Venezuela's dire economic situation – involving hyperinflation, capital flight and severe shortages of food and medicine – has produced violent protests, looting and the political opposition's calls for intransigent President Nicolas Maduro's recall. Procedures for a recall vote are under way. While replacing Maduro would not instantly solve Venezuela's complex problems, little progress appears possible without it.

The nearly 200,000 Venezuelans who charged over their country's temporarily opened border with Colombia on 17–18 July 2016 were in search of food and medical supplies, which were no longer easily obtainable in their home country. Venezuela once had the highest GDP in Latin America, but it is now on the brink of state failure, plagued by dire scarcities of basic staples and medicines, financial ruin and an eroding rule of law. Many Venezuelans are limited to a single meal a day, and some reportedly have to scrounge for food in trashcans or eat birds or even pets. President Nicolas Maduro's approval ratings are among the lowest in the region, with fewer than 25% of Venezuelans supporting his government.

Reversal of fortune

Venezuela, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), benefitted greatly from high oil prices from the mid-2000s, but its economy is 95% oil-dependent. When the Venezuelan government could rely on high oil revenues, it heavily subsidised the prices of basic staples and offered abundant social services, buying the good will of the people. But government spending began outpacing oil revenue by more than 20% of GDP in 2010, and the Venezuelan economy declined precipitously following the collapse of worldwide oil prices in 2014 from roughly US$100 to US$41 a barrel. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela now has the world's worst economy, expected to contract 10% in 2016. Instead of investing in Venezuela, businesses are shutting down operations and exiting the country. Economic forecasters doubt that Venezuela will have enough money to cover their foreign debt payments in 2016, and predict that state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA and the government will default on loans barring an increase in oil prices or additional credit from China.

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