At an intimate lunch discussion, Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez, a Fellow at The University of Chicago’s Comparative Constitution Project and a blogger for the Legatum Institute's 'Democracy Lab', gave a comprehensive overview of Venezuela
’s current political environment and recent history.
Based on his recent visit to Caracas and his previous experience as Director for Entrepreneurial Development in Sucre municipal government, Daniel gave an insider’s perspective on the continuing anti-government protests and Venezuela’s major economic challenges.
Joined by an array of Latin American experts, he discussed Hugo Chavez’s succession, Maduro’s political ability, corruption in government and the military, and the major figures of the opposition movement.
Setting the historical context for the discussion, Daniel described how living standards in Venezuela were comparable to that of Europe in the 1960’s and 70’s, principally by being a stable provider of oil to the US. Explaining Venezuela’s rapid economic decline Daniel highlighted the concentration of power in the executive, particularly in the Chavez era. Venezuela’s constitution has been re-written 26 times in 200 years and this malleability has allowed each new president the opportunity refashion the constitution to suit their own purposes. Most recently in 1999 Hugo Chavez created two new branches of government, the Citizen’s branch and the Electoral branch. Both of these new branches concentrated power within the executive and reduced the power of the legislature.
Daniel also discussed Venezuela’s strategic relationships in Latin America, as well as with the US and China. He explained how the impact of sanctions targeting Venezuela’s elites would appear instead to target the whole of Venezuelan society and further enflame anti-American sentiment. In relation to Venezeula’s close relationship with Cuba, Daniel noted that both countries are mutually dependent. Cuba depends on financial support and cheap oil, while Venezuela relies on visiting Cuban medical staff to meet its own shortfall in qualified doctors. Significantly, however, Venezuela also depends on ideological support from the embodiment of a still potent socialist-revolutionary movement.
Considering the continent more widely, Brazil, which is nearly half the landmass, half the GDP, and a third of the population of South America, was discussed as a potential regional leader and agenda setter. Yet on themes such as pan-Americanism or language many see Brazil as distinctly separate, or even foreign, to other South American countries.
Daniel’s most recent piece on Venezuela for Democracy Lab looks at the regime’s use of tear gas and protesters increasingly sophisticated counter-measures.
Democracy Lab is an online partnership between the Legatum Institute and Foreign Policy magazine, dedicated to covering political and economic transitions around the world.
Venezuela's World Cup Dream - by Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez, 30 June 2014
Prosperity In Depth: Venezuela - The Curse of Oil-Stoked Populism, 2013
Country Profile - Venezuela - Legatum Prosperity Index 2013
Brazil and the Pursuit of Inclusive Growth - Democracy Works Country Report, 2014