Receive Updates from Mind of Menyhert via Email!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another Chance to Chuck Chavismo: Venezuela's Elections

Tomorrow, the citizens of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela head to the polls to elect a new National Assembly.

Since 1998's Presidential Election, the country has been led by Hugo Chavez and his allies, most visibly current president Nicolas Maduro, who took over in 2013 in a snap election due to Chavez's death at the age of 58. Maduro will stand as president until 2018 as the president serves a six year term in Venezuela. Until 2009, the President was limited to two terms, but that changed in a referendum. Since 1999, the country has slowly but surely drifted from a relatively democratic country to one where democracy has been severely undermined by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Along the road, Venezuela saw some of its rampant poverty alleviated, but the last two years have sent the country spiraling out of control due to low oil prices, triple-digit inflation, shortages of basic supplies, government mismanagement, and continued crime and violence. Mass protests have been plaguing the country for the last two years.

The PSUV seems to have run out of ideas. Millions of Venezuelans have packed up and left their country due to Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution". Despite enormous oil reserves (the largest proven in the world), oil's stubbornly low price has send Venezuela's economy, which is so dependent on the export of black gold, into a serious recession, and President Maduro's government has offered no solutions. His predecessor, Hugo Chavez, while not exactly the most competent of leaders, at least had high oil prices and a connection to the average Venezuelan to fall back on. Maduro lacks both, and all the rallies in the world against the "imperialistas gringas malditas" (damned gringo imperialists) aren't going to save him from polling numbers, which unanimously state that the Socialists will lose this election by a landslide provided it is free and fair.

And therein lies the problem.

Even if the elections do turn out like the polls claim they will, with the democratic opposition winning in a landslide, the risk of the current government undermining the opposition is quite high. Very little concessions have been made since the opposition came close to winning the 2013 Presidential election, and a well known opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, still sits in jail. Luis Manuel Diaz, another opposition figure, was recently murdered. 

If the PSUV tries to undermine the democratic process, there's a large chance the country will see protestors jamming the streets once more as was seen in the last two years. And they don't seem to be straying from their path. In a Foreign Policy piece by Leopoldo Lopez, the situation has been described as such:

"What more are they trying to hide from the international community? The government has already gerrymandered districts so that 52 percent of voters, in pro-opposition urban areas, elect just 39 percent of parliament, and has set up fake parties with names mimicking legitimate opposition parties to confuse voters."

To put it very lightly, Venezuela is in a rut. It's hard to say whether the opposition will be more competent in governing the country as it is a loose coalition of many different parties which could break down and stall as seen in other countries, but at this point, any government that is able to govern in a more democratic and fair manner may be better than the PSUV.

Left-wing politics have long been popular and populist among the peoples of South America, often as a response to American support for right-wing dictatorships in the past, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Leftist governments are in power today in not just Venezuela, but Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil. In many of those places, however, they are in decline or mired in controversy. Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, is facing impeachment. Ecuador's left-wing president just signed a bill ending term limits.

That's not to say that socialism is necessarily the cause of the problems that plague many of these countries. Chile's President, Michelle Bachelet, is a Socialist, but Chile itself is wealthy, stable, and democratic. But left-wing populism has the potential to corrupt and forget its original ideas just as much as right-wing governments do, and Venezuela is a prime example of that. The opposition must be allowed to govern with the mandate of the people they are likely to win on Sunday, and if it means putting the Bolivarian Revolution on hold, then so be it. 

No comments: