Venezuela: A Situation Report.

Author:Duddy, Patrick

Venezuela remains in crisis. Popular support for the so-called Bolivarian revolution and its socio-economic model known as twenty-first century socialism has eroded dramatically. Polling suggests there is a near consensus among Venezuelans that conditions are bad and that the country is headed in the wrong direction but support for the opposition has also declined in recent months. International criticism of the Maduro regime is widespread. Countries representing over 90% of the region's population have publicly called on the Venezuelan government to restore democracy. The economy is near collapse and both the country and the national oil company have been declared by various rating agencies and financial institutions to be in selective default. In response the Venezuelan government has looked ever more earnestly to China and Russia to bail them out. Recent assistance from Russia in particular has helped prevent a complete default but not improved circumstances inside the country

The government's hold on power in Venezuela, however, still appears relatively strong. The opposition is in disarray. Months of mass street demonstrations failed to force Maduro to hold free, fair and internationally observed elections, to change the government's economic policy or to all allow the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the severe shortages of food and basic medicines. Instead the Maduro administration has worked to marginalize the opposition and consolidate power in the office of the president. A sham election of delegates to a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and seriously flawed elections of governors and mayors deflated and divided the coalition of opposition parties known collectively as the Democratic Unity Group (MUD) which could not agree on whether to boycott or participate in electoral contests they considered illegitimate.

Relations with United States remain toxic notwithstanding the continuing importance of the U.S. as an export market for Venezuelan oil. The U.S. has ratcheted up sanctions on individual Venezuelans and severely limited the Venezuelan government's access to the U.S. financial system, particularly its ability to negotiate new debt.

The current chapter in the story of Venezuela's tragic fall dates from December of 2015. Following domestic and international pressure to hold constitutionally mandated legislative elections, the Venezuelan opposition won a two thirds majority in the national assembly, Venezuela's unicameral legislative branch. Since that time, the Maduro government, with the collusion of the Chavista-dominated supreme court and national electoral council, has largely ignored the national assembly, impugning some of its...

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