I guess it's time to talk Venezuela.
Everybody else is pretending to be an expert on the country, so I guess having been born there 35 years ago and having spent 5 weeks there in 2 trips over the last year makes me a Super Duper Senior Expert.
Here's something that might surprise you. The problem with Venezuela is that it's too far to the right.
I know all you've seen over the past 15 years are images of this crazy commie Chavez and his comrade Castro posing together in red guayaberas. (You see dropping a long spanish word enhances my credentials as an expert.) But out of the Mercosur countries I've visited (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay), Venezuela is by far the least "Leftist."
What Chavismo has done is take a country that was practically a US colony hemorrhaging its wealth into the pockets of a few capitalist extremists and build some sort of a structure to stop that. This "socialist" structure took some of the money that was ending up in Private Banks in Miami (and to a smaller extent in abandoned Million dollar mansions in remote Lebanese villages) and spent it in areas that fall outside Caracas' business center.
It's quite ironic that they're calling the protesters in Venezuela "Students," because Venezuelans of all ages are now "students" thanks to aggressive Chavismo investments in education for all. You see the CIA sponsored rulers of Venezuela in the and 1980's and 1990's saw that Venezuelan money is better spent in building skyscrapers in a US city to boost its economy than to build hospitals and provide the basic needs to a very impoverished native population.
I wonder where else in the world the native wealth is being used to boost the colonizers' economies (and football rosters). Hmmm.
In order to break with the US, Hugo Chavez struck deals with many "enemies of socialism" (even absorbed some of them into his party) because frankly gaining political independence from the US required to have big business on his side. This truce with the Venezuelan capital and the fact that US buys a shit load of Venezuelan oil meant that Venezuela was not economically independent from the US, and that has been the ongoing battle over the past 15 years.
Over the years, Chavez was making gains on that front, and the US was trying everything to disrupt his progress including a failed coup attempt.
Last year, Chavez died.
Some of the capitalist old guard whom Chavez had domesticated smelled blood and saw an opportunity to pounce on a "raw" Maduro. The opposition naturally saw it as now or never, and of course Washington had an Oboner.
Over the past year, the Chavistas with Maduro at the helm came under attack from every front possible. I will skip boring details and jump to this week's events. Before that, let me just point out one tactic that was used as it was used in Lebanon before and it might be used again in the future if anyone attempts to liberate the Lebanese economy.
When Rafiq Hariri rollsed royced into Beirut as a savior in the early 1990's, bankers' speculation pushed the black market exchange rate for the Lebanese Lira to 3000LL for 1USD. Rafiq Hariri's solution, after street protests forced Omar Karami's cabinet to resign, was to peg the Lira to the USD. To put it simply, the Lebanese Lira today is under foreign occupation.
Black market speculation–along with high inflation rates–over the past year has pushed the exchange rate for the Venezuelan Bolivar from around 8 Bolivars for 1USD to to over 80 today. Venezuela needs a Harvard-educated savior.
15 years of Chavismo failed at creating a self-sufficient economy that would be immune from US banks. It is still a heavily consumerist society that produces very little. It has also failed at combatting crime that has plagued Venezuela forever. The Venezuelan government has also always been very corrupt. It's hard to tell if corruption increased or decreased over the Chavez years, because for some reason these numbers aren't tracked by government.
But today's protests aren't about any of that.
Ciudad Guayana in the east of Venezuela best illustrates what's going on. It is a city that's divided into 2 parts: The slums of San Felix, and the malls and gated communities of Puerto Ordaz. For a whole week, tens of protesters (at night the number goes down to a handful) blocked a main road in Puerto Ordaz that houses a Wendy's and a TGI Friday's. A few other protesters tweeted rebellious selfies with signs inside the Orinokia Mall which is two blocks away. They want the "Dictator" out.
Yesterday, ruling party thugs cleared the street. The pictures filled the media. Venezuelans sitting on their computers in Miami retweeted them.
In San Felix, people go about their daily life. They patiently stand in breadlines…and butterlines…and cooking oil lines. No one protested. No roads were blocked by "students". No retweets. They know very well how 15 years ago they only dreamt of being "students" and having a main road reach them so they can one day block it. But it won't be today, because unlike on twitter: Life here is real.