By Michael Rowan
Venezuela is slipping into the routine it has been conditioned to accept as natural and good for twenty years: in a word, death.
The search for oil and gold found more than Venezuela needed to make everybody rich. But the search for a way to help the population prosper through democracy did not. Venezuela has always suffered from poverty and inequality.
But the way democracy and economy were destroyed in Venezuela is unique in history. It is not a proud time to remember.
In the 20th century, both military dictators and elected presidents since 1958 failed. Corruption, poverty and inequality increased along with all the hortatory damnations of politicians.
But the last 20 years are particularly hard to take. In 1998, the socialist revolution took power and 90% of the public hoped it would succeed on its promise to share the oil wealth with the poor. It did not. It was neither socialist nor a revolution.
Socialism produces results like Norway, another wealthy oil state where almost 100% of the population is comfortable or wealthy. Socialism does not allow over $300 billion to go missing in the government’s books over 20 years. Kleptocracy does. A kleptocracy is a government run by a few who steal from the poor. That’s not a revolution. That’s a hoax based on a lie.
With all the power and money in their control, a kleptocracy of a few thousand multi-millionaires and billionaires who cynically pretend to be democrats and socialists, are letting babies starve, the sick die from lack of medicine, and 1 out of 10 Venezuelans crawl across the borders -- hungry, sick and desperate -- while the kleptocracy takes a jet to Istanbul to have an elegant lunch.
The one hope of removing the kleptocracy was when the National Assembly president was recognized as the true President of Venezuela by 53 nations that possess over half the world’s GDP. But for whatever reason, the actual president and government is hiding in Venezuela, in safe houses or embassy sanctuaries, waiting for the kleptocracy to go away or for some miraculous power to sweep the bad guys away. That strategy has about as much chance of success as a snowball in hell.
What the actual government of Venezuela should do is set up government across the border, raise $20 to $50 billion immediately from its 53 national supporters, confiscate the funds of the kleptocracy in foreign countries, build an army, interfere in the kleptocracy’s cocaine trade and terrorism connections, run a refugee program for 4 million Venezuelans who are burdening social services in neighboring countries, and run a subterranean food and medicine delivery service to every family it can – even military families – in Venezuela. And finally, run a global campaign in print, TV, internet and social media to build global support for democracy and freedom and against kleptocracy and populism everywhere.
Venezuela should use its unique status in history – the earliest in South America to adopt democracy and the earliest to destroy it – as a warning signal to the world. Populism and kleptocracy can kill you.
The de facto kleptocrats in control are very worried about this eventuality, but delighted that the actual government will voluntarily stay under the thumb of the kleptocracy, which is shipping gold to Uganda and oil to Russia as fast as it can. Venezuela, which has been looted for two decades, still has a few more items on the shelf which the kleptocracy, having de facto powers, may want for itself.
What could billionaires want that they haven’t confiscated, you might ask? In the short term, freedom from prosecution. They have squirreled away billions around the planet, most of it protected by sovereignty of a state that they have stolen. And in the long term? The goal is obvious: 20 more years, 40 more years, breaking Fidel’s record in ruling Cuba, and so on. Kleptocrats can dream, too.
In late 2019, the technical legitimacy of the National Assembly presidency may expire – the kleptocrats are busy trying to make that happen. The real president may disappear into the shadows of asylum or prison. Why the legitimate government would allow that to happen is beyond the imagination of this humble observer. However, self-destructive acts litter history and literature. Suicide of otherwise successful and happy persons happens a lot. It’s just hard to understand and accept. Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.