In Venezuela, President Nicholas Maduro has managed to remain in power even as the country continues through protests and a worsening economic crisis. Even after Juan Guiado the opposition leader proclaimed himself as the interim president of the country and has been recognized by various other countries he still holds not actual power as Maduro has challenged his claims to the job. Maduro who had won a second 6-year term for President in May 2018 elections that critics say were rigged in his favor maintains absolute power over the oil-rich country and has engaged in what Ozan Varol terms “stealth authoritarianism” in his pursuit to keep control.
Having picked up where his predecessor Hugo Chavez left off, Maduro has worked to increase the powers of his office and his party the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in a way that mirrors many of the claims that Varol makes about stealth authoritarianism. Venezuela as a Federal Presidential Republic has an executive, legislative, and judicial body that theoretically would work with checks and balances in order to prevent possible tyranny. Yet for years Maduro has sought to eliminate these checks and balances and grant the executive more uncontested power by taking advantage of the countries constitution. One of the clearest examples is with the countries highest court The Supreme Tribunal of Justice which has been stacked with Maduro supporters and in 2017 they ruled to limit the power of the national assembly and took away the political immunity of its members allowing the majority opposition-controlled assembly to be prosecuted by the government. As one of the clear methods of stealth authoritarianism judicial review allowed Maduro to increase his hold on the government while also maintaining the veneer of a democratic republic. Furthermore, the actions were taken by the court to allow politicians to be prosecuted shows how Maduro prevents the opposition from taking power and challenging him.
This is further coupled by the actions that Maduro has taken to try and amend the constitution to grant him more power by abolishing term limits and limiting voting rights. Maduro knows that the majority of Venezuelans do not support him and while he has tried to rule according to the rule of Chavez, the economic dependence of the country on oil has caused a previously rich country to fall into despair. Maduro has limited voter rights, imprisoned political opponents, and engaged in political rigging which has all allowed him to remain in power even when the majority of his countrymen hate him.
Even after Juan Guiado the opposition leader proclaimed himself as the president of the country Maduro has remained firmly in control seeking to discredit the opposition and continue his persecution of those that support them. Although it has become easier for outside observers to note Maduro’s actions as anti-democratic and authoritarian his use of legal and constitutional means to provide a basis for his actions allows him to continue in power and not be challenged by outside forces. While Maduro’s legitimacy is being tested by the opposition, it seems highly unlikely that they will take control either due to the strong disillusionment of the people towards and meaningful change actually happening if Maduro were to step down. It seems that corruption has become an ingrained facet of the government one which has its origins in the original socialist revolution started by Chavez, yet the people’s adoration limits the amount of blame given to him due to his inception of the welfare state that helped so many. That is why in this case we are seeing Venezuela unravel as a previously rich country who hid its political instability and now with an economic crisis is facing increased pressure from its people to change.
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