Chavez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights. By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda. In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.
Transparency International has named Venezuela the most corrupt nation in the hemisphere, matching Haiti and besting the likes of Paraguay and Nicaragua. With a $1 trillion oil windfall, that's lots of graft. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez ushered in the era of high oil prices in 1998, slashing output and earning the country a cool $1.125 trillion windfall as oil prices shot from $9 a barrel to more than $100.
That's bizarre, given that Venezuela remains a crime-ridden hellhole, whose vast slums and impoverished people offer not a scintilla of evidence of any spreading prosperity. ...Venezuela's budget is secret, its oil earnings are secret, its electoral mechanisms are secret, and its media are largely under government control. Whistle-blowers are hit with draconian punishments.
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