While Chavez’s revolution diverted the country’s vast oil wealth to fund social programmes – with considerable initial success – after almost 15 years many Venezuelans feel the country has not got nearly enough to show for oil and gas reserves that were in 2011 certified by OPEC as the world’s largest. By the time of Chavez’s death, economic mismanagement and corruption – Venezuela is the most corrupt country in the Americas, according to Transparency International – had already crippled the socialist project he dreamed of. Under Mr Maduro, it has entered an advanced state of decay.
Official inflation has soared above 45 per cent – 55 per cent for groceries – basic product shortages leave entire families without food and widespread power outages are commonplace. Meanwhile the South American country is witnessing an average of 71 homicides every day, one of the highest murder rates in the world.
“This country is a thousand times worse than it was six months ago”, said Pedro Sosa, a Chavez supporter who voted for Mr Maduro but now regrets having done so. “Choosing Maduro as his successor was a mistake (by Chavez),”said Veronica Tapia, 22, a student at the Caracas Institute of Finance.
In one Kafka-esque example of state inefficiency, a Reuters investigation recently found that three new oil tankers unveiled with flags and confetti in the last 14 months were still sitting in their shipyards, never having set sail despite their multi-million dollar price tags.