10 FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VENEZUELA
With an economy shrinking by 10% this year, according to the IMF, Venezuela finds itself in a chaotic situation.
Venezuela has been ruled by the leftists doctrine of Hugo Chavez since his election in 1998. The “chavismo“ inaugurated by the president has strong views against the United States, using the power of the state controlled oil company PDVSA to sustain the influence of the government both internally and externally. The following facts are gonna help you understand why the “chavismo“ is on the edge of collapse, and what the future will likely bring to the country:
- Oil is no longer a powerful tool…
The country´s crude oil reserves are greater than any other nation in the world. According to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the oil and gas sector comprises around 25% of gross domestic product. Venezuela’s oil revenues account for about 95% of export earnings and more than 40% of government revenues, leaving the nation’s stability extremely tied to the price of oil.
- Skyrocket prices
Venezuela’s consumer inflation increased by an estimated of 275% in 2015. According to the IMF, the inflation for 2016 is expected to reach 720% as a result of the collapse in oil prices combined with years of economic mismanagement by the chavismo´s governments.
- Shortages of basic goods and national emergency
Skyrocket inflation rates combined with the fall of revenues are leading to constant shortages of basic goods such as milk and toilet paper. The population has to go to the supermarkets on a rotation system based on the last number of their ID cards. Many goods are sold in the black market, and this situation is expected to worsen as the economic crisis deepens by the end of the year. Maduro recently reduced the working days from five to four, declaring Fridays as day offs during the months of April and May, as a way to fight the national emergency caused by drought in the country.
- Bolivarianism is falling apart
Apart from ensuring internal stability, the “oil diplomacy“ was also used as an important tool to maintain Venezuela as a regional power. Through subsidized prices, the government managed to gather the support of countries in the Caribbean and other left-wing governments in the region. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) was established in 2004 to create an environment favorable to the populist ideology from Venezuela, with a confronting position against the influence of the United States in the regional. With 11 members, including Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia, the Alliance was favored by the economic bonanza of the last decade granted by high commodity prices. With many of its members facing difficulties, Venezuela is losing its regional power.
- International support shrinks
The recent election in Argentina has been posing as a strong threat to Venezuela’s government. Former president Cristina Kirchner had the populist government of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro as great allies in the region over the past years, enforcing regional structures to assure that the Venezuelan government would not suffer much condemnation in international fora. However, the newly elected Argentinian president Macri already showed a no tolerance policy for the democratic violations happening in Venezuela. In many of his statements, he indicated that Argentina should continue to move away from the current Bolivarian foreign policy which considered Iran, Venezuela and Russia as close friends, and would rebuild economic ties with the United States and Brazil.
- Parliamentary elections as a sign of change…
Despite many accusations regarding fraud in the elections, the recent polls gave the majority that President Nicolas Maduro´s party (PSUV) held in Congress to the opposition (MUD), making it harder for him to pass laws and govern by executive decrees. Recently, the Assembly passed an amnesty Bill that would release around 70 activists opposed to President Maduro’s government had been due for release under the law approved last month. Maduro condemned the law, arguing that it would be an attempt to destabilize his leadership ahead of the country.
- …but actual change may take a while to happen
The Supreme Court of Venezuela declared the amnesty law unconstitutional. The Court has consistently been backing the Venezuelan government since the opposition triumphed in congressional elections last December. While the elections showed a big change on the legislative power, the Judiciary may slow down bigger changes in the future.
- Crisis in Brazil
Fostered by Mr. Macri´s criticisms over Venezuela, the Brazilian government is quietly adapting to the growing regional consensus that Maduro may no longer be in office in the near term. The Brazilian center-left government has been a great ally to Venezuela over the last years, being one of the supporters of the idea of turning Venezuela into a permanent member of MERCOSUR, a regional integration project comprised by Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay. Recently, the Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira officially welcomed members of Venezuela’s opposition in Brasília, showing the diplomatic dissatisfaction over Maduro´s government.
Apart from the economic impact of the crisis in Brazil to the Venezuelan accounts, the likely impeachment of President Rousseff will definitely have a great diplomatic impact over Venezuela. Any political force that substitutes the Workers Party in Brazil will definitely have a tougher position against Venezuela than the actual government is having.
- Hasta Luego, Cuba!
With the recent decision of Cuba to strengthen ties to the United States, strengthened by the recent visit of President Obama, the government in Caracas is increasingly losing its main allies in the region.
- Populist governments and political polarization
While Human Rights, democratic values and economic well-being are suffering from the whole crisis in Venezuela, the society remains extremely polarized on their political views. Even in the midst of an economic and a public health crisis, more than 40% of Venezuelans still voted for the government. In this context, Venezuela’s political future will hardly be comprised by moderate forces that would be capable of preserving chavismo’s positive legacies while correcting the many mistakes made over the last 12 years.
Signs of change are already showing that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel to bring Venezuela back on track. However, with an extremely dependent economy and the need to gather regional support, the international economy and the influence of countries such as Brazil and Argentina will play a big role over the future of Venezuela.