To read Part II, click here

So…there might have just been a military coup in Venezuela.

Not hard to see the justification. The economic policies of the now-deceased Hugo Chavez largely destroyed what used to be the breadbasket of the northern half of South America as one as the most sophisticated energy firms of the developing world: PDVSA. Under Chavez’s successor, current(?) President Nicholas Maduro, the degradation has accelerated. Foreign airlines no longer serve the market and most foreign contractors across all sectors have left due to non-payment, and the destruction of the country’s economic cores combined with a level of graft that would even make Russian oligarchs blush (briefly) has become so entrenched the country is in the early stages of a civilizationally-crushing famine. Something like one-sixth of the population has already fled and at least two-thirds of those who remain are malnourished. The Maduro government has largely abrogated the country’s constitution, run sham elections and largely kept the country’s opposition parties out of the halls of power.

Put simply, the place is ready to blow. And it just might be blowing.

Last week a shadow assembly of opposition groups labelled Maduro a usurper. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Feb 22 formally recognized that assertion.

On Jan 21* there was a definite coup attempt by the National Guard. It was stopped and the government arrested the leadership.

On Jan 23 opposition leader – Juan Guiado – unilaterally declared himself the interim Venezuelan president. Shortly thereafter, U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guiado’s claim to power.

Perhaps most importantly, while the military isn’t saying anything, riot police are guarding – not dispersing – anti-government protestors. Where the military comes down on this will ultimately prove whether this is a true change, or just the start of another massacre.

I cannot overstate how something like this has been a long time coming. Between Chavez and Maduro the Venezuelan system – politically, economically, and culturally – has degraded from being one of Latin America’s most successful and vibrant to among its most dysfunctional. But a coup today hardly means the country is through the worst.

Far from it, this is where things get very, very bad.

*I wrote this in three minutes flat, so I got the date wrong and listed as Feb 21 originally.

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