VENEZUELA
Officially: República Bolivariana de Venezuela.
Seat of government: Caracas.
Status: Not democratic.
Structure: Dominant-party state. In theory, the president is elected directly, while the legislature (Asamblea Nacional) is elected in the estados in geographical constituencies and party-list proportional representation.
Governing party: Gran Polo Patriótico (chiefly Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, itself chiefly Movimiento V República).
Head of government: Nicolás Maduro, president (since 2013).
Opposition party: Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, led by Henrique Capriles.
Assessment: The régime founder, previous president Hugo Chávez Frias (1998-2013), was initially popularly elected (1998), but also a former putsch leader (1992) who behaved autocratically throughout his term in office, pursuing the concentration of power. After the death of opposition protesters in 2002, the military attempted to replace him with a business leader. He was reinstated; but serious efforts to force his resignation persisted. He then thwarted a petition effort for a recall election, but that proceeded. Official results, disputed by the opposition, had the recall failing. With a justified opposition boycott of the 2005 parliamentary election, the party and allies of Chávez controlled every seat in the new national assembly, chosen by a quarter of the electorate. Internationally, Chávez used needed state resources to buy support around the developing world for his self-aggrandizing campaign against the United States; he made alliance with the dictatorship in Cuba, and placed allies in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, as well as aligning himself with tyrannical opponents of the United States in other parts of the world. The 2006 presidential election, in which the opposition participated, was officially won by Chávez. He then began a program of intensified consolidation, having the assembly approve an eighteen-month period of rule by decree. A 2007 referendum to drastically alter the constitution again, removing presidential term limits, was defeated. But he used his decree power, before it expired, to implement many elements of the rejected constitutional reform. At the same time, he barred many prominent opponents from contesting office, without grounds. Voters in 2009 removed term limits in a separate vote. In 2010, the opposition contended parliamentary elections as a unified bloc, MUD, and won a narrow victory in the popular vote, but only enough seats to deny Chávez a supermajority. A 2012 election for president was again officially won by Chávez, defeating Capriles. Chávez died in office in 2013, and was succeeded by Maduro, who had been acting as president and officially won a snap election over Capriles by a small margin. One of Maduro’s leading opponents, former Chacao mayor Leopoldo López, was dubiously imprisoned in 2015. Later in 2015, the MUD won a sweeping victory in legislative elections, and began a program to remove Maduro.
FH: 4-4, partly free (not democratic). Econ: 5.34 (95), hybrid.
Updated: 2016 March 29.
 

O.T. FORD