A Change towards More Authoritarianism in Venezuela

The appointment of Tareck El Aissami as Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela can only be useful to close the already small spaces for a political solution to the crisis in the country

The changes made by President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday are not a simple reshuffling of his government or having other members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) hold ministerial posts. The appointment of Tareck El Aissami as vice president only aims to increase repression and close, even further, the already small spaces for a political solution to the crisis in the country. It will also contribute to an increase in internal strife within the chavismo political movement.

His political action all these years has been linked to sectarianism, to aggression towards those thinking differently, to intolerance. Maduro assigned him the task of improving citizen security and increase the fight against the country’s ultra-right, who happen to be all those opposing Maduro’s political project.

With regard to citizen security, the new vice president has already failed in the two public offices he has held so far. First as Minister of Interior and Justice and subsequently as governor of Aragua state, a region where crime in any of its versions breaks the law with total impunity.

The appointment of El Aissami is also a way to give him a place in the presidency that would help Maduro in his internal war against PSUV fellow party member Diosdado Cabello, Venezuela’s second most powerful individual after the President. It seems that the new vice president had been performing the governmental duties of Cabello in recent times – for example, they both acted jointly against a presidential referendum last year ordering judges of the Supreme Court to suspend it –, a reason for which Maduro may be attempting to get him out of his way with this move.

The return of Elías Jaua to the cabinet also can be interpreted as a way of bringing him closer to the position of Maduro, despite the fact that they have always been in tune with each other. Capt. Francisco Ameliach said in October of last year that if Maduro ever lost the recall referendum Cabello would be the presidential candidate of chavismo, a claim that was immediately refuted by Jaua from Ecuador saying that the candidate of chavismo would always be Maduro.

With Jaua and Erika Farías, who was appointed Minister of Urban Agriculture on Wednesday, it can be said that the so-called "Francisco de Miranda Front" is well represented in Maduro’s cabinet. Ramón Lobo and Hugbel Roa could be used as wild cards by El Aissami, because they both come from a student movement at the University of The Andes, the largest public university in the Venezuelan Andes. Who did not make it to Maduro’s cabinet was Cabello, and according to Rocío San Miguel, a local lawyer and head of NGO Control Ciudadano (Citizen Control), the new members of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces appointed on Wednesday are not fond of Cabello, either. So, is it game over for Cabello?

Another fact made evident with the announcements of Maduro on Wednesday is the little importance given to both the Parliament (aka National Assembly) and decentralization. The Parliament was never important for chavismo with the flurry of enabling laws that have been passed being a proof of that. Today the Government ignores its decisions and takes away its powers, making a mockery of the decision of all Venezuelans who voted for an opposition majority in December of last year, in addition to the fact that it can’t even control it.

The case of governors from chavismo removed from office to make them ministers or vice presidents proves that what matters to them is the concentration of power in the Miraflores presidential palace, and if it were up to them they would go back to the past when governors were exclusively appointed by the President. In other words, popular vote is something that bothers them especially when the PSUV is no longer majority.

The changes announced on Wednesday suggest that the model that has Venezuela in a state of chaos, with the highest inflation rate in the world, undersupplied and at the mercy of dangerous criminals will be maintained and, probably, will deepen, which will lead to greater social and political conflict. Bad start to the year for Venezuela, indeed.

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