“When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.” – Durant
Venezuela is currently in a huge domestic crisis due to high tensions between the government and its opposition.
The government is under the rule of the United Socialist Party (PSUV), led by the President Nicolás Maduro since 2013. The party was previously led by the late President Hugo Chávez, who was and still remains more popular than his successor. The crisis began on March 29th 2017, when the Supreme Court transferred all the National Assembly’s (NA) powers to itself. The NA had an opposition majority – a coalition of opposition parties called the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). This move meant that Maduro would essentially eliminate the opposition and thus the government would be controlled entirely by the PSUV.
Consequently, daily anti-government protests have taken place since late March – the most sustained since 2014. The opposition is fearful of an autocracy forming in Venezuela and is subsequently protesting against “Maduro’s dictatorship”. Venezuelans are unhappy with the limitations of the democratic institutions and the domestic problems. There is currently a damaging economic crisis and international states claim that the Venezuelan government is running out of money. Venezuela’s national revenue is 95% generated from oil exports, but oil prices are fluctuating. Food and medicine shortages have swept the country due to inflation. The International Monetary Fund estimates inflation will reach 2068.5% by 2018.
In response to national protests, Maduro held an election in late July. A new Legislative Assembly has been elected to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. Many see this as Maduro strengthening his grip on the government. Opposition leaders have urged Venezuelans to join the protests, which they have vowed will continue. President Maduro says the opposition is trying to illegally overthrow his elected government in a coup and claims the destabilisation is due to US-backed capitalists who are working with the opposition.
Thousands of demonstrators have been arrested, and hundreds killed. Many political figures are under house arrest, and many more have been taken as political prisoners. The National Police have been using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. The UN has said that the responsibility for human rights violations “lies at the highest level of government.”
Various states have spoken about the Venezuelan crisis. Colombia has rejected the latest election, whilst Cuba and Russia have announced their support for Maduro and his government. President Trump discussed the implementation of sanctions on Venezuela in response to Maduro’s actions, although this would only harm the Venezuelan people.
It is not just the civilians in Venezuela who are against Maduro, but parts of the military too. Many soldiers have spoken out against Maduro whilst others have fled the country. Huge numbers of soldiers are breaking ranks with the President and joining protesters. The loyal military has previously been a guarantor of Maduro’s presidency, but as civilians are taking to the streets, so is the military.
There is a clear divide in Maduro’s Venezuela, and the growing anger between the two sides has the potential to lead into a civil war. The future of Venezuela is uncertain, as is Maduro’s.