Inept Maduro clings to power - Regime must end to avert catastrophe

It would be mackerel stupid to believe that the international campaign to expel Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1990 was undertaken, at vast expense in lives, treasure, and political-system capital, to defend democracy — or for what then passed, and still does, for democracy in the Middle East. There was other, far more lucrative skin in that game.

Inept Maduro clings to power - Regime must end to avert catastrophe

It would be mackerel stupid to believe that the international campaign to expel Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1990 was undertaken, at vast expense in lives, treasure, and political-system capital, to defend democracy — or for what then passed, and still does, for democracy in the Middle East. There was other, far more lucrative skin in that game.

Kuwait’s oil reserves make up 8% of the world total. The country is OPEC’s third-largest oil producer, holding approximately 104bn barrels. Solidarity with a nation so spectacularly blessed is always easy for powerful forces — as, conversely, the comparative abandonment of neighbouring Yemen, where a war-generated famine threatens 20m people with starvation, shows.

Because Venezuela’s oil reserves are the world’s largest — at 297bn barrels, nearly three times Kuwait’s nest egg — it is not surprising that as that country’s collapse accelerates towards something like anarchy, the same forces, though not as united as they were in 1990, champion conflicting versions of Venezuelan democracy.

At the moment, those disagreements have not been expressed beyond predictable condemnations and, in normal times, the people of Venezuela, and the rest of the world, too, could rest easy in their beds in the understanding that nothing more than the expulsion of a few diplomats or a sanction or two was a possibility. But then, as is all too apparent, these are not normal times. Our world, fractured and fraught, seems threatened by an exceptional mix of national instabilities and international volatility.

Russia, China, Mexico, and Turkey have condemned the decision by America, Canada, and a dozen Latin American nations to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as his country’s interim president. Those countries, some brutally indifferent to democracy, hope to preserve the status quo. They want to sustain the inept and corrupt Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez in 2013 and clung to power last year through an entirely discredited election, which was, unsurprisingly, endorsed by the country’s partisan military.

Maduro, was, amazingly, cheered at his inauguration by Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy and general secretary Dawn Doyle. He has presided over the utter destruction of his country and the impoverishment of its citizens. Last year’s hyper-inflation hit an unimaginable, unsustainable 80,000% and, since 2014, 10% of the country’s 32.5m citizens have jumped ship to try to find a normal life elsewhere. The slide towards economic ruin, almost a fait accompli, is exacerbated by Maduro’s growing autocracy.

Many of those who remain in the country have taken to the streets — tens of thousands in Caracas — in a dramatic escalation of efforts to oust Maduro. They have been encouraged by US president Donald Trump, who promised he would use the “full weight” of US economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela’s democracy.

Red lines are being drawn, but let us hope that those lines do not become battle lines, as the people of Venezuela have suffered more than is tolerable already.

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