Global Thinkers 2024 The New Awakening of Venezuela r

Global Thinkers 2024: The New Awakening of Venezuela r

CARACAS (VENEZUELA) October 23, 2023 – Former MP Maria Corina Machado (d) celebrates with allies and supporters the results of the pre-election commission in Caracas (Venezuela) in the early hours of this Monday. Former MP María Corina Machado is the big winner of the opposition primaries this Sunday in Venezuela, with 93.13% of the votes and 26.06% of the verified records of votes in which Venezuelans voted in the 2024 presidential elections Chavismo. EFE / Miguel Gutierrez


Venezuela is facing profound change. An organized popular movement is mobilizing to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro through legal and institutional means. It is my honor to lead this effort to restore democracy in my country alongside a diverse coalition of citizens, experts, and political and civic leaders.

There is no one in the world who is not aware of my country's spectacular economic collapse. Years of negative growth under the Maduro government have led to staggering poverty and mass migration. Estimates suggest that almost 25% of the population has left the country since 2015. Frankly, no one believes that economic recovery is possible under this corrupt, dictatorial and criminal regime that has been in power for 25 years.

Twenty-five years ago, Venezuela was the richest country in Latin America; Today it is one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. From 2012 to 2022, GDP fell by a whopping 75% and shows no signs of bottoming out. The bolívar, Venezuela's national currency, has experienced unprecedented devaluation, leading to hyperinflation reminiscent of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe in 2008, and Hungary and Greece in the 1920s. End of the Second World War.

Due to Maduro's economic mismanagement, Venezuela's healthcare system is in shambles: more than 60% of hospitals lack drinking water. Our education system is collapsing. Teachers earn an average of $20 per month and public school students attend classes only twice a week.

This grim reality is the direct result of “21st century socialism” ushered in by Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez. The regime created by Chávez relies on predatory and parasitic practices to survive and has therefore gone to great lengths to protect its enduring power, for example by seizing control of the judiciary and silencing independent media.

Under Maduro's leadership, the regime has expropriated wealthy companies and driven them to ruin. He has eliminated well-paying private sector jobs, expanded government bureaucracy, grossly mismanaged the state oil company PDVSA, and irresponsibly increased public spending, causing the national debt to skyrocket to over 200% of GDP. The country's enormous oil revenues, which amounted to more than $1 trillion between 1999 and 2019, have been squandered or stolen.

To compound Venezuela's challenges, both Chávez and Maduro cultivated ties with countries such as Russia, Iran, China and Cuba, whose geopolitical interests clash with those of Western liberal democracies. These countries have little to offer economically other than their desire to buy oil at discount rates. Likewise, the regime has angered Venezuela's neighbors by allying with drug cartels and Colombian guerrilla groups. There are also Islamic terrorist groups that appear to have gained ground in Venezuela with the tacit approval of the government.

For a long time, Venezuelans felt overwhelmed by the brutality of the regime and the daily struggle to support their families. But the current hour of public protests represents an unprecedented opportunity. Polls consistently show that Venezuelans are among the most ardent supporters of democracy in Latin America. Unable to restart the economy or win popular support, Maduro's authoritarianism is increasingly faltering.

Change could come sooner than many think. Faced with Chavismo's economic and political failures, Venezuelans have set their sights on an ambitious path – constitutional, peaceful and electoral – towards freedom and prosperity. On October 22, I was elected as the opposition's presidential candidate in a primary election. Despite the regime's efforts to disrupt the process, we in the opposition are determined to achieve the election of a unified and legitimate leadership.

A credible leader with proven popular support would be able to maintain effective cooperation with the international community and create incentives for all key stakeholders to support Venezuela's democratic transition. This change would shift the balance of power and force the Maduro regime to engage in constructive and pragmatic dialogue.

If the presidential elections were held today, scheduled for the end of 2024 according to the Venezuelan constitution, it would be very likely that I would defeat Maduro in a landslide. For this reason, Maduro illegally and arbitrarily banned me from holding public office for 15 years. But this decision only encourages support for my cause.

Our defense of an electoral path to power is not naive. We are all clear that the current conditions in Venezuela do not allow for free and fair elections. To do this, several conditions must be met; The most urgent thing is that the bans imposed on me and other opposition leaders be lifted. Likewise, the release of political and military prisoners is generally seen as a prerequisite. However, to convince the regime that it must meet these conditions, it is important to find the right combination of incentives and guarantees.

We firmly believe that orderly democratization is more feasible than ever, and we are determined to make the most of this unique opportunity. By optimizing the use of our hydrocarbon reserves, developing a reliable and competitive supplier, and leveraging our enormous potential for hydropower, wind, solar and hydrogen production, Venezuela could become a leading energy center in the Americas.

If we win, our goal is to establish Venezuela as a reliable ally of Western liberal democracies and to encourage the millions of Venezuelans who have fled to return to their homeland. Your skills, knowledge and experience are needed to help rebuild our great country.

I call on the international community to give Venezuelans the support they need. We will not give up on our intention to bring about a democratic transition; Victory is within our reach.

* María Corina Machado was a member of Venezuela's National Assembly and co-founder of Súmate, an election monitoring organization based in Caracas.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2023.