Venezuela in crisis: Economic collapse, presidential power struggle, riots and refugees lead to an unstable nation


This is an image of a Venezuelan protest that occurred on January 23, 2020.

Venezuela, once one of the most economically powerful countries in South America, has experienced an extreme deterioration within the past 25 years. Its downfall began roughly around the year of 1998, which was when Hugo Chavez was elected into presidency. Chavez was responsible for causing the inflation that has damaged Venezuela’s economy that was created by oil reserves within Venezuela. 

“Their former president promised to lower prices of basic goods causing people to stop making the products from the lack of profit,” human geography teacher Dana Hilliard said. “This created a low supply of food, medicine and basic goods. With a low supply and an increased demand, the prices of the goods increased.”

Chavez was also responsible for the corruption that took place and is continuing to take place in present day Venezuela. He replaced congress with a new National Assembly, which was full of his supporters and people that he could control. In addition, he changed the constitution in order to guarantee himself power. The previous restrictions on the election process were that you could not be reelected consecutively and that the terms were five years. However, he changed it so that reelection is unlimited and so that the terms are six years.

Chavez was in power until his death in 2013; he was superseded by Nicholas Maduro. Under Maduro’s reign, the economy and the political aspect of Venezuela spiraled further into deterioration.

“Nearly five million people have left in order to find jobs, basic goods and services, and political stability,” Hilliard said.

Maduro rules Venezuela by instilling fear in the people through the use of violence. Any person that is part of the opposition, which is a group that does not accept Maduro as the president as a result of corrupted elections, or who is against Maduro is in danger of being incarcerated or killed.

Additionally, under Maduro’s rule, the crime rate has increased drastically; people cannot find basic day-to-day items like toilet paper in the stores; and when they do find the items that they need, it is at a very expensive price. 

“Medicine, food, and jobs are scarce,” Hilliard said. “It is very hard to feed your family and find basic goods for survival.”

Maduro’s power trip has resulted in an increased courage for the opposition and has caused many riots. After Maduro was sworn in for his second term as president, Juan Guiadó declared himself as the interim president as a result of the controversy on the legality of Maduro’s election.

“There are ‘two’ presidents. The United States and other countries do not recognize Maduro as president of Venezuela,” Hilliard said.

As a result of the United States recognizing Guiadó as interim president, they along with other countries are no longer trading with Venezuela. This lack of goods being imported along with the high prices caused by inflation has resulted in the downfall of the economy.

“In order for Venezuela’s crisis to begin to be resolved, the economy will have to get better and the people will have to feel as if the elections are fair and equal,” Hilliard said.