CARACAS — As if Venezuela's 1,001 endemic problems (economic and social, corruption, crime and state repression) were not enough. Now the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro faces mutiny in its own ranks, which highlights — not for the first time — the difference in charisma and authority between Venezuela's late leader Hugo Chávez, and his successor.
The impact of Maduro's declarations, made days ago in a vigorous speech to members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), have yet to be seen. Speaking in combative terms, he declared that "nobody will take us away from the work Commander Chávez bequeathed us [...] neither the subversive Right nor the outdated Left."
He dismissed his critics as being "disloyal" elements, who had "failed, one and all, when they were ministers."
The chief target of the president's furious jabs was the ousted Minister of Planning Jorge Giordani, who has in various ministries and within the bounds of Marxist orthodoxy, planned and brought about the economic disaster the country faces today.
"The Monk," as he has been nicknamed for his austere living and teaching vocation, was sacked by Maduro last week, in a move perceived as a last-minute swerve to redirect the drifting economy.
Too little too late? The Venezuelan economy has long been sailing this way and that in desperate attempts to avoid crashing into Reality Cliff. Both Chávez and Maduro have laid out flimsy excuses for the problems: blaming shortages and inflation on the "oligarchy," the "plotting" Right and imperialist forces seeking to destabilize the country.
As his head was about to roll, Giordani decided to write a 20-page report throwing a litany of charges against the government, and especially the president, with accusations of a lack of leadership, indecision, unfettered public spending and fomenting "flourishing" corruption in the shadow of the regime's revolutionary discourse.
Ousted Minister of Planning Jorge Giordani — Photo: El Tiempo/GDA/ZUMA
Ironically, this figure who was directly responsible for much of the economic disorder for the past 15 years accepted no responsibility for himself, skirting around the figure of Chávez, as he launched a no-holds-barred bombardment of the current president.
Maduro's immediate response was to urge clear "definitions" from among regime followers. Certainly he can count on a greater number of supporters in the short and medium terms, for being the visible face of the ruling system and the man who effectively allocates billions of dollars of petrodollar revenues.
Part of these oil revenues have gone to pay for social programs and aid needy sectors, undoubtedly improving relevant indices. Yet the discourse of permanent plotting and outside subversion is clearly exhausted, and the agents of failure should be sought inside the government and the ranks of its beneficiaries — the Boliburguesía, or Bolivarian bourgeoisie, that has risen with the regime.
The political sphere is meanwhile deteriorating as the Bolivarian movement's intransigence has ended the willingness of a sector of the opposition to undertake constructive dialogue. The radical opponent Leopoldo López and other critics remain in, or are about to be thrown into jail. One could disagree over certain issues with the outspoken former legislator María Corina Machado, but to accuse her — on the basis of forged evidence — of plotting a presidential assassination with other opponents is just a clumsy setup.
Before this unfolding scenario, the Maduro government had better put its house in order instead of reinforcing its authoritarian tendencies. Recognizing the many errors made would indeed be a first step toward opening a real dialogue with an opposition that represents almost half of all Venezuelans.
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