7: Chavez dies – Maduro takes over
It was never the people’s verdict that would bring down the popular and controversial Hugo Chavez. In June 2011, it had become known that he was suffering from cancer, and it was a severely weakened president who participated in the election campaign. A few months after the election, in March 2013, he lost the battle against cancer, and his close associate Vice President Nicolas Maduro took power.
Venezuela’s new leader faced enormous challenges , and it soon became apparent that he was unable to take radical action to reverse the trend. In the spring of 2014, the opposition launched extensive demonstrations against the government, and 43 people were killed. The leaders of the demonstrations were arrested and convicted and are still in prison.
The verdicts have been heavily criticized both by the opposition in Venezuela and by international human rights organizations , but the authorities deny that they are political prisoners. According to Amnesty’s latest annual report , there is “still a lack of justice in cases of serious human rights violations and continuous attacks on human rights defenders ” in Venezuela, a country located in South America according to NATUREGNOSIS.
At the same time, the situation in the country went from bad to worse , with increased shortages, more crime, rising inflation and a fall in the economy of around 25 percent from 2013 to 2016.
8: The people demand change – What do the military want?
In the parliamentary elections in December 2015 , it became clear that the people had turned against the socialist government . The opposition then won about two -thirds of the seats in the National Assembly – the first election defeat for the government since Chavez came to power in January 1999.
But so far, the election winner has given little political credit to the opposition. Before the old National Assembly was dissolved, it made sure to appoint pro-regime judges in the Supreme Court, and this has been used to overturn all important decisions from the country’s new elected representatives.
Among other things, President Nicolas Maduro has refused to comply with the demand for new elections, a so-called Referendum revocatorio (revocation election), as the Constitution allows for. But the opposition continues the pressure, and has collected millions of signatures in support of this demand.
The Venezuelan president is currently fighting with his back to the wall. Opinion polls show he would only get around 25 percent of the vote if there were elections today. But he has powerful supporters, primarily among the military . It is believed that most of the military leadership is behind Nicolas Maduro – not because they have faith in him as leader, but because they have great privileges that will disappear with the president.
At the same time, the economic situation is getting worse by the day, and there is no indication that the country’s leadership is willing to change its economic policy. Instead, there are constantly new initiatives that will ensure that “the prevailing policy works as it should”.
And the president’s explanation for the crisis is a well-known mantra from the regime: an “economic war” on the part of the opposition. A well-known Venezuelan commentator puts it this way: “President Maduro is the only head of state who has invented a war – and lost it.”
9: What needs to be done?
The situation in today’s Venezuela is dramatic – and dangerous. How much hardship can the people endure before the country explodes in violence and riots? If so, what will the military do in such a situation?
Experts with good contacts within the regime say there is increasing pressure from Maduro’s close associates to get him to resign. Others claim that key figures in the government and the Socialist Party want a real dialogue with the opposition to solve the country’s deep crisis.
Among the opposition’s most important demands is to abolish price and currency control and reward investment in order to bring about an increase in the production of goods and services. But none of these demands are currently supported by the Venezuelan government.
Recently, the Organization of American States has been conducting diplomatic efforts to bring the Venezuelan government and opposition into dialogue. The US foreign leadership and Spain’s former prime minister Jose Zapatero have key roles in the process, but so far there have been no direct talks between the parties. And the mistrust is deep on both sides.
Some facts about Venezuela
- Surface content: approx. 912,000 km²
- Population: approx. 29 million (2015)
- Annual population growth: 1.4%
- Life expectancy: 74.5 years, K: 77.8, M: 71.4
- Children per woman: 2.3
- Median age: approx. 27.2
- Economic growth: -3.9 (2014) and -5.7 (2015)
- Composition of GDP: agriculture: 4%, industry 33% and services 63%
- Literacy among those over 15 years: 96%
- Proportion of the population living in cities: 89%
- Religion: Catholics 96%, Protestants 4%
- Official language: Spanish – many local indigenous languages
- Ethnic composition : Of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, German and African descent and indigenous people