Published On: Mon, May 30th, 2016

It hardly matters who is in power in Venezuela

Jacob Gelt DekkerPresident Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela is still in power in spite of all speculations, forecasts, and predictions. Under a veil of institutional legality, he and his junta managed to cling to the throne, even years after the death of predecessor and charismatic leader, Hugo Chavez, and the Bolivarian Revolution. But does it really matter?

Whether Maduro, or his opponent leader of the opposition, Capriles, is in charge, the economic woes of the oil-rich nation cannot be solved by any knight in shining armor, appearing on the stage as a Messiah, who will set all wrongs right.

Venezuela, once the envy of South America for its abundance in food production, industry, academic level of sophistication and world's largest oil reserves, is bankrupt. Its citizens are hungry and out of a job, and whatever remains is in the grip of super inflation and a rapidly growing shadow economy of barter, bootlegging, and organized crime.

The remedy for Venezuela's ills is simple; Venezuelans have to go back to production, to growing food, to manufacturing products, goods, and services. The addiction to oil revenue turned this once so productive nation into a country of freeloaders, profiteers, opportunists and criminals.

With more than 70% of its consumption from import, the monthly bill is so hefty, and the low oil revenue prices no longer generate enough cash to cover the expenses. Instead of going back to work and production, Maduro ordered the country to a two-and -a-half-day workweek, crippling the lame production even further.

Somehow, and to the surprise of many, the country is not revolting, and life goes on. The shadow economy has become the new norm. "Exchanging- goods" is what everybody does to stay alive. Crime is no longer prosecuted, so the powerful win in a vacuum of anarchy. Somewhat similar, was the FARC revolution/ civil war in Colombia, which was able to operate in a vacuum for more than fifty years.

Today's Venezuela may partially collapse, encounter violence and chaos, but the trend is set, Venezuelans are never going back to productivity the old way. They have seen the glitter of gold and will increasingly become more and more opportunistic. It is the new normal.

The ABC islands will rather see an increase in the dollar-generating businesses of narco-trafficking and money laundering, than massive refugee migration. The islands seem totally unprepared for such a new neighbor and think more European, in terms of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. Trial an error will shape a new reality eventually.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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