University of California, Los Angeles

Instability and Death of Democracy in Venezuela by Julio Chavez @ University of California, Los Angeles

Opposition demonstrators take part in a women’s rally against Nicolas Maduro’s government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles (660 km) southwest of Caracas, February 26, 2014. Pope Francis called on Wednesday for an end to violence in Venezuela that has killed at least 13 people and urged politicians to take the lead in calming the nation’s worst unrest for a decade. The banner reads: “Resistance”. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) – RTR3FR40

The death of Democracy in Venezuela has been slow but nonetheless there. Under President Maduro, democracy in Venezuela is close to nonexistent, and with it, the rights of the people. It is surprising to see a country with a once prosperous democracy be anything but. Upon examining the economic crisis currently occurring Venezuela, the picture becomes a lot clearer. Democracy in Venezuela has eroded as a result of the economic instability and near collapse of the country.

Before we look at President Maduro and the state of democracy, we have to take a few steps back and examine, Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Chavez focused an awesome majority of the country’s resources on producing oil. This heavy investment caused Venezuela to import almost everything but oil. (Think food, goods, etc). This heavy investment was not only risky but it was extremely expensive.

With oil prices at an impressive high, everything seemed like it would work out. Everything changed in 2013 when Chavez died and Maduro had to take control of the country. Things continued to get worse a year later when oil prices began to drop. In order to avoid defaulting on the heavy foreign loans that Venezuela now owed, the government slashed down on imports such as food. This accompanied by inflation, caused an economic free fall that only continued to cripple the country.

Venezuela now suffering from social problems, political unrest, and risks for economic collapse needed something new quickly. Coalitions that opposed Maduro quickly gained strong support and ultimately failed to remove Maduro. With the country in peril, Maduro begins to get desperate in holding on to his power. It is with the creation of La Constituyente that we begin to really see the erosion of Democracy in Venezuela. La Constituyente is an assembly created by Maduro for the specific purpose of rewriting and restructuring the constitution. This new constitution would expand Maduro’s powers as President. This move by Maduro is an obvious clear sign of corruption and of a dictator. This becomes even more apparent when Maduro places his opposition in jail.

It is important to highlight why at this point it is so hard to stop Maduro from grabbing more power despite his dictator-like attitudes. Unlike other leaders, Maduro did not use the military to come in powers. There were no needs for a civilian or military coupe. As mentioned earlier Democratic Erosion happens slowly over time. This did not allow any opposition to gain momentum and stop Maduro. It also makes it a lot harder to discredit a politically elected official.

In fact, despite his actions, Maduro was able to put on a convincing front by holding eleven elections while he destroyed the government’s system of checks and balances along with cutting down the rights of the people.

   On July 30th, Maduro held a supposed democratic vote that would expand his powers as President. The government announced that around eight million people had voted to expand President Maduro’s powers. This is yet another sign at the eroding democracy of Venezuela. In order to make the decision seem democratic, the government lied about the numbers. According to the opposition and others, voting booths were mostly empty and the actual number of votes was really around 2.5 million. The evidence for Maduro’s transition to a dictator is also supported by the deaths of protesters when the voting opened and the rising death toll and violence that occurred after.  

   In an attempt to pressure Maduro, the US placed sanctions on Venezuela in order to force the Venezuelan government to calm the way they were openly destroying democracy. With the way that these events occurred, it seems unlikely that Maduro will loosen his grip. The country owes almost ninety billion in foreign debt over the next ten years. Opposition parties do not have a major coalition, a stable plan, nor a leader to stop the death of democracy and the birth of a dictator.

We Dream of Living in a Free Venezuela


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