A socioeconomic and political crisis that began in Venezuela during the presidency of Hugo, has continued into the presidency of Nicolás Maduro. It is marked by hyperinflation, climbing hunger, disease, crime and death rates, and massive emigration from the country.

Origins of Venezuela crisis :

1) Reasons for Economic crisis:

With the money coming in from oil in the late 1990s, Chávez established a number of social programmes in Venezuela known as the “Misiones” (Missions). These programmes aimed to tackle poverty and inequality and included clinics and other organisations to provide free health care; free educational opportunities; and training for individuals to become teachers.

But then, just like in the 1970s and 80s, petroleum prices significantly decreased and Venezuela didn’t have the income to meet its spending commitments. In the 2000s, as petroleum prices were bouncing back and forth, the government was spending an exorbitant amount of money on things like the Misiones. Meanwhile, it had committed to selling Venezuela’s petroleum to allies at extremely reduced rates.

The result of all of this – and what more or less led up to the current economic crisis – was that the petroleum industry couldn’t increase its capacity.

2) Reasons for political crisis :

Nicolás Maduro was first elected in April 2013 after the death of his socialist mentor and predecessor in office, Hugo Chávez. At the time, he won by a thin margin of 1.6 percentage points.

During his first term in office, the economy went into freefall and many Venezuelans blame him and his socialist government for the country’s decline.

Mr Maduro was re-elected to a second six-year term in highly controversial elections in May 2018, which most opposition parties boycotted.

Many opposition candidates had been barred from running while others had been jailed or had fled the country for fear of being imprisoned and the opposition parties argued that the poll would be neither free nor fair.

Mr Maduro’s re-election was not recognised by Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.After being re-elected to a second term in early elections in May 2018, Mr Maduro announced he would serve out his remaining first term and only then be sworn in for a second term on 10 January

It was following his swearing-in ceremony that the opposition to his government was given a fresh boost. The National Assembly argues that because the election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a “usurper” and the presidency is vacant.

Citing articles 233 and 333 of Venezuela’s constitution, the legislature says that in such cases, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president.That is why Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January.And these disturbances led to the political crisis in Venezuela.

Steps taken – aggravating economic crisis :

Venezuela has responded to this need for revenue by simply printing more money – and that has led to spiralling inflation, with the currency becoming increasingly weak in terms of its purchasing power. Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro have each responded to this spiralling inflation in turn with major currency changes.

The first change occurred in 2008 when Venezuela switched from the standard bolívar to the bolívar fuerte (strong), the latter being worth 1,000 units of the old currency.Then, in August 2018, Venezuela switched currencies again, this time replacing the strong bolívar with the bolívar soberano (sovereign).But these changes haven’t helped. Some reports are now talking about Venezuela having 1 million per cent inflation by the end of 2018.

This is why the state is subsidising food and why there are these state-run stores where people are standing in line for hours on end just to buy necessities like flour, oil and baby formula. Without the government subsidies, the Venezuelan people would not be able to afford to eat.

The country is also having trouble buying anything from abroad, particularly because the government hasn’t been paying its bills to international lenders.And also resulted in increase in crimes and death rates.

When it comes to the World Health Organisation’s list of important medicines, more than 80 per cent cannot currently be found in Venezuela. And it’s because the country simply does not have the financial resources to purchase these medicines and bring them back into the country.

International community response :

The self-proclaimed interim government already has the backing of the U.S., Canada, and many Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. Australia is also considering shifting its support to Guaidó, according to the AP. A senior Turkish official said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced his support for Maduro.

Venezuelans living abroad in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America have reportedly taken to the streets in solidarity with the new interim government.

President Donald Trump officially recognized the new president Wednesday, saying the “people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

According to analysts, the contraction of the national and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in Venezuela between 2013 and 2017 was more severe than that of the United States, during the Great Depression, or Russia, and Cuba following the collapse of the Soviet Union, heavily impacting the living conditions of millions.

 

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