Brief memo to my U.S. friends
In the 1960’s and 1970’s the country was approaching the threshold of the first world. Venezuela had an increasingly prosperous middle class, the best physical infrastructure in Latin America and a democracy that had become the showcase of the region. In the mid70’s the Dutch Disease (over-dependence in oil exports) hit the country hard. Democracy deteriorated, becoming a mediocre political oligarchy, a two-party system gobbling up oil income at the expense of the rest of the nation. As population increased the petroleum cake became smaller and popular displeasure set in. By the end of the 1990’s the time was ripe for a drastic change and this allowed Hugo Chavez to come to power.
There is no law that says that change always has to be for the better. This one was not. 14 years of Chavez’s rule have been tragic for the country. One example suffices to illustrate the point: Venezuela is now a deeply divided nation, due to Chavez’s systematic preaching of social and racial hatred. This cleavage is compounded by a chaotic economy, rapidly increasing national debt, very high crime rates and government ineptitude. The country has been falling to pieces.
As a result the approaching presidential elections in Venezuela are no longer a matter of political choices to be made, risk-free, in a stable and civilized national environment. They have become a matter of life or death. We are in crisis and face imminent danger of violence. The reason is that, under the current regime, Venezuela is being transformed from petrostate into a narcostate, involving significant segments of the existing political elite. These people will not surrender power easily, as they know that a new government will act against them.
Friends of Venezuelan democracy: be on the alert, because your help might be urgently needed.