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The Final Blow to Venezuela’s Democracy

What Latin America Can Do About It

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro speaks to the media in Caracas, October 2016. MARCO BELLO / REUTERS

For months, most Venezuelans (not to mention the country’s neighbors and the international community) held out hope that there would be a popular vote on President Nicolás Maduro’s mandate this year. It seemed possible that the Venezuelan government would abide by the opposition’s request for a referendum that would put Maduro to a popular vote of confidence and perhaps lead to a change in government. But on October 20, Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) indefinitely suspended the process that could lead to such a referendum, closing off the last constitutional option to resolve the political crisis that has convulsed the petro-state. 

Foreign observers have long debated how to best characterize Venezuela’s political system: it has been described as a participatory democracy, an illiberal democracy, and a competitive authoritarian state. Today, none of those labels hold. By repeatedly violating the constitution and denying citizens the right to

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