Secretary of State John Kerry expressed impatience with the Venezuelan government, urging them to get their own house in order. While most of the global spotlight has been focused elsewhere, the Venezuelan government has been on the verge of collapse for months. Already, at least 42 people have been killed in the protests.
Protests aimed at general conditions
Conditions in Venezuela have been slowly deteriorating over the last several years and have built up to near crisis levels. The government’s push for socialism, which has alienated many Western governments and companies, has left the economy in shambles. Inflation has soared, and basic goods have become scarce. Meanwhile, corruption remains rampant and unemployment remains high.
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At the same time crime rates have grown out of control. The protests started in early January when Monica Spear, a former Miss University, and her husband were found dead in a car, apparently after being robbed. Their young daughter was in the car at the time, but was not physically harmed.
The situation quickly spiraled out of control. A few weeks later, an attempted rape of a university student sent students to the street. While crime may have been the catalyst, it was not the only compliant held by protestors.
Government responded with heavy hand
As momentum built, protestors began airing their general complaints about the state of Venezuela. The country has been divided since Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013 and the last round of elections was very close. This has left the country deeply divided.
The government has since responded harshly to protestors, using rubber bullets, riot control methods, and other heavy handed tactics. At least 3,000 people have been arrested in the ensuing violence. Recently, protests again flared up after negotiations for a prisoner release broke down.
Protesters themselves have also been using violence to try to get their way. Countless dollars worth of private property have been damaged in the protests and on numerous occasions violence was used against police and military forces. Meanwhile, numerous streets have been closed off by protestor and police barricades, bringing traffic and the local economy in the country to a halt.
Venezuela on the verge of collapse?
Venezuela is a rich in oil, not that it has much to show for it. When Hugo Chavez took control of the country, he effectively nationalized the oil industry. This enraged the United States and many American companies, which had invested heavily in the country’s oil sector.
Now, the Venezuelan government is accusing the United States of backing right wing groups, which the government believes is behind the most recent bout of unrest. The United States has long been suspected of backing right wing groups in the country and trying to undermine Venezuela’s socialist experiment.
The United States is also considering sanctions against Venezuela, but so far American officials have stated that they would prefer a more peaceful solution.
With the level of unrest having reached such high levels, however, it may be impossible for Venezuela to recover. The government was already weak and lacked a wide mandate before the protests. By now, it has likely lost many of its supporters. The heavy handed tactics used by the government, whether warranted or not will almost certainly result in the government losing support.
Meanwhile, the break down of order has only fueled Venezuela’s economic collapse, which will make it more difficult to get things under control. With the country already suffering what is believed to by the highest murder rate in the world and inflation hitting 50 percent, the government may simply be running out of time to stabilize the situation.
Add in the fact that economically liberal governments, such as the United States, and Venezuela’s own right-wing political parties desperately want to see the Socialist government fail, and there may be little the government can do to prevent the slide.