Threat Assessment on VenezuelaMay 4, 2017 in Venezuela
Since the arrival of Hugo Chávez to power in 1998, and after 13 years of economic and political reorganization of the country according to his “Bolivarian Revolution”, Venezuela has widely depended on oil revenue, which represented the 93 percent of the country’s exports in 2008, and generated an income between $90 and $100 billion, which helped Chavez with its social projects and the large share of imports.
The global economic crisis hit Venezuela strongly due to the drop in oil prices, altering the Venezuelan trade balance. The economic difficulties Venezuela has been facing since then, with a 475 percent inflation and a 10 percent fall in its GDP for 2016, have led to the current situation of shortage of basic commodities for the population, and political and social crisis affecting the country.
Far from self-criticism, Nicolás Maduro accuses the opposition and citizens who demonstrate against its government of the situation and of being part of an international plot to overthrow him. This has led to the polarization of the Venezuelan society in two blocs, Chavez’s supporters or pro-government seeking to perpetuate the spirit of Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”, and opposition groups, that blame the government of the disastrous economic situation and seek to dismiss Maduro.
The situation has become critical recently, since the opposition appears more united than ever and has received more support from the international community and the citizenship, which gave them the absolute majority in the National Assembly in the past elections, and tries to relieve Maduro from power. Maduro has responded authoritatively delaying regional elections and even dismantling the National Assembly’s powers. The opposition and the population, tired of the growing situation of poverty, take the streets constantly demanding the resignation of the president, who accuses them of coup and responds with brute force by the police, the army and even pro-government paramilitary armed groups, provoking clashes that have caused 28 dead in April.
The objective of this analysis is to glimpse the way in which the situation in Venezuela might evolve in the coming months. For that purpose, different scenarios will be generated using the cone of plausibility method according to the key indicators of the Venezuelan crisis, which are: economy, popular support and mobilization, military support, pro-government political forces unity, opposition unity and international influence.
Low oil prices are still devastating the Venezuelan economy, which is unable to provide commodities to the people, which demands, along with the opposition groups, the resignation of Nicolás Maduro for his handling of the crisis. The president, supported by the ruling party and the military, refuses to resign and accuses the opposition of coup attempt, which translates into strong repression of the demonstrations that causes casualties; meanwhile, the government is criticized by the international community, and tries to find an exit to the economic situation the country is facing.
Plausible Scenario 1
The discontent of the population, which starts to live in poverty conditions ever seen in Venezuela, has grown at an astonishing rate and has shown the little support Maduro has in the streets. Considering the popular discontent, the army begins to show itself increasingly neutral in the situation and, although it promises to maintain peace, it does not swear loyalty to the president. At the same time, members of the ruling party have created a current that seeks the internal overthrown of Maduro to save the image of the party for future elections.
Plausible Scenario 2
The implementation of negotiations between the government and the opposition, made the parties conforming the opposition to dissent around the demands they should ask the president. While some were clamouring for his resignation, others accepted other gestures such as the call for regional elections. The opposition’s division led to a demobilization of the population, which showed distrust to the parties asking only for the dismissal of Maduro at all costs. The social situation remains tense, but stable and contained, while the government has obtained more time to improve the economic situation at the expense of some regional governments that have fallen into the hands of opposition groups.
Plausible Scenario 3
The aggravated situation of poverty, because of a government that still does not know how to alleviate the economic crisis, has led to larger protests on the streets and has reduced popular support of president Nicolás Maduro. The president, who has the loyalty of the military and the ruling party, hardest repressed protests, increasing the number of dead to hundreds. Violent clashes and the refusal of the president to call for elections have led certain opposition groups and population to face the police and military by armed means. The government foresees an escalation of the situation after losing certain localities at the hand of such groups, which declared themselves free from central government’s control. The international community is already talking about civil war and the situation is being taken to the Security Council, with Venezuelan traditional allies, such as Russia, considering its neutrality on passing sanctions against the Caribbean country.
Social protests rise and president Maduro’s immobility led a sector of the army to question its generals and prepared a coup that overthrew pro-government commands. Straightaway, they ousted Maduro from power and maintain the status quo in the streets because of the strong protests of Maduro supporters and pro-government paramilitary forces. New commanders of the army have instituted the state of emergency until further notice.