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Summary

The introduction of socialism by Hugo Chavez in 1999 when he became the president of Venezuela was intended to include the poor in the management of the country’s economy. However, due to influences by his top officials, this strategy flopped and the poor remained poor while a few people enjoyed the state`s resources.

Therefore, there have been several challenges that the people of Venezuela had to deal with since the appointment of Chavez about which they were not able to speak loudly for fear of being prosecuted. Consequently, the decade of rule of Chavez has left a mark in the history of this nation and also wounds that may take quite some time to heal.

Introduction

The late president Hugo Chavez was the president of Venezuela since 1999 till his death in 2013. His tenure was marred with a lot of controversies and opposition as his leadership style was non-inclusive to the rest of the nation. His close allies controlled his actions and manipulated him through the state policies and constitution, having taken total control of the state’s offices such as the judiciary, the army, the electoral body, and police force. Any political opposition was blocked and the offenders prosecuted.

Chavez tried to create a socialist government where the poor will be included in the running and activities of the government. Due to this type of leadership, the country had serious problems that will be discussed in this paper. The aim of the study is, therefore, to take a look at Hugo Chavez as the president of Venezuela and the problems that the citizens were facing that included issues such as poverty, crime and violence, corruption among others.

Poverty

From the time he became the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez made sure that he remained President  till his death. By doing so he had to manipulate the country’s laws and legislation, and also make sure that he took control of the major heads of the government. His close allies took advantage of this situation to claim a large portion of the entire country`s revenues, leaving only a little share for the development of the economic sectors. According to a report provided by United States General Accounting Unit (19) the economists warned of the government-imposed policies like price controls that were created to reduce the inflation rate, aiming at 20%, and with an attempt to please the citizens it would instead have a greater impact on the economy of the country. Store owners could no longer sell the basic food needed by public at a profit that caused a countrywide shortage of products. The government in its defence, and trying to maintain its image blamed suppliers and accused them of hoarding food in their warehouses.

The decrease of basic food such as flour and sugar made public suffer and the store owners could no longer afford to maintain their stores due to a decreased profit level. Some were forced to close their stores. This meant that their families` economic status decreased, increasing the level of poverty in the society.

In order to have total control over people, Hugo made sure that the poor remained poor, which placed him at a better position to offer them financial and political support that made them loyal to him. With this, instead of the poverty level decreasing, it alleviated by a significant margin. The poor, therefore, who were silently not happy with the leadership structure, had to show in public their support to their president in order to gain his approval and financial support.

Venezuela, therefore, contains some of the world’s poorest slums, with broken and dangerous bridges, poor roads and pathetic living conditions. The shops in these slums also have few stocks of goods including basic goods and prices are quite high for an ordinary slum dweller to afford. In most times, it is survival for the fittest policy that is adopted in the slums. The slums that were alleviated are congested with poor sewage and drainage system and poorly built structures.

Economic inflation

Venezuela experienced economic inflation of up to 20% in the last decade (Hillary 16). This was due to the legislation set to govern the economy by the government that saw more money being made and allowed in the economy. This weakened the currency by a great margin leading to inflation.

The government’s move to create more money was so that the poor would have a better life and be able to improve their slum living. However, they did not consider the fact of inflation that would affect the economy. There was more money supply than money demanded. The effects of inflation hit people and they are still trying to recover from it. Food prices went up and the level of imports reduced. People, thus, had to spend more in order to satisfy their basic needs.

One of the effects of socialism is also the sluggishness of the economic process. Socialism dictates that all persons living under the same social conditions should be at the same economic level, where there are no both extremes, the rich and the poor. By dragging down the rich in favour of the poor, the economy was affected. That was among the factors that caused the inflation. It is very difficult to balance the economic status of people while at the same time trying to improve the economy. These variables are opposing each other, meaning that when one goes up, another subsequently must go down.

Corruption

Corruption was one of the major problems that the state of Venezuela faced during the era of Chavez, reason being that his close allies and aides were the ones running the government and manipulating the legislation of the state. The judiciary system was so corrupt in a way that justice could not be served. Whenever a judge tried to perform justice, especially in the political field, he or she would either be at a danger of losing their jobs or their lives. Also in cases where the judge agreed to comply with the state, he or she would be paid a significant amount of money, which is usually in the form of a bribe.

It was difficult for a normal citizen, without links to the government officials to acquire a job in any government office. Bribes were asked at every level of the state; be it an acquisition of employment opportunity, judicial service, when dealing with police etc. Actually, payment of bribes had become part and parcel of citizens` daily activities, to the extent that even wanting to be served in any government institution one had to pay for it (Welsh 15).

The corruption level escalated following the health problem of Chavez, especially from 2006 to 2013 when he could not diligently perform his duties as head of state, constantly relating upon his close aides to run the government. His friends, consequently, invaded the state authorities and collected illegal money from people, using it for their own gains. His policies could not hold them, as people who were expected to lead by his example, were not interested in them but only in improving their economic statuses.

Crime and violence

Venezuela is one of the top crime rate countries, taking position number seven globally (Weibros 9). Street violence is escalating with every hour and homicide levels are 20 times higher that of the United States. Most families shut themselves up in their homes as early as 6 p.m. only to open the next day, but it still does not help improve the crime level. Daytime theft and homicides are a common phenomenon.

Under this problem, it is important to subdivide it into different smaller sections such as child molestation, homicide and murder, rape, kidnapping, drug abuse and sex, human right violation, and illegal gun possession.

Child molestation

There have been increased cases of child molestation since the beginning of Chavez tenure as the president of Venezuela. More children are reported to be battered by their parents and guardians and even raped. Children have also been forced to sell drugs and illegal things for their older siblings and relatives in order to earn money for survival. This is a major problem facing this nation as these children are the future of the nation. Introducing them to such a life at an early stage would mean that, that is the life they would live as adults.

School in many cases is an option for these children. They have no time for books and are busy trying to protect themselves from molestation and harassment they face in the society.

Homicide and murder

The level of poverty Venezuela makes people perceptible to criminal activities such as murder and homicide. The competition among political classes, with some wanting to maintain the status quo has led to a lot of murders of opposition leaders that proved to be a threat to the Chavez government. This aspect enabled the government maintain its political rivals` respect and fear.

Statistics show that every hour a person is murdered in Venezuela (Gomez 38). This is alarming and poses a social and moral threat as people are afraid to speak their minds for fear of being killed. It is evident since people wore clothes written in praise of Chavez and his leadership while speaking not so well about him.

Due to increased cases of violence and murder, street mugging and day time theft are rampant in Venezuela. People are afraid of carrying their valuable possessions and even to walk alone on the streets.

Rape

The increased cases of social immorality also bring with it the aspect of rape to both women and men in Venezuela. The military and police service are majorly accused of raping innocent civilians who are poor and neither have money nor power to defend themselves. The level of corruption has also helped in escalating this problem. Due to the manipulated state of the constitution and the corrupt incidences in judicial system, victims of rape end up not having justice served and perpetrators are set free amid obvious evidence provided by prosecution.

The slums also encourage the cases of rape. In a condition where the environment is crowded, privacy level is reduced to the minimum and persons somewhat don’t respect, or rather are forced to invade other peoples` private places. This may cause sexual temptation that can lead to rape incidences.

In such cases, there are great risks of being affected with sexually transmitted diseases and the stigma associated with it. Rape victims end up feeling lost and rejected, and with very few government systems that are willing to help, they in most cases opt for suicide.

Kidnapping, drug and sex abuse

Kidnapping has been on the increase, especially in rich families, where a member of the family is kidnapped for ransom. In some cases, the requested ransom is too high to be acquired within the set period of time and, therefore, kidnappers end up killing a person. Many kidnappers are connected with government agencies and, therefore, stopping it is close to impossible. Kidnapped victims are tortured and video clips or voice records are taken in an attempt to prove the seriousness of the case and families that respond well to the kidnappers` demands end up having their family members back. It is, however, sad to note that the poor are the ones been used to perform kidnapping acts while the rich, who rule and own the cartels end up with giant share of ransoms.

Women were also kidnapped and used for prostitution, causing increased cases of lost girls especially tourists. These girls after being kidnapped are drugged and then tied to beds on which men would pay to have sex with them, a condition that led to a moral crisis. Sex was, therefore, being used as a source of money and against the giver’s will.

Drugs were also one of the problems facing the state of Venezuela in the last decade. Just like kidnapping cartels, drug cartels are also run by people connected with the government and it is difficult to pin it down to an individual. The level of dope selling in the streets was high and young people from the slums were used to perform trade, meaning that most drugs sold were in the slums and collected money was taken by the rich.

Human rights violation

A lot of manipulated and changed constitution laws were about human rights. This was done so that it would be easy for the courts of law when dealing with the cases against the government and the leadership structure (March 64). The citizens, therefore, were forced to oblige to the set legislation that was tilted towards a preference of a chosen few against the entire population.

Among the violated rights are:  the right to live, that saw opposing political activists being murdered and no cases filed against the offenders, the right to public service work, cases when employment was through bribery and political posts were closely monitored by a small group of persons, the right to medication and proper living standards but still people are living in abject poverty.

In violation of these rights, the public was not allowed to develop themselves and improve on the problems that the society face but instead forced to live in conditions set by the government. The economy also, on a wider scale, was limited to the benefit of the few and, therefore, it was seriously affected by this human right violation. The country, now more than ever, is experiencing this effect as it prepares to elect a new leader with hope that he/she will not deprive them of their rights.

Illegal gun possession

This has been the source of most street crimes and murder. The government failed to control the level of gun possession by public leaving room for most people, especially young one, to own guns (Gorge 17). Also the security issue made the government permit the issue of gun permits to people. The possibility of one using his or her gun as a defence mechanism during an attack by robbers or in a period of anger is high. This means that the rate of persons killing their neighbours, family and friends is high as compared to when guns were limited to public.

Natural calamities

Earthquakes

This has caused the eviction of persons from their homes to IDP camps. The death toll caused by earthquakes has been given as thousands with increasing cases of an entire family dying due to an earthquake. There is no possible way to evade an earthquake so the poor who don’t have places where to move have constantly been the victims.

Hurricanes

This is also a natural disaster and a problem that faced Venezuela in the past decade. People have lost their properties and homes as they were damaged due to the hurricane. This calamity also caused death cases.

Social calamities

Loose morals

The set societal morals have over the decades decreased to an insignificant level. Issues such as prostitution and disrespect for each other have been the norm of society`s everyday live in Venezuela. The focus had shifted from the sense of community to individualization as every person tries to get money in order to survive.

Increased cases of teen pregnancy and parenthood

The level of immorality brings with it consequences such as teen parenthood. The problem here is that, owing to the fact that a majority of the nation is poor, an addition of another member to a family is only adding burden to that particular family. These young parents, therefore, end up in the streets increasing the level of insecurity as they are forced to engage in criminal activities in order to cater for themselves and their children.

Environmental degradation

The dumping of waste into the main river of Venezuela has caused a great degradation of the environment (Poll 43). People no longer use water from the river for domestic purposes and picnics that were previously done along the river banks no longer exist.

Increased number of homeless persons

This is a social problem. The higher the numbers of homeless people in any society, the higher the level of crime in that society and its environs. The number of homeless persons in Venezuela is alarming. Cases of people spending a night on the street have been on the rise.

Political instability

Every election in Venezuela, since the election of Chavez in 1999, was sparked with serious cases of instability in the country. However, his election in 2013 was the most controversial with issues about his health being raised during political rallies. Chavez suffered from cancer since 2011 and evaded public view for the most part of that year while undergoing treatment. In 2012, he announced himself to be cancer free and ready to step up in the political field and service of his people (Amos 47). This was a move set by his close advisers to deny the vice president the chance to govern the state in his absence but instead his senior officials on a regular basis asserted the govern ship of the state in his place.

Due to these factors, the public was always questioning who would be the next president of Venezuela, a situation that brought both fear and anxiety to the citizens. Some were wondering if he would make it to the third term whereas others feared for the declining state of the country if he would be elected.

The opposition, constantly questioning his ruling style, caused havoc among the citizens, therefore, leading to a state of political instability. In this situation, the security of the state is threatened, food prices are hiked and the level of anxiety is high. People then end up being killed or kidnapped in the process of parties trying to compete with each other.

Conclusion

It is obvious from the above discussion that people of Venezuela are facing serious challenges and problems. The political environment also does not make it any better. The government officials fight amongst themselves, making citizens suffer due to the terrible consequences. It is thus crucial for the next government to be elected to enact laws and legislation that would work best for the improvement of the economy as well as the living standards of people.

It is obvious that however nice and sincere Chavez policies were influenced by his close advisors and senior officials he did not have to allow them to do that since it affected negatively the stability of the nation, a lesson that should be learned by the incoming President.

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