Approaching a tipping point? Venezuela seizes GM plant as protests swell



General Motors said on Thursday that the Venezuelan authorities had seized its vehicle assembly plant in the country, adding to the chaos in the already-struggling auto industry there, The New York Times reports:

The move came amid violent street protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro and a deepening economic crisis fueled by the country’s heavy foreign debt and the retreat of world oil prices, slashing Venezuela’s main source of income.

“It fits a broader pattern, in the sense that the government’s response to surges in opposition activity tends to be the deepening of the revolution,” said Phil Gunson, a Venezuela-based analyst for the International Crisis Group. “There are those at the top, including Maduro himself, who appear genuinely to believe that this is a revolution and the ultimate goal is the replacement of the capitalist economy with one that is entirely state-run.”

Tipping point?

“So far, the government has proven to be capable of containing protests before they escalate and become widespread. The more protests escalate, the stronger the government’s security apparatus repression,” wrote Diego Moya-Ocampos, a senior political risk analyst for Venezuela at the IHS Markit risk consultancy, adding “the military elite are likely to support . . . Maduro until protests reach a tipping point”.

This level of repression suggests Venezuelan officials believe they cannot win elections under current circumstances — and they fear Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) cannot survive out of office, according to the University of Sydney’s James Loxton and Amherst College’s Javier Corrales, the co-author of Dragon in the Tropics: The Legacy of Hugo Chávez (Brookings, 2nd edition, 2015).

This first concern may be true, but for many former authoritarian ruling parties, there is life after dictatorship, they write for the Washington Post:

While the hugely unpopular Maduro is unlikely to have much of a political career in a hypothetical democratic future, the PSUV could thrive as an “authoritarian successor party.” These are parties that emerge from authoritarian regimes, but continue to operate after the country transitions to democracy. …More than half the time, these parties are in fact voted back into office….Research shows they benefit from their “authoritarian inheritance” — the party brand, territorial organization, and party finances that continue to generate political support. Paradoxically, these benefits help them succeed under democracy.

The region’s governments have held back for pragmatic economic and ideological reasons, keeping distance from what might be perceived as a U.S.-led effort to topple a Latin American government, according to Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email