The effects of Barack Obama’s historic visit to Havana have not stopped at the borders of the Caribbean. The policy of containment that succeeded in taming the Cuban lion has also affected the rest of the chained beasts in the United States’ backyard. The coup in Brazil, the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Front in Colombia, and the outbreak of protests on the streets of Venezuela all signal an Orange Spring in Caracas.
The battle for control of the streets of Caracas began with conflicts between supporters of current President Nicolas Maduro, the rightful heir to the late President Hugo Chavez, and the liberal opposition, which is the last stand of the revolutionary left in Latin America. Venezuelan opposition organized a referendum to isolate President Maduro, while his supporters saw the government as a force against the greed of capitalist countries who looted their country’s wealth for decades until President Chavez came to power. Both parties battle for survival as each tries to achieve their own ambitions.
The liberal opposition, no doubt backed by the United States, wants to turn the tables quickly before the end of the year so that they can isolate the president and organize new elections to change the political landscape in Caracas. The opposition raises issues such as the economic collapse brought about from declines in oil revenue, which is the only major income for the state budget, as well as the lack of private sector initiatives and discouragement of investment. The opposition also calls attention to the food shortages as proof of the government’s inability to provide for the basic needs of its people. Economic conditions contributed to the deterioration of Maduro’s popularity, and the opposition is getting stronger and more determined to change the country’s course. Maduro clung to his position in spite of “overseas customers” who pressured him. Perhaps we are reliving what occurred in the Arab world five years ago, and this demonstrates the ability of international players to influence change.
The policy of containment and purging of leftist regimes in Latin America was a landmark shift in the region’s history, and was reversed by the American-Cuban rapprochement. The limited understanding between the two nations in the past caused many lost opportunities to change the political landscape. We need not look too far back to find a similar occasion. In 2009, Obama gave a speech at Cairo University in what became the beginning of the Arab Spring.
Truly the new trend in Brazil will weaken the socialist system in Venezuela, which will lose the economic support and political cooperation between the two countries. After signing a peace agreement that is up for vote in October, FARC will put down its arms after 50 years of conflict with Colombian authorities.* According to polls, 67 percent of voters favor the move. This signals an end to the internal fighting and the building of a new Colombia.
The next few days for Maduro will be difficult, because now anything can happen. Because the United States is determined to overthrow the socialist system, it will use dirty tactics — not because it is a socialist system beneficial to Venezuela’s poor, but because it wants to eradicate socialism in America’s backyard.
*Editor’s note: FARC stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla movement involved in Colombian armed conflict since 1964.