Over the past few weeks, the Venezuelan ruling party and Hugo Chavez have been consolidating power and embellishing the already far reaching role of the Executive Office. Opposition parties were relatively successful in Venezuela’s most recent National Assembly elections; therefore, Chavez will face increased opposition when the new Assembly convenes. This is a good thing for democracy, but not for Chavez.
Before the new Assembly can take their seats, the ruling party has been working to pass major legislation that would expand presidential powers. According to the new legislation, Chavez would have the ability to rule by executive decree for up to one year; his executive decree would extend to any issue that is a matter of national security—land use, housing, financial sectors, etc.—basically anything.
The ruling party supports such drastic measures not only because of the presumed dilution of the party by opposition parties taking over seats, but because numerous analysts have predicted 2011 to be a rough year for Venezuela. Currently, Venezuela has four major supporters—China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba. The main objectives of these four allies are diverse, but the interests do overlap at times. Cuba provides intelligence and personal security services to the government, but as the global economy continues to falter, Cuba is looking for more than the traditional payday that providing intelligence can offer.
Cuba is seeking loans. Normally Venezuela can provide such loans, but in recent months and in 2011, these loans will be increasingly difficult to provide. One of the primary reasons for this difficulty is the United States’ growing interest in Venezuelan-Iranian relations. Iran has integrated itself into the Venezuelan financial sector in order to circumvent sanctions. As the nuclear program in Iran continues to develop and the controversy deepens, the United States has kept a closer eye on economic relations between Iran and Venezuela and would happily disrupt such financial links.
Russia and China are also two of the main providers of loans and investments to Venezuela. Both countries have a similar impetus for investment—oil resources. Russia has begun to look elsewhere for economic relationships and energy security. China continues to rely on Venezuela to provide cheap energy for the country’s development and expansion, but is diligently working to build new partnerships and energy resources that are closer and less controversial than a Hugo Chavez led Venezuela.
As China and Russia begin to look elsewhere for energy investments and as the United States increases oversight on Iranian-Venezuelan relations, Chavez will find it harder to keep Cuba happy. Without foreign investment, Venezuela does not have the capital to satisfy Cuba’s growing need for loans and Cuba may find a growing need to relinquish intelligence and security services in Venezuela leaving Chavez even more vulnerable to the growing opposition movements. As the ruling party clamps down on opposition and further empowers Presidictator Chavez, personal security becomes an increasing concern, especially since rumblings of coup attempts have already been heard, pacifying Cuba will be of escalating importance in the upcoming year—something that may be increasingly difficult for Chavez.
By. Graig Klein
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