Why Venezuela Is Exploding, Explained In Simple Charts

Inflation, low standards of living, and a climate of fear are all contributing to unrest.

Why Venezuela Is Exploding, Explained In Simple Charts
[Image: Venezuela 15F via Flickr user andresAzp]

The dramatic protests that have been sweeping Venezuela started off as many protests do: with mostly students. But as the government cracked down harshly in recent weeks, discontent wasn’t suppressed–it spread to a much broader base, and now the middle class has taken to the streets. “Look. I’ve got a rock in my hand and I’m the distributor for Adidas eyewear in Venezuela,” one protester told the New York Times.


With the death of longtime leader Hugo Chavez last year, and a less-savvy protege in his place, unrest in Venezuela–a country dealing with major poverty and inflation that also happens to be one of the world’s biggest oil-producing nations–is not completely surprising. But beyond politics and broad outrage at the government’s violence towards protesters, a new analysis from the polling firm Gallup shows the underlying reasons for the popular uprising. People’s perceived quality of life deteriorated significantly in the last year, before the protests began.

As Gallup notes:

Even as political arrests intensify and injuries and deaths mount, Venezuelans remain on the street, making their voices heard. The reasons for their persistence are clear from Gallup’s 2013 World Poll data – they see their lives and the economy getting worse, and they feel less secure than ever in their own neighborhoods.

Below are the charts that Gallup shows to support this idea. The 2013 results were based on in-person interviews with about 1,000 Venezuelan adults (15 and older), conducted from September to October in 2013.

“Thriving” has dropped

In 2012, 57% of Venezuelans believed they were “thriving,” according to Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index. By 2013, as inflation took off and became one of the highest rates in the world, that percentage was only 45%. Conversely, 7% reported they were suffering, compared to only 2% the previous year.

Confidence in the economy plummeted


As inflation hit average people, causing shortages of basic staple goods and medicines, Gallup reports that pessimism hit an all-time high. “62% of Venezuelan adults said the economy is getting worse, while a record-low 12% said it was getting better.

Standard of living hits record low

Only 35% of people say their standard of living is improving, whereas a record-breaking 33% say it’s getting worse.

People feel unsafe

Venezuela’s extremely high murder rate creates a “climate of fear,” as Gallup notes. Only 19% of people feel safe walking alone at night where they live–a record low for the country and well below Gallup’s average for Latin America at 42%.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.