Anti-government protests continue to rage in Venezuela


A protester stares down riot police during demonstrations in Venezuela

With unrest in Ukraine and Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, the continuing protests in Venezuela have been largely overshadowed. Just a year after the death of President Hugo Chavez, it appears that the government he created is falling apart.

The protests started as a response to Venezuela’s high rate of violent crime which makes it one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Figures show that in 2012, there were 55.2 murders for every 100,000 people, which gives Venezuela one of the highest murder rates in the whole world. In May of 2013, Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, ordered 3,000 soldiers to the streets of the capital of Caracas in an effort to combat crime.

Another factor contributing to the unrest in Venezuela is rampant political corruption. In 2012, Transparency International listed Venezuela as 165th out of 176 countries, making it one of the world’s top 10 most corrupt countries.  Its judicial system has also been called one of worst in the world. Corruption is also present in the Venezuelan police force, even to the point where many crimes go unreported to the police.

Due to the government’s policies, the South American country also has the highest inflation in the world. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela, the inflation rate of Venezuela is currently at 56 percent. There is also a crippling shortage of even the most basic necessities such as milk, toilet paper, and medicine.

The socialist government of Venezuela came to power in 1999 after the election of Hugo Chavez. Chavez died in March of 2013, but his legacy is still felt, especially among the poor, who regard him as a saint. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, only won the election by a slight margin of just under two percent. The country’s middle class is largely critical of the government.

President Nicolas Maduro salutes the deceased former president Hugo Chavez
President Nicolas Maduro salutes the deceased former president Hugo Chavez

Since protests broke out in early February, the government has responded with force, including use of the military. With the death of a Chilean citizen in Merida on March 9th, the death toll was brought to at least 21 in five weeks of unrest. With the success of Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution, the Venezuelan government is more worried than ever about losing their grip on power.