Comments, Critical Dialogues, Globe, In Focus, Latin America

Venezuela in debate

When Carlos Andrés Pérez was president, with right wing leanings, in Venezuela there was accelerated inflation, poverty that reached almost 50% and a very high unemployment rate.

 

PDVSA workers. Photo Luigino Bracci – Flickr bit.ly2KrGVGq

Claudio Chipana

 

There was also famine and corruption at the highest level, waste of national resources, the oil was in the hands of foreign companies rather than Venezuelan ones and the state enterprise Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) had favoured these foreign companies.

The previous situations, plus some others not mentioned, formed part of the landscape at the time.

It was in this context that the figure of Chávez emerged, who led the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement and a twenty-first century socialism with very concrete objectives that he began to apply since coming to power in 1988, which included:

  • Changing the neoliberal model implemented at the suggestion of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from the Washington Consensus that gave funding to multinationals, especially in the oil sector. Venezuela, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is one of the most important crude oil exporters.
  • Transforming the region according to the ideals of Simón Bolívar, the Bolivarian liberator and national hero. Bolívar wanted to unite the Latin-American nations based on their sovereignty, without foreign intervention.
  • Building Latin-American integration based on the principles of sovereignty, cooperation, continental unity, the fight against poverty and solidarity.
Hugo Chávez – Photo Wikimedia Commons

But what are the positive and negative aspects of the Chávez government for Venezuela?

Chávez has been at the centre of political controversies in Latin America. An independent media outlet, Univision, takes stock of the good and the bad of Hugo Chávez’s government during the 14 years he was in power.

On the other hand, some of the key aspects of the Venezuelan crisis ought to be taken into account:

  • the economy, inflation and unemployment
  • the social situation, emigration, violence, guarimbas (protests organized in residential areas), economic warfare
  • the National Constituent Assembly, elections, Maduro elected president.

Venezuela has been, and continues to be, to a certain extent, the centre of attention of the Latin-American political and economic situation. Many events inside and outside of the country have been surrounded by a lot of controversy that are based on a political phenomenon called Chavism, which has dominated the Latin-American scene since the end of the 1980s due to the prominence of Hugo Chávez.

In fact, Chávez achieved notoriety since he was elected President of Venezuela for several presidential terms, until his death in 2003 due to cancer.

Venezuela – Nicolas Maduro Photo Wikipedia

Today, with Nicolás Maduro in power, the Venezuelan crisis continues to be in the spotlight, with the economy recognised as what is most crippling the nation. This has led to an astonishing exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries. For example, due to said crisis, it is estimated that close to half a million Venezuelans have arrived in Peru.

What is certain is that when the economy worsens, it brings more problems and generates violent reactions that do not remain in mere opposition, but tend to destabilise the government in office, which in this case is Maduro’s government. Then the so-called guarimbas begin, which are the violent actions of opposers in the street that have caused hundreds of deaths, such as those which occurred in 2014 with the purpose of overthrowing Maduro, who survived thanks to his victory in the National Constituent Assembly and his presidential victory.

Reasons for the economic crisis

The CNN news agency presents us with five reasons for the crisis that Venezuelans are experiencing:

  • the fall in petrol prices hits Venezuela hardest
  • the currency is valued at less than a cent of a dollar
  • the struggle for power
  • suspension of payments is difficult to avoid
  • food shortages.
Yenezuela – Photo Wikipedia

It is clear that the central problems are economic, monetary and the food shortage. This situation still continues today.

The other problems revolve around this economic crisis. The emigration is a consequence of these problems. The fall in petrol prices has been the main factor in the government’s lack of fiscal liquidity and the inability to finance its social projects.

This has led to an unprecedented food shortage and the protest of many people, accompanied by violence. The latter, however, was controlled with a call to peace by Maduro’s government.

The economic boycott or the hoarding of food is also undeniable. The US blockade aggravated the food distribution issue and the biggest consequence of this has been the emigration of many refugees towards neighbouring countries.

The United Nations (UN) has called for an end to the economic blockade against Venezuela and has asked financial organisations to stop the blockade, which is mainly affecting the supply of medicines.

The American Post published a news report on this matter.

The truth is that for humanitarian reasons the blockade is undoubtedly a true crime against humanity.

Guarimbas and violent protests against the government

An investigation into who were the main victims of guarimba protest violence shows that they were members of the public who had nothing to do with the protest.

This is asserted by the independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y por la Paz (Support Network for Justice and Peace), which found that there were more than 100 deaths and more than a thousand people injured.

It must be emphasised that the opposition controls some key institutions, such as the public prosecutor’s office, that have obstructed the course of justice of those responsible.

State independent institutions, such as the NGO Comisión de la Verdad, Justicia, Paz y Tranquilidad Pública, CVJPTP (Commission for Truth, Justice, Peace and Public Peace –) and the Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz, are working together to bring order to the application of justice as a result of violence.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Politics and Government-opposition relationships

In recent weeks, after a general election in which Nicolás Maduro emerged the winner (very controversial elections since some countries have declared that they reject the results), normalcy has been returning little by little to the country.

This is due, among other things, to the fact that there was an important meeting where the opposition and the government agreed to release political prisoners imprisoned during the guarmibas.

In fact, as reported by some media outlets, including El País, the Maduro government has released 43 prisoners for political reasons.

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin-Hartley – Email: hpelvin@gmail.com)

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