In Caracas, all eyes are on Brazil’s political drama
Henrique Capriles, a Venezuelan opposition leader
As Brazil experiences its worst political crisis in decades, the country has become more inward looking, absorbed by the uncertainty emanating from Brasília. Foreign policy has largely become a tool warring parties are using to make their case abroad. President Dilma Rousseff has asked the international community for help in what she calls an anti-constitutional initiative to remove her from office. Opposition politicians, on the other hand, are beginning to reach out to undecided international actors who will be crucial to provide legitimacy to a potential new government-- most notably Barack Obama and Mauricio Macri.
The crisis in South America's largest country has important implications for political dynamics across the continent -- perhaps nowhere more so that in Caracas, where both government and opposition are anxiously awaiting the outcome of Brazil's political drama.
Macri's election in Buenos Aires has been a huge blow to Venezuela's government, as Cristina Kirchner had turned into chavismo's greatest ally in the region over the past years, assuring that neither Chavez nor Maduro would suffer much condemnation in international fora. With Cuba's decision to strengthen ties to the United States, the government in Caracas is increasingly dependent on Dilma Rousseff to avoid a growing diplomatic isolation. Her fall and the rise of a more critical government (possibly more aligned with Macri) would severely reduce Maduro's room for maneuver to break a rule or two when needed (such as taking some more political prisoners or rigging the rules a bit more to avoid weakening the opposition). The opposition, on the other hand, is hoping that a post-Dilma Brazil would allow them to make a stronger international case to expose Maduro for his excesses at home.
It thus comes as no surprise that during virtually all my meetings with government and opposition leaders in Caracas over the past days, interlocutors were anxious to know who will be in power in Brazil next month. This matters more to policy makers in Caracas than most Brazilians think. Venezuela will soon assume the temporary presidency of both Unasur and Mercosur, an opportunity the Maduro government will try to use to project some normalcy and hide an ever more apparent reality to visitors: with even basic medicine missing, the situation in Venezuela has turned into South America's greatest humanitarian crisis that requires a concerted international effort to save lives. Unless Brazil plays along, Maduro's plan is likely to fail.
Photo credit: FEDERICO PARRA / AFP