A coup in Venezuela
It is true what they are saying: a coup is brewing in Venezuela. It started back on December 6, 2015, when the opposition overwhelmingly won the parliamentary elections and wrested the majority in parliament from the chavistas, who had controlled it for more than 15 years.
What is not true it is that it is the opposition that is planning the takeover, as it has no need to when it can get rid of Nicolás Maduro by democratic means, in a convoluted but feasible scenario.
The real overthrow – which they failed to carry out the same day they lost the Parliament, as Diosdado Cabello actually intended – is that being pursued by Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan chavista hierarchy, in not-so-slow motion, advised by Havana, out of their fear of losing power, which could entail many years behind bars for crimes like drug trafficking, extortion, embezzlement, torture, and extrajudicial executions, among others.
From their first maneuvers after the opposition's victory, giving rise to "Community Assemblies," whose purpose was unclear, (as they really serve none), to the hasty appointments of judges loyal to Chávez to fill vacant slots on the Supreme Court, to the hurried proclamation of laws granting the President powers belonging to the Parliament, to the ministers' refusal to be held accountable to the Legislature ... it has been clear that their aim has been to hinder most of the Assembly’s activity, undermine its efficacy and, ultimately, defy the will of the voters, who in the last elections gave it an unquestionable mandate and rebuffed the Executive, which has plunged the country into an almost irreversible spiral of economic, social, political, health and logistical chaos.
Obviously, the shadow of Havana lies over thechavistas and will continue to debilitate the mechanisms of democratic governance and civil society in Venezuela, seeking to gradually stymy efforts to prevent a dictatorship "of the humble, by the humble and for the humble," until there is no chance at all. If there something that the Castro brothers have mastered it is these kinds of underhanded procedures, which they have mercilessly implemented in Cuba since 1959. Ever since then Cubans have suffered and continue to suffer countless difficulties, shortcomings and frustrations, besides a lack of freedom and future prospects. Now Venezuelans have begun to suffer the same kinds of problems, but what do their "enlightened" revolutionary leaders care?
The Supreme Court has declared all the legislative acts of the Venezuelan Parliament null and void in a last-ditch ploy to prevent the opposition from controlling the body and having a "qualified majority" with extensive legislative powers.
The "Poder Electoral," meanwhile, is scrambling to delay the holding of a recall referendum, which Maduro is bound to lose, which would necessitate the holding of new presidential elections. However, if they can put it off until 10 January, 2017, the presidency would automatically pass to the vice-president if Maduro loses, in which case many Venezuelans have concluded that it wouldn't even be worth holding it.
And the "Poder Ciudadano," (Citizens' Power) – composed of the Ombudsman, Attorney General, and the Comptroller General of the Republic – is a mere appendage of the Executive, rendering its contentions that it cannot be hindered or curtailed in the exercise of its duties by any authority ludicrous.
Against this backdrop, what has the Legislative Assembly been able to achieve since it began operating on January 5 of this year? Actually, very little. Opponents of the regime in the legislature – still considered "the opposition" despite their absolute majority in the chamber – are powerless against the plots of the Executive and the Judicial, Electoral and Citizens' powers, controlled by those loyal to el chavismo. And, to make matters even worse, the Government is now threatening, through a pseudo-judicial ruse, to strip opposition deputies of their parliamentary immunity.
By definition, a coup involves a violation of and disregard for constitutional legitimacy, and an attack against the legal mechanisms by which power is legitimately secured and maintained. If the Venezuelan government blocks the recall referendum, and deprives opposition representatives of their immunity, we would be witnessing the dictatorial coup de grace concluding the coup process.
The opposition's last realistic options involve exerting enough pressure to bring about the recall referendum this year, while the Government insists that in no case shall it take place in 2016.
It remains to be seen whether Venezuelans who believe in democracy can save it, along with their country, or whether Havana's will shall prevail, through its comrades in Caracas, and the coup becomes a reality.