Chávez’s legacy: Venezuela heading for collapse


Venezuela‘s army is to be backed by civilians grouped into ancillary security units, to tackle food shortages and public unrest, under a state of emergency decree published on Monday, reports suggest:

The decree, published in the government gazette, brings into effect for at least 60 days sweeping powers President Nicolas Maduro announced on Friday. The measures give his government and security forces broad authorization to ignore most constitutional safeguards in a bid to keep order and supply basic food and services, and to counter a crippling energy shortage.

In the face of opposition demands for a recall referendum, Maduro has vowed to finish his term, criticizing his foes as Washington lackeys and buttressing his position among his followers by calling impeachment proceedings against fellow leftwinger Dilma Rousseff of Brazil as a “coup”, The Financial Times adds:

Analysts, however, believe the process in Caracas is unlikely to go the same way as in Brasília. The key difference is that Chavismo — the movement created by Mr Maduro’s late predecessor Hugo Chávez — has after almost two decades in power been able to take control of key institutions, including the military, the electoral council and the Supreme Court.

In Dragon in the Tropics: Venezuela and The Legacy of Hugo Chávez, Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold outline how the former president, who died in 2013, “took no chances [and] left behind a legacy of laws that favour the executive branch to the detriment of any other political actor”.

Alfredo Romero of Foro Penal, a local rights group, fears the state of emergency could be used as a “pretext to suspend constitutional rights and freedoms”, while Luis Vicente León, a political analyst, says it effectively gives the government free rein “to act upon those who consider enemies”.

Those inside and out of Caracas claim that the nation is headed for collapse, says Ricardo Hausmann, a Venezuelan, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and director of the Harvard Center for International Development.

“I think that it’s very clear the direction in which the country would have to go,” he tells PRI. “It would have to re-establish basic market mechanisms and basic balances, but it would need massive international support. The government of Maduro doesn’t want to hear anything of international support, other than from China or maybe Belarus. But we are too big, and they are too small relative to the needs of the crisis.”

Venezuela is effectively a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy, argues Moises Naim, a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Many in Venezuela and South America associate strict austerity policies with economic manipulation from the United States, and from dictatorships of years passed. But Hausmann isn’t so sure, PRI adds.

“The ‘90s was a period of democracy and austerity — it’s not so much a question of ideology as it is a question of commodity prices,” he says. “When commodity prices are high, everybody looks like a genius, when commodity prices are low, you need austerity to bring spending in line with what your revenues are.”

Hausmann says austerity can work, especially in looking back at the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru during the 1990s and early 2000s.

“[They] were able not only to stabilize the situation, bring inflation down, but also get re-elected with massive majorities,” he says. “I don’t buy the association of austerity and lack of democracy. Right now we have the worst of all possible things: We have a complete craziness and a lack of balance, mixed with the most authoritarian regime Venezuela has ever had.”


The Venezuelan Crisis at a Turning Point: Future Prospects

Please join a panel discussion on the current dynamics and possible directions of the crisis in Venezuela. The panel will assess the country’s economic collapse, humanitarian crisis, political tensions, and the situation of political prisoners.


Diana Lopez (right), Activist, Accion por la Libertad, Sister of Leopoldo Lopez, prisoner of conscience

Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, Founder and Chairman, Strategic Investment Group

Hector Schamis, Georgetown University, Adjunct Professor, El Pais, Columnist


Carlos Ponce, Director for Latin America, Freedom House

Thursday, May 26, 2016

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Lunch will be served at noon

Freedom House

1850 M St NW

Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20036


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