By Misión Verdad – Apr 14, 2023
Nicolás Maduro has completed 10 years as the president of Venezuela since he was elected for the first time. Undoubtedly, his tenure is in itself an extremely significant milestone, taking into account all the events that have adversely affected his investiture, Venezuelan institutions, and society.
This anniversary demands a detailed analysis of the most relevant aspects of this journey. An analysis that would also be, by default, a synthesis of the Venezuelan reality, the national situation as a country under siege and the way in which the Maduro government has prevailed, against many forecasts.
1. April 14, 2013
The presidential election of April 14, 2013 was preceded by the death of Commander Hugo Chávez. Venezuela’s political climate was fully delineated by the socio-anemic state of confusion. In a short electoral race, Chavismo was committed to develop a political campaign that had to be effective.
Unlike the earlier elections, this one demanded the constant reminder of Chávez, but Nicolás Maduro also had to be placed in the political leadership as a figure with his own qualities.
Although Maduro had served as the president of the National Assembly and the foreign affairs minister of Venezuela, he was not an electoral leader of national stature. His main point of strength was having been delegated by Chávez to lead the country in case of his absence.
The weeks prior to the April 14 election were considered to be a time of great political “vulnerability” of Chavismo. The enemies of the country understood the political power as a “captive” space exposed to assault through the electoral route embodied in the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. But Maduro managed to lead Chavismo as a new referent under the worst circumstances.
Although with a narrow margin, Maduro achieved the first milestone of his career: winning the presidential election.
2. A style of his own
Chavismo’s first act of resilience in the Maduro era was to progressively overcome the passing of Commander Chávez and to assume his name as a symbol, a model, a reference to be followed: synthesis of a collective legacy to be protected.
Since then, President Maduro has been clear on the need to sustain Chávez and his work as cardinal points, but at the same time he has left his own mark and style to his role as head of state and political leader, in the midst of a rapidly changing situation.
From a political science point of view, the change of era demanded a resignification of Chavismo itself. It had to acquire new characteristics without abandoning its foundational keys to reissue itself as a political path.
President Maduro knew how to do it with his brand of the “first chavista president” of the country. With no minor distinctions: Caracas-born, former bus driver, with his own style of discourse and his own ways of “caribbeanizing” politics.
He has been able to give his mandate his own denomination.
3. Political victories
President Maduro has been called “the conductor of victories,” a denomination that includes many areas but has been used especially in electoral contexts.
Except for the 2015 parliamentary elections, with fateful results for Chavismo and for the country, the president has led the chavista parties in electoral victories on nine occasions, including two presidential elections, the 2020 parliamentary elections, two regional elections, and an election of a National Constituent Assembly.
Although Chavismo (as well as the opposition) has progressively lost electoral base, Maduro the political leader managed to effectively implement the electoral conditions by disseminating political mobilization, and territorializing and sectorizing the electoral organization of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
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4. The most criminalized president in the history of Venezuela
The attacks against President Maduro’s mandate have been constant, reaching unprecedented, irrational, unparalleled categories.
In 2017, the opposition-controlled parliament performed one of the most absurd acts ever seen in the legislative history of Venezuela. It declared “abandonment of duties” by President Maduro although he was in full exercise of his charge, as a justification for his dismissal. There was no coherence in this action whatsoever, but it was a US order to brand President Maduro’s government as an “illegitimate” regime in order to pave the way for the blockade against the country.
Maduro is the only president in history against whom a national “trial” was organized abroad, without his presence, while he was exercising the full functions of his office. In 2018, the Colombian Congress lent its facilities for the so-called “supreme court in exile,” together with the fugitive former attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz, to hold an express trial against President Maduro, where he was criminalized, sentenced and ordered to be detained.
In March 2020, US Attorney General William Barr declared President Maduro a criminal, accusing him of being a “drug trafficker and financier of terrorism” and put a $15 million price on his head in order to trigger international action to capture him.
President Maduro has been the subject of complaints by Venezuelan opposition leaders before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged “crimes against humanity.” Although these complaints have not produced concrete results, they were forged for the fabrication of a political, communicational and judicial case against him.
As is evident, all these pseudo-institutional power devices, lawfare practices and aggressive measures have had no effect.
5. ‘All options are on the table’
The Maduro administration has been the most besieged in the history of Venezuela. There is no record of such levels of external interference in Venezuela in 200 years that can be compared with the level of US meddling in Venezuela in the last decade.
At the beginning of 2019, US President Donald Trump declared that “all options are on the table” when it came to dealing with Venezuela, alluding to a US military intervention in the country.
Recently, former senior US officials have published books where they have confessed that the military option against Venezuela was very real. Mark Esper, former secretary of the Department of Defense; Mike Pompeo, former secretary of the State Department; and John Bolton, former National Security advisor have explained it in detail and all stated that the “interim government” headed by Juan Guaidó asked Trump himself to invade Venezuela.
6. Maduro ‘discolored’ the color revolutions in Venezuela
In 2014 and 2017, large-scale terrorist operations, colloquially called guarimbas, were executed in Venezuela to create social commotion, generalized violence and institutional breakdown.
These were color revolutions, operations that were originally experimented in the ex-Soviet bloc countries and an updated version of which was deployed in Venezuela, and in other countries, under the guise of social revolt.
In both the guarimbas, President Maduro was able to employ highly sophisticated policies, developing the differentiated and proportionate use of force, intelligence, counter-intelligence, institutional measures, and political-social response.
The color revolutions, which could have brought down most governments in the world, failed in Venezuela, given the accumulated expertise of the leadership and of President Maduro.
President Maduro has counted on an unappealable expertise he built as a political operator of President Chávez and as an articulator of the national institutionality. He understands how events unfold, how his adversaries operate, and the details of the intricate art of war in its new multidimensional variants.
7. ‘We made them fail’
On April 30, 2019, Venezuela woke up to the pathetic sight of Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López on the Altamira hills, in front of La Carlota Air Base in eastern Caracas. That day they deployed the failed “Operation Liberty,” a classic military coup attempt. Guaidó called on the armed forces to take his side, but as the hours passed, nobody showed up, there was no commotion, and some of those who were involved in the coup attempt were detained.
That night, after the coup attempt failed, President Maduro stated that it had failed “because we made them fail.” He said that the attempt had been absolutely dismantled, and that it was doomed to failure since the beginning.
In reality, on that day, Venezuelan intelligence beat US intelligence. Elliott Abrams, who served as the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela, admitted that some Venezuelan officials had conned the coup plotters, “they were negotiating Maduro’s exit [with us] and then switched off their phones.” It is evident that the Venezuelan intelligence had infiltrated the coup at the highest level. President Maduro announced that he had coordinated the entire operation himself.
This event is a huge milestone in President Maduro’s career, but it is not the only one. He has more than succeeded in dismantling other armed operations against him.
Another such event took place on the border bridges between Venezuela and Colombia in 2019. That coup attempt tried to cause a breakdown in the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) to let trucks with so-called “humanitarian aid” from the United States to enter Venezuela. The Venezuelan military was to comply with the “order” of the “interim president” and allow the entry, but the attempt failed.
In May 2020, another coup attempt was launched—Operation Gideon, a mercenary-type action that dispatched gunboats from Colombia, with Colombian paramilitaries, former Venezuelan soldiers and former US soldiers, all coordinated by the US mercenary contractor SilverCorp, led by former US soldier Jordan Goudreau.
This operation met its end on the Venezuelan coast. Within hours, most of the active mercenaries were captured or killed at various points along the national coast by Venezuelan security forces, Bolivarian militia, and the people of Venezuela. President Maduro said to the media that “we have completely infiltrated them” and that the operation was compromised since its beginnings. He added that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) participated in the coup attempt through links with Colombian drug traffickers.
President Maduro was also the target of another unprecedented attack. In August 2018, he was the victim of a drone attack, the first reported case in history of an assassination attempt on a head of state by this method. The security forces managed to save the life of the president. It was later revealed that the operation had been organized from Colombia.
President Maduro has prevailed in the face of paramilitary actions against him. There are many reasons behind this success, but there is no denying the president’s capacity to anticipate and analyze the national reality and learn to identify internal and external threats.
In addition, Venezuela has developed an integral security structure, with the civic-military union as its base. This has helped the country overcome all attacks, has guaranteed the existential continuity of the nation, and has kept the people secure from the great upheavals that have been attempted.
8. Economic blockade against Venezuela
Venezuela has been subject to a ferocious weaponization of the economy. Since 2017, the Trump administration deployed a blockade against the vital sources of the Venezuelan economy, especially oil. From 2019, economic and financial pressures were intensified, reaching the category of “maximum pressure.”
A significant part of the material base of Venezuela has been destroyed, causing unprecedented losses to the nation. The siege against Venezuela is based on the force of the exhaustive and indiscriminate damage inflicted on the country, to the point that the Venezuelan economy lost 99% of its foreign currency earnings in 2020, severely decimating the public budget.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Venezuelan economy fell by 25.5% in 2019, the worst contraction in years.
However, the economy, the great Achilles Heel of President Maduro’s era, have started to show signs of recovery despite many forecasts to the contrary.
The government adopted a set of actions to circumvent the blockade, new monetary policies, actions to promote production and the strengthening of social policies and governance (within budgetary limits), which facilitated the conditions for the recovery of GDP and its return to growth from the end of 2021.
In the last quarter of 2021, the economy grew by 14.65%, and cumulative growth for the first three quarters of 2022 was 17.75%. The partial recovery of consumption, the reactivation of economic sectors, and the recovery of banking activities have led to optimistic growth forecasts for 2023, between 5 and 6 points.
The Venezuelan economy was the fastest growing economy in the American continent in 2022, and is forecast to be among the fastest growing economies in 2023 also. According to 18 sources of economic analysis, the Venezuelan GDP will continue to grow.
Although the public budget still suffers from serious shortages, especially for public sector salaries and pensions, the economy has acquired a dynamism that is less dependent on oil income. This must be considered as a result of the contradictions of the asphyxiation of Venezuela’s oil exports.
The possibilities of easing the blockade, especially the agreements approved through licenses granted by the US government to some foreign oil companies in Venezuela for the extraction and commercialization of crude oil improve the prospects, but Maduro has been emphatic in the construction of a “post rentier” economy, focused on the development of other productive chains alternative to oil.
9. Recovery of Venezuela’s international standing
In 2019, almost 60 countries recognized the “interim government,” disavowing President Nicolás Maduro. Three years later, the context had changed dramatically.
The most concrete example of this has occurred at the United Nations (UN), where President Maduro’s diplomatic mission is now widely recognized, and in 2022 only four countries claimed to recognize Juan Guaidó as the head of state of Venezuela.
Additionally, the government of President Maduro has been able to recover its place in international events such as the Ibero-American Summit in Andorra in 2021, and the new Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Mexico in September that year.
During 2022, Venezuela resumed relations with Colombia through an agenda outlined by a clear dynamism. Progressively, in these years, Venezuela has reestablished ties with Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, countries that were members of the ephemeral “Lima Group,” created solely for the purpose of isolating Venezuela in the region.
The year 2022 had a major inflection in Venezuelan foreign policy. President Maduro coordinated the visit of Biden administration officials to Miraflores Palace, studying the feasibility of political and economic détente and overcoming the inertia of stalemate, given that the president has declared the US government as the real force behind the far-right Venezuelan opposition.
In November last year, on the sidelines of the Climate Summit in Egypt, French President Enmanuel Macron addressed Maduro as “president” in an effusive greeting. Macron mediated a meeting between Venezuelan government negotiators and the opposition in Paris, where President Gustavo Petro of Colombia and President Alberto Fernández of Argentina were also present. Macron’s interest has been to promote France’s oil trade activities with Venezuela, a situation that was unthinkable only three years ago.
The processes of retaking the international space on the part of Venezuela are not the result of chance. In reality, it is a process of attrition of the “maximum pressure” agenda against the country. The isolation attempt against Venezuela has weakened at the same pace at which President Maduro has been able to weaken the “interim government.”
President Maduro has been a promoter of the breaking of the consensus on the blockade against Venezuela. He has built, in front of and behind the scenes, many associations and links to promote the country’s position and to make politically unfeasible the continuity of the coercive measures that have been executed against the nation.
In this regard, the ties that Venezuela has managed to maintain with its strategic allies, ties that President Maduro has forged since his work as foreign minister during the Chávez era, have also been key. China, Russia, Turkey, the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), and especially Iran, have been key for Venezuela’s international relations in the most difficult moments.
The president was able to maximize these ties, not only in economic and commercial matters but also in the political arena to position the objective condition of his leadership over the Venezuelan State.
He managed to re-launch Venezuela as an inevitable factor in regional relations and beyond the Western Hemisphere, which de facto disabled many of the destructive conditions imposed through isolationism.
The international “maximum pressure” agenda also failed because the head of the Venezuelan government made it fail.
10. Peace as supreme good
The internal and external attacks against the mandate of President Nicolás Maduro had something in common. All of them have implied, at different levels and categories, the generation of social commotion, the breakdown of social ties, and the creation of chaos in Venezuela.
Forcible elimination of his mandate, and even his life, could mean an inflection—surely incorrigible—of the elementary consensuses governing the country. The abrupt circumstances could have produced a rupture of the institutions, a dissolution of the contentions, and the elementary conditions of social regulation.
If President Maduro had not prevailed, Venezuela would most probably be in (civil) war today.
Thus, a significant milestone in President Maduro’s career has been to have forged peace in the country through his own continuity and having defeated the attempts against his investiture and against the state institutions.
There have been many times when President Maduro has utilized political dialogue, as well as institutional differentiated force and coercive action within the channels of government to maneuver the circumstances.
Every time he has evoked “peace as the supreme good” there has been no exaggeration.
The adverse conditions that Venezuela has had to deal with are atypical and have made the country an atypical place, if seen from an external point of view. It is a country where, despite the economic crisis, there has not been a social revolt. It is a country that has been constantly pushed into civil conflict and has not given in to it. It is a country where politics within the regular channels continues to be transversal in all spaces.
President Maduro has truly been a developer of politics based on dissent, he has created conditions even for those who oppose him and has made these conditions available in all the living and nodal spaces of the country, strengthening all forms of socio-political organization. This also makes Maduro an atypical “dictator,” because he rides the contradictions of politics, takes advantage of them and even promotes them.
Analyzing his methods in depth, it is evident that he recognizes in constructive dialogue an instrument to deactivate violence and win peace.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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