Outside of countries at war (and sometimes not even that), Venezuela has been the worst performing economy in the world over the last few years. The graphic below says it all:
Venezuela’s per capita economic output has collapsed in the last decade to levels not seen since the 1940s, a catastrophic 75 percent drop, according to data from the IIF. Hyperinflation, scarcity, rampaging crime and political persecution have only piled on even more horrors into the mix.
Predictably, by the year 2015, the popularity of Nicolás Maduro’s government was in rapid decline. And the loss of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) at the elections renovating the country’s parliament was hardly a surprise. In fact, it was a landslide, with the opposition on the brink of securing two thirds of the seats that would allow it to reform the country’s constitution. It was also the last Venezuelan election that could more or less be seen as clean and fair, despite the dirty government tricks to ensure that the opposition didn’t get the two thirds.
Since then, elections were basically turned into a sham. In 2017, the government decreed a constitutional reform that would strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its powers, and elected the representatives of a brand-new Constitutional Assembly that could overrule the National Assembly. It did so through an election in which the weight of each vote was also changed by decree to favor Maduro’s government, and which had the owner of the software company that ran the election denouncing fraud and fleeing the country.
In 2018, Maduro was re-elected with most of the main opposition parties and figures banned from participating. With his win seen widely as illegitimate, National Assembly head Juan Guaidó declared himself as the legitimate leader of the country when Maduro’s 2013 presidential term expired, and was accepted as such by many countries abroad, creating a dual-power situation, although local control of the State remained fully in the hands of the PSUV and its allies.
This weekend, the government held elections to renew the opposition-controlled National Assembly, from which Guaidó drew his claims to legitimate leadership. Amid a continued context of persecution to dissenters and fears of fraud, most of the opposition boycotted the election, resulting in a low-turnout win for the ruling PSUV and its allies, with 31 percent participation according to preliminary government figures, contrasting with 74 percent in 2015. The results so far show a predictably large win for the government, with the small pockets of opposition sectors taking part getting only a small minority of seats.
Given that Venezuela is undergoing its worst crisis in history and one of the worst in the modern history of the continent, and that political freedom and transparency are near all-time lows, it’s hard to take any of these results very seriously – although the government probably will.