Eye-searing tear gas, rubber bullets, and swinging police batons greeted protestors opposed to President Maduro in Venezuela at the end of March 2017. Extraordinary political events had occurred, the most extreme being the Supreme Court’s announcement on 29 March 2017, stating its intent to take over legislative powers from the National Assembly. The rationale given was that the National Assembly was in contempt of the law as it had sworn in three lawmakers who had been banned for allegations of electoral fraud. Protest action from the people of Venezuela has occurred as a result and shows little sign of stopping. Both the Chief of Venezuelan Armed Forces and the Vice-President of Venezuela have requested the Supreme Court to review its decision. The Supreme Court quickly revoked its initial decision, however, protest action has continued. Although President Maduro remained silent, his aides responded to the rumours of a coup and intense global criticism. Russia, one of the few nations who are supportive of President Maduro and his socialist allies, urged other states not to meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
Disapproval of annulling the National Assembly came quickly from within Venezuela and from around the world. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern and noted that “The separation of powers is essential for democracy to function.” The European Union, similar to Latin American nations criticized President Maduro’s government. Some ambassadors in Venezuela were recalled in protest of the Supreme Court’s initial stance. The Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, called the action “a self-inflicted coup.” The United States of America (USA), a global superpower, viewed the Supreme Court’s action as an impediment to democracy as it would prevent alternative viewpoints from being articulated. Within Venezuela, President Maduro was accused of acting in a dictator-like way by removing democratic voice. Some critics have used the opportunity to push for regional elections to be held, as they are overdue, as well they want the 2018 presidential election to be held earlier. Dissenting voices were also found in President Maduro’s own party. For example, Attorney-General, Luisa Ortega, denounced the Supreme Court’s initial reaction on live television. It was the pressure of condemnation, both within Venezuela and internationally, that persuaded the Supreme Court to revoke the National Assembly takeover.
The Supreme Court’s action and reversal highlights the turmoil and unrest found in Venezuelan politics, which stimulated the people into protest action as it was so undemocratic. With that said, President Maduro was elected by a small majority in 2013 and he has not increased in popularity. This is due, in part, to the fact that inflation continues to grow rapidly, along with poverty and food shortages. In the short term, international humanitarian aid is needed to break the negative cycle and conditions. As well, social and political reforms are urgently needed to grow the economy, which is too dependent on oil production. Stability is crucial and politicians need to resolve differences and put self-ambition aside in order to achieve a better quality of life for the Venezuelan population. By resolving differences and working cooperatively substantial progress could be made economically to improve people’s lives. Peace dialogue, which was initiated in 2016 between all political groups, must continue in a meaningful way so areas of commonality can be found and collaboration can begin. Such action builds trust between those working together and sets an example for others to follow. Over time, the public will learn to trust politicians again. Pressure from the international arena may be the catalyst needed for ruling politicians to initiate positive change.
However, recession conditions for the last four years have made the people of Venezuela very wary. Acute shortages of food and medicine have resulted from decreasing oil prices and very high inflation. Successive presidents have failed to deal with Venezuela’s dependency on selling oil and the high levels of corruption found in all areas of business. Since taking office, President Maduro has successfully removed power from most opposition groups and has supported the Supreme Court when it has failed to support laws made by the National Assembly. Critics of President Maduro believe the socialist systems are the cause of the current economic problems. Nonetheless, tThe socialists led by President Maduro believe elite groups assisted by the USA are dissuading business people from investing in Venezuela.
With that said, President Maduro must listen to the Venezuelan people if he wishes to provide sound governance. When the Venezuelan peoples’ voices are heard, appropriate social and political reforms can then be initiated to give people a better quality of life and increase stability.