GIS Dossier: Venezuela lives on the edge

Opposition demonstrator wear gas mask in Caracas
June 7, 2017: A protester gears up to march on the National Electoral Center in Caracas. The opposition demonstration was broken up by police; one man was killed (source: dpa)

GIS’s “Dossier” biweekly series aims to give our subscribers a quick overview of key topics, regions or conflicts. This entry surveys Venezuela’s ongoing economic and political crisis, based on a selection of GIS reports since 2013.

  • Venezuela’s oil-based social model has bred political crisis since the 1980s
  • Even in a state of decay, the Chavist regime has proved remarkably durable
  • President Maduro outfoxed the opposition, which ignored the military’s crucial role
  • Sovereign default may provide a chance for outside mediation

Venezuela’s descent into economic and political chaos has been going on for years. It long predates the death of the country’s charismatic military leader, President Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), who himself rode to power on an economic and social crisis sparked by a two-decade slump in oil prices that started in the mid-1980s.

The slow erosion of Venezuela’s political system caused by that earlier debt crunch, worsened by rampant corruption and poverty, ultimately led Mr. Chavez to victory in the 1998 presidential elections at the head of a populist revolt. Now his brand of deficit-spending redistribution, which he called “socialism in the 21st century,” is itself undergoing a slow-motion collapse.

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