To Defeat Maduro’s Regime, Treat It Like a Crime Syndicate by Raúl Gallegos - Americas Quarterly
Venezuela is almost a failed state where millions of people face nationwide power outages, food shortages, hyperinflation, and where crime and looting have become a means of survival. The most powerful criminal organization in this apocalyptic reality is the regime of Nicolás Maduro and the syndicate of criminal families that make up his government.
Venezuela’s chavista government was once a legitimate political actor but it has devolved into a type of cartel of criminal cells that protect each other and run the nation through corruption and fear. There is the Maduro inner circle that includes first lady Cilia Flores, whose nephews tried to export tons of cocaine to the United States and who were tried and sentenced by a U.S. court as a result. There is Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Constitutional Assembly, and Minister of Industries Tareck El-Aissami, both sanctioned by the U.S. government for engaging in drug trafficking along with a number of top military and National Guard allies.
The bureaucracy, the armed forces and the security forces enrich themselves with kickbacks from government contracts, illegal mining revenue, foreign currency trading, extortion, kidnapping, and the smuggling of price-controlled gasoline and food with impunity, on top of generous, oil-financed salaries and benefits. They spy on each other and they empower the most criminal among them, those compromised by corruption or human rights violations, a common approach of criminal groups. And of course they jail, kill and raid the homes of those Venezuelans who oppose them. The main goal of this crime syndicate is to cling to power because leading normal lives in the legitimate world once again is no longer an option. To defeat this regime the international community must move beyond the diplomacy and sanctions used to deal with traditional political actors, and instead adopt techniques the police use to fight the mob…