How Long Will Venezuela’s Maduro Stay in Power?

Jan. 11, 2019
by Bob Adelmann

Now that the Marxist president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has inaugurated himself for a second six-year term, questions are being raised about how he managed to accomplish this while others are asking just how long he is likely to remain in power.

The New York Times asked “So How Did Maduro Secure a Second Term?” on Thursday and then answered its own question: through terror, violence, and military oppression. He long ago destroyed whatever was left of a free market economy through price controls, rationing, and currency destruction. Now he is focused on using all the tools at his disposal to remain in power.

That includes arrests and torture of suspected dissidents even in the military, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW):

The Venezuelan government has brutally cracked down on members of the military accused of plotting against it. Not only are intelligence agents detaining and torturing members of the military, in some cases they are also going after their families or other civilians when they can’t find the suspects.

Maduro’s crackdown extends far beyond the military. According to HRW, more than 12,800 civilians have been arrested since 2014, many of them tortured before being hacked to death in killing fields outside Caracas.

This is just one tool used by Maduro to cement himself into power. He has created a “parallel” legislature to replace the legitimate National Assembly required by the country’s constitution. He has replaced judges on the country’s Supreme Court with his cronies. He has given the military the power to operate the state-owned oil company PdVSA and to control the flow of food to the cities. He is rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. He even violated the country’s present constitution by ignoring its demand that he be sworn in by the National Assembly and instead was sworn in by his cronies on the Supreme Court.

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To finance his country’s descent into tyranny, Maduro has enlisted the willing financial help from Russia and China who see an opportunity to seize control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves as collateral for upwards of $10 billion in loans. He is also relying on the continued export of an estimated 500,000 barrels of crude oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries daily, generating a much needed $25 million a day in cash from American drivers enjoying low gas prices.

The results of his turning Venezuela into a command, socialist economy are predictable: price controls have led to rationing and empty grocery store shelves. Medicine and common daily paper products have all but disappeared. Foreign companies continue to leave the country, idling thousands of workers desperate to feed their families. The horrors of the socialist state have been reviewed ad nauseam elsewhere. Those who still can are leaving the country, with some 10 percent of the population already having left and another 2 million expected to leave in 2019.

Maduro has many enemies, but a few friends. His presidency is being declared null and void by 13 of his neighbors, and about 60 countries have declared that his reelection in May was illegitimate due to his quashing of his political opponents, his use of food as a political weapon to reward those who would vote for him, and the opposition party telling its voters to abstain from voting in the rigged election. Accordingly, in an election with the lowest voter turnout in the country’s history, Maduro was reelected with 68 percent of those who voted.

So, how will Maduro’s regime of horrors, violence, and destruction end? He controls the military by giving them the opportunity to enrich themselves through favored distribution of food supplies. He rewards his administration by giving his officials access to the country’s currency control machinery, making many of them rich beyond comprehension.

Just a few days before Maduro’s phony inauguration, U.S. officials applied sanctions against a number of his top people for running a drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation. One of them, Alejandro Andrade, Maduro’s former treasurer, is now serving a 10-year U.S. prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to taking more than $1 billion in bribes while he was in office.

According to the Wall Street Journal, such sanctions are supposed to “undermine political support [for Maduro’s regime] in Venezuela and any remaining international backing.” Said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, “Venezuelan regime insiders have plundered billions of dollars from Venezuela while the Venezuelan people suffer. The United States remains committed to holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and will continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to support the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy.”

This is the siren call of neocons ever since Woodrow Wilson declared that the American constitutional republic had become a democracy (decried by the founders as the worst of all possible political systems) and added that it was now America’s responsibility to assure the world’s safety as well.

So, how is that working? Maduro’s predessor, Chavez, was democratically elected on a socialist platform. Now, with inflation having effectively destroyed the value of Venezuela’s currency and reduced an estimated 80 percent of the populace to barter and living in poverty, who would mount resistance to the dictator? With roving bands of state-sanctioned motorcycle gangs “keeping order” in dissident communities, who would dare to risk their lives to oppose him?

The Cuban military has been invited in to support Maduro’s state police. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, a fellow socialist, attended Maduro’s inauguration while Mexico’s new leftist president, AMLO (Andrés Manuel López Obrador), invited Maduro to attend his own inauguration. Meetings last fall between Washington and military officials from countries surrounding Venezuela to talk about mounting a coup to replace Maduro went nowhere and gave him another opportunity to attack the Trump administration for meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

Back to the question at hand: how long is Maduro likely to stay in power? With the continuing lifeline of financial support flowing from Moscow, Beijing, and U.S. Gulf Coast oil refineries, he will likely remain Venezuela’s dictator for as long as he wants.


An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at


The Wall Street Journal: Venezuelan Leader Starts Second Term With Grim Outlook

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Targets Huge Currency Scheme in Venezuela Before Maduro Inauguration

The New York Times: Venezuela Is in Crisis. So How Did Maduro Secure a Second Term? Venezuela military personnel increasingly jailed, tortured amid coup fears, report says   Thatcher Was Right: Maduro Has Not Only Run Out of Other People’s Money, but Now They Want It Back! Could Maduro Be Right?

Woodrow Wilson speech in 1917

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