By Beatriz E Rangel
2018 ends with Latin America trapped between hope and despair. Hope is nurtured by the change of guard in Brazil which seems to be biased in favor of freedom. Given the geopolitical significance of Brazil most analysts expect a big democratic push in the region. Another source of hope is the fragmentation process that is beginning to affect the Cuban Gerontocratic leadership. To be sure the surviving members of what could be dubbed the Cuartel Moncada team are few, are sick and have trouble discharging their responsibilities. The younger generation on its part is influenced by two growing trends.
First, most of the youth’s ultimate dream is to move to Miami. They thus are no candidates to fight for the revolution. On the contrary, their life is a continuing search for ties with their relatives that have settled in Florida or anywhere in the US. Second ,there is what could be dubbed the invisible work of the development elves. These are members of the last layer of Cuban diaspora in the US. They have seen in the opening created by the Obama Administration an opportunity to develop businesses with Cuba while helping their relatives that live there.
They thus travel periodically carrying cards to recharge phones which they sell at a fraction of what the government in Havana charges. Modems and all kinds of communication devices also enter Cuba periodically without the knowledge of the government nomenclature. And slowly and silently this micro trade is changing political attitudes vis-à-vis the regime. It further is opening spaces to freedom given that beneficiaries cease to depend from government supplies to survive. Ms Rosa Maria Paya is capitalizing on this growing constituency of wealth creators. This elicits from her wisdom to realize that liberating Cuba demands that political campaigns be fought in Havana while economic change is induced from Miami.
Despair however persists when analysts turn their sight Argentina, to Nicaragua and the mother of all tragedies: Venezuela. In Argentina a pro freedom administration has had to endure all kinds of planted political and economic bombs left by Mrs Cristina Kirchner. The cleanup has entailed sacrifices to a population anesthetized by subsidies. As fiscal equilibrium demanded the end of subsidies, Argentinean middle classes suffered a reduction in their standard of living. Ms Kirchner now is banking on the artificially created sense of wellbeing that prevailed during her administration to come back to power.
In Nicaragua Daniel Ortega has been able to survive a strong civic protest that started in April thanks to the support of the Nicaraguan business community that would rather continue to extract rent than to create wealth. In Venezuela, a collapsing economy is whipping way a whole generation that will fail to realize its full intellectual potential due to famine and disease which are the weapons used by the criminal regime to control an ever discontent population. And despite the growing discomfort in the international community over the status quo of freedom in Venezuela and the continuing civic uprisings no change seems to loom in the horizon.
This probably springs from the fact that nowhere else in Latin America a regime has been taken over by organized crime as is the case of Venezuela. The logics of organized crime is not well understood by most political actors in the region including the US. The takeover of the Venezuelan regime has thus empowered criminal organizations to become autonomous playing significant roles in domestic and international politics. Organized crime has now a platform to influence elections, quench domestic insurgency, resist regime change and form joint ventures with businesses. Transition in Venezuela thus seems like a very complex exercise that will demand a role from the international community ; internal and regional coalition building; and the closing of pacts internally and externally. This demands a leadership on the part of the opposition that does not seem to be in the horizon yet.
Published originally on LAHT.com
*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.