By Michael Rowan
The reported hope that Venezuela’s dictatorial regime may collapse in the face of its tardiness in paying bond bills is wildly exaggerated. What may be happening is the new normal for Venezuela: just more lying. Consequently, a whole lot more killing, disease and starvation may be in store for the population. Sorry to say it, but relief from oppression and social collapse may not be on the horizon.
Hugo Chavez built a very powerful machine to unravel Venezuela’s democracy and free market, and it is not going to be easy to set it right. It might never happen.
Chavez played by dictator rules while pretending to be a democrat and socialist. For most of his life as ruler, Chavez fooled the opposition and he fooled the West while creating a vacuum which global outliers and freeloaders were happy to fill.
As Chavez defenestrated the legislature, judiciary, political parties, the media, the private sector and independent institutions, and ruled like a dictator with a velvet glove and populist dulcet tones on TV, the world’s dictators took notice of his anti-American behavior, which reflected their strategic interests. And they pounced.
Chavez was not alone among dictators in resenting the power of U.S. law, economy and culture in the so-called unipolar world order.
Russia was countering the U.S. in the Middle East and Europe.
China was countering historic U.S. dominance of global trade.
Iran was challenging the U.S. presence in the Middle East.
Cuba was fighting its last battles against the U.S. in the Americas.
Terrorists from al Qaeda to Hezbollah to ISIS were scaring Western civilization at every opportunity, as we just saw in New York where a truck mowed down people only blocks from the World Trade Center site of the 911 attack sixteen years ago.
And all of them were fighting the almighty dollar.
Chavez, the ultimate opportunist, became a fellow traveler with all of them. But by doing so, he wound up dead from cancer, with $120 billion in foreign debt, and no productive capacity in agriculture, manufactures, oil, gold or tourism, all of which used to be thriving sectors that made Venezuela to the richest nation in Latin America on a per capita basis by the 1960s. But as they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Do you think that Russia and China are going to let the Maduro regime fail to the point where the opposition Congress or the U.S. blows them away? No way. As was once said tongue-in-cheek by a U.S. senator in opposition to the Panama Canal Treaty, “I oppose the Panama Canal Treaty. We stole it fair and square.”
Likewise, Russia and China have stolen Venezuela’s oil and minerals fair and square. Cuba stole Venezuela’s democracy and security system fair and square.
Chavez, in the name of sovereignty, surrendered it all to Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba. Those are now the real owners and controllers of Venezuela, not Maduro, not the military and definitely not the Constituent Assembly. The opposition and the population are not even on the chess board.
The strength – and weakness -- of the current gang in power is their connection to the $300 billion missing from public accounts since 2000. Where is that money? Without control of the state, that gang is toast. That is why a “designated narco-trafficker” -- in the words of The New York Times -- has been appointed to negotiate Venezuela’s debt with Western (read: irrelevant) bondholders.
Debt renegotiations will be conducted only to buy time before the ultimate confiscation of Western wealth. We’ve been through it dozens of times.
The game of the world’s outlaws is to ultimately escape from dependence on law and the dollar. Venezuela, Iran and Russia have exerted ferocious effort to destroy the dollar and failed. China is cleverly on both sides of that game, which is a big game, the world game.
Chavez went “all in” with Venezuela’s chips in that game and lost big time. Yet while Venezuela is only a pawn in that game, and easily sacrificed, it still has oil and other assets – official corruption, for example – which have great value to outlaws. Mr. Maduro should look on the bright side: he’s worth a lot more alive than gone and forgotten by the bad guys. Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.