Published by Economist Intelligence Unit
President Nicolás Maduro is leading a campaign to collect 10m signatures against recent measures by the US against Venezuela. He hopes to take the petition to the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Relations between the US and Venezuela are at their worst point in years. In early March, the Venezuelan government ordered that 80% of US diplomatic staff leave their Caracas embassy (although the two-week deadline was not enforced). Venezuela also implemented strict (albeit reciprocal) visa requirements for US citizens looking to enter Venezuela. Venezuela has also banned senior US officials from the country, including a former president, George W. Bush, and a former vice-president, Dick Cheney. In response a week later, the US declared Venezuela a national security threat and imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials. They are accused of violating human rights and engaging in corruption.
Soon afterwards, Mr Maduro launched a campaign to collect signatures pushing the US to repeal the legislation. It was plastered all over state media and tables appeared in public areas all over the country inviting people to sign the petition. Many government employees or visitors to government buildings complained that they were forced or at least compelled to sign. Mr Maduro also decreed March 9th, the date that US sanctions were imposed, as the Day of Bolivarian Anti-Imperialism (a reference to Simón Bolívar, a Latin American independence hero and favourite of former president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013)).
The target was 10m signatures, which Mr Maduro hoped to take with him to the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 10th-11th (6m have been collected so far.) However, Mr Maduro's histrionics are likely to be overshadowed by a potential first meeting between US president Barack Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro since the warming of relations between the two countries in December.
The latest measures are seen by many to be aimed to distract from domestic problems. Indeed, they seem to be working: the latest approval ratings for Mr Maduro have risen to 25%, according to local pollster Datanálisis, from just over 20% previously.
Impact on the forecast
Despite the slight increase in Mr Maduro's approval ratings, we continue to believe that the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) will incur significant losses in the legislative elections expected in the fourth quarter of 2015. Further foreign policy tensions are likely in the run-up to these polls.