For a man in charge of a country in the grips of hyperinflation and on the verge of humanitarian crisis, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro seems peculiarly self-assured, the Financial Times reports:
In short, Mr Maduro has been busy cementing the ruling socialist party’s control over the country, although not the collapsing economy. He is now eyeing 2018 presidential elections. He intends to win these at all cost, even if it means banning the main opposition parties from taking part, as he has just threatened to do.
Upon assuming office, Maduro began imprisoning his political opponents, and committed himself to defeating his enemies by any means available, the New Yorker’s John Lee Anderson writes:
In his office, he told me that his intransigence was a matter of historical necessity. The revolution had so far been lenient, he said, but it was time that “counter-revolutionaries” be handled “with justice and firmness.” He acknowledged that it was not easy for outsiders to understand what was going on in Venezuela. “This is a revolution,” he said. “And we’re in the midst of an acceleration of the revolutionary process.”
Russia is now Venezuela’s only hope lender of last resort, the last and only place the government can turn in search of a financial lifeline, according to Moises Naim (left), a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Francisco Toro, Executive Editor at CaracasChronicles.com. In November, Presidents Nicolás Maduro and Vladimir Putin agreed to a refinancing package of $3.15 billion in bilateral loans to Venezuela, putting off almost all payments until after 2023, they write for the Moscow Times:
From the Kremlin’s point of view, there’s no downside here. Keeping in power a regime militantly opposed to American hegemony in the Western Hemisphere advances a longstanding Russian strategic priority. But, even better, rather than costing the Kremlin large sums, its support for the Venezuelan regime will likely make money, and substantial amounts too.
In another insight into the unconventional mindset of Mr Maduro’s economic team, the director at the Venezuelan Central Bank recently said the country should be looking to Pyongyang for inspiration, the FT adds.
“We must learn from the socio-productive experience of North Korea,” BCV director José Khan told a conference attended by Kim Jong Un’s ambassador to Caracas.
International pressure, and especially the U.S. sanctions would eventually force Maduro into dialogue with the opposition, says opposition politician Henrique Capriles (left).
“Maduro is afraid of Trump,” he said, looking scornful. “They are not the Cuban revolutionary party. Here, money talks. The generals who support Maduro don’t want to drive Chinese cars. They want the best Toyota. They love to go to Miami….. This is not an ideological revolution.”
Despite presiding over one of the worst economic crises in history, Mr Maduro now looks more secure than at any time since he came to power in 2013. His opponents are in disarray and the street protests of earlier this year have largely fizzled out, the FT adds.
“Maduro has significantly strengthened his control over his coalition and the government has strengthened its hold over the country,” said David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think-tank. “Everything indicates they will seek to hold presidential elections as soon as possible. They have nothing to gain by waiting.”