Monday, July 17, 2017

Venezuela crisis deepens as millions vote against plan to create new assembly.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. EPA/BBC.

More than 7 million voters in Venezuela have voted against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to create a new assembly that would have the power to revise the constitution and dissolve government agencies. BBC. Opposition forces organized the vote and are calling for new presidential elections. The opposition believes that if the 545 member assembly is passed it would delay the vote when Maduro's term expires in 2019. Maduro said the vote was phony and backed by Western agents. Venezuela is in a crisis due to low oil prices and the high costs of the social programs put into place by Maduro. 100 people have died in protests since the crisis began, including one woman killed during the most recent vote. 

My Comment:
This vote was mainly symbolic but it does have a real purpose. When the actual vote for the new assembly 30th of July the world will have a benchmark of how valid the vote is. 98% of the 7 million voters voted against this assembly so if the assembly eventually passes, we know that someone cheated. There are about 20 million voters in Venezuela so there is a chance that the people that didn't vote in this election will turn out for Maduro, but that seems very improbable. 

Still, the vote is largely meaningless other than as a message. There is widespread opposition to the Maduro government and the obvious grab for power they are going for. And it's very clear that is what Maduro is after. They want this assembly so they can kick out opposition forces from the government and dissolve institutions that oppose him. 

Maduro is largely blaming foreign governments for his troubles. I think there is probably some truth to this since Venezuela has been a US enemy since Hugo Chavez took power. And Donald Trump just said that he might be interested in punishing Venezuela's government for their treatment of protesters. 

That being said, whatever the US is doing in Venezuela, they could probably stop and nothing would change for Maduro. He's having these problems for two major reasons, the price of oil and socialism. The price of oil has collapsed completely, largely due to US fracking. This has greatly damaged every country that is dependent on oil, many of them are opposed to the United States, while it has been an economic boom for the US. So much so that we have gone from importing energy, to being energy independent (see the news cover that!) to actually exporting oil and other energy! 

Still, other countries have faced the same problems with oil prices as Venezuela and haven't had the instability that they have. Why? Socialism. Instead of investing in their economy, Venezuela has spent heavily on social programs. Other countries have tried to diversify their economies and tried to find other sources of income as the price of oil collapsed. 

But Venezuela? They didn't even invest the money they needed to maintain their own oil fields! Indeed, they kicked out foreign companies, nationalized the whole thing and spent all the money on socialist programs that bankrupted the country. Not they can't even ramp up production because they don't have the expertise to do it themselves and they have burned their bridges with foreign companies. 

All of this should have been very predictable. After all, socialism has failed again and again. The people of Venezuela had made a massive mistake when they elected Hugo Chavez. The bread lines and instability were obvious consequences of his polices that have been continued by Maduro. I geniuinely hope that Maduro is removed from power and a more right wing government can come to power in Venezuela. They probably won't be able to save it at this point but at the very least it could stop the rot before it destroys everything... 

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