The biggest news from Latin America as the year comes to an end is the unprecedented worsening of the social, political and economic crisis in Venezuela as the government shows record-breaking ineptitude and the opposition proves unable to form a unified front to offer an alternative to desperate Venezuelans. More than Donald Trump’s election or the peace process in Colombia, the breakdown of social order in Venezuela is unfortunately the most important and deplorable development of 2016.
Venezuelans started 2016 in a hopeful mood. The democratic opposition had overwhelmingly won the legislative elections on December 7 and, contrary to expectations, the administration of Nicolás Maduro accepted defeat. Having received 56.2 percent of the vote, the opposition secured 109 of the 167 seats in the unicameral Congress. Though it was a clear majority, it fell just short of the tow thirds majority threshold required to override President Maduro’s veto power. Despite accusations of vote-tampering on the part of the government to prevent the opposition from securing a veto-proof two-thirds majority, the election — held under unfavourable conditions for the opposition — was a victory for democracy in that troubled country. The fact that the government admitted defeat was a ray of hope for those advocating for a democratic and orderly transition out of Chavismo in Venezuela.
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