Four keys to understanding the crisis in Venezuela

Crisis in Venezuela
Crisis in Venezuela, beyond Chavismo.
Crisis in Venezuela
Crisis in Venezuela

The 2,219 kilometer border and hundreds of migrants are not the only thing that Venezuela and Colombia share. Víctor Mijares, professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the Universidad de los Andes, states that Colombia's current political, social, and security stability depends on Venezuela's stability. "No one wants to be the neighbor of a failed state; for this reason, the Venezuelan situation is now a Colombian domestic matter", confirmed Mijares.

Although the situation in Venezuela is related to Chavismo and its current transformation of power, the researcher from Uniandes detailed that the origins of the crisis run deeper than just Chavismo; they can be explained by four elements that allow today's reality to be understood retrospectively.

1. 'Oil should provide everything'

The relationship Venezuelans have with oil is part of the country's idiosyncrasy and part of the national narrative: "Venezuela is a rich country because it has oil".

However, oil only employs 150,000 people, but it needs to sustain a population of 32 million. The ability to distribute income from oil equally has led to political competition.

The idea is that oil should provide everything, but it is an industry, which is something far removed for most Venezuelans.

2. State paternalism

Compared to a centralized and powerful state, Venezuela has a diminished society. The relationship between State and society has generated clientelism and paternalism, which has led to the latter being highly dependent on the former.

3. The political power of the military

The power that has been vested in the military is, today, a fundamental political axis that will determine if Chavismo will prevail or if there will be another transition. The civilian-military relationship has, without doubt, generated a Praetorian power structure where the military tilts the balance", added Mijares.

4. Venezuela and the world

Víctor Mijares, professor of political science, pointed out that it is typical of petro-states to oversize their capabilities in terms of how they relate to other countries: and Venezuela is no exception. This could be a rather dangerous and uncomfortable situation for this country and its population as, being so small, it is trapped in the middle of large powers such as Russia, China, and the United States.

Additionally, part of Venezuela's national identity has been built on opposing Colombia; there has always been tension between these countries that has permeated even the most basic relations between neighbors.

According to Mijares, the blackouts that Venezuelans are living through are the result of years of neglect and disinvestment. He added that the conditions in Venezuela are ripe for a collapse of Nicolás Maduro's military support. "This could be a process that takes years, but it could speed up as the U.S. elections draw closer", said the researcher.


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