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Post Caracas Update: Uneasy Stalemate
Created by John Eipper on 01/29/19 4:41 AM

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Caracas Update: Uneasy Stalemate (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 01/29/19 4:41 am)

Our esteemed editor asked me about the most recent events in Venezuela, but before referring to this subject I would like to add to John's comment, "In ancient Peru, you were buried in a sitting position. This better prepared you to spring into the afterlife" (see Enrique Torner, January 28th).

I knew that most pre-Columbian Andean cultures--Incas, Chibchas, Aymaras and even the Taino among Caribbean cultures--had two main funeral rites, cremation or burial. The latter was not really in a sitting position but a fetal position, probably because they were firm believers in the afterlife, another dimension of life, and the corpses should leave this dimension in the same way they arrived, in order to arrive to the next one in a similar fashion.

Now to turn to the Venezuela crisis. A simple answer should be: no significant events. There is an uneasy calm marked by declarations, news dissemination on the social networks, and arrogant and defiant shows from the government-controlled media, particularly of a military sort.

However, something is worth mentioning, for instance, the UN Security Council's meeting last Saturday to discuss Venezuelan crisis. As expected, there was no concrete outcome and no consensual decision. As everyone knows, this Council is composed of 5 permanent members and 10 temporary. The fifteen members divided into three camps, those who sought the recognition of Interim President Guaidó or new elections, those calling for dialogue, and those supporting the current "president." The importance of this discussion was not any resolution but to place the crisis in an important and visible (though maybe useless) forum.

I believe the opposition is focusing on three strategies:

1. To try to weaken the armed forces, to create a critical discussion among its members, with an amnesty law to motivate dissent and division. In my opinion this is difficult to achieve, because the institutional structure is tightly gagged by repression, despite individual high- and medium-level officers who have declared their support for the interim president.

2. To reinforce international support, even by freezing government assets, to increase political pressure on the regime, and by this very same international initiative to request humanitarian aid for the population.

3. To maintain public protests and demonstrations for as long as necessary.

These actions seem to be logical, effective, and intelligent but the question is whether the pressure can be sustained until the government agrees to quit or call for elections.

Nevertheless I feel there is something the opposition has forgotten in this strategy, which is to weaken the unconditional support for the government from Russia and China by declaring another "amnesty law" to protect or at least to guarantee their investments in the country.

On the Maduro regime's side, its strategy continues to be to reinforce support from the military, by public appearances and declarations of the "president" with members of the armed forces, and to repeatedly condemn and denounce the crisis as a coup.

Repression of the people has been a sad result in recent days. According to credible sources, there have been more than 30 deaths, 200 wounded and 800 arrested.

The opposition has called for new public demonstrations in the coming days, but most importantly we will see new developments when the EU's eight-day "ultimatum" to call for free elections runs out next Saturday.

Part of the interim president´s strategy is to place new people in some crucial positions, such as the OAS, important embassies, and the state-owned oil company PDVSA (Citgo in the US). These actions might help to erode the current government's authority and representation. In fact already some Venezuelan diplomats already have decided to support Guaidó.

JE comments:  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke yesterday of "ex-President Maduro."  For the last few weeks, the lead story on the WAIS homepage (waisworld.org) has been "Twenty Years of Chavismo."  By all indications, there won't be a followup, "21 Years of Chavismo."

Meanwhile, the Russians have announced that they count on Venezuela making a $100 million debt installment due in March.  In the old days, Latin American nations who reneged on payments could expect the gunboats.  (The UK, Germany, and Italy did this to Venezuela in 1902-'03.)   José Ignacio Soler is correct that Guaidó should promise the Russians that his government will honor its debts. If he does the same with the Chinese, both countries may quickly switch horses.  Once fully in power, Guaidó could ask for "renegotiation."

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