Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Maduro's Strategy is to Wait

Along with everyone else, I wondered what would happen to Juan Guaidó when left Venezuela and then re-entered. We know Nicolás Maduro wants to arrest him, but instead he ignored him, pretending that it is just a normal, glorious Carnaval season where everyone dances on the beach.

That response highlights Maduro's clear strategy, which is to do as little as possible and wait this out. Arrest carries a high risk, both domestically and internationally, and so he refrains even though he desperately wants to. Maduro passed the initial test, which was to survive February 23. He then shifted some oil exports to India, which gives him breathing room even though oil exports are falling precipitously (ironically, Russia is picking up the slack for the United States!). The U.S. backed off threats of armed force.

Maduro assumes that Venezuelans will simply tire of this. Guaidó has to keep the energy up, which thus far he's been able to do, but it's not indefinite. That also keeps the opposition together, because otherwise it would be easy to slip back into infighting, which always works to Maduro's advantage. Plus, Venezuelan deprivation now is connected to U.S. sanctions and Americanization works in Maduro's favor. Nonetheless, more countries are now more deeply involved, which mitigates that.

The Downside of Waiting

Waiting is not risk-free.

First, you can run out of money, or at least a sufficient amount to keep everyone happy. However, there are illicit sources of drug or illegal mining revenue that provide additional cushion. This is the big unknown. We see defections but not of the decision-makers, and we just don't know what they're thinking. At the same time, however, Russia and China will eventually tire of throwing good money after bad.

Second, you can get completely outmaneuvered in every international institution. Guaidó just named outspoken economist Ricardo Hausmann as his representative to the Inter-American Development Bank. There was the infamous shift at the Costa Rican embassy. These will likely increase and can create a contagion effect. It also increases the means by which Guaidó has access to resources (though what he can actually do with them is another matter entirely). Incidentally, this also works against apathy--there are always new developments Guaidó can point to as he tries to rally tired people.

We just don't precedent for this. It is highly uncommon for authoritarian governments to let the main opposition leader to run free within the country. No doubt, Maduro and his supporters point to this as a sign of democracy, whereas it's really just a sign of dysfunction. We have not seen weird parallel governments living together without fighting, not to mention in this economic context. Members of the military are defecting, but notably they are not rising up. In the choice of exit, voice, or loyalty, they are choosing exit rather than voice, which makes them less threatening.

I haven't said anything that anyone who is paying attention doesn't already know. Mostly I am trying to make sense of it for myself. If you want to really boil it down, Guaidó needs to keep up morale and energy, which is difficult. Maduro needs to keep the military on his side, which is difficult. And there we are.


shah8 2:35 AM  

Bottom line, though, is that Guaido has no credibility of his own, and is therefore irrelevant to whether Maduro can keep going on. The running out of money part doesn't really have to do with the other guy.

Moreover, the sense that I'm getting in my personal twitterfeed is a deep and hostile cynicism from folks in third party countries wrt Guaido and his moves. The impact on involved parties' reputation should not be underestimated (or maybe one should attempt to estimate).

Hari 1:46 PM  

As you said, Maduro´s just going to wait it out - and play his cards as well as he can in the meantime, just like Assad has been doing since 2011.

I think Guaido will begin to lose some steam (and also perhaps credibility) the longer the situation remains the same.

One way for the Chavistas to lose money, and quick, is if the US puts pressure on Reliance Industries, which currently buys about 70% or more of all the Venezuelan oil in India. Reliance was pressured into lowering and practically stopping their imports of Iranian oil due to US pressure (Reliance does a lot of business with the US), and the same could happen with Venezuela.

Greg Weeks 8:09 PM  

The India angle is really interesting because it seems like an important lifeline for Maduro. I didn't know about the company.

Hari 10:51 PM  

Besides Reliance, only 1 other company in India buys Venezuelan oil - Nayara Energy (previously Essar Oil, now owned by Russia's Rosneft). Only these 2 private companies have refineries complex enough to easily process Venezuelan crude, without mixing it with lighter grades.

Alfredo 10:48 PM  

It does matter that a large country like India recognizes Maduro as the president of Venezuela....think about that folks...

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP