The Current

Venezuela verges on meltdown as opposition takes control of parliament

If you think the plunging price of oil has rocked the Canadian economy, wait until you hear about the societal effects it's having on oil-rich Venezuela... a country teetering on the brink of despair.
Last week, Venezuela's Opposition won control of the National Assembly. It marks the first time in 17 years that the party of Hugo Chavez, and his successor Nicolás Maduro (above), is no longer in control. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Venezuela's opposition took majority control of the National Assembly last week. And for the first time in 17 years, the party of Hugo Chavez, and his successor  Nicolás Maduro, is no longer in control. 

Venezuelan voters seem to have punished his successor Nicolás Maduro for the country's grim situation today.

Venezuela's new legislature opens with rancorous session. Hector Rodriguez, centre, deputy of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) argues with Julio Borges, second from right, and others deputies of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties Tuesday in Caracas. (Carlos Garcia/Reuters)

The plunge in the price of oil has hit the country especially hard. Venezuela may have the world's largest oil reserves, but its heavy reliance on oil has left its economy is in a shambles. There are chronic food shortages, and high unemployment, skyrocketing crime rates, and – according to monitors – human rights abuses have become rampant. 

Virginia Lopez is a senior correspondent for Al Jazeera English. She was in Caracas. 

A young supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez outside the mausoleum on the first anniversary of his death in Caracas March 5, 2014. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

The day after the swearing-in at the National Assembly, Opposition members took down towering portraits of Hugo Chavez in the Legislature. It was a symbolic gesture of the new congress's promise of big change.

But President Maduro is equally adamanant that change won't come at the cost of rolling back the Bolivarian Revolution. And that's a standoff that has many fearing that the the country is on the brink of a meltdown.

  • Juan Nagel is Venezuelan, and a Professor of Economics at the Universidad de los Andes and Co-editor of the Caracas Chronicles blog.  He was in Santiago, Chile.
  • Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research and author of "Failed: What the 'Experts' Got Wrong About the Global Economy."  He was in Washington. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Catherine Kalbfleisch.