Government corruption in Venezuela leads to social unrest, protests


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Protesters at an October 2014 demonstration in Venezuela carry yellow flags and a sign. Plummeting oil prices caused Venezuela’s economy to crash, resulting in high inflation, a lack of basic necessities and an increased crime rate.

by Anvi Banga and Gloria Zhang

The economic crisis has been exacerbated by the current administration’s institution of a constituent assembly, reminiscent of the Supreme Court’s move to overtake the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Protestors complain of political corruption and government mismanagement.

The Venezuelan government’s corruption and worsening economic conditions have incited many protests this year and since the start of Hugo Chavez’s rule in 2012.

During Chavez’s presidency, the government went over their budget and was completely dependent on oil revenues. Venezuela now has $10 billion in reserves, compared to the $30 billion in 2011.

Since 2006, Venezuela’s oil output has dropped by almost 1 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency.

Plummeting oil prices caused Venezuela’s economy to crash, resulting in high inflation, a lack of basic necessities and an increased crime rate.

“The basic problem in Venezuela is the same problem that affects humans all around the word, and it involves two things. One is greed and the other is power,” Jeffrey Sheehan, former International Relations associate dean at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “In the case of Venezuela, what kicked it off was petroleum. Before petroleum, Venezuela was a pretty obscure country, and when they discovered oil, suddenly it became wealthier. As often happens when oil is discovered in a country, only a very small percent of the population benefits from it, and that’s part of the power and greed.”

Chavez continued to promise impoverished citizens wealth. Soon, shortages of food and water prompted Venezuelan citizens to respond with protests.

“[Venezuelans] are protesting because they have no food or money and because they are living in extreme poverty with no work prospects. They are protesting because they want a government that works, and is not corrupt,” Venezuelan citizen Karina Tate said. “They want a country where they can work and better themselves and have money to eat and live.”

Currently living in the U.S., Tate departed from her home country 20 years before the rule of Chavez.

“It wasn’t anywhere as bad as it is now. When I lived there, I thought it was the most beautiful country in the world. Its beaches, mountains, little quaint towns,” Tate said. “I blame Chavez and the current government for marking Venezuela what it is today.”

Citizens stood on the streets of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, in mid-July, reacting to a delegate election proposed by current president Nicholas Maduro in order to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution.

“On July 16, millions of Venezuelans overwhelmingly expressed—in a loud and clear voice—their rejection of a National Constituent Assembly designed to weaken democracy in Venezuela,” U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Hauret said in a press release. “Nearly 234 years to the day after the birth of Simon Bolivar, who fought for the freedom of the people of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has cast aside the voices and aspirations of the Venezuelan people.”

Protesting government corruption, a group designed in military uniform attempted to attack an army base near the city of Valencia on Aug. 6.

Five days later, President Trump mentioned potential United States military intervention in Venezuela.

“Most recently, I saw what appeared an effort to overthrow the government through a group of the military who were opposed to the president and tried to organize what seemed to be a coup d’etat,” Sheehan said.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on September 6, 2017.