Is the end game near for Venezuela’s socialist regime? The sharp fall in oil prices along with economic incompetence has cratered the economy. Shortages of everything from potatoes to toilet paper, soaring crime rates, and inflation over 100 percent will all contribute to a shocking 7 percent drop in the country’s GDP this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Nicolás Maduro, the late Hugo Chávez’s hand-picked successor, is doing a good imitation of a paranoid dictator as he lashes out against what he says are plots for a “coup d’état,” “psychological warfare,” “ambush,” and “economic war.” Last Friday he accused Vice President Biden of meeting with other regional governments and telling them “Venezuela was going to be overthrown.” Maduro then told his TV audience:
“Vice President Biden, look me in the eyes: Is this what you want for relations with Latin America and the Caribbean?”
Small wonder that Maduro’s popularity has plunged to 20 percent and some of his former ministers are declaring the emperor isn’t all there. Former Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who was fired by Maduro last year, warns that “we are almost the laughing stock of Latin America.” The Marxist economist says there is such a thing as economic reality and Maduro is ignoring it: “If the situation is bad, if the thermometer is at 40 degrees, there are those who blame the thermometer . . . We need to acknowledge the crisis, comrades.” Giordani made headlines in Venezuela for criticizing the government for “fiscal nymphomania.”
No one knows where Maduro will go next. He is psychologically unable to follow fellow dictator Robert Mugabe’s move to link the country’s currency to the dollar. Oil prices are unlikely to rise for at least a year. The military has been stuffed with Maduro sycophants, but even they may find it impossible not to act against him if civil unrest breaks out. Sadly, it looks as if Venezuela will have to go through more hardship before there is any halt to its downward spiral.