Opposition supporters attend a rally against Nicolás Maduro. Photograph: Christian Veron/Reuters.
Source: The Guardian, April 25
Picked by Hugo Chávez as successor just before his death in 2013, President Nicolás Maduro has been an incompetent leader in hard times. He has failed to address the economic crisis triggered when the fall in the price of oil exposed the weaknesses of Chavismo, his predecessor’s ambitious experiment in poverty alleviation and social ownership.
Now, in what was once South America’s richest country, more than four households in five are in poverty, twice the level of when he came to power. Babies and children die for lack of access to commonplace medicines. Murder and kidnapping for ransom are rife. Inflation is running above 800%; the economy is contracting sharply. Democracy itself is being eroded as the president defends his faltering grip on power. Weeks of protests have been met by state violence, semi-official vigilantes and, increasingly, counterattack from some opposition groupings. There is a wretched stalemate; and there is a real fear that violence could soon escalate out of control.