Confusion and chaos continue to blight Venezuela in the wake of elections this weekend. The country held an election to create a new assembly. Allies of the ruling Socialist Party, and its president, Nicholas Maduro, won all 545 seats in the assembly, as opposition groups boycotted the election.
Critics of the government have called the elections a sham. Other Latin American countries, which have traditionally supported Venezuela, condemned the election. In part, this is due to the violence which has engulfed the country in the past few months. Clashes between different political factions have become a daily occurrence. Over the past four months, 120 people have lost their lives.
Violence has been carried out by both sides of the political divide. On a Saturday night, a government candidate, Jose Félix Pineda Marcano, was murdered in his home by a suspected opposition group. Violent opposition protesters erected barricades and attempted to stop the election process. The result was the death of a number of people.
Criticism of the new assembly stems from the powers it could wield. Currently, opposition parties control the Venezuelan Congress. Nicholas Maduro hopes that his new assembly will be able to dissolve the congress and other dissidents within the political system. The president has also said that the new assembly will restructure the office of the Chief Prosecutor, who has been critical of the political reforms of Maduro.
The roots of this crisis lie in the death of former Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. As a political force, he was a giant in both his home country and the international stage. Introducing major economic and social reforms, his leadership challenged US hegemony in the Americas. Venezuela one of the worlds largest producers of oil. Chavez introduced reforms to redistribute this massive amount of wealth to the poorest in society. During his leadership, poverty rates fell from 50.4% to 36.3%. Infant mortality fell from 20.3 per thousand births to 12.9 by 2012. The number of children attending secondary education rose from 48% to 72%. Chavez was a towering figure in Venezuelan society and a hero to the poorest in the country.
His death in 2013, however, marked a stark turn in fortunes for the ruling socialist government. It coincided with a collapse in global oil prices, the main source of the countries revenue. Nicholas Maduro, his successor, had much less move for manoeuvre than his predecessor. As the effects of oil prices took a grip of the country, the real economy faltered. Black market currency speculation, hoarding and smuggling of essentials, and a worsening of an already corrupt system.
Remerging from the crisis was the social division that had existed from the period of Chavez’s ascent to power. Wealthier sections of society, supported by US-backed opposition groups fermented street protests which have culminated in the violence witnessed in the past number of months. Venezuela witnessed similar scenes of chaos during a coup against Chavez in 2002.
With a worsening situation in the country, many are looking for a solution. Some have called for dialogue between the two groups in an attempt to resolve the crisis. However, the government and the poorest in society are determined to uphold the reforms the Chavez era achieved. Opposition groups are set on regaining power and wealth that they lost during this period. It appears that there is no clear path forward faltering Latin American state.
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