The victory of the opposition in the legislative elections in Venezuela this past Dec. 6, has shown that the vast majority of the people (almost 70 percent) is definitively tired of a regime that has destroyed the economy, and has pushed most of the people to poverty. Some people have to live a great part of their day standing in very long lines, waiting for some food and basic goods.
President Nicolas Maduro had no other choice than accept the defeat, even though he had promised that if his party suffered a defeat “he would go to the streets to fight for the revolution.”
So far, President Maduro has not gone to the streets, but after admitting the triumph of the opposition, he immediately returned to the vitriol of his rhetoric and blamed an “economic war” waged by the right wing in Venezuela, and abroad for the ruling party’s loss.
Maduro is right to blame the economy for his extreme unpopularity. Triple-digit inflation is eating away salaries, and this crisis is of the government’s making, not the result of a “war” by “right-wing forces.”
It was a historic win: More than 74 percent of Venezuelans voted — up from 66 percent in the last parliamentary election — and according to the opposition (the Government has not yet given the final results) 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats went to the opposition coalition, giving it a key majority.
The opposition should be united and careful to watch what happened the last 17 years, since President Hugo Chávez’s death, and when Maduro took spower.
The “Chavistas” have proved again and again that they are not democrats. Judiciary Congress has been under their fist. Opposition media has been closed. Political leaders are in prison, and there almost 100 political prisoners, including a very popular leader like Leopoldo Lopez. Why things would dramatically change when Maduro still has the Presidency until 2019, and Judiciary is under his orders?
Why Maduro will not demand this current Congress before it ends this term, this December, to rule extraordinary powers before the new Congress is installed, is something that has happened before, and has given the government the opportunity to rule without control.
Can Maduro afford to subvert Venezuela’s democracy like this?
When this happened before, oil had a very different price, the rank of popularity of the Government was high, and there was not an inflation of 200%, as it happens to be today.
Maduro knows that the whole world is watching, and many countries are pushing hard in order that the results of the elections are duly respected.
Maduro and the opposition are before a test.
The opposition must administer the victory and learn to move forward step by step, because the country is deeply damaged, not only in its economy but also, and very importantly, inside its social relations. Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries of the world vis–à–vis insecurity.
If Maduro wants to stay as President until the end of his term, he will have to coexist with the Congress, put an end to the imprisonment of political prisoners and allow freedom of the press. Today, these things look really difficult.
The Jewish community has lived under heavy anti-Semitism for the last 15 years. Iranian penetration, Hezbollah penetration, anti-Semitism from the government, media, academy, have made Venezuela a very hostile country against Israel, and a dangerous place for the Jewish community. Today, there are expectations of big changes. The future will tell us all if those changes are possible in a short and medium term. So far, the right thing to do would be to open the eyes and wait. Iranian, Cuban, and Hezbollah people will not vanish overnight, and danger and threats are still fresh and on the table.
The new members of the Parliament will be sworn in on Jan. 5, 2016. The weeks before then will be critical for determining whether Maduro will prove that rule of law exists in Venezuela, or if he will insist on fighting wars “against the empire” that exist only in his imagination.
The expectation: that he will sit down with the opposition.
The big question: will it happen?
Images via Flickr, Wikimedia
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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