How Venezuela Is Fairing Two Years After Hugo Chavez's Death
Despite what some people may believe, we have it pretty good here in America. At least compared to our neighbors who are roughly 2,800 miles to the south — the folks who proudly call themselves Venezuelans.
You might not have heard much about Venezuela during the past year or so, but that's because the country's boisterous loudmouth president, Hugo Chavez, succumbed to cancer and a heart attack in March 2013.
Though he was remembered as a dictator – one of America's philosophical opponents – Chavez's track record, believe it or not, isn't completely awful. In fact, the chunky guy is remembered for drastically reducing poverty during his reign.
The figures speak for themselves: In 1995, 55 percent of households were in poverty. Chavez took office in 1999 and by 2009, that number reduced to 26.4 percent. Similarly, the unemployment rate nearly halved during his presidency.
So, why are you hearing about Hugo Chavez two years after his death? Because without Chavez's death, the world wouldn't have been introduced to Nicolás Maduro, the man who replaced him.
Venezuela: Why So Miserable?
Under Maduro's leadership, Venezuela has climbed to the top of a chart. The thing is, that chart speculates as to which group of consumers will have the worst year in 2015.
Indeed, the country's misery index – the unemployment rate added to the change in the Consumer Price Index – is projected to be the highest of any nation on the globe, coming in with an impressively heinous score north of 80.
Congratulations, Venezuela. You're more than twice as worse as Argentina and nearly three times as worse as places like South Africa, Ukraine and Greece.
Was Hugo Chavez the Venezuelan dictator who tied the country together?
The US Vs. Venezuela, Round 1
Politicians are truly masters of deflection and redirection.
Ostensibly, to create a boogeyman of sorts and ignore pressing issues on his own soil, last month, Maduro ordered the United States embassy in Caracas to decrease the size of its staff from 100 to 17.
According to Maduro, there are only 17 Venezuelan diplomats in the United States, and he figured America should only be allowed the same-sized staff. Fair enough, except members of the State Department say Maduro “dramatically understate[d]” the number of diplomats Venezuela has on US soil.
In addition to the embassy, Venezuela also has eight consulates and a presence at the United Nations and the Organization of American States, the State Department said.
Big Shoes To Fill – But Small Feet?
Could it be that Maduro's message was lost in translation? Perhaps.
But, more than likely, we're dealing with a man who has very big shoes to fill and is consistently worried about whether his countrymen will think he is inferior to his predecessor. Does the former bus driver have big enough feet to fill them?
Maduro has said, time and again, the United States government is trying to undermine his regime. But, the guy has also done things like blame Spiderman for violence in his country and say plunging oil prices are the result of the United States waging war.
He even went so far as to blame the United States for protests in his country.
A familiar chorus in Washington is to blame President George W. Bush for the country's current woes. It makes sense because he's a pretty easy punching bag.
But, placing all blame for our current problems on a man who's been out of Washington for six years is at least somewhat disingenuous.
In Venezuela, the United States is probably a pretty easy punching bag, too. Though, America doesn't have anything to do with how Venezuelans feel.
If Maduro wants to be the kind of leader we imagine — the one who stands a chance at “earning” another term —, he would probably be wise to redirect his focus on his own problems, come to grips with the state of his country and do what he can to fix it.
At the very least, that would be more productive than throwing harmless insults at a bunch of simplistic Washington bureaucrats.
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