What’s happening in Venezuela is a familiar sight. Policies gone terribly wrong. As of the latest count, the inflation is 1.7m%: in more crude terms, as per the Economist, a $10,000 savings at the start of the year will value at 59 cents by the end of the year. According to NBC, a last year valuation led to this estimate: a single roll of toilet paper cost 2,600,000 bolivars. Yes, I did not mistakenly add extra zeros there. A roll of toilet paper costs more than 2 million of the local currency. Seth Meyers, in his late-night show joked that the surface area of the money used to buy the roll exceeded the amount of tissue in the purchase so, why buy it at all. That joke is painful and even Seth couldn’t carry it forward.

There is mass starvation across the country and yet the elite continue to enjoy a reasonably luxurious life. Since the last 6 years rule of Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan populace has lost, at an average, 11kg per person out of malnutrition. 90% of the total live under the poverty line with doctors earning as less as $10 a month. And, yet, there are ways to live in relative luxury even in such situations. That is, so long as you are well connected. The local word used for such people is ‘enchufados’ literally meaning ‘plugged in’. Such people are lucky enough to get very generous exchange rates on the dollars. Given how the bolivars are basically useless now, the dollar is being used to make purchases. And, the more well connected you are, the more money you get at the exchange window. The enchfados mostly include bureaucrats and military personnel and it is these that continue to allow Maduro to retain his office.

And this is why, what’s happening now is important. The parliament is trying to take back control of the country after Maduro insists on continuing ruling after a massively rigged election. Since then, he has tried to intimidate the opposition into submission through rather laughable theatrical means. In August last year, two drones exploded in mid-air as Maduro gave a speech in a military parade. As a result, Maduro had opposition leaders arrested and blamed the ‘Columbian Oligarchy’ for the attack. Since then, many have offered proofs and claims that indicate that the attacks were staged and that this was a mere act to crack down on the opposition.

Last month, Juan Guaido, the president of the parliament declared himself as the interim president of the country and pushed people to go out on the streets and protest against Maduro. The protests have since gained momentum and, while, the military continues to support Maduro, the local people are fed up. And, this is where the situation becomes very delicate for it brings back the difficult question in the midst of this chaos: when a leader is simply and brutally inhumane, does the crowd (the other countries) stand still and ignore or do they intervene?

I personally think that there can be no change without intervention for it’s an uneven play. Dictators tend to monopolise power and, when, the whole state infrastructure is against the change, not much can assist the process of protest. However, interventions that do eventually take place need to be smarter. For example, they need to start with diplomacy and not with weapons. This is what is now seen being done by the European Union, the US and the Lima Group. The next step is economic sanctions and that has been done brilliantly by the US who now insists that all oil bought from Venezuela will be paid for in the accounts of the legitimate government i.e., the opposition. Of course, that means that the State will stop selling oil to US which will be a big problem as literally the whole economy depends on this trade. The country is at a loss even if it decides to sell oil to other buyers who would seek discounted rates. So, for now, the strategy is intelligent and will bear fruits if continued.

However, the countries have to make sure that they stop themselves before they make these interventions seem as if an imperialists’ involvement. It would be good, for example, if the issue is not addressed by these leaders every chance they get, and instead the progress and revolution is allowed to happen more organically.

Venezuela will not reincarnate the debacle of the Arabian revolution. For, although Maduro is indeed a dictator, a generation ago, Chavez did manage to nurture a populace that knew how to survive. Once given the chance, they will rise back and take care of their country. They key is to let them do it on their own without making them too dependent on external support. Fingers crossed for what is to come.

 

The writer is a Dissertation Researcher based in Finland. He conducts research on political, regional and societal changes with special focus on religious minorities in Europe.

 kureshiwrites@gmail.com

@makahsan