On March 5, 2013 at 4:45pm, fourteen years after leading the Bolivarian Revolution to power, President Hugo Chavez died, leaving behind an orphaned revolution. His supporters wished to preserve the legacy of Hugo Chavez and his memory. But, what is the legacy of Hugo Chavez?

While Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, selling for a long time at $100 and more a barrel, and had the greatest economic boom in the country’s history from 2000 to 2012, it is in a state of crisis, both economic and political, and crime is rampant.

President Chavez had revenue from oil at an all time high, and he controlled the funds. He implemented outreach programs and initiatives to redistribute wealth, but under his presidency the murder rate soared and Venezuela became the second most dangerous country in the world.

Despite the 21 security plans implemented over 14 years, the violence has continued to increase. The systems of law enforcement and justice are poor, with only an estimated 200 000 members of the national security forces, a totally inadequate level given the rate of 79 to 114 murders per 100 000 population.

Not only is there a shortage of law enforcement officers, but their pay is very poor and they have little or no logistical support. Some sectors such as criminal and forensic investigations (CICPC), prosecutors and judges are overwhelmed, handling up to 700 cases a month. With these numbers, the rate of impunity has reached 90%, so criminals continue to reoffend.

Such inadequate law enforcement has produced a violent society. The law does not cover the slums of Caracas, now a legal no man’s land where it is simply survival of the fittest. One major factor is the number of weapons circulating in Venezuela, somewhere between 9 and 15 million, despite the government’s disarmament strategy. In addition to crime, the country’s economy is in crisis, with inflation going over 60% in one year. The currency is regularly devalued and there are strict controls on the exchange market stopping access to US dollars. This has led to a dramatic increase in the cost of living. Venezuelans today are now working to survive, just to feed themselves. According to The Guardian newspaper, Caracas is the sixth most expensive city in the world, ahead of Tokyo, and after cities such as Singapore and Paris. Venezuela is a difficult and expensive place to call home.

The financial crisis and violence offer gloomy prospects for the younger generation who took to the streets last year in protest against President Nicolas Maduro and his government. Over three months, the demonstrators, mostly young students, clashed with security forces, and the final toll was 43 dead and more than 3000 arrested.

This project is designed to tell the hidden story of an under-reported country, the true story of life in Venezuela and the current social and political situation as seen from the inside. My story is the tale of a country living with the legacy of one of the most iconic and controversial leaders of Latin America, Hugo Chavez, and every day I am living and am part of his legacy.

Alejandro Cegarra

Alejandro Cegarra

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