Venezuela: Is There a Way Out of its Tragic Impasse?
Latin American Program | July 2019
Abraham F. Lowenthal and Davild Smilde
On April 30, 2019, the Venezuelan democratic opposition, led by Juan Guaidó, attempted to mount a decisive challenge to Venezuela’s authoritarian government, led by Nicolás Maduro, bringing to a head a struggle that has been ongoing since the start of this year. But the uprising did not attract support from a critical mass of senior Venezuelan military leaders, and the effort did not trigger Maduro’s overthrow. Venezuela thus remains mired in a catastrophic impasse: a free-falling economy, rampant inflation, devastated productive capacity, substantial violence, intense polarization, widespread suffering, and massive emigration.
Maduro came to power in Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chávez Frías, the charismatic military officer elected president in 1998, who used the bonanza of high oil prices to win support from large sectors of Venezuelans previously not included in the petroleum largesse and to bankroll assertive international policies to advance his project of “21st Century Socialism.” A year before his reelection in 2012, Chávez was diagnosed with cancer. Before Chávez assumed his new term, it became clear that he was mortally ill, and he named Maduro as his designated successor. Maduro won the presidency in his own right in 2013, in highly contested and very close elections that were generally considered reliable, if not entirely free and fair.