A Look Into the Failed State of Venezuela
The failed state
Venezuela was once the richest country in South America due to its oil reserves, but it's now in crisis. It stands at the brink of civil war. It's the world's most indebted country, and its GDP has collapsed. Food and basic necessities are scarce with inflation as high as 1100%, leaving citizens starving to death on streets.
Venezuela is at a point where it is almost too poor to afford inflation. Which basically means, the government is bankrupt. Workers are reportedly showing up to work on average no more than two times per week. The country has even banned farming cryptocurrency to make money. Shops remain empty as imports become to expensive to even buy (if you can even find them in the first place), leaving many to reportedly eat undesired scraps, such as frozen fish heads, or flamingo meat.
Citizens have been on the streets for months protesting their President, but some government officials have been threatening prison time for anyone who opposes Maduro.
The Rise of Maduro
How did the failed state get to where it is? Let's go back and look at the events under Maduro's Presidency. In March 2013 Socialist President Hugo Chavez who had great support, and was just re-elected in October 2012, died at age 58 after a battle with cancer. In April Nicolas Maduro, his chosen successor, is elected president by a narrow margin winning the vote by 1.5%, with 79% voter turnout. The opposition contests the result, but nothing is made of it, leaving Maduro in power.
Come 2014, protests begin to occur over poor security in the western states of Tachira and Merida, which soon spread to Caracas, where protesters win the backing of opposition parties and turn into anti-government rallies. The government accused the opposition of seeking to launch a coup and broke up the protests, leaving 28 people dead in the streets.
Venezuela's chief prosecutor soon began to attack opposition leaders; in 2014 the chief prosecutor formally charged leading opposition figure Maria Corina Machado with conspiracy to assassinate President Maduro. Antonio Ledezma, opposition mayor of Caracas, is next, as he is charged with plotting a coup with US support one year later, in 2015. He retaliated by calling out the government for trying to manipulate his words in an attempt to discredit him and his party.
In 2015 after 16 years of Socialist party control in the parliament, a democratic coalition opposition secure two thirds of the seats, enabling them to block legislation from President Maduro. But after pressure from the Supreme Court, three members of the coalition resign from Parliament, depriving them of blocking Maduro's proposed legislation, leaving Maduro's party in complete control.
In 2016 a huge economic crisis sweeps over Venezuela, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the streets in Caracas calling for the removal of President Maduro, accusing him for the economic crisis.
Venezuelas oil prices hit an all time low, and inflation running as high as a 50% increase per year in 2015, reaches 750-1000% inflation in 2017.
Protesters in the street demand early presidential election as Maduro plans to replace the National Assembly with loyalists, so he can change the constitution.
Anti-government protesters have taken to the street for over one hundred days.
Silencing the People
Maduro finally opened a vote to elect legislators, for the constituent assembly, which has vast power, but opposition did not find the election fair. In protest many boycotted the election to show an illegitimate election through low voter turnout. 545 pro-government legislators were voted in. The government claimed 41% of the population voted, but their numbers did not match independent studies, which claim actual voter turnout was as low as 20%.
The company that provided voting machines claimed the results from a controversial election for a new Venezuelan political assembly were “manipulated” and are off by at least 1 million participants.
Following the vote many opposition figures were taken from their homes by government raids and put into prison. Two radio stations were revoked licenses by the government for airing government criticism across their channels, and it is estimated more than 100 people have been killed on the streets protesting, as the national guard uses tear gas, rubber bullets, high powered hoses, and machinery in order to keep protestors off the streets.
Interior Minister Reverol said in August, that those who protest will be "punished with imprisonment for 5 to 10 years."
The United States placed sanctions on Venezuela as National security adviser H.R. McMaster called the sanctions a clear demonstration that, “the United States will not allow an illegitimate dictatorship to take hold in the Western hemisphere at the expense of its people.” The sanctions placed makes it harder for Venezuela to access US financial systems. Donald Trump has even threatened military action, even though it is not clear if he was serious, because nothing was ever mentioned about it again after his statement.
The next presidential elections (which Maduro will most likely lose) are scheduled to be held in 2018. It is unclear whether this would remain the case under a new constitution. Regional elections due in December of last year have been rescheduled for the end of this year. Although that could be changed under the new constitution as well.
For now Maduro has full power, even though many, if not most Venezuelans would call him a dictator. We will have to wait and see what will be written in the constitution, or if the people can rally and create a coup against the socialist and loyalist Maduro government in a breakout civil war conflict.