Venezuela, the South American nation that has suffered most from the oil crash and the socialist policies of its corrupt government, continues to descend into violence, scarcity and despair. Forced labor camps were legalized by the government by decree on July 22nd, a move that deepened societal divides. As a Time Magazine headline from August 9th, 2016 declares, we are “witnessing a complete collapse of Venezuelan society.” With widespread dissatisfaction in a the socialist government and rifts beginning to form between the President and the military, experts are increasingly warning of the possibility of civil war.
Last year, Venezuela experienced an official inflation rate of over 180%, the highest in the world. As reported in a recent CNN Money article, the IMF put this year’s inflation projects at 481% and next year’s figure at an incredible 1,642%. Bare supermarket shelves are a stark sign of the absence of nearly every staple and national shortages on 95% of all medical supplies have the Venezuelan people on edge.
Organized crime is a powerful force in a country that has the world’s highest crime rate and ironically, could be the spark that sets off armed conflict in a country.
Yet a hungry, impoverished population is little threat to a well-armed government. President Maduro still commands the loyalty of the Bolivarian National Guard, (GNB) a paramilitary militia created by Chávez to cement his power, but recent rifts with both Army officers and rank and file soldiers suggest that even this support is failing. On July 22nd, Maduro placed all cabinet-level ministers under the control of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, a move seen by many as a concession that paves the way for military intervention later.
With military wages that no longer keep pace with inflation, it may only be a matter of time before soldiers tire of seeing government officials steal and oppress while ordinary citizens starve and suffer.