Is Venezuela a Dictatorship? Arguments in Favor and Against

By dpa news correspondents

HAVANA TIMES — More than 120 deaths in opposition-led protests, the establishment of a controversial all-powerful Constituent Assembly, complaints about human rights violations… Different international governments and media outlets believe that Venezuela has crossed a line and is now a dictatorship, although others prefer to avoid this term.

Four experts of dissimilar persuasions have analyzed the subject for dpa.

JOSE MIGUEL VIVANCO: Venezuela is a civic-military dictatorship.

Jose Miguel Vivanco. Photo:

The director of the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Americas division points out that a democracy is defined by two principles: free elections and a government which respects laws such as that of the separation of powers, judicial independence, human rights or freedom of the press. “In the current case of Venezuela’s government, it seems to me that they aren’t reaching any of these two principles,” he states.

With regard to the first point, Vivanco points out the canceled elections, including the recall referendum, or the “colossal fraud” which the company responsible for electoral control software reported during the Constituent Assembly election.

With regard to the second point, he maintains that “there is a civic-military regime which governs Venezuela, who concentrates power into its hands in absolute terms.” “There isn’t a single independent democratic institution which is able to prevent, punish, stop abuses,” he argues.

The Judiciary’s intervention in 2004, the existence of over 450 “political prisoners” and over 350 civilians who are being accused by military tribunals, “strong censorship”, the existence of “an extremely serious humanitarian crisis which the Government refuses to recognize because of ideological reasons” and the Constituent Assembly with a “fascist, corporate make-up with members who were practically hand-selected by the current regime” make it an obvious diagnosis for Vivanco.

“I believe that there can be no doubt that we are facing a dictatorship, a civic-military dictatorship which commits massive and very serious violations of people’s most basic rights,” he concludes.

ATILIO BORON: Talking about a dictatorship is “a complete lack of respect”.

The Argentinian political expert and sociologist believes that Venezuela is experiencing “a slow normalization” process. “It is putting violence aside as a political method, because luckily the opposition’s violent faction, which had the lead voice in recent months, has somehow lost legitimacy and sectors of society who participate in democratic life have accepted the government’s call to present candidates for the elections of mayors and governors in October.”

Atilio Boron. Photo:

Boron is categorical when asked the question of whether a dictatorship is forming in Venezuela. “No, not at all.” In describing those who do think there is a dictatorship he notes “Or it is people who have never lived under a dictatorship, or its people with bad intentions or people working for some interests which I don’t know what they are.”

“You would never call a government which allows there to be a great variety and both national and international print, radio and television media, operating within its territory and preparing a series of news,” he argues. “In the case of Venezuela, and this is an unobjectionable fact, the majority of the press belongs to the opposition.”

Boron also points out the existence of a National Assembly which, in spite of “being declared in violation of the Supreme Court and saying that it thought it would overthrow Maduro’s government in six months,” it continues to exist and has parliament members who “maintain parliamentary immunity.”

Plus, he points to the fact that the Constituent Assembly was “elected according to what the Constitution stipulates.” “Venezuela has summoned 22 elections from 1999 up until the present day and the opposition hasn’t accepted any of the 19 of the times it was beaten,” he adds.

MARIO TORRICO: Venezuela isn’t a democracy

The political expert from the Latin American Department of Social Sciences (FLASCO) in Mexico avoids calling Venezuela a “dictatorship”, but said: “It isn’t a democracy.”

Mario Torrico. Photo:

He supports this opinion especially because of two “warning cries”. The first is the delay in regional elections, “the first problem that can’t be allowed in a democratic regime.”

The second is that “the authorities can’t govern while turning a bling eye to the legal and institutional framework in force.” “They can’t stop opposition groups from carrying out their opposition role or even from protesting, which is their right. That’s when Venezuela stopped being a democracy.”

According to Torrico, “ever since the opposition has gained control of Congress, the executive authority has done everything it can for this Congress to have its law-making work incapacitated.” Plus, “protests have been crushed with brutal repression.” Finally, the legislative authority “has practically been replaced by the Constituent Assembly, where the election has been very strange.”

Is this enough to define it as a dictatorship? “It isn’t a democracy. We can take a look at the definition of different authoritarian regimes, as this is an important matter. But, for now, what I will say is that Venezuela isn’t a democracy, it’s an authoritarian regime,” Torrico stated.

MARIANO TURZI: Maduro has clearly entered the field of a dictatorship

The political expert from the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires sees a “double failure” in the so-called Bolivarian Revolution.

Photo: You Tube

From a “more republican and liberal” perspective, Turzi reminds us that Venezuela is, along with Cuba, one of the countries in the continent that “aren’t free” according to the 2017 World Freedom Index which is drawn up by Freedom House and which Amnesty International has confirmed in its 2017 report with mention of the deterioration of human rights in the country, including torture.

“If elections have been transparent up until now, intelligence services carry out acts of espionage, intimidation activities and imprisoning members of the press and opposition political parties regularly,” he adds.

However, from the Bolivarian perspective, “the Revolution has failed” too, he maintains. “Maduro’s Chavism has lost the ability to govern. It is more similar to Fujimorism in this regard than the best times in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.”

Venezuela is therefore presented as a “hybrid regime.”

“Designated or “liberal” democracies, competitive authoritarianisms and other characterizations express a conceptual diversity which reflects a diverse and complex reality at this time of global disorder which we are facing. In recent months, Maduro has dispelled all doubts: he crossed the line and has showed his government to be a dictatorship,” the author of the book “Everything you need to know about global (dis)order” stated.

5 thoughts on “Is Venezuela a Dictatorship? Arguments in Favor and Against

  • Well why did you support Maduro eradicating that elected national assembly? Forked tongue?

  • Absolutely. I support the democratically elected government of Venezuela, as all true democrats do.

  • So as you are suddenly in support of democracy CErmle do you agree that the 2015 election in Venezuela was valid and that the result ought to be supported?

  • Obviously, you are not a “democrat”. The government of Venezuela is duly elected by the people and serves at the pleasure of the people. Your ideology seems to be more and more from la la land, the home of fake news.

  • The Northern Scots have a long standing saying:
    “Chiels are facts that winna ding.” which is saying that facts are facts that cannot be denied.
    Maduro following upon the preaching of Fidel Castro Ruz, is undoubtedly imposing a dictatorship in Venezuela. The well rewarded military (rewarded with multi-promotions to high rank with accompanying increases in remuneration, plus blind eyes to other ‘commercial; activities) are willing pawns for they anticipate even greater privilege. .
    It can be expected that following a period of confusion purges will commence.
    The hope for Raul Castro is that Venezuela under a firm dictatorship will prove able to restore subsidized energy supplies to Cuba. That hope may yet prove to be pious, so Raul is cosying up to Saudi Arabia.

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