Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames an international conspiracy for the attempt on his life, but that won't be enough to distract from the country's impending bankruptcy.
After escaping what appears to be an assassination attempt in the capital city of Caracas, the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was eager to point fingers at whomever he considered responsible for the attack.
Explosive drones did explode on Saturday near the site of a military ceremony during which Maduro was giving a speech exhorting his supporters to believe in an unlikely and hypothetic economic revival. However, the claims from the Venezuelan strongman—reelected in May in a presidential ballot boycotted by the opposition—that Colombia, the Venezuelan opposition and “men residing in the United States” all colluded to assassinate him should be taken with a grain of salt.
It would not be the first time that Maduro accuses without proof or patches together hurried accusations to discredit rivals. Among others, Enrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez, two key figures of the Venezuelan opposition, have been recently either banned from political life or placed under house arrest after a parody of justice.
Soon after the explosion, a little-known group calling itself the Movimiento Nacional Soldados de Franelas—or the "National Movement of Soldiers in T-shirts"—claimed responsibility on social media and six of its alleged members were arrested by the Venezuelan authorities.
Far from Maduro’s outcry and denunciation of an internationally backed coup, the amateurism of the attack seems to confirm that it was the work of a local inexperienced collective, similar to the ones fighting both hunger and paramilitary forces on a daily basis in the streets of Venezuela.
Despite the attempts from the Chavista movement in power in Caracas to implicate other countries, neither Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos nor the American administration initiated or backed the failed drone strikes. If Donald Trump had refused to rule out an occupation of Venezuela a year ago in his usual bullish diplomatic style, the American policies towards Venezuela have become little more than an afterthought in Washington as the White House is much more focused on tensions with North Korea and Iran.
Similarly, the notion that Juan Manuel Santos would have sponsored the attack on Maduro sounded off key to whoever is versed in Latin American politics. Regularly criticised in Colombia for his inaction in almost all issues apart from the negotiations with the FARC, Santos was unlikely to use his last weekend as president of Colombia to pull a trigger on Maduro. Instead he was attending a family church service before handing over the reins of the country to the newly elected Ivan Duque.
Therefore, far from an international plot of interference in Venezuelan affairs, the drone attack was an act of despair from a local rebel group hoping to end the steady drift of the country into economic and political chaos. A United Nations report last June underlined the methods used by the Maduro administration to intimidate and repress the political opposition or anyone perceived to be a threat to the government.
Since 2015, paramilitaries supported by the government committed more than 500 extrajudicial executions, targeting mainly young people in poor neighborhoods. At the same time, more than 12,000 people were detained in the country with the constant persecution of activists, students, human rights defenders, media workers and members of the armed forces not proving enough their support to the regime. The video footage of militaries fleeing the scene during the attack on their president suggest that many would not die to protect an authoritarian regime.
Economically, the situation in Venezuela is even worse. Earlier in the week, the IMF confirmed a forecasted 1 million percent inflation rate in 2018 in Venezuela, a ratio similar to the episodes of hyperinflation experienced by Germany after the First World War, or by Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.
Faced with this uncontrollable skid, Maduro proposed last Wednesday a solution to the air of a magic formula: the removal of five zeros to the bolivar currency. The plan had already been announced in March when Maduro had suggested then to remove three zeros, but answers from the government cannot keep up with the collapse of the currency.
The new "sovereign bolivar", expected for August 20 will hardly improve the daily life of millions of Venezuelans struggling to pay for food when they are lucky enough to find some.
The minimum wage in Venezuela (representing $1.5 at the black market rate) can barely buy a one-pound chicken. Public finances are bloodless. The production of crude, representing 96 percent of national income, plummeted from 3.2 million barrels per day in 2008 to 1.5 million barrels in June because of a lack of cash to modernise the oil fields.
Maduro will now seize the opportunity of this failed drone attack to distract the population and regroup his supporters, intensifying the narrative of foreign forces causing all Venezuelan illness.
The reason for the country’s economic collapse and political institutions ruin is well known however: corruption, nepotism, populism. If Maduro did leave the military parade unscathed by the assassination attempt, the country’s economy however has gotten one step closer to bankruptcy.
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