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A Venezuelan tragedy

84 7 17

The breakdown of social order there is the most important and deplorable development of 2016 in LatAm

NEW YORK — The biggest news from Latin America as the year comes to an end is the unprecedented worsening of the social, political and economic crisis in Venezuela as the government shows record-breaking ineptitude and the opposition proves unable to form a unified front to offer an alternative to desperate Venezuelans. More than Donald Trump’s election or the peace process in Colombia, the breakdown of social order in Venezuela is unfortunately the most important and deplorable development of 2016.

Venezuelans started 2016 in a hopeful mood. The democratic opposition had overwhelmingly won the legislative elections on December 7 and, contrary to expectations, the administration of Nicolás Maduro accepted defeat. Having received 56.2 percent of the vote, the opposition secured 109 of the 167 seats in the unicameral Congress. Though it was a clear majority, it fell just short of the tow thirds majority threshold required to override President Maduro’s veto power. Despite accusations of vote-tampering on the part of the government to prevent the opposition from securing a veto-proof two-thirds majority, the election — held under unfavourable conditions for the opposition — was a victory for democracy in that troubled country. The fact that the government admitted defeat was a ray of hope for those advocating for a democratic and orderly transition out of Chavismo in Venezuela.

A year later, hopes for a peaceful change of government have vanished. The opposition is deeply divided as to how to bring about political chance and restore sanity in the economic policies. After constant disagreements on how to deal with the unpopular government, the opposition ended up doing little to capitalise on popular discontent against Maduro. While the most radical wing unsuccessfully sought to remove Maduro from power, immediately after gaining control of the Legislature — a move that would have required them to bypass the Constitution — the moderate wing bet on securing a recall referendum vote that, if held in 2016, would have forced Maduro out and paved the way for fresh presidential elections. Neither side succeeded, as Maduro used his control over the Supreme Court to block the opposition’s efforts to use administrative procedures to remove him from power and delayed the process that would have forced a recall vote long enough to make it constitutionally impossible to trigger new presidential elections before his term ends in 2019.

From despair to where

Twelve months after the electoral result led many Venezuelans to see a light at the end of the........

© Buenos Aires Herald