While growing up in Cuba, I had a friend who used to say, “My dream is to live in a boring country.” I was thinking about his wish while reading the news coming from Venezuela during the last weeks.
Venezuela is not a boring country. Life there is a nightmarish roller coaster. We woke up April 30 with the news that Leopoldo López, an opposition leader who has been under house arrest for years in Caracas, had been liberated by a group of soldiers and had joined Juan Guaidó to lead an uprising against President Nicolas Maduro. The rest of the military didn’t join them and Maduro is still in control. Of course, nobody knows what the situation will be by the time this edition of the paper gets to the parishes of Brooklyn and Queens.
Venezuela is falling apart. The governments of Hugo Chavez and Maduro have wiped out the very foundations of civilized life in their country. All the civil society institutions have been destroyed, co-opted or are under constant harassment from the government.
After the opposition won the 2015 parliamentary election by a wide margin, Maduro simply ignored the National Assembly by creating a Constitutional Assembly that was elected in a way to ensure its loyalty to the regime. The Supreme Court had been transformed since the Chavez government into a rubber-stamp body that allows the president to do as he pleases.
What the governments of Chavez and Maduro have done to the Venezuelan economy is hard to believe or explain. The ineptitude and corruption of the “Bolivarian” governments have ruined the country’s vital oil industry. Venezuela today produces a third of the oil it exported five years ago.
Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019. In the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, the average monthly wage is just $6.50. That is not a typo – yes, Venezuelans make $6.50 per month.
The average Venezuelan has lost 20 pounds in the last year. More than 3 million people have left the country in recent years.
In order to control an increasingly desperate population, the government created paramilitary groups to repress the opposition and those who have participated in massive protests. Several waves of protests have resulted in hundreds killed by the government’s troops and paramilitary forces.
Whenever the situation becomes too dangerous for Maduro, he calls for a dialogue with the opposition. When the crisis subsides, he forgets his promises and sends the leaders of the opposition to prison.
Maduro is still in power because of the support of the Army. Venezuela won’t be able to escape the present inferno until the military decides to support Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of the country. Fifty-four countries have already recognized him as the president of Venezuela.
“Dialogue” is usually the best option in any political crisis. But if the press said tomorrow that the government and the opposition have started a dialogue, it would probably mean that the Venezuelan people will suffer the current disaster for years to come.
Venezuela won’t be able to wake up from her current nightmare until Maduro is out of the presidential palace. Let’s hope that happens soon.