Population and society
The thirty million citizens are largely mestizos, that is the historical result of the crossing between the indigenous populations (in the Venezuelan case they are few in number), the Spanish colonizers and the conspicuous amount of Africans brought to work in the plantations of the Caribbean coast over the centuries. in which the slave trade was in effect.
However, this characteristic does not make Venezuelan society free from ethnic tensions. In general, about 10% of the white population, largely emigrated to Venezuela in the second half of the twentieth century because attracted by the oil boom, is concentrated in the higher social groups, just as those of African or Indian origin are more numerous in the groups lower social levels. The wealth generated by oil has not reduced the profound income inequalities between classes. Although Venezuela is among the countries with the highest per capita income in Latin America and although the Bolivarian government has made significant investments in the last decade to guarantee the access of marginal sections of the population to social services, obtaining a significant reduction in poverty, still today about 26% of Venezuelans live below its threshold.
Also due to the worsening of general living conditions, illegal phenomena such as the smuggling of basic foodstuffs and petty crime are on the rise in the country. The latter in particular was responsible for numerous murders, some of which were political (the last was that of PSUV deputy Robert Serra), helping to transform Venezuela into the most violent country in the entire subcontinent. In fact, personal safety stands out among the government’s priorities, threatened by continuous escalation of crime in large cities, particularly in Caracas and its suburbs, which has now become one of the metropolises with the highest murder rate in the world. According to the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence, there were 24,763 homicides in 2013, up from 21,692 the previous year and with a rate of 79.1 per 100,000 residents, many of whom went unpunished.
Freedom and rights
The República Bolivariana de Venezuela is a federal state made up of 23 governorates, in which the central power maintains extensive political and administrative functions vis-à-vis the local councils. The center has a preponderant force with respect to all the powers of the state which, according to the Constitution, are not only the executive, legislative and judicial ones: there are also the electoral ones, represented by the Consejo Nacional Electoral, and the moral one embodied by the Consejo Moral Republicano, whose functions are actually very vague.
From the presidency of Hugo Chávez and above all with the new course led by his deputy Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has taken on the typical traits of Latin American populist regimes: supporters emphasize the expansion of social citizenship, while critics highlight political authoritarianism and compression of civil rights. For Venezuela democracy and rights, please check localbusinessexplorer.com.
The constitutional and legislative reforms introduced by Chávez onwards recognized broad social rights and facilitated the concentration of political power in the executive, particularly in the hands of the head of state who exercises it. Abolishing bicameralism in favor of a unicameral system, expanding the functions of the armed forces and placing them directly under the president’s dependencies, increasing the sphere of state intervention in the IT and economic sectors, modifying the electoral districts in order to favor government candidates, by introducing the possibility of indefinite re-election of the highest authority of the state, Chávez and Maduro were able to expand and perpetuate their power.
Overall, Venezuelan elections take place in a largely transparent manner, certifying the high albeit waning support enjoyed by the government. At the same time, the regime’s extensive use of public resources to secure consensus distorts electoral competition, just as the tendency to set up numerous obstacles to opposition action prevents the smooth course of democracy. In this regard, the strong pressure exerted by the government against local authorities elected on the opposition lists, the president’s massive use of the media as a propaganda tool, the legislation introduced in 2004 to limit freedom of expression, followed by frequent measures aimed at targeting critical voices in the press and television.
While maintaining a solid parliamentary majority, the Chavista regime has repeatedly suspended the numerous functions vested in the assembly, obtaining special powers that have allowed the president to legislate by decree on a wide range of matters. In this sense, if we add the heavy government interference in the judicial sector, it can be seen that the separation of powers in Venezuela is not completely achieved. Religious freedom deserves a separate discussion. Although respected overall, the Catholic Church has repeatedly entered into conflict with the government, accusing it of limiting public freedoms and invading its pastoral sphere.