Elections are supposed to enable voters to improve their fortunes. Sadly, that is not the case with this weekend’s vote in Venezuela. Regardless of the outcome, voters can expect no quick exit from their country’s downward spiral. Officials from the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union, the U.S., and Venezuela’s neighbors have denounced the upcoming vote as flawed beyond redemption. Even if one of President Nicolas Maduro’s three opponents were allowed to win — other more popular candidates have been barred, leading to a broader opposition boycott — he would be hamstrung by Maduro’s allies. They control the military and effectively all branches of government. Maduro’s tenure has been an economic disaster. Inflation will exceed 13,000 percent this year. Gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 15 percent; it has fallen by almost 50 percent since 2013. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves — but thanks to mismanagement, you’d never know it: By 2020, oil production will be less than half of what it was in 2013. Venezuela has already defaulted on some of its debt, which stands at nearly 120 percent of GDP.
For ordinary Venezuelans, these numbers mean daily misery. Never mind shortages of food, medicine and toilet paper — even water is now in short supply in Caracas. Nearly 3 million of Venezuela’s 8 million students have been kept out of school for want of food, electricity, safe water and fuel for transport. Communicable diseases are on the rise, with malaria cases jumping by nearly 70 percent last year — the world’s biggest increase. Many Venezuelans are voting with their feet. If current trends continue, by the end of this year close to 10 percent of the population will have left.
Outside pressure hasn’t worked. Venezuela can’t be made to accept humanitarian aid, and so far it has refused help. Its neighbors are distracted by their own political turmoil, and U.S. sanctions haven’t thrown Maduro off course. With the economy collapsing, he has continued to subsidize oil shipments to Cuba, whose security services have helped keep him in power.
Full Article: Venezuela’s Empty Election – Bloomberg.