The top-down sort of state socialism that the late Hugo Chávez implemented had its inefficiencies, but it survived for two reasons:
- Venezuala is a petro-state and could afford to throw enough money around to (mostly) paper them over, and
- The status quo Chávez upset had such gross inequalities that it didn’t matter for most Venezuelans that there were shortages of certain key consumer goods from time to time, since access to same had still improved for them (they had gone from often not being able to afford things to much less often occasionally running into shortages).
But with the collapse in oil prices, the strains are now starting to show.
Unlike Saudi Arabia which has a lot of oil and only a few people, the situation is reversed in Venezuela. Maduro isn’t sitting on piles of money that he can draw on in the lean times. Plus, despite some of first Chávez’ and now Maduro’s admittedly authoritarian policies, Venezuela is still much more free and open a society than Saudi Arabia.
As a result, Nicolás Maduro’s popularity is now plummeting. So it’s safe to make a prediction that his days are probably numbered. Absent an unexpectedly sudden turnaround in oil prices, I expect him to be out of power within two years.
Hopefully that can happen without a total sell-out to the forces of imperialism and class rule.