Today we continue the second part of a two-part series on the ongoing protests in Venezuela. In part one, Nicholas Laursen wrote about the history of the Venezuelan constitution, the oligarchical parties that dominated the political landscape until 1999, and the Chávez administration’s dedication to a democratic process of constitutional revision. Now we move from history to a discussion of the current situation.
What drives the current opposition to Maduro? The answer is mostly economic—the current protests are related to a rise in crime and inflation, as well as shortages. However, at their core, these grievances are more the ails of the wealthy, propertied classes, and they highlight the economic tension and disparate interests between rich and poor Venezuelans. In order to understand these, however, we have to go back to economic history. Continue reading →
In considering the political firestorm in Venezuela, it may be best to start with a quantitative measure of populist will: elections. The government of Hugo Chávez—and the associated Bolivarian Revolution, more movement than literal revolution—came to be in 1999, following the elections of 1998 in which Chávez won a majority, 56%, of the national vote. In second place came the center-right candidate, Salas Römer, with 40% of the vote. Chávez’s margin of victory was particularly impressive given Venezuela’s abundance of political parties.
After less than a year of governance, the Chávez administration called a public referendum to approve the creation of a Constitutional Assembly, which would be charged with the task of drafting a new constitution to replace the outdated and outstanding one written 39 years prior by rural and business elites, and engineered to preserve their interests. The referendum passed with an unprecedented 88% of the vote. Continue reading →