Venezuela’s Last Bastion of ‘Chavistas’

CARACAS, Venezuela – Despite Venezuela’s economic crisis and growing public discontent with President Nicolas Maduro, support for the socialist ideal is alive on the streets of this capital city.

Socialist supporters, also known as “Chavistas,” embrace the ideas and programs of Hugo Chávez, the late former president who implemented a socialist program that nationalized various industries and expanded access to food, health care, housing and education to the country’s poor. Chávez, who died in 2013, nominated Maduro as his successor. But today some Venezuelans blame the current president for the state of the economy, saying Maduro has failed to preserve the socialist model installed by Chávez.

“I supported Chávez because he was the people, the heart of the nation,” says Humberto Lopez. “I am critical of comrade Maduro’s government because of his political changes. We need food. Our country does not produce anything.”

Oil-exporter Venezuela is mired in the worst economic crisis of its history due to plummeting oil prices and mismanagement. Inflation is running at 500 percent,according to CNN Money. This week, Maduro named a new economy czar and oil minister to help battle the country’s economic woes.

Venezuela is also hit by a food shortage crisis as the country largely depends on imports to feed its people. The government’s food baskets are not enough to feed people and Venezuela can’t afford to import more. Perhaps because of the dire national economic crisis, “colectivos” – an umbrella term for community and militant groups that support socialist programs – remain active.

“We are going through an undeniable economic crisis. We cannot deny it,” says Jeffer Subaran, of the Alexis Vice colectivo in Caracas. “We see this (economic) crisis as a new opportunity to better develop and strengthen the socialist model that we are promoting.”

Hit hard by the crisis, many Chavistas today say they are disillusioned with their political leaders. They say they may not vote in the next presidential election in 2018. Maduro’s public approval ratings have dropped as the economy has worsened. Last summer, his approval ratings dropped below 25 percent, according to Reuters.

“We need medicine and security,” says Lopez, adding that the country’s crime rate was lower when Chávez was president.

A year ago, Caracas was named the world’s most dangerous city with the highest number of murders per capita, according to the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexican non-governmental organization.

 

This video was shot and produced for US News & World Report in December 2016 and released on January 7, 2017. Click here to watch it.

 


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