Monday, December 11, 2017, 07:56 (GMT+7)
Complex political changes in Venezuela

In early August 2017, while the situation in Venezuela was getting extremely tense, the US President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. could employ military power to solve the crisis in this South American country. That move like “adding fuel to the flames” has made the dispute between Caracas Government and the opposition increasingly intense.

Reasons for the dispute

Venezuela holds an important geostrategic position in South America with rich natural resources, especially its large oil and gas reserves. This is both a favourable condition for Venezuela’s socioeconomic development and people’s improved living standards and an “ideal prey” for major powers, particularly from the West. In 1998, Hugo Chavez (a left-winger) was elected to be the President of Venezuela. Right after taking office, he followed the guideline to build Venezuela into a socialist country via basic strategies, namely (1). Accelerating realization of the state ownership of means of production; (2). Expanding non-market trading and distribution; (3). Managing and running the country for the sake of the people’s interests. Advocating that guideline, National Assembly and Government of Venezuela formulated a series of reform policies, such as Land Law, Fishing Law, Income Tax Law, Information Law, and so on. At the same time, Venezuela nationalized a number of key industries, increased spending on housing and health, and provided free health care and education for the poor. As a result, its economy witnessed impressive developments, people’s living condition improved, poverty rate decreased considerably, and national independence and self-reliance were firmly sustained. However, those achievements did not content the U.S. and Western countries as their interests in the region were under threat. Therefore, the U.S. and the West considered the Administration of President Hugo Chavez as a “thorn” to be removed in the region which was inherently the “backyard” of Washington. To this end, they adopted strong measures against Caracas in various areas. Economically, the U.S. increased economic, financial and commercial sanctions, particularly in oil export - the key sector of Venezuela’s economy (accounting for 30% of its GDP, 80% of its export value and over 50% of its state budget). Politically, it stepped up the “Peaceful Evolution” Strategy and conversion against this country. The White House placed emphasis on putting pressure on Caracas in the realms of “democracy” and “human rights”, while nurturing opposition parties as the vanguard to compete for power in legislative and executive bodies of Venezuela. Moreover, it carried out campaigns to distort and smear socioeconomic policies of the incumbent government and regarded them as the reasons for the economic crisis to deceive public opinions, bribe and incite dissidents to conduct “street revolution” and “colour revolution”, thus destabilizing the country’s politics and social order. Concerning security and diplomacy, the U.S. included Venezuela in the list of state sponsors of terrorism, induced countries, particularly those from the West, to isolate this country, while inciting the issues of land and sea border and territory to separate Venezuela from its neighbours. It is believed that those measures taken by the U.S. and the West have made negative impacts on this Latin American country’s economy and served as the main reason for increased differences and violence, political and social instability, as well as for the “lowest level” of the relationship between Venezuela and the U.S. and Western countries ever recorded in decades.

Venezuelan people queue up for food and goods on November 10th 2017 (photo: VNA)

Complex changes

Following his predecessor, President Nicolas Maduro continues to carry out the Bolivarian Revolution in order to resolve accumulative difficulties of the country. To this end, President Maduro’s Administration has sped up the distribution of land to the peasantry and established groups of cooperation, cooperatives for production as well as state-owned enterprises and corporations with the State’s participation in production and business to serve the public. At present, cooperatives, communal economic system and state-owned enterprises act as the key driver of Venezuela’s economy. As for its external affairs, Venezuela has strengthened its relations with Latin American left-wing countries, international organizations and the countries which love peace worldwide. However, President Maduro’s Government is confronted with the situation challenging the country’s survival. More specifically, it is the global economic crisis and a sharp, enduring decline in price of oil that has made Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy sink deeper into crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s inflation is “galloping”. The country’s inflation rate was 700% in 2016 and estimated to be 1,500% in 2017. Currently, its foreign debt is about 60 billion USD, while its Central Bank has only 9.6 billion USD. Against this backdrop, Venezuela has reduced spending on public services, which has made a large proportion of the people get into extremely difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, the opposition has seen it as a “golden opportunity” to dethrone President Nicolas Maduro. To realize this scheme, they have launched propaganda campaigns to induce people to join marches against the Government and incite violence to destabilize political security. In the past two years alone, hundreds of strikes and demonstrations were launched by the opposition. Large-scale marches paralysed local governments in a long time, forcing the Central Government to deploy police and military forces. Recently, the opposition in the National Assembly of Venezuela have prompted a resolution condemning President Maduro. It should be noted that after President Maduro announced the National Assembly election and summoned the Constituent National Assembly to amend the Constitution, dispute between Caracas government and the opposition become more tense. In the meantime, the U.S. sped up the adoption of measures against Caracas. After the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election, July 30th 2017, US President Donald Trump stated that America considered Caracas government as a threat to its security and national interests. The US Departments of Treasury and State  froze property of Venezuelan officials and banned them from travelling to the US. Recently, the US President Donald Trump has stated that if Venezuelan President Maduro imposes the Constituent Assembly for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution, “the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.” He even threatened that the U.S. could use its military power to handle the crisis in Venezuela. More dangerously, on November 13th 2017, the UN Security Council held an unofficial meeting on Venezuela. Those moves, which have taken place repeatedly recently, have plunged Venezuela into chaos and threw people’s life into turmoil.

Prospects for peace in Venezuela

Regarding complex changes in Venezuela’s politics, politicians from American countries and worldwide believe that Venezuela’s crisis can not be solved by military actions from both outside and inside the country. They strongly oppose the US President Donald Trump’s announcement of using military power to intervene in Venezuela, adding that it reflects the US hegemonic policy and represents clear interference in the internal affairs of an independent, sovereign country, thereby seriously violating the most fundamental principles of international relations. Venezuelan President Maduro says that the US - Venezuelan relationship is at the lowest level ever recorded. He believes the two countries should have direct talks, and only by dialogues could the two sides settle differences and move forward to normalization of relations.

In late October 2017, with the Vatican City State as a mediator, Venezuela’s Government and the opposition first held a negotiation for peace, raising frail hope for settling economic and political stagnation of this country. According to experts in international relations, negotiation for peace between the Government and the opposition in Venezuela is a process of “both negotiation and struggle” that would be long-lasting and extremely complicated. It is thought that relevant parties should be fully aware of the situation and seize this opportunity to seek for solutions to differences and disputes and restoration of peace in Venezuela. Moreover, the international community voices their demand for the U.S. and Western countries’ heightened international role and responsibility as well as their respect for Venezuelan people’s self-determination. By doing so, Venezuela in particular and Latin America in general could sustain peace, stability and development.

Kieu Loan

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