As a student of Latin American history, I vividly recall debating why the region’s governments collapsed into dictatorship time and time again. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay…yet Venezuela was largely absent from the conversation.
Maybe it was because the country seemed to have settled on a democratic system in 1958 after the people overthrew their “final” dictatorship, and avoided the mid-century military massacres their neighbors faced.
Or maybe it was the controversy surrounding President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, loved by the Left and hated by the Right. And despite his clashes with the U.S., his approval rating remained high at home, due in part to a booming economy, which made him an unlikely harbinger for military rule.
The End of Venezuelan Democracy?
Flash forward to today, and Venezuela is a very different place. Plagued by record-high inflation, shortages of food and medical supplies, and violent protests, human rights have been suspended in favor of law and order. And although President Nicolás Maduro has slowly continued to erode democratic institutions since he took office in 2013, the once promising nation may officially revert back to authoritarian rule in 2017.
Exhibit A:In October 2016, Maduro cancelled a presidential recall referendum and postponed regional elections indefinitely. The country had already been declared under a state of emergency since January.
Exhibit B: On March 29, 2017, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which is controlled by the executive branch, took over the National Assembly. While the ruling was reversed just days later, the separation of powers remains murky.