The regional elections held Sunday had 23 gubernatorial seats up for grabs. It was the first major election since July's controversial and deadly vote for a constituent assembly, and is also the country's first contested election since December of 2015.
This Sunday millions of Venezuelans, as part of the electoral cycle, will elect 23 new governors. The leading opposition MUD (Mesa de Unidad Democratica) party is ahead in the polls, and has not shied away from criticizing the complete lack of impartiality and independence of the National Electoral Council (the Venezuela electoral body in charge of supervising the elections). If the elections are fair and transparent the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, loyal to president Maduro Chavez’s hand-picked successor, is predicted to lose 20 governorships.
Despite the profound economic crisis crippling Venezuela since 2014 and with more than $150 billion of debt ($8 billion due to November 2017), the regime launched a third satellite from the northern Chinese province of Gansu, and President Maduro just returned from Russia where he was able to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries and restructured its $1 billion debt to Putin’s regime.
Once Venezuela was one of the most stable countries in the region. Then, in 1998 it became a laboratory for “socialism of the 21st century” policies. After almost 20 years of this Chavismo, the results are the same as Communism of the 20th century, those in poverty increased (between 2014 and 2016 the poverty increased from 48.4 % to 82% while extreme poverty rose from the 27% to 52%.), the middle class has almost disappeared and the economy is completely imploded.
The last independent attorney general of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Diaz, declared “there is no rule of law in Venezuela, there is no democracy, and there are no freedoms.” Diaz was removed from her post by President Maduro after she distanced herself from the regime that had murdered more than 125 protesters, arrested more than 3000 protesters and jailed hundreds of political prisoners in 2017.
Opposition activist and violinist Wuilly Arteaga (L) takes a part in a peaceful demonstration to remember the opppositionists jailed and the victims of past protests, in Caracas on August 30, 2017.The widespread rights abuses committed against protesters in Venezuela has left democracy 'barely alive', the UN said Wednesday, after France branded the Caracas regime a 'dictatorship.' / AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)
The recent release of three journalists; one Italian, one Swiss, and one Venezuelan is the latest example on how president Maduro is repressing freedom of speech and transforming Venezuela into a Castro style dictatorship. The country is more and more polarized between the Boligarchia (Bolivarian nomenklatura) and the seven million people who voted July 16th , in a grassroots led, referendum to oppose Maduro’s plan to adopt a Cuban styled constitution.
Despite the referendum’s results, and international pressure from the Spanish and the Italian Prime Minsters and the international democratic community, president Maduro dissolved the National Assenbly (the Venezuela Parliament) and called for a new constitutional assembly to radicalize the Bolivarian revolution started by president Chavez in 1998. Carlos Ponce, director of Latin America programs at Freedom House, called the move an “illegal grab of legislative powers by the constitutional assembly, a group with no legal standing, is part of President Maduro’s efforts to silence all dissent and shore up a dictatorship." He elaborated, “The constitutional assembly was created through a fraudulent election and has no legitimate authority to act against congress.” According to the Freedom in the World 2017 Index Venezuela is rated Not Free, and according to the Index of Economic Freedom Venezuela ranks 179 out of 180 after Cuba and just before North Korea.
Venezuela, was one of the richest countries in South America, and now is on the brink of the economic and humanitarian collapse. According to a recent IMF report Venezuela’s inflation rate will increase to 2,349.3 % in 2018 from 254.4 % of 2016, and its GDP will contract by 6% while all other countries in the region are predicted to grow by 1.9%. The fall of the oil price from $100 to $45, representing 96% of the state revenues, and complicated and artificial exchange rate highlight all the major contradictions of Chavismo public policies. Venezuela, a country with one of largest oil reserves in the world, is suffering from a hunger crisis; 12% of children experience acute malnutrition. According to Prof. Sary Levy Carciente, a member of the Venezuelan National Academy of Economics Science, GDP fell by 18% in 2016 and during the last four years fell over 35%, which is similar to the 1929 crisis".
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