By SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen – Published on March 5th, 2014.
For weeks now, Venezuela´s opposition has been protesting against the government. Tomorrow, it will be one year since the passing Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro´s political mentor, and large demonstrations are expected again. An expert in Latin America explains to us why the country is so divided.
Interview with Wolf Grabendorff by the SRF, television and radio station for German Switzerland.
SRF: Wolf Grabendorff, why are the protest so intense at this particular time?
WG: They are so intense because the opposition doesn´t want to wait for the next elections. There is a group within the opposition that considers that the pressure from the street protests should force President Maduro to resign.
SRF: The opposition demands Maduro´s resignation. What is the next plan?
WG: Everything that Chávez did must be annulled. The opposition demands that above all, the economy be repaired. But the rest of the demands are unclear. The democratic opposition is made up of about 20 different independent parties. It is not clear which way to go, and neither is how the reforms, which are desperately needed for the country, should be applied.
SRF: What should a new government do to solve the economic crisis in Venezuela?
WG: It must renew the relationship with the private companies. Chávez nationalized many things – and Maduro has done so even more, in the short time he has been in office. That´s one of the reasons why the situation with supplies is so catastrophic. There is a lack if everything in the country. The currency is crumbling. Those who can, take their saving abroad. And besides the political crisis, there is also a structural crisis of the economy, which has to do with Chávez subsidizing Cuba with large amounts of money for many years.
SRF: In addition to this, there is a high crime rate in Venezuela. The country has the highest murder rate in the world. Does the economic crisis explain so many deaths?
WG: No, the elevated crime is not only due to an economic crisis; but also, to the corrupt police, which is also divided. For example, when a candidate for the opposition wins the elections of a district within a city, the police will be on the opposition´s side – and vice versa. This means that in Caracas, Venezuela, police forces don’t work together, but instead are confronted. Besides, they are so poorly paid, that they can only afford to survive through crime.
SRF: Venezuela also had problems during Chavez´s presidency. Why weren´t there such large protests back then?
WG: That has to do with Chavez´s charisma. After Fidel Castro and Perón, Chávez was the third greatest leader of this continent in the last 50 years. He presented himself to the region as leader, not only for his country´s needy, but also before neighboring countries. This leadership style made the handling of his adversaries easier.
SRF: Then, in the ten months on Nicolás Maduro´s presidency, he has not been able to make any corrections to Chávez´s agenda?
WG: No, compared to Chávez, he is a clown. He is neither a great leader, nor has strong connections within the Chavismo. What he has actually done is ruin the country, even more than Chávez managed to in his 14 previous years.
SRF: Does that mean that Maduro not only feels the pressure from the streets, but also, within the Chavista power circle?
WG: That is correct. The question is, how will the discontentment with Maduro´s mediocre leadership manifest itself? The army, which is already divided within, doesn´t see clearly who could be the next leader. The confrontations on the streets have made it clear that Maduro isn´t even able to control his own people. Most gunshots do not come from the army, but from the secret service and those called “colectivos,” which are nothing more than armed Chavista groups.
SRF: Does that mean that Venezuela, to put it one way, has an authoritarian Chavista leadership, and beneath it there are other power circles?
WG: Yes, and it is precisely that spreading of the power that makes it very difficult to impose reforms. Many regional observers believe that only a military regime could establish order.
Source: SRF. “Verglichen mit Chávez ist Maduro ein Clown”. SRF Schewizer Radio und Fersehen. March 5th, 2014. http://www.srf.ch/news/international/verglichen-mit-chavez-ist-maduro-ein-clown%20
Main photograph: Foto principal: AFP Photo/Presidency.
Translated by #infoVnzla