On Sunday, Venezuelans will head to the polls to choose delegates that would help rewrite the country’s constitution in one of the country’s most divisive elections. The vote comes after months of economic crisis, political instability, mass protests, sanctions from the U.S. and violence.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the vote is a chance to bring unity and peace to the country.
“July 30 brings a total renovation, a rebirth of the original Bolivarian spirit, a rebirth of peace and a homeland of equality,” Maduro said Thursday, referring to the movement started by Hugo Chavez, according to VTV.
For the opposition, who have vowed to boycott it, Sunday’s vote represents an illegal move to try to strip the country’s legislative body of its power.
“What’s at stake is nothing less than the loss of freedom of Venezuela and the initiation of the Cuban model in a false, illegal, constitutional way,” Diego Arria, a former governor of Caracas and an opposition leader living in the U.S., told ABC News.
But both sides agree on one thing –- that the July 30 vote marks a crucial turning point after months of turbulence. So what is at stake, and how could this vote impact the country’s future?
What kind of crisis is Venezuela experiencing?
Venezuela’s economic woes have roots in a currency crisis that was deepened by falling oil prices in the petroleum-dependent country, according to George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor at Drexel University and the author of “Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela.”
“Since 2012, we saw the beginning of a crisis originating many ways in the exchange rate system, which is a fixed exchange rate system,” Ciccariello-Maher told ABC News. “That, along with a number of other factors, really spiraled into a much deeper crisis today. The collapse in oil prices exacerbated this situation, the government did not respond quickly enough to adjust the exchange rate system and it created a whole system of black market currency and smuggling, which created these shortages of goods.”
Venezuela, like many oil-rich countries, imports much of its food and consumer goods. The problem isn’t necessarily that Venezuelans don’t have the money to buy certain products, but rather that the products…