The conditions in Venezuela have been at a crisis level since oil prices crashed in 2014. As the accelerating downward slide of the nation’s economy and the degradation of daily life have caused increasing levels of desperation among its people, it’s become clear that the now-borderline-Communist dictator ensuring the nation’s continued demise no longer feels that his grip on power is secure.
Nicolás Maduro is imprisoning and assassinating his rivals and members of the Venezuelan military who he suspects of plotting against him at a rate that outpaces his most tyrannical predecessors, the contemporary Hugo Chávez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who ruled the nation from 1950 to 1958.
That Maduro has led Venezuela to the point where a military coup would actually bring a measure of stability to the country is unsurprising. Before becoming a trade union leader – a fast-path to power in any Communist society – and being elected to the National Assembly in 2000, Maduro was a bus driver. And, he’s handled his position as leader of Venezuela in charge of the state-owned economy as well as any bus driver would be expected to.
Venezuela, due to gross mismanagement of the state-run oil sector, the flight of skilled laborers and white-collar professionals, and the decision of the government to adopt a Socialist system that has stifled ambition, necessitated sky-high taxation and required the government to pay for national services with money it has spent years pocketing, has been in the midst of an economic freefall for at least four years. Painted with statistics, Venezuela’s monthly inflation rate of 94% – a figure that qualifies for the technical definition of hyperinflation – equates to an annual inflation rate of 60,324%. Experts have pointed out that it’s not the rate of Venezuela’s hyperinflation, but the duration – 24 months and counting – that has made conditions so severe, and indicates that the current government has no clue how to change the course of the nation’s economic woes.
To be fair, Maduro inherited a blueprint that was never going to work, at least in the long term. The Robin Hood-approach that his mentor, Chávez, employed as a fundamental principle of his Socialist ideology, was never going to be sustainable. But this is Maduro’s nation now, and it’s his ticking time bomb to defuse. There’s only one problem: he doesn’t have the code, and instead of laying on the explosive for the sake of the Venezuelan people, he’s chosen to lock the doors with the entire nation in the room with him.
No, Nicolás Maduro isn’t stepping down. He knows his people are living in hell, but so long as he remains the most powerful man in a nation whose Constitution he has re-written to maximize the role of the presidency, he will not be relinquishing the office willingly. So long as the Socialist-Communist dream remains alive in Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro is the H.C.I.C.: Head Commie in Charge.
And, having confiscated all of the firearms in the nation via a 2012 ban on private gun ownership, Maduro and his cronies have a monopoly on firepower that is sure to keep his people down. For now, the military remains on Maduro’s side. But, with declining wages, shabby living conditions, and families to feed, the military is no longer a sure bet to remain Maduro’s personal army. The Venezuelan president knows this, and he is following in the footsteps of his many Socialist and Communist brethren throughout history, donning his paranoia-colored lenses and preemptively removing anybody he perceives as a potential turncoat.
Just after the May elections which foreign analysts panned as illegitimate, opposition leader Maria Corina Machado presciently predicted the crackdown that was almost certain to follow.
“I foresee a period of enormous repression, which they are already planning, not only against civil society but also against the … armed forces,” Machado said. “They are going to move against those officers and soldiers who still know their historic responsibilities and who understand that Venezuela is today a failed state controlled by an outlaw regime.” (Miami Herald)
Machado was right. According to one source, 197 members of the Venezuelan military are currently facing charges on crimes ranging from incitement of rebellion to treason to the fatherland, breach of military etiquette, and beyond. It is no accident that high-ranking military members have been some of the first, most ostensible figures to be picked from the ranks. Without a rudder, a boat has no direction, and Maduro is betting that a military without strong leadership will not be able to navigate the logistics that would be required to pull off a successful coup d’état. After all, a coup against Maduro has failed before, and the President is doing all that he can to ensure that any other attempts to remove him from office do not achieve their intended outcome.
The military purge is the signal of an overmatched, desperate, cornered bus driver posing as Socialist visionary turned tyrant. If the Venezuelan people are lucky, Máduro’s turn against current and former military personnel will be the straw that breaks the dictator’s back. A military coup is the only hope for liberation in Venezuela, once an oil-rich nation turned horror show, with Nicolás Maduro starring as deranged director of the play.