The people of Venezuela don’t want Maduro as president. In fact, the opposition has been a majority since 2002, but the regime has stolen the elections to hold on to power. In the parliamentary elections on Dec 6, 2015, the opposition won an absolute majority but only because the military threatened a coup d’état if the regime stole more votes than required to hold on to just under one third of the seats.
However, since then the executive has made it abundantly clear that it has no intention of respecting the parliament or the laws it passes, and has ordered the supreme court to strip the parliament of its powers. At the same time the regime continues its blatant violations of human rights, amounting to prima facie crimes against humanity, for instance the butchering on 28 persons in a mining town and the parading of the chopped up corpses in town to saw fear. Witnesses say that this was done by the governor’s police force.
Non-violent struggle could have been effective but it is failing in Venezuela for lack of resources. It is impossible to rally enough people because of lack of basic resources for communication, such as paper and ink for flyers. The rallying cries only reach a small minority, and most of them stay away out of fear. Social media have been stifled too, by a law making it illegal forwarding the messages from the non-violent resistance.
After a decade of harsh punishment for any dissent, the fear is deeply engrained. The punishment is a matter of life or death. Just yesterday an acquaintance died 5 days after running out of medicine. The regime is withholding medicines and urgent medical care from dissidents. This amounts to a genocide of political opponents. A Holodomor by starvation is also being executed, but with less success: The regime has tried to ration the food like Staling did in Ukraine in the winter of 1932, but Venezuela is a tropical country with harvests year-round in less than two months from sowing, so it’s hard to starve its people to death.
One of the reasons why Gene Sharp developed the non-violent method as an alternative was because it would be cheaper and more feasible, lacking access to weapons. However, in Venezuela the regime has managed to all but eliminate the availability of resources for non-violent struggle, while at the same time inundating the country with weapons. It has the world’s highest murder rate, and most of it is by handguns. The slum is full of weapons. They have told me it’s easier to buy military explosives in the slum than it is to buy food!
This combination of utter despair, and the armed struggle being relatively more feasible in relation to non-violent struggle, means that the balance has shifted. The non-violent struggle in 2014 was beat down by hard military force. The Venezuelan people had to make a strategic retreat in order to arm themselves. Unless the regime sees the fiery script in the sky and dramatically changes strategy, war is probably coming to a South American country near you pretty soon.