Photo by Joshua Tartakovsky © 2015. All Rights Reserved

By Joshua Tartakovsky, 9 March 2016

With the opposition now having the majority in the Asamblea Nacional and with presidential elections scheduled for 2019, two things are already clear.

The first is that although he has several more years in power, Maduro is a lame duck. He will not be able to tackle on inflation or stop the shortages of basic goods as the parliament will sabotage him at every move. Indeed, it is already doing so by blocking his emergency economic decree.  The second is that the opposition will do all that it can to remove Maduro in the earliest possible time.  Both of these factors can only mean that inflation, which is already at a yearly rate of 141% will only increase. The economy detracted by 7.1% from September 2014 to September 2015 according to the Central Bank. It will continue to contract.  There are some who are hoping for a rise in oil prices and for subsequent economic improvement in Venezuela but they are burying their heads in the sand.  This is unlikely to happen due to Saudi Arabia’s war on Syria and its joint effort with the US against Russia.

A referendum initiated by the opposition that will vote Maduro out may take place early next year.  However, the Supreme Court which is supportive of PSUV can contest it. If the referendum votes Maduro out than he will be replaced by Vice President Aristóbulo Istúriz until the elections in 2019. It seems very unlikely that the opposition will have the patience to wait that long. The opposition is hungry for power and believes that it owns the country and that the country was stolen from it.  It will try to act in every way it can to bring down the government and country and it has the full support of the US.

The opposition can opt for impeaching the president by removing unfavorable judges in supreme court. However, as El Universal reported  that the Supreme Court of Venezuela just decided that the National Assembly has no right to intervene in the Supreme Court, the National Electoral Council and the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela. This means that the opposition cannot sack supreme court justices it dislikes and therefore cannot impeach the president easily. This leave it with fewer options than before but also makes it more desperate. Henry Ramos Allup, president of the National Assembly said they will see how to respond. Attempts at destabilization will intensify.

The opposition can go for a constitutional amendment that will cut the President’s term to four years and elections will be held in December 2016. But the Supreme Court can probably find fault in it and rule this out as it would contradict the spirit of the Constitution.

Leading military figures who took part in the 4F- February 4 1992 coup spearheaded by Chavez said that Maduro must resign. A document calling for this was signed. Those who signed were among others: Florencio Porras, Luis Eduardo Chacón, Ismael Pérez Sira, Carlos Guyón Celis, Alfieri Lameda Quero, Emiro Brito Valerion, Rafael Virgilio Delgado and Miguel Schmilinsky París. Needless to say, this was a clear signal not only to Maduro.

Carrying out a military coup is a risky business. But Venezuela has “the world’s steepest inflation rate” and Maduro has shown he is incapable of taking responsibility and of realizing the public does not like him.  As time goes by, the opposition at the very least will make life for most unbearable and will cause the economy to bleed to death with chaos and violence growing. It  has the money to create various incidents which will increase disorder in the country. The parliament will seek to make the country ungovernable and to strip Maduro of his powers even if he retains the position formally precisely at a time when Venezuela needs a strong leader who will take tough decisions to rescue the economy. As time passes by, the oppositions’ tactics will get uglier and uglier, and the Obama just renewed the sanctions against the country and declared Venezuela a threat.

It should not be forgotten that many inside the various government, police and military branches do not have the country’s good in mind and are corrupt. They can be bought off by the opposition. With the National Assembly seeking to sabotage every step, Maduro is in a straitjacket, but with time it could get much worse as Venezuela can become a failed state and will be ungovernable. The opposition would like to see that happen and is working in that direction. Despite this, Maduro has shown he has his own narrow interests in mind – not the interests of the country – as it is clear he is an incapable leader even if he has good intentions. A responsible decision would be for him to admit this.

In the unlikely scenario of Maduro resigning and Vice President Istúriz replacing him, then attempts at sabotage will not decrease but increase. Istúriz is a very intelligent man and a dedicated socialist, and should be given a prominent position in any future socialist government. However, he is a professor, not a military leader. And Venezuela needs a tough leader at this time. It needs someone who will complete the revolution, restore order, protect the economy, stand firm against all the efforts to destroy the country, both externally and internally.

The country has no time to lose and a lot to gain from a steady leader. Venezuela needs a leader such as Padrino López, the former chief of staff of the army under Chavez and current defense minister, who can step in with the military, clean up the the government of corrupt officials, rein in inflation, crack down on gangs, ensure the supply of basic goods and rule the country by martial law until order is restored and the economy is revived.  The military will provide its much needed support and the vast majority of the population would welcome the return of safety and having more food on the table. While at the Caracas airport a few months ago I saw how soldiers were searching luggage for drugs so it is not as if the army is not already deployed in the country. At the current emergency period Venezuela is in, Padrino López  can rescue the country by taking the tough decisions needed. A military leader could circumvent the parliament and save the economy.

The US would not be happy with such a development as it would pull the carpet under the opposition in parliament but Venezuela is already under sanctions, a disinformation campaign and various attacks. If the military takes over this will not change anything from that perspective and the economy can be saved. As time goes by, Venezuela has less and less to lose by finally putting the house in order.  Since Maduro asked for the right to enact special economic decrees it is clear that Venezuela would benefit from a leader who would rule the country with an iron fist.