Endless queues of desperate people in front of supermarkets. Hospitals where people die due to lack of medication. Looting of goods transports and shops. This is Venezuela – 17 years after the former paratrooper Hugo Chavez became president and started his ” Bolivarian revolution “. The economic situation is catastrophic, and a survey (Datanalisis) shows that there is now a shortage of 80 percent of the most important foods in the country.
- What has been at the heart of Chavez’s policies?
- How has the economic and political situation in Venezuela been as bad as it is?
- Who is up against whom in Venezuela?
- What happens after Chavez?
2: Bone-hard everyday
“What we are doing here in Venezuela is surviving,” said a woman in a poor neighborhood in the capital, Caracas. She and her family now spend about 35 hours a week queuing to get the necessary foods such as rice, beans, flour, butter and pasta. And it is even worse if someone in the family becomes ill and needs medication or medical help. Even in hospitals, there is now a precarious shortage of even the most basic drugs, such as antibiotics.
This is the situation for millions of Venezuelans, and everyday life is becoming increasingly tough. The rise in prices (inflation) has exploded in recent months, and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) fears that it could rise to as much as 700 per cent during the year – the highest in the world. This means that more and more people are completely dependent on the subsidized food sold in the state supermarkets. The problem is that there are far too few of them to meet the needs of the people.
At the same time, food abounds in the streets and squares of the capital Caracas. So-called bachaqueros have bought the cheap food and sell it at 5-10 times higher price. By threatening or bribing employees and guards at the supermarkets, they go in front of the others in the queue, and it is life-threatening to protest. Several have been killed in the queues after clashes with bachaqueros .
3: The Bolivarian Revolution and coup attempts
On December 6, 1998, Officer Hugo Chavez Frías was elected President of Venezuela, as a country located in South America according to MATHGENERAL. The 44-year-old Chavez, unlike his predecessors, had no ties to the wealthy upper class who had ruled Venezuela until then. The change of power was therefore the start of one of the most dramatic upheavals in recent Latin American history.
At the heart of the Chavez government’s policy was a radical transfer of resources to the country’s poor – around 60 percent of the population. Tens of thousands of soldiers were sent across the country to help the very poorest with food, health care and housing. This was followed by massive social programs, so-called “missiones”, with social housing, food subsidies, work training and health and education programs.
This led to a sharp reduction in the number of poor and to a huge popularity for the new president. For the first time, the underprivileged felt that the country’s leader was on their side – a political capital that would have great value for Hugo Chavez in the years to come.
For Venezuela’s rich elite, Hugo Chavez’s policies came as a shock. Part of the upper class had supported him in the election, but when they realized that he was serious about his radical election promises, they became bitter enemies of the government. In December 2001, the employers’ association Fedecameras launched a general strike , at the same time as private media began to run an open anti-government line .
The conflict escalated in the spring of 2002, following a dispute between the president and the state oil company PDVSA. When Chavez fired PDVSA’s board in a live television broadcast, the company launched a protest march against the Miraflores presidential palace. Protesters were shot dead , leading to the arrest of pro-military forces and a coup d’état . On April 12, the leader of the employers’ association, Pedro Carmona, took the oath of office as president, and the country’s national assembly was dissolved.
But the next day, Chavez supporters gathered for large demonstrations, while military supporters prepared to free the president from captivity. And in a few hours, Hugo Chavez was back in the presidential palace . Meanwhile, the Bush administration in the United States had recognized the coup government in Venezuela.
4: Unsustainable – state-led socialism
The coup attempt strengthened Hugo Chavez and his government – both internally and externally. And it provided solid political ammunition for his many attacks on the United States and on President George W. Bush, whom he referred to as “Mr. Danger ». Perhaps the most memorable outcome against the US president came at the UN General Assembly in the autumn of 2006. When Chavez took the podium the day after Bush had been there, he joked that it smelled of sulfur – “because the devil was here yesterday”.
But even though the Chavez regime strengthened its grip on state power in the years following the 2002 coup – including in new elections and referendums, it became increasingly clear that its policies were not economically sustainable .