Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Saturday 22nd July 2017 | Manchester, UK

2014-2016 Venezuelan Political Struggles

On 1st September 2016, 1,000,000 people marched on Caracas in the largest demonstration in Venezuelan history. You might ask why, but the answer depends upon who you ask.

The protests started in February 2014 following the attempted rape of a student on a university campus in San Cristóbal. However, the roots of this civil conflict lie much deeper than these flash events. The failure of the social and economic policies of Nicolás Maduro’s government was the main issue. Low oil prices, urban violence and chronic shortages of basic goods ensured that the protests continued, resulting in more than 3,000 arrests and 43 deaths in the early months of 2014.

The cause of these protests started back in 1998 when Hugo Chávez was elected President and presided over an administration which was widely accused of corruption, intimidation of the media and widespread human rights violations. Following Chávez’s death in 2013, his Vice-President Maduro took over. Fears about the economy, increasing crime and corruption became more widespread.

A harsh police crack-down on initial protests, including the detention and alleged abuse of several students, sparked even more unrest. Some of the major sources of discontent were the huge levels of corruption within Venezuela and the government’s policies of strict price controls, which led to “sporadic hyperinflation” – inflation is expected to reach 1,200% this year. A dozen eggs can, unbelievably, cost as much as $150.

Incredible levels of violence throughout the country and a lack of police and government control also led to the protests. A person is murdered every 21 minutes in Venezuela and 91% of murderers go unpunished. The government blames this violence on capitalist evils, but those protesting see the government as corrupt and soft on crime.

The protests have continued because of the government’s failure to act to save the economy or combat corruption. This, along with alleged abuse and human rights violations against those detained, have ensured that the demonstrations have not stopped. On September 1st 2016, 1,000,000 people, roughly 3% of the population, turned out calling for Mr Maduro’s removal from office. It was the largest demonstration in Venezuelan history, yet the government has not listened.

What, if anything, is next for Venezuela you may ask? The Vatican has become involved in trying to broker a peace deal within the country but the opposition parties are demanding an election and the release of activists. Opposition leaders have given the government until the 11th of November before they exit the talks and return to street tactics if required. The future for Venezuela looks uncertain, and a resolution may still be far off.

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