This Is the Beginning of the End for Chavismo

Chavismo supporters sprayed graffiti in the area around the National Assembly building in Caracas before the opposition officially took power of Congress.
Chavismo supporters sprayed graffiti in the area around the National Assembly building in Caracas before the opposition officially took power of Congress. (La Patilla)

EspañolThe inauguration of Venezuela’s new National Assembly, where the opposition has a qualified majority, brings opportunity to the country after 16 years of Chavismo’s absolute power. The swearing-in ceremony took place on January 5, with fewer setbacks than anticipated since President Nicolás Maduro’s government had taken measures to reduce the Assembly’s power. The regime also tried to provoke the opposition into committing acts of violence.

The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), however, acted with maturity, respecting the country’s institutions and not falling in the Chavistas’ traps. The ceremony took place in order, and no fighting broke out in the streets. Although the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) assembly members decided to walk out of Congress in the middle of the inaugural event, the new legislative period began normally.

It is of great importance that the Chavistas didn’t dare to violate the constitutional order. On the contrary, they accepted that the opposition has a role to play in the country’s structure of power, just as they did when they recognized their electoral defeat on December 6, 2015.

Despite Maduro’s bravado and former National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello’s constant threats and various insults, those governing Venezuela understood that they are in a minority position. They realized that the country is in catastrophic shape and that they have no authority to impose their will on the population. Neither the citizens, nor the army, nor the international community support the Chavistas any longer.

But even if this is encouraging for those of us who want Venezuela to abandon socialism’s ruinous path, we must also remember that the true political battle to change the country is only beginning. Chavismo is still entrenched in the other branches of power.

A legal framework that allows the state to protect and control almost the entire economy is in place. As the few independent media outlets that still operate in Venezuela warn, it is in this context that the most difficult and urgent decisions await.

There are two areas in which radical economic change is critical: protecting private enterprise and ending foreign-exchange controls.

It is essential to allow citizens and companies to act freely if the current economic crisis is to be overcome. Investment and an increase in production are vital. Restriction on foreign-exchange transactions, meanwhile, have severely distorted the market and brought about vast shortages of basic goods. These constitute tremendous limits to personal liberties.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for the current government to liberate the economy. On the one hand, this would contradict its socialist vision of the world. On the other hand, moving toward economic freedom would initially lead to an adjustment in prices which would upset much of the population.

Since economic recovery depends on the government’s political decisions, the National Assembly alone will not be able to proceed with the necessary changes, at least for now.

[adrotate group=”7″]The new opposition majority in the National Assembly has announced that its first official act will be to present a law that will grant amnesty to political prisoners. Maduro has already announced that he will veto said law. So, we are on the threshold of a legal and political struggle whose outcome is uncertain. The opposition, however, will certainly have to make use of its immense popular support in order to win this confrontation.

In the meantime, two conclusions regarding recent events can be drawn: first, the Chavistas, despite their hectoring, find themselves cornered and have very little room to maneuver. Possibly, they will have to continue to yield to the opposition on important points.

Second, the opposition is still united, and its attitude is one of serene firmness. This is precisely what is needed to further weaken the government and rebuild Venezuela.

Translated by Daniel Raisbeck.

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