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Venezuela’s President, Carrying the Torch of Chavez’s Socialism, Under Fire

Nicolas Maduro in 2013

Joka Madruga

Adalberto Urbina-Briceño - published on 01/30/15

Plagued by economic ills and criticized by the nation's bishops, could Maduro resign?

The dramatic economic situation, the astonishing lack of transparency and corruption in the administration and the weakened rule of law and democracy (subjugated by the government’s totalitarian control of the National Assembly, the judiciary and the rest of the independent constitutional organs) seem to have had an impact on the continuously decreasing popularity of the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. According to the latest surveys, the president’s support is at about 20%. This fact opens the possibility, in the near future, of a presidential resignation in Venezuela.

Last week, regional opposition deputy and distinguished professor of law Cipriano Heredia “convinced that Venezuela needs an urgent change of government, according to the Constitution, and before the use of force or some other undesirable circumstances could take place,” demanded the immediate resignation of the president and the consequent enforcement of article 233 of the Constitution that compels the calling of elections within 30 days.  

Heredia sees in the unfeasible political model imposed by the government (the so called “21st Century Socialism,” as Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, baptized his neo-Communist regime) the cause of the destruction of the country:  “the highest inflation rate in the world,” the amazing “inventory shortage of basic goods” (including food) and services, the “massive unemployment after the closing of more than half a million companies and industries, the scandalous public debt, the practical bankruptcy and functional perversion of the national oil company,” “one of the highest homicide rates in the planet,” “the collapse of the health and education systems,” “the flight of hundreds of thousands of young Venezuelans abroad looking for best places to settle with their families and to find professional opportunities,” the “systematic violation of human rights, the thousands of arbitrary detentions, the practice of torture and the deployment of a terror and persecution structure against political dissidents” (with a lot of political prisoners), “long lines of people at the doors of the supermarkets” (and drugstores),  quarrels for food, “lootings and protests,” etc. From his point of view, this “constitutes a dictatorial reality.”

Although Heredia is clear that no one can constitutionally force Maduro to resign, he considers his arguments as a very strong legitimate basis to push the president´s will and as a reliable interpretation of the present widespread sentiment of the majority of the nation. In his “demand,” Heredia has already been followed by some important opposition leaders, among them Maria Corina Machado, who declared recently that “Maduro has to move aside in order to allow Venezuela to gather in a national rebuilding process.”

A presidential “tour” (according to Maduro´s own words) to the Arab countries, to press them for a reduction of oil production (to increase the prices), was an absolute failure. The population faces with impotence a financially broken country that has lost all its international influence.

In an opposition march on January 27, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said that the country was in the hands of a “pirate,” referring to Maduro.  The same day, the government forbade a visit to the renowned political prisoner Leopoldo López by the former presidents of Chile and Colombia, Sebastián Piñera and Andrés Pastrana, and accused them of backing a coup d´état. To the great distress of the Venezuelan government, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of both countries supported their former heads of State through official notes.

Previously, on January 12, the very influential Venezuelan Bishops Conference, raised its prestigious moral voice through a “Pastoral Exhortation: Ethical and Spiritual Renewal in the Face of the Crises.” In the document, the Conference considers that “the major problem and cause of this crisis… is the decision of the national government and the other organs of public power to impose a socialist marxist or communist political and economic system. That system is totalitarian and centralist, establishes the control of the State over all the aspects of citizens´ lives and of the public and private institutions. Furthermore, that system goes against the freedom and the rights of the people and the associations and has led all the countries where it has been applied to oppression and ruin… Once again we state: the Marxist socialism is a wrong way, and for that it should not be established in Venezuela.” The bishops also proclaimed the “dialogue as the indispensable way to attain conciliation and to resolve the serious problems” of the country.

Taking into account such an extremely severe panorama, as the one depicted above, even though Maduro´s resignation doesn’t seem an easy task,  it would certainly represent a responsible first step in order to reduce the tensions already installed in the minds of millions of people who feel that their nation is on the verge of exploding.  That resignation, of course, should also be completed by the renovation of all the organs of the state, following the constitutional provisions, and the substitution of the obviously discredited hegemony of Chavez´ burdensome legacy,  the totalitarian “21st Century Socialism.”

Dr. Adalberto Urbina-Briceño is professor of international law at the Catholic University Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela.

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