Maduro set for victory as Venezuela crumbles
Venezuela’s autocratic president Nicolas Maduro is expected to win another term in elections on Sunday.
But he soon could face a far bigger test — maintaining his grip on a country that is fast becoming a failed State.
Since Mr Maduro took over from Hugo Chavez — his mentor, who died in 2013 — Venezuela’s crisis has steadily intensified as a result of lower oil prices, corruption and a socialist system plagued with mismanagement.
But as Mr Maduro has sought to further consolidate power in the past 12 months, the economy, public services, security and health care have all but collapsed.
Armed gangs and Colombian guerilla groups are operating unchecked on Venezuela’s borders.
Pro-government militias are terrorising urban areas, while police stand accused of extrajudicial killings. Four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world are now in Venezuela, according to a 2017 study by the Igarap Institute, a Brazilian think tank that studies violence.
Hundreds if not thousands of members of the armed forces are deserting, in part because of meagre rations, according to military analysts.
Power and water grids and the transportation systems are breaking down. In just the first three months of the year, Venezuela had 7778 blackouts.
Saddled with a soaring inflation rate that has put food out of reach, Venezuelans, weakened and thin, are getting sick. Doctors say cases of diseases once thought largely eradicated — malaria, diphtheria, measles and tuberculosis — are not only resurfacing but surging.
In a nation that lives off oil, production is collapsing as plants break down and the bankrupt Government cannot fix equipment. Venezuela’s unpaid creditors are beginning to tighten the financial noose, moving to attach the country’s offshore assets.
At the State oil giant, 25,000 workers, more than a quarter of its staff, quit last year in a mass exodus. Fleeing workers are joining a flood of humanity, at least 5000 people a day, exiting the country. The exodus has left schools without teachers, hospitals without doctors and nurses, and utilities without electricians and engineers.
“A failed State is one that cannot meet the most basic functions of government,” economist Jean Paul Leidenz said.
“Venezuela now certainly has that characteristic."
During a campaign stop in the eastern Guayana City this week, Mr Maduro conceded his government “had made mistakes”. But he blamed the country’s crisis mostly on outside forces and domestic enemies and proclaimed this nation’s socialist revolution the foundation that would see Venezuela through to better days.
“Thanks to the social system created by the revolution, the people are protected and prepared,” he said. “We have a lot more to do, and that’s why we need victory.”
Venezuelans line up for subsidised food such as beans, rice, tuna and powdered milk provided by a government program.
A woman carries a box of food and a Maduro poster in Caracas.