There's a lot of talk lately about transition in Venezuela, given that Nicolas Maduro's term ends 10 January 2019. Most observers realised a long time ago the need to replace the chavista model, ideally with some kind of workable system of governance -controlled by the opposition- that could implement immediate changes to the economy, which in turn, considering the amount of oil reserves that Venezuela claims to have, would turn the country into a Mecca of foreign direct investment. Capitalism would work its magic through incoming FDI and then, voilá, Venezuelans would enjoy living standards like in the 70ies all over again. Such a premise is, as most things related to Venezuela nowadays, absolutely unfeasible.
Let's start with geopolitics. Donald Trump is desperately trying to save his own neck. It's got to be said that his administration has characterised itself for being rather chaotic, with a high turnover of critical decision-makers. When it comes to foreign policy, Venezuela is only a good scarecrow for campaign manifestos and rallies. The reality is the Trump administration doesn't give two fs about anything other than itself. The little attention dispensed to foreign policy issues are concentrated, as usual, in the Middle East and North Korea.
Vlad Putin, on the other hand, isn't very happy. He rues to have been dragged to chavismo's pigsty. Owed billions, for weapons sales and oil-related loans, Putin knows Maduro is favouring China in oil deliveries, which is the only way left to somewhat meet financial obligations. While photo ops are still permitted and obsolete Tupolev bombers are dispatched to Caracas, the reality beyond the propaganda is that Putin isn't about to go into a Syria-style proxy war two and half hours from Miami. No more money will materialise until Maduro accelerates payment of principal.
Xi Jinping is, as everywhere else, the only one playing the long game. He isn't bothered in the slightest about the chavista mess, and continues quietly exerting the greatest amount of pressure on Maduro and co, and "reaping" the benefits. Oil deliveries corroborates as much. As in Putin's case, no fresh funds / new loans are to be committed, and previously agreed deals -such as that refinery in Guangdong, will tilt the balance ever further from U.S. based facilities.
Erdogan just made an entrance. While there were some grandiose announcements made, it remains to be seen how much of it is actually executed. Gold production in Venezuela is a twopence affair, next to the energy business. Turkish Petroleum is meant to inherit some concessions granted to local operators, though again, still early days to accurately quantify trade balance.
In all of the above there is no place for the opposition. It just couldn't be more irrelevant. It lacks actual political power, has been utterly incapable of using Congress majority for anything politically relevant, it has failed spectacularly in meaningfully curtailing chavismo, it's just the epithomy of insignificant. Many of its self-appointed leaders rely almost completely on Boligarchs' patronage, while others -like Henrique Capriles Radonsky- have, as a matter of documented fact, taken money from Odebrecht. Chavismo has every single one of their numbers, and uses that leverage very effectively. Whenever calls for dialogue or cohabitation with the chavista criminal organization are made by the opposition, the question should be: what dirt do they have on this person?
And so, transition? Not possible, not to anything other than another guise of chavismo. It could be any number of puppets: Henri Falcon and his "economic guru", it could be Henry Ramos Allup, or Henrique Capriles Radonsky, Omar Barboza, Manuel Rosales, Julio Borges, scratch that, or any other proxy, like Timoteo Zambrano. That, however, won't change a thing. The military will carry on calling the shots, trafficking drugs, and living large. Nothing can be done by anyone in the opposition to stop that. Chavismo will not relinquish power, or control of PDVSA or the Central Bank. And it'll be business as usual for the Boligarchs.
In such scenario, without political, military, and financial muscle, just how will the opposition ever become a valid interlocutor at the table? Maduro's "legitimate" term ends in less than a month. Has anyone seen him scrambling? Sources report that secret talks are being held, seeking continuation of the status quo. Whatever comes out of that, it is clear to us that Venezuela's future is firmly in chavismo's hands.