Will Chavismo’s time finally run out in 2018?


Seven senior Venezuelan officials are likely to face European Union sanctions from next week, including the country’s powerful chief justice, diplomats said, as the EU seeks to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to resolve a political crisis, Reuters reports.

Oscar Perez, a former police officer and opponent of Nicolas Maduro, was killed in a siege by security forces (BBC) near Caracas on Monday. The government called Perez a terrorist after he led a helicopter attack (NYT) on the country’s supreme court and interior ministry in June, notes the Council on Foreign Relations. This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela’s humanitarian and political crisis.

U.S. policy toward Venezuela is changing — and so are political dynamics in Latin America, notes José R. Cárdenas, former acting assistant administrator for Latin America at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

At the same time as an invigorated U.S. policy, broader changes underway in the regional landscape will impact Chavismo’s fate, he writes for Foreign Policy:

Relying on friendly governments to provide diplomatic cover for his authoritarianism is getting increasingly difficult for Maduro, given the region’s ongoing political shift towards more pragmatic, market-friendly leadership. Beginning with Mauricio Macri’s assumption of the presidency of Argentina in 2015, then Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s election in Peru in 2016, and the recent re-election of Sebastián Piñera in Chile (he served previously, from 2010 to 2014), voters are electing presidents with no sympathies for radical ideological projects like Chavismo. With six presidential elections scheduled for 2018 — including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Paraguay — that political realignment will likely continue.

“The key issue here will continue to be the transition from rhetorical condemnation of authoritarianism in Venezuela to the implementation of more financial sanctions and diplomatic isolation,” Cárdenas adds. “Such pressure is key to delegitimizing an unconstitutional government and raising the economic costs to the Maduro regime.” RTWT

The country is an example of how politicians have distorted their nations’ less-robust democracies to enhance their own power, according to Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the authors of How Democracies Die:

In Venezuela, former Army colonel Hugo Chavez used his support among the country’s lower classes to propel himself into the presidency with huge legislative majorities. He used his advantage to strip away the opposition’s ability to fight back, and with each step, Chavez eroded what remained of Venezuela’s wobbly democratic traditions. Now, Venezuela is a basket case, an authoritarian state unable to feed its own people.

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