Global Politics

It's not Hugo Chavez's Venezuela anymore, or is it?

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Deputies of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD) Romel Guzamana (L), Julio Ygarza (2nd R), Nirma Guarulla (R), and the governor of the Amazonas state Liborio Guarulla (2nd L) attend to a meeting at the Supreme Court in Caracas January, 2016. The three Venezuelan opposition lawmakers were giving up their seats on Wednesday to unblock a power dispute between President Nicolas Maduro's government and the newly opposition-led National Assembly.

Credit:

Marco Bello TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/ Reuters

It's not Hugo Chavez's Venezuela anymore — sort of.

Before Chavez died in 2013, the Socialist leader picked his own successor, Nicolas Maduro, as the country's president and left his Socialist Party firmly in control of the National Assembly.

That allowed the Chavistas to stifle the opposition for a long time.

But that all changed this past December, when voters handed the opposition a majority in the National Assembly.

Now there's an ongoing political fight between the opposition and the Chavista government.

On Monday, the Socialist-controlled Supreme Court waded into the mess, barring three opposition lawmakers from taking office.

“It’s an intense time down here because the opposition has this huge mandate from the voters that they’ve never had before but the Socialists still control every institution,” says AP reporter Hannah Dreier who is based in Caracas. “It looks like what we’re going to get is a Supreme Court that’s trying to dismantle Congress, and Congress meanwhile is taking steps to fire the judges on the Supreme Court. It’s like 'High Noon.'”

“Policy paralysis” are the buzzwords of the moment, according to Dreier.

“But the truth is the country’s been in policy paralysis for years really since Chavez died. Maduro gets most of his strength from his connection to Chavez’s legacy and he hasn’t wanted to change any of the policies that were in place when he took office in 2013.”

There are the same initiatives in place even as the grocery store shelves go bare and crime rises at an exponential rate, according to Dreier.

While tomatoes were being thrown inside Congress, the other big news story in Venezuela this week was a riot at a grocery store over a shipment of dried beans.

“[Beans] used to be cheap and plentiful and now you can’t find them,” says Dreier.

While the political antics consume the news, the Venezuelan people are more concerned with feeding themselves and avoiding getting mugged or kidnapped, says Dreier.

“Yeah, when you have to spend six hours just trying to get sugar and flour, there’s not a lot of bandwidth to be following all of theatrics with Congress, the Supreme Court and the Executive,” says Dreier.

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