The State of Latin America

If 2020 has taught us anything about Latin America, it’s that it cannot easily shake off the fetters of its history. Despite all attempts to the contrary, it is a continent that remains firmly ensconced within the parameters of its past. Whether it’s the growing spectre of authoritarianism, staggering levels of inequality, assaults on the dignity of indigenous people, or demonstrations against inept leaders, the patterns that have defined this year are mere shadows of long, sweeping historical processes that have accompanied Latin America since the very beginning. Lockdowns managed to briefly quell the roaring fires that swept across Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia during the previous year, but this always was to be an ephemeral phenomenon. As this year progressed, these fires roared back to life. The question now is: what is the state of Latin America? And what happens next?

History’s presence is perhaps no more strongly felt than in Peru and Chile, who spent this year struggling to come to terms with their authoritarian past. Both countries spent years under the grip of despotic leaders – with Alberto Fujimori ruling Peru between 1990 and 2000 and Augusto Pinochet ruling Chile between 1973 and 1990. Both leaders produced new constitutions – granting more power to the President and, in the case of Chile, enshrining a doctrine of free-markets and privatization. The consequence has been an utter hollowing out of democracy and escalating cronyism in both nations. Last year, acquiescence turned to revolt in Chile, with massive protests rocking the country and a chorus of voices demanding economic justice. Sparked initially by a rise in transportation fees, demonstrations escalated quickly from secondary school students evading metro fares in Santiago to confrontations with the Chilean army and what some have described as the worst civil unrest since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship. Demands for better wages, welfare reforms, a new government and a new constitution continued into 2020. Seeing no other choice, President Piñera yielded to the masses and agreed to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution. Two months ago, that referendum passed. Chileans are now waiting for April to arrive, where another vote will take place, allowing citizens to select the drafters of the new constitution. An air of optimism has finally descended on the coastal country, coming as a relief after decades of ineffectual governance and rising inequality. 

Although Peru faces its unique challenges, deep parallels can still be drawn between Lima and Santiago. The spirit of Fujimori looms large in Peru, who curtailed the independence of the judiciary, breached the law, and set a precedent for corruption in the country during his rule in the 1990s. Today, nearly 70 of the 130 members of Congress are under investigation for bribery, money laundering, and other criminal activity. It was in response to this scandalous set of affairs that Martin Vizcarra defined his Presidency when he assumed power in 2018, promising to act within the law and stamp out the corruption that was so endemic in Peru. Although impeded at every turn, Vizcarra managed to make good on some of his promises, and for this he remained popular among Peruvian citizens (indeed his approval rating remained high even during the worst months of the pandemic – which struck Peru with especial voracity). But this all changed last month. President Martin Vizcarra was ousted as President by Peru’s Congress, in an impeachment vote that accused the President of corruption and mishandling of the pandemic. Although Vizcarra immediately resigned, outsiders saw the situation for what it was: a flagrant power grab that amounted to nothing short of a congressional coup. Like the action of fare-evading in Chile last year, this move lit a spark. Several cities burst into protests, with Peruvians targeting their anger at corruption in the country. It quickly became the largest set of demonstrations the nation had seen in over two decades. Although Vizcarra’s replacement, the much-loathed far-right Manuel Merino, has resigned – this does little to combat the institutional problems plaguing the country. The situation is still unstable, and it will be for the foreseeable future. This is exacerbated by an absence of stable political parties in the country. In every Presidential election since 2001, the winner belonged to a party that either did not exist or was marginal. Parties often change names, change identities or dissolve altogether. This often leaves politicians campaigning on what they are against (usually the previous administration) as opposed to what they are for. It also leaves voters bewildered and, ultimately, disenchanted with the political process. One can hope that Peruvians will use their momentous wave of anger and objection to support a new, more rejuvenated political system for Peru, one that engenders a new constitution, an end to corruption, and contends with inequality and poverty. 

The legacy of despotism also informs much of Brazilian politics today. Bolsonaro’s success emerged from a harkening back to Brazil’s era of military rule – which he describes with halcyon language as a time of law and order. In a nation as rife with violence as Brazil, this message was convincing. But, contrary to the opinion of many, Bolsonaro did not overthrow democracy. Although he speaks like an old school proto-fascist from the 20th century (frequently conjuring the phantom of communism as an existential enemy), he has largely remained hemmed in by Brazil’s democratic institutions. However, this is little consolation, as Bolsonaro’s real nefariousness arises from the subtle, day to day function of governing; from the slow erosion of environmental regulation, to the creeping encroachment on indigenous sovereignty. Most notably, he has completely failed at dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to innumerable deaths across the vast country. Recent municipal elections appeared to provide a sharp rejoinder to his leadership – with Bolsonaro’s candidates facing major setbacks, and Brazil’s so-called “Big Centre” seeing considerable gains (which, despite their misleading moniker, is a loose coalition of conservative forces). Yet all is not what it seems. Municipal and federal elections are two different species, and President Bolsonaro’s approval rating is currently the highest it’s been since he first took office. Indeed, he is so popular that over 70 election candidates registered their nicknames as “Bolsonaro” on municipal ballots. Why is this? The answer is simple: money talks. His emergency relief program comes as a substantial form of aid to poorer Brazilians. This, of course, is a contrast to Bolsonaro’s typical economic agenda, which has long been dogmatically free-market in its orientation (it’s important to recognize that Bolsonaro originally wanted emergency aid to be 1/3 of what it was, only being pushed to increase the amount by Congress). If Bolsonaro continues to earn support from the poor and working class, which he is likely to do with his upcoming “Citizens Income” initiative to disperse further emergency funds,  it is entirely possible he could win the 2022 general election. 

Brazil is an exception, in that it is one of a very few countries in the region with a popular right-wing government. Chile’s leader is embattled from years of protests, and likely to lose his next election. Argentina’s right-wing government was voted out last year for fomenting poverty and inequality. Then there is the case of Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala, all three of whom share right-wing leaders who have had to face immense surges of opposition to their rule. We can begin with Ecuador, which is a somewhat odd case given that it’s leader Lenín Moreno ran as a left-wing candidate and was a disciple of the popular leftist leader Rafael Correa. President Moreno’s decisive neoliberal turn came as a betrayal to those who voted him into power, and by 2019, fostered enormous protests and riots against his decision to cancel fuel subsidies, along with a litany of other austerity measures. Like in Chile, outrage culminated in something tangible: the measures were reversed. Things have since calmed in the country. How long this relative tranquility will remain undisturbed is another question. Given that President Moreno recently approved a $6.5 billion IMF loan, one can only wonder how much time will pass before a new round of austerity is implemented and protestors re-emerge. The fact that he has recently announced his intention to postpone elections will only exacerbate the chances of a revolt.

Like Ecuador, neighbouring Colombia’s streets were teeming with demonstrators in 2019. The basis for these protests was more amorphous than in Ecuador, with voices being raised against a whole host of issues from income inequality, to police brutality, to corruption. Nonetheless, what buoyed the mass demonstrations was a general sentiment of dissatisfaction with President Ivan Duque, who saw his approval ratings plummet. Like in Ecuador, neoliberal economic reforms had a large part to play in this. But that is merely scratching the surface. What has defined President Duque’s tenure has been increased violence towards unarmed civilians, ex-guerrilla fighters, union leaders, and community activists. 261 indigenous leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered in 2020 alone. The trend is disturbing but hardly foreign to the people of Colombia, who suffered through the infamous “false positives” scandal – where the military lured poor or disabled civilians into remote parts of the country, murdered them, and dressed them up as guerrilla fighters to increase the body count against the FARC and ELN. Recent estimates claim the number of victims to be nearly 10,000. To mitigate further violence, President Duque must respect the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC and ensure that the government maintains its commitments under the peace deal – especially with regards to protecting ex-rebels from violence. His decision to engage in talks with ex-FARC leaders last month is an encouraging sign, but much has to be done to move forward towards peace.

Finally, there is the small nation of Guatemala, who elected the right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei in January of this year. Only a few months into his term, he already confronts a major national crisis. After the passing of a controversial budget, which favoured private interests at the expense of aid to the impoverished, citizens took to the streets in opposition. Poverty is incredibly high in Guatemala, and has only been augmented by the arrival of Covid-19. The passing of a budget that cuts funding for healthcare and education thus appears tone-deaf to the needs of Guatemalans. Indeed, tension fulminated in the capital last month when protestors set fire to the congressional building. The Vice-President has since called on Giammattei to resign. As the nation heads into 2021, it will certainly be plagued by a familiar uncertainty that trails the whole continent. 

But there are glimmers of hope. Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández, in an effort to revitalize his base, has begun enacting a range of progressive policies – including the expansion of access to medical marijuana and a wealth tax. A bill that would allow women to receive abortions until 14 weeks is also on the table, accompanied by a welfare program supporting pregnant women and young mothers. In Mexico, President Lopez Obrador, although fumbling his Covid-19 response, introduced a bill to provide free healthcare to tens of millions of Mexicans, and managed to depart from almost a century of PRI party rule (which the author Mario Vargas Llosa notably called ‘the perfect dictatorship’). In Bolivia too, there is cause for celebration. After being ousted in what could only be described as a coup in 2019, the MAS party emerged victorious this year, winning the much-delayed election do-over, and putting an end to a year of instability and human rights violations perpetrated by the Añez administration. Finally, even Venezuela exhibits promise for the next year, as upcoming elections are purported to be competitive and feature 14,000 candidates from 107 political organizations (98 of which are identified as opposition parties).

Where is Latin America headed? For one, we will continue to see tension mounting across the region as egregious levels of inequality and poverty remain stubbornly entrenched in their place. The economic situation looked promising at the dawn of the century, thanks to a commodity boom and leaders like Lula de Silva, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa allocating financial benefits across all stratas of society – drastically lowering inequality and poverty. But the situation has changed, and leaders have failed to adapt to them. Policies that continue to ignore the poor will continue to elicit protests and riots. In fact, the current situation largely resembles what the continent endured during its era of “economic restructuring” in the 1980s and 90s, when governments fell into debt and implemented harsh austerity to dig their way out, inspiring large waves of protests in response. To restore stability, governments must restore the economy.

The other worrying trend is a steady deterioration of democracy, something that is inherently fragile to begin with. The continent has long been ruled by strongmen and wealthy landowning families. In the 20th century, nearly every attempt at forging a democracy was strangled in its crib (in which the U.S. played a decisive role). Exacerbating this is a deeply rooted corruption of the political sphere, something that has been inherited from its colonial history. The only way to avoid military rule and despotic leaders is to replenish the public arena of politics. Citizens must feel like they are indeed citizens, and have a role in guiding the political process. A dejected populace is more likely to accept a shuttering of democracy, bedevilled by indifference. On the other hand, when citizens feel like they have a stake in the system, they are more likely to engage in politics and society at large. But this cannot occur with a series of top-down technocratic tweaks, through simple electoral reforms or anti-corruption policy endeavours. To bind the masses back to politics, to suffuse their lives with meaning, to grant them a place in society, means providing them with a life of economic wellbeing. It was Aristotle who said “When there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end.” Latin America is one of the most unequal regions in the world. If its leaders cannot reckon with this reality, then can hardly be surprised when anger and violence permeate the streets, and when democracy slips into obscurity.

Don’t Forget Me

And, sir, it is no little thing to make mine eyes to sweat compassion”, (William Shakespeare, Coriolanus).

This is my last blog post for The Next Century Foundation. During my time at the NCF, I addressed several hot issues, speaking about different situations and topics, even very controversial ones, which have sometimes generated harsh reactions. I suppose it is inevitable if you are speaking about politics, human rights, dictators, victims or perpetrators. These social fabrications give us a social identity and lead us to often take on conflicting and controversial positions, dictated by interests, simple visions or specific goals. In such circumstances, the “political animal” inside each of us reveals itself trying to impose its own point of view.

However, in spite of the ideas and values that humans can have, every person is made up of feelings and emotions. Before being classified as political animals, humans are sentient beings, with emotions and feelings which define us and make us unique. The same sort of emotions and feelings that are gradually being extinguished with the frenetic and uncontrolled evolution of this world. And today, I want to talk about this. Today I want to talk about who we are. Today, I want to write about the emotions, hopes and feelings that define us and how this world is changing them. And I will do it by speaking through the lense of one of the generations that, more than any other, is experiencing this change in full; a generation that particularly expresses the contradictions of our society but also the dreams and the betrayed hopes: my generation, that of the Millennials.

We live in strange times. Times of great uncertainties, immense fears, incessant and fast changes. I am the son of a generation that has been living through the golden years of development, where entrepreneurs would invest in the job market and believed in the value of their employees. Years where politicians would constantly strive to find new ways to improve people’s lives. The high level of births, the prolific job market, the certainty of the future, the first and the second car, big savings, the summer holidays by the sea or in the mountains. And then the great investments, the incentives to progress, research and development, the high general morale, the man on the moon, the hope for a future of well-being for everyone.

But sometimes expectations about the future are bigger than what reality has to offer and, just like a bubble that swells excessively, sooner or later reality explodes right in your face. And here, all of a sudden, we have a system where the excessive well-being and the immeasurable potential of the third industrial revolution clashes with the individual economic interest. The big industries and multinationals come into play and alter the balance. Human greed grows stronger and stronger while the big multinationals knock on the doors of politics for some “boosts”. And there you go; the first agreements born to maximize profits by damaging workers’ rights; national factories shutting down to re-open in those countries where labor costs 1$ a day, or renegotiating workers’ union achievements with politicians in exchange for a few bribes or support during election campaigns; the high transnational finance getting hold of large company shares and becoming the main protagonist of a new global perverse game. The cost of labor for multinational companies drops dramatically while working hours increase. As a consequence, the price of produced goods decreases. Small and medium-sized businesses close or fail for they cannot compete with similar standards, whereas those able to make it through are the big names of industry or those entrepreneurs who, through criminal support, have managed to reach out to and influence politicians to get some extra procurement contracts or personal favors. The West becomes the center of unbridled capitalism, with no rules, with no ethics or respect. Everyone for themselves. It is against this backdrop that my generation, the Millennials, is born. The first true generation without any clue about its future.

The final blow comes with 2000 and all its technological capacity. It started with the first mobile phones and laptops on a large scale, up to smartphones and tablets. Technology moves; the great giants of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon develop; technological power becomes incredibly significant. And here’s Black Friday, the purchases with a click, the ads in every corner of the city, superfast transportation and trains in the underground every minute. The illusion of a world as a global, super-technological and limitless village is born. A sense that all this frantic lifestyle is necessary and inevitable emerges.

The savings of our parents are spent in this super-technological world while employment becomes more and more an urban legend. The new contemporary frontier of slavery 2.0 is born. Jobs poorly paid with meal vouchers; fixed-term contracts; easier layoffs; unbearable working hours. The prediction of Charlie Chaplin in his movie, Modern Times, comes true. Man becomes a productive factor with no rights, little money and a need to spend money without worrying too much about the future. It is the betrayal of the dream of a global Californication that we all expected: a happy world with more freedom and less problems to think about; a world where everyone can work and build a better and sustainable future.

But man’s greediness has shattered this dream. The betrayal from a global political class of spineless servants of high finance and powerful world lobbies has sanctioned the end of this dream. And while constitutions drown in an ocean of decay, my question is, what is left of all this?

On the one hand, there is an army of clueless kids, educated in the best prep schools which are financed by international magnates, who repeat as robots notions of economic and political theories aired on televisions and published in newspapers by those same people responsible for such a global delirium. Those same theories that legitimized the unbridled capitalism that is crushing us; theories such as those of the great industrialization or those that ultimately justified the plundering of the marvelous African countries or wars of interest such as those in Iraq or Libya.

On the other hand, there are people who live in the moment, who believe in what the World tells them to believe, only able to find their own identity in the television culture of the Big Brother, phony talk shows or in the trashy pop-porn culture spread throughout the day by MTV. George Orwell’s predictions have never been so true, huh?

And then, what remains is a people of perfect strangers.

I turn around every day, in the train, on the bus, down the street, and I see hundreds of people far away. People with a blank look on their face, lost in the void or on the screen of their smartphones. Lonely, sad, aloof people, with not much of humanity left; people walking quickly through the streets remorselessly hitting whomever is in their path because they are too intent on continuing their virtual conversation with someone miles away; people unable to express emotions or feelings; people too busy masking their loneliness behind the perfect image of their virtually perfect life on Instagram; depressed people no longer connected to reality; people who get together and break up through a telephone because they are incapable and afraid of meeting or knowing each other in a normal, real, natural way. And finally, people unable to associate, to connect, to unite and resist the power, or to oppose unjust decisions.

So what is left of feelings, of humanity, of us being people? For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to answer this question. Particularly, in the last period of my life.

During my time at The Next Century Foundation, I have been able to reflect a lot on politics, religion, people and the complicated relationships that bind us to each other and that bind us to society. I have not really ever considered anything I am writing right now. Not because I did not think about it but rather because this complex machine of intertwined relations, politics, economy, religion and power is difficult to fully understand and, above all, to make it work. And in this sense, in the end you end up accepting it because you understand that things are almost always impossible to change, peace will always be difficult to establish, power will always preserve itself and religion will always be used as a political tool to manipulate the masses. So, almost passively, you end up accepting the status quo of things. Almost like a condition of the universe, immovable and immanent. Everything has always been this way and it will always be this way.

At least until this World decides you are the next target and this status quo affects you in person, lashing out at you with all its strength. And then everything changes. You withdraw, let yourself down, look for explanations, seek yourself and your role in the world. You frantically turn around to find yourself, unsuccessfully. And you cannot help but compare your situation to that of the contemporary world, that of a world that perhaps will never change; and that of the Millennials, that of a simple person surrounded by lonely individuals, unable to sense or feel emotions in one of the largest cities in the world. You wonder if maybe it is just the natural order of things that you eventually have to accept, because perhaps that is how it works, because it has always been and will always be like this. In the last few months of my life, I have been looking for an answer to this question, without luck.

Until something happens; that deus ex machina you need to get you out of trouble. And here comes the answer to your questions. Something that helps you to understand; something like a trip to Holland, a beer with a trusted friend, an exhibition of an artist or walking in the rain in the streets of London without a destination. And it is at that precise moment that when you look into people’s eyes – those you’ve been so reluctant about or that you’ve lost hope in – you suddenly see something different, something you’ve never seen before, something that changes your perspective. And you can suddenly feel a vibe, a feeling, a sparkle that leads you through their eyes. And, like a flash in a pan, you are able to feel all the power and the emotions that each of them has locked within and that can be conveyed through their story or personality. Pure energy, pure emotions, pure humanity. The people’s smiling faces at the Tulip market in Amsterdam; the encouraging wink of a friend down at the pub that – around a pint and some good indie-rock in the background – shows you the right way of looking at things; the power of humanity in the symbolic life scenes of Banksy’s works that lead you to reflect on the true nature of people and humanity; the feeling of the rain falling on your skin in the gray of London’s streets that brings you back to life and connects you to reality again. Your prospects start to change and now you can see things differently. Suddenly you can find an answer to that question in that stream of people and things around you.

And, like a flashback, everything suddenly made sense.

During my time at the Next Century Foundation, I met ambassadors, Lords, religious leaders; I even spoke to the World for 2 minutes before the UN Human Rights Council. All exceptional experiences. However, I now understand that none of these experiences would have made sense without a particular detail that each of them has in common, the confrontation with people. Before the NCF I had not realized how even simply talking with people is essential; how much people can express through their words, their looks or their smiles. And, above all, I had not realized how effective it is to be able to talk with them to try to solve problems.

This is exactly what humanity is. Humanity is talking, confronting each other, solving problems together, uniting different and opposite perspectives. When you can achieve that; when you can take your eyes off your smartphone for a moment and you turn around; when you abandon the social and political fabrications for a moment and drop the mask they gave you, it is only then that you see potential and opportunities in those stranger’s faces rather than indifference and solitude. In that precise moment, you can hear the flow I was talking about earlier. And you understand that that potential is unimaginable and terrifies governments and institutions, and shakes the establishment. Just like the stories I tried to tell you about so far in my articles. And whether it is the Christmas truce or the international mass mobilization for the death of a young man in Egypt, you realise it is all about looking at the world from another perspective. If some people managed to refuse to fight, to kill and be killed, on European soil a little less than a century ago, destroying the socio-political fabrication of wars; if some people managed to get together to protest against a fierce dictator in Egypt without being afraid of the consequences; if one man could revolutionize his country after being imprisoned for 27 years, upsetting the entire institutional set-up based on violence, lies and terror; if other great men like Martin Luther King or Gandhi or so many others have managed to mobilize millions of people around an idea of peace, justice or freedom, then we too can change this mad world.

It is all about being able to channel those vibes into positive, collective paths. And you can only do it through dialogue, confrontation and associationism. Talking and dealing with people, precisely. Alexis de Tocqueville once said that the only way to resist power in a positive and constructive way is through the democratic instrument that starts from the bottom, by means of associationism from the municipal level, from small realities.

People are the solution to the world’s illnesses. And the positive dialogue that you can have with them. Social Capital. It is so simple. The greatest evils of our generation come from this absurd lifestyle that is offered to us in the form of well-being, technology and comfort. Loneliness, depression, indifference, hatred and division are all the fruit of a society that tends to divide us and speculate on our collective incapacity to react, associate and confront each other. It is that simple, and we are the cure.

It is possible. And you can find the proof around you. Turn off the TV, put down your smartphone for a moment. Go down the street, talk to people, listen to what they have to say. Take a hike in the park, maybe in the pouring rain. Try to feel something. Go to the pub, read a newspaper and comment on the news with bystanders. Have a coffee or a beer with them. Ask them how they are and give them a smile. Everything will change, everything will be different.

And speaking of smiles.

Once, a bearded man told me that if you try to smile while walking down the street, this will positively influence your attitude towards others and, above all, your self-confidence. I will never forget those words. I recently tried to do it often and, I’ll tell you something, it worked. If you try to walk down the street smiling at the people you meet, most of them will reply with a smile. And you will feel different as well, more secure, more positive towards others and the world. It’s all about that. Those emotions and feelings I was talking about before. They can come out, if triggered.

We only have to reconsider our values, our priorities for a moment. What we want from life and what we are looking for. And above all, remember who we are and where we come from, always. Love every single rise and fall and take them as an opportunity to grow and improve yourself and the world around you. I think this is the solution, the cure for the ills of mankind. Creating a community of people based on diversity and dialogue. Only then can we overcome all this. And we, Millennials, have boundless potential to do so.

By the way, I have gone too far. And now it’s time to conclude this post.

My time at the NCF gave me a lot. I grew up a lot professionally but mostly as a person. I owe you a lot, William and Veronica, to your kindness and warm welcome. I was welcomed and treated like a son. You gave me a lot to think about and work on. You gave me a smile in tough times and support when needed. And for this, thank you.

Then there is you, Rory, William and Yousef. Some young minds full of passion and desire to change things. You are fantastic. Every day, I saw in your eyes that power and passion of which I spoke about right above, waiting just to be fully exploited. And I know you’ll find a way to do it, it’s just a matter of time.

You were my second family here, in this gigantic crazy world of sharks. I’ll never forget that. And I’d like to conclude this blog post with this thought, while sipping my double espresso in some coffee shop somewhere in London and listening to these fantastic notes of Redemption Song, one of Marley’s masterpieces. He succeeded! He succeeded in uniting people around words of peace and hope. Like Hendrix’s solo or Mercury’s unique voice or even the Boss playing a piano version of Thunder Road. This is the right time, the perfect moment.

Ciao NCF, a presto!

Luctor et Emergo ex Flammis Orior, Per Aspera ad Astra

#lastblogpost #peoplehavethepower #believe #change #ciaoncf

 

Either Maduro abandons his experiment with Marxism or Venezuela faces Civil War

Venezuela, Peace, Hand, Nation, Background, Banner

Only an optimist could have hoped that Election Day in Venezuela would give all Venezuelans a chance to vent their frustration at the ballot box, and bring about change through democratic means. When the desperation and divides within Venezuelan society are considered, it is not surprising that the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) boycotted the vote and anti-government protests continued on polling day.

The MUD argued that there had been several irregularities in the election and that it could not therefore accurately represent the will of the Venezuelan people. As such, any vote would have been undemocratic in their eyes and the turnout of less than 42% makes the final count essentially meaningless.

While President Maduro continues in his quest for a Cubanesque revolution, the country is falling apart at the seams. As inflation has soared above 700%, the majority of people who cannot get dollars to exchange on the black market often have no means of securing their most basic needs. Food and medicine are increasingly hard to come by, street violence continues to terrorise the population, crime is out of control.

The problems faced by Venezuela are great. Yet most of these problems are underlined by economic mismanagement and could be addressed if the government decided to work for the people rather than for their own political aggrandizement. President Maduro now faces a choice: end his futile experiment with Marxism, or plunge his country into civil war.