December 6th marks the day of election for Venezuela’s National Assembly and this one speaks to Venezuela’s growing political divide. Current President left-wing Socialist Maduro follows in Hugo Chavez’s footsteps and is looking to implement practices introduced by Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. If the opposition, most notably MUD Democratic Unity Roundtable, wins majority seats in the Assembly, Maduro will find himself surrounded by right-wingers looking to tear him down.
Chavez came to power in 1998 under a civic military alliance, which galvanized the support of the people and under which Chavez passed the Boliviarian Constitution amid Venezuela’s failing democracy. The new socialist authoritarian Constitution implemented initiatives that opposed the prevailing oligarchical society of the past. Chavez “liberated us” said an old woman, “…especially the defenseless people, like us elderly grandparents. We now have free medicine, free education, free, dignified housing, subsidized food for us humble people.
“Before it was all privatized. Before, if you didn’t have a bunch of money, you couldn’t enroll in a university. The poor, the marginalized could not enter.”
The old conservative and social democrat parties pooled their power in opposition to Chavez, exercising their influence over the oil sector and mass media. Their actions only highlight the class hatred prevalent in society.
Today Maduro struggles not only to resist opposition but to deal with the mounting problems that Venezuela faces. Due to the diminishing oil markets, which contribute to 95% of Venezuela’s national profit, people have lost basic needs, having to stand hours in line to receive food at a supermarket. A quarter of the population suffers from poverty.
A majority MUD National Assembly would not only hinder Maduro’s objectives but may unseat Maduro altogether, thanks to a recall clause Chavez introduced in the Bolivarian Constitution, which allows the voting electorate to depose the President. However, the recent failure of an opposition military coup has dampened right-wingers’ zeal for now, and the country’s electoral map favors rural districts where the Chavez movement is likely to gain support.
Many are expecting violence to break out in response to an uncertain future. In response to President Maduro’s election in 2014, protesters took to the streets and dozens were killed on both sides. Leaders were only able to quell tensions by urging protesters to organize in preparation for the elections of December 6th.
Venezuela’s government and opposition leaders are barely on speaking terms. In the past international observers helped mediate and spur peaceful interaction. This year observer missions have been dissolved or discontinued by their respective agencies, opening up potential for unregulated violence.
by Allison Huang ’17