Since Hugo Chavez died in 2013, the country has been going nowhere except down. Venezuela has suffered from hyperinflation when oil prices plummeted in 2014 making the value of their currency worthless. With many people opposing the government, President Maduro has now decided to gain total power in the government and start a dictatorship. However, the government has been recently acting more like a gang and have been accused of working with actual gangs in Venezuela.
Today, millions of Venezuelans struggle to get food and basic products from stores that have so few already, although, government supporters have a less difficult time searching for products thanks to the Maduro regime. Due to the dangers of sitting in extremely long lines to just purchase basic products, some people begin to support the Maduro regime just so they can get those products. The government controls the food distribution, which means they know what goes to which store and are willing to share this information with supporters. Although, other reports suggest that the Venezuelan army actually control food distribution.
The most interesting aspect about the Venezuelan government is that they have supposed connections with actual gangs in the country that work for them. The most well-known gangs that have connections with the government are the Tupamaros and the Colectivos. Before, the Tupamaros, a far left Marxist group, were branded as urban guerrillas until Hugo Chavez took power. Then the Tupamaros started bodyguarding government VIPs, scaring political opponents, and organizing pro-government demonstrations after the National Assembly’s President allegedly contacted them. In return, the government supplies them with weapons. Today, the Tupamaros and the government have a strategic alliance with each other. The international community has suggested that the government should seek for foreign investment and better economic policies, but are against the gang’s ideological beliefs and the government doesn’t intend to lose ties with the Tupamaros. There’s not much known about the armed group, the Colectivos, but several members from the group were seen with Venezuela’s security forces violently attacking anti-government protesters with weapons and tear-gas and have been responsible for about half of the protesters who have died as of July 2017.
Venezuela’s government has recently been accused of treating their people poorly. Many opposition members have been jailed, placed under house arrest, or were held at intelligence services’ headquarters for months. At anti-government protests, security forces have been accused of shooting demonstrators with riot-control munitions, running over demonstrators with armored vehicles, brutally beating peaceful protesters, and staging violent raids on apartment buildings. Some protesters have claimed that Venezuela’s intelligence service identify protesters, take them away without warrants, and either torture or prosecute them in military courts for ‘violating’ international law. Maduro has also been known to fire government workers who speak against him.
In 2017, Maduro showed signs of creating a dictatorship when the Supreme Court stripped power from the National Assembly, a legislative branch, and gave it to the Maduro regime. Maduro planned to take over the National Assembly so he can draft a new constitution and gain total power. Since 2014, the National Assembly has blocked all laws that the judicial and executive court have attempted to pass, and it was due to the fact that the branch was dominated by the opposition party, who were against Maduro and his regime. It led the international community to condemn the action. Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor, a Maduro loyalist, publicly condemned the action as well. She called the ruling a sign of a “rupture in the constitutional order”, and a grave threat to the last bit of democracy in Venezuela. The secretary-general of the Organization of American States then called an emergency meeting with the members by citing the “Democratic Charter”, a pact that members signed in 2001 to pledge that they would adhere to democratic principles. After this action, they may expel Venezuela from the organization.
It seems like the only way to save Venezuela rests on the shoulders of the Venezuelan army. According to the Venezuelan constitution, the armed forces are supposed to be separate from being involved in politics. However, the movement that guides the Maduro regime, Chavismo, has been led by the military since the beginning of it. Today, officers or former military officers run 11 of the 32 ministries in the government, and 11 out of 23 state governors are retired officers. President Maduro has been known as a producer of generals since he took power. Last year, he promoted 200 officers to the rank of general, which brings the number of generals in Venezuela to over 2,000, the U.S. only has about 900 generals. According to reports, some lower-ranking officers are dissatisfied with what the military has been doing and they don’t hesitate to publicly speak about it. In the armed forces, the army is filled with different groups both between and within branches of the Venezuelan military. Some help gangs with drug-trafficking by giving them access to ports and airports that they control. Besides the divisions in the army, the generals all share the same interest, saving the regime’s survival. Despite the fact that Venezuelans in the country are suffering from a food crisis and an economic crisis, the “government” has been busy appeasing to both gangs and the Venezuelan military, and there seems to be no sight of this crisis ending anytime soon.