By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
Venezuela has witnessed some politically turbulent times and they continue to look worse by the week. This oil-exporting nation has suffered as crude prices have fallen, but this economic hardship has merely added to other issues that fester within Venezuela.
Now, many Venezuelans spend hours on end waiting in lines just to buy groceries, only to discover that the market has bare shelves. Running water is difficult to find in many areas and electricity is unreliable throughout the country.
President Maduro’s Popularity Sinking and May Lead to His Removal
As a result of these troubles, President Nicolas Maduro has watched his popularity slip. Maduro has survived all of the attempts by opposition forces to remove him from power so far, but his time could be running out.
Politicians in opposition to Maduro and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela have struggled to coalesce into a meaningful force in Venezuela. Some progress has been made on that front. In 2015, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (a.k.a. Mesa de la Unidad Democrática or MUD) won a super-majority in the National Assembly.
While that is impressive after the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (a.k.a. Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela or PSUV) held the reins for 16 years, the opposition only controls one branch of government. MUD has managed to kick-start a referendum process to remove Maduro from office, a promise they made in the 2015 elections.
But PSUV has been stymied by Maduro loyalists in other branches of the government. The National Electoral Council is expected to make an announcement of whether it will accept the petition for a recall referendum in the coming days.
While the political drama plays out, protests by the opposition and counter-protests by Maduro loyalists are likely to continue. Indeed, they’ll continue regardless of the Council’s decision on the referendum.
Looting Is Rare despite Venezuela’s Failing Economy
One thing that has been surprisingly rare is looting. Each day, Venezuelans form lines outside of various stores in an attempt to buy household essentials. With food shortages, it would be expected that looting would take place. Although looting has occurred in some areas, it hasn’t been on a large, national scale – at least not yet.
Armed criminal groups known as bachaqueros often push to the head of a store’s line. The bachaqueros buy out a store’s contents, then resell those supplies at a much higher rate. In a country suffering from the largest inflation on the planet, many people cannot afford these higher prices. However, their need to eat doesn’t diminish. This is a situation that cannot continue.
Observers of Venezuela have often been surprised by the seemingly unending staying power of the PSUV in the face of such hardship. These observers have often declared that Venezuela may soon join the ranks of the failed states.
Despite its troubling issues, Venezuela continues to function, albeit in a much-constrained fashion. Part of PSUV’s staying power is their blame of foreign agents for Venezuela’s situation. The opposition has long struggled to organize into something to actually challenge the ruling party and offer an alternative vision. Those problems stemming from the opposition’s ineptitude may be coming to an end, however. People can deal with a diverse set of issues in their daily lives, but they can only go hungry for so long.
Citizen Tension Growing in Venezuela
Venezuela’s future is in flux and something has to give in the current political stalemate. Maduro cannot fix the issues, especially with low oil prices undercutting the state budget, People cannot be fed with nothing more than an ideology.
As of this writing, riot police just aborted an attempt by nearly 100 protesters to make a run for the presidential palace in Caracas. If this attempt doesn’t wake Maduro and his party up to the realities and struggles of the average Venezuelan, he may go the fatal way of Nicolae Ceaușescu. His people can only tolerate so much.