Nicolás Maduro

Nicolás Maduro (Photo: AP)


Is This the Fall of Nicolás Maduro?

By Eric Farnsworth

"The fundamental issue is political survival, not conquest," writes AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth in The Spectator about the Venezuelan leader's recent actions.

Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro has been embarrassed. In a transparent bid to rally political support, he asked voters to demand that their government annex two-thirds of Guyana through a hastily called plebiscite.

Venezuelans did overwhelmingly support the plainly one-sided poll, but turnout was small and noticeably lacking in enthusiasm. It was not the result the regime expected or craved as it attempted to divert attention from political and economic woes in the face of a newly competitive presidential campaign.

In its decade in power, the Maduro regime has presided over economic collapse, including the largest humanitarian crisis in the modern history of Latin America. More than 7 million people have fled Venezuela out of an original population of some 30 million, according to estimates.

The economy is a fraction of its size in 2013. Inflation tops Syria and Zimbabwe as the highest in the world. The regime and its supporters like to blame U.S. sanctions for economic collapse, but the crisis began well before sectoral energy restrictions were levied in 2019.

This followed the hollowing out of the professional class years earlier, particularly those in the vital energy sector, as well as a fall in broader economic activity from the regime’s confiscatory approach to private enterprise and property. Massive corruption has long crowded out new investment. Deteriorating personal security has increased business costs; the once-vibrant tourism sector has collapsed.

The regime has nonetheless proven it can weather economic difficulties so long as it continues to generate sufficient income for regime officials, its security forces, provides state-sponsored benefits to core supporters, and pays its debts to international friends including China. In the meantime, going back to its founding by Hugo Chavez, it has remained expert in co-opting the democratic process to keep the opposition divided and claim repeated mandates to rule.

That potentially changed on October 22, 2023, when, against all odds and predictions, the opposition successfully held a primary election that nominated María Corina Machado to contest elections anticipated in 2024. Despite numerous regime-created obstacles, turnout exceeded expectations and the result in favor of Machado—over 90 percent—was overwhelming. Now facing a political threat it did not anticipate, the regime has attempted to undermine the result by claiming Machado is ineligible and must be authorized to run by the regime-dominated courts.

Which is where the border dispute with Guyana comes in. Because really, there’s nothing like threatening war with a neighbor to amp up nationalism and acclamation for a weakened government in the face of a strong domestic political challenge....

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