This past Friday Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro declared a nationwide state of emergency in the face of an economic crisis.
Maduro has resorted to such extreme measures because of economic turmoil, which he has reportedly attributed to foreign aggression, referencing economic warfare he believes business leaders and the US are waging against his government.
Along the same lines, the Venezuelan president is ordering military exercises be carried out.
These exercises, which are scheduled to commence next week, are purportedly a measure Maduro is taking to start combating “foreign threats.”
In reality, Venezuela’s economy has been hit hard by a recession in the global economy that has led to falling oil prices. This declines has been a hard blow because the backbone of the nation’s economy is its oil resources, with Venezuela in possession of the world’s largest oil reserves.
In 2013 and 2014, a barrel of oil was priced at $100 a barrel. Today, the price has fallen to its lowest point in 12 years, just over $28.
This past year alone the Venezuelan economy has contracted by 5.7 percent, and its official inflation rate has surpassed 180 percent. Overall, the government’s revenue, of which approximately 45 percent is comprised of money from oil exports, has severely diminished.
The effects of the crisis, which began three years ago, have grown, reaching into numerous aspects of the daily lives of the people of Venezuela. With what used to be one of the highest consumption rates in Latin America, Venezuela was once one of the most developed nations in this region. Now, however, the country has made a major backslide.
Even basic necessities are hard to come by as Venezuelans face shortages in food, medicine, and other basic goods because the government no longer has the revenue to continue to finance the importation of a wide variety of products.
Venezuela’s state of scarcity is also taking a hard toll on the nation’s health care system, which is in a state of near collapse from a lack of drugs and supplies. An estimated 80 percent of all medicine is either scarce or unavailable.
Thus, the economic crisis has claimed the lives of numerous Venezuelans who have been unable to attain necessary medical treatment.
The rate of death among babies born under a month old that were born in public hospitals has increased more than a hundredfold from 2012 to now. Similarly, the rate of death of new mothers in these hospitals has increased by five times in the same time period.
The economic turmoil has also permeated the political sphere, fueling tensions.
Although Venezuela’s state of national emergency is only set to last for three months, it is likely this time frame will be extended. When President Maduro addressed the nation, he insinuated that the measures would likely be extended into 2017.
Furthermore, in his address, Maduro stated that it was the duty of the government to take control over the means of production in order to counter the most severe effects of the economic crisis on nation. Indeed, the state of emergency broadens the powers of the government by giving the government more responsibility over distributing food, medicine and other basic resources.
Maduro has even threatened to seize factories that have ceased production and jail these business owners.
This latest threat to escalate governmental measures came after Polar Group, Venezuela’s largest food and beverage company, stopped its beer production.
The company’s owners have stated that the Venezuelan government is at fault for halting their importation of barley. In turn, President Maduro is placing the blame for the economic hard times on such actions by factory owners, which only justify his threat to take over Venezuelan factories. Backing this line of thinking, Maduro stated, “We must take all measures to recover productive capacity, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoise.”
Maduro’s handling of the economic crisis has been largely unpopular, fueling protests by his opposition. These protestors have been holding rallies in Caracas to demand a recall vote in order to remove the Venezuelan president from power.
The opposition has submitted a petition containing 1.8 million signatures demanding a referendum, though the National Electoral Board has yet to verify their validity as of yet.
These protestors claim that the government is purposefully stymying their progress. In the next stage of attaining a referendum, they have to collect even more signatures, totaling four million.
If the opposition were to be successful in bringing about a referendum, the Venezuelan Constitution mandates that elections would have to be held toward the end of the year.
If the referendum were to occur, some worry that Venezuela would erupt into social chaos.
With the future of Venezuela uncertain, opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles described the political situation as a “time bomb that can explode at any moment.”