By KJ Sankara
Nicolas Maduro is still the President of Venezuela in 2020.
When opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim leader at the start of 2019, analysts predicted the beginning of the end for socialist Venezuela.
Evo Morales’ deposition in November appeared to be another signal that the Latin American left was collapsing.
But Maduro’s military remained loyal, and any coup attempts from Washington were rebuffed.
Latin American expert Daniel Hellinger exclusively told Redaction News that Maduro can, with some luck, continue wrestling back control.
He said: “I don’t think the fall of Evo was a blow, but probably it will not much impact the situation in Venezuela.
“The surge of unrest elsewhere, the stance taken by AMLO in Mexico, and the shift in Argentina balance it out.
“Also, the emergence of mass protest against Duque in Colombia means he has to pay more attention to his domestic situation, with less room to continue meddling in Venezuela.”
Venezuela’s oil production has inched up for the second consecutive month after crashing to a seven-decade low under U.S. sanctions, and shoppers are increasingly pulling U.S. dollars from their wallets.
It has led to optimism that, with tweaks in Venezuela’s economic ideology, the situation can be turned around.
US sanctions and long-term mismanagement of the one commodity economy ensured 2019 was a year of poverty for many Venezuelans — up to 4.5million left the country.
Professor Hellinger said: “I think there can be some improvement, mainly because things are so bad.
“But Venezuela needs not just reactivation but a program of reconstruction, and that in turn requires capital that can only come from reactivation of the oil industry. That is where the sanctions come it.”
Another factor in Maduro’s resilience has been the waning popularity of Guaido.
Polling firm Datanalisis’ president Luis Vicente Leon said: “Guaido became the outsider that people were looking for to face Maduro.
“A kind of hope formed around him.”
Today that support has sunk by 20 percentage points.
Mr Guaido admitted his failure, saying: “I think we underestimated the dictatorship and the harm it is willing to do.
“We have to improve our relationship with the armed forces.”
Professor Hellinger believes that the US have not only given up on supporting Guaido, but removing Maduro as a whole.
He added: “I have never believed that Trump cares a lot about Venezuela.
“It’s mainly important to him because of the importance of Florida for the 2020 election, and he has a base their in the Latin American right.
“John Bolton was much more aggressive about Venezuela than Trump himself.
“Now it’s Senator Marco Rubio who seems to have the most weight in influencing policy toward Cuba and Venezuela.
“And I’m sure that there were Trump administration officials working with the coup-makers in Bolivia.
“Trump himself is an unreliable ally of just about anyone in his orbit.
“A year from now, a progressive Democrat could be elected and begin to look at Latin America more realistically.
“But I certainly would not predict that. I think the most hopeful thing that could happen would be a groundswell of demands for a “neither Maduro, nor Guaido” alternative in Venezuela.
“Finally, never discount a grab for power by the military, probably behind a figure like Diosdado Cabello. These are all scenarios, but we are a paradoxical situation where there exists a “stalemate”, but it’s a product of two weak contenders squaring off against one another in a power struggle, which means the damn could break and unleash political forces that we cannot foresee.”
Daniel Hellinger is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Webster University and current working on the third edition of his text, Comparative Politics of Latin America: Can Democracy Last?
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