Venezuela’s narrowly-elected socialist president, Nicolás Maduro, was once a bus driver. Now, he’s been branded a power hungry dictator, who in four short years has burned the nation to the ground.
Relying on export venue from oil to fund social programs, Maduro’s flawed economic policy, inherited by his predecessor Hugo Chavez, has caused financial wreckage.
The nation relies on oil for 95% of its income. Oil shortages have had a flow-on effect, triggering food and medicine shortages, as well as the national currency to plummet. Just how bad is it? Venezuela is down to its last 10 billion dollars and owes roughly 7.2 billion dollars in outstanding debt this year. Though as a monetary sovereign – (it issues its own currency), it could spend more money into the economy to achieve prosperity, but at this point it seems clear Maduro’s government has no intention of doing so. US sanctions certainly don’t help things. More on this below.
Aside from the nation’s crushing socialist dystopia, violence has surged due to Maduro defiantly holding onto power, despite 80% of voters opposing his leadership.
After months of protests, which called to halt a national vote to change the constitution, 120 people have died, most of which have been students. The scenes of violence have been brutal, photos emerging of both protesters and police lit on fire. Last weekend was the bloodiest yet, with nine deaths confirmed after a shooting, as well as a bomb explosion in the nation’s capital injuring seven police officers.
What’s happening in Venezuela is a multifaceted political and economic crisis. And while Maduro’s actions have come under scrutiny in the past, things have escalated dramatically in the last few days, with two political prisoners being taken from their homes in the night wearing their pyjamas.
Maduro’s attack of Venezuela’s constitution
The mood on the ground in Venezuela is “a tense admixture of strong hope and pessimism”, says Dr Luis Fernando Angosto-Ferrández, a lecturer of Anthropology and Spanish and Latin American Studies at Sydney University.
“Part of the opposition support base is extremely demoralised after the celebration of elections for the constituent assembly. Other people, and certainly most of those who voted last Sunday, show pride in the strength of Venezuelans who, in their view, opt for peace in this scenario,” he says.
The constitutional vote which occurred last Sunday has largely been met with rage and mockery. Many have dubbed it a fraudulent election and while Maduro has said constitutional reform is a matter of “votes or bullets”, there has been little revealed about what the constitutional reform will actually mean for the people. Many fear it will give his party unrivalled power, allow further jailing of political opponents and further restrictions on the media.
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