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Venezuela - Politics

Fourth Republic
13 Feb 195911 Mar 1964Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt BelloAD
11 Mar 196411 Mar 1969Raúl Leoni OteroAD
11 Mar 196912 Mar 1974Rafael Caldera RodríguezCOPEI
12 Mar 197412 Mar 1979Carlos Andrés Pérez RodríguezAD
12 Mar 197902 Feb 1984Luis Herrera CampinsCOPEI
02 Feb 198402 Feb 1989Jaime Ramón LusinchiAD
02 Feb 198931 Aug 1993Carlos Andrés Pérez RodríguezAD
21 May 199305 Jun 1993Octavio Lepage BarretoAD
05 Jun 199302 Feb 1994Ramón José Velásquez MujicaNon-party
02 Feb 199402 Feb 1999Rafael Caldera RodríguezCN
Fifth Republic
02 Feb 199905 Mar 2019Hugo Rafael Chavez Frías MVR / PSUV
05 Mar 2013?? ??? 20?? Nicolas Maduro Moros PSUV
22 Jan 2019?? ??? 20??Juan Gerardo Guaidó MárquezPW
AD = Social Democraft
COPEI = Christian Democrat
CN = National Convergence
MVR = Fifth Republic Movement
PSUV = United Socialist Party of Venezuela
PW = People's Will

Private enterprises control approximately 70 percent of production within Venezuela. As a group, those running these private enterprises have been historically opposed to the Venezuelan socialist model. These businesses are represented by Fedecamaras and Consecomercio, which both actively supported the failed 2002 coup against the late President Chavez. In fact, it was the head of Fedecamaras, Pedro Carmona Estanga, who briefly “occupied” the presidency after the coup.

Under the Bolivarian revolution initiated by Hugo Chavez, consumption became democratized. Venezuelans could afford to purchase more than just basic goods – they might purchase industrial products and electronics among other things. However, the majority of food production is controlled by private enterprises, giving them control over what is and is not available in stores. Private enterprises closely aligned with the opposition in Venezuela, using the power at its disposal to put pressure on the government and create social tension in order to ripen conditions for plots to oust the democratically-elected government.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled in January 2016 that the National Assembly was in contempt over its inauguration of three lawmakers from the state of Amazonas who had been declared illegitimate due to electoral fraud charges. Rather than removing the lawmakers to swiftly remedy the stalemate — which has led the Supreme Court to declare all National Assembly decisions null for months — since taking sweeping control of the Assembly in December 2015, the majority opposition parliament has largely focused on attempts to remove Maduro from office.

The MUD (coalition of opposition parties) used Parliament to attack the entire State structure, ranging from the Executive and other political powers. Chavismo has repeatedly criticized Parliament under MUD's rule for exponentially raising national political conflicts, reflected in power struggles. There has been an unprecedented increase in what the Venezuelan government and Chavismo describe as "attempts to paralyze State and country."

In January 2017 the Washington-based, USAID-funded research group Freedom House released its annual “Freedom in the World” report, which promoted a definition of "freedom" bent towards U.S. interests in the region. The January 2017 report cast Venezuela and other left-wing Latin American governments as “not free,” while marveling at Brazil’s Michel Temer government, which ousted elected President Dilma Rousseff in a parliamentary coup last year.

"Former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez earned foreign admirers—in his case on the political left—by nationalizing private industries, taking on the moneyed classes behind the country’s conservative political establishment, and redistributing wealth to the poor through a variety of housing, education, and social programs. He also denounced U.S. “imperialism” and used his country’s oil wealth to support likeminded governments across the region.

"By 2016, the regime Chávez built, now in the hands of his chosen successor, Nicolás Maduro, was facing economic and political collapse. The national oil company had been hollowed out by corruption, political projects, and neglect under Chávez, long before the arrival of low global oil prices. The currency, weakened by the world’s highest inflation rates, made it difficult to import basic goods including food and medical supplies, leading to chronic shortages and repeated riots during the year. And Maduro, relying in part on the regime’s control of the courts, responded to an opposition victory in recent legislative elections by stripping the legislature of meaningful power and blocking a presidential recall referendum, effectively cutting off the only route to an orderly change of leadership."

“Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s combination of strong-arm rule and dire economic mismanagement pushed his country to a status of Not Free for the first time in 2016,” the organization warned in their report. Its assessment of the country, however, grossly overlooks that the opposition-controlled parliament has long attempted to, and prioritized, ousting Maduro through constitutionally dubious means.

Since the report was published, leaders spoke out against the conclusion. Uruguay’s President Tabare Vazquez quelled the mainstream hysteria surrounding Venezuela, telling Deutsche Welle that "there is democracy because there are three powers working.” The Uruguayan president recalled that in that country "there is a functioning judicial power, a legislative power in operation (where the opposition is majority) and there is an executive branch with its president and vice president … this is the cold figure of the Venezuelan state."

The Supreme Court ruled on 29 March 2017 that it was assuming the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly. The Supreme Court ruled that in light of the National Assembly being in contempt for refusing to remove three lawmakers accused of fraud, the court would exercise parliamentary powers to “ensure the rule of law.”

The rulings did not disregard the existence nor assigned positions of those who legitimately integrate and have rightful designations within the National Assembly. THough it did not dissolve the opposition-majority legislature, it revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution. The Supreme Court's contempt charge stemmed from vote-buying accusations against three lawmakers from southern Amazonas state. Even though they no longer sit in Congress, the court said parliamentary leaders had not legalized their exit.

The ruling stated that, "as long as the disrespect and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persists, this Constitutional Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly by this Chamber or by the body it has in place to ensure the rule of law." Julio Borges's 'election' as Assembly president was not in accordance with the constitution, and therefore all of Borges’ actions as head of the chamber were considered null and void.

The ruling held that the Supreme Court should be notified of PDVSA (Venezuelan oil state company) activities with other parties to allow the court to ensure compliance with the current Hydrocarbons Law. They authorized the President to continue to take pertinent actions within the framework of the "Economic and State of Emergency" in order to overcome the current economic situation.

Venezuelan bonds fell sharply on the uncertainty, with the country's benchmark Global 2027 down around 7 percent. The country's currency fell 9 percent on the black market against the dollar. Maduro's opponents and international powers, including the United States and governments across Latin America, condemned the Venezuelan Supreme Court rulings. The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) compared it to a “auto coup” by the leftist Maduro.

In a rare show of dissent from a senior official, powerful Attorney General Luisa Ortega denounced the two rulings announced 29 March 2017. Long an ally of Maduro, she rebuked the court : "It constitutes a rupture of the constitutional order," Ortega said in a speech on state television. "It's my obligation to express my great concern to the country."

A defiant Maduro defended the supreme court in an appearance 31 March 2017 on state television and vowed to resolve the impasse between the attorney general and the court "through dialogue and the constitution.” Seeking to project himself as above a fray between independent powers and possibly presaging a U-turn by the Supreme Court, Maduro said he had known nothing in advance of its ruling.

Venezuela's Supreme Court said 01 April 2017 that it would abandon measures to strengthen President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power after it was widely and harshly criticized. The court announced that the ruling had been dropped, hours after Venezuela’s Security Council called on the court to revisit the decision. The court stated that it “abolished the content” of the decision handed down days earlier.

The presidential election has traditionally been held in December, but there was speculation it will be brought forward to the first half of 2018 so the socialists can take advantage of the opposition's disarray. With its most popular leaders barred - Leopoldo Lopez was under arrest and Henrique Capriles is prohibited from office - the opposition may struggle to find a popular flagbearer. Uniting the disparate parties and reigniting enthusiasm among despondent grassroots supporters will also be huge challenges.

On 20 May 2018, Nicolás Maduro was re-elected president of Venezuela with 67.7 percent of the vote. Maduro began his second term in office 10 January 2019 after he was sworn in at the country's supreme court as several world leaders and delegations from around the globe attended the event. Maduro assumed a new term for which he has committed to "promote the changes that are needed in Venezuela, to defend the right to peace and respect for the Constitution."

Venezuelan security forces have been sending death squads to commit extrajudicial killings of young men, according to a United Nations report released on 04 July 2019. The crime scenes are then staged to make it look like the victims were resisting arrest. Caracas had said that about 5,287 people died last year when they refused to be detained by officers, and that this has been the case for a further 1,569 through the middle of May 2019. However, the UN report suggested that many of these deaths were actually extrajudicial executions. According to the report, the deaths were an integral part of President Nicolas Maduro's campaign of "neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government."

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido was again sworn in as head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly amid a showdown for control of the parliament after his former opposition ally Luis Parra was sworn in as the rival congressional chief. After a tense standoff with security forces early on 07 January 2020, Guaido entered the congress and began the first legislative session of the year. The session followed an attempt by rival legislators to take control of the congress.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 14:08:00 ZULU