Is Maduro a Dictator?

Mike Pence, vice president of the USA: “Nicolás Maduro is a dictator without legitimate power.”

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Mike Pence, vice president of the USA:

“Nicolás Maduro is a dictator without legitimate power.”

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States:

“The dictatorship of Venezuela must be overturned.”

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia:

“Maduro is a legitimate president”.

Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba:

“Nicolás is a constitutional president.”

Supporters and detractors of the current Venezuelan president have been trying for hours to convince the world that they, and not those in front of them, are right. That the punch on the board given by the opponent Juan Guaidó, self-proclaimed new president, was necessary as water of May or, on the other hand, is a perversion of the game, a coup d’état.

Some argue that in the country with the most oil reserves in the world, democracy is over, that there is no clean government, that power is exercised above the law, there is no separation of powers and fundamental freedoms and rights are not respected. . Opponents insist that Venezuela is governed by a president who has left the polls legally, is a country that has opposition parties, there are dissenting voices with official representation, critical press and mobilizations in the streets.

Is it then a Maduro dictator? Is it a Venezuela dictatorship? What elements make them one thing or the other?

For Carlos Malamud, principal investigator of Latin America of the Elcano Royal Institute, everything depends on the nuances that are added to the definition of “dictatorship”, which can be many and varied, “but a person who twists the legislation at will, according to it comes to him in favor, that appeals to the absolute repression against all that that rises up against his will and that, on top, does not admit any type of dialogue with the opposition, not even that the constitutional mechanisms work, evidently he is a dictator “.

In his opinion, the situation in Venezuela under Maduro’s government had been “complicated” for years, but what “triggered” a situation that escaped classic democratic standards was how the result of the 2015 legislative elections was addressed, that they gave a “broad parliamentary majority” to the opposition Democratic Unification Table, which allowed it to take control of the National Assembly, the Chamber now headed by Guaidó. “At that time, the government devised a maneuver to not recognize three indigenous deputies, which subtracted from the opposition the qualified majority necessary to call a recall referendum, which Maduro has systematically refused,” he explains from Madrid.

“If we add to this the call for a totally illegal Constituent Assembly [a kind of Chamber in parallel to the Assembly], which theoretically was going to write a new Constitution and that still continues to be done, you do not know what… And with justice completely subordinated to the will of Maduro, evidently that is a dictatorship”, insists the analyst.

A person who twists the legislation at will, as he pleases, which appeals to absolute repression against anyone who dares rise up against their will and who, above, does not admit any kind of dialogue with the opposition, not even that constitutional mechanisms work, it is obviously a dictator.

Malamud recalls that an essential pillar of democracies is the separation of powers, which is not given, he says, in Venezuela. There was a legislative election that won the opposition, “but from then on, mechanisms were devised to reduce the possibility that the legislative chamber would have the power to sanction those activities and positions that interested it. More: once the victory of the opposition in the National Assembly was completed, and before it took office, “forcing too much interpretation of the legislation, the outgoing Assembly, which was still controlled by the ruling party, appointed a series of judges of the Court Supreme, with which that power was totally in the hands of the Government, when who would have corresponded to appoint the magistrates would have been to the new Assembly “.

In Venezuela there are elections. The last presidential ones, for example, were in May, ahead of schedule. It was in this month of January when Maduro has taken possession of his second term, which ends in 2025. Are not the elections in the country democratic? Elcano researcher says that “in principle” should be, “but we must take into account a series of conditions.” First, that everything that the “electoral power” calls, the court and the body that controls the electoral processes, “is also controlled by the Government,

with which the result is clearly conditioned. “The European Union already said, before these elections, that they did not respond to the” minimum international standards. “The second condition is that” there are mechanisms to force the vote, especially of public officials. , on the one hand, and of the sectors that receive official assistance, on the other. “And the third, he continues, would be the” repression “and the” cornering “of the opposition.

“There is an additional fact that speaks of Venezuelans are not absolutely equal elections: we start from the fact that the last presidential elections were held many months ahead of schedule, in an unprecedented call and outside the established deadlines (…) This was done precisely with the aim of preventing a deterioration of the internal situation from being translated into an electoral result contrary to the interests of the Government.The fact of clearly advancing the elections speaks of an Executive who plays with advantage in all fronts, which obviously reduces the legitimacy of the electoral process, “he says.

In a dictatorship there are usually no opposition parties or the possibility of going to the polls. Yes in Venezuela, but “it’s a miracle,” denounces Malamud. “There is a systematic persecution of opposition leaders, many are in jail, mostly in exile, persecuted or in hiding, and this obviously complicates things, they are prohibited from accessing any type of economic aid. coming from abroad, which drowns them economically, prevents them from publicizing their positions legitimately, it is not a race matched, “he says.

And there are other essential rights, he says, that also suffer, such as freedom of the press, with newspapers that close due to lack of paper, due to the economic crisis, which are relegated to a simple digital edition. “But also in this field we have seen, on repeated occasions, how the Government, using its mechanisms, made it difficult to access the websites where these editions were posted, if we add to that an increasing control of television and radio stations. , by the Government and related sectors, the situation is very clear, “he concludes.

Chaotic Authoritarianism

For Anna Ayuso, principal investigator for Latin America at the CIDOB international relations research center, there has been a “clear process of democratic involution” in Venezuela, whose turning point coincides with the victory of the legislatures on the part of the opponents of Chavismo and last year’s presidential elections.

“From there, we can speak not a military dictatorship, but an autocracy, there is no longer a liberal democracy because plural elections have been eliminated, it is not a state of law because neither the separation of powers nor a subject to the law by the public authorities, and there is also a situation of repression against the opposition, “he explains from Barcelona.

Last summer, Ayuso published an analysis – along with professor Susanne Gratius – in which she describes the situation as “chaotic authoritarianism”, because “it is an authoritarianism in which there is not only a central power, but a set of powers that are This is why it is not a dictatorship to be used, but a dictatorship with a series of sectors that have appropriated the institutions. ” In his opinion, after the majority entrance of the opponents in the National Assembly, “the whole democratic apparatus has been dismantled”, until arriving at the demonstrations of these days.

Reviewing the basic points of the democracies, he repeats as Malamud that separation of powers “simply is not” and that it can not be affirmed that the elections in the country have been as clear as they should be. “It can not be said that there are no elections, of course, but they do not have the guarantees of plurality or reliability required, we are talking about that there is not really a democratic quality”. He pleads for resorting to “more demanding” definitions, which are not left only in the box of there are or no elections, but define what those elections are like. “And, in that case, a liberal democracy, with a rule of law, does not exist in Venezuela at the moment,” he sums up.

We can speak not a military dictatorship, but an autocracy, there is no longer a liberal democracy because plural elections have been eliminated, it is not a state of law because neither the separation of powers nor a subjection to the law is respected. the public powers, and there is also a situation of repression against the opposition
Ayuso points out that the leadership of the country’s judicial power “has practically been named” by the government and the prosecution “also”. “There is nothing of autonomy,” he laments. That, as far as the judicial power.

“Voice in the street does have, unlike in other dictatorships, that is true, in others there is no freedom of expression, it is not true that there is not in Venezuela, there is more than in other places, although it is also true that the media have been restricted by means of drowning them economically, of buying them, that is undeniable, as there are political prisoners, “he says.

What can happen?

Malamud and Ayuso agree that it is complicated to set the stage in Venezuela a few days after the turn of Guaidó. The researcher of the Elcano Royal Institute recognizes that the situation is “very changeable”, although “the situation has accelerated considerably” with the step taken by the self-proclaimed president and the cascade of support that has generated its passage.

“I think we are at the beginning of the beginning of the end, possibly, but the question is how to reach that end, and everything depends on the position adopted by the army.” We have already seen that a good part of the commanders support the Government; see if in the middle, intermediate and low sectors there is a position taken in favor of the opposition or not, but it is also worrisome the existence of the so-called collective, paramilitary sectors that strongly support the Government, “he adds.

On that flank there could be some attempt at civil war, although for now it rules out a war scenario, “because among other things the people and the opposition sectors do not have weapons at the moment”. What is clear, it abounds, is that the transition can be complicated. “The process of getting Chavomadism out of power is going to be very hard, it could be very bloody, except that by a miracle of nature Maduro and his family decide to voluntarily give a step to the side, which at the moment is far from occurring” , predicts.

Ayuso also emphasizes what the military does and “to what extent the control of the situation by the Armed Forces is maintained”. “Obviously, there will be many pressures from many places out there, it’s all almost too quiet, that means there are negotiations going on there, at least it seems that there is no intention of using force. negative and an excuse for an intervention There will be an attempt by Maduro, I think, to let the situation rot, little by little isolate and divide the opposition, “he concludes.