Monday, November 19, 2018

Maduro's Off Ramp, Or Is it?

Patrick Duddy, a former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela who is now at Duke, wrote a blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations about creating an "off ramp" for Nicolás Maduro. He hopes AMLO will play an important role.

While some ex-presidents from around the region have expressed their alarm over what they see as AMLO breaking ranks with those countries advocating for the restoration of democracy, it is possible AMLO’s independent streak may position him to play a decisive part in bringing this agonizing chapter of Venezuelan history to an end. Because he has played no role in recent regional efforts to force change in Venezuela, he may be the one leader acceptable to both the opposition and the Venezuelan government, and thus able to convince the Maduro administration to leave office.
This makes sense to me, but two points need more attention.

First, there is a huge difference between Maduro and "the Maduro administration." The former is an individual and the latter is a large, tightly bound web of corruption that includes the military. I feel like the two get conflated in the post. It is one thing to ease out Maduro, but doing more requires the military, which is not mentioned. AMLO could be up to the former task, but the latter is so much bigger. Anyhow, simply replacing Maduro with another regime figure does not necessarily entail much substantive change.

Second, Duddy writes something I've seen elsewhere: "This situation is not indefinitely sustainable." Well, define "indefinitely." No, it is not sustainable until the end of time, but it is definitely sustainable for quite a long time. Like Fidel Castro's, the regime's demise has been predicted for many years. This brings us back to the military. Robert Mugabe was ousted when the army finally decided it was time. The whole thing might collapse tomorrow but it is not inevitable.


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