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Freedom by the Numbers: Venezuela and the Significance of 1

June 29, 2016 3 minute Read by Amanda Schnetzer

There’s no denying that the numbers out of Venezuela are bad all around these days. If there’s any room for hope, it’s this diminutive digit: 1. 

That is the percentage of verified voter signatures that Venezuela’s beleaguered democratic opposition has needed to push forward a recall referendum on socialist President Nicholas Maduro.

In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that “Marxist Socialism is not yet buried but its epitaph can now be written. It impoverished and murdered nations. It promoted lies and mediocrity. It persecuted faith and talent. It will not be missed.” 

Unfortunately, socialism’s failures in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not deter Venezuela’s leftists, buoyed by once-high oil prices, from taking a shot. For more than 15 years citizens have suffered from the failed socialist experiments of the late President Hugo Chavez and his hand-picked successor Maduro. 

Shortages of food and basic goods are now widespread.  Riots and looting are on the rise, along with inflation. Expropriations of business and private property are now commonplace, as is a two-day work week for public employees due to rolling electricity blackouts. Meanwhile, fundamental political rights and civil liberties have been eroded significantly. 

As Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States, put it just last week, “Venezuela should be one of the most prosperous and influential countries in the region. Instead, it is a state mired in corruption, poverty and violence.”

Despite government resistance, proponents of the recall referendum declared a first-round victory last Friday when they announced that they had met — and indeed exceeded — the 1 percent mark. Nearly 200,000 signatures were needed. More than 400,000, they claimed, had been verified.

The road for Venezuela’s opposition is still long and uphill. Getting to 1 percent only opens the door to a second signature drive requiring 20 percent of eligible voters, or nearly four million people, to get a recall on the ballot. 

Nevertheless, you have to admire the determination to use the few levers of democracy they have left to push back against an increasingly authoritarian regime. I hope they succeed.


Author

Amanda Schnetzer
Amanda Schnetzer

Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative. 

Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Full Bio

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