Venezuela: is a peaceful political transition possible?


Venezuela’s recently-elected assembly has approved a pardon for political prisoners. The move is the latest in the country’s “transition from authoritarianism to democracy,” said opposition MUD coalition leader Jesus Torrealba.

The country is rapidly heading for a showdown between its socialist government and the centre-right opposition that is likely to end up with the crisis-ridden country defaulting on its debt, notes FT analyst Dan Bogler:

At this point, only political change can forestall such a scenario. The government is clearly not capable of implementing the wholesale overhaul of the economy that is required, even if the various, and increasingly embittered, factions within the chavista movement could agree on how to proceed.

The opposition is also unproven but, not unlike the new Macri administration in Argentina, understands what needs to be done and would have international goodwill and the ability to recruit foreign expertise. An opposition government would probably insist on a restructuring of the country’s foreign debt, but perhaps in an ordered and transparent way that suggests higher recovery values.

Further names need to be added by the Obama administration to the sanctions list for human-rights abusers, including those involved in the prosecution of Leopoldo López [right], argues Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 27th congressional district.

“Last year, I led a letter to the administration signed by over 20 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle requesting the sanctioning of the prosecutor, the judge and a host of other officials implicated in López’s farcical show trial,” she writes for The Miami Herald.

So is a peaceful political transition possible? Bogler asks:

Venezuela is on its way to democracy and it is unlikely that Maduro can do more than delay what looks like an inevitable fall from power.

But…..such transitions can be messy as the layers of authoritarianism that have been built up over years are dismantled. The government controls most of the institutions, including the Supreme Court. The latter can, for example, spin things out by overturning decisions made by the opposition in the national assembly, though its judges would be unlikely to stand firm against overwhelming public protests.

The army is another matter and if it intervened to support the government it could trigger bloodshed. But while some in the military have benefited from corruption under the current regime, the armed forces are also split into factions and their loyalty is hard to divine.
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