Protests in Venezuela: “Maduro has a maximum of eight more weeks left in power”

Protesters fight against the police, there are people dead: In Venezuela, protests are escalating like in the Ukraine. The German Heinz Dieterich was an advisor to the deceased leader Hugo Chávez – for him, president Maduro’s days are numbered.

An interview by Klaus Ehringfeld. Der Spiegel Online. 03-03-2014.

The person

Seventy-one year old German sociologist Heinz Dieterich is a university professor in Mexico, and sort of the ideological chief of the Latin-American left party. He advised the deceased president Hugo Chávez for many years in regards to political and ideological affairs. He coined the phrase “Socialism of the XXI century.”

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Dieterich, it looks like what is happening in Venezuela is the same thing happening in the Ukraine…

Dieterich: In almost all aspects, the scenario is similar to the situation in the Ukraine.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where exactly do the problems coincide?

Dieterich: In the catastrophic economic situation, the government’s incompetence, forced reforms and foreign interests. A well as the attempts of some countries to influence the resolution to the crisis according to their own interests.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What has changed for people to now be willing to risk their lives on the streets?

Dieterich: It’s a combination of factors. First, Maduro’s unreasonable war rhetoric, which divides Venezuelans into “fascists” and “loyalists.” Also the imprisonment of the opposition’s leader Leopoldo López, and the severe problems which the country is facing, has allowed the more radical people to mobilize those who are frustrated.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How desperate are people in regards to the problem?

Dieterich: Objectively, only the violent crime is considered life threatening, and the fact is that Caracas, the capital, is one of the cities with the highest murder rate in the world. That there is no toilet paper or flour is a annoying, but it isn’t life-threatening. Additionally, the fact that international travel is more complicated because of the devaluation of the Bolívar, is a great bother to people. When all of those things are taken into account, it leads to great frustration. And the unintelligent reactions from the government, which instead of understanding, imposes repression, makes everything reach a boiling point, which is what we are seeing.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why this effervescence all of the sudden?

Dieterich: I said it in December, Maduro had to deliver immediate results so that the country’s discontent would not grow. But that didn’t happen. The inertia of the government is great. Maduro has practically thrown away his year in office since Chavez’s death. External interests also come into play. The United States, with President Barack Obama in charge, intensifies an expansive foreign policy. This plays an important role for the beginning of the conflict.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are the most urgent measures that the government needs to take?

Dieterich: Maduro and his ministers must get the 55% inflation under control. Scarcity must be solved and violence must be tackled. An economic reform is also necessary: the exchange between the dollar and the Bolívar must be adjusted to realistic levels. Money must flow freely, without it affecting the income of the poor social stratum.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that enough to repair the damage in society?

Dieterich: That crack has always been there. Not even 15 years of chavismo could have fixed it. But now, those who voted for Maduro have also taken to the streets.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who have taken to the streets of Venezuela?

Dieterich: I see three groups: the hard core right, who are trained by paramilitary forces and are armed. Then, the students: many of whom believe they live in a dictatorship that does not have an objective resistance. And finally, many who were followers of Chávez, but who do not agree with Maduro and oppose the deterioration of living conditions. If Maduro continues this way, the second and third group will grow, and the government will have to give up power, as it happened in the Ukraine.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it conceivable that the president be ousted from his own camp?

Dieterich: There’s been a debate within the chavismo ranks for some time now on how to find a crisis-proof solution, without it looking like a loss of power. Meanwhile, it is clear to everyone that Maduro lacks the concept or the tools to modernize the country. He thought, and still thinks, that emulating his predecessor Hugo Chávez’s rhetoric and choreography, as well as maintaining the economic structure, would be sufficient.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So then, president Maduro’s days are numbered?

Dieterich: He will not last more than eight weeks in power, and he will probably be replaced by a government board. For the pro-Chávez military and governors it is clear that his policies will inevitably mean the end of the Bolivarian era. Politics must take a 180° turn, or all will be lost.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But the opposition doesn’t really have a constructive plan…

Dieterich: No. Those who have said that, are not committed to doing what is best for everybody. They want to sweep away the government. It is unethical and criminal for the people on the streets to have to pay with their blood – that is why the army will not allow it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what is the solution for Venezuela?

Dieterich: There will probably be mediation under the supervision of a regional organism such as the Organization of American States or the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. But also a great coalition is possible, if moderate voices within the opposition arise.

Source: Ehringfeld, Klaus. “Proteste in Venezuela: ‘Maduro bleibt höchstens noch acht Wochen an der Macht’.” Spiegel Online. 03-03-2014.

Translated by #infoVzla