Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Why there will not be a coup in Venezuela now?

 Because, there is no American embassy in Caracas now. 

According to a statement attributed to former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, there is no coup in US because there is no American embassy in Washington DC.

In 2002, when there was a coup in which President Chavez was overthrown, there was American embassy in Caracas. Not only that. The office of the US Defence Attache was located within the Venezuelan military headquarters. After the coup, Chavez threw them out. 

Today 11 April is the anniversary of the 2002 Coup. 

I was in Caracas as Indian ambassador on 11 April 2002. Before the coup, there were demonstrations in front of the embassy and the residence of the ambassador when a few free lance Indian technicians were hired by PDVSA to run some essential technical operations. The Venezuelans wrote on the walls of the embassy, " How can the country of Gandhi support Chavez's dictatorship". But when I told the demonstrators that the technicians were not sent by the Indian government and that they were recruited by PDVSA directly through their own channels, the crowd dispersed peacefully.

The coup succeeded because the opposition and the Big brother were able to persuade some Generals to change sides. Before that, the pro-opposition and pro-US oil company (PDVSA) executives went on a strike stopping the production and exports of oil and prepared the ground for the coup. The generals who ditched Chavez were promised share in the power, amnesty to collaborators and an orderly transition. But as soon as Pedro Carmona, the US-backed businessman took over as interim President, he abolished the constituition, dissolved the legimately elected assembly and unleashed persecution of Chavistas. Carmona went back on the promise of sharing power to the military. This made the generals angry and they were afraid of mistreatment by the new regime. So, the Generals brought Chavez back in 48 hours and detained Carmona. It was all over in two days.

Initially, Chavez was repentant, introspective and even forgiving. But the opposition, having failed to unseat Chavez democratically or otherwise, went back to their Northern Patron and continued their conspiracies. Chavez wanted to teach a lesson to those oligarchic political and business leaders as well as the PDVSA executives and middle class which supported them. He sacked 15000 employees of PDVSA and filled the company with Chavistas who were incompetent and corrupt. He started systematic and ruthless destruction of the business, industry, economy and the society. When he died in Havana, the Cubans advised him to nominate Maduro as his successor. Maduro does not have the smartness, grassroot support, charisma and leadership quality. The Cubans preferred the manageable and incompetent Maduro over the clever Diosdado Cabello, the strongest leader after Chavez even now. 

The only point of interest for Indians is that Maduro is a Sai Baba follower. He has been to Puttaparthi a few times. 

Maduro is not running the country like Chavez, Saddam Hussain, Qaddafi or Noriega. He is just a figure head. The country is run by a collective of Chavistas and Military people. Most of them are corrupt. They realise that they would be punished if the opposition comes to power. They remember the 2002 experience. The only way to get them out of power is to offer general amnesty to all of them (several thousands) in the same way as Pinochet and the military dictatorship in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay got away with their atrocious crimes against their own people. The crimes of Maduro regime are much smaller in comparison to what the Chilean, Argentine and Brazilian dictators did.

If the US invades, the armed Chavistas and many military people will put up a fierce fight and cause bloodshed including those of the invaders. Even if Maduro is kidnapped from his palace as done in the case of Noriega, the others will fight. That’s why the Iraq, Libya and Panama model of regime change will not work in Venezuela.

Yesterday, the US Vice President Mike Pence spoke in the UN Security Council seeking UN recognition of Guaido and derecognition of Maduro. This is a clear indication that the US has not been able to do the regime change unilaterally or with its 'coalition of the willing'. US goes to UN only when it realises its limitation.

The attempt of US to get UN recognition of Guaido will fail because China and Russia will veto in UNSC in favour of Venezuela. And in the UN general Assembly, not many countries will support Guaido.

And there was Raul Castro who addressed the same UNSC meeting asking US to keep its hands off Venezuela. It is a powerful message from a country which has survived US invasion, many CIA plots and odious sanctions. In fact it is the Cubans who have been advising Maduro how to survive, based on their own remarkable and courageous experience.

Despite all the bravado of Trump, Marco Rubio and Elliot Abrams who threatened even military invasion, Guaido remains as the paper president while Maduro has checkmated him and his external supporters.

China made a mockery of Guaido recognition by InterAmerican development bank by refusing visa for Guaido nominee to IADB. OAS has given recognition because of the secretary general Luis Almagro, the Uruguayan who has sold his soul to Uncle Sam and has been taking blatantly partisan approach to Maduro regime. The Uruguayan government has disowned him. although he was a respected foreign minister during the government of President Mujica.

Putin's despatch of military advisors to Venezuela has emboldened the Maduro regime and surprised the US, complicating the American calculations.

But the US can strangle the Venezuelan economy and worsen the misery for the government and people by its ongoing and future sanctions on oil production and exports as well as other clandestine sabotage. The Maduro regime has no clues as to how to stop the hyper inflation (running in 5-6 digits), increase oil production and exports, stabilise the exchange rate and reset the economy. Those around Maduro are intensifying their stealing government money left and right, since they do not know how long the regime would last.

The only solution is to bring Maduro and the Opposition to the negotiating table and put pressure on them to reach an agreement for holding an internationally supervised election. Mexico and Uruguay advocate this course. But Maduro will come to the table only after iron-clad amnesty to all the military and Chavistas.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Indio meets Indiano.

Indio meets Indiano.

First civilisational and historic encounter between a native Latin American Indian President and the original Indian President.

When I met Evo in La Paz on 10 August 2006, he embraced me saying, " tambien Indio" ( brother I am also an Indian)

Evo Morales is the first native Indian in South America to become President. Under his presidency since 2006, Bolivia has achieved unprecedented democratic stability, economic growth, poverty alleviation and social equality. His priority agenda has been emancipation and empowerment of the native Indians who were discriminated ruthlessly for five hundred years. Native Indians form 60 percent of the population.

In the Bolivian history, Evo Morales is the longest serving President for three terms since 2006. Bolivia has never had such a long period of political stability as it has experienced in the last thirteen years. Bolivia had been notorious for coups and political instability. 36 of the 83 governments in the past had lasted a year or less. Between 2001 and 2005 there were five Presidents.

Evo won the elections despite the overt preventive intervention and conspiracies of US and its oligarchic allies in Bolivia. He stood upto even his friend President Lula and got a better price for the gas exports to Brazil. 

Although the west has labelled him as a radical leftist, Morales has managed the economy prudently, pragmatically and successfully. A report of UNDP has put Bolivia as the most successful in reducing poverty in the last decade in Latin America.He has financed his pro-poor programmes with the increase in revenue from exports, taxes and better financial management. He has ensured fiscal surplus every year since 2006. The GDP of Bolivia has grown an average of five percent since he assumed presidency in 2006. In 2018, the growth rate was 4.4% and it is projected at 4.3% in 2019. This is much higher than the average growth of Latin America at 1.1% in 2018 and forecast of 1.7% in 2019.The foreign exchange reserves are comfortable at 8.5 billion dollars. External debt is reasonable at 12.8 billion. Exchange rate is stable and predictable. The inflation of the country which in the eighties had touched five digits has been brought down to single digit under the presidency of Morales. Inflation in 2018 was a commendable 1.3%. Financial Times has said, ' Mr Morales may well be Latin America's most successful socialist presidents ever'.

Evo lives a simple life without any ostentation. He has not enriched himself with properties or business. He is a bachelor and dedicates his full energy and time for the country. Coming from a poor Aymara Indian family, he could not afford college education. He started off his political career as a coca leaf workers trade unionist. He loves playing football even as President.

During the visit of the Indian President 28-30 March, the two governments signed a number of agreements for cooperation. India has announced a credit of 100 million dollars.

India-Bolivia bilateral trade in 2018 was an impressive 863 million dollars. India's exports were 100 million dollars and imports 763 million. Bolivia has emerged as the seventh largest supplier of gold with 760 million dollars out of the total Indian global imports of 32 billion dollars.

A Telugu film " Sarrainodu" starring Allu Arjun was shot in Bolivia (salar de uyuni) in March 2016.

The only regrettable episode in Indo-Bolivian reactions was the failed investment project by Navin Jindal in the Mutun iron mining project in Bolivia. He had announced plan to invest 2 billion dollars in the iron ore mining and in a steel plant. He had spent about 20 million dollars. But when the Bolivian government realised that Jindal had no intention to invest in the steel plant, they cancelled the contract and encashed the guarantee. The case is before arbitration for release of the guarantee money. More information on this in

Bolivia has one of the largest Lithium reserves in the world. Indian companies and government have shown interest in Lithium mining.

The only problem with Evo is that he has not groomed any native Indian successor. He plans to contest for the fourth term in the October 2019 elections. The Constitution framed by Evo Morales himself had imposed term limits. He tried a referendum in 2016 asking the voters if he could run for a fourth term. The voters rejected it. Later, the Supreme Court has overruled the constitution allowing unlimited presidential terms. 

Evo is leading in the opinion polls and could win. But this will cause a dent in his democratic credentials. In any case, it is a slippery road to hubris and disaster as seen in the cases of   Chavez and Ortega. 

Hope Panchamama, the Andean goddess, guides Evo Morales in the right direction..