From Ineptitude to Tragedy: Economic Freedom in Venezuela

By ADRIEL MARTINEZ

Currently ranked as 175th, out of 178, in the 2014 index of economic freedom, Venezuela has one of the worst climates for economic and civil rights freedoms. Venezuela has been suffering from governmental corruption, oppression, hyperinflation, and violence for over two decades. First under the charismatic Hugo Chavez and now under his hand-picked lap dog, Nicolás Maduro. Since Maduro has been in power the country has visibly deteriorated into violent protests and economic instability. Despite Maduro’s government declaring a decrease of 18% in murder rates since 2013, the NGO Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO) has tracked an increase from 73 murders out of 100,000 in 2012 to 79 out of 100,000 in 2013. In Caracas the murder rate is 134 out of 100,000, one of the highest in the world. By comparison Mexico’s homicide rate is 22 out of 100,000 and Colombia’s rate is 31 out of 100,000.

Maduro’s administration has been suppressing their political opposition through violence and coercion. Civil protests are met with armed National Guards and often end in deaths. National Guard soldiers armed with rubber buckshot rounds have been seen to fire at point blank range, injuring innocents and killing protesters like Geraldín Moreno, a 23 year-old student.  She was shot through the eye with plastic buckshot and died after a grueling surgery. Moreno became part of a horrifying statistic, over 24,000 homicides declared in 2013 alone by the VVO. Moreno has created an investigation task force, the Council of State for Human Rights, to look into the matters of human rights violations, claiming to be a defender of such rights. Yet critics have pointed out that the heads of the investigation committees are the same men responsible for the violations.

Runaway governmental corruption is blatant and living conditions of the populace continue to decrease. The situation has gotten so extreme that neighboring countries are criticizing Maduro’s government and severing their political and economic ties. The increasing violence of the Venezuelan government has pushed its neighbors to intervene, says President of the Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter. After calling for a meeting of the Organization of American States to hold Venezuela accountable for its violent crimes against its people, Panama was publicly denounced by Maduro, losing all trading rights and political ties to Venezuela.

Furthermore economic debt is accumulating to the point where neighbors are becoming concerned for their investments. The Venezuela public business sector owes Brazil almost $2.5 billion with no promise to pay in the near future. President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has begun removing Brazilian businesses from Venezuela. She has demonstrated open disappointment at the approach of the Maduro administration and has removed her support.

Politically, Maduro has lashed out at critics, condemning them as conspirators against his cabinet while simultaneously strengthening alliances with Cuba, Russia, China, and Iran. Economically, Maduro has perfected the art of governmental corruption, creating an impenetrable wall of impunity behind which his cronies can confiscate private property, seize businesses, and threaten with violence. The economy has turned into a black market focused mainly on the exportation of oil, which produces 95% of export earnings and 12% of GDP. The Maduro administration has sunk its claws deep in the public sector, controlling prices and ruining the country. Public debt is accruing to almost 60% of GDP and inflation continues to increase. Food and basic necessities are becoming increasingly scarce as Maduro’s government puts up import barriers. The people grow ever more restless and angry with their government.

Maduro is leading Venezuela down the same violent and corrupt road the current president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, led his country. Zimbabwe, a once powerful African nation is now ranked as 176th in the 2014 index of economic freedom. Zimbabwe is a ghost of its past self and the future of Venezuela. Is Maduro incapable of leading a country to financial and civil right success? Is he inept from the Western point of view of human rights and economic and political stability, or is he a despot bent by avarice and pride? He has demonstrated that he cannot handle criticism from other administrations and has strengthened ties with countries that demonstrate similar ideologies. He confidently denies the actions of his cabinet in the face of contrary evidence. He continues his forceful rule as dissent increases and his country falls. He has divided his country against itself, the people versus the government, retreating in history to the old binary of state vs people. No longer is the Venezuelan government for the people, but against them, an active oppressor supported by its abundant oil resources and other oppressive countries. A monomaniacal self-indulged bully that cannot take external criticism because it exposes their failures as modern states to ensure the welfare and success of its citizens. A state that cannot take criticism is a state that does not care about the effects of its methods, only the gain it acquires as pertaining to its ideologies and goals. Maduro and his government never cared about Venezuela and its people. The past year has been a testament to his apathy for the people and his interest in creating a traditional private state where he and his friends can profit from the miseries of his subjects. A country divided against itself cannot last.

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