Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power

Nicolás Maduro
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech (Palacio de Miraflores/Miguel Angulo)

Nicolás Maduro is still president of Venezuela. That may not sound like news, but in the six years he has been in power, he has so poorly managed the economy, with increasingly authoritarian measures, that GDP has shrunk 60 percent, inflation has reached an astronomical 10 million percent, once forgotten diseases have returned, 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country and 90 percent of the remaining population lives in poverty. It’s the worst economic collapse outside of a civil war.

Little wonder mass protests have been a recurrent aspect of Maduro’s administration, but so far all attempts to remove him have failed.

Maduro only won reelection in 2018 after arresting opposition presidential candidates, sidelining the opposition-controlled legislature and most likely rigging the vote.

In January, Juan Guaidó, a social democrat and president of the National Assembly, took the extraordinary step of invoking Article 233 of the Constitution to declare himself interim president and call for early elections. Read more “Venezuela Is Starving and Still Maduro Clings to Power”

Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela visits Quito, Ecuador, September 21, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Twenty years have passed since Hugo Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution began in Venezuela. Although the first decade halved unemployment and brought poverty levels down to 27 percent, under President Nicolás Maduro there has been a dramatic economic, political and social decline.

Inflation has skyrocketed and is expected to reach 1,000,000 percent this year. Shortages of basic goods have resulted in widespread malnutrition. The outbreak of previously forgotten diseases and violence has reached unprecedented levels. 73 lives are lost per day.

This, combined with a political system that has barred and arrested opposition presidential candidates, sidelined an opposition-dominated legislature and last year carried out an election marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging, has led to an exodus of almost 10 percent of Venezuela’s 30 million population. 90 percent of those who remain live in poverty.

With such a parlous state of affairs, how has Maduro kept the show on the road?

And why haven’t Venezuela’s neighbors, who are sheltering most of its refugees, acted to end the misery? Read more “Millions Flee Venezuela, But Maduro Is Going Nowhere”

European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela attends a ceremony in Caracas commemorating the 1992 coup by Hugo Chávez, February 4, 2015
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela attends a ceremony in Caracas commemorating the 1992 coup by Hugo Chávez, February 4, 2015 (Prensa Miraflores)

Seventeen Latin American nations, including those run by leftists, agree Venezuela is now a “dictatorship” under Nicolás Maduro.

For most of his presidency, Maduro has ruled by decree. When the opposition won a majority of the seats in parliament, he replaced it with a Constituent Assembly full of cronies. Critical lawmakers have been arrested. A “truth commission” is being established to investigate thoughtcrimes. Instead of seeing high crime and low growth rates as evidence of the failure of Venezuela’s socialist experiment, the crude and homophobic Maduro entertains anti-American and anticapitalist conspiracy theories.

Yet left-wing admirers of Hugo Chávez will not see his heirs for the thugs they have become. Read more “European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator”

Venezuela Lurches Toward Authoritarianism

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela waves at crowds during an Independence Day parade, July 5, 2016
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela waves at crowds during an Independence Day parade, July 5, 2016 (Prensa Presidencial/Yoset Montes)

Venezuela has plummeted to new depths. In an act of blatant disregard of the separation of powers, the Supreme Court has stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its lawmaking power and revoked immunity from all assembly members after accusing parliamentarians of “contempt”.

This latest step toward authoritarianism was denounced as a “coup” and “a final blow to democracy” — not just by opposition parties, but by the international community and even some within the government (the state attorney general). Read more “Venezuela Lurches Toward Authoritarianism”

Maduro Defiant as Venezuela Teeters on the Brink

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela delivers a news conference in Caracas, May 17
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela delivers a news conference in Caracas, May 17 (Prensa Miraflores/Marcelo García)

When Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly last year, it represented an unquestionable shift after sixteen years of socialist rule. There was desire for change. Not just from the traditional array of opponents to the ruling party government, but also from those who still call themselves Chavistas.

Those clamors, in part mobilized by the MUD, have become noticeably louder in recent weeks and months and protests have been firmly met by riot police and tear gas.

The country, home to the world’s largest oil reserves and previously one of the most developed in Latin America, is now suffering from the world’s highest inflation rate, varying between 180 and 700 percent. In the boom times, oil (which accounts for 95 percent of exports) helped pay for a million homes for the poor. Now, after three years of decline, with the sovereign wealth fund depleted and the economy expected to shrink by 8 percent, default is a distinct possibility.

Everyday Venezuelans are feeling the bite through shortages in electricity, food, water and medicine. The bare essentials of society have been stripped away and replaced by blackouts, endless queues for basic household goods, violence and looting. The country has the second highest murder rate in the world.

Desperation is in the air and its manifestations can no longer be passed off by the government as “revolts of the rich,” as was the case following similar protests in 2014. Read more “Maduro Defiant as Venezuela Teeters on the Brink”

Maduro Accuses America of Plotting to Destroy Venezuela

Nicolás Maduro
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech (Palacio de Miraflores/Miguel Angulo)

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro seemed oblivious to his own government’s responsibility for the country’s economic crisis during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that was broadcast on Friday. Instead, he blamed right-wing “extremists” for stirring violence and accused them of plotting with the United States to undermine Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution.”

Praising Venezuela’s socialist revolution, which Maduro said was still “under construction” fifteen years after his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez, first came to power, the president argued that his was not the only country with problems. During the interview, he repeatedly compared Venezuela to the United States which does not have free education or free health care. “Venezuela has its own problems,” he admitted, “but the problems that we don’t have are the problems of poverty.” Read more “Maduro Accuses America of Plotting to Destroy Venezuela”

Maduro Asks Decree Powers as Venezuela Inflation Soars

Nicolás Maduro
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro delivers a speech (Palacio de Miraflores/Miguel Angulo)

Venezuela’s legislature is expected to give President Nicolás Maduro decree powers for a year after a dissenting ruling party lawmaker was stripped of her parliamentary immunity on Tuesday and replaced by a government loyalist.

The lawmaker, María Aranguren, said the government trumped up charges of embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime against her as part of a witch hunt meant to obtain the last vote it needed to adopt the enabling law.

Maduro first asked the legislature to give him special powers in October to fight corruption and “economic sabotage.” Read more “Maduro Asks Decree Powers as Venezuela Inflation Soars”

Venezuela’s Maduro Fails to Imitate Chávez’ Success

Hugo Chávez Nicolás Maduro
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Vice President Nicolás Maduro, October 1, 2011 (Prensa Presidencial)

Acting president Nicolás Maduro was declared the winner in Venezuela’s election on Sunday, defeating the opposition’s candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski by over 200,000 votes, according to the state’s election board.

Maduro succeeds the Latin American nation’s fiery socialist leader Hugo Chávez who died of cancer last month after fourteen years in power.

Although Capriles, who won 44 percent of the votes in last year’s election against Chávez and just under 49.1 percent on Sunday, according to the official results, accused the ruling party of fraud and demanded a recount, it is unlikely that Maduro’s victory will be reversed. “We will know what to do if someone raises their insolent voice against the people,” the socialist warned on Sunday night.

Still, Maduro’s unexpectedly narrow win — opinion polls had predicted a landslide — casts doubt on the ruling party’s ability to hold on to power without its popular leader. Read more “Venezuela’s Maduro Fails to Imitate Chávez’ Success”

Chávez Protégé Projected to Win Venezuela Election

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his deputy Nicolás Maduro, October 1, 2011
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Vice President Nicolás Maduro, October 1, 2011 (Prensa Presidencial)

Opinion polls predict that former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez’ chosen successor, acting president Nicolás Maduro, will win Sunday’s election against the centrist candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, allowing the ruling party to continue Chávez’ self-declared socialist revolution

Shortly before he traveled to Cuba late last year where he underwent cancer treatment, Chávez anointed Maduro his successor. “My firm opinion, as clear as the full moon — irrevocable, absolute, total — is that you elect Nicolás Maduro as president,” he said. “He is one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue if I cannot.”

Chávez defeated Capriles in October of last year but died before he could start a fourth term as president. A surge of grief and sympathy bordering on deification of the deceased socialist leader looks certain to propel his deputy Maduro to power. “I am the son of Chávez,” he told supporters during a rally in the capital Caracas on Thursday.

Maduro earlier derided his opponent as a “little bourgeois” and puppet of Venezuela’s wealthy as well as the United States which Chávez routinely accused of meddling in South American politics.

Capriles’ rhetoric has been no less urgent. “Sunday we’re going to choose between life and death,” he said Thursday. “If you want a future, you have to vote for change, for a different government.”

Yet the liberal governor of Miranda state has simultaneously tried to appeal to Chávez supporters and directed his criticism at his heirs whose socialism, he said earlier this month, is “skin deep.”

They talk of socialism but it’s on the surface only. Look how those well connected ones live, what they wear, what cars they go round in, how many bodyguards they have.

Capriles described himself as a “progressive” and said he would imitate the economic and social reforms of Brazil’s former president Lula da Silva, a socialist who opened his country to international trade and investment while spending generously on education and welfare programs. Capriles even denounced the “savage capitalism” of corrupt government officials.

The leftist rhetoric does not appear to have boosted the opposition candidate’s popularity. If he defies the odds and does emerge the victor from Sunday’s election, it will likely be because a majority of Venezuelans realized that Chávez’ “revolutionary” socialism hasn’t much improved their nation’s economic prospects.

Although rich in natural resources, Venezuela has had to cope with energy and food shortages in the latter years of Chávez’ presidency. It is the world’s tenth largest oil exporter but a net importer of refined products due to lack of hydrocarbon industry development since the sector was nationalized.

Inflation in March alone was 2.8 percent, suggesting that the annual rate will top 30 percent by year’s end. “Every day it’s harder to find food and every day food is more expensive,” Capriles said in March. “This model is not viable.”

Most Venezuelans seem to disagree.

Venezuela’s Maduro Defies Constitution, Assumes Power

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his deputy Nicolás Maduro, October 1, 2011
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Vice President Nicolás Maduro, October 1, 2011 (Prensa Presidencial)

After announcing socialist president Hugo Chávez’ death on Tuesday, Venezuela’s vice president, Nicolás Maduro, assumed power in defiance of the Constitution, which stipulates that the speaker of the National Assembly must become interim president.

Chávez died after a two-year battle with cancer and ruling the Latin American country for fourteen years. He was elected to a fourth term in October but could not be inaugurated on January 10 due to his illness.

Under the Constitution, Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of parliament, would assume the presidency and an election should be called within thirty days. Read more “Venezuela’s Maduro Defies Constitution, Assumes Power”