- - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Venezuela today faces terrible truths:

• The economy is in shambles, ranging from nil maintenance of its once-world class petroleum facilities to the empty shelves in stores and shops throughout the country.

• Murder, robbery and corruption are rampant, in Caracas and throughout the land.

• Virtually all capable and important democratic leaders are either in jail or in exile, with those remaining under constant government harassment and threat.

• The government best functions in creating Soviet-style prisons where all manner of bestial crimes are committed on prisoners.

• The country has taken the international lead in exporting lethal drugs.

• The opposition, which deals best in petty squabbling, is in functional disarray.

Despite all this, in a world flooded with low-priced petroleum, Venezuela remains one of the United States’ two top foreign oil suppliers. The U.S. is the country’s largest — virtually sole — supplier of foreign currency. Indeed, America’s ceasing to buy Venezuelan crude could well spell the end of the Maduro regime.

On the domestic front, it is critical for the opposition to work for the day Venezuela will once again be free. That means that all the different opposition groups must work together and not focus solely on their various individual agendas. Sadly, the opposition coalition’s Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity Table) is weak and disorganized. Indeed, its acronym, MUD, accurately describes, at least to English speakers, the group’s position in the community.

The government has done a thorough job of arbitrarily jailing most well-known dissidents, most recently the democratically elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledesma. However, it does no good for the remaining ”leaders” to meet occasionally and make statements that sound patriotic but in reality gloss over the lack of collaboration and cooperation that exists. If they were true leaders, they would not seek their individual objectives, but work to establish a truly unified program to free the country from the horrendous situation that exists. Tragically, however, the opposition is dislocated, shortsighted and misled, with painfully few patriots to be found.

As a former war correspondent and longtime geopolitical analyst in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America, it is my firm belief that the democratic opposition in Venezuela is the least effective of any such group in the past 50 years.

After 16 years of wretchedly corrupt power and misguided programs that have brought a once-rich nation to its knees, the opposition is no closer to freeing Venezuela than it was at the height of Hugo Chavez’s power.

Indeed, the only two possibilities on the horizon are that the situation will become so bad that the government will collapse of its own putrid weight. If not, disease and starvation will cause the barrios to erupt, to march in overwhelming numbers to the center of Caracas and — despite the volleys of bullets launched against them — to demand the expulsion of the president, ministers and military leaders from office.

In short, the Venezuelan opposition appears suicidally feeble, with very few people ready and willing to commit totally to removing the regime from power. Despite the terrible state of the economy, and the lethal increase in crime and corruption, the majority of those in a position to make a difference are unwilling to do the necessary, which must include:

• Working together to form a truly united front;

• Making a realistic plan of action;

• Taking progressively escalating confrontational steps;

• Risking what little safety and security remains;

• Fighting to the end for a free Venezuela.

Until this happens, it is fair to predict that the situation will continue to worsen, as the Maduro regime and its corrupt cronies continue to demonize a demoralized and despondent citizenry.

With regime change, Venezuela can become a true leader in returning Latin America to reasonable political stability and opportunity for its citizens. A democratically reformed Venezuela would greatly encourage the anti-autocratic forces and strike fear into the hearts of despots responsible for economic, social and political failures in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.

John R. Thomson has reported and written about geopolitical affairs from bases in Bangkok, Beirut and Bogota for 45 years.

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