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The New Phase of Constitutional Struggle in Venezuela

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Journal Article

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Army War College Strategic Studies Institute Carlisle United States

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The magnitude of the victory by the Venezuelan opposition in the December 6, 2015, congressional elections surprised many in the country, and in the region, who had expected that the government of Nicolas Maduro would use its control over much of the media, most of the economy, the electoral authority and the repressive apparatus of the state to reduce the opposition margin of victory, if not engage in large scale electoral fraud to change the results entirely. The enormous opposition victory gave the Unified Democratic Table MUD coalition 112 of the167 seats in Venezuelas national assembly, and with it, a 23 supermajority which, at least according to the constitution, could allow it to pass legislation over President Maduros veto, remove judges, and force the removal of ministers. footnote 2 The victory unleashed a wave of euphoria in the region by opponents of Maduro and his populist socialist government, and more broadly, those frustrated with the abysmal and deteriorating conditions in the country, including widespread shortages of food, medicines, and basic goods, rampant crime, government corruption, and narcotrafficking, to name a few. In the context of Latin America more broadly, the opposition victory has been interpreted in the context of the November 22 election of conservative Mauricio Macri to the presidency of Argentina, the announcement by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa that he will not run for a fourth term, the economic crisis in Brazil with the looming impeachment of its president Dilma Rousseff, and the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, as a trend away from leftist populism across the region. footnote 3

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