midst of this reality, you have to be with us“, he reports.
People in a neighborhood affected by rain, in Las Tejerías (Venezuela). Photo: EFE
Rodrigo Cabezas, who was Chávez's finance minister, makes a distinction between “chavismo” and “madurismo.”
“The confrontation with the United States It is the great alibi of madurismo to try to justify his tremendous incompetence in running the State, the economy, society, to try to justify his terribly authoritarian drift, violating human rights,” the now professor at the University of Zulia explains to AFP.
“This is the most unequal capitalism in Latin America,” he criticizes, in the midst of dollarization and the liberation of exchange and price controls. “Chávez's success in placing the popular at the center of public management today it is completely dissipated“.
“Nobody can say “that the Venezuelan economy was destroyed during Chávez,” he insists, citing growth, an increase in the minimum wage (today at $3.5 a month) and poverty reduction in those years. “The focus of attention was the popular.”
For Ana Sofía Cabezas, vice president of the Chávez Foundation, the Constitution is “one of the most important things that Commander Chávez has left us.”
The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez (left), speaks with his then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicolás Maduro, in 2007. Photo: AP
The text, approved in 1999 and promoted by the former president, is an example of human and social rights, although detractors of Chavismo accuse them of being its main violators.
Chávez represented “the hope of change and social redemption”says Cabezas, remembering that he always won easily the elections in which he participated: 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2012, months before he died.
The former president changed the Constitution to be able to be re-elected indefinitelye, now benefiting Maduro, re-elected in 2018 and headed to seek a third term this year.
Alarcón highlights that the “human rights violations began with Chávez”, although it is the Maduro government that is being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the repression of student demonstrations in 2017 with a hundred deathsamong other complaints of extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary detentions.
Chávez's face is everywhere, 11 years after his death. Maduro names himthe government channel shows old speeches, still dominating part of the cult of personality that the current president also enjoys.
“Chávez lives,” says enthusiastic Cabezas (who is not related to the former minister). “It translates into the awakening of popular forces, of the conscience of the Venezuelan people.”