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Is Venezuela Going the Way of Cuba?

June 26, 2017
Plain English Version

A man and a girl scavenge for food in the streets of Caracas. PHOTO: JUAN BARRETO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Democracy looks like this. The people elect the representatives and leaders. Sometimes the vote does not turn out too well. Almost twenty years ago the people of Venezuela elected Hugo Chávez. He won by a landslide.

Chavez said he would govern for the people. This meant taking over the army and the oil industry. He filled the ranks of both with allies. It did not matter that they did not have the training to do their jobs. He used the money from oil to build housing and lower the cost of food and gas. His allies became rich.

With corruption, came an increase in crime. Venezuela became a criminal state. But the poor still felt they had a champion in Chávez. All that ended a few years ago when the price of oil dropped. Oil sales were the nation’s biggest source of revenue. Soon, the bottom dropped out of the economy.

Chávez got cancer. He went to Cuba for treatment. He died in 2013, just as things started going downhill for Venezuela. His successor was Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has none of the appeal of Chávez.

Venezuela now exists like countries that are war torn. The oil industry does not bring in enough money. Basic services are dying. People are scavenging for food. Crime is rampant. Inflation has made the currency worthless.

Public protest demonstrations are growing. The opposition controls the Congress. The court overturns most of the laws passed by the Congress.

The next step is the big one. Maduro is calling for a “National Constitutional Assembly.” The election is July 30, 2017. The new Assembly will draft a new constitution. Communal councils will take the place of Venezuela’s traditional governing institutions. These institutions include state governments and the Congress. Observers say the new Assembly is for the few groups that support the Maduro government.

Experts are saying this is the road to a Cuban-style government. The opposition said it would boycott the election. They call it a naked attempt to end democracy. They say it will turn the country into a Cuba-style communist state. The government’s own Attorney General calls the vote illegal.

Most do not think the election will be honest.

The Assembly would hold unlimited power. It will write a new constitution. This could take years. Observers say the new Assembly would cancel next year’s presidential election.

An expert said, “This is the last battle for democracy in Venezuela.

Source: The Wall Street Journal June 23, 2017




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