Taking the ‘Competitive’ out of ‘Competitive Authoritarianism’


Maduro no es Chávez, that much we’re clear on. One had the gripping charisma, intelligence and cunning that allowed him to progressively shut down Venezuelan democracy while maintaining a huge fan base (both here and abroad). The other one talks with little birds and has managed to completely change the foreign perception regards la Revolución Bolivariana in less than four years.

Maduro isn’t Chávez, alright. Without Chávez ability to negotiate the dividing line between a military dictatorship and a populist democracy, the quirky and tropical experiment of acompetitive authoritarianism” has simply become your everyday authoritarianism and international rankings are finally catching up.

Now, after seventeen years of chavismo, Freedom House has officially changed our status from a “partly free” country to “not free.” Bonus: There are only two “not free” countries in all of the Americas, with Cuba being the other one, of course.

The fact that for the first time in forever the government shied away from the elections that were routinely used to legitimize itself and the complete shutdown of the National Assembly were the straws that broke the camel’s back, as far as Freedom House is concerned.

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro’s combination of strong-arm rule and dire economic mismanagement pushed his country to a status of Not Free for the first time in 2016. Venezuela had served as a model for populist regimes in the region, but today it epitomizes the suffering that can ensue when citizens are unable to hold their leaders to account […]its political rights rating declined from 5 to 6, due to efforts by the executive branch and the politicized judiciary to curtail the power of the opposition-controlled legislature, including a series of court rulings that invalidated new laws, usurped legislative authority to review the national budget, and blocked legislative efforts to address the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis.

Oy. Vey.

Transparency International also placed us in the bottom 10 of its Corruption Perception Index 2016. That’s right, we are number 166 out of 176 countries, and only Guinea-Bisau, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, South Sudan and Somalia managed to surpass us. This coupled up with the IMF prediction of inflation soaring to 1,600% and all we can do is prenderle una velita a Vallita a get ready for the ride towards a very dicta-dura.


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  1. just an fyi for those looking at the profile visual within the story, the freedom rankings and aggregate score are rated adversely.

  2. They got the news!

    I wonder if, in terms of degrees of authoritarianism, the main factor accounting for the difference between Chavez and Maduro is the price of oil.

    Even if we accept that Chavez had lots of charisma, intelligence, and cunning – although I maintain he had intelligence and charisma comparable to a lot of Venezuelans including some from his very childhood neighbourhood that I know, the exception being that Chavez’s charisma and intelligence was enhanced with billions of state dollars, and his cunning was inextricably linked to the barrel of a gun- even if we accept that Chavez had a leg up on Maduro with those characteristics, I’m not sure, had oil tanked under Chavez as it did under Maduro’s watch, Chavez would have been any less brutal.

    Anyway, if there is a nostalgia for Chavez in the air, its understandable. We can’t even laugh at Maduro any more. He’s just an unpleasant and unimaginative front man for a group of criminals and despots.

    I see that Hungary and Poland are hanging in there, which is debatable.

  3. Transparency Int’l is a serious organization. Their work is much needed. I understand they only evaluate Public Sector corruption. How about Private sectors? I bet we’re also champions in that area, most private contractors and companies are usually highly corrupt as well..

    Also in terms of Billions of stolen $$, overall briberies and fake contracts Venezuela must be way ahead small countries without the oil like Guinea, Yemen or Somalia and poorer countries like Afghanistan. I bet that if the measure of corruption were in Euros or Dollars that disappear, we would be even further down the infamous list. Also an interesting measure would be estimated stolen billions of $ / per capita.

  4. Maduro doesn’t have the dollars Chavez had. Tons of dollars buy a lot of charisma. I would have loved to see Chavez now, without money. Don’t idealize him. Way overrated.

    • Remember him with his swole hand, eyes full of hate declaring a victoria de mierda to the opposition just for losing a simple referendum.

      If he was still alive we would be discussing a lot heinous stuff happening in Venezuela, his megalomaniac ass couldnt handle rejection.

  5. “…the quirky and tropical experiment of a ‘competitive authoritarianism’…”
    People will construct the most bizarre rationales and jump through any twisted hoop to avoid confronting their biases.

    Also, when known totalitarians tell the willing useful idiots exactly what they want to hear, it’s usually labeled “charisma.”

  6. That’s right, we are number 166 out of 176 countries, and only Guinea-Bisau, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, South Sudan and Somalia managed to surpass us.

    So, either civil war-torn failed states or totalitarian hellholes.

    It must be one of the ten realisations of Maduro so vaunted by Ignacio Ramonet, isn’t it?

    And speaking of failed state, I feel the 2017 Fragile States Index will not be topped by an African country.

  7. Again, Venezuelans steal a LOT more $$, and are way more corrupt, than little places like Afghanistan, Guinea, Sudan or Somalia.. WAYYYYY more. Transparency Int’l and others should be aware of that.

  8. Hoy aparece en las paginas del diario El Pais de Espana un articulo de Hector Schamis titulado ‘Democracia Iliberal , Autoritarismo por Consenso’ que aborda con densidad el topico del que trata este blog ……., quien tenga la oportunidad de leerlo , bien merece la pena !!

  9. I am an American. I do not understand why the people of Venezuela do not fight for their freedoms and liberty from these criminals.
    How can you let this be the country that your children inherit?
    Stand up and fight back while you still can.
    The army generals may want to stay in power but the foot soldiers can be convinced that they must defend the Venezuelan people. I have hoped for the coup from the top. It appears that it will not happen.
    It is the responsibility of every Venezuelan to overthrow this illegal government.


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