Perhaps it was inspired by events in neighboring Brazil, where in August, elected president Dilma Rouseff was impeached after a full court press by various just as corrupt politicians sought to silence her amid ongoing embezzlement probes. Whatever the reason, on Tuesday Venezuela's opposition-led National Assembly voted to open a political trial against President Nicolas Maduro for violating democracy Reuters reported. Unfortunately, unlike Brazil which at least has some semblance of a functioning democracy, the Venezuelan move was largely "meaningless" and was quickly dismissed as such by the socialist government which, ironically, has been acting just as dictatorial as described by the opposition, with the explicit support of the army.
The political standoff in the (formerly) oil rich nation worsened since last week's suspension of an opposition push to hold a referendum to recall the widely disliked Nicolas Maduro, as both Venezuela's economy and society disintegrate. So with that avenue closed, the opposition coalition raised the stakes, using its power base in congress to begin legal action against Hugo Chavez's unpopular successor. Alas a trial against Maduro would be yet another mostly symbolic event given the government and Supreme Court have declared congress illegitimate.
How's that for a harbinger of what is coming
"Legally, the National Assembly does not exist," said vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz on Tuesday, referring to Supreme Court rulings that measures in congress are null and void until it removes three lawmakers linked to vote-buying claims.
For obvious reason, the opposition has accused Maduro of veering into dictatorship by sidelining the legislature, detaining opponents and leaning on compliant judicial and electoral authorities to block a plebiscite on his rule. "We will show clearly to Venezuela and the world that in this crisis, responsibility for breaking the constitution has clearly been Nicolas Maduro's," said majority leader Julio Borges.
The problem is that with the outside world oblivious (at least as long as Venezuela keeps paying its bond interest payments), nobody outside of Venezuela cares; as for within the country, as long as the army is on the side of Maduro, nothing can change.
Still, that did not stop the National Assembly from ordering Maduro to appear at a session next Tuesday, spoiler alert: he won't, and saying it would also consider charges of abandoning his duties. Maduro's opponents accuse him of wrecking the OPEC nation's economy, where food shortages and soaring prices have left many skipping meals and spending hours in long lines. Polls have shown the majority of Venezuelans want a referendum on Maduro which he would have likely lost, triggering a presidential election had it taken place this year.
But the just as corrupt election board nixed the process, citing court orders after government allegations of fraud in an initial signature drive. Ironically, until recent revelations by Wikileaks, this kind of political "process" would be the purest definition of banana republic. Alas, following recent leaked email exchanges, we are not so sure that Venezuela is that much more corrupt than the US.
"In Venezuela we are battling Satan!" said opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, ratifying plans for nationwide rallies on Wednesday that the opposition have dubbed 'The Takeover of Venezuela'.
Meanwhile, Venezuela's government has said it is the victim of an international conspiracy against socialism led by the United States and fanned by servile foreign media. Ironically, having observed disastrous US foreign policy in action, it just may be right.
Maduro also blames a two-year slump in global oil prices and a U.S.-fostered "economic war" for Venezuelans' suffering, and has accused political foes of seeking a violent coup against Maduro, a former bus driver and union activist who became Chavez's long-serving foreign minister then vice-president.
Maduro came back to Venezuela later on Tuesday after a tour of oil-producing nations and meetings with the Pope and U.N. Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres.
"I bring the blessings of the world for Venezuela," he said at an airport ceremony. "In the world, they admire our battle for truth, dignity and independence."
And just to scare the population into not getting any revolutionary ideas, red-shirted Maduro loyalists marched through Caracas to welcome him home and denounce the National Assembly.
For now Maduro is safe, entirely thanks to the army which continues to side with him: Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino criticized congress, vowed the armed forces' loyalty to Maduro, and accused foes of seeking a foreign intervention.
We can only guess how many millions have been donated to the "Padrino Family Foundation" as the rest of the population has to live without toilet paper.