May 4, 2017


The end of autocracy in Venezuela? : After living in an electoral autocracy for 18 years, Venezuela is now ready to revolt for democracy. (Maryhen Jimenez Morales, 5/04/17, Al Jazeera)

It is impossible to summarise the catastrophic downturn that Venezuelans have suffered over the past decades. Today, the country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world has 82 percent of its citizens living in poverty, suffering from chronic shortages of food, medicines and basic supplies. In fact, 80 percent of the population says they do not always have the money to buy food, and three out of four Venezuelans are dissatisfied with the healthcare system.

Almost the entire country believes that the economy is getting worse, while the IMF is predicting Venezuela's inflation to top the 2,000 percent mark next year. On top of that, Caracas is classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In 2015, it was declared the city with the highest homicide rates outside a declared warzone, with over 28,000 murders a year.

Some argue that it is hard to understand how Venezuela got to this point. Yet, the answer is quite simple. It is a regime question. A Churchillian view of politics reminds us that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others". Democracy is not a necessary condition for economic prosperity or even for political stability. Evidence from contemporary China, Singapore, Malaysia or some countries in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, shows that non-democratic regimes can be quite efficient in delivering public goods, economic progress or political stability. True though that may be, it is also true that these positive developments almost always come at the expense of check and balances, accountability, separation of powers, respect for human rights or opposition forces. Thus, was Churchill right? This is no easy question, but the Venezuelan case certainly demonstrates the risk of disregarding democratic processes. The transition from a democracy, to an electoral autocracy, to a regime that suspends all elections as of today, represents the origin of the country's current political, economic and social crisis.

Put that on the owner's desk.

Posted by at May 4, 2017 4:59 AM