Publisher: Jacobin Magazine
Date Written: 22/05/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21123
The failure of Nicolás Maduro's government to maintain popular living standards has allowed the right-wing opposition to take control of Venezuela's National Assembly, resulting in a bitter standoff between executive and legislature that has yet to be resolved one way or another.
When he became terminally ill, Chávez left behind three key problems for his successors to grapple with. The first was the question of leadership. It would have been difficult to find a replacement for Chávez, a man of rare political talents with an outsized personality. But the way Chávez handled the question, by nominating Nicolás Maduro to take his place at the head of the movement, simply reinforced the top-down aspects of Chavismo.
Julia Buxton has suggested that a primary selection process allowing supporters of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to choose between rival contenders would have empowered the Chavista base and given the PSUV a badly needed shot in the arm. Maduro's record in office makes it hard to disagree with that.
In the economic field, Chávez left Venezuela more dependent than ever on oil exports. There was much talk in the early years of his government about diversifying the economy and building up a stronger manufacturing base, but those plans fell by the wayside as oil prices continued to soar. It would have been a remarkable achievement for any government to overcome the so-called "Dutch disease" at a time when buoyant oil revenues sucked in cheap imports that priced Venezuelan industries out of the home market. But the Chavistas compounded the problem with heavy borrowing from states like China, based on the assumption that prices were unlikely to fall much. When the bottom dropped out of the market, Venezuela found itself badly exposed.