Venezuela is in the throes of a political and economic crisis. By no means a newfound concept for Venezuelans, this time is different.
As the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the threat of escalations on the Korean Peninsula continue to draw the majority of international media attention, Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis rapidly grows regarding significance for security in the Americas.
To understand the complexities the perfect storm of food and economic insecurity, political repression, and violence stemming from the absence of any form of law and order, we spoke to Jennifer McCoy, Ph.D., distinguished University Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. Dr. McCoy served as Founding Director of the Global Studies Institute at GSU (2015-16), and Director of the Carter Center’s Americas program (1998-2015) where she led projects strengthening democratic institutions, provided mediation and encouraged dialogue and hemispheric cooperation. Her latest book is International Mediation in Venezuela (co-authored with Francisco Diez, 2011).
Dr. McCoy directed the Carter Center’s projects on Mediation and Monitoring in Venezuela (2002-2004), the Ecuador-Colombia Dialogue Group (2008-2010), and the U.S.-Andean Dialogue Group (2010-2011), and led over a dozen election monitoring and observation missions.
The Current Situation: Repression, Resource Insecurity, and the Risk of Escalation
According to Dr. McCoy, three main scenarios could potentially play out. One of these is the current situation; people willing to publicly protest led by a unified opposition with specific demands are being met by the government with repression. If no concessions are made by the government, the unrest could potentially peter out if no change occurs.
The Maduro government has been hanging on… waiting for oil prices to rise… trying desperately to make its bond payments…
This has happened twice before in the past three years. Venezuelan’s went out into the streets, drawing international attention, and resulting in dialogues that were sponsored by the international community. Each time, an exchange was sponsored and then protests died down, but nothing was changed as a consequence of the inter-party dialogues. The government and its economic policies continued, the social situation deteriorated, and the stage was effectively set for another crisis like the one we see now.
But what makes this round of protests really different and more sustained is the lack of elections as an alternative means to resolve differences. The cancellation of all election options, as well as the Supreme Court’s undermining the authority of the legislature (the only institution controlled by the opposition), means the people are losing hope of peaceful means of changing the situation.
Russia and China have provided the Venezuelan government with financial support as it tries to hang on. The government is counting on the situation to improve—i.e. for oil prices to rise—before the presidential elections scheduled for late-2018. They’ve already delayed or all-out suspended local, regional, and governor elections and successfully halted an effort by the opposition to have a recall referendum that would cut short the president’s term.
Source: Jennifer McCoy, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. Dr. McCoy served as Founding Director of the Global Studies Institute at GSU (2015-16), and as Director of the Carter Center’s Americas program (1998-2015) where she led projects strengthening democratic institutions, provided mediation and encouraged dialogue and hemispheric cooperation. Her latest book is International Mediation in Venezuela (co-authored with Francisco Diez, 2011).