Venezuela held an election to overhaul the country’s constitution— instead of a vote on whether to rewrite Venezuela’s framework document, it was a vote on who would comprise the constituent assembly that would carry it out. President Nicolás Maduro hailed the election as a major victory for his administration, though its legitimacy has been widely criticised, both by neighbouring Latin American countries and abroad, including the U.S. and the European Union.
In the days that followed, prominent politicians opposing Maduro were detained and President Donald Trump slapped heavy sanctions on Venezuelan leaders, including Maduro. The sanctions, however, will do little for a country that’s “twisting into anarchy,” said José Buscaglia, professor and chair of the Department of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies at Northeastern University. Indeed, Buscaglia, an expert in Central American studies, cautions that “it might turn out that the next major conflict is not in the Middle East, but right next door.”
When asked whether the vote in Venezuela would allow Maduro to further consolidate his power by changing the country’s constitution, Buscaglia opined what Karl Marxhad once said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” That’s what we’re seeing here. The way Hugo Chávez came to power—which became the model for many other people—was to make a social revolution through democratic means. He got himself elected by a large margin in a fairly open election and proceeded to change the constitution so he and his party stayed in power.
So, we went through this once with Chávez and it was a tragedy. Now, we’re seeing it with Maduro, and it’s a farce. Are you going to rewrite the constitution every time you call an election? Are you going to call an election every time your power is threatened and you want to rewrite the constitution?