Is One of America’s Greatest Rivals About to Collapse?

Is One of America’s Greatest Rivals About to Collapse?

July 28th, 2016
Venezuela has the world’s biggest oil reserves, yet its socialist economy is collapsing. The Venezuelan people, who during the last two decades have lived under a revolutionary, left-wing government, are increasingly hungry and desperate. The crisis has propelled a widespread opposition movement to have President Nicolás Maduro recalled from office via a referendum vote.
Maduro took over for the late Hugo Chavez in 2013. Opposition members say they have gathered the 400,000 votes needed to meet the constitutional requirements for starting the recall process. If the movement to recall Maduro is successful, it could mean an end for the revolutionary government and new leadership that isn’t as hostile to U.S. interests.

The Perspectives

Nicolás Maduro, the leftist President of Venezuela, has resisted calls for a referendum on his ouster. The leader sees his struggle for political survival in terms of protecting Venezuela from “imperialist aggression,” vowing that the Hugo Chavez revolution “will not be surrendered ever.” Maduro believes the U.S. is seeking to defeat the anti-imperialist Chavista movement and turn Venezuela into a “neo-colony” from which its corporations can profit. The president notes that Venezuela’s economic woes are largely the result of plummeting oil prices, which he says were intentionally caused by the U.S. conspiring with oil-producing allies to flood the world market. Maduro’s views are informed by decades of history and numerous examples in which the U.S., working through oppressive right-wing governments, secretly manipulated Latin American politics to serve its own interests.
Henry Ramos Allup, the Speaker of the National Assembly and a member of the centrist opposition, is helping to lead the movement for a presidential recall vote. Allup believes that President Maduro, who maintains tight control over Venezuela’s socialist economy, is directly responsible for the painful shortages and rampant inflation afflicting the nation. The chaos is only expected to get worse, as experts forecast economic shrinkage of 10% this year. Allup and the recall movement have the support of the suffering Venezuelan people, with some polls showing almost 90% in favor of booting Maduro out of office. Even some prominent leaders belonging to Maduro’s Chavista movement have spoken out in favor of removing him. Allup has said he will negotiate with the government, as long as certain conditions are met to ensure a referendum vote.
Henrique Capriles Radonski, a Venezuelan governor and leader of the right-wing Justice First party, says that the opposition is wrong to believe it can negotiate recall terms with the Maduro government. Capriles argues that the left-wing leadership is only teasing the possibility of talks in order to buy time. If the referendum is put off until next year, it would mean Maduro, even if ousted, would be replaced by his vice president through the end of 2018, allowing two more years of Chavista rule. On the other hand, a recall this year would lead to snap elections and the potential for fresh leadership to save Venezuela from the economic abyss. Capriles calls on those in favor of a recall to force the government’s hand by taking to the streets and demanding their constitutional right to a referendum.

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