“What we’re seeing is a reversal, complete erosion, of all of the gains that were made during this phase in the mid 2000s. Poverty is up, inequality is up, and these are for me extremely serious concerns which are simply not being addressed by the government’s economic policy.”
This week, we present special programming as part of the Global Research News Hour’s 2018 summer series.
Venezuela, once a beacon for democratic and social transformation for Latin American countries, and an inspiration for much of the progressive Left abroad, is now struggling under an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
Over the course of President Hugo Chavez’s first decade in power, Venezuela saw households in poverty reduced by 39 per cent and those in extreme poverty down by more than half. Enrollment in higher education had doubled. Real social spending per person had more than tripled. 
A recent survey however, put together by three universities, found 87 per cent of Venezuelan households to be living in poverty, a 38 per cent increase since 2014. In 2017, 64 per cent of Venezuelans had lost about 11 kg of weight due to hunger. The homicide rate in Venezuela increased by 345 per cent in 2017 over 1998. One in five Venezuelans in 2017 were the victim of some crime with 65 per cent preferring not to report to authorities out of distrust of the authorities. Six out of ten people between the ages of 18 and 24 no longer have access to higher education, and 38 per cent of children under 17 have stopped attending school citing problems with transportation, blackouts, and lack of food. 
To be certain, low oil commodity prices [which were the object of manipulation], Venezuela has been very dependent on its oil exports, is a big part of the problem. There has also been long-standing animosity toward the independence displayed by the Chavistas, in opposition to America’s military and economic hegemony of the South American continent.
But to dwell on these factors alone do a disservice to other problematic dynamics in play. For example, the failure to address legacies of corruption and social violence, ideological tensions between state and worker management, and those between the civilian and military elements of the ruling PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) and government.
As Venezuela under newly re-elected President Nicolas Maduro struggles with this crisis, we present a rigorous dissection of the events there in the last two decades and explore the prospects for the country moving ahead.
Professor Julia Buxton has made Venezuela the particular focus of her research. In a keynote address delivered in Winnipeg on October 1 2017, the academic plows past the ideological rhetoric, and provides insights into the human experience of the changes brought about under Chavez, and unaddressed oversights which contributed to the turmoil of today. This speech was presented as part of the University of Manitoba based Geopolitical Economy Research Group’s Revolutions Conference.
Julia Buxton is Professor of Comparative Politics at Central European University’s School of Public Policy, and Senior Research Associate at the Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University. A specialist on Latin America and an expert on Venezuela, receiving her PhD from the London School of Economics, Buxton has thematic expertise on democratisation and transition processes, post conflict recovery, and conflict analysis, including conflict sensitive design and policy implementation, as well as gender and gender sensitive design. She has authored numerous books and articles on Venezuela in the Chavez period and on Latin America in general.
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