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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Venezuela's irreconcilable visions for the future

"Venezuela is now a dictatorship," says Luis Ugalde, a Spanish-born Jesuit priest who during his 60 years living in Venezuela has become one of the South American nation's most well-known political scientists.
A former rector of the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Mr Ugalde does not mince his words.
He compares Venezuela to an ailing patient who is on the brink of being killed off by well-meaning but incompetent doctors.
Venezuela's problems are not new, he says. At their heart is the mistaken belief that it is a rich country.
He argues that while it may have the world's largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela should be considered overwhelmingly poor because it hardly produces anything except oil.

The curse of oil

A lack of investment in anything but the booming oil industry in the 20th Century meant that its human talent was never really fostered and its economy never diversified, resulting in an absolute reliance on imports.
Venezuela's late leader, Hugo Chávez, further compounded the illusion of Venezuela's wealth to the detriment of the country, Mr Ugalde argues.
"He told the Venezuelan people that there were three things standing between them and prosperity: the US empire, the rich and the entrenched political elite, and that he would deal with all three so that the people could enjoy Venezuela's wealth."
Investing Venezuela's oil revenue in generous social programmes, building homes and health care centres, expanding educational opportunities and providing the poorest with benefits they did not previously have, gave the government of President Chavez a wide support base.
But with falling global oil prices, government coffers soon emptied and investment in social programmes dwindled.
The death from cancer of President Chávez in 2013 further hit the governing socialist PSUV party hard.
His successor in office, Nicolas Maduro, lacked not only the charisma of President Chávez but also his unifying presence at the top of the party and the country.
Mr Ugalde does not doubt that President Maduro came to power democratically in 2013.
But he argues that what he has done since - such as undermining Venezuela's separation of powers - has turned him into a dictator.
The Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition won a landslide in the December 2015 election and yet it has seen almost all of its decisions overturned by the Supreme Court, a body which opposition politicians say is stacked with government loyalists.
An attempt by opposition politicians to organise a recall referendum to oust President Maduro from power was thwarted at every step by Venezuela's electoral council, another body opposition politicians say is dominated by supporters of Mr Maduro.
Source By BBC.COM


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