For the first time in 17 years the Venezuelan socialist Partido Sociolista Unido de Venezuela PSUV party under the leadership of Maduro lost its legislative majority in the December 2015 elections. Economic depression and high inflation rate led to the victory of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) opposition, comprised of a coalition of more than 20 parties. This piece serves to analyze the political atmosphere in Venezuela following the appointment of a new legislature.
Hugo Chavez led the socialist ruling party till his death in 2013. His radical socialist politics enabled him to win the hearts and electoral support of the masses which gave rise to the Bolivarian revolution of 1998. The Bolivarian revolution promised participatory democracy, economic independence, equal distribution of the country’s wealth and, the end of corruption. Through nationalization the Chavez Administration was able to expand social welfare programs that alleviated many Venezuelans out of poverty. The biggest achievement of the social welfare programmes is the advancement of a healthcare system that boasts of clinics that operate for 24 hours per day. But due to the economic demise of the country, the healthcare has suffered markedly, with the quality of services severely compromised.
Venezuela’s economy is dependent on oil which accounts for 90% of the country’s export revenues. The price oil tumbled from $115 a barrel in 2014 to approximately $50 November 2015, negatively affecting the country’s GDP. Not only is the economy affected by the oil prices, Venezuela has the highest inflation rate in Latin America and suffering from chronic shortages of basic foods.
Since his ascension to power as Venezuela’s new president, Maduro has failed to improve the economic conditions of the nation of Venezuela. Instead, he has succeeded in blaming the economic crisis to an attempt by the main opposition to topple his administration. The opposition has managed to attract many citizens to its anti-socialism rhetoric, blaming the economic ails of Venezuela to the Maduro administration’s imposition of price and currency control.
Due to the government’s inability to respond to the economic crisis, food shortages and increasing levels of crime, the public protested to express their dissatisfaction. The anti-government protest in February 2014 was met with violence by the local security forces, which led to 44 deaths and more than 800 injuries. The police brutality towards protesters played out again in 2015 when Venezuelans marched in Caracas to commemorate those who lost their lives during the bloody protests of 2015. Both pro-government and anti-government demonstrators were met with force.
The political unrest, heavy handling of protesters, high crime rates and Maduro’s economic policies led to the 2/3 electoral victory of the MUD coalition party. The MUD coalition of 20 parties sharing 3 goals: firstly freeing political prisoners; secondly cure Venezuela from its economic ails; and lastly removing Maduro as President. However, following their legislative tenure that began on the 5th of January 2016, the MUD has been obsessed with tarnishing the socialist legacy. The removal of Chavez and Maduro’s portraits from the halls of the National Assembly is not in any way a measurement of progress.
Maduro responded to the MUD’s calls to remove him and end socialist policies by suing the coalition party for deploying three lawmakers facing fraud cases thus declaring any legislations passed by the MUD as null and void. The legislature has become an ideological battle ground, with each side trying to push their political agendas. Neither party is prioritising the Venezuelan people who are unable to receive medication and basic items (including food). The political unrest in Venezuela will only end if there is a compromise between the two parties in the legislature. The needs of the people should be prioritised and that means both parties working together to find workable solution for the economic crisis. The MUD won elections through the promise to find solutions; the PSUV has maintained power for the past 17 years because the Bolivarian revolution ensures that the Venezuelans shared the country’s wealth. This needs to be the focal point for both parties now more than ever.