Nicolas Maduro appears to have successfully transitioned Venezuela into a dictatorship. President Maduro is using the recently elected Constituent Assembly to consolidate his power and attack the opposition.
In May, Maduro called for the election of a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the 1999 Constitution, which was held on July 30. The opposition boycotted the elections and led a several day general strike in protest. For its part, the government appears to have tampered with turnout figures to boost its legitimacy.
Although it was ostensibly formed to rewrite the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly is acting more and more like a national legislature. As one of its first acts, the Constituent Assembly voted to remove Attorney General Luisa Ortega. Ortega recently took a stand against the Maduro regime and the Constituent Assembly. She was quickly replaced with a loyal ally to President Maduro.
In a recent post, “Venezuela at a Crossroads: Democracy or Dictatorship,” five possible scenarios for Venezuela’s future as either a democracy or dictatorship were proposed. After the latest events, a return to democracy seems impossible in the near future, and a Maduro led dictatorship appears to be a fait accompli. However, that could all change if the regime loses the backing of the military.
While the country has a history of military coups, like the failed one in 1992 led by then-Colonel Hugo Chavez, the current regime has spent 15 years ensuring the loyalty of the military. As the Associated Press reports,
Following a 2002 coup, then-President Hugo Chavez, himself a former tank commander, carried out a deep purge of the military and promoted loyal officers to top positions in the government.
Maduro has expanded the military’s political power even further, giving them control of key sectors of the economy, such as food importation. He also rewarded soldiers with pay raises and bonuses that are the envy of civilians struggling amid triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages.
The military’s loyalty was on display on August 6 when 20 or so men in military fatigues attempted to start an uprising against the government by attacking a military base in the city of Valencia. The attackers were quickly defeated, but the incident may point to cracks within the military.
As Philip Reeves of National Public Radio reporting from Venezuela points out, not all members of the military equally profit from the current regime.
The generals, the high command in the military do have an interest in maintaining the status quo cause they’ve got big interests, business wise in Venezuela, very involved in business. The middle ranks and lower ranks are not to the same degree at all and suffer from a lot of the problems that ordinary Venezuelans are going through so people watch them particularly closely.
Nicolas Maduro’s hold on power in Venezuela is more tenuous than it appears. Months of unrest by millions of Venezuelans against the regime’s overt power grabs demonstrate the widespread dissatisfaction with the government among the general population. With such little support from the people, a Maduro dictatorship can only survive with support from the armed forces. That support will be put to the test as events continue to unfold and millions continue to protest against Venezuela’s slide into tyranny.
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