National Guards walk with their shields up as they keep guard during a street protest in support of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in Caracas February, 2015.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

Across Latin America, economic growth has stalled, social tensions are on the rise, and political systems are under strain. And one country is suffering more than any other: in Venezuela, worsening economic and political crises, mostly of the government’s own making, threaten the stability of the state with the world’s largest oil reserves.

Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for December 6, Venezuelan President Nicolas Máduro, who took office after the death of Hugo Chávez in March 2013, is cracking down on opposition figures and engaging in reckless saber rattling with Venezuela’s neighbors Guyana and Colombia. The government is nervous that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) could lose its majority in the National Assembly for the first time since Chávez came to power in 1999, with the opposition more united than in past campaigns. But whatever the outcome of the election, political stability will not come to Venezuela in the foreseeable future.

Venezuela’s troubles are evident on many fronts. Although reliable economic data are lacking, Venezuela’s inflation is estimated at 200 percent per year, the highest in the world, and the value of the country’s currency is spiraling downward. The International Monetary Fund

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  • MICHAEL SHIFTER is President of the Inter-American Dialogue and an Adjunct Professor of Latin American Studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
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