Venezuela – I am largely in favor of international institutions. Far from an orthodox realist, I consider myself a constructivist and even an idealist. However, with frustration I have seen how the international community turns its back on millions of Venezuelans with no access to food, energy, or basic medicine. Surely, Venezuela is far from a priority in the list of US strategic interests, and Europe is consumed with its own problems. Nevertheless, the international community is failing to condemn, and worse, to act against an illiterate leader that maintains his power by relying on coercion and political games.
It is clear that other governments in the region are scared of the fate of their own countries if Venezuela´s government were to fall, but that is not a valuable excuse to ignore massive violations against the core values of democracy. Through petro-dollars and manipulative Cuban-led foreign relations, other governments have failed to help the Venezuelan people and have allowed Maduro to continue with his regime of terror.
In desperate moves of the foreign affairs chessboard to benefit his domestic approval rates, Maduro intends to consolidate an external enemy to stimulate cohesion and support from its people; the delusional claims of a foreign government attacking and threatening Venezuela -an enemy that takes the form of a blurry Uncle Sam- are daily bread in the president´s podcasts. In a ridiculous clown show, the president recently put together military exercises to demonstrate the country´s readiness for war. Maduro has become a pathetic version of Kim Jon-Un, employing the diversionary theory to glue together the pieces of a broken system.
Colombia has been one of the direct victims of Maduro’s tactical games. Some time ago, for example, Maduro proclaimed martial law in the municipalities along most of the Colombia-Venezuela border. Through public addresses, he blamed officials within the Colombian government and its citizens for Venezuela’s scarcity and elevated crime rates. Was I the only one seeing that his true intentions were to isolate the country from a porous border that could turn into the breeding ground for protesters and antigovernment forces? The only one seeing his intentions of diverting attention away from Venezuela´s domestic issues by blaming a foreign actor for the problem he has created?
As expected, martial law caused a major humanitarian crisis. Though not to the scale of the Mediterranean refugee crisis or to the displacement camps after a civil war in Africa, Colombian citizens were mistreated and systematically deported from Venezuela. For weeks, people continuously arrived in Cucuta, a Colombian border city, looking for shelter. They were received in soccer stadiums while the world ignored the crisis. Violations of human rights were perpetrated, but the call for international actors was largely missed. Around October 2015, with Panama as a swing voter, Colombia lost its opportunity to bring the crisis to the international arena. The Organization of American States (OAS) again failed in its mission. Maduro looked in the eyes of the member states and walked away free of any remorse.
With the change of the OAS head from Insulza to Almagro and with Maduro´s constant insults and erratic behavior, the regional institution grew tired and responded accordingly. Recently, the OAS suggested the activation of the Democratic Charter, which states that only democratic governments can be part of the OAS. As a symbolic act as this might be, since it does not have binding power, it is a much-needed action that arrived late.
Small steps are being taken by the international community to intervene in Venezuela´s situation. A group of former presidents in the region, for example, signed a memorandum directed towards Maduro. It demanded protection of human rights and respect for the sacred institution of democracy. Furthermore, the European Union and, to a lesser extent, the United States have called out Maduro for the lack of access to basic medicine and food in the country. Ricardo Hausmann, from Harvard University, even compared Venezuela’s situation with a society in pre-famine stages. However, these actions seem insufficient in the face of the destitute civil society.
Without asking for an all-out intervention, there are diplomatic forces that can be activated and strategic negotiations with important economic and political leverage that can be used to move Venezuela from where it is. More international pressure will drive Maduro to the edge.
To predict the fate of Venezuela is a difficult endeavor. Many speculate an implosion of the government; others are waiting for the opposition to consolidate even more and represent an alternative government. Still others even consider the possibility of a military coup.
I do not foresee things changing anytime soon, but I see the beginning of an end. I see the four horseman of the apocalypse slowly riding over Maduro, with Capriles Radosky, opposition leader, at their command. There must be moments in time where the weak basis of a political regime such as the one built by Chavez and continued by Maduro has to fail. In the past months, Venezuelans filled the streets of Caracas and other cities pressuring the government for a referendum that will like change the course of Venezuela’s tragic present. Time is running against Venezuelans to reach a fair-deal and for the little democracy that is left to actually influence the status quo. It is no longer the time of a resilient dictator but of a fragile leader whose time is running out.