THE BLOG

2015: A Dark Year for Venezuela

15/12/2014 15:57 GMT | Updated 14/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Next year could bear bad news for Venezuela. Even before former President Hugo Chávez took power in 1999, the country has been persistently chastised with lack of economic opportunities, steep inflation, poverty, crime and repressive political systems. Now adding to this, lower oil prices are aggravating the already very difficult situation of Venezuela.

With plummeting oil prices worldwide, affecting other countries such as Iran and Russia, it is only a matter of time before Venezuela reaches its tipping point. Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world and a big part of its public spending is dependent on it. President Nicolás Maduro has reportedly turned to China once more for financial support to face this new crisis, but with a slowing down of Chinese economy and debts impending from previous financial help given to Venezuela, the Chinese lifeboat seems to be sinking.

The beginning of this year saw people protesting in the street all over Venezuela as a result, amongst other things, of lack of such basics as Harina Pan and toilet paper. Many predicted that would be the beginning of the end for the current government, although until now President Maduro has been successful in retaining power.

The problem is not just of economics. Adding to soaring inflation rates and falling oil prices, Venezuela faces much greater challenges: infringement of civil liberties before, during and after protests this year - which has led the US to pass a bill calling for punishment of officials involved in the protests only last week; censorship of media outlets not aligned with current government; imprisonment of political opponents; and lack of safety, in part connected with the government-approved civil militias (the colectivos).

The Caracas Chronicle, one of the biggest political analysis blog in Venezuela, made this point this November when analysing the Prosperity Index's findings for the country. In fact, Venezuela has witnessed the biggest decline out of every country in the world since 2009, and its governance is amongst the 10 lowest in the world.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the young educated masses were said to lead the protests early this year. But President Maduro used the fact that there were only a few low income protesters to misrepresent the protests as an elitist pursuit, claiming they were set out to destroy everything their beloved Chávez has given them. In fact, the colectivos were said to be actively threatening would-be protesters in poorer areas; and the latest available data from Gallup shows that in 2013, the poorest 40% of Venezuela were the ones most discontent with their national government.

With scarcity growing, inflation rising, foreign help thinning, and with oil, the state's main source of revenue, bringing in less and less, it is only a matter of time before protests will draw every political class onto the street. Not such a Happy New year for Venezuelans.