Democracy, supplies and GDP continue to dwindle in Venezuela amid violent protests
With the turn of the century came a turn in politics for Venezuela. Elected in 1998, Hugo Chavez sought to transform the country into a more socialist, populist and better version of itself. However, since both his election and his death in 2013, the country has seen a decrease in democracy, increase in inflation and reduction in GDP, and increase in maternal mortalities. While not all blame can be placed on the late leader – he was, after all, elected president with large margins of the vote – thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest the aftermath of Chavez’s policies, and those of his successor, Nicolas Maduro, whom protesters deem to be an authoritarian dictator.
It can be noted that democracy is not a necessary factor for a country’s high GDP and prosperity – Qatar, China and Singapore, as well as South Korea during its post-war dictatorship, have all increased their GDPs through non-democratic means. However, since measures were implemented to give Venezuelan leaders greater powers, the country has suffered both economically and socially.
Serious economic problems began for the country in 2010. After devaluing the Bolívar by 17% against the US dollar for “priority” imports, the country’s GDP dropped from 393.801 billion to 316.482 billion in 2011 – a decrease of 19.6% in just one year. Between 2010 – 2013, the country’s freedom rating (as given by Freedom House) worsened from 4.5 to 5 (with 1 being the highest score of freedom and 7 the lowest) – a change of 10%. During this time, Chavez was granted greater power by Parliament to deal with devastating floods; media channels were fined for covering prison riots; protesters were shot in anti-government rallies; and the government accused of stifling criticism from civilians. Laws passed in 2010 include the ‘Law against illicit exchange transactions’ which grants the government a monopoly over all currency trades; the ‘Law for the defense of political sovereignty and national self-determination’, which blocked human-rights defenders from receiving humanitarian assistance,’ and the ‘Law governing communal councils’, which require bodies to carry out public work, superseding the roles of elected mayors, without competitive elections.
The crisis has also had a starting effect on women. Despite being praised by the UN for increasing gender equality in 2014, the country has seen a sharp increase in maternal mortalities. Between 2000 and 2014, the maternal mortality ratio has increased from 90.0 to 97.0 per 100 000 live births – a devastating increase of 7%.
Violent clashes between anti-government protesters and the ruling elite continue to this day, with the death toll rising, maternal mortalities continuing at an increased rate, and thousands without sufficient supplies. Citizens fight for an end to autocracy, chanting for another chance at democracy.