Ruling Socialists Crushed in Venezuelan Parliamentary Elections

The Socialists in Venezuela have run the country for 16 years, and like most populists in Latin America, they have run the country into the ground. Inflation for the year is at 100%, GDP will shrink this year by 10% and will fall another 6% in 2016, and the projected unemployment rate for next year is 18.6%. Given the chance, the voters in Venezuela did what any sensible group of people would do; they threw the rascals out. The question is just how big is the opposition’s victory. That will determine just how fast the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela gets wrapped up.

With turn-out at 74.3%, it is clear that a great many Venezuelans are not happy with the “Chavismo” President Maduro has continued on the death of President Chavez. As of this morning, the opposition has won 99 seats to the Socialists’ 46, with 22 more to be declared. This puts the 3/5 majority needed to dismiss ministers within reach, and a 2/3 majority is possible, which would allow for radical changes in the judiciary and other institutions that support Chavismo.

The president has tried to spin it using the lost-the-battle-not-the-war argument. “We have come with our morals and our ethics [intact] to recognize these adverse results, to accept them and to say to our Venezuela that the constitution and democracy have triumphed. We have lost a battle today, but the struggle to build a new society is just beginning.”

Meanwhile, the opposition is gloating. “The results are as we hoped. Venezuela has won. It’s irreversible,” tweeted (in Spanish) Henrique Capriles, a leading opposition figure in the Democratic Unity Roundtable and a former presidential challenger.

“Venezuela wanted a change and that change came. A new majority expressed itself and sent a clear and resounding message,” said Jesus Torrealba, opposition coalition chief.

The first order of business that the new parliament will likely undertake when it sits in January to begin its five-year-term is the passage of an amnesty bill to free many people held for political reasons. Reuters says, “Reiterating that an Amnesty Law will be the opposition’s priority when the new assembly begins work on Jan. 5, Torrealba promised to return the rights of ‘those who have been unjustly persecuted, jailed, blocked from politics or exiled’.

“Venezuela’s best-known jailed politician is Leopoldo Lopez, sentenced to nearly 14 years on charges of promoting political violence in 2014 that killed 43 people. But the opposition has a list of what it says are more than 70 other political prisoners.”

Mr. Lopez may be complicit in the deaths of those 43 people, but it is hard to believe that the government’s hands are clean either. Now, the legislature can begin investigations into the actions of the executive, military, police and regional authorities. The stories that will be uncovered are likely to weaken President Maduro further, and it is expected that he will face a recall vote in April next year when he has completed half his term as permitted under the Venezuelan constitution. The next presidential election is set for April 2019, and one doubts Mr. Maduro will be nominated by the Socialists, who already see him in some ways as a sell out.

The ugly truth about the Chavez revolution is the general incompetence of the economic planners. Venezuela was rolling in oil money for most of the time the Socialists had complete control of the government. After 16 years, the economy remains dependent on oil exports for just about everything. There was a complete and utter failure to diversify the economy, and the negligence this dependence demonstrates is nothing short of treasonous. The Socialists had a decade and a half to change the structure of the Venezuelan economy, and they threw it away. Another chance like that may never come again. Another revolution ends in failure.