By: Rexhinaldo Nazarko
It does not take a political scientist, or a Sherlock-level genius to realize Venezuela is not in its golden age right now. The country is arguably suffering its largest political, humanitarian, economic crisis ever since independence in 1811. Due to “single crop” economic policies, or to put it in vernacular, heavy reliance on oil, with the plummeting of oil prices followed suit the collapse of the economy and demise of institutions. Currently, Venezuela is experiencing 13,000% inflation, shortage of food and medicine, and a large humanitarian crisis. The streets of Caracas and other major cities are nothing but short of battlefields between hungry civilians and government forces on a daily basis.
Nicolas Maduro, the current President, inherited an oil-based economy and when it all went to hell, he instituted his version of damage control. He continues to hold on to power and is expanding his attempts to usurp authority from other branches of government by replacing the Supreme Court and passing possibly illegitimate referendums on limiting the authority of the legislative. While his constituents stand in mile-long lines for food, Maduro enjoys fattening sweets. He is cracking down hard on uprisings and is very astute in feeding Venezuelans lies about the gravity of the situation. The primary blame is assigned to the West and malignant Latin American countries such as Colombia. Needless say his popularity has not sky-rocketed, whether it be among civilians or government officials. Two primary examples of his declining shine is the recent drone attempt on his life, and the proposed coup by specific high ranking officials in the Venezuelan Military to the United States.
Lucky for Maduro, the United States declined such an offer, and the President’s reign carries on, but for how long? Maduro has undoubtedly plunged Venezuela into a deep hole out of which it will take a long time to climb out of. He has caused famine, a rise in crime, hunger, he has forcefully shut the voice of protests and the opposition, tortured and imprisoned people, etc. He is unequivocally a despot who rules with an iron fist. Yet none of such actions have been enough to convince American officials to intervene and replace the man, as they have done with many others before, but that might be about to change very soon.
No, not because of a sudden change of heart in regard to human rights violations, but because of a very US specific interest for which it is unlikely Washington will hesitate again. Just recently, the government in Caracas announced its intentions of replacing the dollar as their trade currency and switching over to the euro and yuan instead. This is Maduro’s biggest mistake in trying to rough up the feathers of Washington, and it might very well be his last. The hegemony of the dollar in world trade is a vital interest of the United States because it is a major tool of leverage when it comes to negotiations or manipulation of the system in its favor. With the Dollar reigning over international trade, it allows the United States to get its way on deals, strategic policy etc. The United States holds the power to cripple the economies of other nations just by building up debt for an elongated period of time. To sum it up, the Dollar is America’s sword and shield, and any attempt to replace it will not go without repercussions.
So what is likely to happen? Well, the CIA and the United States have deposed leaders for much less. Moves by foreign governments that jeopardize US strategic and economic interests trigger the reaction of Washington, but abandoning the dollar is an especially soft point for the United States. Previous regimes have suffered devastating fates when tinkering with the dollar. Iraq in 2001 attempted to switch from the petrodollar to Euros, and we all know how that ordeal all went down. Libya in 2011 was another similar case, with leader Muhammar Gaddafi attempting to rally countries behind the idea of the “Golden Dinar”. Likewise, he was later brutally beaten to death by angry mobs as NATO allies carried out bombing campaigns all throughout the country.
Is Venezuela next? Who’s to say, but all the conditions are ripe for the United States to roll in and do what it does best. Why do I say that, well because the United States can mask its intervention by jusifying them as humanitarian assistance, deposing of evil, democracy etc. This would give Washington legitimacy in the eyes of the international community with possibly very little backlash. Furthermore, popular discontent makes for a perfect pretext to intervene. America enjoys the support of neighboring nations such as Colombia as well, who have seen massive influx of migrants slip across their borders since the beginning of the crisis. It is also worth mentioning that Maduro’s government and base of support is most likely already fractured an very unsustainable by the current President himself, with the high chance of many officials deserting him for a bargain with the United States. Nicolas Maduro has very likely laid out the initial steps for his own ruin, expect to see some interesting political development take place in Venezuela in the upcoming years(s), *wink wink*.
Image Credit: AFP